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26 February 2016

Ten tips for buying a TV

Here are our best tips to keep in mind when you next shop for a television.

The TV is the centrepiece of your home entertainment set-up, so it pays to choose a good one. Not only one that suits the space you’re putting it into, but one that’s best for what you want to watch. Every year, we buy and test dozens of TVs. We have test results for 68 models ranging in price from $470 to $7999.

Here are Consumer’s top tips for TV shopping:

1. What size to choose
Measure the distance from where the TV will be placed to where you’ll sit and divide that by three. This gives an estimate of screen size. With HD and UHD (Ultra-High Definition) TVs, you can afford going larger.

2. Ignore the gimmicks
3D TV? Even if you can find something to watch, you’ll need a set of glasses for everyone who wants to watch. As for curved TVs, they’re great – if you’re sitting directly in front of them. Anyone watching from an angle won’t have as good an experience.

3. LCD, LED or OLED?
What the screen is made of can affect your viewing experience. LCD screens are typically thicker due to the backlighting required. LED TVs have LCD screens with LED backlighting or edge lighting, though the latter can give uneven blacks. OLED screens don’t require backlighting, which means they can be extremely thin and give better colour contrasts.

4. Refresh rate
If you watch a lot of sport or play games, consider the refresh rate. The rate is usually described in hertz (Hz) and shows how many times per second the image on the screen changes. So a 200Hz rate shows 200 images per second. The faster the refresh rate, the sharper the images when showing fast-moving footage.

5. 4K and UHD
A new crop of TVs is coming out with 4K or UHD resolution. These are roughly double the resolution of 1080p – and the detail they can display is amazing. These TVs are expensive but the price will likely drop soon.

6. Considering cables
Nearly everything uses HDMI cables to connect, so check the TV has enough HDMI ports for your game consoles, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. If you plan to wall-mount the TV, ensure the ports are still accessible.

7. Smart TVs
Not all Smart TVs are created equal. Just because a TV can connect to the internet, it doesn’t mean it’ll be able to run the app you want. If you want to watch TVNZ on Demand, Lightbox, use Skype, or any other “smart” service, check there is an app available for that particular TV before purchasing. In the future, you’ll increasingly use the internet for viewing content, so make sure any new TV you buy has WiFi.

8. Voice and motion control
Some of the TVs we've tested have voice controls. Samsung and LG especially have been pushing this technology – with mixed results. The voice controls are generally good, even with a Kiwi accent, but the microphone is in the remote control – so you can easily just press the button instead of talking.

9. Sounds like?
Modern super-slim TVs don’t have room for good speakers. So if you want decent sound, we recommend getting a home theatre system or soundbar.

10. Energy stars
According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), TVs are the fourth-biggest energy-consuming household appliance. TVs must carry energy-rating labels. The labels use a “star” system, which makes it easy to compare the energy consumption of different TVs with the same size screens. The more stars a model has, the cheaper it is to run.

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