How to buy the best TV

How to buy the best TV

by Andrew Laughlin
HD or 4K? Flatscreen or curved? We help you cut through the sales jargon and find your perfect 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 at home, there are hundreds of televisions available to buy in the shops and online. While it's great to have such choice available to you, knowing what you want helps make the decision much simpler.

This guide will help you decide on the type, size and price range of TV you're after. Then, you can browse our independent and expert TV reviews to find the set that ticks all your boxes.

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 100%.

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 in the past tested 32-inch TVs costing under £200 and ones priced at over £2,000. A good quality 40 to 43-inch TV will typically cost between £400 and £700, while jumbo screen TVs of 50 or 55-inches start from around £800.

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 in terms of size and features than you might think.

What size TV should I buy?

This question might cause disagreements in some households, but bear in mind that you can get a great TV in any size. Many people still prefer 32-inch TVs, but big screen sets between 40 and 43-inches are popular, too. Some people go even larger, including 50 and 55-inch sets, although bear in mind that bigger doesn't always mean better.

The most important thing to consider is the size of the room in which you'll be putting the TV. 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 interactive online tool to find out what size of TV you should buy.

Should I buy HD or 4K?

High definition TVs have been around for a while now and they come in two flavours. 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.

A new breed of TV is now available to buy with 4K Ultra HD resolution. These TVs have four times the pixels of Full HD models, and so can display pictures with even more detail. For more on this, head to our What is 4K TV? guide.

There's not much 4K Ultra HD-quality content to watch currently beyond some internet video streaming, but a good 4K TV should enhance your regular viewing, too. If you're upgrading, then you should most definitely consider a 4K TV, particularly as good quality ones are available now from around £500.

However, bear in mind that there's not much point getting a 4K TV under 40-inches in size, as you need a bigger screen to really appreciate the jump in picture quality. Also, prices of HD TVs are starting to fall and big screens of even 49-inches are available at great value prices. This means it could be a good time to bag yourself a HD bargain that will still give you many years of happy viewing ahead.

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 ranges going from cheap TVs to super-premium, big screen sets costing thousands of pounds.

Sony and Panasonic have smaller ranges, but can still produce fantastic TVs to suit all budgets. 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, see our best TV brands guide.

Are curved screen TVs worth the money?

In the last few years, televisions with concave curved screens have started to emerge - firstly on high-end premium TVs but gradually filtering down to more affordable models. Manufacturers claim that curved TVs can enhance your viewing experience by 'wrapping' the picture around you, a bit like watching a film at the IMAX cinema. 

However, our expert and independent testing has indicated that the curved effect is minimal at best, and is only really visible if you sit dead straight on while watching the screen (something most people rarely do). Although a curve screen is a bit of a sales gimmick, curved TVs generally perform well in our lab, so you're not making an error in buying one. Bear in mind, though, that if you want to wall mount your TV, a curved model won't sit as flush as a flatscreen will.

What else should I look out for?

Freeview HD: 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.

PVR feature: Many TVs can now be used as a PVR if you connect a USB storage device, enabling you to record and pause live TV programmes. Some TVs (generally the expensive, premium models) have twin-tuner PVR functionality, meaning you can record one channel while simultaneously watching a programme on another.

Smart TV: Whether it's catching up on TV you've missed via BBC iPlayer or ITV Player, making Skype calls to friends and family, or streaming films on Netflix, internet-connected smart features can really enhance your TV experience. Our What is smart TV? guide gives you the lowdown.

3D: A good proportion of the TVs we test can show films and television in 3D. Although the excitement surrounding 3D has now died down, it's still a decent feature to have on your television and you don't have to spend a fortune to get it. Check out our What is 3D TV? guide for more.

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

The best time to buy a TV is when you're ready to upgrade an old set, but there are some seasonal trends to bear in mind that could help you bag a bargain. We know from tracking prices that June is a great time to buy a new TV as prices tend to be discounted across a wide range of technology products.

You'll also see heavy discounting on TVs around the key sales periods, such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday in late November and the Boxing Day sales in December. Be aware, though, 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.