television buying guide
A television can be a big investment, especially if you're looking for the best new TV for your living room.
Choosing which TV is right for your home can be tricky, especially as the technology changes and evolves each year. Here's our rundown of all the essential things you should consider before deciding what television to buy.
Choosing the right TV size
When choosing which television to buy, you should consider two things:
- How much space you have available to place your TV.
- How far away from your TV you intend to sit.
Remember that screen size is measured diagonally, from the bottom left corner to the top right. Screen size is not your TV's width.
TVs are getting slimmer and slimmer - some are now as little as an inch thick. The TV's frame (sometimes called a bezel) is also much thinner on the latest models. This makes it much easier to fit a larger size screen into your home without it taking up as much space.
However, to get the best viewing experience, manufacturers recommend you sit a certain distance from your screen. This is because if you sit too close, you may notice imperfections within the image.
To get the best from your TV, you need to find 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.
For TVs for bedrooms kitchens and small living rooms (4 x 3m rooms) choose:
- Up to 32 inch TVs
View from a distance of less than 1.5m.
For average-size living rooms and larger bedrooms (3.7 x 5.5m rooms) choose:
- 32 to 39 inch TVs
View from 1.5 - 2m
- 40 to 45 inchTVs
View HD TVs from 2 to 2.5m
View 4K TVs from 1.22 - 1.37m
For larger living rooms and dedicated home cinemas (4.6 x 8.5m rooms) choose:
- 46 to 55 inch TVs
View HD TVs from 2.5 - 3m
View 4K TVs from 1.38 - 1.55m
- Over 56 inch TVs
View HD TVs from 3m and over
View 4K TVs from 1.55m and over
explaining television picture quality
TV image quality is determined by its resolution. Resolution refers to how many pixels are used by the TV. Pixels are the tiny squares that make up the screen image. The higher the number of pixels, the more detailed the image.
4K - Ultra HD
4K television is the highest quality image currently available and is becoming the industry standard.
A 4K image is made up of 8 million pixels (3840p horizontally x 2160p vertically) more than four times what's offered by Full HD. This higher resolution vastly enhances brightness, colour, clarity and the sharpness of the image.
Most 4K televisions will also upscale content, bringing the benefits of 4K to HD and standard definition images. More specially created 4K content is also being made available, and can currently be accessed via subscription services like Netflix.
Most major UK channels have also announced huge investments to create 4K content and Sky has already launched a 4K sports channel.
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 manufacturers are gradually concentrating production on 4K models. 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 TVs work by creating two separate images, one designed for your left eye and the other for your right. When you put on a pair of 3D glasses, these two 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.
Also look out for motion rate
This is how fast your TV processes screen changes. It's sometimes known as the refresh rate or processing rate. The faster your TV can process changes, the smoother and more detailed movement on screen will be.
A motion rate is measured in hertz (hz). A higher motion rate is definitely preferable for watching fast-moving action, such as sports. TVs with a motion rate of over 120hz offer the best visual motion without blur.
different tv screen types
While TVs are often categorised in terms of image resolution - 4K and HD - the technology used to bring the image to screen will also affect your viewing experience.
The two types of television which are currently manufactured are LED and OLED televisions. If you are looking for a plasma television, these are sadly no longer manufactured.
LED stands for light emitting diode. LED screens use a backlight to light the screen pixels, which creates greater contrast as well as a sharper image.
Some of the benefits of LED screens are:
- Great picture quality
- Energy efficient
- Slim and lightweight
- Deeper contrast
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 smoother motion and a more vibrant picture.
Some of the benefits of OLEDs
- Brighter colours
- Higher contrast
- Faster refresh rates
- More energy efficient
- Even thinner than LEDs
Curved TVs are 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 vastly 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 of Smart TV is that it allows you to watch content from subscription services like NetFlix and Hulu, and 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 websites and services.
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?
You should check which apps come pre-installed on a TV before you buy, as you may not be able to add further apps later if there's something you want that isn't already installed.
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
Your TV will come with an inbuilt stereo sound system. Additionally, most TVs will also come with virtual surround sound, which creates the effect of surround sound without requiring additional speakers.
As TVs have become slimmer and slimmer, the physical space available for manufacturers to install larger speakers has naturally decreased. This means that many new TVs only offer the basics in terms of sound quality.
As a result, additional sound technology is highly recommended to improve your experience:
A sound bar is a simple, largely effortless way to improve your television's sound. They can be connected wirelessly or via cable to your TV and they can also be wall-mounted.
Sound bars create a richer surround sound experience, with deeper bass and treble. They can also be added to a simpler surround sound speaker system, one that takes up much less space in your living room than a full home cinema system.
Sound bars will come with a subwoofer (this creates the deep bass sound) either built-in to the unit or, more commonly, as a separate unit. Separate units take up little space and as most models are wireless, can be placed anywhere which is convenient.
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. They do, however, also use the reverb from your own set to create more natural sound.
Home cinema systems
A home cinema system will bring full cinematic surround sound to your living room. These systems can take up a lot of space, but thanks to wireless and Bluetooth systems, they are unlikely to tangle you in wires. They will take time to set up, but the sound experience is the closest thing you can get to actually visiting the cinema.
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 are used to carry that signals from one device to another. You may need optical cables to connect a sound bar or other speakers to your TV or other devices.
The easiest way to stream content from the web to your TV is via a wireless router. Unsurprisingly, 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 at the same time. If your router is a few years old, you might benefit from upgrading it to get the best performance.
DVD or Blu-Ray player
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.
Making your choice and getting it delivered
If you now feel confident you know what TV you're looking for, then it's time to shop. If you're still not sure which television is best for you, you can always contact customer services to get further advice.
For help comparing models, you can also use our TV finder.
Reserve and collect in-store
TVs up to 55 inches are available to reserve online and pick up in-store. We'll hold your reservations for 2 days for you to collect.
Fast Track Collection
Pay for your order online and you can collect in-store at our Fast Track counter in as little 60 as seconds.
Fast Track Delivery
Many of our TVs are eligible for same day delivery. Place your order before 6pm on any day of the week and we'll deliver it to you on the same day for as little £3.95.
We'll delivery your order within 3 - 5 days for as little as £3.95.
Buy now, pay later
Split the cost of paying for your new television for up to 12 months with the Argos Credit Card. See our latest Argos Credit Card deals on TVs.