television buying guide
It can be tough trying to decide which TV to choose. This guide will go through all the important features that you'll need to consider when choosing the best TV for your home.
WHAT TV SIZE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE
Screen size is not your TV's width. Screen size is measured diagonally, from the bottom left corner to the top right.
When choosing which television to buy, you should consider two things:
- How much space do you have for a TV?
- How far away from your TV will you sit?
It's easier to fit a larger screen TV in your home today because TVs are much thinner (some just 1 inch thick), and the frame around the screen (the bezel) is also getting smaller.
But large TVs are designed to be watched from further away. If you sit too close to a big screen, you could notice imperfections.
To get the best from your TV, you need to get the right balance between TV size and viewing distance. This is known as finding the sweet spot.
Finding the sweet spot
The guide below estimates the best distance you should sit from both HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs to get the best possible view.
Because 4K televisions offer 4x the picture quality of HD, the sweet spot becomes much larger, allowing you to sit much closer. 4K TVs are, however, only available in sizes of 40 inches and over.
|What room is your TV in?||What's your room size?||What's your TV size?||The perfect viewing distance|
|HD TV||4K TV|
|Bedrooms, kitchens, small bedrooms||4x3m||Up to 32 inch||Less than 1.5m|
|Average-sized living room and larger bedroom||3.7x5.5m rooms||32 - 39 inch||1.5-2m|
|Larger living rooms and dedicated home cinemas||4.6x8.5m rooms||46-55 inch||2.5-3m||1.38-1.55m|
|Over 56 inch||3m and over||1.55m and over|
EXPLAINING TV PICTURE QUALITY – 4K, HD & MORE
Image quality is determined by resolution and resolution is all about pixels. Pixels are the tiny squares that make up the screen image. The more pixels, the more detailed the image.
ULTRA HD 4K
4K television is the highest image quality available. It's made up of 8 million pixels (3840p horizontally x 2160p vertically), 4x more than Full HD. This higher resolution vastly enhances brightness, colour, clarity and image sharpness.
Not all 4K Ultra HD TVs offer the same viewing experience. TVs which feature the Ultra HD or Ultra HD Premium logo meet the full requirements set by DIGITALEUROPE, an organisation that represents the digital technology industry. The logo can be found on all TVs that offer the 'true' Ultra HD experience.
All Ultra HD Premium TVs have 'High Dynamic Range' (HDR) which offers the newest viewing experience with the most vibrant, dynamic and stand out colours.
4K content is available through services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as YouTube. BT has an exclusive 4K sports channel and Sky have launched their Sky Q box that offers a wealth of 4K programming. 4K televisions also upscale content, bringing the benefits of 4K to HD and standard definition images. If you want to find out more about 4K TVs, check out our 4K guide.
Full HD (1080p)
High definition television created a revolution when it was launched over a decade ago. Full HD uses 2 million pixels (1920p horizontally x 1080p vertically). They are the most common TVs currently available, but will likely be phased out in favour of 4K. Most Full HD TVs will also upscale content.
HD Ready (720p)
HD Ready TVs, which offer the more basic high definition of 1280 horizontal and 720 vertical pixels are less common today. HD Ready TVs are generally lower-cost, budget models.
3D technology is usually found on Full HD TVs. 3D TV creates 2 separate images, 1 for your left eye and 1 for your right. When you put on a pair of 3D glasses, these images combine to create depth.
There are two 3D systems: passive, which uses the basic 3D specs, and active, which uses specs that communicate with your TV to create a higher resolution image.
SOME SPECS TO LOOK OUT FOR
– MOTION RATE
This is how your TV processes changes on screen. It's sometimes called the refresh or processing rate and is measured in hertz (hz). The faster TV processes change, the smoother and more detailed movement will be, which is particularly important for viewing sports and gaming. A motion rate of over 120hz offers great visual motion without blur.
- RESPONSE TIME
Response time is how fast your TV pixels can change colour. Similar to motion rate, the faster they can do this, the clearer movement and change is on screen and the less blur you will see. Anything with fast action – sports, games and action movies – ideally needs a response time of 8 milliseconds or lower.
different tv screen types
Although TVs are usually categorised in terms of resolution – 4K and HD – the technology used to bring the image to screen also affects your viewing experience.
The choice today is between LED and OLED – plasma TVs are no longer manufactured. These will usually be flatscreen, but some may be curved.
LED stands for light emitting diode. LED screens use a backlight to light the screen pixels, which creates contrast and a sharp image. This system is less sophisticated than OLED, but because OLED is expensive, manufactures have worked hard to improve LED TVs.
LED TVs offer the best:
- Motion rate
- Energy efficiency
- Colour range
OLED is a new TV innovation and stands for organic light emitting diode. Instead of using a backlight, the screen pixels create their own light. This controls light levels better and offers deeper colours, smooth visuals and a more vibrant picture.
OLED TVs offer the best:
- Uniformity (loses no brightness around the edges)
Curved TVs are LED screens designed to recreate the way our eyes naturally use peripheral vision. Sitting in front of a curved screen gives you a greater field of view and more sense of depth. It will also improve the contrast to give you the sense of viewing a much larger screen.
Some of the benefits include:
- Creates a natural 'peripheral view'
- Reduces onscreen reflections
- More sense of depth
- Greater contrast
smart tvs & streaming
Smart TVs are web compatible. This means you can connect to the internet and stream media direct to your TV screen via apps which come pre-installed.
The majority of new TVs have Smart TV technology. TVs can easily be connected via a wireless network or directly from your router via an Ethernet cable.
The main benefit is that you can watch content from subscription services like NetFlix and Amazon Prime, as well as catch-up services like BBC iPlayer without requiring any additional hardware. You can also use Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Skype and a huge range of other apps.
And if that wasn't enough you can connect to other wireless devices like your phone, tablet and laptop to experience your content on the big screen. Some models even allow you to use your smartphone as a remote control.
Are there any drawbacks?
Some TVs will not allow you to install additional apps onto them. So if you want a particular app, you should check that the TV you want to buy has it pre-installed to avoid disappointment.
Smart TVs don't offer a recording facility. So if you want to record live television, you would still need a cable TV box or separate recording system. However, you will be able to access on-demand, subscription and catch-up content instantly, so accessing the shows you want, when you want them, will still be easy.
the sound - why you'll probably need a sound bar
While TV picture technology has got better, sound technology has actually got worse. That's because thinner TVs don't have much room for speakers.
Your TV will come with standard stereo sound, and may additionally be able to simulate surround sound. But typically the sound quality is quite low.
Most TV makers will recommend a sound bar or alternative sound system to compensate and improve your sound experience. You can find more information in our Sound bar and Home Cinema Buying Guide.
A sound bar is a very simple way to enjoy the rich, deep sound which is absent from most new TVs. Most units consist of a bar and a subwoofer, which creates the bass and treble sounds. The bar goes under the TV, and can be wall mounted, while the subwoofer can be placed anywhere that's convenient.
Most sound bars are able to use clever acoustics to simulate surround sound, and some can do this exceptionally well.
Sound bases work in a similar way to sound bars but are designed to fit tidily under your TVs base, so they appear as part of the unit. This makes them ideal if space is an issue. Sound bases have the subwoofer built-in, so the bass sound is less prominent.
Home cinema systems
With a home cinema system you can enjoy the full, real surround sound experience in your home. These systems typically include 5 or 7 speakers, along with a subwoofer. Setup can be complicated, and may involve positioning wires or setting up wireless, but it allows for the most immersive sound experience available.
tv accessories - cables, connections, wall brackets and more
While your TV will provide great entertainment out of the box, there are a number of essential accessories you will need to get the best out of your viewing experience.
HDMI cables are capable of carrying both HD and 4K signals. If you're connecting a console, cable TV box, Blu-ray player, and other hardware to your TV, you will need an HDMI cable or else you won't be able to enjoy the best picture quality.
You should check whether your TV comes with any HDMI cables, and how many HDMI ports it has, so you can see how many devices you can connect to it.
If you are buying a 4K TV, a HDMI 2.0 cable will give you the best possible performance.
Scart cables can't carry an HD signal and are not as commonly used today. However, if you are using an older DVD player or games console, you may still require one. They may also be useful if your TV doesn't have many HDMI ports.
Optical cables carry an audio signal and carry that signal from one device to another. You may need optical cables to connect a sound bar or other speakers to your TV, although an HDMI is better for this.
The easiest way to stream content from the web to your TV is via a wireless router. The faster the router, the more seamlessly content will stream and the better it will be able to deal with the demands of other wireless devices in your home. If your router is a few years old, you might benefit from upgrading it to get the best performance.
Physical media still has its fans and most of us still have a DVD collection. Besides its collectability and additional features, there's no subscription or net connection required, so there are fewer complications. Just put a disc in and press play.
To wall mount your TV you'll need to choose a wall bracket that fits your model. They're available for all sizes of TV (including curved) and you can also select from models that allow them to be tilted left and right as well as up and down.
A TV is an expensive investment for your home. We advise making sure your investment is protected against accidents. Our 3 year breakdown cover offers protection against defects and damage to help keep your viewing uninterrupted.