2016’s models have arrived. Here’s how to tune out the noise and focus on the specs that matter.

Want to purchase a new TV but feel overwhelmed? You’re in good company. So many choices flood the market—plasma, LCD, LED, HDR. It can be hard to figure out what’s important and what’s just another gimmicky feature.

If you’re interested in getting the best entertainment experience, upgrading your TV can be an easy way to see more of what you want to watch.

So we created this guide to walk you through the basics of buying a TV, before you blow through your budget on fancy new models that won’t deliver the picture you’ve been looking for. Take a look at our recommendations from Amazon’s newest crop of 2016 models to purchase a TV set that’ll keep pace with technology and satisfy the specs that matter to you.

The Basics on the Box

You’ll see lots of letters and numbers crammed into the TV descriptions, and not all of them are worthy of your attention. It can seem like manufacturers use this confusing tech speak on purpose to obscure facts and entice you into purchasing more expensive models. We’re to help you wade through the noise and focus on the specs you should actually consider when shopping for a TV set, as well as a few items you can ignore.

Size

Size does matter, and in this case, bigger is indeed better. But that’s not the end of the story. You also need to watch your space. It’s best to measure not only where the TV will go to ensure it fits, but also where viewers will likely be sitting. Large TVs are wasted on small spaces and some displays are not optimal for side viewing.

Our recommendation: Get a TV between 50-60 inches for an average-sized living room and you’ll strike the right balance between practical and indulgent.

Display

This is where it gets tricky, because technology is always evolving. There are three basic types of displays you’ll see, listed below, along with descriptions of each.

Plasma

Most major manufacturers no longer produce plasmas, despite their reputation for superior color contrast. Why? They’re just too costly to make, especially for smaller models. The technology, which utilizes gasses trapped between glass that are then charged with electricity to produce color, is being rapidly replaced in favor of cheaper LCD/LED screens and the superior OLEDs. More on those below.

LCD/LED

LCD and LED—what’s the difference? It’s a matter of light. LEDs are the modern version of LCDs, lit from behind by LEDs (light-emitting diodes) rather than an archaic fluorescent bulb. There are a few different versions of LED TVs: edge lit, full backlight, and local dimming. Edge light LEDs have lights clustered around the edges of the screen, whereas full backlight and local-dimming technology use LEDs dispersed throughout the display. Local dimming allows for changing the appearance of individual LEDs to gain more precise color and image clarity.

OLED

The future of TV is here, and OLED is it. This technology incorporates the light directly into the display, making for slimmer screens with better color contrast and a richness that LEDs can’t duplicate. For now, however, this technology is still prohibitively expensive.

Our recommendation: Go with an LED display. OLED technology and standards are still in development and it’ll be a while until programming and content is available that can really make the extra expense worthwhile.

Resolution

It’s tricky to separate the resolution from the display, but think of it as the technology that drives the quality of the picture produced, not how it is produced. What are the main considerations when it comes to resolution?

HD vs. 4K Ultra HD

HD is considered to be a 1080p resolution for your display, and it’s fairly standard now on most modern TVs. 4K Ultra HD has four times the pixels as compared to regular HD. That’s a clarity you probably can’t discern with the human eye from a reasonable distance, however. But because the technology has become less expensive, it’s now a feature in most TVs, so you might as well opt for it. While there’s not a ton of 4K HD programming out there just yet, it’s definitely on the horizon.

See Our 4K TV Buyer’s Guide

 

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

This has more to do with color display than actual resolution, but often gets lumped in together with a laundry list of other features. HDR produces better color accuracy and contrast, but you need to view compatible programming to see the difference. Yes, you guessed it—there’s not much content out there in HDR.

Our recommendation: An HD TV, with a display that is 1080p or more, is a minimal requirement for a modern TV. To get the best viewing experience your wallet can handle, invest in Ultra 4K HD models. The programming is coming, and you’ll want to be ready for it.

Ports

Most TVs have one to two ports, but that’s rapidly changing. TVs don’t produce the best sound experience and many consumers opt to have a home theater sound system or at least a speaker bar to improve the audio. Additionally, our lives are getting packed with electronic components, and it’s smart to buy a TV that’ll be able to handle all the input and output for the long haul.

Our recommendation: Purchase a TV that has three ports to ensure it’ll be able to handle whatever the future of TV has in store.

Refresh Rate

This is exactly what it sounds like: The refresh rate is the rate at which your picture refreshes itself. It can be especially important for those who watch sports or have an affinity for action movies, because for quick movements, a low refresh rate can make the viewing experience seem choppy.

Our recommendation: Don’t settle for anything that’s not in the 120 HZ range. Most of the 2016 models meet this criterion anyway.

Cost

It bears repeating that you get what you pay for. Lower-priced models reflect aging technology and smaller screen sizes. Since the average household will hang onto their TV for a decade, it makes sense to purchase a high-end model that’ll serve you well as HD and display technologies advance.

Our recommendation: Look to spend upwards of $500 on a quality 55-inch Ultra HD model.

What to Ignore

  • Curved screens: They’re a gimmick. They distort images and make side viewing difficult. When it comes to TVs, the world is still flat.
  • Smart TVs: This typically refers to interfaces that integrate apps and other devices, but it’s not a standardized term. Many streaming components and DVRs do this regardless, so it’s not an added value in newer models.

 

Our Picks for 2016’s Top TV Models

Drumroll, please. The new models have arrived, and we’re ready to recommend which ones deserve your hard-earned dollars. You’ll see them listed below, along with details about the specs that matter and a link to Amazon where you can read real customer reviews and purchase online.

Best Picture

LG OLED 55E6P

Amazon Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

See on Amazon

Our pick for best picture is an OLED that utilizes Dolby Vision to deliver superior picture quality. It is also 3D compatible, if that’s important to you, and allows for an optimal wider viewing area than LEDs.

Size: 55 inch
Display: OLED
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD, HDR Enhanced
Ports: 3
Refresh: 120 HZ
Cost: $3,497.99*

Best Overall

Samsung UN55KS9000

Amazon Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

See on Amazon

This newer version of Samsung’s LED TV was a bestseller last year, and this year’s model has lost the curve and dropped the gimmicky 3D in favor of the advanced quantum dot technology that delivers superior 4K Ultra HD.

Size: 55 inch
Display: LED, local dimming
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD, HDR Enhanced
Ports: 4
Refresh: 120 HZ
Cost: $1,797.99*

Best Value

LG 55UH6150

Amazon Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

See on Amazon

This is a terrific value for a TV that’ll deliver Ultra HD, HDR, and a refresh rate that satisfies sports fans. Backlight LEDs don’t have the advantage of local dimming, but at this price, you probably won’t miss it.

Size: 55 inch
Display: LED, backlight
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD, HDR Enhanced
Ports: 3
Refresh: 120 HZ
Cost: $649.99*

Good Enough

Samsung UN55KU6300

Amazon Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

See on Amazon

If you don’t watch much sports, this Samsung will still give you Ultra HD for a bargain-basement price. It doesn’t have the dynamic range that comes from local dimming LEDs, but it has backlight technology and is enhanced by HDR.

Size: 55 inch
Display: LED, backlight
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD, HDR Enhanced
Ports: 3
Refresh: 60 HZ
Cost:: $739.90*


Ready for more HD content to go with that pretty new picture? Enter your ZIP code to see providers in your area:

 

*All listed prices as current as of 10/27/2016