Buying a tv: TV buying guide: 9 things you need to know

TV backlights explained: Edge-lit vs. full array vs. Mini-LED

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There’s an unsung hero in your living room, a piece of technology that has been steadily advancing for years, providing better and better picture quality and more immersive entertainment, and it’s one you may not even know exists. I’m talking, of course, about the backlight in your TV.

What’s a backlight? Well, it’s the light source that is situated directly behind the LCD panel of the majority of TVs. It’s what makes the screen glow, what gives bright colors their vibrancy, and increasingly, what gives dark shadows their depth.

TV backlights have undergone a surprising amount of change in the last few years, and knowing how this feature works, and what your options are will go a long way in helping you get a better than average TV for a lower than average price.

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Basic LCD TV anatomy

(Image credit: LCD panels require a separate backlight to illumnate the display. Credit: LG)

There’s a little more to the glowing panel of an LCD TV than you might expect. The LCD panel offers the shape and color components of an image, but it doesn’t actually produce any light of its own. And without light to produce the colors we see and project the image outward to the viewer, an LCD TV wouldn’t be worth much. Enter the humble backlight.

Behind the LCD panel is a backlight, and between the backlight and the LCD panel are usually a few layers of polarized filters, backlight diffusers, and other optical layers designed to turn this collection of tech components into a sharper viewable image.

The details will vary from one manufacturer or mode to the next, but the fundamentals that that technology is based on remain the same.

You’ll have an LCD panel to provide much of the image content, and a backlight behind it to provide the light that makes that LCD panel visible and the colors vivid. But that backlight has undergone a lot of changes over time — several just within recent years. And a lot of the improvements we’ve seen in modern TVs can be traced to the humble backlight.

A brief history of TV backlight

For the first several decades of consumer TVs, there was no need for a backlight. Cathode ray tube (CRT) technology doesn’t need one, because it is a light source unto itself. Plasma screen TVs used the same sort of phosphorescence that CRTs used, meaning that they were also capable of emitting their own light.

But with the advent of LCD-based flat screen TVs, the need arose for illumination, and originally that meant cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), a technology that’s similar to fluorescent and neon lighting. But because these lamps generate heat that can damage a display and aren’t terrible energy-efficient, they’ve pretty much disappeared from today’s TVs.

Instead, they were replaced by one of the biggest innovations in modern TV technology: LED backlighting. With this change, TV manufacturers started calling LCD TVs with LED backlight “LED TVs” to differentiate them from the older CCFL-lit models. But with the last CCFL TVs going off the market a decade ago, it’s just as likely that TV makers have kept the LED nomenclature around to blur the distinction between LCD TVs and OLED panels, which use a very different (and largely superior) display technology.

Since then, LED backlighting has been refined in a number of ways, and there are several options on the market in today’s TVs.

Modern backlighting: Local dimming and HDR

(Image credit: TCL)

Today’s TVs use a number of backlighting methods, which we’ll discuss below, but the biggest change has been the introduction of discrete backlighting zones. Instead of illuminating the entire screen, the LED backlights of a TV can be addressed individually, meaning that they can be turned on or off, dimmed or brightened as needed to provide brighter or darker portions of the TV picture.

You may not know much about the innovation of local dimming, but you’ve probably heard of the feature it enables: High dynamic range or HDR. It’s one of the best features on today’s TVs, and one we recommend paying attention to when shopping for a TV. (Check out our articles What is HDR TV, and why does it matter? and What Is Dolby Vision? to learn more.)

With local dimming zones allowing variable brightness to different sections of the display, new media includes additional metadata, beyond simple video and sound. This data describes the brightness and backlighting scheme for a given scene or frame of content. While that metadata may fall under different format names, like HDR10 or Dolby Vision, the essentials are the same — describing how those dimmable backlights should behave to produce a richer image.

There are different formats with varying degrees of granularity, but the end result is that modern media takes this additional brightness control into account, just as it would color and multi-channel sound.  

But there’s a catch. Not every form of backlight offers the same level of control. As a result, not every TV has the same level of capability, even if it supports the same HDR formats.

And it all comes down to what type of backlighting is used.

Essential backlight technologies

(Image credit: LG)

Edge lit

Edge-lit displays illuminate the LCD panel by setting a row of LEDs along the top and bottom edges of a screen, or ringing the perimeter of the TV frame with LED lights. This light is then distributed across the back of the LCD panel with a special diffuser light guide, a semi-transparent sheet of plastic that allows the light from the LED in the TV bezel to illuminate a larger portion of the display.

It’s a very cost effective way to light a TV, since it uses the least amount of LEDs. It also offers some level of dynamic backlight control for HDR support. On sets that are equipped to do so, portions of the edge lighting strips can be darkened or dimmed to provide deeper blacks, or brightened to accentuate brighter portions of the screen. However, since they don’t directly light the LCD panel from behind, the effect is considerably muted when compared to other backlight technologies.

Because these edge-mounted LEDs can be individually dimmed or brightened, edge lit TVs can offer some measure of dynamic backlight control for high dynamic range content. This can be done in two ways.

(Image credit: VESA)

First, the LEDs at the top and bottom of the display can be dimmed to alter the brightness in a vertical stripe, from the top to bottom of the display. This divides the display into 8-16 distinct dimming zones.

(Image credit: VESA)

Second, top and bottom rows of LEDs can be dimmed independently, effectively doubling the number of dimming zones.

Both of these methods suffer from the use of broad, diffuse dimming zones, which mute the HDR effect considerably, and will often illuminate unwanted portions of the display, an effect called haloing.

Samsung AU8000 LED 4K Smart TV
Samsung’s cheapest models often feature edge lighting, and the Samsung AU8000 is a prime example of this. The TV’s high contrast ratio offers pretty good clarity and sharpness, but the lack of local dimming means that HDR content won’t look as good as it should, and you’ll see some noticeable elevated black levels.

Dual LED

A variation on edge lighting developed by Samsung and used in some Samsung QLED TVs is called dual LED. Instead of using a single color backlight for the TV, Samsung uses a combination of cool blue and warm yellow LED lights, and alternates between them based on the content of the scene to offer a modest improvement in picture quality.

Samsung Q70T QLED TV (2020 model)
Samsung uses dual LED backlight as a half-step between edge lighting and direct-lit LED backlight in it’s better affordable QLED sets, and it shows. The alternating color temperatures do offer some improvement over basic edge lighting, but the result is still a less impressive picture, even with Samsung’s impressive QLED display. Check out our full Samsung Q70T QLED TV (2020 model) review for more.

Direct lit LED

Direct lit LED backlighting uses LED lighting across the back of the TV, directly behind the LCD panel, providing a fairly uniform amount of light across the screen. It also allows for a brighter picture, since it uses more LEDs, and is able to utilize more of the light coming from those LEDs.

However, an all-white back light alone has its limitations. Because the entire LCD panel is lit uniformly, there’s little to no dynamic range offered by the display.

One common problem caused by this uniform backlight approach is that darker portions of the display are still illuminated, resulting in black portions of the screen appearing grey, a phenomenon called “elevated black levels.” It’s especially noticeable on letterboxed movies, which will have a distinct unwanted glow in the black bars above and below the picture.

Toshiba C350 Fire TV (2021 model)
The Toshiba C350 is one of the better Amazon Fire smart TVs we’ve reviewed, but the direct LED backlight is something of a double-edged sword. It’s better and brighter than a basic edge-lit LED backlight, and picture is better as a result, but the lack of local dimming means that – despite the TV’s support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats – HDR content just doesn’t look very good.

(Image credit: TCL)

Full array with local dimming (FALD)

The next refinement for LED backlight is full array backlight with local dimming. This breaks up the backlight array of direct LED lighting, and separates it into multiple  zones. These zones each illuminate a portion of the screen, and can be individually brightened or dimmed depending on the content in that section of the display.

(Image credit: VESA)

This dynamic backlighting allows a TV to deliver deeper shadows, brighter highlights, and more vivid color. If you’ll forgive the pun, this is where HDR content really shines.

Local dimming zones have become fairly common on TVs across the price spectrum, and more premium TVs have differentiated themselves by offering a greater number of backlighting zones with smaller, more tightly controlled light, which can minimize light blooms and haloing to provide better HDR performance and contrast.

TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535)
When it comes to value in TVs, the TCL name should be one of the first things you look for. The TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) is a great example of this, offering a QLED screen with full-array  local dimming backlight that matches some of the best mid-range TVs, but at a lower price. The result is great picture quality and solid HDR performance.

(Image credit: TCL)


Local dimming has been further refined with the introduction of mini-LEDs. By shrinking the LED size down to about one-fifth the size – mini-LEDs measure 0.008-inch (200 microns) across – more LEDs can be packed into the backlight panel, and much smaller dimming zones to be used.

Where a standard LED backlight offers dozens of backlighting zones, mini-LED offers hundreds, and individual mini-LEDs can number in the thousands for a larger TV. More LEDs translate into brighter backlight, for a brighter more vivid picture, as well as smaller lighting zones to reduce haloing.

(Image credit: TCL)

The result is even more granular control of the backlight, with performance improvements in both overall contrast and HDR performance.

Models from Samsung, TCL, and LG all utilize mini LED backlighting for its superior performance, and the combination of mini-LED and QLED color enhancement offers some of the best TV picture quality that’s ever been available.

Learn more about mini-LED technology in our article Year of the mini-LED TV: Samsung, LG and TCL getting this huge upgrade.

Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV
When it comes to the several TVs on the market that have mini-LED backlight, the Samsung Neo QLED takes the top spot, holding the top position among the best TVs we’ve reviewed. It’s a great TV for many reasons, but the impeccable backlight and HDR performance of the Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV makes it one of the best LCD TVs we’ve ever seen.

(Image credit: LG)

Per-pixel lighting

Ultimately, the best backlight is no backlight at all. This can be achieved in one of two ways: With current OLED displays or micro-LED technology, the latter of which isn’t yet available to regular consumers.

OLED displays have individual pixels that light up without the need for a separate illumination source, creating a self-emissive display panel that doesn’t need any sort of backlight.

Because illumination can be controlled at the level of individual pixels, OLED technology offers the highest level of contrast and HDR performance, with no light blooming, and true black reproduction as individual pixels go dark.

Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV
Sony’s excellent OLED TVs highlight how awesome OLED can really be, with category-leading picture quality and cutting edge technologies that make the most of the premium TV technology. The Editor’s Choice Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV does this in spades, providing an excellent premium OLED experience.

(Image credit: Lextar)

Shrinking mini-LEDs down even smaller, you get micro-LED. Measuring as small as 50μm — about 0.002 inches across — micro-LEDs are 1/100th the size of a conventional LED. That’s small enough to cluster them together for individual pixels, creating another form of self-emissive display. The first micro-LED TVs are on sale now, but with prices in the tens of thousands of dollars, they’re not really something the average consumer would even consider.

You can get a more detailed explanation of mini-LED technology in our guide Micro-LED vs. Mini-LED: What’s the difference? or read Micro-LED vs. OLED TV: Which TV tech will win? to see how the two leading self-emissive technologies compare.

Samsung MicroLED TV
Known for a long time as simply “The Wall” Samsung’s first micro-LED TVs are coming this year, and are available for pre-order… in Korea. We’ve seen these displays in person, and they are astonishingly good, but between the wall-sized screens necessary for 4K resolution and the mortgage-sized price tag, it may be several years before this is a viable technology for the average TV shopper.

TV backlighting: What it means for you

All of this information is very interesting (at least, to some of us TV nerds), but you’re probably wondering what this actually means for you.

The bottom line is pretty simple: Better backlight will translate into better picture quality.

  • Edgelit and direct backlight – Good
  • Full array with local dimming – Better
  • Self-immissive displays – Best

But there’s more than one way to approach full array with local dimming, because TVs will offer different numbers of dimming zones and local domain can be achieved with either standard LEDs or mini LEDs.

The rule of thumb here is simple: More backlighting zones are better, and many LED gives you the most backlighting zones.

And there’s a direct relationship between backlight quality and TV price, so what is the best option when you don’t want to pay an extra $1,000 for the category-leading quality of OLED – even the affordable Vizio OLED TV is $1,199 – or shell out tens of thousands for a giant micro-LED TV?

For most people, we recommend looking for a TV with mini-LED, like the Editor’s Choice Samsung Neo QLED QN90A, or the more affordable TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635). Mini LED backlighting hits the sweet spot for affordability and improved backlight performance. If you want better than average backlight control without spending the extra money for an old TV, a mini LED TV is the way to go.

Our favorite TVs

TCL 6-Series 55R635 (2020)


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TCL 4-Series Roku TV (50S435)



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Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he led the site’s TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.

Your TV Buying Guide: College 2023 Edition

Most dorms are pretty drab and basic, but there are plenty of ways to make your room at school feel like home. While aesthetic decorations like plants and fairy lights are extremely popular, few things bring as much comfort as sitting in front of a TV and watching your favorite shows and movies. So whether you’re looking to turn your room into a home theater or a gaming haven, a TV for your dorm could be one of the best things you bring to college. 

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

So now that you’re ready to buy one, which one should you get? Well, if you are looking for a deal, the summer isn’t generally the best time for TV pricing. That’s because the TV replacement cycle is cyclical, with new TVs announced in January and hitting stores in the spring and summer — which is now. The prices of those TVs start to drop like leaves in the fall, before reaching rock bottom for Black Friday. For now, the 2023 models are all on the shelves, but you can still get a good TV deal by sticking with a discounted 2022 model. They aren’t significantly different from their more recent counterparts and are the best way to save money this summer. 

Think of this guide as an oasis in the vast desert of information about TVs. We strive to provide you with easy-to-understand information to help you select a new television. It won’t answer every question, and when you read it, it won’t tell you “the perfect TV for you” at the end. But we hope it can provide you with the basic tools you need to feel confident when you buy that new set.

Read more: Best TV for 2023

Which TV should I buy right now?

If you just want to skip all the details and buy a great television, we have a few go-to choices among the TVs available right now.

When is the best time to buy a TV?

The best time to buy a TV is on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s because TV prices go down as the year progresses until they typically hit bottom on the biggest shopping days of the year. Those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are best known for absurd, doorbuster pricing on no-name televisions, but the fact is that just about every TV gets a holiday price cut.

Right now, we’re at the high point of the buying cycle. New 2023 TVs were announced in January and are now on the shelves at their full retail prices. This trend will continue throughout the rest of the summer, as manufacturers release their 2023 offerings. 

That said, there are still some 2022 models available at a discount. Those will start to disappear as the year progresses and more 2023 TVs take up space on the shelves. However, you might be able to catch some decent back-to-school sales as retailers clear out all of their past inventory on their 2022 models. Generally, we tell people to wait until the fall to get a new TV, as that’s when you’ll save the most money. But if you need a new one right now and don’t want to pay for all the newest tech, grab a 2022 model while you still can. 

Wondering exactly how to figure out the TV for you? Here’s some advice.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

What TV specifications matter most?

As a rule of thumb, the main purpose of a TV’s specification sheet is to bombard you with confusing terms and numbers in an attempt to get you to “step up” and buy the more expensive version. Just about the only worthwhile numbers are found under Inputs and Weight/Dimensions.

Rather than rely on the spec sheet to provide hints on which TV will perform better than another, our advice is to simply ignore it. The sheet can help when trying to differentiate a TV based on features, such as whether it has HDR, smart TV capability or a fancy remote, but it’s close to useless when used as a tool for divining picture quality.

How big a TV should I buy?

We recommend a size of at least 43 inches for a bedroom TV and at least 55 inches for a living room or main TV — and 65 inches or larger is best.

In fact, more than any other “feature,” stepping up in TV screen size is the best use of your money. One of the most common post-TV-purchase complaints we’ve heard is from people who didn’t go big enough. And we almost never hear people complain that their TV is too large.

If you want to fit an existing entertainment center, make sure you have at least an inch on the sides and top of the TV cavity to allow for ventilation. Or just junk that old furniture and get a bigger TV.

Read more: Why You Can (Probably) Get a Bigger TV Than You Think

Trust us, bigger is better.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Do I need 4K and HDR?

TVs with 4K resolution, also known as Ultra High Definition TVs, have four times as many pixels as standard 1080p resolution TVs. That sounds like a big improvement, but in reality it’s very difficult to tell the difference in sharpness between a 4K TV and a good old-fashioned HDTV.

On the other hand, 4K TVs are easy for manufacturers to produce, so they’re basically standard now. Just about every TV 50 inches or larger has 4K resolution, and many smaller sets are 4K, too. Aside from the smallest sizes, 1080p and lower-resolution models are quickly becoming resigned to the bargain bin.

Read more: Best 75-Inch TVs

Many streaming services offer 4K HDR TV shows and movies.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Most of the 4K TVs have HDR compatibility as well. HDR delivers better contrast and color, so unlike 4K, chances are you’ll actually be able to see an improvement compared with normal HDTV. How big of an improvement (if any) depends on the TV, however, and just like with 4K, you’ll need to be watching actual HDR content. And just because a TV is HDR-compatible doesn’t mean it actually performs better, with or without an HDR source.

Streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max offer both 4K and HDR, but not on every title (although most original series and movies on both services are in 4K HDR). Actual 4K or HDR TV channels are largely nonexistent in the US, but certain special events (like the Olympics) are sometimes shown in 4K HDR.

Bottom line? All of the best TVs are 4K TVs with HDR. If you’re shopping for a medium-size or larger TV, you’ll probably end up with a 4K one anyway, and chances are it’ll do HDR, too.

Read more: Why All HDR on TVs Isn’t the Same

Every CNET TV review is conducted as a side-by-side comparison with other TVs.

David Katzmaier/CNET

What TVs have the best picture quality?

We consider the best picture quality for the money a sort of holy grail in the quest for a new TV. It’s still consistently the No. 1 thing TV shoppers cite as important to their buying decision.

If you don’t place as high a priority on PQ, you’ll get the best value by simply sorting a list of TVs by price along with the screen size you want, choosing the cheapest from a brand you trust and calling it a day. Or at least skip to the next section of this guide.

After nearly 20 years reviewing TVs, we feel comfortable conveying some generalizations we’ve observed about picture quality:

  • OLED TVs have the best picture quality available, but they’re still quite expensive.
  • QD-OLED brings quantum dot technology to the OLED display. This should result in deep blacks and higher brightness, with better color in bright areas. We haven’t been able to review them in person yet, but the first Sony and Samsung TVs featuring a new OLED panel by Samsung Display are going to be expensive, and we probably won’t recommend most people buy them over more affordable OLEDs like the C2.
  • Nearly every TV, including Samsung’s QLED, uses LED LCD technology, which (despite the “LED” similarity) is very different from OLED.
  • LED LCD TVs with local dimming often outperform those without. LCD also has other tech, like quantum dots and mini-LED, that help improve its image quality.
  • The ability to produce a deep shade of black — which translates into high contrast — is the most important ingredient in a good picture.
  • For HDR, image brightness and local dimming are essential for the best performance.
  • Color saturation, which is directly influenced by contrast/black level, is second most important, followed by color accuracy.
  • In a bright room, matte screens are the best overall at reducing reflections. The best glossy screens preserve black levels well.
  • Less important factors include color gamut, video processing and display resolution.
  • Many people don’t realize they’re watching the soap opera effect and might like their TV’s picture quality better if they turned it off.
  • Poor picture settings on a good TV will usually look worse than calibrated picture settings on a crappy TV.

In sum, picture quality is more complex than just counting pixels or reading a spec sheet, and your best bet is to read reviews, such as those at CNET. Hopefully you can also get the chance to see a good TV in person along with someone who can explain why it’s good.

Read more: How We Test TVs at CNET

Considerations beyond size, price and picture quality

Those are the “big three” of TV buying, but a few other things are worth knowing about. 

8K is here, but don’t worry about it

A TV with 8K resolution has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K, for a whopping 7,680×4,320 and 33,177,600 total pixels. Not only is that four times the total pixel count of 4K, that’s an incredible 16 times more pixels than 1080p.

A few TVs with 8K resolution are available today, but we don’t recommend them. They’re expensive and there’s nothing in 8K to watch today. Moreover, from what we’ve seen they don’t provide much, if any, picture quality improvement compared to 4K TVs.

In the future 8K TVs will surely get cheaper and more mainstream, but it will be years before they’re worth considering for all but the richest TV buyers.

Read more: What You Need to Know About 8K TV

Voice control, including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

Another big trend in gadgets, including TVs, is the ability to be controlled by voice commands. Many TV remotes have built-in mics and “push to talk” functionality, for example to search for TV shows and movies, and many work with one or both of the two major voice assistants, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. A handful of newer TVs even have built-in mics that allow them to respond to a “Hey, Google” or “Alexa” wake word, much like a Google Nest or Echo speaker. And numerous models work with existing Alexa or Google speakers too.

Voice control makes some tasks easier than hitting buttons on a remote. You can not only search for TV shows and movies, but order pizza, play trivia games and music, and control lights and other smart home devices. Other activities, however, are still easier using the remote.

Many TVs can be controlled hands-free with Google Home and Alexa speakers.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

HDMI connections

TV connectivity has gotten less complex as important inputs have dwindled to one kind: HDMI. Just count the number of devices you’ll want to connect, and make sure your TV has at least that many HDMI ports (or one or two extra if you’ll be expanding). 

USB inputs are nice for displaying photos, but hardly necessary. You only need to worry about the analog ports if you have an older device to connect; the Nintendo Wii is the classic HDMI-free offender. And of course you’ll need an antenna input (standard on nearly every TV) if you’re cutting the cord and want free over-the-air TV.

Nearly every new 4K TV has enough robust HDMI connections (version 2.0, 2.0a or 2.0b, with HDCP copy protection) to work with a range of the latest 4K and HDR gear. The latest HDMI 2.1 standard is available on many newer TVs, but for now it’s mainly useful for gamers who have a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X and want to maximize their graphics capabilities. And yes, you should just buy the cheap HDMI cables.

Read more: Best HDMI Cables for Your New 4K and HDR TV

Newer TVs with HDMI 2.1 often have “4K/120Hz” or gaming labels near the applicable inputs.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Smart TV

Since you can connect an inexpensive Roku or Amazon Fire TV stick or box to make any TV “smart” — in the sense that you get access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and the rest — the “apps” on TVs are often redundant. Even so, your next TV will likely have smart apps whether you use them or not.

One advantage of built-in apps is that they’re likely 4K and HDR if your TV supports those formats, whereas the cheapest external streamers are not. On the other hand, you can get a great 4K HDR streamer for less than $50, and often the experience will be much better than on the TV.

Read more: Best Streaming Device

Roku TVs are cord-cutter-friendly, with scads of streaming apps and great antenna support.

Sarah Tew/CNET

TV antenna tuner

If you’re planning on cutting the cable TV cord, or you have already, you might want to make sure the TV you get has a built-in over-the-air tuner. It will allow you to watch free local TV broadcasts, usually in higher quality than cable, satellite or streaming.

Some new TVs like Roku TVs and Amazon Fire TV Edition sets are particularly tuner-friendly, with full grid-style program guides for antenna TV shows.

Read more: Best TV Antenna

Remote controls

We prefer simple TV remotes without a lot of buttons.

David Katzmaier/CNET

If you aren’t planning to use a universal model or the remote that came with your cable box, pay attention to the TV’s included clicker. It’s nice when it can command other gear directly so you can ditch those extra remotes. We prefer smaller, simple remotes with just a few buttons that consign most of the action to the screen.

Read more: Best Universal Remote

High-end styling, hidden wiring

Since TVs are basically furniture, manufacturers have concentrated on making their sets look nicer. Many TVs today look like almost all picture from the front, and when seen from the side or hung on a wall, the thin cabinets almost disappear. Other innovations include channels to hide wiring and, in the case of high-end Samsung TVs, a separate input box to further reduce clutter.

Some TVs have channels behind the TV for hiding wires.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Frequently asked questions

What’s the best TV brand?

We don’t have a favorite brand; instead we try to judge the TVs I test on their individual merits, largely ignoring brand cachet or reputation. We don’t test TVs over the long term, but from what we know all of the major brands are more or less equally reliable. Some brands do perform more consistently better than others in my tests, or deliver remotes, smart TV systems or designs we prefer over competitors, but these can change on a fairly regular basis.

Another way to answer that question is to check out our current list of best TVs.

What’s the best TV for gaming? What about sports?

Trick question! We believe the best TVs for watching pretty much anything are the TVs with the best black level, color and other standard performance characteristics (not to mention the biggest screen). Motion resolution isn’t a major concern since most blurring on TV sporting events is inherent in the source, and input lag, which we measure for every TV review, can often be improved by specialized gaming modes common on most TVs.

The exception, as mentioned above, is for gamers with next-generation consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X who want features like 4K/120Hz and variable refresh rate. Those are only found on newer, more expensive TVs.

Read more: Best Gaming TVs

Input lag is measured for every TV we review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about all those picture settings? Should I pay for a calibration?

Properly adjusting the picture is very important to getting the most out of your TV. That said, simply selecting the “Movie,” “Cinema” or “Calibrated” preset will get you the most accurate picture on most TVs. If you want to go deeper, or perhaps bring in a professional to help, check out our picture settings tips and professional calibration explainer.

What accessories should I buy?

Let me reiterate: All HDMI cables are the same. If you want better audio, we recommend starting with a soundbar or investing in a home theater system. And if the built-in smart TV system on your set isn’t up to par, check out a streaming device.

How long will my new TV last?

The short answer is “it should last a very long time.” Here’s the longer version.

Can I use my TV as a computer monitor?

Yes you can, and it should work very well, whether you use HDMI or go wireless. 

How come you never mention rear-projection or plasma TV?

Because rear-projection TVs are no longer on sale as of 2012, and the last plasma TVs were manufactured in 2014. They’re sadly missed.

OK, what about projectors?

Unlike dinosaur rear projectors, we think front projectors are really cool. Here’s our favorite home theater projectors and portable projectors.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What happened to 3D TV?

Once a futuristic add-on filled with promise — remember the original Avatar? — 3D TV is now basically dead. The last two major brands to support 3D, Sony and LG, dropped support entirely in 2017, joining Samsung, Vizio and most other brands. All of the TV makers we asked cited lack of interest from consumers.

Which HDR format is better, HDR10 or Dolby Vision? What about HLG and HDR10 Plus?

Neither one has proven better in our tests yet, and it mostly depends on the TV. For more info, check out our guide to HDR formats and an in-depth look at HDR10 Plus.

Where can I find the latest TV reviews again?

Right here.

How to choose a TV in 2022: current advice – LG MAGAZINE Russia magazine

The modern technology market surprises with its variety and novelty of technologies. The TV range is no exception. Everyone has this device in the house and, most often, not even in the same room. Therefore, the question of how to choose a TV in 2022 can be considered relevant. Moreover, devices from different manufacturers and with different technical characteristics and parameters are presented on the market.

There is no perfect formula for buying the right TV. As with smartphones, you can’t just look at a TV’s spec sheet and see how it will perform. And even checking the TV in the showroom will not give you complete information about how the TV will work in your home with your conditions.

To avoid overpaying for a TV, but also to buy the most functional model exactly for your criteria and your home, you will need to take into account a number of parameters. Not in all cases, the question of price will come first. After all, you need to understand that you have to pay for a high-quality and functional TV. Therefore, in order to choose the best option for your home, you need to study the key functions of modern TVs, and decide for yourself which technical parameters are especially important to you.

To choose the right TV in 2022, you need to consider the following specifications:

  • TV screen size.
  • Matrix and backlight type.
  • Screen resolution.
  • Contrast.
  • Sound quality.
  • If this is a Smart TV, what operating system is installed.
  • Whether the model is equipped with additional functions and interfaces.

Screen size. When choosing a TV model, the manufacturer is important for some consumers, and the screen size is important for others. The dimensions of the TV are very important, because the perception of the picture as a whole and the comfort when viewing depend on them. There is an opinion that the larger the diagonal size of the TV or the screen, the better. In fact, choosing a large screen diagonal is not always good. And in some cases, it can cause visual impairment.

When choosing the diagonal size of the TV, consider the following points:

  • Where you plan to install the device.
  • What is the distance from the TV to the viewer.
  • Room area.

Each TV has a recommended screen distance and an optimal viewing angle. The maximum immersion in what is happening on the screen occurs when the eyes are at the level of the center of the screen or slightly higher, and the diagonal covers 40% of your field of view. According to the classical formula, the optimal distance from the eyes to the TV screen should be approximately 2.5-3 diagonals.

For example, a 17-inch TV is best viewed at a distance of about a meter or a little more, a 32-inch screen at a distance of 2.5 meters. If you decide to stop your choice and purchase a LG TV model with a 70-inch or 80-inch screen, then get ready for the fact that the distance from your eyes to the screen should not be less than five or six meters . Each customer chooses the equipment personally to his taste. Models from 32 inches to 55 inches are considered the most common.

Sensor type and backlight. An important point in the question of how to choose a TV for the home in 2022 is the choice of the type of matrix. Since the quality of the picture and even the price of equipment depend on it.

Popular TV display types in the modern technology market include LCD/LED and OLED/QLED. Most TVs are equipped with LCD / LED matrix (LCD panels). These screens use LEDs to illuminate the LCD display, hence the name. When buying an LCD TV with LED backlighting, be aware that the entire display is illuminated. Some use side-lit panels, where the LEDs are only placed on the edge of the screen.

The backlight in LCD and LED is represented by two types:

  • Direct – Direct LED. The backlight of the LCD TV is located behind the matrix, respectively, this allows for uniform illumination over the entire plane of the screen. Also, due to this technology, high-quality local dimming is used, which is used in HDR mode. This service allows you to make the backlight more accurate and gives an overall better color reproduction of the image with greater detail due to the pixels on the display. This feature was once only available on premium models, but now it’s rolling out to budget TVs as well.
  • Contour – Edge LED. The LEDs in this case are located along the contour of the screen itself, most often on the left and right sides of the TV. At the same time, quantum dots, which add an additional layer of nanocrystalline dots (pixels), allow the reflection system to distribute the backlight throughout the display and get an image with greater brightness and color. This technology is considered more expensive in price.

Most manufacturers believe that LCD and LED technologies are the future, so they produce more TVs with this matrix. Among the advantages of the technology are:

  • Affordable compared to OLED.
  • Acceptable thickness and small dimensions.
  • Normal screen brightness level.

As for OLED TVs, this is one of the most advanced technologies among TV models. These TVs replace the LCD backlight with a layer of OLEDs that deliver deep blacks and an incredible level of contrast. OLED TVs come in 4K and 8K resolutions and are much more expensive than LED LCD TVs.

OLED TVs do not need additional lighting. Due to this, the manufacturer of these TVs, LG, creates the thinnest models with deep blacks.

The main distinguishing feature of OLED from conventional LED TV is that each pixel can be illuminated separately. This provides a number of advantages:

  • Intense black color.
  • High sharpness with every self-illuminating pixel.
  • Thinner TV than LED.
  • Wide viewing angles.
  • Thermal stability (operating temperature range is -40 to +70 degrees Celsius).

While LG uses OLED technology, another South Korean manufacturer of appliances and electronics uses QLED technology for its TVs. The key difference between QLED and OLED is the use of nanoparticles, which, depending on their size, can emit different colors when exposed to light.

QLED has good brightness, color rendering and great power saving. At the same time, the technology is also distinguished by the presence of conventional LED backlighting, which is why there is no rich black color. Also, QLED TV models will be thicker than OLED.

TV screen resolution. The resolution of the TV directly affects the clarity of the picture, the absence of a blurred image, and also partly on the level of contrast. The higher the resolution, the better. Modern TVs have four types of resolution:

  • HD (1280×720 / 1366×768 pixels). It is more common in inexpensive models or in TVs with a small diagonal.
  • Full HD (1920×1080 pixels). Devices with this screen resolution are the most common. Their price is affordable, and the picture quality is average.
  • UHD 4K (4096×2160 / 3840×2160 pixels). 4K technology is found in models with a diagonal of over 32 inches. With a resolution of 4K, the image will be better, but the price of such a TV will be higher. The 4K format provides the highest picture clarity.
  • UHD 8K (7680×4320 pixels). Representative of the most modern television technologies. The range of TV models that support 8K resolution is not diverse. Their price will be high, so these TV models are not the most affordable.

Contrast. Contrast is written as a ratio (eg 5000:1). It tells how much the white areas on the screen will be brighter than the black ones. For example, in LED TVs the contrast is low, in OLED TVs it will be higher. Many recommend stopping at a model with a ratio of 5000: 1.

To achieve the best picture quality, TV manufacturer LG uses dynamic contrast ratio. Due to this technique, the brightness automatically switches depending on which scene is shown on the screen.

It is difficult to say which is the best TV for this indicator. When choosing a device, it is also important to consider the type of matrix, the diagonal of the TV and, of course, your personal preferences.

Sound quality. Sound quality plays a big role for movie, TV series or music lovers. All TVs with built-in speakers have about the same sound quality and volume. If sound is important to you, but there is no desire to buy an additional home theater or stereo system, then you should choose a TV with a speaker power of 20 watts or more.

Sound check when buying a TV is limited to listening at above average volume. The sound should be without rattling of the case and wheezing of the speakers.

Smart operating system TV . If you want to choose a Smart TV for your home, please note that the operating system also varies depending on the manufacturer. OS options are different: WebOS, Tizen and Android TV. Your choice will depend on personal preferences and the tasks assigned to the device.

Any Smart TV has an operating system with built-in applications through which you can connect to the Internet. This, in turn, allows you to view a variety of content from the network. Internet will be available via Wi-Fi or internet cable.

If the user does not want to overpay for the “smart function”, you can buy a separate Smart set-top box. By connecting the set-top box to the TV, you can download any applications and movies using Wi-Fi or an Internet cable. Your TV performs all the functions of a smart device. The price of the console depends on the manufacturer and other parameters.

Interfaces and other functions. The interface depends on which TV model you have chosen and from which manufacturer. Most often, manufacturers make simple-to-operate equipment, which will not be difficult to deal with. Moreover, the instructions of modern devices describe in detail all the steps, what and in what sequence to connect.

As far as additional options are concerned, the issue of connectors, their types and quantity takes a special place here. You can connect a different number of additional equipment to the TV: a smartphone, laptop, computer, speakers and much more, but it is important that the manufacturer provides for the presence of such connectors on the device. At the same time, in the TV model you have chosen, there must be such ports as:

  • HDMI for connecting a game console, speaker system, media player and other devices.
  • LAN for wired internet connection.
  • USB port for connecting removable storage devices.
  • Analog output for stereo sound.
  • Antenna input for analogue TV reception.

Other useful additional features include:

  • Wi-Fi service for wireless Internet connection.
  • Bluetooth for wireless communication with smartphones, laptops, headphones and other devices.
  • HDR is a high dynamic range service available mainly on 4K TVs. In films and games with appropriate support, it makes the picture as contrasting and juicy as possible, adjusting the brightness of certain areas of the image.

How to choose a quality TV and what to look for when buying

Buying a new TV is not the most difficult task, but to get a really high-quality and functional device, you need to take into account several nuances when choosing a model.

Table of Contents:

Consider what features and technologies you should pay attention to in order for the TV to successfully perform basic tasks, but at the same time not be too expensive, and for a quick selection of equipment, see our rating of the best models..

Screen size

The screen size of a new TV directly depends on the room where it will be installed, and the amount of money that the future owner is willing to spend on buying the device. In this case, the universal rule applies: the larger the diagonal, the higher the cost of the TV.

A small appliance with a diagonal of about 32 inches is sufficient for the kitchen. This model will harmoniously fit into the interior of any kitchen and will allow you to comfortably watch movies and TV shows without being distracted from food.

A 42-inch TV is usually purchased for the bedroom. Of course, you can purchase a device with a larger screen diagonal, but usually a bedroom is a small room and it makes no sense to install such TVs in it. But, if the TV is planned to be installed in the living room, you can choose models with a large screen size. This will allow you to watch your favorite movies with the whole family or a large group of friends. In this case, the screen size depends solely on the financial capabilities of the future owner. But experts advise taking into account the distance from which the viewing will be carried out. It is desirable that it be one and a half times larger than the diagonal of the screen. You should not sit close to a large monitor, as this harms your eyesight.

TV humor

Screen resolution

Another important characteristic that determines the picture quality. In outdated models with HD quality, the screen resolution is very modest: 1280×720. Of course, if you plan to use the TV only for watching TV or are going to install it in the kitchen, this will be enough, but for the bedroom and living room it is better to choose a more modern model.

The latest TVs have Full HD (1920×1080) resolution. It is considered universal, as it is suitable for watching TV, movies, and even games on the console. In addition, such devices are cheaper than advanced 4K TVs, but provide acceptable image quality.

Users for whom the quality of the picture plays a decisive role and those who prefer to use paid licensed content should give preference to a TV with 4K UHD (3840×2160). This is the most advanced resolution with high definition and contrast. But you should immediately be prepared for the fact that on such a device it will be possible to view only paid TV channels and licensed films as Blu-Ray.

8K TVs have recently hit the market. We will not consider them, since such devices are very expensive and they can not be found on sale in all stores.

We select a TV by the type of matrix

All modern TVs can be equipped with one of three types of matrix: LED, OLED or QLED.

The most popular and inexpensive devices have an LCD LED matrix with LED backlight. These devices have a thin screen and a long service life, which, combined with low cost, explains their popularity.

OLED TVs entered the market in 2013. They use organic light-emitting diodes, which do not need a separate backlight. Distinctive features of such screens are increased brightness, true black display and large viewing angles. Since each pixel displays a different color and is not backlit from the rest, the colors on the screen look more vibrant and natural.

LED Projector or LED TV

Some manufacturers have achieved amazing heights in screen resolution. We are talking about Nano Cell from LG and QLED from Samsung. These TVs use Quantum Dot crystals, the so-called “quantum dots”. They have the largest color gamut and, accordingly, the price.

Looking at the picture on the screen, the user is unlikely to be able to determine the type of matrix, but if you put TVs of different groups next to each other, the difference will be obvious. Therefore, when choosing a device, they are guided solely by their own comfort and feelings.

Image enhancement technologies

Many TVs are listed in their manuals as HDR compatible (eg HDR10/10+ or ​​HDR Dolby Vision). These image enhancement technologies use sophisticated software algorithms to make the picture brighter and clearer.

If the TV is to be used exclusively for normal TV viewing, there will not be much difference between standard and enhanced picture. The effect of image enhancement will be noticeable only when viewing content in HDR quality. In other words, if a TV is bought only for watching TV, it makes no sense to overpay for picture enhancement technology. In all other cases, this function is really necessary and useful.


Most modern manufacturers strive to make TVs as thin as possible. Ideally, they should resemble a picture and not stand out on the wall at all. Accordingly, it is physically impossible to place high-quality speakers in such a thin case.

In this case, the user has only two options. The first is to buy not the thinnest TV on legs with high-quality built-in speakers. The second is to choose a model with an ultra-thin case and additionally buy a soundbar or speakers for it. It should immediately be clarified that top models are immediately sold with a separate soundbar.

But there are also universal devices. For example, the Samsung UE55NU8000U TV supports Dolby Digital technology and has a built-in subwoofer. Of course, you won’t be able to hang such a TV on the wall, but you won’t have to buy additional acoustics either.

Frame rate

This characteristic is responsible for the image refresh rate, which is extremely important in dynamic scenes. In most models, the frequency is in the range of 50-240 Hz. Accordingly, the higher this indicator, the faster the image on the screen will be updated.

60 Hz is considered the gold standard, but if you plan to use your TV for gaming or watching sports, it is better to choose devices with a frequency of 100 Hz or higher.

3D availability

If the user is not going to watch movies in 3D, then buying a TV with this function does not make sense. But 3D fans will need more information about this option.

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First of all, it should be mentioned that 3D technology can be passive (polarization) and active (shutter). In the first case, so-called disposable 3D glasses are used for viewing, like those that are given out in movie theaters. In the second, you will need special glasses with LCD shutters. In general, we can say that 3D content looks better on TVs with active 3D, but such devices are much more expensive.

Presence of a curved screen

From a practical point of view, curved screen televisions are of little value. The viewer, who will sit directly in front of the screen, will really feel the maximum immersion effect, but those who sit on the side will not be comfortable watching.

Curved monitors are more in demand in gaming, so it is worth buying them mainly for gamers.

Smart TV

This is a very useful feature and definitely worth paying for. “Smart” TV allows you to listen to music and watch movies directly from the Internet. In addition, you can download various applications and programs to such devices, as well as connect additional gadgets to it.

It is worth noting that the user does not have to decide whether he needs the Smart TV function or not, because now it is available in most TV models. But the operating system will have to be determined. Smart TVs can run Android, Linux, Amazon, webOS, or Tizen. Each system has its own advantages, such as a built-in voice assistant, its own app store, or a built-in online cinema.

There is a category of users who are skeptical about the Smart TV function and consider it absolutely useless. You can convince them only with the help of simple financial calculations: models without Smart TV cost about the same as “smart” budget devices. In other words, when buying a TV without Smart TV, the user simply gets a less functional device for the same money.

Additional interfaces

Before buying, you should carefully inspect the TV case to make sure that it has enough connectors.