Q. I read your 4K TV shopping guide in your newsletter with great interest because I am also in the market for a new TV. All the things you have to pay attention to are overwhelming, though. Would I be OK just buying a cheap 4K TV (we’re considering a 50-inch model and our budget is $500) and being done with it?
A. One of the best things about 4K TVs is that, if you are coming to one from an older HD model, the difference will be so profound that you’ll likely be happy without all the bells and whistles. I bought a higher-end Sony TV as a result of my research, but you can get an impressive picture even with a far less expensive model. So, the short answer is yes.
But the longer answer is that you do need to pay attention to at least four things, even if you are buying a budget 4K TV, to prevent buyer’s remorse down the road.
• If you are putting the TV in a room that has a lot of light during the day, you’ll want a screen that is very bright, which is measured via a metric called nits. Most TVs with HDR capabilities have the brightness to handle daytime watching, but they should be at least 700 nits and up. And as I mentioned in my guide, check reviews at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers that sell online for mentions of brightness. Related: Look for complaints about the reflectiveness of the screen if you plan to put it near or facing a window.
• If you have a viewing room with seats off to the side, pay attention to reviews and ratings that mention side-viewing angles. The colors on less-expensive TVs often wash out if they are not viewed head-on. (And it’s not just cheap TVs – the Sony Bravia I bought doesn’t look as great when viewed from the side.)
• If you are using the TV with a gaming console, particularly newer ones, you’ll want to make sure it has enough HDMI ports, and that at least some of them support the HDMI 2.1 standard. For consoles such as Microsoft’s latest Xbox and Sony’s newest PlayStation, that specification allows you to play at the highest refresh rates. If you are using an external streaming box, such as the Apple TV 4K, Google TV with Chromecast or Amazon’s Fire TV 4K, it gives you a much better HDR image, and also supports Dolby Vision, if the content you’re watching features that standard.
• Finally, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to reliability and customer service. As I wrote in my guide, Consumer Reports is a good place to check reliability rankings (though it requires a subscription to see it), as well as Amazon/retailers’ reviews.