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We’re watching more of it, but is now the best time to buy a new TV?

You're spending 18 hours a day watching TV and there's no shame in that, but some sets aren't standing up to the scrutiny

We’re watching more of it, but is now the best time to buy a new TV?

We’re only allowed out once a day to exercise, pick up essential food or buy medicine, which means the TV is being called on like never before to fill the time as we’re cooped up at home.

As the hours spent watching programmes on BBC iPlayer or Netflix rack up, the minor quirks and foibles of an old TV start to become problems that we can’t believe we ever ignored.

How do we know? The number of people looking at our TV reviews has skyrocketed in the past month.

You might be keen for a new model, but is now the right time to do it? New sets are replacing 2019 models, which means it’s a confusing time to buy a new one. That’s why Which? is here to explain what to buy and when to buy it.

The best TVs under £500 and £1,000: a good place to start if you know your budget.

Buy now, but be quick

The good news is now is a great time to buy. The influx of new models means their predecessors are cheap.

Feast your eyes on these bargains:

    • 43-inch Samsung QE43Q60R – launched at £1,000, now it’s £500 in Currys PC World.
    • 55-inch Sony KD55AG8BU – this used to set you back £2,229, now it’s £1,399 at John Lewis & Partners.
    • 55-inch LG 55UM7660PLA – launched at £1,100, now it’s less than half that at £449 from Richer Sounds.
The LG 55UM7660PLA is less than half the price it was 11 months ago.

There are two reasons you need to make a decisions fast. One, there’s only so much longer that these TVs will still be available to buy. The factories are churning out 2020 models now and once these 2019 sets are gone, they’re gone.

Two, there’s no way of knowing how long stores will be able to deliver. As long as workers and delivery drivers can do their jobs safely, then it’s likely that retailers will continue to deliver. But if that stops being the case, and government advice changes, you should hold off from buying.

How to spot a bargain

This seems simple enough – just look for the cheap sets. But now, 2020 sets are muddying the water. So how do you tell a discounted mid-range or high-end 2019 model from a low-end 2020 one?

  • Samsung’s LCD TVs from 2019 will have an R in the model name, such as the UE49RU8000 or QE55Q80R. 2020 models have a T instead.
  • LG’s 2019 sets have an M, such as the LG 49SM8600PLA, while 2020 models have an N. OLEDs work a bit differently – 2019 models have a 9 in the name, such as the OLED55C9PLA, but 2020 sets have an X to represent 10.
  • Sony’s 2019 range has a G in the model name, such as the KD55XG9505BU, while its 2020 models all have an H instead.
  • Panasonic’s LCD TVs from 2019 have a G in the name, such as the TX-55GX700B. Its OLEDs have a Z instead. Its 2020 models use an H in place of the G.

Features to look out for (or not)

Don’t buy a Full HD TV, there’s really no point any more since they aren’t much cheaper than 4K sets, plus they typically do a worse job of displaying HD content than their 4K brethren.

Don’t be blown away by big numbers. TV manufacturers love to say their TVs have crazy refresh rates (sometimes higher than the screen itself can manage) or epic motion flow ratings in the thousands. We’re not going to take the time to explain what these mean because it doesn’t really matter. Most of the time we don’t think these features make any difference anyway, so don’t let them sway you.

More HDR formats is preferable, but not essential. HDR10 and HLG are the standard formats, and we’ve tested TVs that used them effectively. We’ve also tested TVs with fancier formats, such as Dolby Vision and HDR10+, where the HDR picture is worse. Don’t avoid these advanced formats, but don’t ignore a TV that doesn’t have them.

Checking our reviews will help, too. We tested or wrote a first look review on every TV released by the big four manufacturers in 2019 and you can click through to see all our TV reviews.

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