The AVForums Ultimate TV Buying Guide

What TV should you buy?

by Phil Hinton

Buying a TV has never been more complicated with more choice and technology available than ever before.

With this in mind, the AVForums review team have put together what we think might be the ultimate buyer's guide. We cover everything from the types of TVs available for various uses, to Smart TV and how to set up the picture to get the very best out of your new set.

The guide will link to AVForums articles about the subject matter you are interested in, just click on the hyperlinks to get to the content. You can also use the widget on the left side of your screen to jump to the areas of the guide you are most interested in. You can even post your comments or ask questions at the bottom of this article. We hope you find this guide useful and we welcome your feedback.
The AVForums Ultimate TV Buying Guide

What TV technologies are available?

There are currently three major technologies used for TVs and these are LCD, Plasma and OLED.

The first question, then, might be where are the LED TVs?

Well, technically there is no such thing as a consumer LED Television.

What retailers and manufacturers call LED TVs are actually LCD TVs which use LEDs to create their back-light. In the past this back-light was usually created by CCFL tube lighting and the TVs were rightly called LCD TVs. The addition of LED lighting has brought about a lot of confusion in the TV market, with sales staff also being confused about what it actually is that they are selling. But one thing is very clear, it is not a new technology or an actual LED TV.

Let's look at all the currently available TV technologies a little closer.

LCD TV – CCFL Back-light

Once the most popular form of LCD TV, those with CCFL back-lights are a dying breed thanks to the new slimmer LED back-lit LCDs. The major plus point of a CCFL back-light was screen uniformity, where the light behind the screen was consistent in it's coverage over the panel surface area and it usually didn't pool or go darker at the edges or in the middle. However, the downsides were poor contrast ratios, black levels and viewing angles on most models; although IPS panel LCD TVs are better for off-axis viewing where you can't sit directly in front of the screen. Some manufacturers still produce CCFL LCD TVs and these are usually in the budget ranges from brands such as JVC, Bush, Hitachi and so on.

Read all our reviews of LCD CCFL TVs.

LED LCD TV – Edge Lit

This is now the most common TV on the market. By using LEDs positioned in rows at the side or top and bottom of the screen edge, it allows the TV design to be very slim. This approach has proven to be very popular with consumers and some TV designs have been absolutely stunning to look at. However, there are also limitations to the technology used. The main culprit is screen uniformity. With such a thin screen and the LEDs only positioned at the edge of the screen you can get issues with light pooling, bright edges, clouding and banding. Also, depending on the type of LCD panel used, you can get some issues with black levels and contrast performance. All the major manufacturers including Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Sony and more produce edge lit LED LCD TVs.

Read all our LED LCD TV Reviews.

LED LCD TV – Full back-lit/Zoned back-light

The most promising technology for LED LCD TVs is the use of multi-zoned LED black-lights. This allows the TV to employ a feature called 'local dimming' and, depending on how many separate LEDs are in each zone that can be independently dimmed, this approach can get close to plasma quality black level response. Another approach is to dim all the LED back-lights as one which is called 'global dimming' and whilst not as effective as the 'local' approach, it still produces very good black levels. LCD TVs using the full backlit LED approach, whether 'global' or 'local' dimmed, are not as slim as the edge lit LED LCD TVs. Manufacturers such as Sony, LG, Samsung and Panasonic produce and sell these TVs.

Read all our LED LCD TV Reviews.

Plasma TV

If it is picture quality of the highest order you want with excellent contrast levels, good motion reproduction and superior black levels, including fantastic shadow details, then it is a plasma TV that you need. However, there is one major issue to overcome here.

Plasma is no longer a viable product for any TV manufacturer and as such, since 2014, it has become very difficult to purchase a quality plasma TV from any brand. The major players in the plasma TV market were Fujitsu, Pioneer and Panasonic. Sadly none of these companies continue to manufacture plasma TVs.

If you must have a quality plasma TV, then the used market is now the only place to find what you are looking for and it really is the end of an era for the technology.

Read all our Plasma TV reviews


OLED TV is still in its infancy even though we seem to have been writing and talking about it for a long time now on AVForums. 2015 will see the biggest launch yet of large screen size OLEDs from LG, which is likely to push the market on with other manufacturers, such as Panasonic following suit.

The major plus points of OLED TV technology are simple. All the thin design appeal of the LED LCD TVs with the outstanding contrast ratios and black levels - and more - of plasma TV, in one technology. They are also energy efficient and light. The downsides at the moment are limited production yields and high pricing for those models that are available. Plus we are still unsure about the current life span of this new technology and there have been reports of screen burn.

However OLED TV has a very promising future as a TV technology and will likely to take over from where plasma left off for lovers of great picture quality.

We have reviewed all the available OLED TVs on the market and you can read them by clicking here.

Which TV tech suits you?

What is the perfect TV?

We need to start with this one simple fact. Despite what manufacturers tell you, or what you might read in some over-the-top review somewhere on the internet, or in a magazine, the perfect TV does not exist. There is no such thing.

A TV is a consumer product that is mass produced on a production line, in a factory, to a price point. Depending on that price point and the manufacturer, you may get any number of issues with build quality, picture processing, picture quality and so on.

The plus point is that our reviewers have done most of the hard work for you in narrowing down which TV is likely to suit you best.

We review nearly every major TV brands' mid-level to high-end TVs every year, and because we are online, you have access to all our reviews 24 hours a day and for free.

All our TV and Projector reviewers are experienced professional calibrators with THX and ISF certification. We also run over 200 tests in a repeatable and measurable manner so that all displays are tested as equally as possible. Our reviewers also have regular meetings with engineers, from the various manufacturers, and are given information that helps us get the best out of the products and then to pass this information on to you. We also report back to these same engineers, on a regular basis, when we find issues with certain products. In most cases this leads to updates that improve the products even further.

For over ten years now, AVForums has presented to TV manufacturers the importance of good picture quality and accurate calibration controls. We are happy that the vast majority of these manufacturers have followed up on the information we have presented to them, and improved their products to those standards. It is rare these days not to find good image fidelity, good presets and excellent calibration controls.

Despite all the advances made due to feedback from sites like AVForums, we have to remember that TVs are a consumer product and, as such, some compromises will be expected.

Remember that like any successful relationship, your experience with a TV will come down to the compromises you are prepared to make at your budget point, to achieve a result that should always provide you with the best image quality possible.

What's the best TV you can buy for under £500?

This is the most common question we get asked, and like many things in life, once you've decided which TV will meet your requirements, you get what you pay for.

If you are expecting 99% of the image quality of a Pioneer Kuro or Panasonic ZT65 with the same build quality and the latest Smart TV features, then with a sub-£500 budget, you are likely to be disappointed.

You need to set your budget along with your expectations for important factors like image quality, size and design.

Being realistic with those expectations and doing some homework, like reading reviews and owners' threads on AVForums, will help you make the best decision possible on what TV is most likely to meet your needs.

Also remember that 20% of adults in the UK watch over 3 hours of TV a day (Ipsos MORI poll for AVForums, 2012), so you might want to consider investing a little more on a good quality picture to watch for those long hours.

So, with that in mind, as long as you know that a sub-£500 TV will, in most cases, have a somewhat inferior build quality, somewhat dated features and somewhat compromised image quality, then the lower price point choice can usually be made after just a few further probing questions.

Here are 3 common picture quality questions. Click on the links for the full article.

I love watching movies with the lights down, so what type of TV should I buy?

I like movies, but also enjoy sports, so what type of TV should I consider buying?

I also like movies and sports but love to play games on my console, so what type of TV will suit me?

TV buying tips

Walking into an electrical retail store and looking at what TV you should buy is a daunting experience even for those who are well prepared and well informed. You have to remember first and foremost that a showroom is not your living room, and what might look great in the store, will not necessarily look right in your lounge at home. Also be aware that the human eye can be easily fooled into thinking the brightest and most colourful image is the most detailed and natural. This is never the case! Read the following article for more information - Buying from a store – what you should be looking for.

The latest sales craze from most TV makers is curved TVs, but is there any technical reason why a TV should be curved? No, there isn't but the curve doesn't normally impact on the image one way or another, so it is more about design and looks.

The next thing you need to ask yourself is what video resolutions are you going to be watching on your TV. Do you want HD Ready? Full HD? 4K? Ultra HD? And what does it all mean?!

Most UK TVs also come with a number of tuners built-in so do you need Freeview HD or Freesat HD or both?

So now you know what resolution you want and the tuners available - What screen size do you need and what is the best viewing distance?

Are you going to add any sources to your TV like a DVD or Blu-ray player? Sky or Virgin Box? Streamers? What connections should you use?

If you are going to use HDMI cables make sure you read this article before spending any money. Are expensive HDMI cables better?

There are now lot's of features on the modern TV, but does 3D matter anymore?

High Dynamic Range
The latest buzz word in the TV world in 2015 is High Dynamic Range (HDR). This promises a boost in contrast, wider colour gamuts and an image that finally matches what the artist intended. Read more here

Quantum Dot
Yet another buzz word from this year's CES show, find out more about what Quantum Dot is here.

What is Smart TV?

Smart TV is the latest technology addition to modern TVs. What can be done and the services available vary between the different manufacturers, but here are the most commonly asked question and answers, along with reviews of the best systems available at this moment in time.

What is Smart TV and do I need one?

Smart TV PVR Features Explained

Streaming Media Files on a TV: What you need to know

LG Smart+ webOS Review

Samsung Smart TV system Review

Panasonic Smart TV system Review

Sony Smart TV system Review

Toshiba Smart TV system Review

Setup and calibration FAQ

After asking which TV should I buy, the next logical step is to ask what are the best picture settings?

It is in this area of TV purchasing and setup where AVForums can help you out the most. We have a team of TV reviewers who are the most experienced professional calibrators and reviewers in the UK. AVForums have also been at the forefront of campaigning for TV manufacturers to add the correct picture presets and calibration controls to their products; as a result the public has benefited from more accurate pictures. Over the last 10 years, or so, that work has seen almost all manufacturers now offering calibration controls and accurate picture presets on their TVs. On the back of this, we also have direct access to manufacturers and their engineers so that we can feedback any issues we find, as well as pushing for new features to be added. We never keep any 'insider knowledge' to ourselves, we will report these tips directly to the readership of AVForums within our reviews so that we all benefit.

AVForums also created PicturePerfect, the UK's only free to use, step by step and easy to follow calibration guide. With just a few menu clicks on a modern TV we can get the image looking as accurate as possible without the help of professional calibration equipment.

Here are a selection of the most frequently asked questions, with links to the full article.

How to set up your new TV.

Should you get your TV professionally calibrated?

How to make sure your sources are set correctly for use with your TV.

Overscan – Making sure you see the whole HD picture.

Do I need bias lighting for my TV?

Treat the sharpness control with some respect!

Do you need to compensate for your motion?

AVForums' recommended TVs

In this section of our Ultimate Guide you will find our recommendations for TVs you should consider adding to your demo short list. This area will be updated every three months to make sure that the models recommended are the latest reviewed and available to buy in the UK.

What are the best 4K TVs available right now?

What are the best all-round TVs available right now?

What are the best budget TVs available right now?

What are the best gaming TVs available right now?

What are the best TVs for sports?

What are the best TVs for movies?

What are the best TVs for picture quality available right now?

Sound solutions for your TV

The one drawback of the newer, ultra slim TV designs is poor sound quality. Modern TVs generally do not sound very good, so adding an offboard solution like a soundbar or full home cinema system is recommended. Here are our thoughts.

What is the best sound system for TV?

Your feedback

We hope you have found our ultimate buying guide useful. If you have any feedback or general comments about how you chose your TV, please reply to the discussion.
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

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