The modern market for televisions is one that offers shoppers a great range of options. Having a lot to choose from is nice, but with so many options, and technology developing at such a pace, the selection process can be somewhat confusing for many buyers. First, you have the broad range of screen sizes that can suit any situation from small kitchen TVs to models that are large enough to offer the full home theatre experience. Then, you have all of the features, options and specs to consider. It can all be a little overwhelming. What screen resolution do you want? What type of backlighting should you look for? And the list really just goes on from there.
On this page, you will find a comprehensive buying guide that can help you to better understand the available choices and thus, make a more informed decision. Once you’ve learned a little bit more about the different technologies and features, you can then take a look at some of the TVs that we have reviewed. On each review page, you not only get information about the model in question, you also get comparison pricing from some of the net’s most popular sellers.
Selecting the appropriate screen size is where the buying process starts for most people. It is a common assumption that bigger is better and in many ways, this is true. However, there is more to selecting a screen size than getting the biggest model that you can afford, or the biggest one that you can fit in the space that you have.
The first thing that you need to know is how the screen size is measured. With the modern HD models, the screen size is measured diagonally from corner to corner. The current range of sizes that are available run from 19” to beyond 100″ with models that are in the 32 to 46-inch range being the most popular.
When selecting a screen size, there are a few factors that need to be taken into account. The first thing that you are going to consider is the amount of space that you have. Then you are going to consider other features of the area in which you intend to use the television.
The next point to consider is where the viewer is going to be in relation to the TV. Much in the same way that a small TV will provide a worse viewing experience when the viewers are far away, a TV that is too large will provide a worse viewing experience when the viewers are too close. With that being the case, the consumer needs to balance screen size with the distance of the primary viewing position.
The video below explains more about how to select the correct size television for your room…
The picture quality is going to be another important point to consider. One of the key factors to determine the picture quality is the screen resolution. However, screen resolution is just a starting point. There are additional factors like the backlighting and the processing rate that will impact the quality of the imaging.
Screen resolution is the first point to consider when it comes to picture quality. The screen resolution is a product of the number of pixels that the screen has and you will often see this represented with terms like 720p, 1080p or 4k. To help reduce the confusion for consumers, manufacturers refer to these different resolutions as HD Ready, Full HD and Ultra HD, respectively.
More pixels will mean increased definition to the picture. As an example, a 32-inch screen that is 1080p is going to have more pixels than a 32-inch that is 720p. That means that the pixels are smaller and able to provide more detail to the imaging. Ultra HD is the newest screen resolution technology and it goes even one step further by providing 4 times as many pixels as the Full HD models.
This is basically a figure to measure the difference between the blackest blacks that the TV can produce and the whitest whites that it can display. This is important for a quality viewing experience because the contrast helps provide detail and depth to the picture and it also determines how rich and bright the colours are on the screen.
A TV with good dynamic contrast will provide a much better image than one that has poor contrast. As an example as to how it can affect the viewing, imagine a scene where an actor with black hair is standing in a shadowy dark setting. On a TV with poor contrast, the actor’s hair is likely to blend in with the dark background making it almost, if not completely indistinguishable. On a TV with a better contrast ratio, the viewer should be able to distinguish the difference.
The processing rate (also known as refresh rate) is a key factor in the quality of the imaging that you will see on your new HD TV. When you are watching a TV, you are not actually seeing a moving picture. Instead, it is a series of images shown at a speed that gives the appearance of motion. The processing rate refers to how quickly the image on the screen changes. A faster processing rate means that the image changes more frequently and that provides motion that is smoother and it reduces the possibility of blur in scenes that are high on action.
A TV’s ability to accurately reproduce colours from the source will also help to determine the quality of the picture. With that being the case, you want a TV that can produce a broad range of colours. In general, the higher resolution sets are going to have the ability to produce more colours and to reproduce the colours more accurately from the source.
Now, there is a slight issue when it comes to HD TVs and the range of colours that they produce. Most companies that produce and broadcast content work off a uniform colour scale and this scale is rather old. Most HD TVs produce a range of colours that go far beyond these standards. The different manufacturers compensate for this by using technology that analyzes the images from the source to determine how the expanded colour range can provide a picture that is more vivid and detailed.
Fortunately, these standards are going to be revised to catch-up with modern technology, but as of this writing, we are still working under the old standard. When you are shopping, you want to look for a TV that has a broad colour range and one that has advanced technology that can help it to use the range of colours to faithfully reproduce the image with greater detail and clarity.
The technology with which the screen is lit will also have a major impact on the picture quality of your HD TV. The lighting matters because it has a great effect on the contrast ratio. On the current market, the vast majority of televisions employ some form of LED backlighting to light the screen, but the newest technology is OLED lighting.
With LED screens, the pixels are illuminated from a set of LED lights that are positioned behind the screen. The pixels regulate the amount of light that comes through to create the different shades and colours that are in the picture. The problem with this is that the pixels cannot eliminate all of the light from passing through even when the scene calls for pitch black. Manufacturers have found ways to compensate for this, but you will never get a perfect black out of an LED screen.
An additional note about TVs that use LED lighting is the positioning of the lights. With some TVs, the LEDs are positioned directly behind the screen and with others, the LEDs are positioned around the edges. TVs that have the LEDs directly behind the screen will have more uniform lighting across the screen, whereas with edge-lit models, the screen tends to be brighter near the edges. Further, effects like local dimming will work better when the lights are positioned behind the screen. The advantage of edgelighting and the reason why so many manufactures use it is because it allows them to make TVs that are thinner.
A screen that uses OLED technology has pixels that produce their own light source. The pixels can respond very quickly and they can shut down completely when the image needs the darkest of blacks. This means deeper, truer blacks for greater contrast and images that have richer colours for better detail and imaging that is noticeably superior.
One point about TVs that use OLED technology is that while they do produce deeper, truer blacks, TVs with LED lighting can have the capability to reach a higher peak brightness. However, the brightness in an OLED screen will be comparable to that of most LEDs and for most users, the deeper blacks will provide a better picture.
High Dynamic Range
When a TV is listed as being HDR compatible, it means that it can display high dynamic range content. With HDR, you get content that has deeper contrasts, a wider colour gamut and the ability to reproduce colours more accurately.
With films and TV shows, the director has to limit the colour use when the content is mastered for use on a television. This is because most TVs do not have technology that will allow them to display all of the colour details and contrast that is in the original theatre version.
Now manufacturers are producing TVs that have this wider colour gamut and the ability to work with contrast in a way that is much more precise. This allows some content providers to distribute content in the HDR standard; thus providing a viewing experience that is much more faithful to the vision of the content creator and giving it a look that is more true to life.
The one thing to understand before buying a TV that has HDR technology is that most content that is distributed for use on HD TVs is not in HDR. To take advantage of this technology, you will need an HDR source and a TV that has HDR capabilities.
If you want a TV that delivers a vast range of entertainment option, then a Smart TV is the way to go. When it comes to Smart TVs, there are a lot of different features that can fit under this title, but there is one key feature that sets these TVs apart from the standard model: the ability to connect to and use content from the internet.
The array of features that any Smart TV has will vary from one model to the next. Most of these TVs will have a user interface that will be populated with apps for a range of different features and channels. You can connect to services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and so forth and they will also have features like an internet browser. Some models include features like screen mirroring from mobile devices, gesture and voice controls and they could have apps for games, social media sites and some offer an app that will turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote.
Since the features and functionality of a Smart TV can vary significantly depending on the model, it is important for the buyer to compare the smart features to find one that will provide the best experience.
The level of connectivity that a TV has will also be important. Connectivity is a term that reflects how good the TV is at connecting to other devices and components. It can cover things like how a TV connects to the internet, the number of ports that are available and the variety of different types of cables that will be compatible with it.
Plugs & Ports
When it comes to the plugs and the ports on an HD TV, there is an array of different connection types that you are going to want to look for. The most important is probably the HDMI ports. These are the plugs that allow the user to connect different HD sources to the television. A good minimum number of HDMI ports is two, but for many homes, even this will not be enough. Consider how many sources you intend to connect through HDMI and try to find a model that will accommodate your entertainment options.
Depending on the selection of devices that you intend to connect with the TV and the cables that are compatible with them, you may also want to look for connections like composite video, component, SCART and VGA. Some of these plugs are for older devices and they may be on the verge of being completely obsolete, but if you have an older DVD player or gaming system that you want to use, then you may want to make sure that the TV has the connections for it.
Another nice feature in connectivity is the addition of a USB port on the TV. Many of the newer HD models will have an onboard media player that allows the user to take files from a USB and play them on the TV. In addition to that, some TVs will also have a built-in DVR and the USB can be used as the memory for digital video recording.
Connecting to the Internet
When you purchase a Smart TV, one important factor to consider is how it connects to the internet. Your options for internet connectivity are going to be to connect through an Ethernet cable or to connect through a Wi-Fi connection. The correct choice for the individual is generally going to come down to how their home internet is set-up and where the TV is in relation to the router. Most Smart TVs will have built-in Wi-Fi and a port for an Ethernet connection, but some may only have one or the other. Before you make a purchase, check to make sure that it has the option for internet connectivity that you need.
Every TV is going to come with an onboard sound system. Generally, it is going to be two speakers for stereo sound and then it is going to have some level of sound processing ability to provide depth and clarity to the audio. That being said, the onboard sound for most TVs will be less than stunning. For the most part, TV manufacturers focus on improving picture quality and making TVs that are thinner and lighter. To make the TVs thinner and lighter, that often means going with smaller speakers. For the most part, you are going to have sound that is at least serviceable, but many consumers go with some form of external speaker system to provide an audio experience that better matches the quality of viewing from the television.
The TV tuner is the device puts the channels on the television. Most people are familiar with Freeview – the service that provides all of the basic channels for your television. With most of the newer TVs, the set will come with a built-in Freeview HD tuner to relieve the need for a set-top box. The Freeview HD comes with all of the regular channels that you would get with standard Freeview, but you also get a few HD channels as a part of the package. Some TVs may also come with Freetime to provide features like TV catch-up and On Demand viewing.
All the rage a few years ago, much of the hype surrounding 3D TVs has died down. Part of it is due to the fact that there is a limited amount of 3D content available and the other factor is that only a small percentage of consumers adopted the technology in the first few years. That being said, the cost of TVs that are 3D compatible is starting to decrease and this may lead to more people owning models with this feature and in turn, that could lead to more content being made for this format.
One thing that consumers need to understand is that all 3D TVs are still primarily 2D televisions and having this feature will in no way diminish the quality of viewing that they get from their regular programming. However, if you are going to buy a TV that has 3D and you actually want to use it, then you are going to want to make sure that you have a source that offers 3D content. Right now, the options that are available for 3D content include having a Blu-ray player that is 3D compatible or getting 3D service from Sky or Virgin.
Another point to keep in mind when shopping for a TV with 3D capabilities is that you will need special glasses to enjoy the 3D content. The consumer has two choices when it comes to 3D viewing; those being TVs that use passive 3D glasses and those that use active 3D viewing. Active 3D provides the better 3D experience, but the glasses do cost more.
Some manufacturers have started to offer TVs with a curved screen design. They basically wrap the edges of the screen toward the viewer in an attempt to provide a more immersive viewing experience. The idea is that the curved screen plays better with the natural field of vision and to some degree, it does work. The use of peripheral vision does provide a more “in the action” sort of field and it does improve the perception of depth on the screen. These TVs do come up a little short when it comes to viewing angle though. The curve of the screen does cut the viewing angle short for people that may be trying to watch from the side of the television. In addition to that, the only viewers that are going to experience the benefits of the curved screen are those that are directly in front of it.
Wall Mount vs. Stand
Most HD TVs will come with a stand for the user to set the TV up on and they will also have the option of buying a bracket that mounts the TV to the wall. Neither option is particularly better than the other is and it mostly comes down to individual circumstances. The wall mounting option is good for people that are working with limited space, but it can be a bit of pain to add and remove components from a television that is wall-mounted. If you have a particularly large television, you will also want to make sure that the wall is suitable for the weight. In addition to that, you may want to run the necessary cables through the wall before you wall mount the unit. Some of this can take effort and skill that some consumers may not have, but most retailers do offer installation services for the TVs that they sell.