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The Which? guide to buying the best TV

Which TV is best for you?

From compact TV/DVD combis for a kitchen or bedroom, to premium TVs with impressive features for a living room, or huge televisions for a cinema experience at home; there really is a TV out there for everyone – but how do you find the right one for you?

More than 100 televisions are put through the extensive and unique Which? testing every year, with our experts evaluating everything from picture and sound quality, to how easy a TV is to set up and use. Watch the video above to find out more.

Choosing your TV

You need to consider two key questions when choosing a new TV:

How much do you want to spend?

Prices can vary from less than £200 for a small-screen TV, up to many thousands for a top-of-the-range model. If you spend more money, you do get more TV, both in terms of screen size and features - but there are some fantastic TVs available for every budget.


What size TV do you need?

There's no point in buying a big TV if your nose is going to be inches from the screen – that will be both uncomfortable and disappointing in terms of the picture quality. With a 32-inch TV, you should sit more than seven feet away to view it comfortably; go for a 42-inch and you'll need a big enough living room to sit at least nine feet away.

What is HD TV?

High-definition TV is roughly double the resolution of standard-definition TV, so the picture is sharper and more detailed. HD TV is available from Sky and Virgin Media for a monthly fee, or Freesat and Freeview for free. To watch it on Freesat or Freeview, your TV will need to have a built-in Freeview HD or Freesat HD tuner - check the specs of your TV to see if it does. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a separate set-top box.

HD TV is broadcast in 1080i, but a Blu-ray movie is in higher-quality 1080p. Blu-ray picture is more detailed and realistic, although the difference is more subtle than the jump from standard to high definition.

Cheaper TVs are often marked as 'HD ready', meaning they have the minimum screen resolution to display HD TV. However, they can’t show Blu-ray discs in their full picture quality. TVs sold as 'Full HD' have superior picture quality, whether you're watching a HD TV show or Blu-ray film.

What's best – LED, LCD or plasma?

You'll also see these three terms everywhere in TV marketing material – they're the main types of TV screens, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

LCD TVs

LCD TVs are cheaper than LED models, but they’re also thicker, less energy efficient and picture quality isn’t as good. Most manufacturers no longer offer new LCD TVs in sizes over 32 inches, instead prioritising LED, plasma or 4K (see more below).

LED TVs

LED TVs are essentially LCD sets but with different back-lighting technology. They’re typically slimmer and more energy efficient than LCD or plasma TVs. Most manufacturers use LED in their larger screen and flagship models.

Plasma TVs

Plasma TVs use different technology to LED and LCD. They can produce deeper, more natural-looking black areas on screen than the other types, but the big brands are scaling back plasma TV production to focus on other technologies, chiefly LED and 4K.

What is OLED?

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) TVs can be even slimmer than LED TVs, and are claimed to use less energy too. They have superior picture quality, with brighter and richer colours and deeper black areas in the picture - essentially, the best of plasma and LED combined into one TV. However, the drawback is that OLED TVs are currently very expensive. The first significant models that have come onto the market in 2013 are priced at around £7,000.

What is 4K TV?

4K - also known as Ultra High Definition (UHD) - is a TV screen resolution four times that of ‘normal’ high definition TV. So in theory, 4K pictures will look much sharper and more detailed than on a Full HD set. LG, Samsung and Sony have all launched large-screen 4K televisions (55-inch to 85-inch models), with prices starting from around £4,000. There are currently no 4K TV channels or Blu-ray movies to watch, but expect to hear a lot more about 4K over the coming years.

What is smart TV?

Smart TVs connect to the internet via a cable or built-in wi-fi to give you access to apps and other web services. You can stream movies on sites such as Netflix, catch up on TV shows via BBC iPlayer, download games, make Skype calls, interact with friends on Facebook and Twitter, or even surf the web from the comfort of your sofa. Smart TVs are becoming more common and you can pick up a good model from around £350.

What is 3D TV?

3D TV offers a greater sense of depth than 2D, making films and TV shows appear as though they're coming out of the screen at times. To watch 3D TV, you'll need special glasses - either ‘passive’ ones such as those used in 3D cinemas, or ‘active’ glasses that are more expensive but create the 3D effect in front of your eyes. 3D TV hasn’t taken off as expected due to a lack of great content, but it's still a good feature to have on your TV.

Buying the best 32-inch TV

Larger TVs are more popular these days, but 32-inch remains the size of choice for many consumers. It's perfect for a medium-size living room, large kitchen or bedroom. You can get a quality 32-inch TV for under £350 these days.A 32-inch TV with a label saying 'Full HD 1080p' can display HD TV and Blu-ray movies in the best resolution. 'HD-ready' TVs can still show HD content, but just not in the same picture quality and detail.

Buying the best 42-inch TV

For people who want a bigger TV experience, 42-inch is a great and popular size to choose. You can buy 42-inch TVs for as little as £350 these days, but the very best ones can cost well over £1,000. The bigger the TV screen, the more justice it tends to do to the extra detail in HD TV and movies – but make sure you check the Which? reviews to find a 42-inch with the best picture quality.

Unfortunately, getting a flatscreen TV with great sound quality is rare these days, even if you splash out on a larger model. As TVs have got thinner, manufacturers have struggled to fit them with high-quality speakers. If sound is important to you, consider connecting your TV to a sound bar, home cinema system or hi-fi to improve the audio.