TVs buying guide

Screen size

What TV screen size is right for me?

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These days, there's a lot of choice when it comes to picking TV screen sizes and making the most of the available space for your new TV set.

Modern bezels, the frame that holds the screen, are narrower and thinner, allowing you to go larger than ever when it comes to choosing which TV to buy.

When deciding which screen size is right for you, it's worth knowing the ideal viewing distances for HD TVs and working out how this fits in with your home.

How is TV screen size measured?

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Screens are measured diagonally from corner to corner, in inches. This measurement only concerns the visible part of the TV screen and not the surrounding bezel.

Make sure you check the specific products for the full size of the unit, as you'll need to take this into consideration for space it's going in.

Picture quality

What is a processing rate?

Processing rates are how rapidly the picture changes on screen and shows how often the television changes the image on the screen. Generally, higher processing rates mean the image will be of superior quality and smoother, which is especially important when watching fast-paced sports and action-packed films.

What is screen resolution?

The image on a television screen is made up of thousands of tiny, coloured dots called pixels. The resolution is how many pixels the screen can display horizontally and vertically – that's why there are two numbers used to describe screen resolution, e.g. 1,920 x 1,080; the first number equals the number of horizontal pixels and the second is the amount of vertical pixels. As a rule, the greater the number of pixels, the more crisp and detailed the TV screen will be.

What is HDR?

HDR stands for high dynamic range and is a piece of technology that aims to further improve the home entertainment experience. It helps enable greater brightness and contrast, while optimising a wider range of colours. Ultimately, all with the aim of making what you're watching much more life-like.

What are HD 720p or Full HD 1080p TVs?

A High definition (HD) TVs massively improve the image detail compared to standard definition TVs, providing a clearer and sharper viewing experience.

These are split into two types: 'Full HD 1080p' means that the television is able to handle a high definition signal of 1,080 lines of information across the screen. It may mean that there is a HD TV tuner, such as Freeview HD or Freesat HD, built in to receive HD channels without having to add an extra box.

'HD Ready' means that the television is able to handle a high definition signal. It produces 720 lines of information across the screen, which is not Full HD. It does not have a high definition tuner built in, so the HD services would come from an external source such as Sky, Virgin or a recorder with HD built in.

What is 4K TV?

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Whereas Full HD TVs have just over 2 million pixels, 4K or UHD (ultra high definition) TVs have over 8 million pixels (3,840 horizontally x 2,160 vertically). 4K refers to the amount of pixels that make up the crisp and clear image. Some 4K/UHD TVs also have HDR capability, due to the combination of pixels from 4K/UHD and colour definition from HDR. This gives you the best possible picture on your TV, making content more real and natural, so you become more immersed in what you are watching. Combine this with a sound bar or sound system for the ultimate in home cinema systems.

When viewing compatible 4K TV content, you'll notice the sharpness and clarity of the images, creating a truly stunning visual experience that pulls you into the heart of the action. Streaming services like Amazon Instant Video or Netflix offer a selection of specifically designed 4K entertainment that can be viewed through the TV's smart features (where available).

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Where can I find 4K TV compatible content?

The best picture quality can be achieved with Ultra HD content. This is available directly on some televisions via apps from YouTube, Netflix (with a subscription to Netflix 4K Ultra HD plan, www.netflix.co.uk) and Amazon Video (with subscription, www.amazon.co.uk). A steady internet connection of at least 15 to 25Mbps is required, depending on the content provider.

Ultra HD content is also available with additional equipment such as Ultra HD Blu-ray discs (requires an Ultra HD Blu-ray player), BT Sport Ultra HD broadcasts (with BT’s Ultra HD compatible set top box and BT’s Ultra HD subscription package, www.bt.com), Sky Q (with Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and Sky Box Sets subscription, www.sky.com), and Ultra HD streaming devices (subscriptions may apply)

Technology

What is LED TV?

LED TVs use the technology of light-emitting diodes (LED), referring to the quality and amount of backlighting in the TV which improves the quality of the picture. LED TVs use an LED backlighting panel to allow light through an LCD screen (liquid crystal display) – this is what produces the images and colour displayed on the screen, showing bright and vivid colour.

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What is OLED TV?

OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) TVs are richer, with more vivid colour. The screens are generally thinner and the picture quality is excellent at any angle. OLED TVs also have a lower energy consumption than LED.

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What are curved TVs?

Curved Screens are a new innovation TV has seen over the past few years. With a slightly curved rather than flat screen, these televisions bring the edges of the picture towards you, mimicking the way we look at the world with our peripheral vision. By attempting to replicate a view not just directly in front of you but also extending around to the side, this results in a more immersive viewing experience, and is also proven to cause less eye strain than watching a standard flat screen TV. Many commercial cinemas use curved technology, and on larger screens (49”+) this can make a true difference to how immersed in the action you feel.

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Smart TV

What is Smart TV?

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Smart TVs allow you to access online content through an internet connection, so you can use pre-loaded apps and downloadable streaming services with just the touch of a button. Many of these allow you to watch TV online and catch-up TV, and stream via services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube.

Most also enable web browsing, photo or video uploading and access to social networking sites. Check which apps/services are supported by your Smart TV to make sure they meet your needs.

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What do Freeview/Sky/Virgin boxes do?

Sky, Virgin, Freeview Play and Freeview PVR (Personal Video Recorder) will allow you to record and store programmes to watch at a later date.

Can I connect my Smart TV to other devices via Wi-Fi?

Some Smart TVs allow you to connect to other Wi-Fi devices such as smartphones, smart keyboards, tablets or laptops, which allows you to share your personal content onto a large screen.

Sound and media streamers

What are the best TV speakers to improve sound quality?

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Technology has enabled TVs to become thinner and thinner but occasionally, this has meant compromising sound quality. Although the sound on your TV should be good, some manufacturers now recommend combining your TV with different products, such as sound bars and sound systems, to give you the best viewing experience. A sound bar can sit beneath your TV or be fixed to a wall. Often you can find these as bundle packages or products that are recommended together, which can be connected to a multi-room speaker, allowing you to wirelessly play music through the sound bar. The best sound systems often have more speakers that you can place around the room, giving you a greater cinematic experience.

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What are media streamers?

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To be able to stream media such as films, TV shows and sports, and also keep you up to date with all the latest content, media streamers are definitely something to consider. Streamers like Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and NOW TV can be easily connected to your TV.

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Tuners

What is Freeview HD?

Freeview HD (high definition) offers 70 TV channels, 15 HD channels and 25+ radio stations, without a monthly cost. The difference between Freeview and Freeview HD is the quality in the picture of supported channels. In addition to this, there are Freeview HD recorders available, which also offer the ability to record, pause and rewind live TV. If you are using the television’s built-in tuner, the best picture quality will be achieved by watching the Freeview HD channels, which are available between channel 101 and 124 – see www.freeview.co.uk for details.

What is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play combines catch-up, on-demand services and live television together in one place with no monthly costs. Find programmes from BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and UKTV Play, alongside 70 TV channels and 15 HD channels. Simply scroll back in your TV guide to watch shows you missed from the last 7 days. Just make sure your TV is connected to the internet and you’re good to go. In addition to this, there are Freeview Play recorders available, which also offer the ability to record, pause and rewind live TV, so you never need to miss a moment. ** click through to all freeview play models **

Connectivity

Wi-Fi Wi-Fi connectivity offers convenience, the freedom to move around your house and also a wide variety of content you can stream
HDMI HDMI connectivity is compatible with HD, Sky, Virgin, games consoles, DVD players, Blu-ray players and streaming devices
Optical Optical cable connectivity is used for digital audio output
Coaxial Coaxial cable connectivity is used for digital audio output
USB USB connectivity can be used for playback of photos and music; it can also be used to record content and update software
PC input PC input connectivity is used for VGA or HDMI or both
SCART SCART leads are often used for older models as a connector for devices

Do I need a wall TV mount or stand?

How you display your TV depends on the look and feel of the room. A wall TV mount can give you a stylish finish and also be a great space saver. There are numerous styles and sizes of wall mounts, so you can display your TV in different areas. A stand gives you the flexibility to add other entertainment devices such as DVD/Blu-ray player or media streamers.

What cables will I need for my TV?

HDMI cables connect your TV to additional HD compatible devices. They have identical ends so are easy to use and fit into your TV. Often these are used for Sky box connectivity and also DVD or Blu-ray players.

SCART leads are a universal way to connect devices to your TV. Although these are usually used on older model devices, newer TVs will usually have at least 1 SCART port. Other cables you may need would be aerial cables and optical cables. Optical cables are used for connectivity to sound systems, sound bars and home cinema systems.

Jargon buster

4K/UHD Whereas Full HD TV has just over 2 million pixels, 4K or UHD (ultra high definition) TVs have over 8 million pixels (3,840 horizontally x 2,160 vertically). 4K refers to the amount of pixels that make up the crisp and clear image. Some 4K/UHD TVs also have HDR (high dynamic range) capability, due to the combination of pixels from 4K/UHD and colour definition from HDR, this gives you the best possible picture on your TV.
Bezels The bezel is the frame surrounding the screen.
Full HD Full HD 1,080p means that the television is able to handle a high definition signal of 1,080 lines of information across the screen.
HD Ready HD Ready means that the television is able to handle a high definition signal. It produces 720 lines of information across the screen which is not Full HD.
HDR High dynamic range is the ability to display a wider and richer range of colours. Much brighter whites and deeper, darker blacks; this gives the TV picture a more dynamic look.
LED LED TVs use an LED backlighting panel to allow light through an LCD screen, this is what produces the bright, vivid images and colour on the screen.
OLED OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays are made up of individual organic cells which individually illuminate when an electrical current is applied. Unlike LCD televisions, OLED do not require backlights, so OLED televisions can be thinner, weigh less and consume less power than other display technologies. In addition, OLED can display deep black levels, vibrant colours and a wide viewing angle.
Full HD Full HD 1,080p means that the television is able to handle a high definition signal of 1,080 lines of information across the screen.
Processing rates Processing rates refer to the rate that the picture on the TV refreshes. .
Resolution Resolution is measured by the number of pixels horizontally and vertically, e.g. 1,920 x 1,080, The higher the number of pixels, the better the TV picture.
Screen size Screen size is measured diagonally across the screen in inches. It does not include the bezel surrounding the screen.
Smart TV Smart TVs allow you to access online content through an internet connection, so you can use pre-loaded apps and downloadable streaming services with just the touch of a button.
Tuner type Tuner type refers to digital built-in services, such as Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Play, which offer access to more channels.
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