Looking to buy a cheap TV?
With hundreds of tempting models on the market these days and a wide variety of specifications and features to choose from, it’s easy to get bewildered while picking out a new TV. Whether you’re looking for an affordable LCD screen for the bedroom, a large television for the living room, or a gigantic curved screen for your home cinema system, this guide aims to help you narrow down your search a bit.
As with any big purchase, the first thing to consider is your budget. The general rule of thumb with TV buying is that the bigger the screen, the bigger the price tag. Smaller televisions can be had for less than £100, while state-of-the-art screens run well into the thousands. In general however, big flat screen TVs are much more affordable than they used to be. You can easily pick up a decent 32-inch Panasonic for less than £300, though it may lack the features a more expensive alternative provides.
Size should also be one of your top priorities. When choosing a new television most shoppers’ fall into the trap of thinking bigger is better, and end up purchasing the largest screen within their budget. For the best possible viewing experience however, it’s important to take into account where the TV will go, and how far away you’ll be whilst watching it. If it’s too small you’ll have to squint to make out the detail, if it’s too big you won’t be able to see the entire picture or you might notice the pixels too much for your liking (depending on the resolution of the screen and/or source).
Recommended screen sizes
- Less than 1.5m: up to 32 inches.
- 1.5 to 2m: 32 to 39 inches (suitable for most average-sized living rooms)
- 2 to 2.5m: 40 to 45 inches
- 2.5 to 3m: 46 to 55 inches
- Over 3m: Over 56 inches
LCD, LED and OLED
LCD, LED, and OLED are the most common types of screen in the television market. But what’s the difference?
Liquid Crystal Display televisions were once at the forefront of TV technology, but they’re less sought after now that LED televisions have gained popularity. Despite this they still provide a decent picture, and often for a very affordable price. In fact, LCD and LED screens are both technically LCD, the only difference is the lighting: LED screens use, as their name indicates, LEDs whereas LCD screens use neon. The result is that LCD screens will not have as high a contrast, blacks will not be quite black but rather dark grey, and electric consumption will be higher. LEDs are also more compact, so LCD screens will not be quite as slim.
LED stands for light-emitting diode – a type of lighting that provides a richer image than ordinary LCD screens due to the fact that the contrast is much much higher, resulting in much deeper blacks. Since they’re a desirable type of TV and economical to produce (as opposed to OLED or plasma, for example), most brands are now mainly focusing on producing them. As well as providing an immaculate picture, LED televisions often come in slimmer, sleeker designs, and also offer excellent energy efficiency. Essentially, LED & LCD are exactly the same screens, only the back-lighting changes but this has significant consequences, as seen above
Otherwise known as organic light-emitting diode, OLED is a more advanced variant boasting an even higher quality image than their LED counterparts, with the deepest blacks and lightest whites, and a consistent picture wherever you’re viewing it from. The difference might not be especially noticeable to the casual viewer, but entertainment connoisseurs will certainly appreciate it. As you might expect, these televisions don’t come cheap.
If you’re not down with the techy stuff, numbers like 720p and 1080p probably won’t make a lot of sense. All these refer to though are the number of pixels on the screen. The more pixels on the screen, the sharper the image will be. For the majority of TV sizes, a 1080p resolution will be plenty sharp enough. Beware that to observe the same "quality" in detail, you will have to stand further away from a 50" 1080p (Full HD) screen than from a 40" 1080p screen. Indeed, the 50" 1080p screen will have exactly the same number of pixels as the 40" screen, only each one will be bigger and will therefore be more visible. Therefore, smaller screens may seem higher quality than larger screens, unless you go for an ultra high definition screen such as 4K or 5K (currently available on some Apple computers, and probably soon to hit the TV market).
Whilst they’re pretty pricey, 4K Ultra High Definition televisions are becoming the TV of choice for those who want the best of the best. The ‘4K’ simply refers to their resolution, which boasts four times as many pixels as a standard 1080p display, ie twice the amount of vertical lines and twice the amount of horizontal lines. As such they offer a far superior picture to other televisions, making them perfect for watching effect-filled Hollywood blockbusters and epic sporting events. Unlike films however, most shows on television aren’t shot on a 4K format, making the technology a little redundant for TV junkies - though that’s likely to change in the future. In other words, if your source is not 4K you will not reap the benefits of your 4K display.
Smart TVs offer lots of benefits. With an internet connection they allow you to access on-demand television services such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD, and Netflix. You can also surf the internet, make Skype calls, and sync them with other devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Our blog has a section about films & TV, be sure to check it out for some neat tips and reviews.
While 3D viewing isn’t for everyone, some televisions allow you to enjoy the immersive cinematic experience at home. It’s fair to say this technology hasn’t taken off in a major way, and many still regard it as more of an added perk rather than a must-have specification.
Curved screen televisions such as the monster models offered by Samsung, carry a much heftier price tag than standard flat screen TVs. The inward curve more accurately matches the natural way the human eye absorbs imagery, which makes them particularly alluring for sports and film fans. For standard day-to-day viewing though, the difference isn’t massively noticeable, so you’ll have to weigh up whether it’s worth those extra pounds. These curved screens have also hit the cumputer monitor market at a rather reasonable price and offer an enhanced gaming experience.