Size, color, contrast—where do you begin? Follow our five-step guide to buy the right set for your family.

By Kathleen M. Harris
January 11, 2019

Buying a Smart TV can make you feel anything but. With so many options on size, screen resolution, and contrast features, deciding on one specific TV can feel overwhelming. We talked with Smart TV experts, who gave us insight on what to look for when buying one of these TVs.

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1
Determine a Size

Here’s a simple formula to figure out how big to go: Measure the distance from the seat of your sofa to the wall in inches and divide that by three, says Nidhi Kapur, founder and CEO of Maiden Home, a direct-to-consumer custom-furniture brand. For example, if you’re sitting 10 feet away, divide 120 (10 feet times 12 inches) by 3, and the recommended size is 40 inches. That said, in rooms with high ceilings or large expanses of wall, you can get away with (and will want) a larger screen, says Hannah Klesmith, a Best Buy in-home adviser based in central Wisconsin.

2
Invest in 4K Technology

Most flat-screens are high-definition (HD), but 4K (also known as ultra-high-definition, or UHD) is quickly becoming the standard. And for good reason: 4K has four times as many pixels as 1080p HD, which means more detail (like a drop of sweat on a baseball player), says Klesmith. As for curved screens? They’re good in certain situations, but in general, skip them, says Robert Wisniewski, owner of SFElectronics.biz, an online electronics retailer. Flat-screens have a better overall picture quality.

3
View Effects in Person

If you’re going with a 4K TV, high dynamic range (HDR) is a feature worth investing in, says Peter Fingado, owner of Sounding Board in Waldwick, New Jersey. HDR is a contrast and color range that can display about 1 billion colors and makes the 4K pixels clearer and super-realistic. Go to a store to see if you like the look, as a common complaint is that new screens project a too-real feel. To adjust it, ask if there’s a motion-smoothing setting.

4
Match Features to Habits

Movie buffs should look for TVs with OLED, short for organic light-emitting diode. Most TVs have LED screens, which means the picture may be brighter, but in OLED the pixels are self-illuminating, which gives you the best color contrast possible, says Klesmith. Big on live sports? Focus on the TV’s processor speed and refresh rate. “The higher the number, the faster the picture loads,” says Klesmith. Watching in a room with bright lights and windows? Opt for a TV with a glare-resistant screen, rather than a glossy one.

5
Score a Good Deal

January and February are great months to shop for a new TV because of Super Bowl discounts, says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot. Also, new TVs hit the market in March or April, so last year’s models will be heavily discounted to make room for the new inventory, she adds. Extended warranty? Decline it. Most manufacturer warranties cover malfunctions caused by internal defects for a year. Your credit card company may also offer purchase protection.