Active or passive 3D, how big should the television be and how smart is it really? We give you some tips on buying a new flatscreen TV.
Image quality on flatscreen TVs has dramatically improved in recent years. Gone are the unknown brands that popped up like mushrooms when flatscreen TVs took off, and fortunately bad quality TVs have been few and far between.
If you have a five or six year old TV, you will most likely experience a significant boost in image quality with a new one.
But there are still big differences in quality. There is a reason the price of a 50-inch TV can go from a few hundred to a few thousand. Some models are undoubtedly better than others, and there's always money to be saved by checking prices.
Selecting a TV is no longer just about price, size, picture quality and design. Should you choose an active or passive 3D, can I use my PC with the TV, and how smart is it when unleashed on the World Wide Web?
You won't always get the best help and product info in the store, unfortunately. Successful TV-buying is therefore to use a retailer who know everything about the television models they are selling.
Before visiting the shop you should have made up your mind on the screen size, the desired functions and user needs, not to mention how far you're willing to stretch your budget.
The first thing you should decide is how big you want your television to be, and a typical mistake many people make is buying a TV that is too small. A modern HD flat screen TV provides a very sharp image, meaning you can sit closer to the screen, and with the arrival of 4K you can comfortably choose an even bigger TV. The screen size should be selected based on the distance between the TV and where you sit:
Recommended TV-size (including 4K resolution televisions)
- Distance: 0.5-1 meters. Screen Size: 37-42 inches
- Distance: 1-2 meters. Screen Size: 42-48 inches
- Distance: 2-3 meters. Screen Size: 48-50 inches
- Distance: 3-4 meters. Screen Size: 50-55 inches
- Distance: 4-5 meters. Screen Size: 55-60 inches
- Distance: 5-6 meters. Screen Size: 60-75 inches
- Distance: Over 6 meters. Screen Size: 75-85 inches.
Of course, is entirely up to you as to what size you choose and what you feel comfortable with. You also have to take into account that the TV will comfortably fit in the room you choose to place it in.
More and more TVs can be connected to the Internet, whether it's wired or wireless. Connecting your TV wirelessly to the Internet is the easy option, but make sure you have wireless capabilities first.
Poor processor power have so far been a drag on smart TVs, with slow and heavy loading times. Miles away from the performance you get with a personal computer or even a smartphone.
But things have been improving year by year, with dual and sometimes quad core processes now as standard in most smart televisions.
If you intend on using the television to surf the Internet, you should spend a few minutes checking out what's on offer and preferably see how well it works. Sadly, many smart TVs have a very poor web browser that can only handle basic webpages such as Wikipedia, though, many TV manufacturers are now using browsers from well-known manufacturers such as Microsoft for a better web experience.
The TV industry in search for better visuals have invested hard in 3D the last few years. The result is that the majority of TVs on the market today support 3D.
But since 3D contents is still very small 3D isn't an absolute must, at the present moment in time. Plus, many who do view 3D contents may find the glasses uncomfortable, and the overall experience harsh on the eyes rather than enjoyable.
Update: some manufacturers have now dropped 3D completely, due to the lack of interest. This doesn't necessarily mean that 3D is completely dead, but in its current format, it doesn't have much of a future.
3D technology will evolve and something new will hit the market in the near future, such as 3D without glasses.
Should you buy a 3D TV today, it is primarily important to be aware that there are two different 3D systems: Active 3D glasses, and one which uses so-called passive glasses.
Active glasses are controlled by an infrared transmitter in the TV and close and open the left and right lenses in time with the images on the screen.
The advantages of this method is that it uses full screen resolution to display both the left and right image. The downside is the flicker that may make you feel uncomfortable, and the batteries in glasses that you need to recharge.
Passive glasses are those used in 3D cinemas and based on the use of polarizing filters. That means the right and left image is displayed simultaneously. Unfortunately, this reduces the resolution, but passive glasses are lighter, far less expensive, don't require a battery and are flicker-free.
4K, or UHDTV (Ultra-high Definition TV) are televisions with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
There are a total of four times as many pixels as the current HDTV standard (1920 x 1080). Or twice as many pixels both horizontally and vertically. The result is a significant boost in image quality that also makes it possible to half the viewing distance without the pixels become more visible.
The first 4K TVs started appearing a couple of years ago, but were super expensive. However, 4K televisions are now available from most manufacturers at reasonable prices well under £1000.
Sadly, you won't be spoilt for choice when it comes to 4K TV contents in the UK. At the present moment, the only broadcasters are Sky and BT who provide a very limited amount of 4K contents, such as premiership football, but 4K contents will increase as the years go by. To be able to enjoy 4K contents on a wide range of programs and movies you will have to rely on 4K Blu-ray videos and online contents from providers such as Netflix. You also have to have superfast fibre broadband of at least 25 MB to receive 4K contents over the Internet.
Image quality will obviously vary. Some are keen and willing to pay for the best black levels and a setup that closely replicates the cinema, while others are more concerned with the TV's design.
Whatever the requirements and preferences, TV picture quality is a result of everything from signal processing to panel technology and backlighting.
Best image quality is usually delivered from LCD TVs that have dimmable LED lights located at the rear of the LCD panel.
While LCD TVs are brighter, plasma TVs have better picture quality from different viewpoints. This means that the image quality does not deteriorate even when you are viewing the TV from an angle.
Plasma is generally better with both black and contrast levels. But more and more LCD models are indistinguishable, and there are even those that exceed plasma in this area.
View a demonstrated on the TV in the store with real people on the screen, not just animated films. And remember, TVs deliver the most precise colour reproduction when image setting is set to "Cinema" or "film".
When you have unwrapped your new TV and are about to give it its pride of place in the living room, remember to position it correctly. This should ideally be on a stand around 2-3 feet off the ground rather than attached to the wall which will strain your neck muscles. It is also important to position it away from strong direct sunlight, which will cause a horrible glare, which can result in a television that is unviewable.