Smart TVs. LED. OLEDs. 4K TV. The world of TVs is looking better every day, but also more confusing. And not all flat panels are created equal. Today, there's a ridiculously wide array of high-definition, or HD, sets in stores, from bargain big screens to high-end displays that can cost as much as a small car.
For most shoppers, the paramount factors in making a buying decision will be screen size and price. The widest array of choices, from 30-inches to up to 110-inches, is available in LED (light-emitting diode) LCD models. Prices run from less than $300 to just shy of $40,000, depending on features and performance. Furthermore, manufacturers are heavily promoting the nascent Ultra HD, or 4K, format, which currently uses LED LCD technology to achieve four times the resolution of HD screens. Meanwhile, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs offer even brighter and richer pictures (for more money, of course).
In addition to the main screen-technologies, such as LCD and plasma, you will find some technologies across the range of TV types.
Televisions across the spectrum, such as LED LCD, plasma and OLED models, have received a major IQ boost. So-called smart TVs connect to Internet-based services like Netflix for streaming videos, or to apps for watching special interest programs, downloading on-demand movies or even posting to Facebook. An increasing number of sets come with built-in Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network, and while most of these models include the major services, such as Pandora, Hulu and Netflix, check to make sure the TV you buy includes the options you want.
MORE: Our Favorite TVs of 2014
Many plasma and LCD televisions today support 3D programming and movies, even though the format has been a flop. ESPN is shuttering its 3D channel, and after several years of promotion, the consumer electronics industry has moved on, eliminating the feature from some sets to reduce costs. TVs that are 3D compatible are able to rapidly alternate a slightly different image for each eye to create the 3D effect. To view 3D, you need a 3D source (such as a 3D Blu-ray player) and special glasses. Many sets can also "upscale" regular video content to appear three-dimensional. Some 3D sets use so-called active glasses that are battery powered; others use lightweight, polarized glasses, such as those found in most movie theaters.