The bigger, the better: The Newslaundry guide to buying a big-screen TV

TV shopping in India is often opaque and confusing, but we’ve got you covered.

ByVinay Aravind
The bigger, the better: The Newslaundry guide to buying a big-screen TV
Gobindh VB
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We’ve done a few buyers' guides here at Newslaundry, but we’ve never done one about TVs. And I keep getting asked to do one, so here goes.

I know a lot of you default to watching films and shows on your phones and your tablets but, to be honest, nothing beats watching something on the biggest screen you can get your hands on. Towards that end, let me set out some advice on how to go about picking that big-screen TV, and also a few models that you might consider buying, at different screen sizes (and budgets).

The first factor you need to consider when picking a TV is size. There is a natural tendency for people to think that a smaller TV will do. And there is equally a tendency for people to buy a TV and then wish they’d bought a bigger one. So, my first bit of advice here is to pick the biggest TV size that you can afford.

LG's 65-inch A1 OLED priced at Rs 1,89,999.

LG's 65-inch A1 OLED priced at Rs 1,89,999.

If you’re looking at 43-inch TVs and your budget stretches to a 55-inch TV, get the 55-inch. If you have to pick between a bigger TV with slightly inferior specs and a smaller TV with superior specs, buy the bigger one. The finer aspects of the picture quality will fade away in your mind once you start using the TV, but the immersiveness of the sheer size of the screen will always give you joy.

A major downside of buying a TV in India is that manufacturers are very coy about the specs of their TVs, usually because these are mediocre. So, it’s not unusual to look through the listing for a particular TV and find no mention of really important aspects, like the type of panel it uses, or its maximum brightness, or the kind of backlight it uses.

In biblical research there is a concept called “criterion of embarrassment” which suggests that one can assume a particular account from an ancient text to be more likely to be true if it’s likely to embarrass its author or the church. Analogously, when TV manufacturers refuse to advertise the specifications of a gadget, it’s best to assume that they are embarrassingly poor. TVs will advertise that they have Dolby Vision and HDR10 and other such features, but if they don’t have at least 500 nits brightness, it’s as good as saying a car’s tyres can go up to 300 kmh when its engine can only do 150.

A quick rundown of specs to look out for: Panels are either IPS or VA. IPS panels have better off-centre pictures, but less contrast and duller blacks, while VA panels have great contrast and blacks straight on but poor viewing angles. I personally prefer VA, but your mileage may vary. Most budget TVs offer 300-350 nits of brightness, which is just about serviceable. If you need HDR to work well, you need at least 500 nits, and more likely 700 or more.

Sony's 65-inch X90J model priced at Rs 1,75,000.

Sony's 65-inch X90J model priced at Rs 1,75,000.

Full array local dimming (not to be confused with software-based micro-dimming and ultra-dimming features) is also a worthwhile feature to look for. OLED TVs don’t need any of this because each pixel lights up on its own, but this is also why they offer the best picture for a lot of money.

Anyway, with that long preamble, let me get down to the business end of this piece: the “which TV should I buy” list. Before I begin, I repeat my old disclaimer. I haven’t personally reviewed these models. These recommendations are based on a combination of (1) the specs the devices offer, (2) other professional reviews of the model where available, and (3) the experience of people who’ve used it where that information is available.

Also, as before, you could follow the recommendations in this piece and still get a dodgy TV. I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, I have to disclaim any responsibility for it. Remember to scrutinise and make full use of the returns policy. Do keep in mind that physical stores often have better prices and offers compared to ecommerce sites. So, before spending a big chunk of money it’s worth trying to figure out if your local shop has a better price for the TV you want.

Which 32-inch TV should I buy?

There is not a great deal of variety in the 32-inch segment. All the TVs broadly have similar specs (virtually all are HD Ready) and performance, and no brand is really trying to distinguish itself by offering any exceptional features or performance.

So, in short, you can’t go too far wrong with any decent brand. But to make it easier, here are a couple of picks.

iFFalcon's 32-inch model priced at Rs 11,999.

iFFalcon's 32-inch model priced at Rs 11,999.

This iFFalcon model (iFFalcon is a TCL brand) comes in at Rs 11,999 and runs Android TV, which means all the apps you need will be available. If you’d like to spend more and buy from one of the Big Three brands (Samsung, LG, Sony) you could also consider this LG model for Rs 17,999. LG’s webOS will also have all the apps that you are likely to use.

Which 40/43-inch TV should I buy?

There’s a little bit more choice when you move up in size to the 40- to 43-inch category. This is where you get to pick the resolution, for starters. While Full HD should be sufficient, at this size, you do also have the option of some 4K sets. If you’re happy with Full HD, this Sanyo is a good option for Rs 23,999. It features an IPS panel and runs Android TV. If you’d prefer a VA panel you can pick this TCL.

If you’d like to move up to 4K, this TCL is a good place to start. This Mi TV is also a good option for Rs 27,999. Both of them feature Android TV, although Xiaomi adds their own skin to it.

If you’d like to splash out, this Samsung for Rs 37,999 is worth considering. Does it offer any fancy specs? No. But hey, you get the brand name.

Oh, and if you’re happy with a 40-inch size, just pick up this TCL. At Rs 18,999, it's good value for money.

TCL's 40-inch model priced at Rs 18,999.

TCL's 40-inch model priced at Rs 18,999.

Which 50/55-inch TV should I buy?

This is probably the size segment in which you see the most choice, but there are a few options that stand out just a little bit. The first one is this Hisense 58-inch model, simply because it offers three inches over the competition for Rs 42,999. Like I said before, size is everything.

The other standout option also happens to be a Hisense, which is the U6G model, which offers 700 nits brightness, full array local dimming, and QLED colours for Rs 59,999. It’s safe to say that there’s nothing else at this price that offers anything close to these specs and features. It’s also the cheapest entry point for full array local dimming and proper HDR, with its 700 nits brightness.

Hisense's 55-inch U6G model priced at Rs 59,999.

Hisense's 55-inch U6G model priced at Rs 59,999.

The rest of the options are all pretty similar. The budget competition including Mi, iFFalcon (with QLED colours) and Vu (with 400 nits brightness) are all duking it out in the Rs 35,000-45,000 price bracket. And among the stalwarts, LG and Samsung both offer 55-inch TVs at roughly the Rs 52,000 price point.

Now, if you really want to splash out, here are three really good options.

Firstly, if you’re okay with a 50-inch size, the Samsung QN90A at Rs 84,999 offers mini-LED backlighting and a top class picture (the 55-inch version of this is oddly almost double the price). At 55 inches, you can consider the mini-LED powered TCL C825 for Rs 1,05,000 which offers an excellent picture and a 120hz refresh rate if you want to do some gaming, as well as 500 nits of brightness. Then there’s of course the entry level A1 OLED from LG which, for Rs 1,15,000, offers some of the best picture quality you can get for the money, even if not the highest brightness.

Which 65-inch TV should I buy?

Now we’re firmly in fancy territory, so I guess the first question is: what’s the most affordable decent option to step into this giant screened world?

Unsurprisingly, one of the answers is this unit from iFFalcon for Rs 52,999. The features and performance are all bog standard including Android TV, but the 65-inch size for this price is a pretty solid deal.

With that out of the way, let me talk about the interesting models at this size. The Hisense U6G has a 65-inch version as well, but it’s still listed as “coming soon”. But when it does become available, it will be an excellent set to get for Rs 84,999.

Before I move on to more expensive models, I really have to stop here and mention the Mi 75-inch Q1 TV. For Rs 1,24,999, it offers not only a massive 75-inch size but also 1,000 nits of brightness and full array local dimming. If you have the space in your house, and the budget for it, this is an extraordinarily compelling giant screen option.

Mi's 75-inch Q1 TV priced at Rs 1,24,999.

Mi's 75-inch Q1 TV priced at Rs 1,24,999.

Now, for the splashy 65-inch options, you can consider Sony’s 2020 model X9000H which, at Rs 1,43,000, is a good Rs 30,000 cheaper than the latest X90J model, as well as LG’s entry level A1 OLED for Rs 1,89,999, which delivers stunning OLED colours and contrast but not quite as much brightness as some of its high-end rivals. Let’s also not forget TCL’s mini-LED powered C825 for Rs 1,47,999.

Now there are even more expensive models at these sizes and bigger, but once you’re spending that much money, you probably don’t need an online buyer’s guide to make that decision. Also, the TV market is vast, and there will no doubt be other options that are worth considering in all these categories. So, if you think I’ve missed out on any, please tweet them out to me. And happy viewing!

Contact the author on Twitter @vinayaravind.

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