A television is one of those high-value items that nearly everybody, at some point in their lives, will invest in. That’s why the TV market is fiercely competitive, and one where new models appear at high speed, and technology improves at a dizzying pace.
It’s also a market that can be hugely intimidating for buyers. With such a huge range in prices, and a truckload of indecipherable numbers, acronyms, marketing spiel and other jargon to contend with, it can be hard to know where to start. And it’s easy to go wrong – and if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s to end up with the wrong TV, a high-cost product that should last you for years on end. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive buying guide – it will take you through everything you need to know about picking out the perfect TV. So if you want to watch Bridgerton in the full televisual glory it deserves, but your 10-year-old telly just isn’t cutting the mustard, fear not – we’ve got you covered.
- Tips before you start shopping for a TV
- Which size TV should I buy?
- Choosing the best TV for your needs
- TV buying jargon glossary
- Other features to consider when buying a new TV
- How much should I spend on a TV?
- When is the best time to buy a TV?
- Which TV brand is best?
- Where to buy a TV in the UK?
- Which TV should I buy in 2021?
Here’s a checklist of things to do before you start shopping for a TV:
- Work out a budget. You can spend anywhere between £99 and £20,000 on a new TV, and it’s a good idea to filter your search by price when looking through retailers and Google Shopping. Don’t worry if you’re not yet sure how much to set aside: we’ll go into how much you should spend on a new TV later in this article.
- Know your optimum screen size. It’s crucial you pick a TV with a screen size that’s appropriate for your viewing space. Too small, and you’ll have to invest in some binoculars; too big, and the picture quality will be sub-par. We’ll go into screen sizes in the next section.
- List any must-have features. Whether it’s an OLED screen, an in-built voice assistant or even a soundbar giveaway, it’s always good to put together a wishlist of features. It will make your decision-making far easier.
- Bookmark our best smart TV deals page. We regularly update this page with the latest deals and discounts on televisions.
You might want the biggest television you can get your hands on, but it’s important to know which screen size works best for your viewing space.
There may well be some leeway between sizes, depending on how rearrangeable your furniture is – the golden formulae to remember are that your viewing distance should be 1.5 times the screen size with standard HD televisions, and 1-1.5 times the screen size for 4K televisions. Need to figure it out in reverse? Check out the screen size calculator in our what size TV should I buy article. We also have an article on how to measure a TV screen.
There are a number of key criteria that everybody should consider before they buy their next TV. Here they are:
- Do you like to switch the lights off when you watch TV, or do you watch it with an overhead light on, or chiefly during the daytime? It may sway your decision, especially if you’re choosing between a QLED and NanoCell TV.
- If you have any smart devices set up around your home, you may want to consider looking out for TV with an in-built voice assistant like Alexa, Google Assistant or Samsung’s Bixby. Via your TV, you can potentially do anything from dimming the lights to adjusting your thermostat.
- Gaming fan? If you plan to connect your console to your television, it’s worth taking a look at the refresh rates in the specs of any TVs that you’re looking at. The refresh rate simply means how many times the image changes per second: look out for sets with 120HZ or high.
When shopping for TVs, we’re confronted with lots of acronyms and jargon. Here’s a glossary of terms, what they mean, and more importantly, whether they’re worth paying attention to.
Ultra HD – or 4K as it’s better known – has now become the default quality in televisions. It’s known as 4K because of the 3840 x 2160 pixels of definition that are offered – a huge step up from the 1920 x 1080 pixels of standard HD. Since nearly all televisions that are being manufactured now are 4K in quality – and are growing ever cheaper – you’ll definitely want a TV that’s 4K-ready. Take a look at our what is a 4K TV article for deep dive into what you can expect from a 4K television.
The image resolution of 4K television might have sounded impressive, but they can’t compare to the staggering 7,680 x 4,320 pixels offered by 8K TVs. While there are already many 8K televisions on the market, they’re still far too expensive for the average buyer. Not only that, 8K resolution only really pays off in super-size televisions like 75-inch or 85-inch sets. Our advice is to pass over 8K televisions for now – they’ll likely grow much more affordable in the next few years.
This is a phrase that you’ll see on pretty much every TV set on the market now. A smart television is simply one you can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and use for both app streaming and internet browsing. Read our what is a smart TV guide to find out more about how smart platforms differ, and which brands make the best smart televisions.
You’ve probably heard this acronym before since it’s been around for a while: it stands for Liquid Crystal Display. With the exception of OLED sets, all televisions still use LCD screens, which are illuminated by a rear backlight.
The backlight we mention above is the LED or Light Emitting Diode. It’s this that shines through the LCD screen in order to provide you with your image, and they’re an integral part of all but the most advanced televisions. Sometimes TVs are marked as LED TVs, which really means they are still LCD TVs. Don’t worry if this is confusing, it’s not particularly important.
This stands for High Definition TV – aka the next big thing of yesteryear. That’s not to disparage the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution of HD televisions: the majority of UK households have these in their living rooms. But given that 4K is now so eminently affordable, we don’t suggest you buy an HD television now. You’ll also see HD Ready marked on older sets, which is a slightly lower resolution – to learn more about the differences, read our HD Ready vs Full HD TVs article.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which is a kind of additional format that relates to 4K. There are many different formats out there, including HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, HDR10+, and Advanced HDR by Technicolor, and there’s much debate over which is best. Different televisions support different HDR formats, as do streaming services – for example, Netflix delivers its 4K content in Dolby Vision. But since they’re all completely compatible, our honest advice is not to get too hung up on HDR.
This is a term that you should definitely pay attention when you’re shopping for a TV and one that probably explains the hefty prices you’ll encounter. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) TVs currently enjoy top-tier status on the market, offering a rich, vibrant, high-contrast picture quality that’s discernibly superior to your run-of-the-mill 4K. Go for it, if you can afford it, and read our what is an OLED TV explainer if you’re curious.
And if you fancy taking a look at a recently released, cutting-edge OLED television, you can read our guide to the Sony Bravia XR A90J.
QLED is Samsung’s homegrown, more affordable alternative to OLED. It makes use of traditional LCD/LED technology but introduces a layer of ‘quantum dots’ to further optimise the picture. Samsung has wisely positioned this as the stepping stone between typical 4K and OLED. We dive into the details in our what is QLED TV explainer.
If you’re seeking out a TV that delivers an extra-high picture standard but you want to keep your spending beneath £1,000, you should definitely consider Samsung’s QLED range. And if you do, don’t miss our pick of the best QLED TV deals this month.
Similar to QLED is NanoCell, a type of image tech developed by rival Korean brand LG. As we go into in our what is a NanoCell TV explainer, this technology optimises the quality of 4K television by introducing a layer of ‘nanoparticles’ that improve the colour range and blacks of whatever you’re watching. Again, it sits in the middle-ground between standard 4K sets and the elite OLEDs, and are definitely worth considering. While models from the latest lines can cost around the £1,000 mark, you’ll find older sets for not much over £500.
It’s always worth thinking about your TV-viewing habits before you make a decision on purchasing a TV. Here are a few examples:
- Do you like switching the light off before sitting down to watch TV? Or by contrast, do you typically watch television during daylight hours? It’s in the gloom that QLED and OLED televisions really perform well, but they sometimes struggle under bright light conditions.
- Are you a gamer? If there’s usually a console parked under your TV, you might want to seek out a television with a high refresh rate that stops your gameplay from juddering – look for sets marked as 120HZ or higher.
- Are you a film buff who’s sorely missing the cinema? You’re probably thinking about a TV with high-quality visuals, but it’s also wise to set aside some of your budget for a soundbar. You’ll often find that retailers sell TVs and soundbars together in bundle deals.
- Have you considered putting your TV on the wall? It can make all the difference to the quality of your viewing, and TV wall brackets are inexpensive. Don’t miss our how to wall mount a TV explainer to find out more.
If you want to buy a good-quality television, but want to keep your spending to a sensible minimum, £500 is a good figure to keep in mind. This will guarantee you a perfectly respectable television that’s 4K in quality and has an in-built streaming platform that will set you up with access to all the typical services. Entry-level 4Ks are growing ever cheaper, but you’ll likely be spending a minimum of £300.
Certainly, if you’re looking for a small TV – 40-inch or lower – then you can easily keep your spending beneath £500. But the good news for budget spenders is that a modest spend doesn’t hinder you that much in terms of screen size: you’ll find smaller 32-inch sets for as little as £150, while at the other end, you can pick up older-generation 65-inch sets for as little as £450.
Spend between £500 and £1,000, and you’ll start to find 55-inch TVs from industry leaders like Samsung and LG. It’s also at this price point you’ll start to find TVs that incorporate a few extra features. Most notable are the QLED and NanoCell tech that you’ll find in Samsung and LG TVs respectively – these TVs will offer you a picture quality that’s richer, more vibrant and better in contrast. If you’re in two minds of which brand to pick, don’t miss our LG or Samsung TV explainer.
You’ll also start to find TVs that have a built-in voice assistant, and one that you can potentially sync to other smart devices in your house.
If you’re happy to spend upward of £1,000 – and admittedly, there’s still a dizzying range of prices – then you’ll find yourself in the OLED range, which is a good place to be: it will get you what’s the best picture quality, and will be for the next few years.
It’s in the high-spend category that we start to see prices vary much more sharply between sizes: while 55-inch OLEDs start at around £1,200, be prepared to spend £1,500 to £2,500 on 65-inch sets and as much as £4,500 on 75-inch or 77-inch sets.
Scroll down to the bottom of this article for a round-up of televisions of differing sizes for each of these categories.
If you’re planning to replace your TV, it can be worth waiting until a sales period, as that’s when we see some of the biggest price drops and the hottest deals. Key events in the calendar kick off in the New Year sales, before Easter Weekend and then Black Friday in November.
What we noticed during the Black Friday 2020 sales was a lot of aggressive price-matching between all the major retailers, including Currys PC World, John Lewis, AO, Very and, of course, Amazon. So what typically happens is that you’ll find the same TV at the same discounted price across a number of stores (although Amazon does like to undercut its rivals by as little as £1). However, that shouldn’t make you complacent: these deals come and go very quickly, especially on Amazon, where lightning deals can run for a matter of hours.
Looking for a bargain? See our list of the best smart TV deals this month.
According to a Kantar Media UK survey, in 2019, an estimated 15.8 million people used Samsung TV sets, 11 million used LG sets, 7.4 million used Panasonic sets and 7.2 million used Sony sets.
We can recommend all these brands as market leaders. You’ll also find reliable sets from Philips, Logik and Hisense. There’s much debate about which brand earns the top spot, but we can assure you that any TV you buy from these manufacturers will get you a television of assured quality and reliability. (That said, it’s always worth knowing a retailer’s returns policy before you make your purchase.)
The biggest retailers that stock TVs are Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Very, AO and Appliances Direct. Both Currys and John Lewis offer price-match promises, so if you see a television that’s cheaper elsewhere, hold them to it!
Amazon often stocks TVs at the cheapest prices, but those prices fluctuate incredibly quickly and can sometimes be listed with outdated RRPs. Use the online tool CamelCamelCamel to check an item’s price history on Amazon, to give you a better sense of the deal you’re getting.
Hopefully this guide has set you up to make an informed decision about the next TV you’re going to buy. You now know what’s important to look out for, and you know what you get for your money. Based on all these criteria, we’ve picked out a range of excellent televisions for all budgets, from affordable entry-level sets to top-tier purchases.
- Budget: Philips 32-inch PHT5505/05 HD LED TV
- Mid-range: Sony Bravia 32-inch KDLWD752SU HD LED TV
- High-spend: Samsung The Frame 32-inch QLED Full HD Art Mode TV
- Budget: Hisense 40-inch A5600FTUK HD LED TV
- Mid-range: Toshiba 40-inch LL3A63DB HD LED TV
- High-spend: Panasonic TX-40HX800BZ 40-inch 4K TV
48-inch to 50-inch
- Budget: Samsung 50-inch TU8000 HDR 4K TV
- Mid-range: Sony Bravia 49-inch KDXH8505BU 4K HDR TV with Google Assistant
- High-spend: Samsung The Serif 49-inch QELS01TAUXXU 4K HDR QLED TV with Bixby, Alexa & Google Assistant
- Budget: Samsung 55-inch UETU7100KXXU 4K HDR LED TV
- Mid-range: Sony Bravia 55-inch KDXH81 4K HDR TV with Voice Remote
- High-spend: Samsung 55-inch QEQ95TATXXU 4K HDR QLED TV with Bixby, Alexa & Google Assistant
- Budget: LG 65-inch UN73006LA HDR 4K TV
- Mid-range: Samsung 65-inch QEQ75TATXXU 4K QLED TV with Bixby, Alexa & Google Assistant
- High-spend: LG 65-inch GX6LA 4K OLED TV with Google Assistant & Amazon Alexa
75-inch to 77-inch
- Budget: Samsung 75-inch UE75TU7020 4K TV
- Mid-range: LG 75-inch NANO916NA 4K LED TV with Google Assistant & Amazon Alexa
- High-spend: Sony Bravia 77-inch KD-77AG9BU 4KOLED TV with Google Assistant
And if you’re feeling really flash with your cash? There’s always the LG 88-inch ZX9LA 8K OLED TV with Google Assistant & Amazon Alexa.