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From Size to Resolution: Here’s What to Look For in a Super Bowl TV

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and it’s also one of the best times to buy a brand-new TV. After all, who doesn’t want to experience the thrill of watching your team score a touchdown in jaw-dropping 4K resolution?

While many TV brands will be offering steep discounts on last year’s models, as well as new releases, if you’re going to spend your cash on a 65-inch set that will live in your home for the next seven years or so, there’s a few important criteria to consider for ensuring your new TV is not only the best purchase for the Super Bowl, but for other media like movies and video games, too.

Motion Clarity is a Must

Courtesy of Samsung

Perhaps the most important feature of a Super Bowl TV is the ability to handle motion like a pro. Spec-wise, this is captured by a metric referred to as the TV’s native refresh rate (measured in hertz and labeled as Hz), a measurement of how quickly a TV can jump from one frame of action to the next.

In years past, native refresh rates were either 60Hz, 120Hz, or 240Hz for most LED-LCD and non-LED-LCD sets and 600Hz for plasma TVs. The easy rule of thumb with hertz is the higher the number, the better your TV’s motion handling will be. And these days, there are only two native refresh rates to consider for most LED-LCDS and OLEDs — 60Hz and 120Hz.

But what about that Hisense ULED you saw with a motion rating of 480? Here’s the thing: while that’s not an entirely phony measurement, it’s not completely real either. You see, even if a TV’s refresh rate is only 60Hz, manufacturers will implement a number of motion enhancement features to boost the TV’s native refresh rate — usually through processing tech that either digitally smooths individual frames or through the inclusion of blank transitional frames that make your TV appear to perform faster than it actually is. 

Long story short: if you’re going to be using your TV for action-heavy content like sports, movies, and video games, it’s best to invest in a 120Hz set. And typically, most 120Hz sets will be optimized to deliver the best bandwidth for HDMI inputs, too, which is pretty much essential for next-gen gaming consoles and PC gaming. 

Resolution, Upscaling and Size

Courtesy of Amazon

Remember when 1080p HD was the golden standard for state-of-the-art screens? These days, 1080p is almost an afterthought, with even the most entry level sets being able to deliver a decent 4K picture. And now there’s 8K models to consider, too. But when it comes to Super Bowl 2023, should you opt for a 4K or 8K TV, even if the game itself won’t be broadcast in UHD? Well, that’s kind of a loaded question with multiple angles to cover. 

For starters, you’ll want to consider what TV size will be best for your viewing space. For small to medium-sized living rooms, 55- and 65-inch models are typical choices, but if you have a bigger watching area or dedicated theater room, it’s not unheard of to go with a 75-inch set or larger. But keep this in mind: the bigger your TV is, the better its resolution should be. 

In 2023, Fox will be broadcasting and streaming the Super Bowl in 4K, so if you’re planning on saving a few bucks by opting for a (probably hard to find) 1080p TV, you’d kind of be shooting yourself in the foot. 

And let’s clear something up: yes, the game will be broadcast in UHD, but whether you’re watching it on cable or streaming the event from Hulu or fuboTV, the 4K Super Bowl will land on your set in a compressed format. This means that you’ll also want to make sure that whatever TV you aim to purchase will have good picture upscaling. 

Most 4K and 8K TVs can optimize picture quality with different processing technologies to give you a final image that’s at least slightly better than whatever the native source is. 

So for the compressed broadcast of this year’s Super Bowl, a 4K TV with excellent upscaling will make that compressed 4K football game look more like a true UHD picture, while an 8K model will up the ante by upscaling that 4K signal to as close to 8K resolution as one can get.

Adaptive Lighting for Every Touchdown

John Velasco | SPY

OLED TVs are fantastic, and while it’s hard to beat the kind of inky black levels and deep colors these self-emissive screens are known for, traditional LED-LCDs and QLEDs are always going to be much brighter. That’s because these types of TVs use actual backlighting systems instead of pixels that can be turned on or off. 

And while there’s no beating the beauty of a football game on a powerful QLED TV, when you’re shopping around, it’s a good idea to look for a QLED or traditional LED-LCD that prioritizes local dimming.

I like to think of local dimming as an LED TV’s ability to control individual “zones” of lighting. The higher this number is, the more lighting zones your TV will be capable of optimizing, which means better peak brightness, better color brightness, and better contrast overall.

Leave Those Black Friday Models Alone

Right around Christmastime and some less formal holidays like the Super Bowl and Father’s Day, TV manufacturers will typically release a few limited-time TVs that are priced lower than most of the brand’s other models (even the cheapest entry-level 60Hz sets). Here’s a good rule of thumb: stay away from these TVs—all of them. 

Yes, it’s hard to pass up the idea of only spending $350 on your new 55-inch Super Bowl set. Still, these one-off holiday buys are usually pretty bottom-of-the-barrel regarding picture quality, motion handling, and overall reliability. Trust me, as a home theater installer and TV repairman; I fixed (and often completely replaced) so many of these Black Friday exclusives.

When a TV is priced cheap, it’s usually made cheaply, too. And sure, saving money is always enticing, but if you’re buying a new TV that’s going to be the staple of your living room for years to come, invest a little more upfront for a model that’s been available to purchase all year, instead of that $350 55-inch that you’re probably not going to be too happy with.