How to Buy a Flat Screen TV

How to Buy a Flat Screen TVUpdate July 2012: I finally purchased a second TV. My previous TV, a five year old 42″ Vizio 720p, is still in good working order, but we wanted a second TV. This new TV will be used in our bedroom upstairs.

We chose to go with Vizio again and this time we stepped up to a 42″ 1080p. I’m not much for going beyond 720p (Over-the-air HD is still being streamed in 720p), but the newer TVs have a feature that’s hard to resist: wi-fi enabled.

Wi-Fi TVs – If your TV is wi-fi enabled you can tap into your home wireless internet and thus, into programs like,, and Netflix. This feature will allow us to use this TV upstairs in our bedroom without the need for a wi-fi DVD player or wi-fi enabled gaming system.

This is huge if you don’t use a cable or satellite provider and just rely on over-the-air HD antenna channels.

We paid $488 for this set at Sams Club. I did spot a few 720p’s in the open box section, listed in the $350 range. So the wi-fi plus the investment in newer technology pushed me over the edge.

Flat Screen TVI purchased my first flat screen TV back in late 2007. It occurred to me that I had never taken the time to provide my thoughts on this big purchase.

I know some of you probably haven’t made the transition to the flat screen TV, but it seems these TVs are becoming more and more affordable each day. So if you’re in the market for one, I hope you enjoy my take on buying a flat screen TV (please don’t confuse this for a serious technical review though):

How to Decide Which Flat Screen TV to Buy

Three factors come into play when I think about deciding on a flat screen TV:

1. 1080p or 720p– In my opinion, unless you are a serious gamer or Blu-ray DVD watcher, skip the 1080p and get a 720p. You’ll save a little money and be just as happy. Current satellite and cable TV is being sent in 720p. So, for regular HD programming you won’t notice a difference when watching your favorite TV shows with a 720p set vs a 1080p set. The TV manufacturers aren’t making many 720’s anymore though so you may have to search hard for one.

Update: These days, 1080p is about all you can find, and prices have come down. So, this isn’t much of a decision anymore.

2. Plasma or LCD– At the 40″ size range, I’ve heard it’s pretty much a toss-up on quality. Above 50″ and I think the plasmas have the advantage. Get an LCD though if you’re not going too big, and if you have a bright room (they have less glare). Also, LCDs are more likely to have a VGA connection if you ever needed to use it as a monitor.

3. Size – In my opinion, the size suggestions out there are designed to sell bigger TVs. In a normal 20′ x 20′ living room, a 42″ will do just fine, and in a bedroom a 32″ will work. The measurements out there are based on an immersion factor (where your whole viewpoint is contained within the TV screen). Basically that’s the kind of thing the average person shouldn’t be worried about. Again, just my opinion.

Where to Buy a Flat Screen TV

You’ll definitely want to do some of your initial research online. Then, once you’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 models and sizes, determine who sells your TV and visit the store. Look at the TVs and make sure you’d be happy with it.

Once you’ve decided on a particular set, head home to do price research. Find your lowest price online and call your local store to see if they will match it. Then, just make your purchase and enjoy your TV.

I’ve been really happy with my selection, a 42″ 720p LCD. It’s kind of past it’s prime though now.

Tip about Cables and Cleaners: Don’t buy the expensive HDMI cables at the store, try and score some of those from your cable guy or buy them online. is a good place to look. Also, I’ve never needed the professional cleaners they sell at the electronic stores for my TV. I just wipe it with a dry cloth.

What are your tips for buying a flat screen TV?

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  1. Congrats.  I don’t own a TV, but I’ve been thinking about getting a projector for my basement to watch movies through my laptop and TV via the internet.  Thanks for the tips if I ever go the TV route.

  2. I’m going to be buying 1 or 2 flat screens for the house and I have got a lot of good info and help I know 1 will be a 42 but isn’t it true LCD tvs are cheeper to run and also I have an older mid 90s 64″ rear pro. its a sony and it still has a good pitcure but takes up a lot of space and I think cost a lot to run the space and run cost is the reason I’m getting rid of it or should I keep it until it burns out?

  3. Jeff@MySuperChargedLife says:

    Great advice! I’m one of the few that still doesn’t have a flat screen TV, but I’ve been looking. When I’m ready, this info will definitely help. I’m hoping the prices keep falling like they almost always do on things like this.

  4. My Journey says:

    Great Post! I can’t believe it wasn’t mentioned yet…but I learned (via experience) THIS PURCHASE IS NEGOTIABLE!

    I literally told the guy in P.C. Richards that I didn’t think the sale price was fair, and I got $150 off a $1K Purchase. 15% for asking!

  5. J, you make an excellent point about forward-compatability. It’s definitely wise to factor that in.

  6. Lol figure out how to buy a flat screen TV is a problem I would love to have. I will stick with my tiny CRT tv for now. 🙂

  7. Basic rule on 720 vs 1080 – 40″. Above 40″ the 1080 does make a difference. And my satellite receiver from DirectTV does output 1080p. Plus, on a purchase this big, and little forward-compatability is not a bad thing.
    @TSTrump – PS3 rocks, does a great job upscaling older DVD’s, too.

  8. I so want a Flat Screen TV, but I’ve decided to wait a year or two.
    Don’t really need it now and my budget won’t allow it.
    Good to know about 720 vs 1080P
    Of course, then I’ll need a PS3 …

  9. @Jason – Good point on the projector. I’d like to see that in action one day.

    @Peter – Good points, man. I actually have the Vizio, somewhat of an off-brand and I love it. Thanks for sharing the link to cables. Good find on the $5 cables.

  10. Travis @ CMM says:

    I bought a 42′ Plasma tv just over a year ago. We just now are realizing its full potential because we’ve upgraded to Dish Network HD.

    I’ll probably be looking for a 32′ later this year to go in our bedroom as our old tv has stopped working.

    For the time being we have to find other things to do in the bedroom, and that isn’t so bad.

  11. Great post! If you’re looking for cheap cables, I would suggest They’ve got extremely cheap cables, converters, etc. I bought a HDMI cable with gold plated ends, similar to the $50 ones at Best Buy for $5 on monoprice.

    One of our goals is to save up 6 months of emergency fund, at which time we’ve allowed ourselves the indulgence of getting a 50″ Plasma. We’ll be getting 720P because at the distance we’re viewing, you can’t tell the difference anyway.

    I might also add – that in a lot of instances the off brand LCD and Plasma TVs are good quality too, in fact for some LCD panels the glass and some other components are actually made at the same factories as the high end TVs. Of course other substandard components ruin it for some of those TVs. You CAN find some good deals on off brands too though.

  12. PB @ One Million Bucks! says:

    I would also add that brand is important. I’ve heard that the best brands these days are Samsung, Sony, and Pioneer. Also, watch out for glossy coated screens if you have a highly lit room!

  13. Nice article, and nice looking TV.

    I would add that if you’re looking for a TV for a media-dedicated room, and not your living room, to skip the plasma/lcd debate and look for a projector. A year ago I got a 720p projector that throws a 114″ HD screen – for $750!