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Which? guide to buying a TV


There are hundreds of TVs available - from budget sets for a kitchen or bedroom, to mid-priced screens with impressive features for a living room, right up to huge TVs with equally big price tags for a home cinema.

This guide will help you find the best TV to suit your budget.

Getting started

First things first, 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, right up to tens of thousands of pounds for top-of-the-range models. As a rule of thumb, spending more money gets you a bigger screen and more features. However, there are lots of fantastic models available at affordable prices.

What size TV should you buy? There's no point buying a large TV if your living room isn't big enough to accommodate it – that will be uncomfortable and you won't get the best out of the picture quality. With a 32-inch high-definition TV, you should sit at least seven feet away to view it comfortably, while for a 42-inch model you'll need to sit at least nine feet away.

Below we outline the key features to look out for on a TV and show you how to find the TV that is right for you.

Read the full Which? reviews to find out which TVs are Best Buys

What's best – LED, LCD, plasma?

You'll see these three terms everywhere when shopping for a new TV – they're the main types of screen, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

LCD TVs: Liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are much cheaper than similar LED models, but also thicker and less energy efficient, and the picture quality is not as good. Most manufacturers no longer offer new LCD TVs in sizes above 32 inches, instead prioritising LED, plasma or newer technologies, such as 4K (see more below).

LED TVs: LED TVs are essentially LCD TVs but with different backlight technology. They're slimmer and more energy efficient than LCD or plasma TVs, but more expensive, too. Most manufacturers now favour LED for their larger screen and flagship models, fitting them with all the latest bells and whistles.

Plasma TVs: Plasma TVs use different technology to LED and LCD. They can produce deeper, more natural looking black areas on screen that the others, but also use more power. You can still pick up mid-price and flagship plasma TVs, but most big brands are now starting to scale back plasma production to focus on other technologies, such as LED and 4K.

What's this 4K business about?

4K - also known as Ultra HD (UHD) - is a TV screen resolution four times greater than high-definition TV. That means TV pictures can look much sharper and more detailed. Samsung and Sony have launched large-screen 4K TVs, with prices starting from £3,999. There is currently limited 4K content to watch, but the TV industry has high hopes that 4K will be the next big thing.

What is smart TV?

Smart TVs connect to the internet via an ethernet cable or built-in wi-fi to give you access to a range of web-based services on your TV. You can stream movies from Netflix, catch up on TV shows via BBC iPlayer, 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 £360.

What is 3D TV?

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



Buying the best 32-inch TV

Larger TVs are getting more popular these days, but 32-inch remains the size of choice for many consumers as 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, although the more you spend, the more premium features you'll get, such as 3D and smart TV.

To get the best picture quality, go for a 32-inch TV with a label saying 'Full HD 1080p'. These TVs can display HD TV and Blu-ray movies in the best resolution. 'HD-ready' TVs can still show HD content, but just not with the same picture quality and detail.

Buying the best 42-inch TV

If you fancy a larger TV, 42-inch is a great size to go for. A bigger screen tends to show off the extra detail in HD TV and movies better. You can buy a 42-inch TV for as little as £350 these days, but the very best models can cost well over £1,000.

Unfortunately, flatscreen TVs don't tend to have great sound quality, even if you splash out on a more expensive model. As TVs have got thinner, there is just not enough space for high-quality speakers. If you want great sound, consider buying a sound bar or home cinema system to improve your TV's audio.