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WHICH TV MADE SIMPLE
Who makes the best TV? Which screen should you go for? Which is the best type of TV tech? Do you need a widescreen TV?
There's so much to consider when buying a new TV these days, that many people are actually scared away. Do you go for Full HD 1080p? Or is HD-ready OK? Do you go with LCD or Plasma? How about 3D TV – is it worth the extra money?
In this article, we have put together all of the key info.
So if you want to buy the best TV for you, read on.
The best 32-inch TVs
Most living rooms can't physically take a TV much bigger than 32-inch, making this size by far the best for a lot of people in the UK.
But within this size division, there's plenty of choice. A basic HD-ready set can be found for less than £300 is you search hard, though it's just as easy to spend over £2k on the best ones.
There's only one certainty at this size – your new TV will be a LCD TV. If you're lucky it could have LED backlighting, but it won't be a plasma; LG used to make plasmas at this size, but there's not one on sale currently...
The best 37-inch TVs
Making the decision to upgrade from a bulky old 28-inch CRT TV is almost too easy, but heading straight for a 42-inch plasma can seem a little daunting.
And thus the 37-inch size has become one of the UK's most popular shapes; a lot more impressive than a 32-incher, yet not big enough to entirely dominate a living room. It's also often the maximum size for those of us who are forced, simply by the shape of our living room, to shove a TV in the corner.
It's a size division that's as competitive as any, with the big brands weighing in with both LCD and plasma TV models. Despite its direct forerunners being some of the best-reviewed (and best-selling) TVs around, Panasonic's TX-P37X20 is the only plasma left in this category...
The best 42-inch TVs
Once known simply as 'plasma screens' in the collective consciousness, the 40-42-inch size is where the flatscreen dream started in the late 1990s - and where it's still at its most innovative and best.
Now a lot more varied, with plasmas rubbing shoulders with (and quickly being outnumbered by) LCD TVs and their ultra-modern LED TV makeover, 40-42 inches is still the sweetspot for anyone not overly concerned with ruining the interior design of their living room.
As well as being the fastest growing sector of the market, this size also offers possibly the best value TVs around. Serious home cinema addicts have moved on to 50-inch and bigger screens, leaving this category a swarm of slashed prices...
The best 3D TVs
Slip on a pair of £100 3D glasses, nestle in front of a brand new £2,000 TV and switch on a £350 3D Blu-ray player and you'll likely warm to the notion that 3D is more than just an illusion.
It's created by your brain processing two separate images coming to it via your eyes, and while this stereoscopic approach can be done relatively cheaply, the big manufacturers have plumped for a rather expensive format that relies on rather clumsy, heavy glasses.
It's called Full HD 3D, and, to be fair, it's the best form of 3D TV currently available...
With the Blu-ray 3D specification finalised and Sky's 3D TV channel due, the UK faces another telly revolution.
Forget the digital switchover, 1080p 'Full HD' and web-connected TV widgetry. Jump-out-of-the-screen 'stereoscopic 3D' is the best TV tech around!
Trying to describe it is like trying to paint a symphony. So what will you need to watch 3D TV? Who's doing it? When? What's the best 3D TV? And will your existing HDTV work? Carry on reading to find out the answers to these and many more 3D TV questions...
TV jargon explained
Standard LCD (CCFL-backlit)
Until recently, all LCD TVs were backlit by always-on, CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) lamps. This ageing technology has been superseded by the superior LED method on more expensive sets, but is still standard on cheaper models.
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast. LED TVs are also more power efficient and capable of a wider colour gamut than CCFL sets.
The LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays and offers superior contrast levels to CCFL, but can't achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets.
The backlighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) sets is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique is thought to produce better colours and higher contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. As yet, though, the only commercially available OLED TVs are small and very expensive.
PDP (plasma display panel) TVs use glass panels containing millions of tiny cells filled with a mixture of inert gases. Electricity excites the gases, causing them to illuminate the pixels across the screen. Plasma, while arguably superior to LCD in terms of contrast and colour accuracy, is only viable on large (42in+) screens and has been dropped by all but a handful of manufacturers.
These are modern LCD (LED) or plasma screens with electronics able to display 3D pictures. There are two types of 3D technology: passive and active. The former utilises screens with a polarised filter, combined with lightweight, cheap plastic glasses, much like those used at the cinema. The latter, meanwhile, creates a 3D effect by synchronising fast-shuttering glasses with the screen using IR (infrared) transmitters. Sources of 3D currently include 3D Blu-ray players and Sky's 3D TV channel.
- Samsung Q9F
- LG E7 OLED
- Sony XE90
- Panasonic DX802
- Samsung KS7000
- Panasonic DX902
- LG B6 OLED
- Philips 65PUS7601
- Sony XE93
- Panasonic DX750
Footie TV packages
The new football season's here, with live matches aplenty. With the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and more, there's lots to follow. But sadly, no one channel shows them all. Here's a rundown of what's likely to be on where:
The main events
Premier League: You'll find most games on Sky Sports channels, including big matches like Chelsea vs. Arsenal. About a quarter are on ESPN, but Sky tends to have the flagship games.
Champions League: Again, many matches are on Sky. The good news if you've only got terrestrial TV is about half will be on ITV1 or ITV4.
FA Cup: You'll find around half of these matches on ITV1, with some likely to be on Sky and ESPN.
Europa League: Formerly known as the UEFA Cup, these matches can be found on ESPN, as well as ITV, Five and some of the smaller sports channels.
As live matches are announced periodically, you may only find which channels they're on a few weeks ahead. Sites such as LiveSportOnTV are worth checking for listings.
TV packages: Sky Sports
You can get Sky Sports from a range of different providers, but each offers a slightly different package. As it's not always possible to do a like-for-like comparison, we've looked at the cheapest ways to get the most basic pack - either Sky Sports 1 or 2 - as well as the full Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and ESPN.
Sky: from £29/mth
From September 2010, Sky's* packages range from £29 for either Sky Sports 1 or 2, up to £54 for the full Sky Sports HD package (includes Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and Sky Sports News). If you've got Sky Sports it's an extra £9 per month for ESPN, or £12 otherwise.
Unlike some providers, you don't have to take its home phone and broadband, though basic broadband can be included at no extra charge.
If you go for its home phone option you'll also need to pay for line rental, which costs £11/month.
Package: TV, optional broadband & phone, 12 mths
Cheapest total price with Sky Sports 1 or 2: £40/mth (£29 without line rental)
All Sky Sports channels, ESPN & HD: £74/mth (£63 without line rental)
Virgin Media: from £30/mth
Unlike some of the other providers, you don't need to take Virgin Media's* broadband and home phone to get Sky Sports.
As its prices are going up on 1 October 2010, you'd pay £12.50/mth for its M+ TV package, £40 for installation, and then £14.50/mth for Sky Sports 1 or 2 or £22.50 for Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Sky Sports News also comes with the TV package), plus £6 extra for ESPN.
This means it'd be an average of £30.33/mth for Sky Sports 1 or 2, or £44.33/mth for Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 and ESPN.
Package: TV, 12 mths
Cheapest total price with Sky Sports 1 or 2: £30.33/mth
Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & ESPN: £44.33/mth
BT: from £40/mth
You'll need to have BT's* phone, broadband and TV (BT Vision) to get its Sky Sports deals, but if you're on a 24 month contract it includes ESPN as standard, as well as BT Vision Sports.
It doesn't yet have an HD option for sports, and it only offers two Sky Sports channels, so this is only good if you're looking for a basic package.
On a 24-month contract it's £17.99 for the bundle, plus £12.79 monthly line rental and a £60 one-off Vision Box charge (BT's connection charge is free with the 24 month contract). You'll need to add £6.99 extra per month for either Sky Sports 1 or 2, or £11.99 extra for both, though Sky Sports News isn't included.
In total, it'd be £40.27/mth for one Sky Sports channel and ESPN, or £45.27 for Sky Sports 1, 2 and ESPN. It's possible to get the above on a 12 month contract, though do this and it'd be an extra £5 on top for each of its Sky Sports channels, and this option wouldn't include ESPN or BT Vision Sports as standard.
Package: TV, broadband & phone, 24 mths
Cheapest total price with Sky Sports 1 or 2 & ESPN (inc. line rental): £40.27/mth
Sky Sports 1, 2 & ESPN (inc. line rental): £45.27/mth
TalkTalk: from £51.64/mth
To get Sky Sports with TalkTalk you'll need its TV, broadband and phone package. It doesn't currently offer HD, but a subscription to Sky Sports 1 or 2 is £23.50/mth, plus £11.49 line rental and £14.98 for the bundle.
Factoring in the £30 installation fee, this works out at £51.64 per month on an 18-month contract for one Sky Sports channel. If you're after all the bells and whistles, Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & ESPN is £36.99/mth, or £65.13 all-in. Sky Sports News is also provided as part of the base pack.
Package: TV, broadband & phone, 18 mths
Cheapest total price with Sky Sports 1 or 2 (inc. line rental): £51.64/mth
Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 & ESPN (inc. line rental): £65.13/mth
Top Up TV
If you don't want to go through the big providers above, there's another option. If you've got a Freeview digital set-top box with a card slot you can also subscribe to ESPN through Top Up TV for around £9.99/mth, or Sky Sports 1 or 2 for £19.99/mth each (plus connection fee).
</span> Up to £50 M&S vouchers on Sky+
Until Thurs 23 Sept, Sky's offering up to £50 of M&S gift vouchers when you sign up online to any Sky TV package*.
Without HD channels: £19/month
The cheapest option comes with Sky's 'variety pack', comprising over 240 channels. As with all Sky deals, you'll need to pay BT (from £9.49/mth) or Sky Talk (£11/mth) line rental to get it.
There's currently no set up or installation fee for new customers. However, if you switch to Sky Talk it's also possible to get free broadband, though there can be a hefty installation fee for this (see below).
Here's what you get for an effective £19/mth:
Sky+ HD box (generally top-rated, records up to 60 hrs HD or 185 standard)
Variety pack (over 240 digital TV channels, see list)
£25 M&S Voucher
With HD channels: £29/month
Opt for Sky's HD pack and you get access to the HD channels in the pack you subscribed to, as well as access to 'free to air' HD channels, which you'll obviously need an HD telly to make the most of. The HD pack costs £10/month, though Sky does have more HD channels than its competitors.
Sky+ HD box
Variety pack (over 240 digital TV channels, see list)
HD Pack (up to 46 HD channels depending on the pack, see list)
£50 M&S Voucher
Is it worth getting Sky Talk too?
Sky's home phone service, Sky Talk, charges £11/month for line rental and gets you free evening and weekend UK landline calls. Outside of the freebie calls its charges aren't particularly competitive, but switching to it also gets you £5/month off all Sky broadband packages, and it's here that some will find potential savings.
With Sky Talk, the base up to 20Mb with 2GB monthly limit broadband package can be had for free, and its unlimited up to 20Mb package for £7.50/mth. However, the first package carries a big sting in the tail, with an installation fee of £60.
Yet the superfast unlimited deal is free to install for new or existing Sky TV customers, and compares quite favourably to similar-spec packages (see Cheap Broadband). As with other providers, you'll need to be in a Sky network area to get these cheap.
It's possible to up the gain if you're willing to play:
Up to £80 Cashback: It's possible to grab up to £80 cashback by joining Sky and getting its HD pack and broadband via cashback sites Topcashback* and Quidco*. These deals can't be used in combination with others else you won't be paid. The cashback's substantially less on the non-HD packages.
Cashback sites are websites that list retailers and product providers and get paid if you click through them. Importantly, they then give some or all of this cash to you.
If you're new to this concept, please read the Best Cashback Sites guide before continuing, as while there shouldn't be a problem with these deals, the payout on cashback sites is never guaranteed; if there's a dispute with the retailer and the cashback site doesn't get paid, you don't either.
</span> What about Freeview?
Of course, you needn't pay for digital telly at all. All modern TVs come with tuners for free-to-air digital channels, and those with older sets can buy a Freeview box for around a tenner (the big supermarkets are usually cheapest).
There are currently up to about 50 TV channels (depending on your location), and 24 radio stations; not a bad haul for nothing!
Freeview HD: It's also possible to get HD channels down your antenna in some areas, (check) but you'll need a Freeview HD box. Currently these are pretty expensive - around £140 - and there are only a few proper HD channels: BBC HD, ITV1 HD and 4 HD.
However, as availability becomes more widespread the price of the equipment will fall and more channels will be added, so this is one to watch.