Before you buy a new TV

Before you buy a new TV

by Andrew Laughlin
With smart TV, 3D and 4K all available depending on your budget, our guide helps you cut through the sales jargon and find the best TV at the best price.

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Buying a new TV

From cheap TVs for a bedroom or study, to large-screen sets that give you a cinema-like experience in your living room, there are hundreds of TVs available to buy.

While such a level of choice is great, knowing what you want helps make the decision simpler. Once you’ve decided on the type, size and price you’re after, check our TV reviews before heading out to the shops.

We rigorously test the latest TVs to help you to choose the best model for you. We buy every TV that we test and don't take advertising, so you can trust our reviews.

How much will I need to spend?

TV prices can start at under £100, but go into the tens of thousands for huge screen models. Prices can even vary within the same screen size; for example, we've tested 32-inch TVs costing under £200 and ones priced at over £2,000.

A good quality 40-inch or 42-inch TV will typically cost between £400-700, but you'll generally have to pay a bit more if you want a bigger screen of 50 or 55-inches.

It's best to decide on your budget before you hit the shops or browse the online retailers, and always shop around to get the best possible price. With TVs now arguably offering better value than ever, you may actually get more for your money that you might think.

What size TV should I buy?

This question might cause disagreements in some households, but you can get a great TV in any size - and bigger doesn’t always mean better. The most important thing to think about is the size of the room you'll be putting the TV in.

If space is tight, a huge TV simply might not fit where you want to place it. Take some measurements, and then don’t be afraid to go to the shop armed with a tape measure.

Use our unique interactive online tool to find out what size of TV you should buy.

Many people favour 32 or 42-inch TVs, but we’ve got TV reviews of screen sizes ranging from 19 to 55 inches, so there’s something to suit everyone's needs.

What type of TV should I buy?

HD-ready TVs are cheaper than ones marked Full HD, or HD Ready 1080p. Both can handle broadcast HD television, but it's best to go for a Full HD set if you can as that means you'll also get the best out of Blu-ray films.

All TVs come with a Freeview tuner built-in, but a Freeview HD tuner is preferable. You might have to spend a little more, but it's worth it as you can watch subscription-free HD channels, such as BBC One HD and ITV HD, without needing additional equipment.

More TVs can now be used as a PVR if you connect a USB storage device, enabling you to record and pause live TV. Although, certainly some do this better than others.

How do I choose the best TV brand?

A huge variety of TV brands are all vying for your attention and money - but which should you choose?

Samsung is the market leader in TVs, followed closely by South Korean rival LG, and both companies have huge TVs ranges going from cheap TVs to super-premium, big screens costing thousands of pounds.

Sony and Panasonic have smaller ranges, but can still produce fantastic TVs to suit all budgets, and then there are the fringe brands, such as Toshiba, Sharp and Philips.

Aside the main TV brands, a big chunk of TV sales are taken up by cheap TVs from the supermarkets and own brands, such as Logik (Currys) and Technika (Tesco). These TVs generally have low price tags, but also usually lack quality when we test them.

For more on this, head to our best TV brands guide

What is smart TV?

An internet-connected smart TV allows you to get great online services, such as catch-up TV, social networking and film streaming, on your television. Smart TVs are becoming more common within manufacturers’ TV ranges, and you won't necessarily have to spend a fortune to buy one, although you can still get non-smart models if you’re not too keen.

For more details on smart TV, please see What is smart TV?

What is 3D TV?

3D-ready TVs are now fairly common; with a good proportion of the TVs we test each year able to show films and television in 3D. The excitement that surrounded 3D TVs a few years ago has now rather died down, but 3D is still a decent feature to have on your television and you don’t have to spend a fortune anymore to get it.

To get the full lowdown on 3D, check out our What is 3D TV? guide

What is 4K TV?

Most people now have high-definition televisions in their homes, but for anyone wishing to go that one step further, TVs with 4K - or ultra-high-definition (Ultra HD) - picture quality are now available to buy. With four times the detail of HD, these TVs can enhance your TV viewing to new levels. Work is being done to make more content available to watch in 4K Ultra HD, but currently you'll struggle to find much in the higher picture quality.

For more on 4K TV, head to our What is 4K TV? guide

When's the best time to buy a new TV?

The best time to buy a TV is when you need one, but there are some trends worth bearing in mind. We know from tracking prices that June is a great time to buy a new TV as prices tend to be discounted. 

You'll also see heavy discounting on TVs around the key sales periods, such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday in late November and the New Year sales in January.

Be aware that during the sales there are often price cuts on poor quality TVs, so make sure you check our reviews first before buying to ensure you don't up with a bad product.

We also know from our research that old TVs can have hundreds of pounds knocked off their price tags in April to May each year, as the new sets hit the shelves. If you're not fussed about the latest features, you can pick up a fantastic TV at an even better price.