The $1,000 Super Bowl TV: Go bigger, or go better?
I’ve been covering TVs for more than a decade, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get from friends and family on a budget is whether or not it’s better to get the biggest TV they can from a lesser-known brand, or a smaller set from a well-known manufacturer. Of course there are other trade-offs, such as whether you can live with a barebones model, or you absolutely need some extra features. Size seems to be especially important when you’re buying a TV for a big sporting event like the Super Bowl, where a really big screen can yield bigger excitement, and probably a better viewing experience for friends if you’ll have a crowd over to watch the game.
So for the purpose of conversation, let’s say you have $1,000 to spend. Are you going to go bigger with a lesser-known brand, or get the best picture quality possible with a set—probably a bit smaller—from a better-known brand? Also entering the mix this year: some lower-priced Ultra HD (UHD) TVs from brands such as Seiki and TCL, which fall within your budget. These sets have 3840x2160 screens, with four times as many pixels as regular 1080p sets— and the promise of extra detail can be exciting.
For a main TV, I’ll almost always trade a few inches of screen for the best-looking picture, since I tend to live with my set for at least four or five years. But what would you do—go bigger, or go better? Are you considering a lower-priced UHD TV? Are you willing to give up some features, such as Internet capability, for a bigger-screen TV?
One other thing to consider: sound quality. The sound from many TVs just can’t do justice to their great-looking images. Are you willing to give up the visceral impact of a bunch-crunching tackle, or will you need to allot some of your budget for a soundbar speaker system to pump up the audio?
Let the conversation begin! I'll be weighing in right up until Super Bowl weekend.
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$1,000 is exactly how much I'm planning to spend so I've got a few questions for you. How would you compare Samsung versus Vizio as a brand. Samsung seems to have a bit more brand prominence but Vizio is competitively priced. I've heard the latter has had some manufacturing issues.
Also, I'm transitioning from a 42' plasma to a larger TV. I love the image of my plasma (samsung BTW) but hate the glare. Any suggestions for what technology to go for in terms of bang for the buck? I'm mostly interested in how sporting events are displayed.
Personally, I wouldn't buy a leftover 2013 UHD TV right now for several reasons, one of which you mention. Few early 2013 UHD TVs support HDMI 2.0, which as you mention allows 60 frames-per-second video. A few model that were introduced did have HDMI connectors that could be upgraded to HDMI 2.0. But all 2014 UHD sets I saw at CES come with HDMI 2.0 inputs.
But another, perhaps even more compelling reason is that most–perhaps all?–lack support for the new HEVC video codec, which will be widely used for 4K (UHD) content. HEVC–aka H.265– is a more efficient video codec that will enable higher-quality video to be sent over existing distribution networks (i.e. streaming and some pay TV services, probably satellite and telco-delivered fiber services first). Most 2014 sets will have built-in HEVC decoders to handle this new video format. It's a chipset, so you won't be able to upgrade to HEVC via a firmware update.
So when you consider all this–plus the fact that there won't be much 4K content until later in the year and we expect prices to drop, probably 40% to 50% by the back half of the year–I'm in the camp of those who will wait at least a few more months before even considering an Ultra HD set.
Answering this more in a theoretical mode (I have an insane home theater in reality), I'd say the sound is more important than most people think if they haven't pondered it deeply. Especially with a crowd who could easily over talk the levels from a weak output system.
Also I think it's very early in the UHD world, upscaling effectively to use those extra pixels isn't anywhere near maturity at this point. I'd figure on getting something now that will hold the fort then go for a QHD when there's better interpolation systems that really make a difference with UHD panels.
I'd certainly make sure the sets had HDMI 2.0 to effectively use those extra pixels (or DP 1.3). Some of the computer monitor panels are coming out limited to 30Hz refresh rates, so there are clearly big trade-offs being made in the QHD world right now. Not a time I'd buy, too much in flux.
I'm not gonna lie… I'll go for a good (not top of the line) brand smaller picture and spend half and take the kids to the mountains a few times with the remaining cash.
I often get questioned by my father in law for not being impressed by his HUGE top of the line HD theater system. Yes, its nice but its tens of thousands of dollars? Anything should be niche for that type of $$.
We just recently bought our first actual HD flat screen. We went with a 720p JVC and we couldn't be happier.
I am in the process of remodeling our basement for a sports room and we will likely get a 50-50 inch for there. I refuse to buy junk so we'll likely get a "good" name brand. and likely get it from Costco because of their policy on electronics. I know they say 90 days for returns and an extended 2 year coverage plan but a little know fact… Costco stands behind ALL purchases for the life you own them.
Are we interested in all of the extra features? Not really. I'm absolutely sure they ALL are cool and will achieve a better TV watching experience but as long as the picture is clear and I can do the basics I'm happy. Our new tv isn't a smart TV but our wii and blue ray player let us stream and access the internet. we're happy with that.
Hope that helps…
We're looking for a good, moderately priced led 60-65 inch TV, but we are willing to wait out the Super Bowl "hype" until later in February or March to see where the prices fall out on the "old" 2013 models and what might bring for the 2014 models. One thing that is a little frustrating is that for some of the models we are looking at, there are no Consumer Reports reviews, only reviews from sites such as Crutchfield and CNET. Case in point - Samsung UN65F7100 and the Sony KDL-65W850A. Most of online reviews would indicate these are comparable. Big box sales staff really seem to be pushing the Samsung line and they seem be not showing the highly rated (by CR) Samsung UN60F7500. So is the Samsung UN65F7100 as good as the UN60F7500? As to the Sony KDL-65W850A, how would it compare to either Samsung model or the lower priced Sony KDL-60R550A (which is a CR "Best Buy)? Add to that - Sony will be coming out with a KDL-60W850B in March which has their new "wedge" design. I would assume that the video of those two would be comparable - right?
Any thoughts on active vs passive 3D technology in televisions. Have seen some articles indicating that passive technology, while using cheaper glasses, produces less than perfect HD content. Active technology, on the other hand, has expensive glasses, and some articles indicate some eye strain or other issues when watching 3D content for movies.
I would much rather get a smaller set from a well-known manufacturer. I've had some terrible experiences in the past with lesser-known brands, so would never go that route again. Some family members and I chipped in to purchase a TCL 40" TV for my sister about 2 years ago. After 5 months, it became unwatchable due to some pixel issues. Over time, the center of the TV developed a purple stripe, and it widened over a short time so that the entire middle third of the TV showed no picture. Ok, there are always lemons with any product. Yes, it was annoying, but it happens, so my sister tried to get it serviced. What an absolute nightmare. It literally took months for TCL to resolve it. It was very difficult for her to get through to customer service, she was being sent back and forth between TCL customer service and their 3rd party repair center with no resolution in sight. I felt so bad since I had part in buying it for her, so I got involved and wrote to a well-known PC magazine for help. They had a monthly help column for people that couldn't get any resolution for computer/electronics issues and warranty services. I didn't even think my email would be read, but sent it anyway. They actually DID read it and asked me some more questions. Then all of a sudden out of the blue, TCL started calling me and my sister to get it resolved. The magazine contacted them, so it was only after that that TCL & their repair center cooperated. The magazine also did end up publishing it in their magazine column.
Sorry for the long rant, but it really was an awful experience, so customer service also plays a very large part in my purchases.
I personally don't need the very best picture quality - it's nice, but not a must for me. Just watching the HD channels on my 1080p, 120mHz LCD/Led TVs works fine for me. I like the Smart TVs, however, they're not a must have since I can use my Roku streamers to access apps. One can access tons more through a Roku than through any Smart TV, and I think it's probably cheaper to go non-smart and buy a Roku (or other streaming device).
Great sounds also helps, but again, I would be willing to purchase an extra sound bar or speakers to get that sound.
Consumer Reports, CNET.com, and Crutchfield.com have excellent buying guides for tv’s—they deal with issues such as how much sunlight your room has, viewing angle, and motion blur.
Where to buy the tv is the most important thing, however, and Costco is the winner hands-down. They give you a 90-day return window, the longest of any retailer, and give you a 2-year warranty. If you use your Costco American Express card you get a third year if the tv is a standard stock item and not a special model made only for them. Most important, however, is that they have their own tech support, their Concierge Service, who answer the phone promptly in American English and have direct phone lines to the manufacturers.
Costco saved me no end of trouble with my HP laptop—no phone menus to plod through only to speak to someone who was either not knowledgeable and/or not comprehensible. Each time I called the Concierge he quickly set up a 3-way conversation with an HP rep who explained how to send it back to HP for no charge. Altogether I had to send it back three times and thankfully it’s been working fine for a while now.
The cost of the Costco membership is much less than what you would pay for an extended warranty at other retailers and when you use your Costco Amex card you don’t need a receipt when you return something. Their policy is no time limit on returns except for tv’s and computers. Be sure to check their website for products not found in their stores and be sure to compare their online prices with their store prices—the latter are sometimes lower.
As for size, surveys done by Consumer Reports and others always agree on one thing—many people regret not having bought a larger tv. As for sound, hook it up to your stereo system. Get a digital receiver with three or four HDMI inputs and then you need only one HDMI input on the tv. If this is beyond your budget, shop around for a soundbar—even a low-cost one will be better than most tv speakers.
Something to be careful of - HDMI 1.3 and below do not support UHD nor 4K displays. There are some HDMI 1.4a systems out, but they're limited to 24-30 frames per second. To get to 60, that will take HDMI 2.0. I haven't seen that widely used yet, in fact the 3840x2160p panels I've seen are only equipped with Display Port.
So be aware of the cabling and connector issues, and don't assume current receivers or decoders are compatible with UHD or 4K displays.
For myself, I'm waiting to let this all shake out a bit.