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10 terms you need to know before buying a smart TV

You can waste hundreds or thousands of dollars on a TV set if you don’t know what you’re doing. These days, just about all of us get dizzy reading the specs on the side of a TV box, or on a shopping site.

There’s 4K, HDTV, LED, smart TVs, bezels, and more. Bezels?!

It’s almost impossible to figure it out. Worse, these days, TV sets aren’t cheap. Just think back about 10 years. TV set prices were so low you could grab a few new ones for your home for just a few hundred dollars. If you needed one for your kid’s bedroom, you could easily get a good-quality TV set for about $100.

Not anymore. Just walk into a store like Walmart or go to shopping sites like Amazon. Sure, you can find low-low prices. But with all the tech in TVs that give you crystal clear images and booming sound, why spend your money on outdated TVs?

Good news. We’ve got 10 tech terms that will help you find a great value on TV sets. Print this out or save this page, so you have it when you go shopping. So, the next time you’re binge watching “The Walking Dead” or your family gathers to watch TV, you’ll gloat about the great deal you got while they coo about your TV’s realistic image and crisp sound.

1. Smart TV

When you’re shopping for a TV, remember this: It’s not just about how good the image looks. TVs are smart, too. You’ve heard the term, but like many of us, you may not know exactly what it means.

Smart TVs have tech inside to connect to the internet. Why does this matter? The way your family and you are watching TV is a lot different than it used to be. You don’t need cables or antennas anymore.

If you watch Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or on-demand versions of networks like ABC, CBS and NBC, you’re watching those via the internet.

2. Over the top

Over the Top, or OTT, is simply an industry term for streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. This is TV content that’s streaming over the internet and, sometimes, is built right into your TV set.

3. Refresh rate

This one’s easy. Remember this. You want a refresh rate of at least 120 Hz. But 240 Hz and 360 Hz are better.

Your TV’s image refreshes so fast that you don’t notice it. Except, if it’s not refreshing fast enough. The faster the refresh, the smoother the image for fast-moving events like sports.


If you’re buying a TV set and it says LED or LCD, you’re buying old technology. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. But OLED, or organic light-emitting diodes, is better.

OLED is brighter than LED (light-emitting diodes). The older LED technology brightens LCD (liquid crystal display) screens. OLED is the latest tech, and you will notice the difference.

5. LCD

Liquid crystal displays have been around for well over a decade. TV technology has been improving at a breakneck pace. LCD is outdated.

Note: If you find a too-good-to-be-true bargain for a TV set, there’s a good chance it’s an LCD screen using LED. If you’re trying to save money, this might be a good option. But if you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a TV set, you want a great value, not necessarily a low price.

6. HDR

If you walk into a store and you see a TV with a jaw-dropping realistic image, it’s most likely a TV set with high dynamic range (HDR). This technology uses more colors, more whites and more blacks than other TV sets.

7. 4K

You’ve heard of 4K and there’s a good chance you already own a 4K TV set. But what is it?

Simply, it is an advanced high-definition TV. 4K has twice the pixel resolution of HDTVs, which is 3840 x 2160. HDTV has 1920 x 1080. If you buy anything lower than that, you’ll notice that your picture quality suffers.

8. Contrast ratio

You’re spending good money on a TV set. So, its contrast ratio is an important feature to pay attention to. The higher the number of the contrast ratio, the better the image. This contrast is the difference between your TV’s darkest darks and brightest brights.


If you buy a TV set without HDMI, or high-definition multimedia interface, you might regret it the minute you get home. If you don’t have at least one USB-style, HDMI port on the side or back of your TV, you’ll need a bunch of wires to hook up your cable box, DVR and streaming box, like Roku.

Note: If you buy a super-thin TV, it may not have room for an HDMI plug. Here’s how one TV is getting around this problem.

10. Bezel

OK, what the heck is a bezel? It’s the plastic or metal trim around your TV set. It’s like a picture frame for your TV.

Bezels are increasingly important when shopping. If you’re plunking down hundreds or thousands of dollars for a large-screen, thin TV set, odds are you don’t want a big, clunky frame around it. Instead, look for thin metal or shiny black bezels.

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