Find the best screen for your home and get the most from your TV with our buying guide and test results.
The biggest screen in your house should be the best, but finding exactly what you want can be a difficult task – you could come away with a TV that’s too big or too complicated for what you need. Our guide explains how to find the right TV for you.
Here are some terms you may come across when you’re looking for a new TV.
Ultra-high definition resolution and 4K refer to resolutions of 3840x2160 and higher. The two terms are technically different but are used interchangeably. 4K is short for 4000 pixels along the horizontal axis.
A wireless technology used to pair devices. In TVs it’s useful for connecting compatible audio devices, wireless keyboards and smartphones.
An industry standard that allows TVs to communicate with other devices. Often used to connect to DLNA-compliant media servers set up on home computers.
Records content from your TV, in a digital format (usually on a USB hard drive or internal memory).
An onscreen TV guide. It’s available on digital TV services like Freeview and Sky.
Connects your TV to your modem.
The number of times per second that the image on screen is changed. Measured in hertz (Hz). The faster the rate, the sharper the motion on screen, which is great for sports but bad for movies.
Confusingly “HD” is the abbreviation for a number of high-definition resolutions, but “Full HD” is 1080p (1920x1080). Any new TV you buy should have at least this resolution. The “p” in 1080p refers to the process that refreshes the screen. Standard Definition (SD) is any resolution lower than this.
The standard cable for digital connections. If you want your TV to show an HD picture from a device like a Blu-ray player, you’ll need to connect with an HDMI cable.
High Dynamic Range is a technology that increases the number of colours in an image. HDR content will have subtler shades of colours so whites will look brighter and dark areas will seem deeper. It also allows for bright and dark sections to be shown at the same time without under/over exposing.
Liquid crystal display. The panel that makes your TV screen. Can create coloured pixels but requires a backlight.
Light-emitting diode. Used for backlighting. Can be arranged around the edge of the screen or in an array behind it.
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. TVs using OLEDs are the benchmark for high-resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) screens. OLEDs don’t need backlighting so can be much thinner than a regular LCD screen.
QLED TVs use a similar type of technology. The Q stands for “quantum dot”, which refers to a layer added to the screen. The dots provide the vibrant colours in a similar way to individual OLEDs.
A TV’s screen resolution is a good guide to how sharp images will look on your TV. The resolution is strictly about the number of pixels on the screen (given as “width x height”). The more pixels the higher the resolution. For example: 3840x2160 is a greater resolution than 1920x1080.
A catch-all term for TVs that use the internet to deliver services and content.
Newer TVs can take lower resolution content and “upscale” it to a higher one. For example, it might upscale a TV show from full HD to 4K. It does this by using software to guess what colour the extra pixels should be. This can be good, but it can also accentuate flaws in the original footage.
Obviously, the screen is the most important part of the TV. Because of this, every manufacturer will say their screen-tech is the best and will hit you with confusing nomenclature. From resolution to high dynamic range (HDR), to the difference between OLED and QLED; we lay out all the screen options for you.
It’s hard to find a new TV that isn’t “smart”. Connecting a TV to the internet is an easy way to play streaming video services without needing an extra device. Almost every new TV has Netflix pre-loaded, with many also coming with Lightbox, Neon, FanPass, and Freeview (though, if you’re keen on a particular service, check before buying).
However, TVs are yet to take over in other smart areas. It’s still quite clunky and hard to input text, which is bad enough when entering passwords and makes them terrible for social media and as internet browsers. The operating systems also tend to miss out on app or security updates. This can lead problems from your apps not working to your TV being attacked by malicious software.
You’ll need to think about everything you want to plug into your new TV, to make sure it has enough plugs in the back to accommodate them all. For example, a Sky decoder will take one HDMI port, a game console will take another one, a media hub will take yet another. That’s three HDMI ports used up – and most TVs have a maximum of four. For similar reasons check the number of USB ports.
Some TVs have the new USB 3.0 ports as well as USB 2.0. USB 3.0 allows faster data transfer than USB 2.0 and is more efficient at powering any devices that could need faster transfer. So whether you want one depends on what you plug into your TV.
Look for a remote where the most frequently selected buttons (volume, channel selector, standby, and mute) are easy to use and placed prominently. It's best if these buttons are a different shape or size from the rest, so you can locate them by touch only.
A lot of remotes now come with dedicated buttons for apps like Netflix. This is useful if you use these apps, but wasted space if you don’t.
Some of the TVs we've tested have voice and motion controls. Samsung and LG especially have been pushing this new technology – but the results are mixed.
The voice controls are generally good, even with a Kiwi accent. You can change volume and channels by saying numbers and you can ask the TV to suggest something for you to watch. But the microphone’s in the remote control – so you can easily just press the button instead of talking.
Motion controls are less successful. There are two versions: one uses gyro-sensors in the remote control (much like a video game controller); the other uses a camera in the TV to detect movement.
While the remote version works OK and is reasonably good for navigating smart-TV menus, the camera-in-the-TV version is terrible. The motion either takes ages to detect (leaving you with your arm in the air) or picks up false positives (people in the room moving their arms can set it off). The idea needs much more work.
What to consider before you install your new television.
TVs aren't always supplied with a full range of cables. Get this sorted before you take delivery of the TV. Make sure you get the right cables to connect any devices, such as set-top boxes, audio equipment, or game consoles. Mostly you’ll need HDMI cables.
An HDMI cable shouldn’t run you more than $40, depending on the length. You will want to use HDMI 2.1 cables. These are the new standard in HDMI cables and can easily handle 4K and HDR signals. Just like extended warranties, upselling accessories is still rife at appliance stores, so ignore any gold-plated nonsense from the salesperson.
Ask about the cost of a wall mount (if that's where you want your screen). And think about where all those cables will go. To make it all look clean and tidy, the cables may have to be put inside your walls – usually at further cost. You'll need an electrician to fit an electrical outlet behind the screen and to install inside the wall all the other connections.
Despite all the technological advances in the world, TVs have yet to defeat the sun. Glare on a screen is still a major problem so be aware of this when choosing where to put your TV.
If you have a smart TV, then you’ll need an internet connection. Consider the placement of your router to be as close to the TV as possible. This way you can plug the TV directly into the router for the fastest internet speeds.
The design of modern TVs often means they have poor sound performance. The ultra-thin screens don’t offer space needed for decent-sized speakers.
We offer some tips on improving your sound set-up.
The Energy Rating Label has a scale of stars to show how energy efficient a model is, compared to other models the same size/capacity. More stars = more energy efficient.
The energy consumption figure is in kWh and can be used to compare with any other television. You can use this figure and the kWh cost from your latest power bill to calculate how much this model will cost to run. The average cost of power for a kWh in New Zealand is 25¢. Lower kWh = cheaper to run.
The product’s annual energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh) is based on standards testing. Check the key assumptions used in this testing to make sure they match how you will use the product. Annual energy consumption for televisions assumes the TV is on for 10 hours a day and on standby for 14 hours. You should only compare star ratings of televisions with the same or similar capacities.
For information on energy ratings and how to use them, see our Energy Rating Labels explained article.