Need a new TV or monitor but don’t know where to start? In this guide I will tell you how I shop for and purchase displays.
Where to start? There are so many displays to choose from when considering a TV or monitor. First let’s answer a potential obvious question: How can they even be compared? TV’s and computer monitors both do the same task, take video input and display it with or without sound. Knowing this you can use the same tactic for shopping for either.
So, how can you find a display that fits your needs best and does it on your budget? It will require some research but it’s well worth your time, especially with each costing on average of greater than $100 USD and TV’s usually costing well over double that.
Step 1 – Determine Your Screen Size
This may require a trip to the store or a friends house to see a device of a particular size, but it’s absolutely essential that you determine the size you need first. If it will be used in a particular space, you will need to measure to find your maximum height and width. The last thing you will want to do is to buy a new TV or monitor only to find it doesn’t fit where you need it to. You may need specific features, but those are secondary. If you buy a TV that is too small and will be far away from where you sit, there may not be a need for full 1080p or new fancy 4K screens. The same goes for monitors, but this being that if you tend to use lower resolution to keep things big on screen, you don’t need extra pixels.
Step 2 – Determine Needed Features
Now that you know what size screen you need, now you need to consider what that screen needs to do. Do you need VGA input? DVI? Multiple HDMI inputs? How important are built in speakers? What panel technology do you want: TN or IPS? Resolution of 720i/p, 1080i/p, WQHD or 4K? What response time and refresh rate do you need? Do you need a SMART TV? Whatever your list of needs are write them down. Now any nice to haves, write them down on a separate list. Those are needed for step 4.
Don’t know what any of these features/specifications are? Then a quick search online should help you understand the basics for an informed decision. Try to learn as much as you can so you aren’t fooled by marketing or salespeople at the store. This will help you purchase only what you need and save you money!
Step 3 – Determine Trusted Brands and Prices (Research)
Now that you have a list of needs and wants search online and in stores to find models that best fit your budget. Look for reviews online and find models that have high reviews as well as people reporting to own it for long periods of time without issue(if it’s an older product). After researching multiple brands and displays you may find that no single display has everything you want or need within your budget. If so, then it’s on to step 4.
Step 4 – Compromise (If Necessary)
If no specific model can do what you need it to, it’s time to compromise and find creative solutions for the missing features. Sometimes features can’t be compromised such as a color accurate IPS display for editing photos professionally. If this is the case, I recommend that you do not make any purchase and save up so you can afford what you need. Sometimes it’s not worth it to compromise. However, if it’s a matter of picking between inputs, pick whatever you most need and try to find converters to allow your other connections. The same can be done for audio inputs as well. This is where the need and want list from step 2 comes in handy. It will help you pick which items you can truly live without so you can purchase your new display.
Step 5 – Purchase
After making any needed compromises, the final step is to purchase your display. If you are considering buying into a multiple display set up for your PC it is best to save up and purchase both at the same time from the same store. This will better insure that the colors match up.
My current PC set up has two monitors but I decided to purchase an identical monitor a week after buying the first and from a separate store. The impact of this wasn’t known until I hooked them up next to each other and noticed that one has a slight yellowish tint compared to the other that I haven’t been able to manually calibrate completely away. I believe this is caused similarly as dye lot differences with fabrics and threads. It’s likely caused by the plastic used to cover the screen having slight differences between batches. It’s that or the calibration at the factory allows such a variance. So purchase both displays at the same time from the same location to best avoid this kind of pitfall. It could also help to check manufacture dates or lot/Serial Numbers as well to ensure they are close to one another.
I do not recommend that you go to a store and compare the models shown without understanding the limitations of that style of set up. Most electronics stores have a wall of displays attempting to show off what each is capable at different price points. This is highly subjective and can easily be manipulated intentionally or unintentionally giving preference to specific models. When repeating the display input to all the models different cords could be used, and repeaters and display splitters may be used on some models but not others. I have seen first hand highly regarded displays from reviews online have horrible blurry and washed out images in store just because a splitter and VGA cable was used instead of a direct HDMI or other connection.
In addition to how the signal is getting to the display, some of them are just poorly calibrated out of the box. A quick adjustment under the settings could take a washed out image and allow it to become vibrant and sharp. How much care is taken to ensure these settings are changed and then not manipulated by passersby would vary greatly based on the store and its management(I assume). But I have never found that these settings are accurate. Also, I have found that a mediocre display in store can look fantastic at home when it isn’t in competition with the pricier models next to it. The first time I purchased a TV I agonized over the quality but found once I bought something that seemed good enough for my budget I was completely satisfied once I had it set up in my own space. So don’t let the displays deceive you and trick you into spending more than what you need!
If you follow this guide and take your time you should be able to find the perfect display for your needs and budget. These are my personal guidelines and I haven’t been disappointed yet with any of my purchases. If you have your own purchasing tips you would like to share, please let everyone know in the comments below!