Good news: You're about to get a brand new TV! Bad news: You have to sort through the jargon and the hype of actually buying a new TV. There are always new features and capabilities to contend with, from the industry's refusal to stop talking about 3D, to questions about 4K televisions and OLED screens. Some of the confusion is probably intentional – TV-manufacturers want to arm salespeople with new terminology to justify upgrades and higher prices for premiums choices. So let's cut to the chase and talk about the options and specs that really matter, and some that don't. Here's our no-nonsense advice for buying a great TV, minus the buyer's remorse.
Motion Smoothing Is (Probably) Not Your Friend
LCD TVs (and LEDs, since they use the same core technology) have a tendency to flicker when displaying rapid movement. The reasons are obscure, but important to understand, because sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. The illness in question – that flicker – is due to LCDs working quickly to refresh the entire screen, a process that's sometimes outpaced by on-screen motion. And the cure is a matter of some controversy. It's called motion interpolation, because it inserts additional, digitally-created frames of content between the real ones, reducing (or killing) flicker and smoothing motion. Different brands use different names, such as Motion Flow or Motion Plus, but they all come down to the same thing: Motion smoothing makes sports and other live events look slightly better, and everything else completely terrible. The false, interpolated frames turn movie and TV characters into herky-jerky inhumans, making them appear to be racing through even the smallest movements. Reactions to motion smoothing range from indifference to revulsion, but until you know where you stand, don't assume that a high refresh rate (120 Hz or higher) is an automatic selling point. And even sports fans should make sure that the feature can be turned off while watching other content, since doing so was impossible with at least one TV we've used (a Sharp LED).
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