Want giant TV, will travel: Seeing the latest TVs now requires Delta instead of FedEx

Samsung UN85S9 85 Inch 4K Ultra HD front
Samsung's $40,000 UN85S9 85-inch Ultra HD (4K) TV in its Timeless Gallery frame

For my part as a reviewer of nearly anything relating to home audio or video, the most memorable aspect of the last year or so is that I have traveled no less than 18,600 miles just to look at cool TVs and tell the world what I think about them. Now, before you go berating me in the comments section about first-world problems and such, let me say this: I’m not complaining. I loved every second of it, and I was honored to do it. But it definitely says something about the state of the TV industry.

Not so long ago, even 32-inch TVs were huge and heavy. From 1994 to 2006, I, along with a select group of very unlucky friends and family members, moved a 110-pound 32-inch JVC CRT TV from one apartment to another a grand total of 19 times. To this day, my hands are marred with the grid-shaped indentations of that beast’s sharp plastic base. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have an untreated hernia that resulted from one (or several) of those nomadic travels. It was a sadistic labor of love, and I don’t regret any of it; though, I’m sure my friends would beg to differ. 

Today, things are very different. My 5-year-old daughter can and has grabbed a late-model 32-inch LCD TV and dragged it across a room (don’t ask). Likewise, modern-day technology has made successfully shipping TVs across the country easier than delivering a fruitcake. As a result, I’ve been fortunate enough to oversee the review of about 25 televisions for Digital Trends this year. But, innovation being the game-altering bugger it is, there are some cutting-edge TVs so grandiose, coveted, and invaluable, that they simply couldn’t be shipped to me. Instead, in order for me to perform an evaluation, had to be shipped to them, with all “shipping charges” handled by the manufacturer, as is customary when TVs are sent to us. 

LG 84LM9600 84 inch 4k tv
LG’s 84LM9600 84-inch Ultra HD television

My first TV-reviewing trip actually took place in late November 2012. When LG invited me to Chicago to review its 84-inch 4K Ultra HD TV, I was excited. I wanted to dig deep into what I suspected would be a ground-breaking television, and it would be my first crack at really dissecting an Ultra HD set since they had first been teased over a year prior. Plus, I knew that there was no way in hell I could clear housing such a monster in my home past my wife. She’s down with cool new stuff, but please … that wasn’t happening. As for my office, let’s just say I and a couple of my co-workers would have had to give up their desks for working in a conference room. That wasn’t happening either. 

No matter, though. LG had no intention of shipping their coveted review sample anywhere. If I was ever to get my eyes on it for more than just a few minutes, I was going to have to take a flight. And so I did. 

My next visit was to Samsung for a look at its stunning F8500 plasma, the first TV from the company to seriously and successfully challenge Panasonic at its own plasma game. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was witnessing the beginning of what would turn out to be the last big battle among high-end plasma televisions.

Later, in August, LG suggested a reprise, this time to gander at its 55-inch OLED TV. Once again, the trip was worth it. This next-gen slice of tech was in rare supply, and shipping it would introduce long lead times between review opportunities. Also, as expensive as it was, I can image the company wasn’t wild about taking its chances with the shipping industry – and I don’t blame them. Being able to exert some pressure on a production OLED TV was not only eye-opening and educational, it was flat-out fun.

Samsung’s KN55S9C 55-inch OLED TV in its Timeless Arena frame

Not two weeks later, I would  find myself on a plane bound for New York.. This time, an opportunity to stare longingly at Samsung’s K55S9 curved OLED TV lay in waiting. Once again, the experience was simultaneously mind-bending and thrilling. It left such an indelible impression, that I named the TV my pick for the best home theater product of 2013. 

More recently, Samsung suggested I visit LA, where it had its 85-inch 4K Ultra HD TV set up for review. Guess what happened? I loved it. Sure, the $40,000 television borders on preposterous, but the performance was there. It was an 85-inch looking glass into the future. Price be damned, it is an amazing TV to behold. 

Will I have to travel so much to review televisions next year? It’s likely. While I’m not at liberty to disclose any details just yet, I can say that TVs are getting bigger, badder, and in some cases, more expensive in 2014. To be honest, I’m not a fan of security lines, airport food, cramped seats, and ridiculously expensive bottles of hotel water, but if bearing those minor inconveniences is what it takes to get up close and personal with the very best in television and display  technology, I say: Bring it on in 2014. 


The best 4K TV deals under $500 and over 50 inches

Big-screen TVs with high-resolution displays and 4K color have dropped so far in price that you can find highly rated 50 to 55-inch models under $500. We searched major retailers for the best deals on 4K UHD TVs.

Choosing one of these smart TVs under $300 will make you look like a genius

Buying a good cheap smart TV is easier than ever. To help you out, we've sniffed out a half dozen of the best models out there with prices starting at just $130. We've even thrown in a couple 4K smart TVs, with these UHD models still…
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Movies & TV

The best Christmas TV episodes and specials

To help get you in the spirit of the season, we've compiled a list of the best Christmas TV episodes and specials. Whether it's free episodes on your favorite streaming service, or stop-motion classics, look no further.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast returns to Amazon just in time for the holiday shopping crunch

It's been a chilly few years between Google and Amazon, but things may be improving. You can now buy two versions of Google's Chromecast on Amazon, something that hasn't be possible since 2015.
Home Theater

Phiaton’s active lifestyle headphones do noise canceling on a budget

Looking for a set of active noise-canceling earbuds that can keep up with your active lifestyle, without breaking the bank? Phiaton's new Curve BT 120 NC could be just the ticket.
Home Theater

5 sonic stocking stuffers to improve your loved ones’ listening life

Looking for some simple and affordable gifts to get the music nerd in your family? Here are five great gift ideas that will improve their listening life -- and won't cost you an arm and a leg to give them.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.