Tech

5 tips before buying a TV for the big game

Jan. 31, 2012 at 7:26 AM ET

Like a quarterback on the run, many of you may be scrambling this week in order to buy a new HDTV for the big game. But before you head out and shop, take a look at these five tips to help ensure a successful purchase.

Don't just shop based on price alone

Yes, there will be great deals, but some of those deals will be on older technology that retailers want to get rid of. One of the telltale signs is the device's refresh rating. If it is 60Hz then pass on it (pun intended). You want at least 120Hz as this helps reduce motion blur (and if the TV is for the big game, you definitely don't want blur).

Sound is underrated

Just like my quarterback Joe Flacco of the Ravens, sound is important.

TVs are thinner than ever and their speakers produce tiny sound. Some speakers are rear-facing, meaning they aren't even pointed in your direction. A beautiful TV with ugly sound just doesn't give you the full experience.

Some of you will be connecting your TV to a surround sound system and that's great, but if you are on a budget or if this is a second TV and you want great sound, then invest in a soundbar. These can range from $99 and up. They combine several speakers into one easy to connect device that can produce much fuller sound for your TV. My recommended brand is ZVOX Audio. Their virtual surround sound speaker cabinets are made of wood — not plastic like many others. This means you get even that much more quality sound.

Do your homework

TV shopping can be a drain, so shop around online first and read a few reviews on TVs you are interested in. After that, take a trip to your local big box stores and also stop by your local TV specialty stores. Look for TVs that are CEDIA certified. For example Gramophone devices are CEDIA certified and they have very knowledgeable TV experts who've been in the business for years. I speak to those experts all the time and am always impressed. The biggest myth with the specialty stores is cost. You'll be surprised many times they can match the price of big box stores.

Ports, Ports, Ports!

Before you buy, make sure you take inventory of how many devices you'll want to connect to the TV now and in the near future. Remember, you'll need to connect things like your cable box, DVD player, gaming consoles or surround sound system. As a general rule of thumb you want to buy a TV that has at least 3 HDMI ports.

To worry about refresh speed or not?

A TV's refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), is supposed to help reduce motion blur on your screen to an extent.

In theory, the higher the refresh rate, the less of a blur you can see. Marketers say that for fast action sports and movies, a high refresh rate is ideal. But in practice, the source video you'll be watching is frequently shot at 60Hz, so in some cases a 120Hz refresh rate gives the video a dreamy, almost too real quality. My wife doesn't like this, so we turn that feature off.

You'll see alot of marketing about this detail. True videophiles will say it's bologna, but marketers say otherwise. I'm in the middle, sometimes I like the look of 120Hz, other times I don't. But if you are buying a TV for the longterm than I would recommend checking into the 120Hz refresh rate. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but it's something you should consider.  

Bonus tip

Budget for those HDMI cables. You can find some good ones at decent prices, like the ones from AudioQuest. If you are on a tight budget and are just looking to get by then check out the cable prices at Monoprice.com.

Hope these tips help you out! What did I miss that you think others should be aware of? Think of yourself as the coach helping others make it past the goal line successfully! (I tried to close without a football reference, but couldn't help myself.)

Mario Armstrong is a TODAY Show Digital Lifestyle Contributor and a SiriusXm talk show host. You can find out more about him by checking out MarioArmstrong.com or by following him on Twitter.

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