Right now is a very good time to buy the best TVs. The older models are coming off sale and you can get some very keen prices as a result.
Meanwhile, this year's TVs are appearing, and while they are obviously pricier on the whole than the older models, they are largely much cheaper than those older models were when they were new, if you see what we mean. Technologies such as OLED and HDR and larger screen sizes are rapidly becoming more affordable.
Admittedly, choosing the best TV at any given time is a damn hard task. Looking on the bright side, that's because, if you've got a decent budget to spend, then all TVs are extremely good.
Television screen technology has raced ahead in recent years with the maturing of LED and the arrival, in no uncertain terms, of OLED.
Add 4K Ultra HD – the next resolution jump from Full HD – as well as HDR (High Dynamic Range), the increasing sophistication of TV operating systems – making it easier to find the shows and films you want, whether via broadcast or the web – and case designs of ever improving sexiness, and viewers are truly spoiled for choice.
- Best UHD televisions under £1000…
- Best 4K and HD TVs under £500
- Boost your sound with the best soundbars and bases
- This week's best TV deals
But which is the best TV?
By a margin almost as narrow as its own, wafer-thin screen, my pick of the flagship or near-flagship televisions (largely around the £1,500-£3,000 mark) is the astounding Sony KD-55AF8. The only slight caveat to that is that Sony's equally astounding KD-55A1from 2017 is still on sale and can now be had for about the price of its younger, theoretically more 'affordable' sibling.
With its innovative design, superb image quality whether in native 4K HDR or upscaled HD and brilliant, 'in the screen' sound system, it really is the complete package and therefore the best TV to buy right now.
Hot off the presses and onto the shelves we have the LG OLED65C8. This is a better performer when it comes to gaming than the Sony, slightly better with 4K detail in certain situations and has a better smart TV platform. However for non-gamers, the Sony's much better sound, motion smoothing for sports, and even finer aesthetics make it our top choice by the narrowest of margins.
Those seeking a more affordable, though still premium, TV should consider the Panasonic TX-50EX750. This TV especially good for gamers, and nowadays comes in at under £1,000 while even its 65-inch big bro is only around £1,500.
If you're after a curved TV in 2018, try Samsung's QLED-panelled QE55Q8C.
How to buy the best TV for you
When you're choosing a TV, think first about what screen size you can manage, whether your room is usually bright or dark, and what sort of sources you're likely to be using.
These are big, flagship televisions that we wouldn't necessarily recommend putting in a small room, although really that's up to you.
An old but still handy rule of thumb for HD was to divide the size of screen you want (in inches) by 6.42. The result is how far away experts think you should sit, in feet. So for a 55-inch TV, you'd ideally want to be able to position your sofa about 8 and a half feet from the screen.
Scroll all the way down to the bottom of this TV buying guide (warning: your finger may get tired) and you'll find further handy tips to help you get the best TV for your needs.
Buying a TV: why you should upgrade your TV now
Now is the best time in years to get a new television.
The world of TV tech has never been more exciting. The shift from 1080p HD to 2160p 4K not only introduced a massive upturn in resolution, but heralded a shift to Wide Colour Gamut panels and HDR (High Dynamic Range). TV images now boast real world dynamics, with expanded depth and colour richness.
If you bought an early 4K TV, you might be kicking yourself by now – certain UHD standards aren't even supported any more, and image quality and upscaling of HD material has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, alongside the rise of OLED.
But look on the bright side: all these technologies and standards are now established, and TV picture quality has never been better.
At the higher end of the TV market, you really begin to appreciate the benefits that HDR with wide colour brings. All the TVs here can display sparkly spectral highlights and expansive colour, with many offering multiple variations of HDR, to better future-proof your viewing.
HDR comes in a variety of flavours. Static HDR10 is the standard. It’s commonly used on UHD Blu-ray and by streaming services. Dolby Vision is an upmarket alternative that optimises HDR characteristics on a scene-by-scene basis thanks to the miracle of dynamic metadata. It currently has limited support, appearing on select UHD Blu-ray titles, and some Netflix content.
HLG is a broadcast HDR standard which is just starting to roll out but generally speaking, the more HDR standards your screen supports, the better.
These flagship 4K TVs also have enhanced sound systems, be it a bundled/built in soundbar or something more exotic. Not only is this good for your ears, it can represent a big saving on additional external audio systems.
At this higher end of the market, you’ll also notice that OLED screen technology has largely taken over from LED LCD. Thanks to their superior black level performance, and excellent near-black detail, OLED has become the screen technology of choice for discerning videophiles.
OK, now that we’ve set the scene, let’s reveal T3's best TV buys of 2017-18.
1. Sony KD55AF8
Best 4K UHD OLED TV of 2018, at least for non-gamers
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The AF8 is a 4K OLED flatscreen that oozes class and has a picture that will have many of you hankering to upgrade. Available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, the AF8 sports a classic design aesthetic, unlike the brand’s lean-back Sony A1 model (at #2, below). It’s also slimmer, with a smaller physical footprint. This more conventional appearance makes the AF8 easier to fit on your typical AV furniture.
Picture quality is jaw-droppingly good. Sony has made an art of marrying panel and processing technologies, which the AF8 optimises to near perfection, using the same kind of pre-release calibration as on its Trimaster Studio OLED monitors. The upshot is this TV looks great straight from the box. Sony's flagship X1 Extreme image processor is also market leading, with dynamic tone mapping for HDR tailored precisely to the TV’s ability to display brightness and colour. It’s extremely effective.
HDR10 and HLG are fully supported, while a firmware update added Dolby Vision on Netflix. It doesn’t support Dolby Vision from Blu-ray players or other external devices, unless they’ve been subject to a separate, corresponding manufacturer firmware update. Perhaps we should dub this approach Dolby Vision lite?
Even without Dolby Vision, HDR performance is great for OLED, while black levels are off the scale.
Sony's Acoustic Surface technology delivers fantastic audio from a slim panel. There are no traditional stereo speakers onboard, instead the panel itself invisibly vibrates to deliver forward facing audio. Stereo transducers are affixed to the rear of the panel, augmented by twin woofers which fill out the mid-range. Results are superb, with a near miraculous amount of bass, although the real standout is the mellifluous midrange.
Android TV OS 7.0 is still something of a clunky user experience, but it offers a considerable level of functionality, courtesy of integrated Chromecast and Google Assistant control.
While there’s no Freeview Play on the AF8, we do get a custom iteration of YouView which offers the same integrated catch-up TV services and roll-back programme guide. Streaming support covers all the main TV players, plus Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, DisneyLife, Rakuten TV, and Spotify.
If the set does have a weakness it’s in gaming performance. In the Standard picture more, image lag is high at 101.5ms but even with the dedicated Game mode, it's a relatively tardy 47.2ms. Ideally I would look for 30ms or less.
However, for non-gamers, Sony's magnificent Af8 is the best new TV of 2018 so far. The only caveat to that is the older A1 is just as good, has a more unique look (although that's actually a drawback given the conservatism of most TV buyers), and has come down in price so much since launch that it's now in direct competition with its own successor.
2. LG OLED65C8
One of 2018's best new TVs: an OLED 4K HDR work of genius
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The C8 is the current leading competitor to the Sony AF8 and for many the choice will come down to personal taste and what deals may be available.
Although less attractive than Sony's offering, at least to my eyes, the C8 is still a gorgeous bit of kit. Glass stretches from edge-to-edge with barely a bezel to keep it in place, and the gunmetal grey casing is also very fetching.
The C8, like the bulk of LG’s 2018 OLEDs, uses the new Alpha 9 intelligent processor. This high performance silicon boasts the most advanced image processing we’ve yet seen on a consumer TV, and image quality is unequivocally exceptional, once you navigate the thick forest of screen modes.
The C8’s HDR performance is dramatic and bright. The C8 has no problem handling spectral highlights, which when coupled with deep rich blacks, translates to deliciously dynamic pictures. Shadow detail in near blacks is also exceptional, and the vibrancy of colour and sheer tangible detail in 4K content can be astonishing and the C8 also looks superb with HD material. There’s just so much to enjoy in its images.
There's also AI, with LG’s webOS platform adding intuitive search and voice control. You can even verbally select picture modes.
The C8 also looks consistently fabulous with games, with a lag of just 21.1ms, which is excellent. Oh and there's a Dolby Atmos decoder, which works with streamed content from Netflix, as well as external sources such as Sky Q. Just hook up your set-top box to the TV and use HDMI ARC to send Atmos to a compatible sound system.
This is one of the finest OLEDs to date. For gaming it is better than the Sony AF8, and those who love a really vivid, bright (but not 'unreal'-looking) image will also favour this TV. However the Sony has narrowly superior upgrading of SDR material to HDR and motion handling, and notably better audio.
On the other hand, LG's smart platform, although now so feature-packed that it's creaking slightly, is clearly superior to Sony's.
However, on overall style, for non-gamers the AF8 is The Best, though we’ll probably be debating the pros and cons of these two for months to come…
3. Sony KD55A1
The best 4K UHD OLED TV from 2017, still going very strong in 2018
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Whatever way you look at it, the 55-inch Sony A1 is a drop-dead gorgeous OLED TV. The design is elegant, and image quality outstanding. The A1 doesn’t use a conventional pedestal stand, instead it leans back on a hinged support which also contains an integrated subwoofer.
This TV doesn’t use conventional speakers, either. Instead it boasts Acoustic Surface technology. On the rear of the panel are a pair of sonic actuators. These vibrate, to create stereo sound that emanates from the panel itself. While the actuators produce high and mid-range audio, the 8cm subwoofer handles bass.
With the screen also effectively the speaker array you might very well think this would inevitably cause distortion to the sound, or issues with image quality. Well, you'd be wrong on both counts, and with a total audio output of 50 watts, the end result is astonishingly good.
Thanks to Sony’s 4K HDR X1 Extreme image engine, picture quality is also outstanding, with both 4K and HD sources. Blacks are deep, detail high and HDR wonderfully effective, with HDR10, DolbyVision and HLG are all supported. The set’s object-based HDR remastering also does a brilliant job boosting highlights on material filmed without HDR (standard dynamic range or SDR).
The smart platform, Android with Chromecast built-in, is a bit ‘meh’, but you can't have everything. Console yourself with the 4K content on Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube. A YouView app replaces the standard Freeview HD programme guide, combining live TV with catch-up TV services such as iPlayer.
Overall, the Sony A1 is a hugely impressive high-end TV that more than justifies its price at 55 inches, even if the 77-incher is a slightly more sphincter-tighteningly priced, at £20,000 rrp.
And that is why we think the Sony Bravia A1 is still the joint best TV to buy (alongside its own successor the AF8) , even though it's one of last year's tellies…
5. LG 65OLEDB7
Best value 4K OLED TV
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Don’t tell anyone, but there’s no significant difference in panel or picture processing technology between this and the G7 and W7 above. Image quality is just as outstanding, and the only thing that actually separates these sets is their cosmetic design and audio provision.
Of all LG’s 7-series OLED variants, the B7 is probably our most compelling recommendation, with a leading edge spec and premium design, for not much money. The B7’s distinctive silver finish extends to the back of the panel, where it contrasts with a white plastic casing. The set is ridiculously thin, swelling only to accommodate electronics.
You’ll get four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 compatible, plus three USBs, and digital optical audio output. The set comes with a Freeview Play tuner and the latest iteration of LG’s webOS connected platform.
The latter offers a few new features, including 360 degree video playback and an OLED still image gallery, but it’s largely unchanged from what we’ve seen before, which is a good thing. Netflix streams with Dolby Vision, as well as Dolby Atmos audio. There's also Amazon Prime Video and YouTube in 4K.
The B7 can route Dolby Atmos audio out over HDMI ARC, which is a cool party trick. Just add an Atmos soundbar or AV receiver for immersive 3D audio.
- Also worth noting: LG's OLEDC7 TV range is identical to the B7 in terms of the panel but perhaps slightly less attractive. To compensate it has slightly better sound, although as with the B7 you'll still want to add a soundbar or other external audio booster.
5. Panasonic TX-65EZ952
Best 4K OLED TV for cinematic performance
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you’re a long-standing plasma TV fan, the Panasonic EZ952 is the upgrade to 4K HDR you’ve been waiting for. It offers the same cinematic traits as the brand’s classic plasma screens – cinematic black level performance and shadow detail – coupled to razor-sharp, 2160p resolution.
Images boast excellent detail and rich, accurate colours, with the same Studio Colour HCX2 processor employed as on the brand’s flagship EZ1002 OLED TV. In addition to perfect black, shadow detail is top notch. Not only does the EZ952 look superb with UHD Blu-ray and Sky Q UHD, but it does a great job upscaling regular HD too. This premium performer makes everything look better.
The EZ952's audio performance is, by contrast, pretty routine. There’s plenty of volume, thanks to 40W of digital amplification, but the screen is best partnered with a standalone sound system.
The TV supports HDR10 and HLG broadcast HDR out of the box, but it’s also in line for a firmware upgrade for HDR10+, the dynamic metadata standard which has (so far) been adopted by Amazon Prime Video, Fox and Warner Bros. Dolby Vision, however, will not be joining the HDR party.
This Panasonic may not be the brightest HDR TV available (not really an issue if you prefer to watch with the lights dimmed), but the sumptuous quality of its images is undeniable. It’s also Ultra HD Premium approved and certified by THX.
The design is conservative, but classy. The panel is 4mm thin, swelling only to accommodate electronics and inputs. The bezel is fashionably slim. The pedestal stand may look basic, but it’s extremely heavy.
The set employs Panasonic’s My Home Screen 2.0 smart platform, which is a derivation of the open source Mozilla Firefox TV OS, and suitably powerful, yet easy to use. There’s a Freeview Play tuner onboard, which offers nicely integrated catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, Demand 5), via a rollback TV guide.
Connections include four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compatible, along with three USBs. Alongside an optical digital audio output, there’s an adaptor for component and composite legacy sources, plus an SD card reader. The EZ952 ships with two remote controls: a heavyweight metallic IR wand and a small Bluetooth touch controller.
TL;DR? This is THE ideal OLED update for plasma connoisseurs.
6. Sony KD-65ZD9
Sony's best-buy 4K LED backlit TV
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Sony’s ZD9 is arguably the most effective deliverer of HDR on an LED LCD TV, capable of retina searing brightness. There's also superb white detail and shadow rendering. In its giant-sized, 75-inch iteration, the HDR performance is even more dramatic, but you will need to pay a tiny bit more for that.
Key to the ZD9’s picture performance is its full array Master Backlight Drive, which offers precise white highlights without unwanted blooming around bright objects, as well as deep controlled blacks. A web of calibrated white LED lights focus bright highlights into tightly controlled highlights.
The set supports HDR10, HLG DolbyVision HDR. Images are highly detailed, thanks to Sony’s top of the line X1 Extreme imaging chip. This features object-based HDR remastering, dual database processing, plus a 4K HDR iteration of Super Bit Mapping, used to smooth out colour banding on compressed streaming sources. Object-based HDR remastering is particularly impressive, as it takes SDR footage and gives it an HDR-style boost, using scene-by-scene analysis.
Cosmetically the set is upscale, thanks to a black bezel and gold trim. Connections include four HDMIs , all 4K ready. So there’s no problem hooking up both a PS4Pro and Xbox One X.
The TV’s smart platform is based on the Android TV OS, and while there’s no Freeview Play, a YouView overlay offers much the same functionality, with a full complement of catch-up TV services.
All things considered, a stunning HDR LED LCD TV. As noted, the 75-inch monster is even better…
7. LG OLED77G7V
Best 4K HDR OLED mega-screen
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This ultra-luxe total AV package remains pricey, but on the other hand, it’s not often you can make a £12,000 saving when buying a new TV, and that is the deal here. LG’s monumental 77-inch G7 OLED has plunged from £20,000 to ONLY £7,999, making it in some respects the OLED TV bargain of the year.
The G7 is undoubtedly sensational in both its screen sizes but LG’s range-topper at this size effectively blurs the line between telly watching and genuine cinema. The thing’s a monster.
The G7’s ‘picture on glass’ design, wherein the panel is bonded to a glass backing, is spectacular, although given the panel is wafer-thin, care needs to be taken when manhandling it. Be warned, this beauty tips the scales at 54kg!
The pedestal base is home to four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, plus 3 USB inputs and an optical digital output. There are two terrestrial Freeview Play tuners and twin satellite tuners. An integrated sound bar, with impressive 80W output, ensures decent audio straight out of the box. There’s also a Dolby Atmos decoder onboard, which means you can bitstream out Atmos audio to a waiting Dolby Atmos soundbar or AV receiver.
LG’s webOS smart platform offers Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and Now TV services amongst others, and is a doddle to use.
But the reason to buy is that massive picture. This set is Ultra HD Premium certified set and is HDR10, HLG and DolbyVision compatible. There’s also an Technicolour HDR preset which emulates a studi grading suite. The G7’s 10-bit panel also does a top job upscaling HD to 4K. Good news if you have a large collection of Blu-ray discs.
While the aforementioned presets are effective, there are small things which can be done to optimise image quality. Ensuring that Just Scan is On rather than set to Auto in the Aspect ratio menu, eliminates patterning artefacts over miniscule 4K detail. And when watching movies on UHD Blu-ray, use Cinema Home with Trumotion Off and Dynamic Contrast low. The Sports mode is a bit too garish, so you might want to give that a miss.
We reckon the 77-inch G7 is just about as good as it gets when it comes to a 4K HDR OLED viewing. If you want a telly with stratospheric wow factor, this is it.
8. Loewe Bild 3.55
Best 4K HDR OLED for design and style
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The 55-inch Bild 3 may be the cheapest OLED TV from Loewe, but it still looks reassuringly premium. With an ultra slim bezel and integrated soundbar with fabric grille in light grey or 'graphite' (ie: dark grey), it’s fashionably svelte, and comes with a smart aluminium pedestal stand that can be swivelled for the optimum viewing angle.
Picture quality on the Bild 3 is very fine indeed. The set supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG HDR, while colours are wide and vibrant. Being OLED, the black level performance is profound.
The Bild 3's sound system is also potent. Featuring four drivers and two passive radiators, and driven by 2 x 40 watts of amplification, you could comfortably use it as a living room audio system.
While still not class leading, Loewe has made improvements to its Smart portal and UI. It doesn’t attempt to do as much as some rivals, but it's clean and intuitive, and key streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, Netflix, Youtube and Tidal are all on board. It also allows you to customise graphics for inputs and channels.
Overall, this is a premium TV at a great price.
10. Panasonic TX-65EX750
Best UHD TV for 4K gaming
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This 4K Pro Panasonic is a positive steal compared to some of the sets here, but it still combines an advanced image engine with top-notch build quality. The X-shaped pedestal is height adjustable, and swivels for optimum viewing clarity, while the thin chrome bezel adds a glint of luxury. The tuner choice is Freeview Play or Freesat.
The Smart OS is My Home Screen V2.0, built on the open source Firefox TV OS. It’s minimalistic but highly customisable. Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube all stream in 4K. There’s also a full complement of catch-up channels.
Picture clarity on the TX-65EX750 is high. The set upscales HD well and looks razor sharp with native 4K. But it’s the colour performance which really makes images sing. The set is HDR10 and HLG compatible, but isn’t nova-bright. We would rate HDR just on the right side of effective, which makes it an easy screen to live with (overly bright HDR can lead to eye fatigue).
The screen handles motion particular well, retaining detail in fast moving action without introducing unwanted artefacts. That makes this TV great for watching sport, and it's also a cracking 4K gaming display, once you track down the Game screen mode, which is hidden away from the image presets, in the Picture Setting Options menu. Using a stopwatch, I measured input lag at just 14.1ms.
Audio quality is largely unremarkable, but don’t let that dent your enthusiasm. Just buy a soundbar.
11. Sony KD-65XE9005
A great 4K HDR LED LCD TV for sports
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Sony XE90 range stands apart from so many other LED LCDs in that it has a direct LED backlight, rather than more common edge-lighting. This has a number of benefits when it comes to picture quality.
For one thing, tonal uniformity is improved, which makes a huge difference to movies. There’s no uncomfortable light pooling seen at the edge of the screen. It’s also a boon when it comes to HDR management. Delivering accurate peaks is not easy if the backlight bulbs are positioned to the side.
The XE90 comes in four screen sizes, from 49-inch to a monster 75-incher. My advice? Go as big as you can afford; fill your boots!
Design is slick. A central pedestal stand makes the screen easy to accommodate, while a smart aluminium trim adds a touch of panache. There are four HDMI inputs, all of which are 4K HDCP 2.2 compatible for use with UHD set top boxes and Blu-ray. There’s also component AV and three USBs.
The set’s smart platform is Android, bolstered by a YouView programme guide. This offers a roll-back EPG with main channel catch-up services. Chromecast is built-in. Streaming services include the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, all of which can stream 4K.
The panel is native 100Hz which really helps motion handling. Consequently, we’d rate this a smart LED LCD buy for sports fans.
The XE90 uses Sony’s X1 HDR processor. One down from the premium X1 Extreme, it still offers Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR and Object Based HDR Remastering. The latter is particularly impressive, as it give all SDR content a natural HDR-style boost. Detail is further helped by Sony’s 4K X-Reality Pro image processor.
Colour fidelity is high and black levels deep. There’s plenty of visual pop and zing. We did notice some bloom around bright HDR highlights. (there just aren’t enough LED light clusters to absolutely nail local dimming), but our overall impression is that this is still superior to an edge-lit screen at a comparable price point.
The set works with HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) content, and it looks just wonderful with HDR games.
Audio performance is also surprisingly good. The 2x10w sound system is refreshingly stereophonic, offering clear dialogue and a solid mid-range.
The 65-inch XE90 is a well above average, mid- to upper-range, 4K HDR set. It represents great value for money.
12. Philips 55POS901F/12
Yet another stunning 4K OLED TV, this time with Philips' Ambilight for added delight
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Philips' TVs are generally pretty good, but what elevates them is their use of Ambilight, splattering colours over your walls that compliment the onscreen action. I'm a sucker for Ambilight. When that mood lighting tech is partnered with OLED, I can only love it just that little bit more.
Design wise, this 9-series model looks the part. An integrated soundbar ensures audio performance is fittingly high, while the chrome bezel adds a bit of bling.
The Smart OS is unadorned Android, with Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube streaming. Picture quality is razor-sharp, although as the set uses a 2016-vintage OLED panel, it doesn’t have quite the the same level of HDR zing as its rivals here. With regular HD content, the set offers benign upscaling, while Philips Perfect Colour processor does a fabulous job enhancing hues. And of course, that forward-facing sound system offers pronounced stereo, with plenty of volume (30w in total).
Presented here in three-sided guise, Ambilight is the perfect high-tech mood enhancer. You can also integrate it within a wider Hue lighting system, which is seriously cool.
A great overall package, in short. Part TV, part work of animated art.
T3's TV buying tips
So you've read your rundown of the best TVs to buy and you've hopefully settled on a choice. But perhaps you have a few more questions? Our in-depth guide to buying a TV should have all the answers you need, or read the truncated version below…
Should I upgrade my HD TV to a 4K TV?
The resolution of 4K/Ultra HD is exactly four times higher than full HD at 3840 x 2160. It means a far more detailed picture, with content requiring a lot more bandwidth and storage space. 4K TVs tend to be good at upscaling HD video to Ultra HD, and native 4K content is gradually becoming more prevalent.
The most important thing is that standards for HDR and 4K now seem to be broadly agreed. Some (slightly) older UHD TVs are already well on their way to being obsolete, as they went with proprietary or poorly-received codecs and standards.
HD TVs still exist (though there are none in this list of the best TVs). They come in two resolutions: Full HD TVs have a higher resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, while you can still get a few 'HD ready' TVs with a minimum 720p picture – the norm is 1366x768 pixels. These sets tend to be either very small or very cheap.
Our advice? Don't change your HD TV for another HD TV. Buy a 4K TV instead (and use our list above to make sure you buy one of the best 4K TVs).
What types of TV display can I choose from?
The lighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique produces far better colours and higher contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. This was the 'holy grail' display technology and only in 2014 did a big screen OLED TV go on sale. Thanks largely to the efforts of LG, OLED has become established very rapidly as the go-to screen tech for the discerning TV buyer.
LED TV: Direct LED
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast. LED TVs are also more power efficient and capable of a wider colour gamut than CCFL sets. Because of the extreme cost of mounting these arrays of LEDs, Direct LED TVs have largely been muscled out by Edge LED...
LED TV: Edge LED
With these Edge LED TVs, LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays and offers superior contrast levels to CCFL, but can't achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets. However, Edge LED displays do come in far cheaper which is why most LED TVs out there now use this technology.
LCD TV: CCFL
Until recently, all LCD TVs were backlit by always-on, CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) lamps. This ageing technology has been superseded by the superior LED method on more expensive sets, but is still standard on some cheaper models.
As yet we're not quite at the stage where we're going to get self-emitting quantum dot LEDs, but they're a-coming. What we do have, though, is Samsung producing its Nanocrystal filter based on quantum dot technology to produce a seriously improved colour palette and contrast levels that get mighty close to the pinnacle of OLED.
What should I look for when I'm buying a TV?
Here are some of the things we look for when we review a TV screen, so you should, too...
Contrast: Bright whites shouldn't have any signs of green, pink or blue in them, while blacks should look solid and not washed out, grey, green or blue.
Colours: Look at how bright and solid they are; how noiseless their edges are; how 'dotty' richly saturated areas are and how natural skin looks, especially in dim scenes.
Fine detail: How much texture does the screen give? Does a tree look like a green lump, or can you see the individual leaves?
Edges: Check for ghosting, bright halos and jaggedness, especially around curves.
Motion: Check moving objects and quick camera pans for smearing or blurring, trailing, jerkiness and fizzing dotty noise.
Image artefacts: Look for blockiness, colour bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it's added by the TV picture processing or a weak TV tuner. Tinker with a TV's picture settings before making a final decision. Factory settings are rarely good for everyday viewing.
What about TV sound?
To provide the best audio to complement the pictures, your TV should be hooked up to a surround sound system, but this isn't always an option. So, here's what we listen for when testing a TV's speakers:
Bass: Deep, rounded rumbles that don't cause the set to rattle or speakers to distort, cramp or overwhelm the rest of the sound; but that expand when needed.
Vocals: Voices should sound open, rich and clear, not boxed in, nasal or thin.
Trebles: Treble effects should sound clean, rounded and smooth in loud scenes and shouldn't dominate the soundstage.
Soundstage width/depth: A good TV should throw the sound away from the TV, to the sides, forward and back, to give an extra dimension to what's on screen, without losing any coherence.
Three questions to ask yourself before you buy a TV
Taking the time to consider these questions will make choosing the best TV easier...
How many HDMI sockets do you need?
For a living room TV you should be looking for a minimum of three HDMI inputs. If you want to attach a set-top box as well as games consoles, etc., those HDMI ports will fill up fast.
Do you want to connect your old analogue TV equipment to your new TV?
Most new sets carry no more than two composite connections, while S-video is fast approaching obsolescence. Check that your new TV can hook up to older digiboxes, VCRs or DVD decks that you might want to plug into it.
Do you want to hang your TV on the wall?
First off, you'll need to consult a construction expert to check that the wall in question is strong enough to support a flatscreen. Then find out if the set you want is designed to be wall-mounted and, if so, ask if the relevant bracket is included in the basic package or as an optional extra.
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