Buying a new TV can be quite a daunting experience. Unless you’re a serial first adopter, it’s a piece of kit you’d hope to have in your home for a good few years, so making sure you're picking the right one for your needs is really important.
But what are the things you should consider? We’ve rounded up some of our top tips when buying a TV that should help make your buying experience a little easier.
Which TV screen size?
While it might be tempting to think that bigger is better, the size of set that’s right for you is closely dependent on how close to the screen you’ll be sitting, which depends on the size of your room.
Luckily, an organisation called SMPTE, which stands for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, has published detailed guidelines on exactly how far you should sit in order to optimize the relationship of the performance of your TV and what your eyes can discern.
If you’re sitting the correct distance from your TV, you’ll see lots of detail, good edge definition and smooth, clean motion, but if you’re sitting too close to the screen, then you’re going to see a lot of picture noise.
On the other hand, sit too far away from the TV and you’ll struggle to pick up all the picture detail your TV has to offer.
The SMPTE rule for watching HD TV is that you should be sitting a minimum of 1.6 times the diagonal size of your TV away from the screen. For those still watching a lot of standard definition content, you might want to move a little further back, but the following distances are a good place to start.
- 32in - minimum 1.3m away
- 37in - min. 1.5m
- 40-42in - min. 1.7m
- 46in - min. 1.9m
- 50-52in - min. 2.2m
- 60in+ - min. 2.5m
More after the break
What inputs will I need?
You’ll want to consider the connections you’ll need on your TV to ensure the set you’re buying will suit your needs.
If you’ll be connecting all your kit into your TV, you’ll probably want a minimum of three HDMIs to cover a set top box, Blu-ray player and games console, but if you have additional items like a Chromecast dongle, for example, you might find you’ll need four or more.
Those with more legacy connections will want to check their new TV supports them, while if you’re planning on buying a soundbar or soundbase to help boost your new TV’s sound, you might want to make sure there is an optical output – a popular connection choice with these types of devices.
MORE: Best soundbars 2015
With Smart TV going from strength to strength, making sure your TV can get online is a big consideration. We would always recommend hardwiring your TV via ethernet if at all possible, but if your TV is too far from your router, you’ll want to look for a TV with built in wi-fi so you can access to all the services it has to offer.
Speaking of those services, whether you’re a big Netflix user or you can’t get enough of iPlayer, you’ll want to make sure before you buy that your TV’s smart system has all the apps that you use the most.
Samsung currently has the widest selection of catch up and on demand services, but you may find other systems have plenty for your needs.
What type of screen?
With the demise of plasma, LCD has become the leading technology when it comes to TV screens, and it accounts for the majority of sets you’ll see on the shelves. That’s no bad thing – it’s a tried and tested formula and one that is only getting better with time.
OLED is a newer technology that allows TVs to be unbelievably slim, while offering deep blacks, punchy vibrant colours and a crisp, clear picture. The only problem? Panels are expensive to produce – meaning the costs get passed on to us.
These costs have led most manufacturers to abandoning the idea altogether until it becomes more affordable. Samsung dabbled with the idea, only to halt production shortly after due to “manufacturing issues”, meaning LG is the only manufacturer currently in production with OLED, and only in its very high-end sets. Unless you have serious cash to spend, LCD is the way to go – and we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Curved vs flat TV
As for curved versus flat screens, a lot of it depends on your household. If it’s just one or two of you sitting in a similar seating position, it can be great, and look very nice indeed.
But if there are lots of different seating positions in the house, you’re better off sticking with a flat screen to ensure everyone gets the best from the picture. Curved TVs currently cost more for similar specification, too, so you'll be paying a premium.
Should you buy a 4K TV?
It feels like we’re on a tipping point of where considering 4K seems the sensible decision now, particularly if you’re thinking of spending much over £1000. The upscaling newer 4K sets offer is much improved compared with earlier sets, so watching non-4K content on them (while we wait for more 4K content to arrive) is much more convincing than it was previously.
Below that you might find your money better spent on a really good full HD set, though we are seeing those ranges squeezed as manufacturers are making the switch to 4K.
We’re certainly seeing lots of industry support for 4K, with Sky, BT and BBC showing interest in both filming and broadcasting in the format as soon as possible. Buying 4K now would certainly futureproof your set for when that arrives, while giving you access to things that are already available, like Netflix 4K and Amazon Instant Video 4K.
If you do decide to go 4K you’ll want to make sure the set you buy has HDMI 2.0 as standard and comes with the HEVC codec on board. This will ensure your set will work with both the content currently available and that on its way.
See all our 4K TV reviews
What about 3D?
3D TV is certainly declining in popularity now, but if it is something you’re interested in making use of on your new TV, it’s worth thinking about the two different technologies - passive and active.
Passive 3D will offer you a more comfortable viewing experience, with cheaper glasses if you need to buy more, but the technology with which it works means the picture quality you see is decreased from 1080p to 720p. This is the technology you'll find used at the cinema.
Active 3D offers the full 1080p picture and much greater sense of depth, but the technology it uses can fatigue your eyes during long movie watching sessions. The glasses are more expensive too, plus they need charging in order to work.
Do your research
Once you’ve made your shortlist, it’s time to do your research. Search our reviews on whathifi.com to see what our testing team thought to your choices and if you can, try to find a store that has your set on demonstration so you can see it in action.
Be aware that the store will have tweaked the settings and made colours overly vibrant to make the set stand out on the shop floor, but you will at least be able to have a look at it before you take it home.
MORE: Best TVs to buy in 2015