Televisions

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Which TV is right for you?

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.

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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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Jargon buster

Here are some terms you may come across when you’re looking for a new TV.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Each individual OLED creates a pixel of colour – red, green, blue. When an OLED is off, it creates a black pixel. The backlighting employed by regular LCD TVs means the black on screen is more of a dark grey, whereas OLEDs give a “true black” allowing for greater contrast in images.

OLED technology is still evolving. For example, the brightness of each OLED degrades over time, and at a higher rate for blue than other colours. When OLED TVs first hit the market a few years ago, this degradation became noticeable after roughly 6000 screen hours, now manufacturers claim it’s closer to 100,000 screen hours (the equivalent of leaving your TV on 24 hours a day for 11.5 years).

QLED TVs, from Samsung, are a type of LED-backlit LCD TV that holds its own against OLED. 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. But while OLED is “emissive”, meaning the pixels emit their own light, QLED is “transmissive” (it relies on an LED backlight).

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.

USB

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.

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. 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.

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 – even the new curved screens suffer from glare – so be aware of this when choosing where to put your TV.

Smart TVs

A smart TV has most or all of these features.

  • Connects to the internet via cable or WiFi (or both).
  • An internet browser.
  • Built-in apps that can connect to services such as on-demand TV, Facebook and YouTube.
  • DLNA functionality (this lets you connect your TV to your home network and stream media from a computer).
  • Built-in games and other apps that might be useful (such as weather updates or a world clock).
  • Some form of speech or motion control.
  • A specialised remote (or other device) to make entering text easier.
  • Upgrades software via the internet.
  • Records and plays back from a USB device.
  • Accesses content from a smartphone or tablet.
  • Identifies upcoming programmes you may be interested in.

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.

If you’re going to use streaming services on your Smart TV, check the app will work on your TV.

Other considerations

Before you buy, think about ports and plugs, remote controls, on-screen menus 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 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.

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 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.

On-screen menus and instructions

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.

Child lock

A child lock disables specific channels or locks the on-board buttons, useful if you have small children.

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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.

Samsung is the Top Brand

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

In 2015, this award went to Sony. This time around, Samsung have moved ahead of other brands in product performance, while reliability and satisfaction is similar across all brands.

Sony still pipped Samsung on reliability and satisfaction, but only by 1 or 2 percentage points (they were both ‘average’ within survey margin of error). But of the tested Samsung TVs, only one scored below the category average score while the top three highest scoring recommended TVs are Samsung models. In contrast, 7 of the 12 Sony TVs scored below the average.

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.

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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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