Choosing the best outdoor TV can be really overwhelming. But, it doesn't have to be.
It can actually be a breeze (and, I think it should be fun!) But, everyone has different comfort levels with technical stuff. Even with something as simple as a television.
I hope that this article will help you choose the best outdoor TV for your situation, regardless of your technical understanding, and prepare you for a smooth shopping experience.
This is one of those articles that you may want to jump around a bit. So, here's a table of contents for you:
Why Should You Buy an “Outdoor TV”?
I'm guessing that you're here because you want the incredible convenience, coolness, and fun of being able to watch TV in your backyard, or on your patio, or at the bar by your pool…
I'm also sure that you understand that most TVs are simply not designed to be exposed to the elements. They're not made to function outside.
But, what does that really mean, “to function outside”?
I mean, it will still turn off and on, and display a picture, right?
In this article, I'll introduce you to the challenges that any TV you put outdoors will be up against—the things that might ruin your television and your experience, and waste your investment.
I'll show you how to size up your outdoor entertainment needs, and use that info to choose the best outdoor TV for your home or business situation.
First, I'll define what an outdoor TV is, and what distinguishes it from a standard indoor TV.
After that, I'll introduce you to my general four-step approach to choosing the best outdoor TV.
Then, I'll go into several topics that will clarify those steps. Outdoor elements, waterproofing, picture brightness—all the things to think about when choosing the best outdoor TV.
I'm gonna try to simplify the technical details without getting TOO technical.
Ok, let's get into the answer to the big question: What IS an outdoor TV, anyway?
What Is An Outdoor TV?
Simply put, an Outdoor TV is a television designed to withstand outdoor elements (such as extreme temperature fluctuations, humidity, salt-air, rain/snow precipitation, etc.) and provide high-quality picture that is visible despite bright sunlight.
In short, the two main jobs of the best outdoor TV are to:
- Withstand outdoor elements; and
- Provide good picture in outdoor light
However, HOW each outdoor TV accomplishes these two goals, and under what circumstances, is going to be different from brand-to-brand, and model-to-model.
So, this answer to “what is an outdoor tv” brings up a few more questions:
- Against which outdoor elements does my outdoor TV need to be protected?
- What makes for a “good picture”?
- How is “outdoor light” different? How is it measured?
- What is the best outdoor tv for my particular outdoor situation?
This is what my general 4-Step approach is about: Sizing up your outdoor situation, and furnishing it with the best outdoor TV to match.
4 Steps To Choosing the Best Outdoor TV
Here is the general 4-step approach to sizing up your needs and selecting the best outdoor tv for your home or business situation:
Assess Your Environment
Determine the outdoor elements that your outdoor TV is up against: Bright sunlight; extreme heat or cold; rain & humidity; and airborne particles.
Determine Required Levels of Protection
Understanding your environment, you can now decide on your outdoor TV's weatherproofing, level of brightness, and temperature resistance.
Shop with Protection in Mind
Identify the best outdoor TV options for your situation using those few protective stats, because they're used in most outdoor TV ads and marketing.
Narrow Your Options with Your Viewing Preferences
Once you've identified the best outdoor TVs for your environment, you can narrow down the options based on preferences such as size, resolution, smart TV features, sound capabilities, and other perks.
Choosing the Best Outdoor TV…
There are many things to consider when selecting the best outdoor TV, and it can feel pretty random:
- Location (Is it in a shaded or sunny area? How will you mount it?)
- Risk of physical damage (i.e. bad weather, debris, children playing nearby)
- Picture Quality (Brightness, resolution, viewing angles…)
- Connectivity (Just cable? Or, do you need WiFi for smart TV features?)
- Screen size (How far will viewer be seated from it?)
But, if you approach it all in a certain order, I think it's easier to come to a conclusion about the best outdoor tv for you.
Clearly, the best outdoor TV will depend on your particular environment (such as climate, temperature, and rainfall), your budget, and other lifestyle conditions.
Ok, let's move on to the juicier details—all the stuff that will help you use the steps above, one Step at a time.
Step 1: Assess Your Environment
This is the most important step, so it's going to be the longest section in this article. But, that doesn't mean it's the most difficult. I'm going to keep it as simple as possible, while also keeping it informative.
There are 4 main Environmental Challenges that any outdoor TV might be up against:
Just to be clear, the “outdoor elements” I'm talking about here are more than simply “bad weather” like rain and snow.
The best Outdoor TVs are designed to handle a number of outdoor elements, including:
- Extreme Temperatures
- Precipitation (rain, sleet, snow…)
- High Humidity
- Salt Air
… and sometimes even direct exposure to rain or other weather elements — all without being damaged.
Not every outdoor TV is designed to handle ALL of those elements at once.
But, keep in mind that the more of them it can handle, and the better it handles them, the more expensive it will be.
Another way to think of this is that, although the more outdoor elements it can handle, and the more expensive it will be, the more options you'll have for where you can put your outdoor TV.
Either way, if you're aware of what you need, you'll be able to save money and hassle by narrowing down your options to only those outdoor TVs that can handle your particular environment.
Here's what you need to know to asses each of the 4 Environmental Challenges:
SUNLIGHT: One of 3 Levels
Your outdoor TV is going to have to be bright enough to compete with the sun.
Well, not directly. But, anything lit by the sun is going to be so bright that it will likely outshine the brightness of a standard indoor television.
As I discuss in my article about outdoor TV brightness, there are 3 categories of outdoor Sunlight Conditions:
- Full Shade
- Partial Sun
- Full Sun
A fully-shaded area is the most ideal location for an outdoor TV. There is no direct sunlight on or around the outdoor TV, nor in the areas where the people watching will be. Meaning, less light for the outdoor TV to compete with.
Partial Sun / Partial Shade
A Partial Sun area is a partially-shaded space that sometimes allows sunlight to shine directly into the viewers' watching area or their line of sight, or directly onto the outdoor TV itself.
The TV might need to automatically readjust its brightness to adapt to the changes in sunlight throughout the day.
A Full Sun environment is where both your outdoor TV and viewing area are unshaded, open and exposed to the Sun.
This is most challenging sunlight situation for an outdoor TV, usually found in professional entertainment situations, requiring the brightest televisions.
Determine which of the 3 Sunlight Conditions you'll be installing and watching your outdoor TV.
*Direct Sun — A Caution
A Direct Sun situation is different from “Full Sun” in that the front of the outdoor TV screen is facing the Sun all the time, getting directly hit by its rays throughout the day.*
*(An example of this would be if the TV is facing South in North America.)
In a Full Sun environment, you might have some direct sun on your television, but it's usually temporary.
Direct sunlight as a constant is not an ideal situation for even the best outdoor TV.
It can potentially heat up your outdoor TV to much higher than its operating temperature range, damaging the unit or inhibiting its ability to function and deliver a good picture.
Speaking of temperature, let's look at that next…
TEMPERATURE: Extreme Heat & Cold
Without getting too much into the tech of it, I'd say that all you really need to know here is that you need to match the temperature range of your outdoor TV to your environment.
Outdoor temperatures can get much colder or hotter than the general room temperatures in which standard indoor TVs are designed to work (from about 50°F to 90°F). The best outdoor TVs are built to work in those colder and hotter temperatures.
I've seen some rated to work from as freezing cold as -30°F (yes, minus 30) to as sweltering hot as 140°F. (Why the heck anyone would WANT to watch TV outside at these temperatures is beyond me, but there ya go.)
*NOTE: Many indoor TVs are rated to be stored at similarly extreme temperatures, but outdoor TVs can actually operate at these temperatures.
So, ask yourself these questions:
- During which seasons will the outdoor TV be installed?
- What are generally the highest and lowest temperatures during that period?
- How drastically does the temperature change from night to day?
If it's a permanent, year-round installation, you'll want the high temps of summer and the low temps of winter.
Or, if it will only be installed temporarily for certain time of the year, then taken in for storage, just get the range for that season.
Then, make sure your outdoor TV is rated to work outside those extremes.
Determine the coldest and hottest temperatures at which you'll be watching your outdoor TV.
WATER: Rain & Humidity
Electricity and water are a dangerous combination. Water will ruin any electronic device.
So, this is about keeping water out of your outdoor TV, whether it be from rain, humidity, or splashes from your pool.
The questions to ask yourself here are about how much water your outdoor TV will be exposed to, an have to resist:
- Are you in a humid environment?
- Will your TV be in a covered area and shielded from rain?
- If in a covered area, will it potentially be exposed to rain blown in from storm winds?
- Will your TV be completely exposed in an uncovered area?
- How heavy does the rain get? Mist, drizzle, heavy, or torrential?
- Will your TV be near a body of water (e.g. a pool, lake, or ocean) and exposed to splashing?
Notice that these are “general idea” questions. You don't need specifics or measurements.
The answers to these will set you up for Step 2 when you'll determine how much protection you'll need.
Determine the general ways in which your outdoor TV might be exposed to water: from humidity, drips, splashing, heavy rain, etc.
DUST & SMALL PARTICLES
Similar to Water, tiny particles can ruin your TV if they get inside.
Sand, dust, dirt, salt, and even insects can all destroy the way the electronics and buttons of your outdoor television operate. Ask yourself:
- Are you near an ocean with a lot of salt in the air?
- Are you in a windy environment? Is there a lot of sand or dust that the wind could potentially blow onto your TV?
- Are you in a woodsy environment with a lot of tiny insects that will be attracted to the light and heat from your outdoor TV?
Again, these are “general idea” questions, the answers to which will help you determine how much protection you'll need.
SMALL PARTICLES ASSESSMENT:
Determine whether your outdoor TV will be regularly exposed to sand, dust, salt, or insects.
Step 2: Determine Required Levels of Protection
Now that you've done the hard work, and assessed your outdoor TV's environment, you can determine what you'll need for levels of Brightness, Temperature Resistance, and Weatherproofing.
This is relatively simple, because you've just done all the work in the previous Step.
For you technically inclined and curious, Brightness on TV screens is measured in a number of “Nits.”
For those of you asking, “what is a Nit?” don't worry too much, because TV manufacturers have simplified this for you by categorizing their outdoor TVs into those 3 Sunlight Conditions: Full Shade, Partial Sun, & Full Sun.
Once you've determined your Sunlight Condition, you just have to match your TV category with your environment. Which is very easy, since it's at the forefront of most outdoor TV marketing.
If you live or entertain in a moderate climate, this is not such a big deal to worry about, as outdoor TVs are designed to operate well outside of the typical room temperature range.
However, if you'll be entertaining or using the TV in extreme temperatures—say below freezing, or above 100°F—you'll want to check the specs on your outdoor TV.
It might need a little digging, since it's not at the forefront of marketing, but check the manual or website for “specifications,” look for the “Operating Temperature“, and just make sure those numbers are outside the range of your environment.
This is just a little bit tougher because it combines water-resistance and dust-protection into one category.
But, it's not so tough because there's already a standard for measuring weatherproofing on electronic devices: The IP Rating.
What is “IP Rating”?
Ingress Protection Rating (IP Rating) measures the degree of weatherproofing for electrical enclosures. It is 2 digits followed by the letters “IP” (e.g. “IP57“).
The first digit rates the level of protection against the penetration of solids, and the second digit rates protection against the penetration of liquids.
For example, you might see an outdoor TV that makes a claim something like “Weather-Resistant Durability IP57 Rated”.
It's very techy and official-sounding, but, for your shopping purposes, you just need to look at those last two numbers (after “IP”).
The first number rates resistance to “solid objects” from hand-sized objects to small particles (like dust), going from 1-6. In the best outdoor TVs and enclosures, that first number should be a “5” or a “6” where
- Dust-Resistant: Protected against an amount of dust that could interfere with normal operation, but not fully dust-tight.
- Dust-Proof: Complete dust-tight protection.
If you're not worried too much about wind and dust, or salt and sand, a 5 should be a high enough rating. Otherwise, you'll want it to be a 6.
The second number rates resistance to “liquid” and goes from 1-8. For the best outdoor TVs, look for that second number to be anywhere from a “4” to an “8” where:
- Water-Resistant against splashes of water
- Water-Resistant against jets of water (e.g. hard rain)
- Water-Resistant against powerful water jets (e.g. harsh storming rain)
- Waterproof: can be submerged in up to 3 ft. of water
- Waterproof: can be submerged in up to about 10 ft. of water
If your TV is going to be mostly uncovered and directly exposed to the rain, look for higher numbers like 7 or 8. If it will be in a covered area, and only exposed to humidity and possibly a light misting, lower numbers at 4 or 5 should be fine.
Step 3: Shop with That Protection in Mind
Using those few protective stats, you can quickly narrow down the best outdoor TV options for your situation, because they're used in most outdoor TV ads and marketing.
Brightness is at the forefront. Full Sun, Partial Shade, or Full Shade will be in the TV description.
Remember, you can always just get the brightest (Full Sun) to handle all situations. But, if you're trying to save money, just get the highest level you need for YOUR situation.
Weatherproofing will be the next standout. Phrases like “Water Resistant” and “Waterproof” will be used, and give you most of the information you need. However, if you'll have your TV out in potentially harsher climates, look for IP Ratings for more accurate assessment of weatherproofing levels.
Finally, Temperature Range is something you'll have to dig for, as I mentioned above. Not as important as brightness or weatherproofing, unless you'll have your TV out in more extreme climates.
Step 4: Narrow Your Options with Your Viewing Preferences
Once you've identified the best outdoor TVs for your environment, you can narrow down the options based on preferences such as size, resolution, smart TV features, sound capabilities, and other perks.
This is the “FUN” part.
Here are a few things to think about in each of those areas.
Size & Resolution
If you just want to impress people at any distance, just get the largest outdoor TV with the highest resolution.
However, if you're looking for the biggest bang for your buck, it comes down to the right balance of TV size, resolution, and viewing distance from the TV.
So, I'm just going to provide a couple rules of thumb for a good picture:
- Size: The farther you sit from the TV, the larger the screen you'll need.
- Resolution: The closer you sit to the TV, the higher the resolution you'll need.
Combine these two rules to get the right balance of TV size, resolution, and ideal viewing distance for your personal viewing preference.
Resolution is represented in a number of ways. Usually, the number you'll see is the number of pixels vertically followed by “p” (e.g. 720p, 1080p, 2160p). The higher the resolution number, the sharper the picture.
For example, if you have a huge screen, and you're sitting within a few feet of it, it should have high resolution so that the image looks sharp and clear.
On the other hand the farther away you sit, the less sharpness matters, so you can get away with a more affordable, lower resolution outdoor TV.
Many people worry that the outdoor TV won't be loud enough for their outdoor living area.
If your outdoor TV's built-in speakers are not loud enough for your outdoor entertainment space, consider adding external speakers to your television.
It's pretty easy to add a an outdoor soundbar to any TV. Many outdoor TV manufacturers make compatible soundbars to go with their TVs. They often connect easily and wirelessly via Bluetooth technology.
You might also consider mountable or landscape outdoor speakers, to create a true surround sound experience in the viewing area.
These add-ons are optional however—for most people, the best outdoor TVs' built-in speakers will work just fine.
Smart TV Features
If you want to source your movies and shows from something other than an antenna or cable, you should probably get a smart outdoor TV.
The ability to stream from a mobile device or the Internet, over Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth connection can simplify your set up, while providing access to more sources of content.
There will be no need to run cables out to the entertainment space of your outdoor TV. Everything can be transmitted wirelessly.
Glare & Viewing Angles
Glare, that light reflecting off the shiny screen of your outdoor TV and into your eyes, will ruin your viewing experience.
So will seeing your brightly sunlit self, or your bright surroundings, reflected in the movie you're trying to watch.
So, when choosing a TV that will be out in the sunlight, it's important to make sure it is excellent at reducing reflection to minimize glare. (In addition to being bright enough to be visible outdoors in the bright sun.)
The anti-glare feature should be complemented and balanced out such that the outdoor TV still provides wide viewing angles. Especially if your outdoor viewing area larger and wider than the average living room.
You and your guests should be able to see the picture no matter how far to the side of the TV you are sitting.
Conclusion: Choosing the Best Outdoor TV
Yes, I know that was a lot of information, and I commend you for reading this far.
I hope that those Four Steps for Choosing the Best Outdoor TV at the beginning of this article are clearer, and make more sense to you now:
- Assess Your Environment
- Determine Required Levels of Protection
- Shop with That Protection in Mind
- Narrow Your Options with Your Viewing Preferences
I truly hope that this (long) article has empowered you in your research for finding the best outdoor TV for your home or business entertainment needs.
If you have any questions, or want to offer further advice for other readers on the same journey, please leave them in the comments below.
Disclosure: 3GoodOnes.com is a professional review site. Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission for your purchase. (e.g., As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.) It is my hope that this post leaves you so well informed, that you won't mind that very much.