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Buying a Television: All You Need To Know

Television technology has changed rapidly in the past few years and finding your way through the maze of screen sizes, features and brands can be a turn off.

But whether you’re looking to replace an old TV set in the living room with the latest viewing options or simply want a small screen for the kitchen or bedroom, check out our guide below.

It features all the questions you should be asking yourself when choosing a television and will soon have you switched on to the best bits.

Does it Matter Where I’ll Be Watching the TV?

When you’re on the hunt for a new TV, the first thing to consider is screen size. If you’re looking to put the TV in a lounge, you’ll want to start by considering a 32in screen and work up to a massive 64in depending on the size of your room.

If it’s for the bedroom, kitchen, or kids’ room, between 19in and 22in should suffice.

Knowing the TV’s viewing angle is important. If you’re putting it on the wall, the wider the angle, the better people sitting side-on, rather than directly face-on to the screen, will be able to view it.

Choosing the right screen size

What Type of Screen Should I Buy?

Today’s TVs come in LCD, LED and Plasma. LCD is usually the cheapest while new LED technology offers the clearest picture and slimmest sets.

» Also, find out more about each TV type

LED is also the most environmentally-friendly technology on the market, consuming less power. But if you’re watching a lot of fast-moving sport or action movies, Plasma may be the best choice.

Which TV Will Give the Best Picture?

When considering screen type and picture quality, you need to look at the TV’s frame rate, measured in Hz (Hertz). This is how quickly the images are displayed and ranges from 100 to 800 on the more top end/premium sets.

The higher the number, the more frames per second that will be displayed. This makes it better for sports and films. But remember, a 100Hz Plasma for example, will be quicker than a 100Hz LCD.

How About High-Definition (HDTV)?

All televisions are now HD ready, and capable of receiving high-definition broadcasts for clearer picture quality. They will be 720p TVs, a number relating to the amount of single pixels used to make up the image on screen. A 1080p television has twice as many pixels than a standard HD ready one, and gives even crisper images.

It is worth knowing that Sky+HD viewing is broadcast in 1080i so a 1080p television maximises picture quality for satellite customers. Blu-ray movies give the full 1080p experience.

Which TV Brand is Best?

Most people have a favourite technology brand, just like they love a type of car or breakfast cereal. But you may find your preferred brand doesn’t make the type of TV you’re after.

For example, Sony do not sell Plasma while Panasonic, Samsung and LG produce all three. However each have their own designs and unique features. Some retailers have exclusive brands available like JVC, Ferguson and Hitachi which are only available at Comet.

What About Some Extra Channels?

In today’s digital world, there’s far more to watch than the five original analogue channels. All TVs now come with a built-in digital Freeview tuner, bringing you dozens of extra channels and radio stations without paying a subscription.

Freeview HD is also now an option and delivers high-definition versions of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and S4C in Wales.

Some televisions have a built-in freesat HD tuner providing an extra 140 channels subscription-free – but you will need a separate dish to receive the service.

Should I Be Clever and Go Smart?

If you’re spending hundreds of pounds on a new TV, then you want to know it won’t be out of date next year. Smart TVs are the latest models, and connect to the internet either using an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.

This allows you to surf the web and social networks from the sofa, download movies, apps and games in a similar way to your smartphone and even plug in a webcam to have video conversations via services such as Skype.

» Also, read more about Smart TVs in our separate guide

If you’re buying a Smart TV, built-in wireless internet is the best option as a plug-in Wi-Fi dongle will cost extra. The dongles are made by the manufacturers, so ensure you purchase one that matches your TV brand. You should also check what apps and services each manufacturer is offering as they differ between brands.

How Does 3D TV Work?

All the big manufacturers now offer 3D TVs. You can choose between Active or Passive. The first creates the 3D picture through technology in the glasses, but this makes the specs chunkier and more expensive.

When buying glasses, the brand of glasses must be the same as the TV. Passive is an alternative option with cheaper glasses, so this option could suit bigger families.

You will need a compatible 3D Blu-ray player to watch 3D movies and a service such as Sky 3D to watch TV shows, sport and films.

» Also, learn more about 3D TV

You can still watch 2D television on a 3D set and some offer the ability to covert these into a 3D image by automatically adding depth to the picture – look out for 2D to 3D conversion features. However, this won’t be as good as programmes which have been created with 3D in mind.

What Connections Will I Need on the Back?

This is very important if you want to plug in items such as Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and satellite boxes. These will be connected using HDMI cables so ensure you pick a television with at least two or more HDMI ports. Otherwise you’ll constantly be swapping over the leads in the back.

Some TVs also have a USB port like on your computer, for plugging in a Wi-Fi dongle to work with Smart TVs. Others allow you to connect a memory USB stick and record straight onto it.

DLNA technology allows you to easily connect products such as smartphones, laptops and DVD players that also have DLNA onboard.

Anything Else I Should Remember?

In televisions with a screen size of 24in or below, you will find many models have built-in DVD players. These are great for spare rooms or the bedroom. Some TVs are capable of Picture in Picture (PiP) so you can view two channels at once on the screen.

Jargon Buster:

  • Pixel - The individual dots that create the picture on a TV screen. The more pixels a telly has, the better the image will be.
  • HD - A shortened way to say high-definition, offering greater picture quality than traditional broadcasts. All TVs are now HD ready but at 720p. Higher quality 1080p HD is also available.
  • Hertz - The term used to measure how fast a TV’s picture refreshes on the screen. The higher the number, displayed as Hz, the smoother moving images will look in fast-paced sport or movies.
  • LCD - Liquid Crystal Display technology that either blocks light or allows it through to create the picture you’re watching.
  • LED - Thousands of tiny lights are used to create the images. Comes in either Edge LED, which puts these lights around the screen and reflects pictures onto it, or Full LED covering the entire screen to produce deeper, more colourful images.
  • Plasma - Produces a picture using gas-filled glass compartments that glow red, green and blue.
  • HDMI - The connection used to plug in additional gadgets such as DVD players, gaming consoles or satellite boxes.

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