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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We’ve tested models in a range of sizes, types and prices and found some good options. We also explain what to look for, and define some terms you may come across while shopping.
Snapshot: The LG 43LF5900 is a 108cm TV without WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 43LH600V is a 108cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 55EG910 is a 138cm 3D TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 55LH600 is a 139cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 55UF680T is a 139cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 55UG870T is a 139cm 3D TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 60UH770T is a 151cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The LG 60UH850T is a 151cm 3D TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD49X8300C is a 123cm TV without WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD55X8500C is a 139cm 3D TV without WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD-55X8500D is a 139cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD55X9000C is a 139cm 3D TV without WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD65X8500D is a 164cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KD-65X9300D is a 164cm 3D TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
Snapshot: The Sony KDL-32W600D is an 80cm TV with WiFi. How good is the picture?
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A wireless technology used to “pair” devices. In TVs it’s useful for connecting compatible wireless keyboards and smartphones.
Connections used for older analogue video signals. Composite uses a single cable for video (usually yellow) and is often paired with stereo RCA (left and right stereo cables usually red and white). Component breaks the video signal into 3 channels: this gives a better picture but it also requires a separate audio signal.
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.
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.
UHD and 4K refer to resolutions of 3840x2160 and higher. The two terms are technically different but are used interchangeably (or combined).
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 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.
This is useful for connecting hearing aid devices as well as headphones to your TV. But using this port often mutes the main speakers in your TV.
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.
Often resolutions are given abbreviations, such as HD, UHD or 4K.
A catch-all term for TVs that use the internet to deliver services and content.
A digital audio connection.
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.
A standard connection often used to connect USB hard drives for recording or playback.
Usually means a wireless internet connection or network. However, if a TV “has WiFi” we mean it has the ability to connect to a WiFi network.
Similar to Bluetooth. It establishes a direct link between 2 devices and allows them to exchange data.
TV screens aren't always supplied with a full range of cables. Talk to the retailer about the best setup for you, and get this sorted before you take delivery of the TV. Make sure you get the right cables and connectors for your needs: your DVD player/recorder, home-theatre receiver, Sky decoder, cable decoder, camcorder, and so on.
For digital cables like HDMI cables and optical audio cables, remember there is little to no difference between an expensive cable and a cheap one, so don't be pressured into buying an expensive gold-plated version.
Camcorder users should look for easily accessed front or side connections. That means you won't have to fumble around at the back (or even worse, un-mount the screen from the wall) to plug in.
If the connection challenge is too much for you, ask how much it would cost to have the television installed.
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 – even the new curved screens suffer from glare – so be aware of this when choosing where to put your TV.
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 3 HDMI ports used up – and most TVs have a maximum of 4. For similar reasons check the number of USB ports.
The newest Samsung TVs have made this super-simple. They have 1 plug in the back which connects to a separate box with all the connections in it. This “outsourcing” means upgrading your TV is a lot easier: you can just upgrade the box instead of the whole screen. It also makes it easier to hide all the cables and means the screen can be much thinner.
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.
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 2 versions: 1 uses gyro-sensors in the remote control (much like Wii or other video game consoles); 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.
Check the on-screen menu to see how easy it is to read, and whether you'll be able to follow the instructions. As well, look for a manual with clearly labelled diagrams and step-by-step instructions, written in plain English.
A child lock disables specific channels or locks the on-board buttons, useful if you have small children.
We think WiFi should be standard on TVs now. Why’s that? Because in the next few years you’ll be using the internet increasingly on your TV. More importantly, you’ll be using your home WiFi network to connect your portable devices (phones, tablets and whatever) to your TV so you can share content between them.
A good example of this is the YouTube app, available on almost every “smart TV” system. Once it’s set up you can easily “flick” videos you find on your phone to the TV. Perfect for showing your friends that cute cat video you loved.
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Passive 3D uses polarised glasses and screen treatments; active 3D uses shuttered glasses that open and close in sync with the TV’s refresh rate.
Active glasses are more expensive and bulkier whereas passive glasses are similar to large sunglasses. So passive is usually regarded as better than active – although the image you see is slightly dimmer because the glasses cut out part of the light.
If you wear spectacles or have any trouble focusing – even just in one eye – then we recommend you try both options. Check you can wear them with your glasses … and also whether you can see the 3D effect at all!
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