Depending on your comfort levels with tech gadgets, choosing the best outdoor TV can be a breeze (and even fun!) or, it can be really overwhelming.
Everyone has different levels of technical sensibility or affinity.
I hope that this article will help you choose the best outdoor TV for your situation, regardless of your technical understanding.
I want to give the tech-savvy all the details they crave, while also giving the tech-averse an easy-enough-to-understand explanation of those details.
Why 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 hope to 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 introduce you to a general four-step approach to choosing the best outdoor TV:
- Assess Your Environment
- Determine Required Levels of Protection
- Shop with That Protection in Mind
- Narrow Your Options with Your Viewing Preferences
After that, I'll define what an outdoor TV is, and what distinguishes it from a standard indoor TV.
With technical details* to help you narrow those down.
*I'll try not to get TOO technical, though!
This is one of those articles that you may want to jump around a bit. So, here's a table of contents for you:
Summary: How To Choose the Best Outdoor TV
Now that I've stuffed your brain with all this information, let's summarize how to choose the best outdoor TV in a few steps.
Sorry. Scratch that.
At first, I put this section at the end of the article.
I initially thought I should first give you all the techy information you needed to know first, before laying out the generic steps you should take when considering making the investment on an outdoor TV.
But, then I realized that the other way around is better. You might already know enough that you just need a process to help you select the best outdoor TV.
Also, by putting this summary of steps first, I think you'll be much better equipped to decide what technical information to read, and what to skip.
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.
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 levels of brightness, waterproofing, weatherproofing, and temperature resistance.
Shop with Protection in Mind
Those few protective stats are all you need to quickly identify the best outdoor TV options for your situation, 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.
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.
Starting with an answer to the 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 and salt-air, and precipitation (rain/snow)—and, to provide high-quality picture that is visible despite bright sunlight.
So, to summarize further, the main two jobs of an outdoor TV are to:
However, HOW each outdoor TV accomplishes these two goals, is going to be different from brand-to-brand, and model-to-model.
So, while the answer to “what is an outdoor tv” gives us a pretty general answer, the better question to ask is, “what is the best outdoor tv for my situation?”
Some models will do a better job than others in each area. Some may not do a complete job, and will need external accessories to do both jobs well.
Let me talk about those various methods next…
Withstanding the Outdoor Elements
Just to be clear, the “outdoor elements” I'm talking about here are more than simply “bad weather” like rain and snow.
Outdoor TVs are designed to handle a number of outdoor elements, including:
- Extreme Temperatures
(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, 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.
While the electrical components of regular indoor TV are generally designed to work at room temperatures (from about 50°F to 90°F), outdoor TVs are built to work in extremely colder and hotter temperatures.
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.
So, ask yourself these two questions:
- During which seasons will the outdoor TV be installed?
- What are the highest and lowest temperatures during that period?
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 at those extremes.
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.
WATER: Rain & Humidity
Electricity and water are a dangerous combination, and 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.
Four different terms are thrown around here:
…and, it's important you understand the differences.
Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof
“Water Resistant” and “Waterproof” mean two slightly different things.
An outdoor TV that is waterproof is impervious to water—it can even operate while completely submerged. (Please don't dunk your TV in water.)
A water-resistant outdoor TV can prevent water from getting inside of it to some degree—but, it can't be completely submerged, or deluged with rain.
*NOTE: There are waterproof televisions made to be installed in kitchens and bathrooms where water and humidity is abundant.
So, why not just use a waterproof TV outdoors? Because, outdoor televisions are designed to withstand more than just water. Such as the extreme temperatures mentioned earlier, salt, pollen, and other airborne particles that can cause damage.
Weatherproof vs. Weatherproofing
The term “weatherproof” is a little trickier to define, because each brand and model will define it differently, depending on the kinds of weather they protect against. (It's a marketing thing.)
So instead, I think we should use the term weatherproofing, which refers to HOW the outdoor television goes about protecting itself against wet weather (and extreme temperatures, and all the other various outdoor elements as well).
There are two major weatherproofing methods to consider: Enclosures, and Nano-coating technology.
Outdoor TVs can use one, the other, or a combination of the two.
What is Nano Coating?
Again, I don't want to get too technical in this article, but Nano-coating is essentially a super-thin, plastic-like (ceramic) layer of protection.
On an outdoor TV, it's like the TV and/or its components are shrink-wrapped, making them impervious to water, tiny particles, and temperature changes.
This is the more expensive of the two methods, but might be exactly what you need for your environment.
This is the stuff that allows you to use your outdoor TV in high humidity, salt-air, and extreme temperatures.
So, if that describes your environment, you'll want an outdoor TV built with some sort of nano-coating technology.
Some outdoor televisions are also nano-coated on the outside (in addition to the internal electronic components) to prevent anything from getting inside in the first place.
This outer coating more fully weatherproofs an outdoor TV to more the outdoor elements including rain and snow, insects, pollen, and dust.
However, this external coating doesn't make the outdoor tv as durable to physical damage as the ones in enclosures.
What Is an Outdoor TV Enclosure?
An outdoor TV enclosure is a (usually) water-tight and dust-proof external case that allows for viewing of its encased TV while protecting it from outdoor elements and physical damage.
Outdoor TV enclosures are the cheaper of the two weatherproofing types.
As a result, it often won't be a complete weatherproofing method. However, if you're in a milder climate with little rain or humidity, it might be all you need.
Outdoor TV enclosures can be a simple as a hard case with a protective plastic shield that allows viewing of the TV screen. Or, they can be elaborate with styled cabinet doors that open to reveal the TV, and shut to protect it.
It's more likely that, if it comes as part of the outdoor TV's protective package, it will be the former simpler case.
In addition to water resistance (or waterproofing), benefits can include resistance to damage from large objects such as, say a poorly thrown football, and can include locks for security from theft.
*NOTE: YES, it's possible to purchase outdoor TV enclosures separately. This will probably tempt you to just buy a cheaper, regular indoor tv, stick it in the enclosure, and hang it outside.
Resist this temptation! Remember, the outdoor elements might include extreme temperatures, humidity, and so forth. AND, your indoor TV might not provide the proper picture quality in outdoor light, which we haven't discussed yet. See more below.
Be sure to assess your environment and needs thoroughly before considering an outdoor TV enclosure with an indoor TV.
Other Protective Features
So, an enclosure or solid casing can resist damage from larger objects. But, what about other, smaller solids getting inside, like dust, pollen, insects, or salt in the air?
Usually the weatherproofing that protects against water and temperature hanges will also handle these other potential invaders as well.
But, aside from the TV company's marketing and pamphlets, how can you tell if the outdoor TV has the right level of protection for your needs?
One increasingly popular way to determine the level of weatherproofing is the IP Rating.
“IP Rating”, Simplified
I wasn't initially going to mention this. But, it's being used so frequently in outdoor TV marketing now, that I think it's important to understand what it is.
The IP Rating is a way of measuring the degree of weatherproofing.
For example, you might be researching an outdoor TV or enclosure that makes a claim something like:
“Weather-Resistant Durability IP57 Rated”
Sounds impressive! But, what does it mean, really?
What is IP Rating?
IP Rating (or, Ingress Protection Rating) is a way of measuring the degree of weatherproofing for electrical enclosures. It's a 2-digit code followed by “IP” (e.g. “IP57“) that rates the level of protection against the penetration of solids & dust (first digit), and liquids (second digit).
Yeah, that's a mouthful.
It's very techy and official-sounding, but, for your shopping purposes, you just need to look at those last two numbers.
(In my example above, that would be the “5” and the “7”.)
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.
The second number rates resistance to “liquid” and goes from 1-8, where “1” is for dripping water and “8” is for full immersion in more than 3 feet of water.
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
- Water-Resistant against powerful water jets
- Waterproof: can be submerged in up to 3 ft. of water
- Waterproof: can be submerged in up to about 10 ft. of water
**(See Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof, above.)
Providing Picture in Bright Sunlight
There are a number of factors to consider when determining the best picture quality for any TV:
… among other things.
For an outdoor TV, however, the most distinguishing factor is probably the brightness. So, I'll talk the most about that first.
Rule of Thumb: the brighter the sunlight in your outdoor TV's environment, the brighter the TV should be.
The brighter the TV's surroundings, the more light the picture has to compete with.
But, that doesn't mean you should run out and just get the brightest outdoor TV available.
If the TV is in a shaded area, then there's not as much sunlight to compete with, and you can save money* on the brightness.
*(The brighter the outdoor TV, the more expensive it will generally be.)
Brightness on an outdoor TV is measured as a number of “Nits.”
But, outdoor TV manufacturers have simplified this for you by classifying their TVs into one of 4 different categories of Sunlight Conditions.
What is a Nit?
A “nit” is a measure of light emitted per unit area, used to specify the brightness of display devices such as TVs, monitors, and smartphones. The higher the number of Nits, the brighter the display image.
*1 nit = 1 candela per square metre (cd/m2)
I know that's another techy description that doesn't mean very much, so here are a couple real-world examples:
On average, normal indoor TVs might be as bright as 200-300 nits. (Although they can be turned up brighter, there isn't much need indoors.)
The latest smartphones are usually set to somewhere between 600-700 nits. (Their brightest setting can be as high as 900 to 1,000 nits.)
That level of brightness makes the picture clearly visible in bright daylight.
Buying with Brightness in Mind
If you already know where you plan on mounting your outdoor TV, determine the sunlight conditions of that location, then buy a television with the proper brightness.
There are four main categories of sunlight conditions to consider when it comes to outdoor TVs:
What it comes down to is the amount of direct sun that might shine onto the area where your TV is located.
But, I'll expand on these a little further, because understanding the differences can potentially save you up to $1,000 or more on your choice of outdoor TV.
A fully-shaded area is the most ideal location for an outdoor TV. There is less light to compete with, so the TV doesn't have to work as hard to outshine the ambient light.
Fully-shaded areas include covered patios, screened gazebos, or a screened-in porch or deck—places with a cover that extends over both the outdoor TV and the areas where the people watching will be.
Mainly, any outdoor living space that's lit by outdoor light, but into which the sun doesn't directly shine.
Full Shade Outdoor TVs will be in the 350-500 nit range for brightness.
They will often be advertised as “50% brighter than” or “twice as bright as” an indoor TV. (To avoid technical terms like “nits” in the marketing.)
Partial Sun / Partial Shade
Clouds appear and disappear. The angle of the Sun changes throughout the day, and from season to season.
If your outdoor TV is in a partially-shaded space that sometimes allows sunlight to shine directly into the viewers' watching area—or, onto the outdoor TV itself—your outdoor TV should be able to keep up.
These Partial Sun outdoor living areas will include partially covered patios, decks, backyards, and so forth.
In addition to the appropriate level of brightness, look for outdoor TVs with these options:
- Auto-Brightness Control so your screen automatically readjusts its brightness to adapt to the movement of the sun or cloudiness of the day.
- Anti-Glare Screen to make sure sunlight doesn't reflect into the viewer's eyes, or obstruct their view of the picture.
Partial Sun Outdoor TVs will be in the 500-800 nit range for brightness.
You'll see them advertised as “200% brighter than” or “up to 3x as bright as” an indoor TV.
Only the most ambitious and zealous outdoor entertainers would opt to have their outdoor TV out in the full sunlight all day long.
A Full Sun environment is where both your outdoor TV and viewing area are unshaded, open and exposed to the Sun.
This is most commonly found in a professional or commercial entertainment situation, such as an outdoor bar, or pool area. This is why you'll often see these promoted as “Professional” or “Commercial” outdoor TVs.
Full Sun outdoor TVs will sport some of the same advanced image features as Partial Sun outdoor TVs, such as Auto-Brightness and Anti-Glare.
Full Sun Outdoor TVs are super bright! They overlap the brightness range of Partial Sun outdoor TVs, and you'll see them in the 500-1,500 nit range—sometimes brighter.
You'll see them advertised as “300% brighter than” or “4x or 5x brighter than” an indoor TV.
*This is not really a category for outdoor TVs, but I'm adding this here because I think it's important to consider the effects of direct sunlight on your outdoor TV.
First, let me distinguish “Direct Sun” from “Full Sun” situations.
In a Full Sun situation, as I mentioned above, your outdoor TV is out in an open unshaded space, exposed to sunlight bouncing around illuminating the entire area.
Everything is brightly lit, competing for the attention of your eyes.
The Sun may shine directly on the outdoor TV screen at some point—depending on the season, time of day, and the angle of the Sun—but only temporarily.
A Direct Sun situation is when the front of the outdoor TV screen is facing the Sun all the time, getting directly hit by its rays throughout the day, rather than being lit by all the light bouncing around everything.
(An example of this would be if the TV is facing South in North America.)
Partial Sun and Full Sun outdoor TVs are both designed to adapt to sunlight shining directly on them, and still provide a good viewing experience.
Again, however, this is usually a temporary situation, and not damaging.
Direct sunlight as a constant is not an ideal situation for your outdoor TV.
The direct sunlight can potentially heat up your outdoor TV to much higher than its operating temperature range, damaging the unit or inhibiting its ability to function.
While the best outdoor TV will give you an amazing picture with sunlight shining directly on it, the Sun is still stiff competition. Why compete?
The manufacturers of outdoor TVs even suggest avoiding direct sunlight in their manuals, and recommend adding a cover or hood of some sort.
This not only helps you see the outdoor TV better, but helps to protect the screen, and the TV's overall longevity as well.
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.
Size & Resolution
A lot of this has to do with personal viewing preference. And, perhaps, on how big an impression you want to make on your guests.
So much has been written about this subject, and it applies to ALL televisions, outdoor or indoor. So, I'm just going to provide a couple rules of thumb here:
- Size: The farther you sit from the TV, the larger the screen.
- Resolution: The closer you sit to the TV, the higher the resolution.
Size is measured in inches diagonally across the screen.
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.
Combine these two rules to get the right balance of TV size, resolution, and ideal viewing distance for your personal viewing preference.
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.
But, if you just want to impress people at any distance, get the largest outdoor TV with the highest resolution.
Here are a few other features that you would want to consider when buying any TV, but particularly when buying an outdoor TV.
Many people worry that the outdoor TV won't be loud enough for their outdoor living area.
Outdoor TVs almost always include built-in speakers. However, if that's not 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 many people, the outdoor TV's built-in speakers 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 probable 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.
Can You Use a Regular, Non-Outdoor TV?
There's a lot of mixed information and advice about this online. But, this is an extremely common and frequently asked question.
I mean, outdoor TVs DO tend to be expensive. And, why would you want to spend all that money on a new outdoor TV if you can make the indoor TV that you already have work outside?
We all want to save our money. But, we also don't want to be so cheap that we end up wasting it.
I'm gonna chime in on the subject by saying that its about balance and risk.
Balancing the Risks
If you've read everything I've written above (thanks for reading this far, by the way!) you'll see how an outdoor TV is designed specifically to handle the complications that come with an outdoor environment.
However, YOUR particular outdoor environment might not be so complicated. And, that could give you a little leeway with buying a TV to use outdoors.
A Couple Examples…
For example, let's say your outdoor TV is going to be temporary installation. It will be outside in dry weather and mild temperatures during the day, but you'll bring it in at night.
In such a case, you probably don't need to worry so much about its resistance to wet weather and temperature changes.
You might, however, need to think about insects crawling into your TV, and weather or not it's bright enough to see the picture in the daytime.
In this situation, an outdoor TV enclosure might help mitigate the insect problem, but you'll have to test the brightness and picture quality for yourself.
Another example might be mounting your standard TV outside during the warmer months, and protecting it inside a weatherproofed/watertight outdoor TV enclosure.
You will still need to be sure that the image is bright enough to be seen, that the TV is not overexposed to sunlight (it might damage and overheat the TV), and that ambient temperatures don't exceed the limitations specified in the manual.
Some other considerations when using a standard indoor TV outdoors:
- You might void the warranty if you take an indoor TV outside.
- Indoor TVs are prone to overheating outdoors.
- Daytime humidity can condense to water on TV circuitry overnight.
- Power cords and power supply may not designed for outdoor use.
The point is that there are outdoor conditions and situations that have to be mitigated to insure the safety and lifespan of your TV.
You can either buy an outdoor TV that's designed for such conditions. Or, you will have to control or limit your standard TV's exposure to those situations yourself.
After reading this article, you should be well-enough informed about those situations and how an outdoor TV handles them, so that you can judge the level of risk you're willing to take.
Conclusion: Choosing the Best Outdoor TV
WHEW! I know. That's a lot of information.
Purchase your outdoor TV, get it home (or to your workplace), mount it, connect it, and enjoy the luxury of watching TV and movies outdoors!
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 very long article has empowered you in your research for finding the best outdoor TV for your 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.
Thank you for reading.
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.