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Buying a Television? Read this first…

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Happy Back to the Future Day. For those who haven't read the news in the last week, this is the day that Marty McFly traveled into the future in Back to the Future II.

Back to the Future Day

Back to the Future Day

There might be some theaters showing the movie around the United States, but chances are if you are going to watch it, you'll watch it on a television. You can stream it, but I've found the best quality is usually the Blu-Ray version. It just doesn't seem as compressed.

And that brings us around to watching the best quality television. In 1985, I was only 9, but I seem to recall my father buying a 36-ish" Fisher television. It was awesome because it was big. We might not have hoverboards, but television technology has come a long way, right?

In just the last year or two, televisions have taken another jump. Not only have they gone from HD to 4K, but technology like Quantum Dots and OLED are making pictures better than ever. One of these alone would be revolutionary, but two at the same time is something else.* I was hoping this would revolution would happen faster as I bought a bargain Element television in 2010 with the idea of saving money for this new technology.

I was a few years early, but in the last year, things have changed dramatically. It was just last September when I wrote that I was, budgeting for the next television revolution (4K OLED). Here is how the pricing has dropped on OLED televisions in the last 3 years:

DateResolutionSizePricePricing Source
August 20131080P (HD)55"$15,000NBC News
September 20141080P (HD)55"$3,000Lazy Man
September 20144K65"$7,000Lazy Man
October 20151080P55"$1800Amazon
October 20154K55"$3,000Amazon
October 20154K65"$5,000Amazon

Two years ago, you could have spent $15,000 for a television that was smaller with worse resolution than what $5,000 will buy you today. Of course $5,000 for a television is still a lot of money. However, this has pushed the price of the 55-inch 4K down to $3000. Even better... a 55-inch 1080P OLED screen that was $15,000 is now a relatively reasonable $1,800.

(Side note: These are all LG televisions. LG is not paying me any money for this, it's just that they are the only company to bring the jaw-dropping OLED technology to the masses.)

Let's assume you have some spare money and wanted to buy one of these televisions. You almost need a web-based calculator or a personal advisor to figure out which is likely to be the best for you. I've covered this before: Getting a Television on Black Friday? Read This First, but here's an abbreviated version of that.

The first thing to consider is room size. If you have a big room, you are going to want a larger television. This is simply a factor of sitting further away. Even an average size room should have a fairly large television according to experts. So you may be tempted to cross the 55-inch off your list. I think that's a little weird, because I have a 55-inch television now and it's fine. It is all relative to what you are accustomed to.

The difference between 4K and 1080P on small screens isn't that noticeable. The differences in the technology is more obvious as screens get bigger because good eyes can differentiate the pixels better. If you have poor vision, the 4K and thee 1080P may look exactly the same to you... so why spend more money?

Furthermore, there's not a lot of 4K content available. Netflix and Amazon has some content, but cable and satellite providers are behind. And not much content is shot in 4K. Not even sports which would really take advantage of it.

At some point 4K will come, but it might be a few years. In the meantime, prices will continue to drop, so it may be worth waiting to take advantage of that.

Usually, when I see such great price drops, I think, "It's time to take advantage. This is the sweet spot, where I'm early, but not paying top, top dollar." My finances don't allow for a $5,000 television, so the 65-inch isn't in the cards. A $3,000 television is still stretching the budget, but I'm not sure if I want to stretch it for something at 55-inches and a feature (4K), which isn't rolled out yet. Finally, the $1800 television is still on the high-end of the budget, but would probably be the best value right now. If my television broke today, this would be what I'd buy.

It looks like I'm going to be waiting another year or two for the price drops to level off. However, your situation may be different. I can definitely see the case to jump in and buy these now.

* A third technology, HDR, is new this year and also looks to be revolutionary. I don't have the space to get into this, but many of these televisions feature HDR as well.

Posted on October 21, 2015.

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