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, and most 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!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.