How to choose the best TV 2020: 4K, HD, OLED and more

Looking for tips on how to choose the best TV? From 4K and HD, to OLED, choosing a new TV can be a bit of a jargon-filled minefield. Our definitive guide is here to help...

how to choose the best TV: Sony Bravia KD65AG8 OLED HDR 4K Ultra HD
(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Looking for tips on how to choose the best TV? If your current TV has finally given up, or you're looking for something better to binge-watch sport or Netflix on, our handy guide is to talk you through the jargon, ultimately ensuring you get the best model to suit your requirements – as well as your budget.

So, keep reading for our top tips on navigating the minefield of new technologies and features, and how to ensure you're getting the most for your money. 

Then, when you're done, head over to The Hub, our specialist page for all things home tech, be that product reviews, buying guides or practical advice.

  • Is a bargain top of your list of priorities? Browse our pick of the best TV deals, currently available

How to choose the best TV

When it comes to choosing the best TV to suit your needs, there is a variety of factors worth careful consideration. Navigate our guide to clarify what it is that you're looking for.

Or, if you're really pressed for time, you can also find our pick of the best TVs in the price comparison widget below. These are all models that won't disappoint.

The different types of TV explained

We understand just how confusing it can be trying to figure out what all of the TV-related jargon means, so we've put together a handy guide explaining everything you need to know. Plus, you'll find recommendations on what is, and isn't worth the investment. 

Display: LED (LCD) or OLED? 

There are two display technologies: LED (Light Emitting Diode) or backlit LCD and OLED. Here's the main difference between them:

  • OLED: renowned for their incredible picture quality, OLEDs are fast becoming the most popular option and it’s easy to see why. As individual LEDs light themselves, no backlight is required, meaning the TV itself can be even thinner. Plus, the faster refresh rate reduces motion blur, offering a sharper, more natural image with perfect inky blacks and vibrant colours. Browse our pick of the best OLED TVs to find the best buys. 
  • LCD: this option is great if you're looking for a lightweight TV on a smaller budget. Be aware, however, that because they use a backlight to illuminate pixels, colours may be less vivid and the blacks less, well, black. You might hear about QLED, too; that's Samsung's variant of LCD.

Resolution: full HD or 4K?

There are two resolutions to choose from: Ultra HD (UHD, also known as 4K) and HD. The main difference between these two types of resolution is in the number of pixels carried.

  • HD: 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • 4K: 3840 x 2160 pixels

Higher number of pixels means better quality image, which is why 4K TVs tend to be the more popular option of the two.

Plus, with 4K sources becoming more common (Netflix, Amazon, Sky Q) and the prices of 4K TVs dropping, getting a 4K TV, even if you don’t have currently have any access to 4K content, would be a smart move in the long term. Browse our pick of the best 4K TVs to find the best buys.

What is HDR? 

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the next step up in picture quality, giving you bright spectral highlights, reflections that glint and sunlight that glares.

If you're an avid sports fan, it's a real bonus. Plus, HDR content is currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. 

When it comes to choosing an HDR compatible TV, don’t buy a budget model – mid- to high-end models only will give you the picture quality you're seeking.

Smart TV platforms

It's highly likely the TV you're considering is network connectable, offering Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube at the minimum, as well as broadcast catch-up TV from BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5. But which smart TV platform to choose?

  • WebOS: found on LG connected screens, this award winning platform has a host of clever features, including app access, photo sharing and more.
  • Panasonic’s My Home Screen: recently overhauled, this offering from Panasonic allows for easy navigation, as well as access to a rang of handy apps.
  • Android: used by Sony and Philips, this platform doesn't impress reviewers as much, but it does have Chromecast built-in and works with effectively with Google smart speakers.

Browse our pick of the best smart TVs to find the best buys.

Which tuner?

Freeview Play, the latest version of terrestrial Freeview, offers web-delivered catch-up TV services and a roll-back seven-day programme guide. It's available with all TVs except Samsung's.

Gaming modes

If you’ve got a keen video gamer in the family, you need a TV with low input lag, which gives you fast response times. Most TVs have dedicated Game modes, and while these often perform better than regular TV image presets, they vary dramatically, so check before you buy. Browse our pick of the best 4K TVs for gaming to find the best buy for you.

how to choose the best tv: Sony Bravia KD75XG9505

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

What size TV to buy

Got your tape measure to hand? Good, because choosing the right size TV for your living space may be the simplest step, but it’s also vitally important. So, how do you go about choosing the right sized screen?

There’s a simple equation to use when it comes to getting a TV that will fit in your space, and allow everyone to watch from a comfortable distance: 

  • Divide the diagonal width (in inches) of the TV by 0.84 to get the optimum viewing distance. 

So, for example, for a 65 inch TV, you would need to be sitting at least 6.5ft from it  – something to bear in mind if you have a smaller living room but your heart is set on a huge screen. 

That said, modern TVs are smaller/slimmer than older models, which means you can afford to go larger than your last model. Plus, if you replace an HD TV with a UHD one of the same size, but don’t change your viewing distance, you won’t see an improvement in resolution. Either buy a larger UHD TV than your old HD one, or stay the same and pull your sofa nearer.

We've produced specialist guides covering the best TV models for every size. Browse them below.

how to choose the best tv: Panasonic TX-65FZ802B OLED HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart TV

(Image credit: John Lewis)

What about TV audio

In general, the thin flat panel that comes with most TVs will only provide you with a basic sound, so you may well want to add an additional sound system.

However, if you want to avoid having to invest in external speakers, look carefully at how many speakers a TV has, as well as the configuration of those speakers. Features to look out for include:

  • TVs with tiny, downward firing drivers will give you an indirect, muffled sound;
  • TVs with forward-firing speakers (also known as integrated soundbars), tend to sound much cleaner and more powerful;
  • As a general rule, if you can see the speakers on a TV set, it'll generally sound better than when you can't.

Our guides to the best soundbars and the best home theatre speakers are handy starting points if you're looking to build the ultimate audio experience.

Choose a TV design that suits your space

While most TVs, nowadays, look pretty similar, there are some manufacturers who go beyond the barely there bezels and lookalike pedestals. 

Stylish TVs

The most stylish brands are Loewe and Bang & Olufsen, who take a more avant garde approach to TV design, but there are also stylish options on offer from Samsung – namely the newly launched Samsung The Frame.

how to choose the best tv: samsung the frame tv from john lewis & partners

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Curved screens

Considering a curved screen rather than flat? While curved screens may have fallen out of favour (with only Samsung left flying the flag), they do create the ultimate immersive experience.

Just be aware that curved screens tend to distort any on-screen reflections so that they cover much more of the screen than they would with a flat TV. Also, if you watch from an angle, the picture can start to look distorted. 

How much to spend on a new TV

While we can’t put an exact number on the cost of a new TV – this figure is affected by a variety of variables – what we will say is not all TVs were created equal and you do tend to get what you pay for. 

As our buying guides will show you, you can get a decent TV for under £300 and an even better TV for under £1,000. But, if you are after the best TV, you are probably going to have to go head-first through that four-figure barrier. 

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