​16 TV buying tips that salespeople won’t tell you about

Plus how to review a TV like we do

Don't drink the Kool-Aid. There's more to buying a TV than what you'll get told. (Picture: tomislav medak, Flickr.)

Don't drink the Kool-Aid. There's more to buying a TV than what you'll get told. (Picture: tomislav medak, Flickr.)

7. Blocky artefacts in uniform areas of colour or areas of high detail

This mainly affects cheaper TVs (even from top brands) and can prove annoying. Our Downton Abbey picture is illustrative. As you can see with Carson’s coat, the dark black areas have seen the TV’s image processor lose the plot and turned the whole area into a blue, blocky mess. This got very distracting when watching. It can also happen in areas of fine detail. Good TVs will rarely do this – even when upscaling really-bad quality content.

Poor image processing can be revealed by blocky, coloured artefacts appearing in areas of uniform colour.
Poor image processing can be revealed by blocky, coloured artefacts appearing in areas of uniform colour.

Tip: Look for uniform-coloured areas (especially in lower-definition content) and highly-detailed areas within the picture to see if things get blocky or patchy.

How we test: DVD-grade movies are useful here as they frequently have dark areas that need to be up-scaled. Also, finely-detailed areas of motion in high-quality 4K show-reels can turn blocky quickly on mediocre TVs.

8. Television shops and show rooms

TV shops want to sell you TVs and so they want to show you what they can do when operating at their best. While this may sound fair enough, here’s why you should be wary:

As we’ve seen above, all TVs have a Shop or Demo mode which which ramps up brightness and colour saturation to overcharged levels in order to make everything jump off the screen. But you won’t be using this mode at home. So why do they do this?

You may notice that lighting in some TV show rooms is different to the rest of the store. Some TVs even have their own booths for customers to view the products in. That’s because different TVs perform differently in different lighting environments. Some are better in bright environments while others thrive in dark environments. You need one that doesn’t conflict with your home environment or you’ll get frustrated.

If you’ve a bright, airy, well-lit home home be wary of buying a TV that works best in a darkened tent and vice versa.

Tip: If a TV is being shown off in a tent, it might not get very bright (at least without killing contrast). If it’s being shown off in a bright environment, contrast and Black Performance may be an issue.

How we test: Watching lots of TV at day and night gives us a very good indicator of where TVs' strengths lie with regards to surrounding lighting.

9. Curved screens

Curved screens were initially sold on the principle that looking at one was more comfortable because it matched the curvature of your eyeball. This effect rings true especially with computer monitors where one person is sitting directly in front of the screen.

Many people buy curved TVs primarily because they look cool.
Many people buy curved TVs primarily because they look cool.

However, if multiple people are watching a TV then those who are off-centre get lumbered with a distorted image. Larger TVs have a more-open curve and are, thus, less distorted than smaller, curved TVs.

Also note that curved TVs can significantly reduce reflections - which is a potentially-very big deal if your TV is in a bright house with many windows and you watch a lot of content during the daytime.

Tip: Curved screens are best for reducing on-screen reflections. They can cause issues if multiple people are watching TV at once. Look at the TV from multiple angles.

How we test: We look at the TV from multiple angles.

10. Ability to sit close to the screen

If you’re still wondering about paying more for a 4K UHD TV over a Full HD TV it’s worth remembering that with smaller and lower-resolution TVs you need to sit further back to get the best results. There’s a great graph of the ideal size-distance ratio measurements here.

Nowadays we're more worried about kids getting squashed by gigantic TVs than worrying about eye strain if they sit too close.
Nowadays we're more worried about kids getting squashed by gigantic TVs than worrying about eye strain if they sit too close.

With large 4K UHD TVs, they look great from right up close, so if you have a small living room, it’s (counter-intuitively) another reason to consider 4K over Full HD.

Tip: You can sit much closer to 4K UHD TVs.

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Nick Ross
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