Taking the time to consider these questions will make choosing the best TV easier...
HD ready or full HD?
The vast majority of new TVs are HD ready, which means that they display high-definition discs or broadcasts at a minimum resolution of 720 vertical lines (720p).
This is fine for DVD, most broadcasts and basic Blu-ray playback and is about as many pixels as you need on TVs up to 32-inch. The next step up is full HD, which increases the vertical resolution to 1,080 lines, and is what you need to unlock the full potential of Blu-ray (1080p) and higher-spec, hi-def (1080i) satellite or cable broadcasts.
This is rarely found on anything smaller than 37-inch, but does exist on a handful of 32-inch sets.
What size do I need?
This is dictated by the dimensions of the room where the TV is going and the amount of cash you're prepared to spend. As a general rule of thumb, work out how far from the set you'll be sitting (in inches), multiply that distance by 0.535 and then round up the result to the nearest screen size. Bear in mind that a decent smaller telly is often a more sensible investment than a larger, less accomplished one.
How many HDMI sockets do I need?
Make sure you have at least as many HDMI inputs as you have HDMI-equipped sources. Most self-respecting TVs from 32-inch upwards should carry three, while four is becoming increasingly common on the largest sets.
Can I connect my older, analogue kit?
Most new sets carry no more than two Scarts, while S-video is fast approaching obsolescence. Check that your new TV can hook up to older digiboxes, VCRs or DVD decks that you might want to plug into it.
What picture type do I prefer, LCD or plasma?
LCDs and plasmas produce different sorts of pictures. Broadly speaking, the former's are usually sharper, brighter and more densely saturated, while the latter's tend to be richer, more natural and produce better black levels. Decent dealers should be able to arrange a side-by-side demo for you.
Do I want to hang my TV on the wall?
First off, you'll need to consult a construction expert to check that the wall in question is strong enough to support a flatscreen. Then find out if the set you want is designed to be wall-mounted and, if so, ask if the relevant bracket is included in the basic package or as an optional extra.
Will I be connecting it to a home cinema?
If the answer is no, you might want to think more carefully about your set's audio performance. Look for a screen that can go as loud as you'll need without distortion or cabinet rattle. Consider how dialogue sounds and how much low-end rumble the bass is capable of.
Conversely, it's pointless paying out more cash for exceptional built-in speakers if you already have a decent home cinema system.
What processing engine does it have?
Most leading brands have proprietary image 'engines' to enhance the picture, some of which are more effective than others. Personal picture preference is, of course, subjective, so ask for a few demonstrations and base your decision on which looked best to you, rather than on manufacturers' dazzling claims.
Non-proprietary features to watch out for include 100Hz scanning (for smoother motion) and 24p (playback at 24 frames per second).
How green is it?
TVs aren't inherently green devices, but those with an environmental conscience should look for an Off button, (as opposed to merely a Standby mode), 'eco' power-saving modes, intelligent backlight adjustment and, in a few recent cases, motion sensors that are capable of detecting an audience (or lack of one) and then turning the screen off if no one is watching.
You might also want to take into account a set's recycling potential or any green production processes mentioned on manufacturers' websites.
Are there any extra features?
If you've got this far and are still undecided, perhaps an extra gizmo or two can make up your mind. These come in all shapes and sizes and may include a USB port, Bluetooth capability or internet connectivity, or perhaps something a little more substantial, such as a built-in hard-disk drive or satellite TV tuner.
By now you should have some idea of what kind of TV you're after. Draw up a shortlist, shop around for best prices and don't be afraid to ask for demonstrations of your chosen models.
Most reputable sales outlets should be happy to oblige their customers. Above all, don't panic: remember that this list is designed to get you thinking rather than telling you what to buy and, above all, be confident in your own preferences when it comes to picture and sound.