Some of the things you may be looking for when upgrading your TV are size, picture quality, and the brand itself. However, once you’ve researched this far, you still have to narrow down your options based on your budget. While having a budget comes in handy, sometimes, this can be conflicting. You may have a 40-inch TV that retails for $1000 and a similar 40-inch that goes for $500, but is buying an expensive TV better?
More expensive TVs can be better, but you can find affordable TV options with excellent clarity, speed, and features. Advanced features like OLED panel types, high refresh rates, and fast speeds found in expensive TVs are worth it for high-resolution media or playing video games.
Is it worth spending more on a TV? As with everything, it depends. In this detailed guide, we cover some of the features that differentiate cheap and expensive TV models. We also list the mistakes to avoid when purchasing a TV.
Table of Contents
What Specs Differentiate a Cheap TV From an Expensive TV?
Here are some specs that differentiate cheap TV from an expensive one.
Build and Design
Affordable TVs are made from cheap materials like plastic. Although the difference isn’t noticeable from the couch, you’ll notice it when you get close to the TV. More affordable TVs are made of plastic, susceptible to scratches and bumps when you move the TV around.
An expensive TV is recognizable from its exterior, the materials used, and the design. Some high-end models are made from metal and glass.
TVs come in various sizes, depending on your preferences and budget. Televisions that are between 32-43 inches (81.28-109.22 cm) are affordable and ideal for those on a budget. However, TVs that are 60 inches (152.4 cm) and above are going to cost more.
A TV with multiple ports allows you to connect with other devices. You may need to connect a router, modem, or watch a movie on your laptop. Most TVs have HDMI, US, VGA, and DVI ports that allow you to connect most devices to your TV. Some high-end models allow these ports to function at the same time.
The refresh rate is expressed in Hz, and it’s the number of times per second a picture gets refreshed on the screen. A standard refresh rate on most TVs is 60Hz. However, with an LCD TV, this type of refresh rate can make things appear blurry. That’s why manufacturers decided to double the refresh rate to 120Hz to create a smooth viewing experience.
Some TV brands will use terms like an effective refresh rate to mean that the actual rate is half. A good example is a 240 Hz effective refresh rate means it’s a 120 Hz refresh rate.
Gamers and anyone interested in video content will do well with a 120 Hz refresh rate as it’s fast and offers the best performance. New models have a high refresh rate and high-frame support for things like live sports. TVs with high-frame-rate backing and high refresh rates are more expensive than TVs with a 60 Hz refresh rate.
The TV resolution refers to the number of pixels displayed on a TV to form the picture. A manufacturer will list measurements in terms of width vs. height. The more pixels a TV has, the more precise the image. Resolutions are also referred to by names like Standard Definition, HD, UHD, 4K, and 8K.
Here’s a look at each of these resolutions.
While you won’t find SD TVs, some manufacturers still use this format for most TV channels. You can also view the standard definition on new TVs, but it won’t look good as HD content. With a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, SD TVs are better than analog broadcasts.
There are affordable and high-end models with high definition resolution. This type of resolution gives a sharp and clear image compared to standard definition models. Their essential resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels allows you to watch content in full HD. You need an HD TV to watch HD content.
Another essential thing to note is that there are full HD and HD ready. HD ready TVs have at least 720 pixels more than standard definition. Most digital TVs are HD ready, meaning they can receive HD broadcasts. Cheaper TV models have a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels with a different aspect ratio.
Full HD TVs have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and you’ll find these TVs more expensive than their counterparts. A full HD TV is fantastic if you’re planning on watching HD content or Freeview HD.
4K is the latest resolution addition, boasting of high-tech offering for picture quality and TV resolution. With 3840 x 2160 pixels, you can expect four times the detail of a high definition TV and sharp picture quality with lots of depth and detail. 4K means four times the pixel resolution and is named after image width. This resolution also leads to more image enhancements like HDR that further adds to the advantages.
4K also offers an immersive cinematic experience, which means that the images retain their quality on more giant screens. You get a new picture that fills the field of view, creating an immersive experience of watching a cinema or film.
4K TVs provide better color handling and image depth. The extra pixels make the images look deep. This resolution refines the detail and makes you see further. Having a 4K TV enhances your 3D experience. That’s because 4K TVs give you extra detail and pixel density, something that makes the 3D world real and convincing.
The major downside to this resolution is that the content is limited. More TV providers like Hulu and Netflix are offering 4K content. However, you can access Ultra HD Blu-ray for mainstream media that needs an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Another disadvantage is that you need a fast internet connection, with at least 40 Mbps of speed and data. Not all 4K TV connections support the HDCP 2.2 copy protection system meant for the 4K era.
HD content looks great on 4K TV. The best thing is that most 4K TVs have an upscaling feature that smoothens our HD content and makes it appear 4K. High-end models now have 4K Ultra HD resolution. However, these TVs are becoming more affordable as more people are now upgrading to 4K TVs.
8K is at the top of the resolution scale. At 7680 X 4320 resolution, you are assured of the best picture quality that money can afford. As more people are shifting to 4K TVs, 8K will become the standard for luxury TVs, ranging from 96 inches onwards.
Panel Type: LEDs vs. OLEDs vs. QLEDs
Panel type is another indicator of TV quality. You can now find TVs with LCD, LED, or OLED. All of these technologies are different. What makes one better than the other? Here’s a breakdown:
LED TVs are affordable compared to OLED and QLED TVs. The LED TVs use TFT-LCD panels with LED backlighting to offer better color and brightness. This type of TV ranges from 19 inches to 88 inches, with their starting price being a couple of hundred dollars. You can get an LED TV if you are looking for color and brightness without stretching your budget.
OLED means Organic Light-Emitting Diode. This type of display tech has a carbon-based film between two conductors that transmit a current through and cause the film to emit some light. The light can be cast on a pixel basis, leading to enhanced levels of contrast.
OLED emits its light, which eliminates the backlight used by most TVs. These panels are also slim, which means each pixel self-illuminates allowing you to control images at a specific pixel level. In an OLED panel, organic films are in between semiconductors then supplied with a current, and that means each pixel can be switched on and off individually. That leads to less power used, which leads to more brightness.
OLED TVs have quick response times, perfect viewing angles, and are lighter than most TVs. They are also eco-friendly as they do not need Nitrogen Trifluoride in their production. OLED is the winner due to its slim design, better viewing angles, and narrow bezels. OLED’s only downside is that it’s more expensive and only available for screens larger than 55 inches. They also don’t get quite as bright as LED or QLED TV.
QLED TVs have a quantum-dot filler between the LCD layer and LED backlight, enhancing the colors and brightness. These panels are costly to manufacture, and that means you’ll only find QLED TVs ranging from 43 inches going up. You can expect better colors at higher prices than what you’ll find on LED TVs. On the downside, QLEDs do not offer deep blacks and contrast levels that you’ll find on most OLED TVs.
The type of panel you decide to purchase will depend on your budget. OLED gives you the best value for money, a QLED gives you more brightness, while an LED provides you some type of contrast and brilliance at a budget.
Affordable TVs have limited access to smart functions. Moreover, when you have access to smart parts, you’ll have to go through an outdated platform that may not work with modern systems.
Cheaper TVs also don’t have a strong processor, which means apps like Netflix or YouTube may fail to operate or run slowly. In this case, you may need an external media player to access these smart functions.
High-end models provide you with access to an extensive list of smart functions. Most of the smart TVs are equipped with Firefox, WebOS, and other browsing systems. The best part is that expensive TVs have a powerful processor, allowing you to switch between apps.
You can use multiple applications simultaneously without experiencing any issues. Furthermore, you can stream 4K videos from youtube and Netflix. Expensive TVs also have a smart remote that allows you to watch what you want in no time.
Cheaper TVs not only have low-quality speakers but also the sound gets flatter. These TVs come with two stereo speakers with a maximum power of 20 watts. That level of power is ideal when you need to watch a TV program. However, if you’re planning to watch a movie, you may have difficulty understanding the sound effects. Putting the volume high also makes the sound feel sharp and doesn’t help with the voice.
Some high-end models have quality sound, and some are fitted with soundbars. The result is a fuller sound where the effects and voice emerge clearly, unlike the sound in cheap TVs.
The fitted speakers are developed using a specialized audio manufacturer and fit quickly with the TV’s design. With this type of TV, you get to experience the effects of a movie or film. You’ll get to experience the bass tones in real life, which makes watching something exciting and fun.
Modern TVs now have Dolby Atmos, a new sound-processing technology that simulates sound coming from bullets whizzing by, a plane passing overhead, or any other sound from above.
Note that great sound doesn’t come cheap. Some of the best sets that score highly for sound quality include Sony OLED TVs, LG OLED TVs, and Samsung QLED TVs, which range from $1200-$1500.
Is It Worth to Buy an Expensive TV?
If you’re looking for more features, better specs, or improved performance in terms of color, brightness, resolution, or smooth motion, then expect to pay more for a TV that guarantees quality and performance in the long run. The price difference could be because of the picture quality specs, LED backlight, excellent video processing, or the OLED panel itself.
However, if you rarely watch TV and don’t mind having all the latest features, a budget TV will work better. In case you come across two TVs of the same size with a price discrepancy, that could be due to the brand name, design element, or the inclusion of certain support features.
Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for a TV
Now that you have an idea of what separates an expensive TV model from a cheap one, it’s also critical to understand some common mistakes people make when shopping for a TV.
Below are some of the biggest mistakes you need to avoid when buying a new TV.
Opting for Size Instead of Quality
A big size TV gives you that immersive experience that makes you feel like you’re in a theater. Sometimes squinting to read text on a small TV isn’t exciting. That’s why you need to find the right screen size that fits your space and provides a reasonable distance between your seat and the TV set.
When going for a 4K TV, you need to find a big-sized TV. However, don’t make the mistake of choosing a size without checking the features it comes with. You may get a large TV with features you may never use or one without any features. Ensure that you balance the size with the parts you need.
Buying a TV With Features You’ll Never Use
Another common mistake most people make is to pay for features they’ll never use. Certain features like 3D and motion smoothing are not essential when watching TV. Some of these features cost money and are unnecessary. Check before purchasing to ensure that you’re only spending money on features you’ll use.
Choosing the Wrong Size of TV
Size is a critical aspect when purchasing a new TV. That’s because you cannot have a TV that is either too small or too big for your living room. A small TV in a big space makes viewing challenging, while a big TV in a small room looks like overkill. The best way to determine the right size is to measure the distance between your sitting position and TV screen and divide this figure by 1.5.
Failing to Check the Ports
Your entertainment center may be different from your neighbor’s. That means you may not have the same port requirements as your neighbor. That’s why it’s essential to determine your port requirements before purchasing a TV.
Decide on the devices you plan to plug into the TV to help you determine how many ports you need. A good example is a gaming enthusiast. You may have different set-top boxes and gaming consoles. You’ll need to get a TV that has enough ports to accommodate everything. Get to understand your needs before rushing to get a TV that won’t be useful in the long run.
Going for a Smart TV When You Don’t Need One
You may not need a smart TV if you have an Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, Roku, Plex Premium Pass, Chromecast, Xbox, or Playstation. Contrary to popular belief, smart TV doesn’t feature intelligent apps. All it essentially does is connect to the network and run a basic operating system with a limited selection of apps. If you already have a device that connects you to a streaming service, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a smart TV.
Failure to Consider Sound
Another common mistake people make when purchasing a Television is that they never consider sound. Most manufacturers are now making thin TVs, and that means less room for speakers. You’ll have to deal with low sound quality despite having a cool looking TV.
Some TVs don’t use speakers that face the viewer; that’s because the manufacturers angle the speakers towards the bottom, which means the sound bounces out towards the viewer. The result is poor sound reproduction, particularly for bass.
You’ll need to invest in surround sound or a soundbar if audio is essential. The best thing is that you can find soundbars to suit any budget. You can also invest in satellite speakers, receivers, or a subwoofer if you’re looking for authentic surround sound.
Over Relying on the Salesperson for Purchase Advice
Unfortunately, retailers train their staff not to provide unbiased consumer advice but to sell as many TV sets as possible. The main goal is to make money and bring in more. A salesperson will advise you to opt for the expensive option even if you don’t need all these features that come with the TV. That’s because they may get a high commission once you purchase the expensive TV.
Moreover, the salespeople never have all the information about the products they are selling. Given the hundreds of models a salesperson may be dealing with, it’s difficult for him to be an expert and explain all the features in every model.
You may be in a better position working with a brand representative as he may have sound knowledge of the products. Some specialist retailers train their staff to ensure that a customer finds a product that matches their budget and needs.
The best step to take is to do your homework before going shopping. You can read unbiased reviews from independent sources and experts in the field to ensure you get a TV that meets your needs.
Believing That You’ll Get an All-in-One TV Set
There’s an assumption that paying more guarantees better image quality. Most people don’t understand that image quality depends on contrast ratio, panel type, and overall brightness, among other factors.
A TV’s image quality is also determined by the use of local dimming or backlight. Most budget TVs now deliver bright images that improve black reproduction. However, high-end models now have an image processor with a high refresh rate and excellent motion handling.
If you’re looking for the latest HDMI specification, you may need to spend more or forego image quality to get this feature. You won’t find a TV that does everything.
Failing to Think About the Future
When buying a new TV set, you need something to serve you for the years to come. Nonetheless, not many people think about the future when shopping for a TV, and some will avoid getting the latest technology.
With the evolution of 4K, you can’t afford to be left behind. There are streaming services that now offer 4K content, which is why 4K televisions are becoming popular. Always get a TV that will serve you for years to come.
Choosing Only Major Brands
Another mistake most people make is to go for large brands like LG, Sony, and Samsung. While these brands may be renowned for their features and specs, most of them come at a premium price. Moreover, some of these big brands have struggled to maintain their legacy of quality.
Fortunately, other brands are manufacturing quality TV sets to suit various budgets. Brands like TCL and Hisense have competing products with fanatics specs. Choose a TV not based on a brand but on the features you need and your budget.
Assuming the Sale Price Is the Exact Price
It’s common for TVs once released to come at an inflated price. However, this cost is quickly slashed by a hundred dollars to attract more buyers. This trend is shared with other electronics, which is why you need to watch out for these gimmicks when checking TV prices.
The best time to get a new TV is when the year ends, as this is when retailers cut prices for the holiday season. You need to watch out for flash sales that happen mid-year or during Black Friday.
Choosing a TV Based on Store Demos
In-store demonstrations are fantastic, but you should not use these demos to make a purchasing decision. That’s because some TVs are running manufacturer-specific demos. Some will show a basic feed on each screen.
You cannot tell if this feed gets to 1080p, making it challenging to assess without understanding what the TV can deliver. A few manufacturers also have settings with a demo mode that is meant to be used in stores. This means you’ll have to deal with artificial image sharpening, over-saturated colors, and maximum brightness.
All these features are incorporated to ensure some models stand out from the rest. However, these demos do not represent how you’ll use the TV in the long run. Although store demos can be beneficial, they are not ideal for determining sound or picture quality. Remember, the lighting conditions in a store are not likely to match those in your living room. The only thing you can determine is viewing angles.
Buying an Extended Warranty
Purchasing a new TV is likely to set you back a couple of hundred dollars. You may think that getting an extended warranty will help protect your purchase. However, most TVs are built to last for years, which means you may not need an extended warranty. Unless your TV is at high risk for damage, that’s when you can consider purchasing a warranty.
Sometimes expensive TVs are better than cheaper ones, especially when you’re considering image quality, refresh rate, input lag, resolution, and the type of panel. Other times the inverse is true depending on the brand and range you are looking at. That’s why it’s best always to do your research to determine what features you need and your use case depending on your budget.
Otherwise, you can probably get away with spending less than $1000 for a 1080p TV and less than $2000 for a 4K TV.