Which TV should you buy?
In need of a TV upgrade? Looking for a larger, smarter model? We rate 36 new televisions on offer
Televisions today seek to compete with a range of other devices now commonly used for media consumption, from tablets to laptops to mobile phones.
As a result, most new TV models today are "smart" and integrated wi-fi is set to become standard given the expectation by users that they will be able to easily access the internet using their TV. In addition, content of all sorts - video, photos and so on - will be increasingly shared from users' phones and tablets to their TV where it can be enjoyed on a larger screen for a more comfortable viewing experience.
A YouTube app is available on most smart TVs that lets you flick to a video as easily as you might on your phone and many new models offer built-in PVR capabilities that let you pause live TV and record programmes to view at a later time or date. No separate device is needed for recording purposes, as you typically just have to connect an external hard drive to your TV using the USB port. So as TVs become smart, they give us greater options over what content we can view and how and when we view it.
Manufacturers have been producing ever larger TVs and consumers have responded so that bigger models have become the norm in homes. The 32-inch screen, which was considered a fairly standard - even generous - size for most living-rooms in the past, is now often regulated to the status of a "second" TV used in the bedroom or kitchen.
Our tests assess TV sizes of up to 55-inches, but those looking for something larger again can readily buy truly huge TVs with screens measuring 60, 65, and even 75 inches.
You will, of course, need a very sizeable sitting room indeed to be able to accommodate these larger sizes. Whereas a 32-inch TV is ideal for rooms where you sit about two metres away from the screen, a 55-inch TV requires a minimum distance of 3.5 metres.
For most households, a large TV of 40-47 inches will be more than ample and your sofa will ideally be positioned between 2.5 metres and 3.5 metres from the screen. Larger TVs will typically come with top-of-the-range features like smart TV apps, PVR functionality and special remotes - though they will have hefty price tags to match.
Televisions on test
A look at the televisions on our table reflects the current trends in the TV market. There are no plasma TVs in our current batch of tests with most manufacturers having discontinued their production of plasma screens. All the TVs on test use LCD technology with LED backlighting, which means the handful of backlight lamps that traditionally illuminated the LCD screen have been replaced with a larger number of very small LEDs to enable these LED TVs to be much slimmer than older LCD models.
The majority of TVs in the batch come with built-in wi-fi and offer full internet browsing, moving these appliances to compete with other mobile connected devices dominating the consumption of entertainment and media today.
All our TVs deliver high-definition screen resolution ensuring pictures will be sharp and crisp with plenty of detail, and a number of our Choice Buys now offer ultra-high definition or 4K, providing four times the resolution of high definition.
There is little 4K content to watch currently to fully reap the benefit of this ultra-high-definition capability and experts estimate that it will be 2020 before 4K reaches the mass market - so for the moment, you may be happy enough to invest in a model that offers still-impressive high-definition resolution.
The other advancement that TV manufacturers have been touting at trade shows for the past couple of years and that has now made it onto the shop floor is curved or concave screens. Two Samsung models on test, the Samsung UE55HU8500 and the UE55H8000, have screens that curve slightly, aimed at giving the user a more immersive viewing experience. However, the curves will limit viewing angles slightly as those at the extreme edges will have to peer around the corner.
These product tests are extracted from Consumer Choice, the online magazine of the Consumers'
Association of Ireland (CAI), and are carried out for the CAI by independent consumer research organisation International Consumer Research and Testing. For more information see www.thecai.ie