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The 6 Most Important Specs to Check Before Buying a Smart TV

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Smart TVs have become all the rage over the past few years, offering features that traditional TVs could only dream of. But, if you're not well-versed in such devices, you could easily find yourself buying a smart TV that doesn't live up to your expectations. So, here are the most important specs to check for before buying a smart TV.

1. HDMI and Other Connection Ports

hmdi port on table
Image Credit: Sam-Cat/Creative Commons

Every television has its own set of connection ports, but some might not have the specific ports you need to connect relevant devices. The most important port of all is the HDMI (or High-Definition Multimedia Interface). This is a highly versatile port and can be used to connect all kinds of devices, including gaming consoles, laptops, speakers, and so much more.

However, HDMI ports don't just come in one form. You can get HDMI 2.0a, 2.0b, and 4.0. Most smart TVs should have the standard HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 port, which you probably have on your current television if you bought it over the past ten or so years.

Most smart TVs support standard HDMI types (2.0 and 2.1), as most devices support them. So keep an eye out for these ports when looking for a smart TV. Also, keep in mind that if you want a TV with a screen resolution of 4K or higher, you'll need a high-speed HDMI cable.

On top of HDMI ports, you should also keep an eye out for USB connections, specifically a USB 2.0 port (given how much faster it can transmit data than USB 1.0). However, some newer smart TVs support USB 3.0, which is even faster than 2.0. We know how important USB ports can be for our laptops and computers, which also applies to smart TVs.

You can use your smart TV's USB port to connect to a laptop, hard drive, or even your phone to charge. Given the versatility of USB, it wouldn't hurt to ensure your smart TV supports this type of connection.

2. Screen Resolution

samsung qled 8k tv
Image Credit: Bretwa/Wikimedia Commons

This goes for traditional televisions, too. You should always check the screen resolution of any smart TV before buying, as this determines the picture quality, a huge aspect of televisions in general. These days, it's rare to find a smart TV with a resolution any lower than Full HD (1980×1080), so make sure the product you're looking at meets this minimum. You can also get 8K televisions, such as the Samsung 75" Smart 8K QLED TV.

But, an 8K resolution will cost you. Standard 8K televisions start at around $4,000, with some going for double or triple, depending on screen size. Some larger smart TVs cost more than a new car. If you're in the market for such a TV, there's no reason why you shouldn't invest in a resolution upgrade like this. However, hundreds of smart televisions can offer an incredible picture quality with a 4K resolution.

3. OLED, LCD, and LED Screens

samsung television
Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce/Wikimedia Commons

What's the difference between all of these screen types? Well, OLED is fast becoming the newer, shinier replacement for LED and LCD in the television industry because they can produce vibrant colors, higher contrast, and an overall more enjoyable viewing experience for customers.

LED screens can't offer this level of quality and are quickly being replaced in newer TVs, while LCD screens can often have a bland or "washed out" look, which doesn't exactly make for an amazing viewing experience.

So, if you want a smart TV that can really deliver, stick with an OLED screen over an LED or LCD screen. Though OLED screens are typically more expensive than LED and LCD, you'll certainly notice the difference in your TV's picture if you splash the extra cash on an OLED screen.

It's also worth noting that there are now QLED screens on the market, which can deliver a great picture quality with a longer lifespan. However, some QLED televisions are very, very pricey, especially those from the bigger brands. So keep in mind that you can still get amazing picture quality with an OLED screen.

4. Refresh Rate

sony TV at convention
Image Credit: ETC@USC/Wikimedia Commons

Put simply, a refresh rate relates to how many times a television can refresh the display image (frame) per second. While it may seem that all televisions do a good job at rapidly refreshing images, it's important to take note of any given smart TV's refresh rate, and here's why.

The higher a TV's refresh rate, the less blur you'll notice in faster camera panning shots. You may have noticed blur when watching action scenes, sporting events, or anything similar, and a TV with a low refresh rate will produce noticeably more blurry video.

The standard refresh rate of modern televisions is between 60 and 120fps (or frames per second). Keep in mind that you won't see much difference between a TV with, say, a refresh rate of 100fps and a TV with a rate of 120fps. So you don't need to spend more on a TV with a slightly higher rate. However, try to steer clear of considerably lower refresh rates, as this may result in a lower viewing quality overall.

5. HDR Compatibility

samsung tv
Image Credit: Janitors/Creative Commons

HDR (or High Dynamic Range) is a technology that can increase a picture's dynamic range between light and dark parts of an image (i.e., the contrast). A TV with HDR compatibility will produce a higher quality image overall, but you could argue that this isn't really a crucial feature. However, if you're looking for a high-quality television, HDR compatibility certainly wouldn't hurt.

There are several different kinds of HDR on the market today, including HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Advanced HDR by Technicolor, and Dolby Vision. You'll notice that most televisions support HDR10, given that it's the most common type out there at the moment, so keep an eye out for this when looking for your new smart TV.

6. Screen Size

samsung qled tv in bar
Image Credit: Janitors/Creative Commons

This one is a little more obvious than the others on this list but can come back to bite you if left unchecked. While it may be tempting to go for the biggest smart TV money will allow, you ought to first ensure it'll fit in the space it'll be taking up in your home. Believe us, this isn't an uncommon mistake to make!

Also, keep in mind the size of the room you're putting your television in, as a 60-inch screen in a small room can be damaging to your eyes and jarring to your viewing experience. So, make sure you first measure your available space and consider the area your smart TV will be in.

7. Ability to Switch Between Smart and 'Dumb' Mode

lg oled televisions
Image Credit: TheBetterDay/Creative Commons

While no television is literally "dumb," this is the term given to traditional televisions that cannot offer the features offered by smart TVs (most notably the ability to access streaming services via an internet connection). And, most, if not all, smart televisions can be converted back to dumb televisions. Though most people won't ever do this, it's worth noting if you ever want or need to.

But why would you dumb down your smart TV? Well, smart TVs can be a little too privacy-invasive sometimes. For example, there have been multiple reports of smart TVs possibly recording people's conversations, which is pretty unnerving, to say the least.

So, if this is a concern for you, don't worry! A smart television can be converted to a regular television by tweaking the TV settings a little. This is usually done by turning off your television's ACR settings, which is a pretty simple process. However, this may differ a little depending on the model of television, so check the user manual, or conduct a quick internet search to find out how exactly to do this.

Smart TVs Are the Next Step Up in Entertainment, but It Pays to Be Vigilant!

While the idea of buying a smart television is certainly exciting, it's always worth knowing exactly what you want first and checking the specs above to ensure you're not spending money on something that isn't right for you. Once you've got this sorted, you're all set to go out and get yourself the perfect smart TV. Happy streaming!

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