Believe it or not, size isn’t everything. It’s common to think that the bigger your TV the better, but actually you should aim to choose your screen size based on how far away you will sit from the screen. Here’s a quick guide:
- Less than 1.5 m = up to 32 inches
- 1.5-2m = 32-39 inches
- 2-2.5m = 40-45 inches
- 2.5-3m = 46-55 inches
- Over 3m = Over 56 inches
Screen size is measured diagonally from top to bottom. This doesn’t include the bezel – only the screen itself. Bezels are actually far smaller and narrower now than they used to be, so a 46 inch TV today would actually be much more compact than the same size a few years ago. You may be able to go up a size if you’re upgrading.
For the average family, it will be quite unlikely that any of you will be sitting within 2 metres of your screen. If nothing else, it’s bad for your eyes! A good bet for a standard-sized living room would be a TV of between 46 and 56 inches – the largest that will fit comfortably in the space and not feel overpowering.
In simple terms, screen resolution refers to the number of pixels that your TV screen is made up of. The higher the number, the better the resolution. The most common screen resolution that people go for nowadays is 1080p, which is Full HD. This is pretty much standard for a new TV; you definitely shouldn’t go lower than this. Don’t be tempted by a cheap 720p set, because it simply won’t be as good – even for a small TV.
However, with 1080p as the standard, if you want to get more from your investment then you should consider 4K, aka Ultra HD. 4k TVs have four times the resolution of an HD TV, so images appear richer and sharper.
Your TV’s refresh rate, also known as the processing rate, refers to how quickly your TV can process screen changes. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the overall picture, which is important for activities like gaming and watching sports or movies. As a general guide, don’t go for anything with a refresh rate lower than 120 Hz. A lot of TVs are much higher than this. But watch out for the phrase ‘effective refresh rate’, which actually means half the stated rate.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is a common feature of some of the new 4k Ultra HD TVs. Its benefits are that it offers brighter, more vivid colours and improved contrast. Don’t base your purchase decision purely on HDR, as the standard has not been settled yet – and frankly it can all get a little confusing.
If HDR is important to you, aim for a TV set with Dolby Vision, which is a stricter and more regulated version of the feature. There is also the term ‘Ultra HD Premium’, which essentially also means HDR compatible.
Sadly there is not a lot of HDR programming available right now, so you might not get the full experience – at least not straight away. Look to Blu-ray movies and streaming services, as they will be the first to make the shift.
HDMI and Connections
This may be something you hadn’t thought of – all new TVs will have HDMI ports won’t they? Likely yes, but depending on what you end up using it for it may not have enough, especially if you are a gamer with lots of consoles and devices to connect. Four HDMI ports is a good number to aim for, and if you’re buying 4k you should also check whether the ports support HDMI 2.0 – this will be important for the future as technology continues to develop.
There are essentially two kinds of TV screen to choose from: LED LCD and OLED. Most modern TVs are LED LCD and they are far more popular purchases as they are considerably more affordable and still offer great picture quality. By contrast, OLED screens are very expensive – but they are thinner, use less energy, and have incredible picture quality with very rich colours and contrast from all angles.
LG is currently the primary company offering OLED TVs in the larger sizes, but it will soon be followed by Panasonic and Philips. Current prices are in the range of £1600 to £4000, depending on size.
Don’t be fooled by advertisers making out that smart-TVs are some kind of big deal. Almost all new TVs are ‘smart’ nowadays – it simply means that they connect to your Wi-Fi, so you can browse applications, connect to your other devices and use streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. Just make sure that the model you buy will support all of the services that you want to use.
You may have noticed that screens are getting thinner and thinner. It’s great for aesthetics and picture, but it’s not great for sound. Most standard TV speakers are actually not that good in terms of sound quality, so if you’ve invested in a nice TV then you should probably also consider getting a soundbar to complete the home cinema experience. Soundbars can be bought for relatively little – maybe around £200 – and they make a significant improvement to the sound while being compact and easy to use and install.