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.
Stands for high dynamic range, which is a new technology built into most new panels. Means you see deeper blacks and brighter whites. Not available on all broadcasts, but you will see on 4K Blu-Rays.
You will often hear about black levels in TV reviews. This describes the brightness of a TV picture. Generally, the darker the black level, the better the quality of the visuals. Sets with better black levels are usually superior.
A subscription-free digital TV service, providing television through an aerial. Nearly all new TVs come with this built in, so you can watch programmes in SD and HD straight away.
4K TVs are also known as Ultra-HD or UHD to save even more time. They have four times as many pixels as normal HD 1080p sets. That is 3840 x 2160 pixels to be precise. Four times HD, which has 1920 x 1080 pixels. In reality, 4K means an astonishing level of detail.
The future never waits for technology. While 4K is the best you can watch now, 8K will be the “next level”. As you might have guessed, 8K panels will have four times as many pixels as 4K. Some 8K sets are already on the market now, with the level of detail. However, there is precious little 8K content to actually watch, so stay tuned for the next decade – and look for faster broadband to cope with it!
4K TVs have four times the number of pixels of regular HD or 1080p TVs. Most new TVs have 4K as standard, especially those screens 40 inches or over, as the larger display allows you to appreciate the lovely extra detail in the picture. To watch 4K content, you can either stream it on Netflix, Amazon Video or YouTube, or buy a 4K Blu-Ray player and some movies.
Liquid crystal displays on TVs use lamps to shine light using liquid crystal cells in the TVs panel – this allows varying amounts of colour to permeate through creating lovely pictures. Cheaper than they used to be and very popular.
Somewhat similar to LCD sets, although the back-light lamps are substituted with tiny light emitting diodes (hence LED). These illuminate the screen creating a sharp picture. LED TVs are often both slimmer and more energy efficient than their LCD equivalents, so better for the environment and nicer for watching The Blue Planet.
Relatively new and shiny now, OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. These TVs don’t need any backlight, so can be even thinner than LED TVs.
Nowadays everyone has boxes to attach to the telly, from games consoles to DVD players and any Virgin TV box you might have. HDMI is the standard cable for high-definition video and audio. When you are shopping for a new smart TV, look for the set to have three or four HDMI ports to offer a bit of future proofing, otherwise you might need an HDMI switching box in the future.
Roku is a brand of device, sometimes called a dongle that plugs directly into a TV set to provide access to streaming services. If you have a smart TV, you probably wouldn’t need one but some might chose them to access music apps, like Deezer or VEVO or anything else they don’t find already on their TV.
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.
One of the best-known electronics manufactures in the world, Samsung don’t just make TVs, it also puts its name to smart phones, soundbars, fridges and computer monitors. Samsung’s TVs are known for being the main LED competitors to LG’s OLED range, as they don’t have the risk of permanent burn-in on their panels. The most high-end QLED line-up uses quantum dot technology and has a wide range of models to cater for all budgets and tastes.
• Type: LED
• Resolution: 4K
• Sizes: 55”, 65”, 75”, 85”
• Look out for: HDMI 2.1 ports handy for PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles. Sets have great build quality and Samsung TVs produce deep blacks.
A well-known and trusted brand that has been around for decades and is iconic in the world of electronics. Sony makes headphones, gaming consoles (see our parental controls guide for PS5), TVs and much more besides. Like LG, Sony makes TVs with different types of tech inside them, with OLED being its top tier of smart TV. Some of Sony’s top TVs, like the A8H and the A9S OLED, have been said to deliver stunning picture quality, with perfect black levels and great motion handling – for your motor racing and action movie enjoyment.
• Type: OLED
• Resolution: 4K
• Sizes: 55” – 65”
• Look out for: A top of the range model is the Sony X950H. This set produces deep blacks and an outstanding HDR experience. Most Sony TVs run on Android TV, a user-friendly platform that has plenty of handy apps thanks to the Google Play Store.
A South Korean electronics powerhouse, LG is one of the biggest producers of electronics around. As well as tip top TVs, they make phones, tablets, home appliances and watches. They’ve been in the TV game since the start of the century and actually revitalised the market with their OLED TVs back in 2013.
OLED are different from typical LED displays, in that they can turn off individual pixels, which gives the viewer perfect blacks and they handle bright objects really well (sometimes an issue with LED panels). LG OLEDs also have very wide viewing angles, so the image still looks great when viewing from the side of the room; a great choice if you have a wide seating arrangement.
• Sizes: 48”, 55”, 65”, 77”
• Look out for: LG has a range of models in their OLED line-up, the picture quality will be similar, so pay attention to the feature lists and the physical designs to choose your preferred TV. The entry level LG BX OLED offers similar quality to the higher end CX model and the LG GX OLED. Match up with your TV budget.
This Chinese company started making radios in 1969 and soon branched out to TVs. These days it makes a variety of electronics, including home appliances and air purifiers. It offers affordable options for smart TVs that are often well reviewed, so well worth considering if you are putting your household budget elsewhere and want to save a bit on your purchase.
Hisense has been known, since 2015, as a company that has brought out some really strong 4K TVs, especially for the price tag. When you shop at the top end, the premium model Hisense TVs, such as the H8G and H9G, compete pretty well with other more known brands – and generally don’t cost as much.
• Type: LED
• Resolution: 4K
• Sizes: 55”, 65”
• Look out for: Hisense TVs do well in both bright and dark environments. Most of their panels use Android TV as their smart operating system and some models also come with built-in Roku to compete with other similar budget brands, such as TCL.
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.
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.