“Go for a smart TV from a top-tier brand,” says O’Keefe, “simply because the smarts in cheaper TVs tend to be poorly implemented.”
“The most important thing is to make sure the TV has the smart functionality that you need. If you specifically want Netflix supported by the TV, do the research and make sure it supports it. Also make sure the Netflix button is on the remote.
“But it’s important to note that just because the app is there now, doesn’t mean the manufacturer is going to keep supporting it in the future.”
Speaker performance is often overlooked when buying a television. While sound from the latest thin TVs are improving, you will generally get a better sound by adding a soundbar.
“If you’re going for a really big screen, think seriously about buying something else to produce the sound,” advises O’Keefe. “A cheap TV is going to give you cheap sound. Transistor radio cheap.”
All TV makers are promoting the next generation 4K technology (also known as ultra high definition, UHD). The technology refers to a resolution of 3840 x 2160, which packs 8.3 million pixels into a screen. That’s four times more pixels than in a full HD television.
O’Keefe claims it’s only worthwhile spending more on a 4K model if you’re buying a large television.
“The full benefit of 4K isn’t really evident until you get around a 50-inch screen. As you go 50-inches and up, it becomes appreciably more important to get that higher resolution. A higher resolution also allows you to accommodate a larger screen in a smaller room as the optimal distance from the screen is reduced as the resolution goes up.”
A sharp drop in pricing has made the technology affordable, but our head tester reckons a cheap 4K television could be cutting costs when it comes to the processor.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding HDR (high dynamic range), a technology capable of displaying high levels of contrast between bright and dark colours. Manufacturers may claim the technology results in colours closer to a director’s vision, but the appeal of an HDR television may be limited by a lack of content.
“The largest library of HDR content is available on Netflix, while only a small portion support HDR, the situation should improve over time and some models are being released that help bring out detail in dark areas whether the movie was made to support HDR or not.
Recent times have seen an improvement in panel technology. Most televisions use an LED backlight to illuminate an LCD panel. The light is always on, if dimmed, even in areas that are meant to be dark. This tends to cause the colour black to look more like a shade of grey.
LG is the first to market with an OLED television, a panel technology whereby the pixels are self-illuminating. However the other companies are looking to introduce OLED in their premium range such as Sony and Panasonic with models coming out later in 2017.
“OLED is a promising technology and when it’s done well can be fantastic, but I wouldn’t necessarily chose OLED over an LED-backlit screen all the time,” says O’Keefe. “Certainly in terms of contrast, it’s impressive, [though] it’s not as energy efficient as we expected it to be.”
Some manufacturers claim curving the television screen correlates to the shape of the human eye, while others simply admit it looks impressive.
O’Keefe believes curved screens are a “gimmick”.
“In the time we’ve been looking at curved screens, we’ve only had one person come through the lab who said it provided a worthwhile viewing experience.
“I also think curved screens look ridiculous when you put them on the wall.”
Early adopters keen on snatching up the latest technology can head into stores within the first half of the year. Typically, smaller-sized televisions reach the Australian market as early as April, while the larger flagship models tend to make it into stores around June or July. Bargain hunters should head to stores a month before, just as the perfectly fine older models are being phased out.
Prices become competitive just before the end of financial year and then again after Christmas. Other discounts are applied usually in the lead up to the NRL and AFL grand finals.
No one television is the best. It’s about finding the model that meets your needs at the price you are willing to pay. Identify what it is you want from a television, whether that’s internet streaming or a great set to watch some sports, then head into a store and ask the staff to provide a demo using the display models. For more help with checking out a TV’s performance while in store, read our tips on how to test a TV on the shop floor.
CHOICE’s category-wide TV reviews clearly illustrate what models to avoid; all that’s left is picking a TV from the cream of the crop.