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Why you love the wrong TV brands

Our tech-reliability survey shows that more people stick with Panasonic and Sony over LG and Samsung when they buy a new TV, but our tests show they shouldn't

Whether there’s any logic to it or not, you probably favour certain manufacturers. It might be because of the TV your parents had when you were growing up, or it’s what you first watched your favourite film on, but being beholden to a brand for sentimental reasons could mean you buy an inferior TV.

Our annual tech-reliability survey goes out to more than 10,000 Which? members. As well as looking at the fault rate of products, it also asks what people think of their chosen brand.

With the data we collect, we can see how many people stuck with a specific TV brand and how many chose a different one when they last upgraded. What we discovered was that the brands people love don’t necessarily deserve it.

Top TV brands for 2019 – see whether LG, Panasonic, Samsung or Sony makes the most reliable TVs.

Misplaced loyalty?

Back when TVs were as deep as they were wide, Panasonic and Sony made the best ones around. Their dominance lasted well into the plasma-screen era, but as LCD displays became the norm their control began to slip. LG and Samsung took over, and now these household names enjoy the lion’s share of the market.

Panasonic and Sony are still forces to be reckoned with, though, and the enduring memory of their heyday is still fresh in the minds of the people we surveyed: when it comes to brand loyalty, people still love them.

When choosing a new TV, 52% of Sony owners stuck with Sony, and 59% of Panasonic owners chose another Panasonic when they upgraded.

Compare that with Samsung, where 32% of people remained loyal, and LG, where a mere 18% chose an LG TV again. Presumably, then, Panasonic and Sony TVs are the best, otherwise why would people choose them?

When scores tell a different story

Based on average scores alone, it seems the only reason people stay with Panasonic and Sony is because they’re the brands they grew up with, are most familiar with and still associate with the high quality of a bygone era.

Take a look at the average scores for 4K TVs released and reviewed in 2019.

All four brands make excellent TVs and have several Best Buys to their names, but the gulf between average scores shows that LG and Samsung have the edge in overall quality. Simply put, if you walk into a shop and pick a random TV from each brand, you’ve got a far higher chance of getting a good one with LG and Samsung.

Why are people abandoning superior brands?

We test each TV for a period of more than a month, but there are things we can’t account for. After-sales care, price and software support are all likely to play a part in how happy someone is with a brand in the long term.

Still, it’s surprising to see LG, a brand with such an impressive average test score, have such a low loyalty score. Only 18% of people stuck with it. It’s important to note that our loyalty score isn’t only based on people buying TVs in the past year. Some of the people who switched brands or remained loyal may have done so several years ago, and perhaps at that time the quality of LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony TVs was much closer.

Based on average test score, Samsung should have a stunning loyalty score. But as it stands, only 32% of people chose another Samsung TV when they upgraded.

In 2015 the average score for LG’s 4K TVs was 64%, as was Sony’s. Samsung had an extraordinary year in 2014, with an average test score of 72%, while Panasonic managed an unimpressive 58%.

Move to 2017 and LG’s average quality jumped to 69%, Sony’s took a dip to 61%, Samsung continued to ride high on 70%, and Panasonic rallied slightly with 62%.

A legacy of quality

All roads lead to this sense of favouritism earned by a legacy of quality from Panasonic and Sony, which they have struggled to maintain.

Their TVs just aren’t as good as the ones their arch-rivals are producing, and there’s only so long these two brands will be able to ride the wave earned by a fading notion of quality. What was once a tidal wave has diminished over the past two decades, and the shore is fast approaching for Panasonic and Sony.

See all our tech brand reliability guides

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