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  • Is a $3,000 television worth it anymore?



    Like a lot of you, I've paid a lot for TVs. Back in the 1990s I paid $700 for a Sony 27" tube TV that barely lasted three years before the picture started to fail. In the 2000s I paid $1,500 for a 37" TV that is far worse than what you can get for $199 today. Like many of you, I'm thinking about going full-on 4K, and like many of you I'm tired of overspending for underperforming TVs.

    Every year, this blog and its owner are kind enough to send me to the Consumer Electronics show where I see some of the most expensive TVs ever made. I've seen an $80,000 TV (that would probably cost about $2,500 today) and I've seen TVs claiming to have tens of millions of colors. If I had jumped in every time some new technology was announced, I'd probably be broke and bankrupt from just buying TVs.

    What's worth it and what's marketing hype?
    Looking at 4K TVs, there are only three things to look for. Personally I think everything else is a complete waste of money. Of course feel free to disagree.

    HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2: Make sure that every port on the TV is compatible with the latest HDMI standards. There's no guarantee that something will come out in the future to make your TV obsolete but at least you should start with making sure that you're as future-proof as possible. If your new TV doesn't meet these standards, you won't be able to use most 4K hardware.

    HDR: There are several levels of the HDR standard; it doesn't really matter which you choose but at this point I do recommend you get a TV with HDR built in because it will make most of your programs look better, and because it's not a big price bump. There isn't a lot of programming that uses HDR, andmost people don't care about it, but since it's baked in to most high-quality TVs you may as well.

    DIRECTV 4K Ready or DISH Anywhere:If you're a satellite subscriber, choose a TV that supports your DVR without using a separate box. Here's the list of DIRECTV 4K Ready TVs, and you'll find most LG TVs support the DISH app.

    Honestly, that's it.

    I've looked at those quantum dot and OLED and whatever other fancy names they want to give TVs and they look great, but of course they look great and you can pretty much make any TV look great for a couple of minutes in a demo. Sure, those TVs will tell you they have more dynamic range or more colors or more brightness but that's just icing on the cake. If you were to go into a store today and buy a $399 4K TV, it would probably be the best TV picture you ever had. I don't think you should buy that $399 TV because it doesn't meet my three criteria, but it's still going to be a beautiful picture. You can get a better picture but you have to ask yourself if you'll really be able to tell the difference.

    The bottom line -- it's a great time to get a TV. It's almost impossible to get a bad TV, and if you're willing to spend $1,000, you can easily get the best TV you will ever have, gigantic, high quality and reasonably futureproof. There's nothing wrong with that!

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    Comments 7 Comments
    1. PhoenixAZ's Avatar
      PhoenixAZ -
      What about Dolby Vision?
    1. Stuart Sweet's Avatar
      Stuart Sweet -
      What about it? Do you feel it's so much better that you'll pay 3x as much as other TVs?
    1. Alan Gordon's Avatar
      Alan Gordon -
      Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixAZ View Post
      What about Dolby Vision?
      I wouldn't get a UHD TV without HDR. One can do without Dolby Vision, but if it's important to you, I would get a TV with it (I certainly plan to whenever I get a 4K TV).

      However, you can find TVs with HDR10 and DV for slightly over $1,000, and CES 2017 featured announcements of TV models with both HDR10 and DV that could potentially be found for less than $1,000.
    1. DTVGuy's Avatar
      DTVGuy -
      As long as the TV is getting a true 4K feed, not converted from 720P or worse, they all do pretty well now. However, one may be really disappointed in lessor priced TV's with the up-conversion quality. 99% of what's out there is 1080i at best except for blu-ray. That's really the big deal although I agree not getting HDR in the main viewing TV is probably a mistake for the people reading this blog. I've just seen a lot of disappointment from people who bring home the larger screen 4K TV's, connect them to even DirecTV, or worse cable and are disappointed. Everything looks great in the show room off wide band 4K servers. Much of what one is paying for in the higher-end products is up-conversion and signl processing. YMMV
    1. PhoenixAZ's Avatar
      PhoenixAZ -
      Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Sweet View Post
      What about it? Do you feel it's so much better that you'll pay 3x as much as other TVs?
      I don't know, thats why I asked. What's the difference between HDR and Dolby Vision? Is DV needed?
    1. Stuart Sweet's Avatar
      Stuart Sweet -
      They are totally different things and neither is needed, that's kind of the point of the article.
    1. Alan Gordon's Avatar
      Alan Gordon -
      Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixAZ View Post
      I don't know, thats why I asked. What's the difference between HDR and Dolby Vision? Is DV needed?
      HDR10 and Dolby Vision are two different versions of HDR. From a technical standpoint, Dolby Vision is superior to HDR10, though there will most likely be an upgraded version of HDR10 in a couple of years that will be closer to the technical specs of Dolby Vision, offering both dynamic metadata and support for higher bit panels. The more expensive a TV you have, the less of a difference Dolby Vision supposedly should make at this time though.

      If you stream Netflix or Amazon Prime, you frequently have an option of HDR10 and Dolby Vision. FandangoNOW only offers HDR10, and VUDU is currently exclusively Dolby Vision.

      The first Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray titles are expected to hit shelves this Spring/Summer, but DV titles are required to have a base HDR10 grade as well, so you won't miss out if you don't have a DV capable TV. Disney is a big Dolby Vision supporter, and it's rumored that one of the reasons why Disney hasn't adopted UHD Blu-ray yet is due to waiting on Dolby Vision players to be available.

      If you plan on buying a TV, but primarily watching 2K programming satellite/cable, upconverted Blu-rays (to 4K), or streaming old episodes of "Friends" (random show pick) on Netflix, HDR (either flavor) isn't really a must if you see a good deal on a 4K TV.

      If you plan on streaming original programming from Netflix or Amazon or purchasing UHD Blu-ray titles, I'd strongly recommend buying a TV capable of AT LEAST supporting HDR10. As most 4K UHD Blu-ray titles currently released are films upconverted to 4K instead of native 4K, it should come as no surprise that, frequently, the most noticeable difference between a Blu-ray and a UHD Blu-ray is HDR, and not the resolution bump.


      Though I own multiple UHD Blu-ray titles and a UHD Blu-ray player, my plans to get a 4K TV this Spring has been dashed. WHEN I get around to buying a 4K TV, I will be purchasing one that offers both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. I have ZERO interest in a 4K TV without any form of HDR. There is less than a 5% chance of me paying more than $1,499 for said TV. On a limited budget, that is already extremely steep. Not judging those willing to pay more, but even if I had a larger budget though, I really could not justify anything higher.