How to compare televisions: A buyer’s guide
Welcome to Crowdstorm, one of the UK’s leading shopping recommendation websites. Here you can compare televisions from all the leading brands before clicking through to the UK’s favourite retailers to make your purchase.
But what's the best TV for you and how do you compare? There are always hundreds of televisions on sale and it can be hard to spot the differences between them.
We know most people aren’t TV experts, as it’s the kind of purchase we tend to make once or twice a decade – and television technology seems to move forward on a weekly basis!
So we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to walk you through the basics and help make choosing the right television a breeze.
Which TV to buy? Size is important!
While you may think bigger is better, and want that lovely 55-inch beauty you saw in the superstore, think first about the size of room it will inhabit.
This is important for two reasons. First, the size of television you need depends on how close you’ll be sitting to it. Get a screen that’s too large and you’ll actually lessen the watching experience and possibly give yourself eyestrain.
Guidance varies, but if you’re going to be anything up to six feet from the screen, a 17-26-inch television is advised. From 6-9 feet you should be looking in the 27-38-inch range, while at 10-feet the recommended TV screen width is 39-46 inch. You want to be watching at 12 feet to get that 55-inch screen – or 14 feet for a 60-inch plus monster!
And secondly, style: while today’s televisions tends to be slim, slick and well-designed do you really want it to be the focal point of your room? Keep most people’s eyes on the art or that inglenook fireplace, rather than them thinking “Ugh, that TV takes up the whole wall!”
Television types: OLED, QLED and LCD televisions
Another consideration is of course screen type. The days of cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions that were deeper that they were wide (and weighed more than Saturn) are long gone; but they’ve been replaced with more choices. Even the once cool plasma screens have seemingly gone the way of the dodo. Here’s a rough general description of the contenders:
- LCD (liquid crystal display): It was the LCD TV that put the nail in the coffin of CRT in the mid-2000s, but that is starting to feel like a long time ago. You’ll still find some on the market, especially on small screens or at budget prices, and they certainly do the job if you’re not a big TV fan – but this is now old technology.
- LED and OLED: Now the most popular TV choice on the block, using the popular old LCD technology but replacing the old large lighting lamps with lots of tiny LEDs – making them slim and energy efficient. OLED takes LED to the next level, creating a more vibrant picture that many see as equalling plasma screens – but at smaller screen sizes too. However, you will have to pay a premium for it right now (though prices are dropping all the time).
- QLED: The latest leap forward is the QLED screen, or to give it the full name, a 'quantum dot light emitting diode' TV (QLED television definitely sounds better...). Once again the bar has been raised in terms of colour, with the claim that you now get 100% colour volume. But as any footballer will tell you, I'm sure the boffins won't be happy until they can get that up to 110%. Seriously though, HDR content looks absolutely amazing on these TVs.
Resolution: From standard definition via HD to 4K ultra HD (UHD)
When it comes to picture resolution, it’s all about the pixels: the tiny dots that, together, make up your picture. Old standard definition (SD) TV was 400-600 pixel range – but has now been replaced on the high street with 720p (720 pixels) and 1080p devices – commonly known as HDTVs.
It’s pretty easy to see the image quality difference between SD and HD, and with 1080p televisions now available at budget prices there’s no reason not to make the switch up. But the technology hasn’t stopped there, of course – the real TV aficionados have already moved onto ultra HD.
Dubbed ‘4K’, ultra HD has a massive – you guessed it – 4,000 pixels on display; so in theory four times the picture quality of 1080p HD. Entertainment has been available for this quality of television in limited amounts since 2014 and is now starting to trickle through suppliers such as Netflix and Amazon - and you'll notice an upscale in quality on your DVDs and Blu-rays. So if you can afford it, now could be the time to switch up.
The rise of the smart TV
With the internet now standard in almost every UK home, it's no surprise internet connected (or 'smart') televisions have become almost standard too.
Catch-up TV services such as the BBC iPlayer have been joined by the likes of Netflix, letting you stream the latest movies and boxsets direct to your screen without you having to fiddle around with DVDs.
And you can also stay in contact with your friends via social media while you do it, so they'll never miss your next recommendation for a boxset binge.
TV extras: 3D, Freeview, curved screens and wired connections
With those basics out of the way, let’s concentrate on some of the most common ‘television extras’ you’ll have to decide whether you need before you narrow down your TV search.
- Freeview: While some now have their TV channels beamed in via the internet or satellite thanks to Sky, Virgin and the rest, many of us rely on Freeview. Having a Freeview ‘box’ is now pretty much a pointless exercise, as most decent TVs come with Freeview built in. If you use Freeview, this is definitely a box worth ticking.
- 3D TV: While still a thing in terms of cinema, the smart money is on 3D TV having had its day. It never really caught on and while it might be back it has largely gone from being the next big thing to a gimmick. If it’s your thing, more power to you – but it far from being a ‘must have’ on today’s televisions.
- Curved screens: Claiming to give a more immersive experience, curved screen TVs hit the market in 2013. They also give a wider field of view, meaning you’re more likely to get the optimal viewing experience no matter where you are in a room in relation to the screen. But at high prices and with debates raging on their real value, the jury is still out.
- TV connections: There’s no point in getting a fabulous new TV if it doesn’t have the ports on the back to plug in everything you need! Check what you currently utilise (HDMI, Ethernet, home cinema audio, USB, old school video SCART and hi-fi) and be sure you can cram it all into your new television.
Getting value for money
Getting value is key to many of our buying decisions, and it’s never truer than with large electrical purchases.
It’s easy to pick up a cheap television and soon regret it, but the best televisions don't always offer the best value for you: that whizz-bang top-of-the-line ultra HD television doesn’t seem so great when you’re watching reruns of Only Fools and Horses on it every night.
If you want value, look for common TV widths (those most common are more mass produced, bringing down costs) as well as TV offers on clearances or end-of-line stock. If these are good brand TVs they’re not being reduced because they’re bad quality – it’s simply a case of making room for the newer models. You can get some great bargain televisions if you don’t mind last season’s technology - and just think what you can spend the savings on.