TV buying guide: Tips you need to knowBrian Cooley tells you about the various TV technologies on the market and offers advice on how to shop for a new TV.
Expert service, unbeatable price. Best Buy. A lot's changed in the TV aisle since we last talked about a year ago. I'm Brian Cooley with the things you need to keep in mind when you go shopping for a TV now. Perhaps the biggest news is, plasma's gone. Panasonic was the first to give up the ghost in mid-2014. LG followed late in the year. And Samsung says 2014 will also be their last year of selling plasma tv's in the US. So here are the technologies you're looking at now. LCD. Now today that means typically LED LCDs. That means a liquid crystal display on the front, like on a computer monitor or most televisions, but then in the back it's lit by high-performance LEDs, like the light emitting diodes you see in flashlights today but specially tuned for television production. Then there's O-L-E-D, organic light emitting diode. These televisions tend to be very thin, have amazingly deep, black, saturated colors, low power consumption, and in fact, the best TV in the world to our eyes right now is an OLED TV. The downside is this is a maturing, cutting edge technology. So you're gonna pay quite a bit. If you wait a couple of years you'll probably get a better, more refined OLED TV for even less money. But if you're an early adopter, go ahead and jump in. They're amazing. Now the next technology to be aware of is resolution. The current TV mainstream is called full HD, or 1080P. That refers to 1,080 lines of picture counted from top to bottom. This is the vast majority of TVs out there and that also matches very well to the majority of content and player devices that exist out there. Then, there's the much talked about 4K which is the TV with twice the lines and twice the columns of pixels and, therefore, four times the resolution of 1080. Now, that doesn't mean it looks four times as sharp, but in a really large TV it can make a noticeable difference. The TVs are coming on market in good numbers. The content is one of the big questions, though. There's not a lot now but it's growing fast. You'll typically find it on streaming platforms, actually. Amazon and Netflix, for example. The satellite guys are beginning to get into 4K distribution in a limited way. And there's also talk of a soon-emerging Blu-ray disc 4K standard. But you have to ask yourself, do you really wanna rebuy your library of discs? Now 4K tvs that I mentioned are coming on the market in good numbers and the prices are trying to fall rapidly as well which is a hall mark of the flat panel tv industry, however, we're still at the earlier stage where not all models are considered very good or better. So, make sure you shop carefully and check our reviews in detail before you lay down some money on a 4K set. Here's where it all comes together. The bottom line is the best LED LC TVs on the market right now are also 4K models. So you may end up buying a 4K TV even though you don't necessarily want one. But it's good future proofing, and they're all, also, excellent full HD tele. Finally, streaming. Everybody's streaming video these days so make sure you've got a good plan to get to that in your new television. Just about all TVs arrive with some form of built-in streaming in the television itself. However, we remain big fans of the add-on set top boxes like a Roku box or an Apple TV. There's an inexpensive of add ons that you'd call the sticks, if you will. Streaming sticks like Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV that work very well, are very cheap, and a great way to gift someone into the streaming era if they're not really up on it just yet. Also, the first TV just arrived on the market in 2014 with built in Roku technology. Their interface. Their streaming and their library of content. Some final thoughts. First, curved screens. They've been on the market about a year now and year in we still think they're basically gimmicks. Don't sweat buying one. And when it comes to brands, I'm sure you think about the big boys like Samsung, LG, Vizio, Panasonic. But don't leave out some of the upstarts that are making some very interesting products. They would be companies like TCL and Hisense and Haire. You can find all of our reviews and more tips on buying a TV at cnet.com/televisions.