How to buy the best smart TV

A well-chosen smart TV will be an entertainment hub for your family. You’ll enjoy countless hours in front of your flat-screen marvel, so it pays to get the best deal and set-up you can.

What are the benefits of having a smart TV?

Whatever your set-up at home, a smart TV will be a gateway to all your shows, browsing and viewing pleasure. Whether you have Disney doters, BBC box-set bingers, documentary watchers, die-hard sports fans or kids who like to watch YouTube on a bigger screen (when allowed), a smart TV will deliver what they’re all looking for.

Smart TVs deliver an awful lot in one box of tricks, as part of the wider set-up in your smart home.

From Frozen to Hellboy

With a built-in internet connection to streaming services and apps on the TV, a smart set gives you a huge range of viewing options, especially when it comes to films. You will not only get access to huge libraries from all the major platforms – Amazon, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV and more – you can now also rent films that were previously only available in cinemas at the time of release.

Premium Video on Demand (or PVOD) is changing the home entertainment landscape. And all this is even before you plug in gaming consoles, Blu-Ray players, or anything else.

4K or full HD?

More than likely, you will opt for a 4K set these days, to max out the quality of show, film or sporting event you can watch. However, Full HD – also known as 1080p – sets can still be bought for lower budgets.

Built in WiFi

A defining feature of smart TVs, this feature is usually built-in so you can just navigate on screen to find your own WiFi broadband. Occasionally, you might need to run an ethernet cable to your TV if it sits in a poor WiFi spot in your house, though this can be avoided if you have excellent broadband.

Ethernet

A hard-wired connection which is plugged into your set gives a certain security to your internet signal. Broadband speeds over WiFi are improving all the time, so ethernet may not be the best option for you, also depending on where your WiFi router lives in the house.

Best smart TV on the market

Since smart TVs hit the market they have become much more mainstream and rapidly decreased in price. As screens have become sleeker, more connected and higher in resolution, in relative terms they have also become more affordable.

Gone are the days when you had to speed £2500+ to get even a 37-inch flat-screen TV. Technology has moved on, as fast as internet services have.

Smart TV terminology quick guide

Before we go through some of the most consistently outstanding smart tv brands, let’s equip you with some of the terminology, so you know your OLEDs from your QLEDs.

So what it the best smart TV to buy?

It always pays to do a little bit of research on your next tech purchase, like a new smart TV. There are some great brands out there that will cater for your individual needs. Before you crack on, it helps to set a budget and also measure out your living room (or other room if needed) to find out the optimal size TV panel for your viewing pleasure.

There are guides available for the ideal viewing distances, but a general rule of thumb: go large, especially as bigger flat screen TVs are no longer prohibitively expensive. With more and more filmed content going straight to home viewing platforms, you’re unlikely to regret having more spacious screen real estate for the likes of Tom Cruise, Cruella De Vil, or Kylian Mbappé to strut their stuff on.

Smart TV brands to consider

TV models will come and go and be updated every year, so here are the main smart TV brands that can be relied upon to deliver excellence, flexible sizes and the latest innovations in the connected TV world.

Smart TV apps

One of the best features of today’s smart TVs are the built-in apps. Straight out of the box (and on to the wall) you will be able get some of the very latest TV and film content, without any extra wires or messing about. The apps are called ‘native’, which means you will find them pre-loaded when you switch on your new smart TV.

Subscription apps

The streaming world has been divided up by various services who each offer up near endless catalogues of shows, series, documentaries, films and all sorts to keep you busy. But you do have to pay for them.

Amazon Prime Video

An unusually positioned service, if you think of Amazon Prime as one-day shipping on purchases with a streaming service thrown in. The video library itself offers a huge range of content, currently for £79.99 a year, or £7.99 a month. Now including a selection of Premier League football matches, Amazon’s original content includes hit shows like Vikings, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and The Boys.

Disney+

A relatively late entrant to the streaming scene, Disney+ arrived in the UK in March 2020. It had a big impact and its potential is even bigger. Disney has huge libraries in the entertainment world with its Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney films of several generations.

Early on there wasn’t much original content, but hits like The Mandalorian and 2021’s WandaVision are just the tip of the iceberg. It also released the once cinema-intended Mulan to PVOD and more films may go that way, as the pandemic continues to affect cinemas.

Netflix

First out of the blocks and the original king of streaming, Netflix still has a huge catalogue and influence in our watching lives. Netflix’s on-demand library holds the most content of all, with 100,000 original programmes alongside some of the best TV shows and movies.

Netflix also carries a lot of great movies and has a production arm that produces new originals, like Okja, Roma, Marriage Story, and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. It has to work harder now to stay on top, as newcomers join the game but Netflix offers plenty of great options, including 4K Ultra HD viewing. Subscriptions start at £5.99 running to £13.99 a month for UHD access and more devices to download and watch your favourites on.

How do I connect my smart TV to the internet?

More than five years ago you would have needed to put a WiFi dongle in a TV to give it internet access, but smart TVs are different gravy. Simply switch on your new TV and look for connections or network settings in the menu. You’ll be guided to select a WiFi network from a list that will probably include your neighbour’s internet (don’t go there). Find your network and then enter your password. Hopefully you have strong broadband to enjoy your TV streaming and smart connectivity.

What broadband speed do I need for a smart TV?

You don’t want any buffering when you’re trying to watch Buffy. A general rule would be faster broadband is best for any kind of streaming, especially with Ultra-HD shows or even more so, if you have several people in the house are watching on different devices in different rooms.

A recommended broadband speed for streaming is a minimum of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) for TV services like BBC iPlayer, in standard definition. 2.8 Mbps is ideal for HD quality streaming. For Netflix, the minimum speed required is roughly 3Mbps for standard def streaming and 5Mbps for HD. If you’re going even sharper with UHD streaming, typically you would be after at least 15Mbps on YouTube and 25Mbps for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Related articles

Useful links