How to compare televisions: a basic buyer’s guide
Welcome to Genie Shopping, one of the UK’s leading shopping recommendation websites. Here you can compare televisions from all the leading brands before clicking through to the UK’s favourite retailers – including Asda, Argos, Currys and Tesco – to make your purchase.
But what TV is best for you and how do you compare? We know most people aren’t TV experts, as it’s the kind of purchase we tend to make once or twice a decade – and television technology seems to move forward on a weekly basis! So we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to walk you through the basics and help make choosing the right television a breeze.
Which TV to buy? Size is important!
While you may think bigger is better, and want that lovely 55-inch beauty you saw in the superstore, think first about the size of room it will inhabit.
This is important for two reasons. First, the size of television you need depends on how close you’ll be sitting to it. Get a screen that’s too large and you’ll actually lessen the watching experience and possibly give yourself eyestrain.
If you’re going to be anything up to six feet from the screen, a 17-26-inch television is advised. From 6-9 feet you should be looking in the 27-38-inch range, while at 10-feet the recommended TV screen width is 39-46 inch. You want to be watching at 12 feet to get that 55-inch screen – or 14 feet for a 60-inch plus monster!
And secondly, style: while today’s televisions tends to be slim, slick and well-designed do you really want it to be the focal point of your room? Keep most people’s eyes on the art or that inglenook fireplace, rather than them thinking “Ugh, that TV takes up the whole wall!”
Television types: OLED, LCD and Plasma televisions
Another consideration is of course screen type. The days of cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions that were deeper that they were wide (and weighed more than Saturn) are long gone; but they’ve been replaced with more choices. Here’s a rough general description of the contenders:
- LCD (liquid crystal display): It was the LCD TV that put the nail in the coffin of CRT in the mid-2000s, but that is starting to feel like a long time ago. You’ll still find some on the market, especially on small screens or at budget prices, and they certainly do the job if you’re not a big TV fan – but this is definitely now old technology.
- Plasma televisions: While starting to fade from stores now, many real TV buffs will still claim plasma televisions offered the purest picture. Their problem is they are hard to make at smaller screen sizes and are less energy efficient than modern LED televisions, meaning manufacturers are starting to phase them out. But if you want a really big TV (60-inch plus) for the true home cinema experience, they’re certainly worth exploring.
- LED and OLED: Now the most popular TV choice on the block, using the popular old LCD technology but replacing the old large lighting lamps with lots of tiny LEDs – making them slim and energy efficient. OLED takes LED to the next level, creating a more vibrant picture that many see as equalling plasma screens – but at smaller screen sizes too. However, you will have to pay a premium for it right now (though prices are dropping all the time).
Resolution: From standard definition via HD to 4K ultra HD (UHD)
When it comes to picture resolution, it’s all about the pixels: the tiny dots that, together, make up your picture. Old standard definition (SD) TV was 400-600 pixel range – but has now been replaced on the high street with 720p (720 pixels) and 1080p devices – commonly known as HD TVs.
It’s pretty easy to see the image quality difference between SD and HD, and with 1080p televisions now available at budget prices there’s no reason not to make the switch up. But the technology hasn’t stopped there, of course – the real TV aficionados have already moved onto ultra HD.
Dubbed ‘4K’, ultra HD has a massive – you guessed it – 4,000 pixels on display; so in theory four times the picture quality of 1080p HD. Entertainment has been available for this quality of television in limited amounts since 2014 and is now starting to trickle through suppliers such as Netflix and Amazon - and you'll notice an upscale in quality on your DVDs and Blu-rays. So if you can afford it, now could be the time to switch up.
TV extras: 3D, Freeview, curved screens and wired connections
With those basics out of the way, let’s concentrate on some of the most common ‘television extras’ you’ll have to decide whether you need before you narrow down your TV search.
- Freeview: While some now have their TV channels beamed in via the internet or satellite thanks to Sky, Virgin and the rest, many of us rely on Freeview. Having a Freeview ‘box’ is now pretty much a pointless exercise, as most decent TVs come with Freeview built in. If you use Freeview, this is definitely a box worth ticking.
- 3D TV: While still a thing in terms of cinema, the smart money is on 3D TV having had its day. It never really caught on and while it might be back it has largely gone from being the next big thing to a gimmick. If it’s your thing, more power to you – but it far from being a ‘must have’ on today’s televisions.
- Curved screens: Claiming to give a more immersive experience, curved screen TVs hit the market in 2013. They also give a wider field of view, meaning you’re more likely to get the optimal viewing experience no matter where you are in a room in relation to the screen. But at high prices and with debates raging on their real value, the jury is still out.
- TV connections: There’s no point in getting a fabulous new TV if it doesn’t have the ports on the back to plug in everything you need! Check what you currently utilise (HDMI, Ethernet, home cinema audio, USB, old school video SCART and hi-fi) and be sure you can cram it all into your new television.
Getting value for money
Getting value is key to many of our buying decisions, and it’s never truer than with large electrical purchases. It’s so easy to pick up a cheap TV and soon regret it, while that whizz-bang top-of-the-line ultra HD television doesn’t seem so great when you’re watching reruns of Only Fools and Horses on it every night.
If you want value, look for common TV widths (those most common are more mass produced, bringing down costs) as well as clearances of end-of-line stock. If these are good brand TVs they’re not being reduced because they’re bad quality – it’s simply a case of making room for the newer models. You can get some great bargain televisions if you don’t mind last season’s technology.