Updated 26 Mar 2015
As technology marches on, the range of tellies out there gets bigger and bigger, giving you hundreds to choose from.
This is a rundown of our top tips and tricks to blag yourself the best deal and what to look for when you're shopping for a new TV.
In this guide
What kind of user are you?
Some TVs will be suited better to you than others. We've tried to round up the different types of users out there and what you should be looking out for. Click on the tabs below to see more information.
Just watch the regular terrestrial or freeview channels for your favourite shows?
It’s probably not worth paying loads extra for an all-singing, all-dancing full HD TV with a host of ‘smart’ features you’re not going to use.
These days, it’s possible to find a decent 32” HD-ready TV for a little more than £200.
Use your TV to escape to the World of Warcraft or to play as Rooney in the latest FIFA game?
A telly for gaming should ideally be full HD (1080p) if you don’t want to lose any detail, and a bigger screen will provide a more immersive gaming experience.
Refresh rate isn’t as important because games usually run at less than 60 frames per second, which a standard 60Hz TV should be able to process without any problems.
A lot of modern TVs also have a ‘game mode’ feature that’s worth checking out. This can optimise game performance and help reduce lag.
Use the Internet on your TV to download the latest TV, film and music releases?
Smart TVs deliver a whole host of online extras, such as catch-up and on-demand video services like YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
While the range and usability of these features does vary, there’s almost always an alternative way of accessing them in the form of a box you plug into the telly.
The likes of Apple TV, Roku and NOW TV allow you to stream even without a smart TV.And remember, the quality of your streaming experience is more to do with the speed of your internet connection than how much money your TV costs.
Always checking the latest score and can never miss the big game?
There are three main things to look for when you’re buying a TV for watching sports – size, picture quality and refresh rate. A massive screen will allow you to feel like you’re right on the pitch and part of the sporting action, while a full HD (1080p) display means you won’t miss any detail.
Remember to bear in mind how close you’ll be sitting, because a 50” screen will look great from further away but not so good if you’re sitting right on top of it.
Most TVs have a refresh rate of 50Hz or 60Hz, but a 100Hz screen can reduce eye-strain if you watch a lot of fast sports like football and Formula One.
Love to watch high-speed car chases or epic explosions that fill up your living room?
Then you’ll want the biggest screen that your living room can accommodate. Remember, a smaller TV will often look better than a larger one if you don’t sit far enough away.
For the full-blown high drama of a cinema experience, a full HD TV (1080p) is a must. If you've got cash to spare, you might also want to invest in a sound bar or a set of surround speakers.
Choosing the right model for yourself is tricky, especially when you look at how many different types of televisions are out there. We've rounded up a list of the types of models that you're likely to find in stores and online and weighed up some of the pros and cons of each.
Note: Some TVs can have lots of different features all at once, such as Plasma, HD and Smart. So consider these points carefully before you make your purchase.
Plasma TVs work totally differently to LCD and LED screens. A plasma display is an array of tiny gas cells sandwiched between two sheets of glass. Each cell acts like a mini fluorescent tube, emitting ultraviolet light which then strikes red, green and blue spots on the screen. These spots glow to build up the picture.
Unfortunately, they're pretty costly to run and production has slowed down considerably.
- Great for watching movies because of their high quality picture.
- Expect a big electricity bill - these screens are expensive to run.
- Difficult to find.
LEDs have been around for a long time, but the technology has only recently entered the TV market.
LED televisions employ standard LCD technology but with one important difference – the handful of backlight lamps that traditionally illuminate the LCD screen are replaced by a larger number of tiny LEDs. This enables LED TVs to be much slimmer than their LCD counterparts.
Not the lightest of slimmest models out there.
For a long time they were the most common type of TV to be found in stores and have often been the most affordable. LCD TVs work via light shone through liquid crystal cells and because of this they're likely to last a long time. However, their popularity has fallen in recent years due to the advancement of LED TVs.
Phased out of market - difficult to find.
Things have moved on a long way in the TV world and now almost all TVs are HD. To oversimplify, this means that the TV has a minimum of 1080 horizontal lines (compared to HD Ready at 720 lines). The higher the number of lines, the greater the density of the screen, so the higher the definition.
Image is a higher quality, sharper and more life-like than standard definition.
Lots of quality channels are now available in full HD to make the most out of your screen.
Compatible with Blu-ray discs to watch high quality films.
Without getting too technical, HD-ready TVs (lower res HD) make the image you see on screen out of 720 lines of picture, while full HD TVs use 1080 lines. This means full HD TVs offer a denser and more detailed image, but are almost always more expensive. For more info, read Martin's HD Ready blog.
Generally cheaper than full HD models.
On smaller screens the difference in quality between HD Ready and full HD models isn't as noticeable.
The larger you go, the more noticeable the inferior to HD quality.
Smart TV capabilities are now becoming a major feature of new televisions. Not all brands offer the same features, so it's definitely worth shopping around to check to see which features you're most likely to use.
Features include internet browsing capabilities and entertainment packages that give you access to on-demand services like Netflix, Lovefilm and BBC iPlayer.
Apps are automatically loaded onto your TV, so there's no need for extra consoles or set top boxes like Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
Access the internet straight through your television, allowing you to download films and content.
Expensive - will you use all the features? It's worth noting that a lot of set top boxes and streaming devices include smart features which don't require a Smart TV.
4K (Ultra HD)
4K TV has exactly four times higher resolution than full HD TVs. This means you're getting a much more detailed picture and as a consequence paying a much higher price. As 4K TVs are still relatively new, there aren't many programmes currently available in this high resolution.
Superior image quality.
Very expensive and few options for watching native 4K content.
3D TV offers a more cinematic experience and a great sense of depth, making what's on the screen come into your living room. To watch, you'll need special pairs of 3D glasses. The glasses come in two types: passive (like the ones you'll use at the cinema) and active, which are more expensive but better quality.
Sense of depth that cannot be offered with standard 2D TV.
Great for film watching as it allows you a similar experience to being at the cinema from your own living room.
Very few options for watching 3D content cheaply.
Got a tip about TVs you think we've missed? Post in the Cheap TV discussion.
Think you've found the perfect model? Don't make a mistake and go too big or small!
This is an important part often overlooked in the process of buying a television. As well as a space problem, having a TV that's too big or too small can cause a strain on your eyesight. Consider where your TV is going to go in the room and measure the space accordingly. Which? have a really handy tool for measuring your space. It's important to note here televisions are measured diagonally across the screen in inches, not including the frame.
Just because a TV is huge, it doesn't mean that it's better for your room or for watching. The bigger you go, the more pixels you'll need to ensure that quality is still high. As a general rule, the bigger you go the more expensive the screen will be.
Do your research first and look out for a good warranty - if you've forked out for a screen you want to make sure you're covered if something goes wrong.
Once you’ve decided on the model that’s right for you, the next step is to find it at a great price. Here are some of our key rules for finding the perfect price for your telly.
Do your research first, both in stores and online.
As a general rule – don’t buy straight from the brand/supplier as it's often more expensive and you're much less likely to get free add-ons like top boxes. John Lewis* often offers a 3-year warranty as standard on the electronic products it sells.
Sometimes it’s better to go with the better known companies. There are lots of manufacturers in the market and you should always do your research before purchasing. A manufacturer with history and a good reputation will give you peace of mind should anything go wrong.
Play around with our Amazon Hidden Bargains tool
- Consider buying second time. Unlike old style televisions that deteriorated with ages, most modern televisions maintain a decent quality - just watch out for dead pixels!
These days we're spoilt for choice for ways to stream content to our television. Nearly all set top boxes or streaming sticks can play content via Netflix, YouTube and Amazon instant video which gives users a huge number of films or television shows to choose from.
Set top boxes & streaming sticks
Connected to your TV usually via a HDMI cable, these sticks and boxes will require an internet connection to allow to you stream content from the web to your TV. Many also let you connect your tablet, phone or laptop to view your photos and videos on the big screen.
Apple TV* allows you to stream movies, TV shows and other media wirelessly via AirPlay on your Apple iPad, iPhone or Mac computer direct to your HD TV screen. Extras include access to Now TV, Netflix and YouTube.
Very simply, Google Chromecast is a dongle that plugs straight into your television. Via Wi-Fi you can stream apps like Netflix, YouTube and Plex through your tablet, iPad or smartphone. No remote control is required because you choose all the content through your smartphone or tablet.
A set top box, like the Apple TV, the Amazon Fire TV* plugs into your TV via a HDMI cable. The best bit is the huge amount of content available through Amazon Instant video, if you have an Amazon Prime account you'll have unlimited streaming from thousands of films and TV shows. If you don't want to fork out for prime, you can still rent or buy videos and have access to apps like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and VEVO.
A cheaper alternative to the Fire TV, the Fire TV stick* plugs straight into your TV and allows you to wirelessly stream video from your smartphone. You can also rent or buy films and TV shows via Amazon Prime.
Streaming sticks like Roku* eliminate the need for a Smart TV and as long as your TV has a HDMI port, it'll be compatible. The most basic model gives access to over 500 channels, including BBC iPlayer and 4oD. You can also stream content from your smartphone like your own photos and videos.
If you want to connect your consoles of plug in devices you'll need to consider how many HDMI connections, USB ports and SCART sockets you'll need.
Most basic models will have two HDMI connections, so you can connect a Sky+HD box or Virgin HD box to the TV, plus either a DVD player, a Blu-ray player or a games console.
Popular on-demand streaming services
Here are the most popular channels.
Netflix is an on-demand streaming channel available in the US and across parts of Europe. You can watch content through your computer, tablet, smartphone, games console or TV - but you'll need WiFi to watch. Membership runs on a rolling monthly basis at £5.99 per month - you can get a free trial for your first month. Watch thousands of films, including new releases and TV shows - including shows exclusive to the site like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
Much like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video allows users with a subscription to watch shows and TV shows instantly with an internet connection. If you don't want to pay for a subscription (it's £5.99 a month or free if you have Amazon Prime - £79 a year) you can rent or buy titles instead.
The BBC's online streaming service iPlayer is totally free to use (unless you want to watch shows live - you'll need a TV licence). You can catch up on the latest BBC TV and radio programmes or watch historic shows and films. Unlike Netflix and Amazon Instant, iPlayer has quite a fast turnaround of programmes - many are only available for a month after they were first broadcasted.
Buying a new TV can be a daunting experience with all the different technical terms thrown around. If you thought resolution was just something you made - and probably broke - at the start of each year, we have explained the key terms below.
|Screen resolution||1080p refers to the number of horizontal lines which can be displayed by the TV screen. In order to view high-definition content from a Blu-ray player or PlayStation 4 at its very best, you will need a TV capable of displaying 1080p images.|
|HD||High-definition is a higher level of image detail (resolution) than standard definition (SD). Where standard definition tellies display 480 vertical lines of picture, HD ones can display 720 (HD-ready), or even 1080 (Full HD). However, HD-capable displays will only display a higher definition picture when connected to an HD receiver. (Wikipedia)|
|Resolution||Describes the detail an image holds. Put very simply, the higher the numbers, the more detailed the image will be, regardless of screen size. (Wikipedia)|
|Refresh rate (Hz)||Measured in Hz, the speed at which the screen can refresh determines its effectiveness at reproducing fast-paced action. Most basic sets refresh at 50 or 60Hz, which is generally fine. But some viewers find it leads to eye strain when watching football, for example. As ever, this is more noticeable on larger screens. Sets with rates of 100Hz or more are now commonly available. (Wikipedia)|
|HD-ready||This refers to screens which are capable of displaying lower-end high definition (HD) content, which is still far more detailed than regular, standard definition telly (720 lines as opposed to 480), but not as detailed as full HD 1080p below. (Wikipedia)|
|Full HD (1080p)||This refers to screens capable of displaying the highest quality of HD content (1080 lines). To do so, they need a resolution of at least 1920 x 1080. (Wikipedia)|
|HDMI||The preferred interface for plugging HD devices into each other. It's digital, and carries both sound and picture information. As an aside, don't be hoodwinked into paying over the odds for 'gold-plated' cables; since it's a digital format, there's barely any difference between them and the cheapest HDMI cable. (Wikipedia)|
How to complain about a purchase
If you're not happy about a product or the service you receive, you should first contact the retailer in person, by phone, or in writing. However, if you're still not satisfied, then...
Free tool if you’re having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it for free to the relevant ombudsman or trade body.
While some tellies are very good value, they still cost a fair whack; don't be tempted to buy if you can't afford it.
This site is about getting the best deals, but always spending within your means, so remember the MoneySaving mantras: