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Which TV is right for you?

We’ve tested models in a range of sizes, types and prices. We also explain what to look for, and define some terms you may come across while shopping.

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How we test TVs

When we put TVs through their paces, our focus is getting as close as we can to real world experiences. We want to watch what you watch, not just what makes the TV look good.

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Screen features

Find out the difference between LED, LCD and plasma screens, and what you need to know about resolution, refresh rate, viewing angle and more.

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Sound quality

The design of modern TVs often means they have poor sound performance. We offer some tips on improving your sound set-up.

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Glossary

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). Currently one of the highest resolutions for TVs.

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 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.

HD

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.

HDR

High Dynamic Range is a technology the increases the number of colours in a screen 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.

LCD

Liquid crystal display. The panel that makes your TV screen. Can create coloured pixels but requires a backlight.

LED

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.

Your TV will show your content in the highest possible resolution. This is determined by two things: the source of the content and the resolution of the TV’s screen.

Content that isn’t filmed in HD won’t be shown in HD on your TV. But HD content can be “upscaled” to 4K.

Setup

What to consider before you install your new television.

Cables and connectors

TV screens 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.

Just like extended warranties, upselling accessories is still rife at appliance stores. An HDMI cable shouldn’t run you more than $40. If you’re connecting it to a 4K device – such as the latest gaming console or 4K Apple TV – you’ll be fine with any cable that has HDMI 2.0. If you find a cable with 2.1, it won’t improve your current picture quality, but you’ll be slightly future-proofed. But don’t pay more for it!

Positioning

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.

All the technological advances in the world of 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.

Smart TVs

Why do you need to go smart?

Nearly every TV these days is “smart” and connecting one 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, TVNZ and ThreeNow (though, if you’re keen on a particular service, check before buying).

However, TVs are yet to take over in other smart areas. They’re still quite clunky and hard to use, which makes them terrible for social media and as internet browsers. They 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.

Other considerations

Before you buy, think about ports and plugs, remote controls and more.

Ports and plugs

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.

Remote control

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.

Voice and motion controls

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 when your accent’s Kiwi. 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). This idea needs much more work.

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Digital Living

Want your home to be a digital wonderland but not sure where to start? Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a technical genius. Our guide will take you through all the steps you need to get your devices connected and working.

Start reading.

Top Brand

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

This time around, LG has outperformed the other brands in our tests, putting them ahead. There is generally high reliability and satisfaction across the 4 big brands (LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic).

Reliability

There wasn’t much difference between the big 4 brands - LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony all had average reliability in our reliability survey.

The Warehouse’s Veon brand wasn’t quite up with the big names, but still managed average reliability. If things did go wrong, they were more likely than any other brand to go wrong quickly - 79% of Veon TVs that needed repair or replacement, needed it in the first 6 months.

Total number surveyed: 3008

For more on television reliability, see our survey.

Energy efficiency

According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), TVs are often the 4th-biggest energy-consuming household appliance. Their energy consumption has been spurred on by increases in screen size and the use of games consoles, digital video recorders and other electronic devices.

A minimum energy performance standard (MEPS) for televisions was introduced on 1 October 2012. The standard applies to all new TVs.

TVs sold here must also 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. So if you're comparing 46" TVs, the ones with the most stars will be the cheapest to run.

Some TVs carry the Energy Star mark, which is awarded to the most energy-efficient appliances and products.

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