How to buy a TV online without losing your mind

A television is a great gift for all occasions, from birthdays to Christmas and graduations. But buying one for your spouse, friend, relative, or yourself can be an intimidating prospect.(Image: Adam Berry/getty images)

There are seemingly infinite models, brands, and features to choose from.

And with every page full of long strings of letters and numbers, and science-y phrases like “Quantum Dot Color” and “Triluminous Display,” it’s hard to know which specs are important to consider, and which are just bluster.

Luckily, Mashable is here to help. We’ve scoured the heaps of televisions available online to help you figure out exactly how to buy a TV online without losing your mind.

Before you start shopping, remember that TVs are a lot like speakers or computers.

There’s not necessarily one model that’s agreed to be the best, but several brands usually stand out from the pack.

Most experts agree that Samsung, Sony, TCL, Vizio, and LG are currently making the best televisions on the market.

As a general rule, try to avoid shopping from brands you’ve never heard of, unless you’re on an incredibly tight budget.

If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Top-of-the-line brands sell products of high quality, won’t compromise your security, and will be there to help you if your product has a problem.

With all this in mind, we’ve broken the TV buying process into a few essential steps to make sure you find just the one you’re looking for, in size, features, and price tag. Here’s how to find the perfect TV online, without all the hassle.

Step One: Choose your size

While it may seem like big TVs are all the rage these days, bigger isn’t always better. To start, measure the space the TV will be in so you know exactly how much space you have to work with — you don’t want a TV that won’t fit.

Next, find the best screen size to optimize your space. The ideal TV screen size is 7.5 times your viewing distance — that is, the distance between the screen and the place you’ll be sitting while you watch.

Step Two: Choose your budget

TV prices can range from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.

The most expensive TVs are OLEDs, which often cost a few thousand dollars, but the most expensive of which can run upwards of $15,000.

You’re paying for the highest-quality picture on the market; OLED TVs produce the deepest blacks (the primary mark of a high-quality display) and have the highest color contrast and color saturation.

Almost all other types of TVs use LEDs. LED products can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

The blacks aren’t quite as dark and the whites aren’t as bright, but they can still deliver a great picture. LEDs often offer the best value.

And many newer LED TVs are able to nearly mimic the picture quality of OLEDs for less than half the price.

QLED TVs and SUHD TVs both deliver colors almost as stark and rich as those of their OLED counterparts, but they usually cost between $1,000 and $3,000 — much less than similarly-shaped OLEDs in the high thousands.

QLEDs received some of the best discounts on Black Friday this year, and are a great option for those without the budget for an OLED.

Step Three: Should you buy a smart TV?

These days, most TVs you buy will have a proprietary operating system and apps: Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and whatever else you may want to download.

We don’t recommend letting the quality or features of your TV’s operating system factor into your shopping decision, because you’ll almost certainly get a better, more responsive operating system from a streaming box such as Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, or Apple TV.

These products are affordable and discounted often.

You may find some cheaper TVs with Roku built in, but we would caution you against these as well: The picture quality isn’t as good as what you might get from a different type of set.

Step Four: Look for deals from big retailers

This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some products have seen bigger discounts from big retailers than they have from their manufacturers.

Check all the major outlets, such as Walmart, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, and NewEgg, and find the lowest price.

Remember to check how much an outlet charges for shipping, and what the tax will be, and factor that into the final cost.

Discounts pop up every day, and you never know where the next one will be.

Walmart recently discounted a 65-inch curved Samsung TV by $300, and this past Black Friday NewEgg marked a 65-inch LG down by $600, and Amazon took $1,200 off the price of a 65-inch QLED.

On many websites, you can sign up to be alerted about deals on the products you’re eyeing.

Step Five: Check the manufacturer’s price

Retailers will always claim you’re saving money, but check the manufacturer’s website to see just how good any deal is.

Manufacturers also offer their own discounts, and will sometimes have better prices than retailers.

For example, this past Black Friday, Samsung offered the lowest prices on a number of its TVs, including a few QLEDs.

Step Six: Check the reviews

The last, but most important, thing to do before locking in a purchase is checking a product’s reviews.

When searching for reviews, be careful that you’re reading about the right model.

If you’ve settled on buying Samsung’s 55″ Class MU7500 Curved 4K UHD TV, you don’t want to accidentally read reviews for the 55″ Class MU6500 Curved 4K UHD TV.

To minimize risk here, copy and paste the full name of your product into Google, or individual retailers’ search engines.

No matter where you’re buying the TV you’ve selected, read customer reviews from all the major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.

Read the most recent reviews, rather than the “best” or top-rated.

This will ensure that you’re getting a more representative sample of customers (rather than getting only good or only bad reviews),

and that you’re getting perspective on the most current software, without worrying about bugs that have since been fixed.

On more popular models, you may also be able to find published reviews on credible websites such as CNET, Wirecutter, or, of course, right here at Mashable!

These reviews can help you understand what distinguishes the technology in your TV from that of other products, and whether these features are worth their price.

Once you’ve followed each step, you’re ready to purchase your TV.

Happy watching!

By Monica Chin

This article was originally published by mashable.com

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