Whether it’s expanding your man cave from a Midwest basement outdoors or making your south Florida lanai feel a little more Margaritaville, outdoor televisions have skyrocketed in popularity.
Once a break the budget item, evolving technology and brighter displays mean that you can watch the big game poolside or keep up to date on breaking news while sipping a much-needed cocktail.
What is an Outdoor TV?
At the simplest level, the display output for an outdoor television needs to be much brighter than a typical monitor that you use for an indoor tv, up to 50 percent brighter, to cut through the sunlight and what engineers call visual noise of outdoor space. While many consumers have found that standard televisions can be used outdoors, your typical monitor does not have a case that is weatherproof or the increased number of LED or LCD cells that brighten the display output.
And those features are what drive the cost. Where a regular 75” Samsung television can be found at membership clubs like Costco for as little as $950, a similarly sized unit designed for outdoor use can cost twice as much.
How else do sets differ? Manufacturers take two general approaches to constructing outdoor sets. Some are completely enclosed in weather-resistant enclosed cases (think of a permanent version of the plastic case you snapped on to your MacBook), while others use nanocoatings to protect the interior electronic components of the unit. Some nanocoated units also incorporate silicone and polymer-based wraps made by the 3M company for additional protection.
There are even aftermarket customizers who take standard 4K sets and create their own weatherproofing system to sell alongside manufacturer-made units.
The combination of shielding the electronics, brightening the screen and making a unit that can withstand temperatures of over 120 degrees means outdoor sets are also typically a bit heavier than indoor ones, with weights ranging from 45 to over 60 pounds for units that are fully enclosed. Since most units are designed to be mounted either on a wall or suspended from the ceiling, count on adding the cost of a heavy-duty mount into your projected investment.
Most units come standard with three HDMI outputs, enabling the end-user to connect an array of entertainment choices from cable, streaming boxes, gaming systems. And many sets offer storage compartments for extra cables, even the weatherproof remote control that typically accompanies these units.
An additional consideration is the environment where your new outdoor TV will be placed. Manufacturers offer units in varying degrees of display intensity, ranging from sets that work best in shaded areas to ones designed for full sun areas. A good rule of thumb is that the more sun exposure your outdoor entertainment area has, the more intense a picture quality you’ll need, with the end result being a slightly larger initial investment.
What Does this Jargon Mean?
Buying an outdoor TV can be a little more complicated than a trip to your local warehouse club. But that’s mainly because most purchasers are first-time buyers, and might overlook some of the things that, once the outdoor set is a part of your life, you might come to take for granted.
A good example of this is the condition known as isotropic blackout. What the heck is that? Simply, it means that prolonged exposure to the UV and IR rays can cause some of the LCD panel cells to overheat, causing them to turn temporarily black. That’s why even the manufacturer of some of the robust outdoor TVs around, SunBriteTV, warns against mounting the screen in an area that receives more than minimal direct sunlight.
One of the best features that outdoor TVs offer is an IPS monitor, which stands for “In-Plane Switching.” In an IPS monitor, liquid crystals align in parallel to produce vibrant colors. IPS panels are defined by the shifting patterns of their liquid crystals. The ability to shift horizontally creates better viewing angles, making the screen sharp no matter where you sit.
Almost every single TV or monitor you see advertised as 4K TV is actually UHD, short for Ultra High Definition. Where full HD, the official name for the display resolution of 1,920 by 1,080, was the standard for flat-screen TVs for years, today’s UHD sets quadruple that resolution to 3,840 by 2,160, giving you a crystal clear picture. Now that you know some of the jargon, as the late Casey Kasem used to say, on with the countdown.
Our Top 5 Outdoor TVs
A robust, well-engineered model that also carries a rather robust price tag, the Ultraview has won numerous best of awards, and its combination of the above-mentioned IPS panel and a true UHD display guarantees there isn’t a bad seat in the house or outside on the patio.
It’s also engineered for extreme temperatures at both ends of the spectrum, meaning that it can be the focus of fireside entertainment in winter and poolside use in summer. The obvious downside though, is the price tag; the 49-inch model starts at $3479, while the largest edition available, at 86 inches, tops out at a steep $13,919.
A more budget-friendly option than the Ultraview, the Neptune model offers many of the same features at a price point that ranges from $2,999 at Amazon to almost a thousand dollars cheaper at Costco.
The price, especially at warehouse clubs, makes it a solid contender; the only thing that doesn’t make it a total winner is the fact that it is not a smart TV, meaning that streaming services require an external device like Roku, Fire Stick, or Apple TV.
This SunBrite TV model, with an average retail price of around $1600, ranks as a fine middle of the road choice with several things to recommend it. Designed for areas with partial sun, the display is bright and vibrant with an anti-glare screen. The outer case of the monitor is powder-coated aluminum, which the manufacturer touts as necessary for an effective, permanent outdoor installation.
It also offers a number of preset viewing modes, allowing the consumer to switch from daytime to nighttime viewing with the press of a button. It also comes with a matching 20-watt soundbar, with similar weatherproofing, designed to give your outdoor space a complete out-of-the-box entertainment solution.
Another choice from Sunbrite makes it clear that this manufacturer is a big player in the outdoor TV marketplace. They offer three lines, ranging to serve areas of your outdoor space that are mostly shaded to the pro line, designed for areas with full sun. The Veranda series, designed for areas like covered patios, lanais and shaded partially enclosed decks, is the most affordable of Sunbrite’s three lines, and this model comes in at a reasonable $2,000 price point.
To give you an idea of the range in price, the identical version of this model designed for full sun, what Sunbrite refers to as the Pro Series, costs more than three times as much. The SunBrite TV series makes some of the best TVs on the market.
A choice that, under $1,000 is the most affordable on the list, this LG HDTV unit also offers built-in compatibility with Alexa and Google, allowing voice control, and Airplay, Apple’s proprietary simulcast software that allows you to cast directly from your laptop or iPhone to the television.
Because its hardware is not as concealed as our other choices, this LG is best suited to semi-enclosed spaces or full shade areas, yet still offers an image nearly a third brighter than standard TVs.
Looking for a way to elevate your outdoor living space? Get an outdoor TV. Depending on where you want to put your new TV, it's important to remember a few things before you purchase one. Make sure it is weatherproof and can withstand extreme temperatures. If you plan to wall-mount it in an area with direct sun, consider an anti-glare screen and TV cover when not in use.
Consider the screen size for your outdoor area. A viewing experience poolside is much different than watching Netflix on a cushy patio chair. An outdoor TV is a game-changer, enjoy it.
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