The 11 Biggest Myths About Buying a TV

Learn whether contrast ratio is important, what you really need to know about HDR, and other helpful info as we separate TV truth from fiction.
Fact / Myth

If you've looked into purchasing a TV in recent years, you've been perhaps overwhelmed by the jargon and conflicting information. (Be sure to check out our primer to buying a TV or a HDR TV to learn the basics.) Indeed, there's a lot of misinformation out there, so to help you filter it out, we've debunked some commonly held beliefs about buying a TV.

Ready to get your next TV? We've got the best TV deals in our weekly roundup.

4K TVs Are Expensive

While this statement may have been true just a few years ago, these days 4K TVs are very affordable. In fact, this past Black Friday, prices on 4K TVs were nearly as low as their 1080p counterparts. So even though we're still waiting for 4K content to become commonplace, there isn't any reason not to get a 4K TV in anticipation of when that time comes.

SEE ALSO: Do You Need a Smart TV?

Contrast Ratio and Refresh Rate Are Important Specs

These specifications might sound like scientific measurements designed to accurately evaluate a TV's performance; however, almost the opposite is true. There are no guidelines for measuring contrast, so while a manufacturer may claim that a TV has a contrast ratio of 1-million-to-1, this number might as well as have been pulled out of thin air.

While it may appear that a TV has a high refresh rate, it may actually just have a rate of 60Hz.

Similarly, refresh rates suffer from manufacturer manipulation. While refresh rate was developed to combat motion blur, and some TVs really do have 120Hz and maybe even 240Hz refresh rates, manufacturers have come up with their own terms that incorporate such numbers. Thus, while it may appear that a TV has a high refresh rate, it may actually just have a rate of 60Hz. CNET has a great write up about how this plays out with 4K TVs.

TVs With Voice Recognition Listen to Your Conversations

Although Samsung didn't do a very good job assuring people otherwise in 2015, your Smart TV isn't listening in on your personal conversations. Still, there's a much better chance that your TV viewing habits are being tracked.

You Should Buy an Extended Warranty

According to Consumer Reports, only 4% of TVs require servicing during their first four years. As such, instead of recommending an extended warranty, CR advises buying a TV with a credit card that extends the manufacturers' warranty.

Curved TVs Are Better

Supposedly designed after movie theater screens, curved TVs are purported to offer a more immersive viewing experience by filling the viewer's field of vision. However, as we've explained in the past, given the size of a television, there's a very small sweet spot in which one or two people can have this experience. You're better off spending your money on a set equipped with IPS, which will allow your flat set to look good from multiple viewing angles.

SEE ALSO: What You Need to Know When Buying a New TV

High-End TVs Have High-End Audio

Logic would have you think that if you're a paying a premium price for a premium TV, you'd get premium audio. Not so. With thinner and lighter bezels, such TVs are physically not able to house powerful speakers. As such, if audio is important to you, you should plan on purchasing a sound bar or home theater system to go with your new TV.

It's Worth Paying More for a Smart TV

Buying a Smart TV has its advantages, so this statement isn't completely false. A Smart TV will allow you to go virtually wireless, and of course, will let you access content via streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

Even so, you can access the same content using a streaming stick, a set-top box like an Apple TV or Roku, or your PlayStation or Xbox console. Plus, you'll likely get a more user-friendly and robust interface with these streaming devices. Even if you don't already own a streaming device, you can often get a streaming stick for less than the difference between a Smart TV and a non-Smart TV.

Pricey HDMI Cables Are Worth It

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled may have been convincing the world he didn't exist, but the second greatest was convincing us that pricey HDMI cables were worth the expense. All HDMI cables deliver the same information, so there's no point in buying expensive ones.

All HDMI cables deliver the same information, so there's no point in buying expensive ones.

All HDR Is the Same

One of the buzzwords that you've probably heard lately is HDR, or high dynamic range. As it sounds, HDR increases the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, creating more vibrant colors in between. But even if you have an HDR TV, you'll only see the difference when watching HDR content.


There are three types of HDR, the most common being HDR10. The others are Dolby Vision and HDR10+. The difference between HDR10 and the other two is that its brightness levels are set for an entire program, while the other types allow for different settings for each scene.

A New TV Will Only Last a Few Years

There seems to be a prevailing thought that an HDTV will only last a few years. This appears to stem from some TVs being rated as having a life span of 30,000 hours. Though a year has 8,760 hours in it, you're not going to have your TV on the whole time. Even if your TV was on for 10 hours a day, your set's life span would be eight years.

SEE ALSO: Ask an Editor: When Is the Best Time to Buy a TV?

But when a manufacturer refers to a TV's life span, that is the time until its brightness dims by half. Your TV will continue to work after such a time, just not as well. You can extend your TV's life by turning down the brightness and contrast. Plus, many sets are expected to have a life span of 60,000 hours. So there's no reason you shouldn't be able to get 10-plus years out of a TV.

8K Is Just Around the Corner, So Skip the 4K TV

If you've heard about 8K TVs, and have started thinking that you might as well hold off on getting a 4K TV and wait to buy an 8K set, you're going to be waiting awhile. As we've covered in depth, 8K is still a long ways from being a reality.

What do you think, readers? What other myths exist about buying a TV? Let us know in the comments.

Former Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years. He covered consumer electronics and technology for DealNews from 2013 to 2018.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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@Lindsay Sakraida

You're welcome, if burn-in fits the TV myth category.

Anyone researching specs and reviews on "high end" TV brands (LG, Sony, Samsung, Vizio, TCL) will likely end up at They have been testing burn-in since last August with regular updates on progress almost every week.
michael bonebright (DealNews)

HDMI has seen a couple updates since 2.0 was introduced in September 2013 -- but for the vast majority of consumers, the cable that came in the box is probably fine. There are a few caveats:

1-- If you purchased your HDMI cable (or device) in 2013 or before, you should buy a new one. (A simple 2.0 cable shouldn't cost you more than $10.)

2-- If you want HDR support, you need an HDMI 2.0b cable. (Amazon has these for less than $20 usually.)

3-- If you want to future-proof your system for the next gen, grab an HDMI 2.1 cable. The Belkin AV10175ds2M-BLK cable (usually $30) legitimately meets the specs of the standard. (Beware of shady sites touting regular HDMI 2.0 cables as "the latest version.")
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)

Thanks for that, we'll consider adding in!
"All HDMI cables deliver the same information, so there's no point in buying expensive ones."

The first half of that is completely false. The HDMI cable that your cable provider gives you, or one that you've had since you bought your first flat screen will not pass a 4k signal. So if you use it to connect a 4k blu ray player or streaming device to your tv, you will either get no signal at all or one that is downgraded. I'm not saying you have to pay a lot for them, but you need a cable that is capable of sending the signal from your device to your tv. HDMI 1.4 will work for most, HDMI 2.0 is the safest bet, especially for gamers. Never be afraid to spend for quality. You don't buy a luxury car and then fill it up with oil that you buy at the dollar store.
I'm somewhat surprised that OLED burn-in didn't make the myth list. It's a real thing but many consumers are overly worried about it, though maybe they should since you can't return a TV just because of burn-in. It's much more prevalent on OLED phones than TVs, but the return policy is usually better for phones (under warranty).

Normal size has moved up. 50" and 55" are the new 32 inch. Sales of 32 to 42 inch TVs are way down because the bigger TV's are now cheaper than what you would pay for a 32" 10 years ago. The manufacturers/retailers aren't pushing the smaller TV's because there isn't any profit margins in them.

I saw a 40 Insignia last week for $170. Not the best TV but decent quality for the price.


I concede that the model we are discussing is a most likely a stripped down Walmart only which is a shame because it's misleading to the consumer who thinks that they are getting something like upscaling which should be standard but isn't. I took the time to try to "do the research" and was still mislead. I still maintain that upscalers are standard but this TV probably doesn't have one.

I bought a "famous maker" remote from Walmart a couple of years ago that was supposed to control 8 devices. The Walmart model only controlled 7 devices...

You are correct. Caveat Emptor!

Not the same TV.

The one at WalMart that was one of yesterday's DealNews "Editor's Choice" selections was U550CV-U, not U550CV-UMC.

The latter has upscaling, the former does not. Looks like the -U is an older model, or a stripped-down model.

Caveat emptor.
Stephen Slaybaugh (DealNews)
Hi RudeVader-
We frequently include TVs of that size in our roundup of the best TV deals. There's one this week:
What would be nice is if there were good deals on "normal" size TVs like in the 40-46 range. It seems at every turn there's a huge screen TV on sale with some being good deals, but very little for normal size screens.

But for houses with normal 15 x 15 rooms, those 55, 65 75 etc inch deals don't really make sense to consider.

Back in the day a 25 inch TV was considered huge, but today it's nothing in the TV world.

From the Sceptre website in regards to the TV you referenced...

UHD Upscaling
Enjoy all your videos with UHD
upscaling. With an advanced video
chipset, Standard Definition (SD),
High Definition (HD), or Full High
Definition (FHD) will be vividly
enhanced to 4k resolution which
delivers a picture quality that nears
the degree of excellence of a UHD
display. This display will breathe
new life into the colors of your older
movies and TV shows.

What is troubling about the TV that is the editors pick is the contrast ratio. The dynamic contrast ratio for this TV is listed at 15,000:1. This is SUPER LOW. I would stay far away from this TV not only for this reason but because it's only right above being a monitor having just a built in tuner

The Visio D55-E0 which lists on Walmart for $398 has a contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1, is a full array TV and is a smart TV. Yes, it's $100 more but you are getting more than twice the TV
The CNET article isn't new, but it's still accurate. None of today's DealNews "Editors' Choice" 4K TVs appear to have upscaling (only the 65" LG does as I write this, but it's not an "Editor's Choice"). In fact, one TV from Walmart specifically says "You must have a source of HD programming in order to take full advantage of the Sceptre U550CV-U." If you are paying under $10/inch, it's unlikely to have upscaling. Caveat emptor--be sure before you buy, is all I'm saying.

The article you reference is 2 years old. I haven't seen a 4K TV in the market lately that doesn't upconvert 1080 to 4K. Even the non mainstream brands like Hisense upconvert 1080 to 4K.


I wouldn't consider Visio a 2nd tier TV brand anymore. Hisense is right behind them in picture quality.

HDR is as big of a deal as is 4K. I personally wouldn't consider purchasing a new TV if it didn't have HDR. Many 4K TV's dont have it. The newest "buzz word" in purchasing a TV is "nits." Here is a good read if you haven't.
Unless your TV has 4K "upscaling" (sometimes called "upconverting"), you will only get a 4K picture from 4K inputs like 4K blu-rays, which are pricey, or 4K online content, which is also more expensive. All other content will look exactly as it does on your current TV; and in some cases not as good because all they do is display each pixel 4 times to fill the screen because a 4K TV has 4 times the pixels.
Good read!

What about big brands (like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, etc.) having better pictures/quality than others (like Vizio)?
Stephen Slaybaugh (DealNews)

Edge-lit is where the LEDs are arrayed around the perimeter of the TV. A diffuser then spreads the light across the entire panel to illuminate the LCD.

Back-lit, or full-array, is where rows of LEDs are spread across the entire back panel of the TV. Using a feature called local dimming, the LEDs are divided into a number of zones that can be individually controlled, so some portions of the backlight can be dimmed while other remain illuminated. This usually results in better contrast and black levels than edge-lit TVs.

On an OLED TV, each LED is lit individually. OLED is the only technology capable of absolute blacks and extremely bright whites on a per-pixel basis, hence a superior picture.
What can you tell us about side lit vs. back lit?