1. Expert reviews

Top 17 Best TVs of 2021

Daniel Hessel

Updated July 1, 2021

Which TV is the right one for you? The TV is, for most families, a big part of regular scheduled entertainment and as such, it is important to choose the right one that fits your needs. We have tested a bunch of popular flatscreen TVs, and are delighted name the LG OLED B9 as our best choice due to its amazing picture quality and wonderful OLED screen.

Top 16 Best TVs of 2021

How we did the test

We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. This means that each TV has been tested in the domestic environment as it’s intended to be used. We evaluated picture and sound quality by playing video clips in different resolutions and formats, together with both uncompressed and compressed sound. Each TV has been tested every day over a period of several weeks, so that we could both get a feeling of the initial impression and how that impression is affected over time. We analysed things like:

  • Image quality: How good is the image processing? How does the TV cope with fast movements? How does it cope with panning, for example across landscapes? How good is the contrast? How well does the TV handle colours? Are the colours natural and balanced? How sharp is the image?

  • Sound quality: How much space is there in the sound? Is the sound balanced? How powerful is the bass from the TV speakers? How well can you hear dialogue? How does it perform at different volumes? Does distortion occur at high volume? Do details disappear at low volume?

  • User-friendliness and functionality: How easy is it to assemble the TV and stand? Where are the connections located? How many inputs and outputs are there and what types? What functions do the remote control offer? Is it easy to understand, intuitive, and efficient? Does it have backlit buttons? Where are the buttons on the TV? What buttons are there? How good is the TV's user interface? Is it easy to navigate? What settings are available? Does it support apps? If so, how many and which ones?

Other aspects we have considered include build quality, functionality, design, and guarantee. All parameters have been examined in relation to the price, thus producing a final score that reflects the value for money.

1. LG OLED B9 – BEST CHOICE TV 2021

Can easily be compared to the best

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.2) Energy consumption: 133 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 25.2 kg (65”) With stand: 26.2 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 4 x HDMI 2.1 (eARC on HDMI 2), 3 x USB, optical audio output, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: WebOS with apps, voice control (LG & Google Assistant) Accessories included: Stand

LG OLED55B9

The LG OLED B9 (we tested the 55 inch OLE565B9PLA) is in many ways very similar to its big brother, the C9. Even it doesn’t quite reach the same levels in purely technical terms, its lower price tag means it’s often the better choice.

Cheaper impression on the outside, the future on the inside

Externally, there’s one thing that distinguishes the B9 and the more expensive C9, and that’s the plastic stand. When you set the TV up, it gives a slightly cheaper impression, but once in place you don’t really notice that and the screen feels stable. And if you wall mount it there’s no problem.

The remote control and software are practically identical, and if you already have an LG TV, you’ll recognise this. The remote control has both motion control and a microphone for voice assistants, but it feels rather large and cluttered compared to Samsung’s equivalent, for example.

WebOS is generally a very quick system with a simple overview of the most important functions and access to the most common apps. It’s perhaps not the quickest in the segment to start up – together with the TV – but most things are still quick enough.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is support for HDMI 2.1 and all the technologies that come with it. This makes the LG B9 well-positioned for both the Playstation 5 as well as Xbox Series X, as they will be able to take full advantage of the new functions.

Fantastic picture with lower brightness

The OLED panel itself is almost identical to the C9, as well as many of the competitors’ variants. Instead, the difference is the chip that handles image processing – and for the B9 this is the A7 chip. This is one level lower than the A9 chip that the C9 uses, but it’s still pretty good. The two models are often identical in terms of performance, but the C9 is constantly slightly sharper.

The primary difference between the two models in terms of image is the brightness, where the B9 doesn’t quite reach the same levels. This is most obvious with HDR content, which requires a good bit of brightness to come into its own. But it’s also visible in minor details in film content in darker environments.

The A7 chip also gives really good results for upscaling of low resolution material, but it lacks something of the same ‘punch’ in the colours that LG's more expensive model produces.

If you don’t look closely at the two models side by side however, the LG B9 is a fantastic model, both now and tomorrow. The price gap between the C9 and B9 is pretty big, and even if the B9 doesn't reach the same levels of performance, it still feels like a better choice if you want a really good OLED screen.

HDMI 2.1really good images
Slightly disorganised remote controlcould have been brighter for HDR content

Price Comparison

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Crampton & Moore Logotype

LG OLED55B9PLA 55" OLED 4K TV

£1,099.00

2. LG CX6 – BEST PREMIUM CHOICE TV

Fantastic picture and ready for the future

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 48/55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.0) Energy consumption: 109 W (55”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 18.9 kg (55”) With stand: 22.9 kg (55”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna, optical audio, Composite (via adapter) VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: WebOS with apps, voice control (Google Assistant, Alexa) Accessories included: Stand, remote control Miscellaneous: Freesync, G-sync

LG OLED48CX

In 2020, LG has chosen to abandon its previous name strategies, while the technology is also moving down in terms of price class. So the LG OLED CX (we tested the 55 inch OLED55CX6LA) can be seen as the successor to last year’s B9 series, but with a lot of things from that year’s top end C9. Despite the confusing names, it qualifies without any doubt for the Best Premium Choice award in our test.

This is particularly clear in the design, where everything from the TV shape to the stand is almost identical to last year's models. The remote control too is the same style as last year, with an unnecessarily large number of buttons, a built-in microphone and motion control.

Even more future

LG were almost alone last year in offering HDMI 2.1 in their models. And this year's models continue in the same line, with all HDMI connectors on that standard. This makes the CX6 ideal for the autumn launch of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. New this year is built-in support for AMD Freesync and Nvidia G-Sync for better PC gaming.

And by and large it’s gaming that’s been emphasised here. The automatic game mode gives fantastic detail in dark areas and well-balanced brightness in light environments.

But of course film watching also benefits from the technology too, with the same huge sense of control in the presentation of colours and blacks as in last year's C9 series. It only lacks support for HDR10+, which is the single technical negative for an otherwise phenomenal TV.

Lacks bass

In terms of software, it’s similar to before in many ways, but with a greater focus on AI services. Artificial intelligence is used to find content you might like amongst the connected services, but also for image and sound improvement.

However, the sound doesn't seem to benefit greatly from the AI mode. From the outset, we get detailed sound, but without an awful lot of bass. With AI mode on, the sound is even more detailed and has a bit more space, but with pathetically little bass.

The LG OLEDCX6 is future-proofed for the game consoles of the future, has tons of functions and the image quality is one of the best in the industry. But if you’re spending money on the TV you need to have a budget for a separate speaker system too, because the built-in one is absolutely not up to the job.

HDMI 2.1 on all inputsfabulous image in all modesclever viewing tips for streaming services
Very weak bassno HDR10+ supportcluttered remote control

3. Sony Bravia XR A80J

Nicely updated quality OLED TV from Sony

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 ins Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speaker: 3x10W Energy consumption: 106 W (55”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2 Weight: 17.8 kg (55”) With stand: 20 kg (55”) Connections: WiFi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth (5.0), 4 x HDMI (2x2.1, 2x2.0), Composite/S-video-minicontact, 3 USB, Common Interface Plus, aerial VESA-wall bracket: Yes, 300x300 Smart functions: Google TV with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Remote control

Sony OLED XR-65A80J

In many ways, the Sony A80J is a real boost for Sony – or is it the A8J, or AJ8, or the AJ80…? All three names are used on the packaging for the 55 inch version. Sony’s previous OLED screens have hardly been poor, but now everything feels that bit more refined and well thought out. At the same time, the difference from this TV’s big brother, the A90J, is surprisingly small, and it’s really only the maximum brightness that distinguishes them.

Smart stand

Externally, this TV may not be the most slimline OLED in history, but Sony have made the back reasonably attractive so you can also place the screen in the middle of a room. The table stand comes with a three page (!) manual. However, this is explained by the fact that the four parts can be assembled in different ways, either to lie as close as possible to the TV shelf, or to raise the screen a little and make room for a soundbar underneath, which is practical!

The remote control, on the other hand, has retained its traditional and rather cluttered design. One of our testers appreciates it because it has dedicated hotkeys for “what you need”, which in their world are Netflix and Disney Plus. Other testers find the remote rather messy.

The remote itself also controls a major update on the inside of the screen, namely Google TV. In some respects the upgrade from Android TV is quite insignificant but, overall, it is much easier and clearer to navigate. Google TV also seems to offer greater integration possibilities, because it doesn’t feel like it interferes as much graphically with Sony's settings menus as it did before.

High quality, natural images

If you’re looking for an exaggeratedly colourful image, you’ll be disappointed with the A80J. Instead, you get almost meticulously correct colours. The screen hardly needs us to change any settings to provide absolutely incredible colour reproduction and richness of detail. Whether this is due to what’s essentially a good image processing chip or Sony’s built-in “cognitive intelligence”, we can’t say, but either way it’s a very good image.

You also get decent sound straight from the TV, which is something that’s definitely not common. Acoustic Surface Audio is what Sony call it – in practice this means that the speakers vibrate against the screen. The result is a much fuller and less tinny sound than many other TVs currently deliver.

HDMI 2.1 is also finally included. Although only on half of the HDMI ports… and with variable update speed to come in a later update. Sony want to wait with the latter until the standard is 100% set, which is understandable. At the same time, LG have already had both that and HDMI 2.1 on all ports.

Then again, if you’re not playing on the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, you'll hardly notice the hassle with HDMI connectors. Overall, the Sony A80J offers a really good picture and surprisingly competent sound along with many other nice details.

Really good imageamazingly good soundclever table stand
Fiddly HDMI layoutmissing some HDMI functions

4. LG GX

Top class, style and design but with some faults

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65/77 ins Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 60W (4.2) Energy consumption: 173 W (77”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 39.7 kg (77”) With stand: 40.2 kg (77”) Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth (5.0), 4 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna, optical sound, VESA wall bracket: No, built-in Smart functions: WebOS with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Remote control Miscellaneous: Freesync, G-sync

LG OLED77GX

LG's GX series for 2020, tested here in the 77-inch model LG OLED77GX, is a real luxury product in most respects, with a price tag to match. That said, this TV does have fierce competition from LG's own CX model as wel as some annoying issues of its own.

Built-in wall bracket

Overall this is a really nice TV. Unlike many other OLED screens, the LG GX has the same thickness all over, as opposed to being razor-thin at the top and significantly thicker at the bottom. This is because the TV is intended to be mounted completely flat against the wall. In fact, if you want a table stand you have to buy that separately, while the wall mount is already built into the back of the screen. (During our test we actually used a table stand.)

All of this would have been fantastic, if not for the fact that the connectors are on the back. LG's own "wallpaper TV" and Samsung's more expensive models have already shown how much better it is to put all connectors in a separate box, with only a thin cable for signal and power up to the TV itself. But here, unfortunately, they haven't done that. Which feels incredibly backward-looking and wrong for a TV in this price range.

That said, there’s nothing actually wrong with the connections and associated technology. It has HDMI 2.1 throughout to support all functions in, for example, the PlayStation 5 and new Xbox, but at the same time it also supports Freesync and G-Sync from AMD and Nvidia respectively. It will also appeal to the PC gaming audience.

Phenomenal picture

One other downside is the remote control. In addition to being completely covered in buttons, LG also build a motion sensor into the remote as standard. The idea is a good one: a mouse pointer makes it easier to enter text in some cases. Unfortunately it jumps between mouse pointer and input with the D-pad seemingly at random. So even if you only happen to touch the table where you’ve put remote, that's sufficient to mean the mouse pointer appears in the middle of your film for a few seconds. It needs to be possible to turn this feature off.

When it comes to the picture, however, after seeing how the CX performed, we expected perfection – and we got it. There’s enough brightness to do real justice to the details in HDR material and the level of detail is incredibly good. Sometimes, if anything, there’s a bit too much brightness, especially in games, but for the most part all material is presented in a quality few competitors can match.

It should be said at this point that the cheaper CX model also does phenomenally well in this respect and the differences between the two are relatively small. Buying the GX is really more about paying that little bit extra for a more luxurious design.

Of course, you use a TV in this class with an external soundbar or home cinema system. But LG have still put a bit of fair bit of oomph into the built-in speakers. We don't get a surround experience, but a more than capable, rich sound suitable for most occasions.

Pictorially the LG GX is absolutely top class. It’s also really attractive and builds a lot on its design and the smart solution for wall mounting. However, we’d have liked to see an external box for the connections.

HDMI 2.1 on all inputsstylish and well-designedg-sync and Freesync supportgreat picture quality
Cluttered and overly sensitive remote controlno separate connection box

5. LG OLED C9

Future-proof OLED

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65/77 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.2) Energy consumption: 137 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 25.2 kg (65”) With stand: 33.8 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 4 x HDMI (eARC on HDMI 2), 3 x USB, optical audio output, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Tizen with apps, Bixby voice Accessories included: Stand

LG OLED55C9

The LG OLED C9 is our best premium choice for its amazing image quality and rich sound (we tested the 65 inch OLED65C9PLA). The TV gives the impression of being a wise teacher. It knows everything, usually better than anyone else, without in any way having to boast about it. This also means it can feel a bit old-fashioned.

Connections for the future

In many ways, the C9 is this year’s top model from LG, as the difference in both price and specifications between it and its big brother, the E9, are as slim as the TV itself. Unfortunately LG reserve the separate connection box for its super luxury wallpaper series, and here we have to put up with more fiddly connections on the back.

But the connections themselves are among the better type. Real HDMI 2.1 rather than a version of it like on Samsung’s Q90 top model. This gives 4K resolution at 120 Hz and similar treats – which will be really useful next year when Microsoft and Sony release new versions of their Xbox and PlayStation which support the technology.

LG were ahead of the pack with a simplified remote control, but they’ve fallen behind again now. The remote control is comfortable and has plenty of functions, but is also very disorganised. The same applies to the interface. There’s really good voice control with both Google Assistant and LG's own version in the background, support for Airplay, automatic calibration if you have the right equipment and pretty much everything else you could want. But it’s never as fast or as straightforward as the Samsung equivalent, which is leading the race at the time of writing.

Impressive picture and sound

Sitting on its heavy stand, the sound gets an unexpected boost. The sound bounces off the stand, and combined with the speaker system this gives a surprisingly spacious and rich sound.

There’s also a light sensor on the stand which automatically adapts the picture to the surroundings.

And when it comes to the picture, it’s difficult to find many problems. All the positive things we’ve previously said about OLED apply here too, with improved support for HDR technologies and with better brightness as well. Because particularly when it comes to HDR, brightness has been something of an Achilles heel for OLED screens. But this brightness is very close to that of QLED screens.

LG's new image processing chip improves performance across the board regardless of source. At the same time neither colour nor anything else is exaggerated, and the C9 handles images with enormous certainty and precision.

The LG OLED C9 is a really good buy in the premium segment, both because of its phenomenal image quality and for its future-proof connections.

Amazingly good sound on the standtop quality imageHDMI 2.1loads of smart functions
Rather disorganised remote control

6. Panasonic GZ2000

Anonymous TV with great picture

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 140W (3.2 Dolby Atmos) Energy consumption: 162 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: 2 x DVB-T/T2/DVB-S2/DVB-C Weight: 33.5 kg (65”) With stand: 30 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: My Home Screen 4.0 with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Stand

Panasonic TX-65GZ2000

The Panasonic GZ2000 (we tested the 65” TV, also available in 55”) seems to be trying to beat the record for anonymity and blandness. At least, it does until we watch a film on it.

Anonymous and old-fashioned

We’ll start with the negative aspects – or at least the boring ones. Because the GZ2000 is incredibly anonymous in terms of design. Of course, a TV doesn’t have to feel like a design icon, but given that it's in the upper reaches of the premium class it would have been nice to have something that made it stand out.

The same thing applies to the remote control. Other than a change in colour from black to polished metal, the remote is pretty much identical to the one came with the company's plasma screens rather more than 10 years ago (yeah, plasma.... Do you remember that?) This means lots of buttons, a cluttered layout and a very long way from the simplified and user-friendly remotes that LG – and above all Samsung – have for many of their appliances.

Once it’s on, the same thing applies to the interface, which is Panasonic’s own ‘My Home Screen 4.0’, where the name indicates exactly how sexy the system is as a whole. You get the most common apps for streaming services, but absolutely nothing beyond that. The app store is incredibly dull.

Impressive sound and excellent picture

The above aspects are a real shame. Partly because of the substantial price tag, but perhaps above all because of how the GZ2000 performs when it comes to sound and image.

The OLED panel has been specifically designed for the GZ2000 and was originally intended for professional use. In purely practical terms, this means, for instance, that you get a considerably higher brightness than with many other OLED screens (900 nits). This can normally be a problem for OLED screens, but here you get brightness close to the best LED and QLED screens.

At the same time, Panasonic easily beats every other OLED screen when it comes to details in dark areas. Regardless of whether we watch a 4K resolution Blu-ray or the significantly lower quality from streaming services, the GZ2000 has no problem showing the details that other manufacturers struggle with.

Streaming services in particular have their own ‘Netflix Calibrated Mode’ that actually perks up even tired programmes from the network services. Colours too are enormously natural in all modes and require almost no adjustment at all after we've unpacked the TV.

We should also mention the sound. The actual TV is rather chunky for an OLED screen. This is because Panasonic has squeezed in a 3.2 system with Dolby Atmos support, right in the screen. This gives great sound with an amazingly good surround sound feel from a single TV and which actually completely eliminates the need for an extra soundbar (then again if you're in this price class you probably already have a really good system to connect).

Depending on the mode, the dialogue feels a little bit quiet compared to everything else, but not so much that it disrupts the rest of the experience.

The Panasonic GZ2000 quite simply shows where the bar should be set for the very best TV appliances just now. The price tag is a bit beyond what we’d expect to pay even for a premium class TV, but that’s also reflected in the image quality. Unfortunately, it isn’t visible other than in the image and sound.

Class leading blacksphenomenal imagesreally good sound
Old-fashioned remote controldull and outdated interfaceno HDMI 2.1

7. Samsung Q90R

QLED shows what it's good for

Price class: Premium Type: QLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65/75 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 60W (4.2) Energy consumption: 255 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 27.8 kg (65”) With stand: 34.7 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 4 x HDMI, 3 x USB, optical sound output, common interface Plus, antenna (contacts in separate connection box) VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Tizen with apps, Bixby voice Accessories included: Stand

Samsung QE65Q90R

The Samsung Q90R is a model in all conceivable ways. Above all, the image quality has been increased even further and the weaknesses that QLED previously displayed compared to OLED TVs are now almost vanishingly small.

Stylish with smart connections

Before we look at image quality, we can say that the Q90R gives a really well built but perhaps rather anonymous impression in terms of design. But this does mean that the TV, with its thin frames, fits in wherever you put it.

All connections take place through Samsung’s One Connection box. This means that you only have a thin wire running from the TV to a small box that contains power, TV cards and all of the connections. An excellent solution that all manufacturers should embrace. With this type of solution, Samsung could be a bit more generous with the connections – but they still do OK.

Slightly more disappointing is the fact that the HDMI ports are version 2.0 and not 2.1. They should support 4K at 120 Hz and similar technologies that come with the latest standard, but the fact that it’s not ‘real” HDMI 2.1 feels a bit mean and not entirely future-proof.

The remote control and interface follow the same pattern as previously. The remote control has just a few buttons and is a delight to use. The interface is without doubt the fastest on the market in all modes and is easy to use. Airplay is supported, but not Chromecast. But you can fix a lot of this via the remote control app on your phone. When it comes to apps, the unit has pretty much all streaming services and we aren’t missing anything.

Phenomenal images

The disadvantage of QLED compared to OLED has always been the depth of the blacks, in the same way that OLED hasn’t really achieved the same brightness as QLED. With the Q90R, Samsung are closer than ever to overcoming these limits, because it succeeds enormously well at handling details in blacks.

As we expected, colours, HDR quality and brightness are all top class. Right from the outset, the TV is very well set up, but you’ll probably have to turn down Samsung’s slightly overenthusiastic colour presentation a bit to make it perfect. Despite this, the Samsung Q90R gives pretty much the best image you can get on a TV just now.

Intelligent connection boxstraightforward remote control & interfacephenomenal images
Clear but thin soundlacks latest HDMI technologies

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8. TCL C81

QLED of the darker type

Price class: Medium Type: QLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65/75 ins Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 20 W (2.1 Soundbar from Onkyo) Energy consumption: 120 W Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB C/T2/S2 Weight: 25.7 kg (65 ins) With stand: 26.2 kg 3D support: No Connections: WiFi 802.11ac, 4 x HDMI (2.0, 1.4), 2 x USB, digital optical output, headphone output, composite in, network connection (RJ45), common interface plus VESA wall mount: 400x200 Smart functions: Android with apps, built-in Chromecast Accessories included: Stand

TCL 65C815

The TCL C815, tested here in the 65-inch version, is a serious and well-meant attempt by Chinese manufacturer TCL to step up from the budget class with, among other things, QLED technology for better colour reproduction. At the same time, it feels like a product that has strong competition from Samsung, where QLED is something of a home advantage.

The world’s most fiddly stand

The C815 is a relatively sober product when it comes to design. If you plan to use only the TV’s built-in sound, you’ll appreciate the built-in soundbar by Onkyo. This doesn’t provide a surround experience exactly, but it does give much more oomph to your sound than most other built-in speakers.

If you don’t want to use the soundbar, the C71 series is pretty much the same without Onkyo's involvement.

Getting the C815 on its stand, however, is a nightmarish job. Instead of one attachment point, the stand consists of three separate legs with two insanely long screws each. This means you’re going to need someone pretty patient to hold the TV up for you while you lie underneath and screw the screws in. Either that or a good helping of creativity to put it together yourself.

The remote control, by contrast, is simple in some ways. Like most remotes, it has 90% more buttons than you actually need, but it runs on IR signals. This means you have to aim it right, and you have no microphone for the Google Assistant.

Instead, the Google Assistant has a habit of reacting to sound from whatever you’re watching, which means we quickly turn it off completely.

Good picture but rather dark

Once the TV is up and going, you get Android TV, which is what the whole thing runs on. This is a cluttered but at the same time quite simple system to navigate through. Apps are available in large numbers and so are functions. Unfortunately, we found it to be a bit slow, both when it starts up and when apps are loading, compared to many other TVs with Android.

But the most important thing, the picture? We’d essentially say it was “good, but...”. The TV does its very best with a high definition Blu-ray film. There are plenty of details here, even in darker areas – and amazingly lean, but correct, colour reproduction. There are no colour issues that Samsung’s QLED TVs often have before they calm down. Instead, it looks pretty good from the outset.

But… the brightness is far from what you’d expect from QLED, even in TVs in the same price class. On one hand, this means that you can forget about getting a quality image in a sunlit room, and on the other hand, it means that the HDR support is completely pointless. There’s currently only support for one HDR technology, which is bad in itself, but at the same time you need that brightness to give the technology any chance at all.

At the same time, the screen doesn’t really keep up with faster scenes in streamed material. From Blu-ray and DVD disks there are no problems, but via streaming sources you occasionally get lag. Whether this is due to the upscaling to 4K or something else, however, we couldn’t tell.

The TCL C815 isn’t a bad TV. But it’s in the same price range as some of Samsung’s QLED TVs, which are much better in terms of speed and brightness.

Good coloursnice designsound better than average
Lag in fast scenestoo low brightnessvery annoying stand

9. Philips Oled 865

Small updates for capable OLED

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 ins Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.0) Energy consumption: 187 W (65”) Standby: 0.3 W Digital receiver support: DVB-C, DVB-S, DVB-S2, DVB-T, DVB-T2 Weight: 27.9 kg (65”) With stand: 30.7 kg (65”) Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna, optical sound, Composite (via adapter) VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Android TV with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Stand, remote control Miscellaneous: Ambilight

Philips 65OLED865

The Philips Oled 865 is a relatively limited update on last year's models which, on the whole, means it shouldn’t disappoint anyone. This is generally a TV that performs well, offering both good sound and Philips’ much vaunted Ambilight.

AI helper

On the surface, it looks suspiciously like earlier models. The OLED panel itself provides a thin top to the screen, while the lower part houses both the light ramp for the Ambilight backlight and a huge subwoofer compared to most TVs. Quite simply a much thicker TV than OLED panels normally are. Not that this really matters, as both the screen and stand are really stylish.

The real news is actually on the inside in the form of a fourth-generation P5 processor from Philips. The great thing about this is that it includes a bit of magic from AI to better handle everything from colours to movement. Compared to last year's screen, this is a clear step up, mainly in terms of details and handling of slightly darker areas. Motion sharpness is also decent for the most part, but more erratic movements such as a swinging arm can still look a little blurry up close.

Philips usually handle colour and blacks really well on their OLED machines and, regardless of source and mode, the same is true here for all parameters. If you want a premier class TV with Ambilight, you can’t really go wrong here. But the picture still isn't as good as that offered by LG with their OLED models this year.

Tough competition

Apart from Ambilight, which is unique to Philips, it’s really LG who are ruining the show here. Whilst the Philips 865 boasts better sound, there are several other areas that fall short when compared to LG. The remote control is backlit (and with a luxurious leather back), but it also feels rather cluttered. Not that LG are best in class in that respect either, but their remotes are significantly better. Philips model also lacks HDMI 2.1 for the latest imaging technologies which, for example, this autumn's game consoles use. Speaking of games, again unlike LG, there’s no hint of support for PC players through Freesync or G-sync.

The Philips OLED 865 is a really good TV with much better sound than average and a really good picture. The downside is that, in terms of both image quality and other features, the competition have upped their own game considerably this year, which takes the edge off the Philips model somewhat.

Backlit remote controlgreat build qualityambilight
No HDMI 2.1very cluttered remote

10. TCL EC780

Good value and plenty of functions

Price class: Medium Type: LED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 30W (2.0) Energy consumption: 87 W (55”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 12.2 kg (55”) With stand: 15.2 kg (55”) 3D support: No VESA wall bracket: Yes Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 3 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna, optical audio, Composite (via adapter) Smart functions: Android TV with apps, voice control (Google Assistant, Alexa) Accessories included: Stand, 2 remote controls

TCL 65EC780

The TCL EC780 (we tested the 55 inch model) is a medium class TV from Chinese company TCL, and it gives you a lot of TV for your money. You may even encounter it under the names EC785 or EC78, but in practice it’s the same model.

Slim with an attractive stand

The EC780 is a relatively slim model with a built-in soundbar from Onkyo. The soundbar fits in well with the design, while also giving the TV a more characteristic appearance. You can use the rather attractive and stable stand to install the TV on a table.

The EC780 is supplied with two remote controls – one more classic and one smaller and simpler with fewer buttons. Both give full functionality, even if the smaller one is a bit fussy about having a free line of sight to the TV for the IR signals.

On the inside, the entire thing’s run by Android TV, which feels like a good step up from TCL's own system, which previous models used. The range of apps is more or less complete and Android itself provides good future-proofing. However, the TV is quite slow to start and takes up to a minute before it’s running. At the same time, the networked bit seems to be having a lie in, because it takes another while for apps to connect and still more time for them to deliver full speed and picture quality.

Not very bright HDR

With a built-in soundbar, you don't have to buy any extra speakers. At the same time, it's not exactly a fully-fledged surround sound experience. It handles stereo well and virtual surround OK. It does a really good job of emphasising voices, but the laws of physics prevent substantial bass. The sound is still great for a TV in this price class.

We’re also surprised by a very good picture for the price class. There are some tendencies to clouding in individual areas and TCL don’t seem to have invested in technologies to smooth out movement. Movement isn’t exactly jerky, but it’s not as smooth as the competition. Colours and blacks are surprisingly good and detailed. Details in dark areas are slightly coarse, but are still visible.

The EC780 supports all major HDR technologies. However, they are the main drawback of the TV, and with a relatively low maximum brightness it simply doesn't have the oomph to benefit from HDR to any significant extent.

But the EC780 is still a TV with a really good picture overall and, despite the odd teething problem, it’s nice to use. If you hadn’t intended to expand your TV sound with a soundbar, the design with the built-in speakers works, and for the price it's definitely a great choice.

Good coloursclear speech in the soundstagegood picture overall
Not enough brightness for HDRslow to startzero cable management on the back

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11. LG SM9800

Fantastic colours, poor blacks

Price class: Premium Type: Nanocell LED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.2) Energy consumption: 147 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 27 kg (65”) With stand: 28.8 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 4 x HDMI 2.1 (eARC on HDMI 2), 3 x USB, optical audio output, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: WebOS with apps, voice control (own + Google Assistant) Accessories included: Stand

LG 65SM9800

The LG SM9800PLA (we tested the 65" 65SM9800) is LG's top-of-the-range model in Nanocell screens for 2019. Nanocell is a technology similar to the one Samsung uses on its QLED screens, which aims to give an extra boost in colour reproduction compared to conventional LED displays.

Phenomenal colours

And it is indeed the colour reproduction that impresses here. To really compare QLED with Nanocell, we set up the SM9800 next to the similarly priced Samsung Q70R and were actually quite impressed by the punch LG achieve in the colour reproduction. All types of nature image get really good depth in the colour without ever feeling exaggerated.

Unfortunately, however, the rest of the test doesn’t leave us feeling so satisfied. Because while the SM9800 is phenomenal at colours, the combination of darkness and movement is a big Achilles’ heel. The screen has no major problems with still images with lots of detail in shadows. But things go downhill fast as soon as you get movement in the shadows. Then the SM9800 quickly loses control, and with it quite a lot of detail and still more sharpness.

Even though we don’t experience the viewing angle as bad overall, this plays a role too.

If you’re sitting a little way away from the screen, you don’t experience so much of the loss of sharpness, but dark scenes are still unexpectedly poor in terms of detail. And this is a real shame when the picture as a whole is so good.

Equipped for the future

At the same time, there’s one major technical plus for the SM9800. Because it’s one of the cheaper machines this year with support for the new HDMI version 2.1. This year, it doesn't make much difference, but Sony and Microsoft's forthcoming game consoles will benefit from this technology, making the SM9800 more future-proof than most of this year’s TVs.

The TV itself is quite well designed, particularly the attractive foot. You also get pretty much the same functions in WebOS as the company's more expensive OLED screens, which gives a fast and feature-rich experience.

The LG SM9800 may be a TV worth watching out for during the sales. Because even though it could be far better at handling blacks, it still has top-of-the-range colour reproduction and great functions as a whole. With a slightly lower price tag, this could be a bargain.

Amazingly good coloursWebOS gives lots of functionsHDMI 2.1
Not good blackspoor sharpness in darker images

12. Samsung Q70R

Great picture for your money

Price class: Premium Type: QLED Colour: Black Sizes: 49/55/65/75/82 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.1) Energy consumption: 290 W (75”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 35.7 kg (75”) With stand: 36.6 kg (75”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 4 x HDMI 2.0 (eARC on HDMI 2), 3 x USB, optical audio output, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Tizen with apps, voice control (Bixby) Accessories included: Stand

Samsung QE65Q70R

The Samsung Q70R (here tested in the form of the 75" QE75Q70R) is the mid-range model of 2019 Samsung QLED monitors, which are available in a wide range of sizes. One thing they have in common is high build quality, a good picture and a really fast system combined with a simple remote control.

Surprisingly matte colours

If there’s one thing that Samsung’s QLED screens have traditionally been good at, it’s colour. This has often almost been exaggerated, but fortunately that’s not the case here. The colours actually feel very restrained and scaled back, particularly the greens and blues. Of course you can turn up the settings, but even after calibration the experience is rather toned down compared to previous years’ models or the fantastic colour reproduction in the Q90R.

At the same time, the Q70R does the blacks really well, with a surprising amount of detail and life even in darker areas. Bright points against a completely black background cause a certain amount of light bleed, but nothing that will be a problem with normal viewing.

Movement and low resolution material from things like DVDs are handled really well here. Unfortunately, this can’t be said about scaling up of low resolution TV broadcasts, which are a lot more fluffy on the edges than on many other models.

Bixby, shut up!

Samsung's Tizen system continues to be about the same as in previous years, without any major surprises. On the other hand, it provides a very fast system, especially during start-up, and one that’s also easy to navigate.

Samsung's remote control is also similar to what we've got used to, with a slimmed design and a minimal number of buttons. This is something more manufacturers should be doing.

Sadly, we don’t get the separate connection box that the more expensive Samsung models – or the equivalent from last year – are supplied with. All the connections are on the back of the TV, while the separate connection box on the more expensive models is much easier to deal with.

For some reason, the Bixby voice assistant is overly sensitive here. Even without going anywhere near the remote control the voice assistant is activated and interferes with what we’re watching, without warning and annoyingly often. This quickly leads us to turning it off as much as possible. A couple of times, the TV also switches itself on again immediately after we've switched it off, but this is less annoying.

We don’t get HDMI 2.1 built-in either, but instead a kind of hotchpotch of that and the previous version which doesn’t feel completely future-proof.

On the whole, the Samsung Q70R is a really good TV even though it’s a little way behind its big brother. The picture is really good given the price, but we’d have liked to see a separate connection box and a less annoying voice assistant.

Good blacks & motion sharpnesseasy-to-use remote control
No HDMI 2.1annoying voice assistantrather restrained colours

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13. Sony XG95

The best LED has to offer

Price class: Premium Type: LED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65/75/85 inches (75 inch tested) Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 2x10W Power consumption: 230 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 35.2 kg (75”) With stand: 37.2 kg (75”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.2, 4 x HDMI (HDMI 2.0), 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Android TV with apps, Google Assistant Accessories included: Stand

Sony KD-65XG9505

The Sony XG95 is one of the most luxurious TVs you can get in the LED segment, amidst all the fuss about OLED and QLED machines. You get a backlit panel with Sony's X1 Ultimate chip to handle picture management – something that's otherwise only found on their Master series of truly top-end TVs.

Messy remote and wide stand

Once it’s unpacked, we can see that it’s a relatively slim TV for an LED model. The design feels typically Sony, with sharp but thin edges. On a wall it looks really good, but if you’re going to have it standing on a table you may need to think again. The table stand consists of two legs that are almost as wide as the TV itself, taking up a lot of space. They also stand out considerably, which can cause problems if you intend to put a soundbar in front of the TV.

The remote control is an update on previous years, with better build quality. At the same time, it's designed like the old school remote controls, with a myriad of buttons. Here Sony could have learned from LG or Samsung and their simplified controls.

On the inside, the entire system is run by version 8 of Google’s Android TV. This offers major advantages when it comes to the quantity of apps, support for Google Assistant (via the remote control), screen sharing via Chromecast and so on.

At the same time, Android TV is well behind on the design front and feels pretty ugly compared to the competitors’ systems. It’s often not very easy to navigate either. AirPlay is on its way via an update, but wasn’t available during our test.

Great picture for LCD

When it comes to the sound, Sony have placed the speakers to give more space in the sound. This actually works really well, but when it comes to sound quality overall it sounds pretty thin and uninspired, so a soundbar or other sound system is a good idea.

But what about the picture? Well to begin with, you’ll have to be satisfied with HDMI 2.0. This means that you don’t get features like a higher refresh rate and so on, which you need to think about if you want to be future-proof.

You also need to fiddle with the settings a bit to get the picture right as the standard settings don’t really work. Once you’ve achieved that, however, you get a very nice neutral colour tone with very smooth transitions. But at the same time it doesn’t provide the same level of detail in blacks as OLED and newer QLED panels. There’s nothing wrong with the brightness, but it’s a little bit low for HDR content.

Overall, the XG95 produces a good picture, but given its price tag, it's probably a good idea to consider QLED and OLED models, depending on the size you're looking for.

In summary, the Sony XG95 is a TV with lots of functions, as good a picture as LED panels can offer and a really good viewing angle. It suffers from thin sound, a cluttered remote control and perhaps above all price tag that means other technologies can be more interesting options.

Natural colourslots of functionsgreat picture quality for LED
No HDMI 2.1poor soundold-fashioned interface

14. Sony AG8

Great picture, but with burn-in concerns and poor software

Price class: Premium Type: OLED Colour: Black Sizes: 55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 40W (2.2) Energy consumption: 133 W (65”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 20.3 kg (65”) With stand: 22.5 kg (65”) 3D support: No Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna VESA wall bracket: Yes Smart functions: Android TV with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Stand

Sony OLED KD-65AG8

The Sony AG8 (we tested the 65 inch KD-65AG8) is Sony's slightly cheaper 2019 OLED model. This definitely isn’t visible in the picture, but it is in other parts.

Stylish design

It's a couple of years since Sony’s marketing department were going on about monolithic design, but it feels like it lives on here – in a positive sense. Few TV manufacturers give you the feeling that you’ve got a machine cut out of a solid block like Sony do.

As it's an OLED screen, you get an extremely thin TV along the edges and an unflattering lump on the back for all the technology and connectors. For OLED, a separate connection box should definitely be more common, to take advantage of the slim screens the technology offers.

But the remote control is less stylish. It’s a cluttered and extremely plasticky object that reminds you of a cheap multi-remote from a discount shop. It also only works on IR, and at an extremely tight angle, so you tend to get frustrated merely at the thought of using the remote.

It’s actually easier to use the remote control on your mobile. This is the same for all TV appliances with Android TV, which is the operating system here. It’s far from perfect, but at least it allows you to control the TV a bit more conveniently.

At the same time, Android TV isn’t straightforward either. Some manufacturers have inserted HDMI and other connections into the system, but here we get that in a separate menu.

Among the connections, Sony have satisfied themselves with HDMI 2.0, which feels a bit mean. This is a shame because OLED is a more expensive technology and more care should go into a TV using it.

Great picture, but watch out for burn-in

In any case, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the picture. Sony often boast about the synergy effects of also being a film company, and that certainly gives results here. Straight out of the box, the colours are a bit exaggerated, but with relatively little calibration we get a really good result. The same applies to details in dark areas and motion handling, which is top class.

The sound comes from Sony’s ‘acoustic surface audio’ which uses the screen as a speaker. It can’t measure up to a separate soundbar or a home cinema system, but we get what’s often really good channel separation and overall a very clear sound.

At the same time, on a couple of occasions static text remains visible for a few minutes after it should have disappeared. OLED has problems with burn-in, and even though the examples we saw disappeared quickly (and can be counteracted by built-in refresher tools), it’s also worrying that it can happen so quickly.

The Sony AG8 is a great TV ready to take on the best, but it’s let down by a really poor remote control, poor software finish and worrying tendencies when it comes to burn-in.

Really good colours & detailsgood sound considering it's built-in
Terrible & cluttered remote controlworrying burn-in tendenciesno HDMI 2.1

15. Xiaomi Mi TV 4S

A really good first attempt from Xiaomi

Price class: Budget Type: LED Colour: Black Sizes: 43/55/65 inch Resolution: 3840 x 2160 (4K) Speakers: 2x8W Power consumption: 75 W (55”) Standby: 0.5 W Digital receiver support: DVB T2/C/S2 Weight: 12 kg (55”) With stand: 12.45 kg (55”) Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth (5.0), 3 x HDMI 2.0, 3 x USB, Common Interface Plus, antenna, optical sound VESA wall bracket: No, built-in Smart functions: Android TV with apps, voice control (Google Assistant) Accessories included: Remote control

Xiaomi Mi TV 4S 55"

Alongside the really ultra-budget models, the Xiaomi Mi TV 4S is the company’s first attempt at launching a TV. Unlike the company’s phones, which repeatedly provide excellent value for money, their TVs are very much a case of you get what you pay for. At the same time this is a pretty reasonable first attempt.

TV-Xiaomi-Mi-TV-4S

Anonymous design

The design of the Mi TV 4S won’t exactly win any prizes, as it feels quite anonymous. At the same time it doesn’t stand out for all the wrong reasons either. The remote control is very small and convenient, and doesn’t have too many buttons to keep track of.

The TV essentially uses Google’s Android TV system. Xiaomi has its own interface, called Patchwall. This works like any other app.

TV-Xiaomi-Mi-TV-4S-06

Game warning

The sound quality isn’t much to write home about, with two piddling onboard speakers. But in many ways we’re positively surprised by the image quality. Given the price, you get really good colours from this TV, and we’ve tested significantly more expensive units that have handled movement worse. The details in dark areas suffer somewhat, however, particularly if the image is otherwise bright. But for showing 4K films relatively cheaply it works pretty well.

We can’t say the same about gaming, however. We have to fiddle about with the display modes, movement equalisation and so on for quite a while before we get rid of the worst stuttering in the image, but it’s never really good. At the same time there’s a small but noticeable delay between pressing a button and the reaction on the screen.

The Xiaomi Mi TV 4S copes with film and TV programmes very well for its price class and if that’s all you’re going to use it for, it’s a good budget choice. If you intend to use it for games, however, this is definitely not the purchase for you.

Great colours in imagesconvenient remote controlgood for films and TV programmes
Catastrophic for gamingfew details in the blacks

16. Xiaomi Mi TV 4A

What’s happened to Xiaomi?

Price class: Budget Type: LED Colour: Black Sizes: 32 ins Resolution: 1366x768 (720p) Speakers: 20 W (2.0) Energy consumption: 31 W Standby: 0.3 W Digital receiver support: DVB C/T2 Weight: 3.9 kg With stand: 3.94 kg 3D support: No Connections: WiFi 802.11ac, Ethernet, 3 x HDMI, 2 x USB, 1 x composite, antenna, headphone output, common interface VESA wall mount: 400x200 Smart functions: Android with apps, built-in Chromecast Accessories included: Stand

Xiaomi Mi TV 4A 32"

Xiaomi has, quite rightly, made a name for itself by offering consumers a lot for their money. Many of their slightly cheaper phones offer levels of performance you’d expect from much higher priced models. And now they’ve ventured into television sets. But do they offer the same thing in terms of price value with a TV as they do with a mobile phone?

Easy to install

The 4A is their budget model, and currently only sold in 32 inches, with larger sizes reserved for the slightly more upmarket 4S. All the same, we were surprised by the lack of quality on show. On the mobile market, even the company's cheapest phones offer unexpectedly high levels of quality. But here you get a reasonably stylish front with an incredibly plasticky and hollow back that almost echoes when you tap on it.

At the same time the TV is easy to set up. You insert two screws in each leg, and that’s it.

Unlike the TV itself, however, the remote control is both well-built and well-designed. There are relatively few buttons and they’re logically laid out.

Ultra-budget

By definition, televisions in the 32-inch class all belong to the budget class nowadays. But we were still surprised that Xiaomi hasn’t matched its competitors here. The resolution is just over 720p, while you can easily get another model with 1080p for the same money.

In terms of the price tag, the image quality is OK but nothing to write home about. It handles the "middle segment" of the image quite well, but dark parts lack a lot of detail and even the lighter parts bleed out a fair bit. On a deep black background, a lot of clouding can be seen around the edges of the screen.

Perhaps we had too high hopes for Xiaomi given how good the company is in other areas. But unfortunately the Mi TV 4A feels like a missed opportunity to do something really interesting in the TV segment for less than £300. In terms of what you do get, there’s no obvious flaw with it, but it feels pretty cheap all the same.

Easy to install on its standgood remote control
Low resolutionpoor details in light and dark areas

Everything to know about TVs

Many people find it more difficult than ever to pick out the best TV for their needs. There are an enormous number of models on the market, which can be overwhelming. As well as their often cryptic model names, the TV industry is full of tricky technical words such as interpolation, crosstalk and backlight bleed. The manufacturers don't exactly make things easier by using their own names for various technical functions.

So, we’ve selected the best and most popular TV models on the market just now and chosen a test winner. In our test of TVs, you’ll find the best TV for your needs and budget. As price is often the deciding factor in choosing which TV to buy, we’ve made it easy for you by dividing the appliances into different price categories. The test covers everything from great value budget models to really lavish premium models. As well as selecting test winners in different categories, we've also tried to help our dear readers understand the concepts involved. So further down the page, under the reviews, you’ll find a glossary of technical terms and more detailed explanations about the different characteristics we took into account in our tests of TVs.

Choose your price class

There are enormous variation in the price of TV models. A really cheap one can cost less than £400, while a top end TV can easily cost £5,000. We’ve divided the test candidates into three different price classes so you can more easily find the models with the right price for your taste and budget. The different price classes are:

Budget class: Less than £1,000

TVs in this price class are simpler and have limited functionality. The screen size is rarely more than 40 inches and the image quality usually has some weaknesses. Many people who buy a budget TV are mostly looking to get the best screen for their money, can overlook minor shortcomings in image quality and don't need innovations such as smart functionality. But as it happens, today's budget models general perform extremely well compared to slightly older TVs.

Medium class: £1,000-2,000

The medium class is characterised by larger screens, often between 40 and 50 inches. The image quality is better and there’s more functionality than on budget models, such as wireless communication (Wi-Fi), more inputs (such as USB & HDMI) and a more attractive design. They typically also have some smart functionality, such as online platforms or the ability to use your smartphone as a remote control.

Premium class: More than £2,000

Premium class TVs are characterised by an exclusive design and screen sizes from 46 inches to a full 80 inches. The hardware is generally of very high standard with powerful processors that can generate very good image quality. Premium models are normally also equipped with a high level of functionality. 3D support is now almost mandatory in this price class, and 3D glasses are usually included. The premium class also offers more advanced smart functionality such as facial recognition, voice and gesture control.

Important features in a TV

3D

Being able to see in three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface like a TV is a physical impossibility. So 3D technology fools your brain into thinking it’s seeing in three dimensions. To do this, the right and left eye are shown two slightly different pictures, creating an illusion of depth.

Active and passive 3D

The two dominant types of 3D technology today are active and passive 3D. Passive 3D is the type traditionally used in cinemas, which divides each image into two different pictures with one for each eye. This means the resolution is halved and a full HD film at 1080 pixels gets a resolution of “only” 540 pixels.

Meanwhile, active 3D shows the right and left eye separate images by showing the image for one eye followed by the image for the other, alternately. This means that the frame rate is halved, and to prevent the content from stuttering or flickering an active 3D TV must show twice as many images. This means that an active 3D TV normally has a frame rate of 120-480 Hz. For very sensitive viewers, a frame rate that’s too low can cause undesirable side effects such as headaches or nausea. So it’s important that the frame rate is sufficiently high on the 3D TV.

3D spectacles for active 3D constantly block the image for the non-active eye. This means that the 3D spectacles must constantly be synchronised with the TV, which is done wirelessly, often using Bluetooth technology. This more advanced technology means that 3D spectacles for active 3D are still quite expensive to buy. The simpler 3D spectacles for passive 3D are generally much cheaper.

Whether active or passive 3D is the best technology for showing 3D images on a TV is hotly debated. In theory, passive 3D is best, as it provides better brightness, a richer colour palette and is also free of both crosstalk and flicker. It’s also less tiring on the eyes. In practice, however, even passive 3D has disadvantages, such as lower resolution resulting in visible lines and sharp edges, even on Full HD screens. And it’s probably as a result of these weaknesses that active 3D is now the dominant technology. But there is hope for a comeback of passive 3D, even if it’s relatively remote for most consumers. The next generation of TVs will probably have 4K resolution, which is 4-6 times more than today’s Full HD resolution. With a resolution that high, the resolution-related problems should be significantly less. Even though active 3D is currently the dominant technology, our guess is that in 10 years’ time it will be the turn of passive 3D.

Genuine and virtual 3D

Many new films are recorded in 3D with 3D cameras – “genuine” 3D. And lots of TV models that support 3D can also convert normal 2D content to 3D in real time. This is what’s called virtual 3D. As things stand, virtual TV isn’t particularly impressive even on the very best 3D TVs, because converted 2D content doesn’t have the same depth as “genuine” 3D. But the technology is constantly developing at an ever-increasing rate, so hopefully virtual 3D will be significantly better within the not too distant future.

Connections

The different connection options a TV offers probably aren’t the first thing you think about when you’re buying a new TV. And unfortunately the importance of the connection options often only becomes obvious when you realise that the TV you bought doesn’t have the connection you need or doesn’t have enough inputs of the right type. New TVs are often generously equipped with a number of different connection ports, so it isn’t quite as serious a problem as it used to be. But you still have to make sure the TV you’re thinking about buying has the connection options you need. Not just for now, but for a number of years into the future.

There are lots of different connections a TV can have, and we list the most common and most important types below, and provide a brief explanation of each.

D-Sub

D-sub (or D-subminiature) is a now outdated technology for data transfer. This type of connection used to be common between a computer and things like a printer, but as the technology has such a low bandwidth, it’s of limited use today. When this type of connector was first introduced, it was known as a subminiature connector. Now they’re amongst the biggest connectors available. The least rare D-sub connection available today is probably the RS-232C, and you can still find it on some TVs.

DNLA

DLNA is a technology standard intended to facilitate easy sharing of multimedia such as music, photos and videos between different home electronic units. For two units to be able to communicate via DLNA, they must both support the technology. In a TV context, DLNA is primarily used today for wireless communication with things like computers, NAS servers, cameras and mobile phones. A DLNA certified unit can be recognised by the DLNA logo which is normally on the box or on a sticker on the TV when it’s delivered.

DVI

DVI is a technology for transferring digital image signals and is therefore similar to HDMI technology. But unlike HDMI, DVI can’t transport sound. DVI connections used to be more important, for example before computers and HDMI ports. So a DVI connection isn’t usually necessary on a TV any more.

Ethernet

Ethernet is traditionally associated with computers as it’s used for connecting computers to local networks and the internet. As TVs now also increasingly need access to the internet to provide complete functionality, built-in Ethernet connections on TVs have become more common.

HDMI

This connection is by far the most important type on modern TVs. HDMI is the digital successor to the once so dominant analogue SCART connection. Both images and sound can be transported via HDMI, and other appliances that are connected to a TV, such as DVD players, Blu-ray players, amplifiers or game consoles all support HDMI. If you have a number of appliances that you want to connect to your TV (which is often the case in a home cinema system), you need an HDMI connection for each of them. This means a well-equipped TV should have at least two HDMI connections and ideally four or more.

Headphone jack

Being able to watch the TV with headphones on is practical. You might want to avoid disturbing your partner with a noisy film late at night, or you have high quality headphones with sound so good you prefer them to the TV speakers. The type of connection that’s still used to connect headphones to appliances all over the world is what's known as a phone jack. (The name comes from the fact that it was originally used in telephone switchboards.) The most common size on modern TVs is 3.5 mm, but the larger 6.3 mm version does occur occasionally. If you’re thinking about buying headphones for your TV, you may be interested in our tests of closed and open headphones.

Component video (YPbPr)

Component video (or YPbPr, as it’s also called) is an analogue connection that transfers video. Component video and VGA are similar in that they are both ways to carry out analogue transfer of HD video. So it’s true to say that component video is an alternative to VGA.

Composite

Composite is an old analogue technology that can transfer both image and sound. Because TV appliances used to be small and (compared to today) the picture quality was poor, composite video didn’t need to have particularly high bandwidth for the picture quality to be sufficient. Composite video is no longer sufficient for today’s large, high-resolution TVs, and the technology provides probably the worst picture quality of the connections available on modern TVs.

To increase bandwidth, and therefore picture and sound quality, you can transfer composite video using what are known as RCA cables. This increases the quality slightly, but is still far from sufficient to be able to give a good picture on a modern TV. But RCA cables can work for transferring normal stereo sound, for example to an amplifier.

Memory card

Memory cards are perhaps primarily associated with digital cameras, mobile phones etc., where they’re used to store images, music and so on. But most modern TVs also have connections for memory cards. These most commonly take the form of a slot for a standard SD card. The TV may also have connections for other types of memory card. For example, Sony's TVs have support for Memory Stick, Sony’s own memory card format. The most common use for having a memory card in a TV is probably to show photos on the TV. This can be practical if you have digital camera photos that you want to show on a bigger screen than the camera or computer.

VGA

VGA was the analogue predecessor to DVI. And just like DVI, VGA connections are almost entirely a thing of the past.

SCART

SCART was at one point the dominant transfer technology, at least in Europe. SCART can transfer analogue sound and image, but can’t cope with high-resolution video. If you connect your new HDTV with an old SCART cable (which is more common than you might think) you’ll miss out on the opportunity to display high-resolution video (HD video) on your TV.

TV card

TVs with built-in digital TV receivers generally have a small slot for this.

USB

USB is an interface for data transfer, and a technology that most of us are familiar with today. Not least through USB sticks. With a USB connection on your TV, you can connect things like an external hard drive to play back photos, video and sound. This makes a USB connection an important complement to a wireless DNLA connection. Perhaps the most important advantage of USB over DNLA is that USB technology has much greater bandwidth, which can stream much bigger multimedia files such as high-resolution video.

Viewing angle

Viewing angle is the angle from which a viewer can watch the TV without the picture deteriorating. This used to be a bigger problem because many LCD TVs had a very narrow viewing angle. This meant you had to sit right in front of the TV, or at least quite close to that position for the picture to look good. With the introduction of LED TVs, this has become a much less serious problem as the technology makes possible a much wider viewing angle. But the viewing angle is still normally much worse on LED TVs than on plasma ones, as the plasma technology provides excellent viewing angles. There’s also a big difference between different types of LED TVs depending on the type of panel used. IPS panels allow a wider viewing angle than VA panels. This is because the colour doesn’t degenerate on IPS panels as it does on VA panels at wider viewing angles.

Frame rate

Frame rate is the number of times the TV updates per second and is stated in Hertz (Hz). All video consists of a series of still images shown in quick succession. The effect is that the eye perceives all of these still images as a moving one. For normal film the standard frame rate is 24 frames per second – in other words 24 Hz. But this relatively low frame rate would appear to flicker on a TV, and modern TVs have a frame rate of at least 100 Hz. So the flickering issue that used to exist is no longer present on modern TVs.

But there can also be reasons to have a frame rate that’s even higher than 100 Hz. A higher frame rate means that the images “flow” better, particularly in jerky scenes with fast movements. The TV usually achieves this through what’s known as interpolation, which means it creates its own images that it inserts between the existing 24 images per second. In general, it’s true that the higher the frame rate the better.

With the arrival of 3D TV, demands for frame rates have increased still further, at least for models that use what’s known as active 3D. Active 3D works through the TV synchronising with the active 3D spectacles and showing the left and right eye alternating images. This means in practice that the TV’s frame rate is halved when it’s showing active 3D. If the TV has a frame rate of 100 frames per second (Hz), it will show the right eye 50 images and the left eye 50 images, which means that when it’s showing a 3D film the TV only has a perceived frame rate of 50 Hz. So a 3D TV that uses active 3D technology should have a frame rate of at least 200 Hz. And ideally 400 Hz.

Picture settings

Even if a TV is capable of showing a very good picture, it’s unfortunately very common that the factory settings don’t give the best possible picture. This means that true enthusiasts fine-tune the settings after delivery to ensure that the TV is set up optimally for the room it’s going to be used in. And if you’re a less knowledgeable TV viewer, a good way to do this is to choose one of the pre-programmed sets of picture settings available on the TV. So when possible we always try to state which pre-programmed picture settings we can recommend so that you get the most out of your TV’s picture.

TV technology

The two TV technologies that currently dominate the market are LCD and plasma. LED is a variant of LCD, rather than a separate technology, which is a common misunderstanding. LCD and plasma both have a number of advantages and disadvantages, making them suited to slightly different purposes.

LCD/LED vs. plasma

The biggest strengths of LCD technology that are usually stated are the relatively low weight, low energy consumption, high brightness (actually luminance) and an unlimited theoretical resolution. And the technology’s best known weaknesses include a limited viewing angle, backlight bleed (which gives worse blacks), a lack of sharpness during movement and long response times.

The biggest strengths of plasma technology are considered to be very high contrast with excellent blacks and colour reproduction, non-existent distortion of colours, saturation and clarity, good response times and an excellent viewing angle. And its weaknesses are primarily considered to be a relatively high weight, high energy consumption, poorer luminance, screen reflections and large pixels that mean a high resolution also requires a large screen.

LCD TVs equipped with LED technology are often simply called LED TVs, and in recent years have come to dominate the TV market. This means that most flat TVs on sale today are LED TVs. Compared to traditional LCD TVs without LED technology, LED TVs have several advantages. They can be made extremely thin; often just a few centimetres. They use less energy than normal LCD TVs, which makes them very energy efficient. There are also brighter, with a very high luminance, which makes them suitable for light environments.

An LED TV is perfect as an all-in-one TV, which is probably the factor behind much of their success. The fact that their very slim design also makes them look exclusive has undoubtedly also played a role. An additional success factor for LED TVs has probably also been the brightness (in other words, high luminance) which means they look very good in the home electronics store’s brightly lit premises. In this artificial environment, which in no way resembles a normal domestic environment, LED screens look much better than less bright models of LCD or plasma type.

But for most home cinema enthusiasts with a big enough budget, it's still the plasma TV that matters. This is because in a dark environment a top of the range plasma TV gives unbeatable picture quality. However, they often cost in the region of £5000, which means they're simply not an option for most people.

Screen technology

LED TVs now generally use VA or IPS panels. The IPS panel is the more expensive of the two and is therefore more common on higher quality TV models. The IPS panel also provides a better picture quality and allows a wider viewing angle.

Design

The design of a TV is an important factor for many people. Marked differences in TV design were much more common in the era of the CRT TV. Who doesn’t remember all those TVs with wooden cases? Today the TV market is much more uniform and the differences in design are longer as obvious. This isn’t merely because TVs are now flat, but also because the screen edges have become so narrow that they don’t really stand out. Our opinion is that the modern flat TV is generally so tasteful and stylish in terms of design that the average consumer doesn’t need to consider this aspect when buying a new TV.

Digital TV receiver (built-in)

DVB: There are different types of digital receiver, which are used for different types of reception. We normally talk about DVB-C, DVB-S and DVB-T types, where DVB stands for “Digital Video Broadcasting”. DVB-C is used for cable TV, DVB-S for digital satellite broadcasts and DVB-T for terrestrial digital TV. DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 are the second generation of DVB for terrestrial and satellite digital TV.

CA: A CAM (Conditional Access Module) or CA module, in which the viewing card is inserted, is often used to decrypt encrypted TV channels. The CA module is then inserted into the TV.

CI: CI (Common Interface) is a type of copy protection that acts between the CA module and the TV. The technology is also sometimes called DVB-CI, of which CI+ is the latest generation. To be able to watch broadcasts coded with CI+, as well as a viewing card and a CA module, you need a TV that supports this technology.

Colour reproduction

To generate a picture with colours as close to the original as possible, a TV should be able to display as many colours as possible. The term generally associated with this is colour depth. The colour depth states how many bits of data a TV uses to represent colours. The more bits it uses, the more colours a TV can display. With a colour depth of 16 bits, a TV can display 65,536 different colours, and with a colour depth of 24 bits it can display a full 16,777,216 – in other words almost 17 million different colours!

Many manufacturers boast of TVs that have a colour depth of up to 32 bits. However, this doesn’t mean that they can display more colours, but that these extra bits of colour depth are used to describe the colour depth. In order to display sufficient colour depth, the TV must also have a powerful enough graphic processor and enough memory.

Gamma

The gamma curve is a measurement used to express the softness/hardness (also known as the gradation) in an image – for example, one being displayed on a TV screen. Gamma adjustment is used to remove the light that can’t be perceived by the human eye, or to which it is insensitive. This is done to make the best possible use of the data in a video to show colours that humans can actually see.

Where the gamma value in a picture is high (above 1.0), this is called hard, which means that the transition between different colour tones is coarser. The human eye is better at seeing differences in dark and light than at seeing different colour tones, so different gamma values along the gamma curve are most visible in a black and white photograph. The example image on the right shows how different gamma values change the perception of an image. The lower the gamma value, the more nuanced the image is. At the same time it also becomes lighter, which gives a worse black.

So a TV’s ability to create good gamma values has a strong impact on how good the picture is. On digital screens like TVs, there’s often some type of gamma adjustment where you can vary how hard or soft the picture is.

Contrast

The contrast on one TV is often difficult to compare with the contrast on another TV. This is not least because there’s no official standard way to measure contrast. So different manufacturers have different ways of measuring it, which means that two TVs’ theoretical contrasts are difficult to compare. The contrast also depends on the light conditions in the room where you’re watching the TV.

The ideal conditions for getting as good a contrast as possible are a completely dark room, which you often achieve in a cinema or a well-built home cinema. But under normal conditions you won’t be watching TV in a completely dark room, as there are often lamps, light from outside and pale walls off which the light can reflect. This light is like interference on a radio channel in its impact on the light emitted by the TV, and it means the viewer doesn’t see as good a picture (or contrast). The extent to which this negatively affects picture quality largely depends on how bright the TV is. The brighter the TV is, the better it will resist “light pollution” from lamps, the sun etc. But at the same time the walls mustn’t reflect too much of the TV’s own light.

Dynamic and static contrast

When manufacturers state the contrast of a TV, this is often stated in what’s known as dynamic contrast. What distinguishes dynamic contrast from “normal” static contrast is that the image is still (in other words static) in static contrast and that it moves in dynamic contrast. When assessing a screen’s contrast, it’s consequently important to take into account both the static and dynamic contrast. The dynamic contrast usually has a much higher value than the static contrast, so many manufacturers use only this contrast in their marketing, despite the fact that it’s not quite the whole story. This is particularly true for LCD TVs (which includes LED TVs) which are often given a very high theoretical dynamic contrast. As an example, a plasma TV with static contrast of “only” 2,000,000:1 gives an image with much better contrast than an LCD TV with 30,000,000:1 in dynamic contrast but “only” 10,000:1 in static contrast.

Sound

Even though people increasingly use external sound sources such as home cinema systems instead of the TV speakers, there are still a lot of viewers using the latter. So a TV’s sound quality is still important. Unfortunately, the recent trend towards increasingly slim edges on TVs has meant that manufacturers have been forced to move the speakers from the sides of the screen to other places. This means that the sound quality has suffered in the name of aesthetics. And we think this is a shame. One counter-reaction to this trend is Sony’s new flagship KD-84X9005 model, where they have consciously chosen to give it front speakers in an attractive and tasteful way.

Brightness (luminance)

When we talk about TV’s brightness, we generally mean its luminance. The luminance is the quantity of light emitted from a specific surface – in this case the TV screen. This is measured in brightness per square metre and is stated in units of candela per square metre (cd/m2). In other words, the brightness is how brightly the TV shines, and the higher the brightness/luminance the better. Almost all TVs today have a sufficiently high brightness/luminance for the picture to be clearly visible, providing the TV is in a relatively dark spot. In lighter environments, such as rooms with strong lighting or a lot of sunshine, however, the brightness/luminance needs to be greater. LCD TVs have the greatest brightness/luminance, while plasma TVs have a slightly weaker brightness.

Media player (built-in)

Many new TVs have a built-in media player with which you can play sound and images. The most common application for a built-in media player is probably playing back videos. These are often films downloaded as files from the internet. The problem with this type of video file is that, unlike DVDs or Blu-ray discs they often contain video and sound which isn’t standard format. This means that a good TV media player must be able to read these different types of image and sound files. This is described as the media player being compatible with a file type.

And to make the problem of format compatibility still more complicated, we often distinguish between a video file's container and its decoder. As you’d expect, even in this context a container is something in which you store things. And the video file’s name ends with the name of its container. Common container formats are .avi, .mkv, .mp4, .vob and .wmv. So if we picture a container that’s full of boxes, the video’s images and sound are packed into these boxes. And to open these boxes, remove the pictures and sound and put them together, you need a decoder. Common decoders include DivX, Xvid, h.264, mpeg, VC1 and Wmv9.

Even if new TVs’ built-in media players support more different containers and decoders all the time, it’s unfortunately still very common that media players don’t support a particular format. This means that the video can’t be displayed as it should be. For example, you may be able to play the images but not the sound, particularly DTS sound. Or conversely the sound works but not the video, which leaves you looking at a blank screen.

Response time

A TV’s response time is often stated by the manufacturer. Response time is the time it takes for an image pixel on the screen to go from one value to another and then back again. If the response time isn’t sufficiently short, the image will be blurry where there’s movement, particularly when there are fast movements in the video. Response time is primarily a problem for LCD TVs, but it’s less serious than it used to be. Plasma TVs and CRT TVs generally have excellent response times.

Sharpness

Motion sharpness

Motion sharpness is a TV’s ability to retain sharpness even when there is a lot of movement in the video. The faster the movements in the video, the more pictures the TV must display to avoid the video becoming blurred. If the movement is sufficiently fast and the frame rate in the content being shown is not sufficiently high, the TV must generate new images between the existing ones. Otherwise the video content will be perceived as jerky, which is a form of motion blur.

Interpolation

Generating new images between existing ones is called interpolation, and for the result to be good a TV must be equipped with a sufficiently powerful graphic processor. If the TV is unable to generate enough images with the satisfactory sharpness, the parts of the image that move too fast will be blurred. This is also a form of motion blur. One common side effect of interpolation is the “home video” effect that gives the impression the film has been recorded on a home video camera. This effect was primarily a problem on earlier LCD TVs, but it does still occur. Plasma TVs generally have very good interpolation and motion sharpness.

Scaling

Flat TVs (both plasma and LCD, including LED) have digital screens with a native resolution. This means that the number of pixels the screen can physically display is unchanging. But films and TV programmes have different resolutions, which are often either higher or lower than the resolution of the screen. This means that to be able to display these image signals, the TV must transform them to the right resolution. This is called scaling the image and is done by the TV's electronic system. Not all TVs are as good at scaling images, which give them different image qualities. If no scaling takes place, one pixel in the incoming image signal corresponds to one pixel on the TV. This is called 1:1 pixel mapping and because no scaling is required there is no risk of distortion of the image. However good a TV’s scaling is, 1:1 pixel mapping is always preferable if possible.

Screen

The screen is the glass surface – in other words the protective glass – that protects the TV’s electronics from dirt, impact etc. A clean, smooth and shiny glass surface is reflective, which in most contexts is good. But this isn’t the case when it comes to TV screens. Reflections from a screen can disturb the TV viewer as the bright light from the reflection dazzles them and disrupts the light emitted by the TV, which means you can’t see what’s being shown on the screen. Consequently, manufacturers try to create screens that reflect as little light as possible. This is neither easy nor cheap. Some manufacturers have more reflection problems with their TV screens and others, but they also vary between different models. Cheaper screens tend to reflect undesired light more often than more expensive ones, but not always.

The larger a piece of glass is, the stronger it must be not to collapse under its own weight. As TV screens are constantly getting bigger, this also means that the glass must be stronger. A very strong type of glass is what’s known as Gorilla glass, first used in iPhones but now also present in TVs. But even if the TV is equipped with Gorilla glass, it’s still important to be careful when you move it, particularly if the screen is larger than 40 inches. A flat TV should always be moved upright. In other words, you shouldn’t lie it down as this increases the load on the screen and significantly increases the risk of it cracking. You should particularly bear this in mind when transporting large TVs, such as when you’re moving house, as it can be tempting to squeeze the TV into the back of a car. If you have a large, expensive TV it’s much more sensible to ship it standing upright. Ideally in its original box.

Smart TV

One of the most recent trends in the TV industry is the smart TV, which is equipped with similar functionality to your smartphone. The idea is that you’ll be able to interact with your TV on an entirely new level.

For example you would be able to give your TV commands with gestures or speech instead of using the remote control. But remote controls aren’t on the way out just yet, as they get an upgrade in the form of touchpads or the possibility to download an app so you can use your smartphone as a remote control. And your smartphone won’t just be used to change channel, but will interface completely with the TV and offer possibilities such as sending websites to and from your phone.

But the main idea is that you will start using your smart TV for social activities such as sharing videos, photos or webpages with your friends, chatting, tweeting or using social networks such as Facebook.

User interface

So consumers can exploit all of these new functions on their smart TVs, it’s essential that it’s easy and convenient to do so. Consequently, it’s become very important that the TV has a sufficiently good user interface. A TV’s user interface is the link between the user and TV. To simplify it a little, the user interface is what you see on the screen of your TV, such as different types of menus and apps. A really good user interface makes it easy for the user to use their TV, even if they aren’t good with computers. The user interface becomes particularly important when the user wants to use the TV for things other than the most basic functions, such as switching it on and off, increasing or reducing the volume or changing channel. If a smart TV doesn’t have a sufficiently inviting and easy-to-use user interface, the consumer won’t use the functions and the smart TV won’t be perceived as particularly smart.

Manufacturers have made variable progress on developing interfaces for their smart TVs. As things stand, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic probably have the best user interfaces, while LG, Philips, Sharp and Toshiba are some way behind.

Apps

App is an abbreviation of application, which is another word for computer program. So an app is a small computer program that often has a very specific purpose, for example showing the local weather. Today, apps are primarily associated with mobile phones, but they’re also found on smart TVs. And just like apps have become more popular on phones, they will soon be increasingly common on our TVs. TV apps can be used for things like streaming video content from the internet such as YouTube. Other common types of apps are social apps, which mean that users can access Facebook, Twitter or Skype via their TVs. The oldest and probably best-known TV app is teletext.

Size

Size is really important when you’re considering buying a new TV, both when it comes to price, but also the purpose of the TV. In general, the old rule of thumb still applies that the bigger the TV the more it costs. But this is primarily true of different models in the same category – for example different sizes of a basic model. A large TV from a cheaper brand with cheaper technology can be cheaper than a smaller TV from a more expensive brand with more expensive technology.

Even though large TVs are generally more expensive than smaller ones, the average TV has grown significantly in recent years. A few years ago a 46 inch TV was really big and expensive, while the same size today is average and costs much less. Modern TVs are available in a limited number of sizes. The smallest modern size is now 26 inches. The sizes above this are 32, 42, 46, 52, 55, 60, 70 and 80 inches, with an 80 inch screen being more than 2 m long.

Input lag

Input lag is a measure of the latency – in other words the delay – from the TV receiving a command until it’s executed. The longer the input lag a TV has, the longer it takes from giving an order (input) to the screen showing the results of the order. The length of the input lag depends on both how long the TVs response time is and how long signal processing of the image takes. Input lag is a much better indicator of a TV’s actual reaction time than response time. This is because the latter doesn’t take into account the fact that signal processing takes time too. Examples of signal processing include different types of advanced copy protection (for example HDCP or DRM), scaling (listed below), analogue to digital conversion etc.

TV manufacturers don’t generally state the input lag, but only the response time. This is probably because there is a trend towards increased input lag, unlike response times which are becoming shorter. Input lags are increasing because new TV models are doing ever more signal processing, which takes time. Even if it’s only a delay of thousandths of a second, this can make a difference to some users, and above all to gamers playing with consoles like the PS3 or Wii on their TV. For them the input lag is important, as in many games it’s important to react quickly to what’s happening. The longer the input lag, the longer the player’s reaction time is, which reduces their reaction ability.

Resolution

A screen's resolution states how many pixels it can display. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and (at least theoretically) the better the image sharpness. Before high resolution TVs were introduced, the resolution was 704x576 pixels on European TVs, while on today’s high resolution TVs, it’s either 1920x1080 or 1280x720 pixels. There are two types of high resolution TV screens. The resolution on a TV with 1920x1080 pixels is defined as Full HD, while the resolution on a TV with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels is defined as HD Ready. TVs with 1280x720 pixels were very common until just a couple of years ago, as they were cheaper to manufacture because they had fewer pixels. Because TV screens were generally much smaller just a few years ago, it was also difficult to see any difference between these two resolutions. But as the average screen size has grown from 32 to 46 inches, the larger screens have meant that it’s easier to see the difference between these two resolutions. TVs with 1280x720 pixel resolution have largely been phased out and now most new TVs have 1920x1080 pixel Full HD.

A Full HD TV has 1920x1080 pixels, which is 2,073,600 pixels in total. This corresponds to about 2.1 megapixels, to use a more common mathematical unit. Compared to a modern compact camera with perhaps 14 megapixels, the resolution of a high resolution TV is actually quite low. But as a TV shows moving pictures, this relatively low resolution isn’t so obvious. And in fact doubling the resolution from the current 2.1 megapixels to 4.2 megapixels wouldn’t be perceived as double the detail. The perceived improvement in detail declines exponentially, which means that the higher the resolution already is the more the resolution must be increased for the eye to notice any difference. This means that Full HD’s 2.1 megapixels will probably remain the standard for high resolution TVs for a little while yet.

Brand/manufacturer

There are many different brands in the TV market, but there are relatively few large brands that dominate it. In approximate size order, these are Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG, Panasonic and Philips. Traditionally the Japanese companies of Sony, Sharp and Panasonic have often manufactured the very best TVs, and that’s still the case.

In recent years South Korean companies such as LG and Samsung have taken large market shares from the Japanese. Initially, the South Koreans primarily competed on price, producing lower quality TVs. But in recent years the South Koreans – and above all Samsung – have become much better at quality while still maintaining low prices.

Daewoo

Daewoo was a very large South Korean manufacturer of budget TVs in the same league as LG and Samsung. The company collapsed during the economic crisis in the late 1990s, and the Daewoo brand quickly disappeared from the market.

Grundig

Grundig is a manufacturer of consumer electronics originally based in Germany now owned by Turkish Koç Holding. It was founded by Max Grundig. The company manufactures everything from TVs to home appliances.

LG

LG is a South Korean consumer electronics manufacturer known for having the lowest prices among the large brands. Not unexpectedly, their products are generally of lower quality than those of their more expensive competitors. But just like Samsung, LG have improved their quality in recent years while still succeeding in maintaining very low prices. Even though LG have not yet succeeded with the quality improvement that Samsung have achieved, the brand has significantly higher quality standards than just a few years ago, and for many price sensitive consumers it’s the obvious choice.

Panasonic

Panasonic is actually one of four consumer electronics manufacturers in the group of the same name (previously Matsushita). The sister companies are Technics, Sanyo and National. Panasonic is considered to be the foremost manufacturer of plasma screens and is the only large manufacturer that chose to invest in plasma technology instead of LED technology. Panasonic still manufactures LCD TVs, but it’s market leading on the plasma front.

Pioneer

The Japanese electronics manufacturer Pioneer was once a major actor in the TV market, developing the now mythical Pioneer Kuro plasma TV. Kuro means “black” in Japanese, and Pioneer’s plasma technology gave the Kuro TV previously impossible blacks. Unfortunately, although the Kuro was very positively received by experts and enthusiasts, it was a financial flop. This was because its innovative technology was so expensive that not enough people could afford to buy one. After that, Pioneer stopped manufacturing TVs and sold the inventions behind the Kuro to its competitor Panasonic, who today use them in their award-winning plasma TVs.

Philips

The Dutch company Philips is the only non-Asian manufacturer that still has a strong position in the TV market. Phillips no longer manufacture the hardware themselves, but buy it from other manufacturers. But they decide the specifications for the TV (e.g. image processor speed, number and type of connections, screen size etc.) They are also behind the TV’s software, which has become increasingly important as TVs are becoming smarter.

Samsung

Samsung is a South Korean giant that’s been incredibly successful in recent years, and the brand is no longer associated with cheap budget products that don’t really do the job. Instead Samsung is now known for selling high-quality, innovative products like the Galaxy mobile phone, but also LED TVs. In fact, Samsung’s LED TVs have taken a dominant position in the TV market, largely thanks to a combination of high performance, sufficiently high quality and a very competitive price.

Sharp

For a long time Sharp was a relatively obscure brand in Europe, despite being well known and popular in its homeland of Japan and in countries like the USA. For example, it was Sharp that invented the LCD TV right back in 1988. With its epoch-making Aquos series, Sharp also set a whole new standard for high-quality LCD TVs. Aquos became the self-evident favourite for Japanese consumers, who are probably the most discerning home electronics buyers in the world. It was also with its Aquos series that Sharp became a more well-known brand in Europe, at least for LCD/LED TVs. The Aquos series still includes Sharp’s best TVs and uses Sharp’s unique Quattron technology, which according to Sharp gives their screens a better picture. The Quattron technology uses an extra subpixel colour (yellow) to produce a better picture than the normal three colours of red, green and blue. In recent years, Sharp have concentrated on selling a very large TV screens for a very low price. If you’re looking for the largest possible screen for the lowest possible price but still require good picture quality, Sharp’s Aquos series is something to look out for.

Sony

Sony was long the undisputed master in the home electronics industry, with groundbreaking products such as the Walkman, PlayStation and HandyCAM. But the company failed to predict the breakthrough of flat screen TVs in the early 2000s, falling behind competitors like Panasonic and Sharp, who took market share in the TV market. Although Sony has since caught up and produces very good flat TVs, the company has had difficulties retaking its lost market share. This isn’t just because Panasonic and Sharp have also learned to make excellent flat screen TVs. Sony have also lost many customers to Samsung, who have succeeded in increasing the quality of their LCD TVs while keeping them generally cheaper than those of Japanese manufacturers.

Even though the once so dominant Japanese premium brands have had to take a back seat to the South Korean challengers, they’re by no means beaten. But the tough pressure on prices from the South Koreans has led to Sony, Panasonic and Sharp being forced to reduce their prices without compromising on their products’ very high quality. This means that as a consumer you can buy very good value TVs from these premium brands.

Common problems and defects

Backlight bleed (LCD)

An LCD screen is illuminated from behind, and the LCD then blocks out the light it doesn’t need so the screen can display a picture. When the TV is showing a dark scene and it doesn’t succeed in blocking out all the light, a phenomenon called backlight bleed or clouding occurs. Almost all LCD TVs suffer to some extent from this, but a sufficiently good LCD TV has such a small amount of bleed that the untrained eye won’t even notice it.

Crosstalk

Crosstalk is a defect that occurs on a 3D TV when the images for the left and right eye overlap each other. Crosstalk is actually a special form of ghosting which only occurs when a TV is showing 3D content.

Home video effect

The home video effect (also known as the soap opera effect) is a side effect of what's known as judder reduction, which often means that your eye perceives an increased frame rate. Many people find this effect to be disturbing as it ruins the “cinema feel” in a film. As a result of this, modern TVs generally make it possible to deactivate judder reduction.

Burn-in (plasma)

If a still image is displayed on a plasma TV for a very long period (for example, a menu in a fast food outlet), this image can permanently “burn in” to the screen. This is called permanent burn-in or simply burn-in and results from different parts of the screen being used to different extents and therefore ageing at different speeds. The parts that are most used age most and become less bright, giving the “burned in” impression.

Memory effect (plasma)

The memory effect is a milder form of burn-in which isn’t permanent but disappears when a new moving picture is shown.

Screen door effect (plasma)

The screen door effect primarily affects smaller plasma screens and takes the form of a mesh visible across the entire screen. The screen door effect occurs because you can see the individual pixels, which are relatively large on plasma screens. However, this effect is generally only visible on screens smaller than 50 inches, and is therefore becoming less relevant as screens grow and are increasingly larger than 50 inches.

Motion blur

Motion blur can take various forms, of which the two most common are ghosting and judder

Ghosting: Ghosting happens when a screen continues showing an image that should no longer be shown, which remains over the new image.

Judder: Judder (also known as pulldown) occurs when the frame rate on the video source and TV aren’t the same. This can mean that TVs with PAL appear jerky. To counteract this, interpolation is applied. This means that the TV generates new images which are inserted between the existing ones to counteract the jerkiness.

Glossary

CEC: Stands for Consumer Electronics Control, which is a technology that makes it possible for users to control up to 10 different CEC compatible units (for example TVs, Blu-ray players and a home cinema system) with just one remote control. The various manufacturers have their own names for the CEC technology. Below is a list of the largest manufacturers and the names of their CEC technology.

LG: SimpLink Panasonic: VIERA Link Philips: EasyLink Samsung: Anynet+ Sharp: Aquos Link Sony: BRAVIA Link & BRAVIA Sync Toshiba: RIHD

Dynamic contrast: The difference in brightness between the lightest and darkest colour the TV can display over time (i.e. not simultaneously). Dynamic contrast is used for moving pictures and often has a very high theoretical value on LED TVs, which is why manufacturers often emphasise it.

Native resolution: The fixed resolution an LCD screen has. On an LCD screen, the resolution can’t be changed to suit an incoming video signal with another resolution. Instead, the LCD TV must convert the video signal to have the same resolution as the LCD TV. Colour depth: The number of colours a screen can display.

HD: HD stands for high definition. In terms of standards, HD video should either be 720x1080 or 1080x1920 pixels, where the figure on the left of the multiplication symbol is the number of vertical rows of pixels and the figure on the right of the multiplication symbol is the number of horizontal rows. A resolution of 720x1080 pixels is called HD Ready, which is 0.7776 megapixels, while a resolution of 1080x1920 pixels is called Full HD, which is 2.0736 megapixels. This can be compared to a modern still camera that can have an image resolution of up to 20 megapixels, which is 10 times as high a resolution as Full HD video.

Input lag: For example, the time it takes from you pressing a button on the remote control until the TV screen reacts.

Luminance: The quantity of light emitted from a specific surface. Measured in brightness per square metre and stated in units of candela per square metre (cd/m2).

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display

LED: Light Emitting Diode

Static contrast: The difference in brightness between the lightest and darkest colour the TV can display in a given moment. Static contrast is the best indicator of how good the contrast actually is.

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