What are the best TVs for sport, and what do we even mean by suggesting one smart TV is better than another for watching sport? After all, a good TV is a good TV – isn’t it?
Well, yes and no. There are many aspects of picture performance at which a TV must excel if it’s going to be an authentically good TV, of course: detail retrieval, color fidelity, edge definition and so on. And if a TV can’t demonstrate mastery of this kind of stuff, well… it’s not what we’d call a good TV. But being a TV that’s great for sport is a slightly more specific science.
Televised sport, of course, is overwhelmingly concerned with on-screen motion. It doesn’t matter if your sport of choice is football, or cricket, or WWF – the on-screen images will be constantly on the go. Slow camera pans will follow faster movement, there will be abrupt changes of direction, there will often be movement in the opposite direction the way the camera is moving, there will be great big swathes of uniform color with smaller elements of different color in constant motion… you get the idea. It’s all about the way a screen handles motion.
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The way a TV handles motion comes down to how efficiently it can implement refresh rates. You don’t need to get too bogged down in the technicalities here, but it’s worth considering that UK broadcasts are almost always at 50Hz (or 50fps). This means there are 50 images broadcast per second, which is what makes still pictures look like they’re moving. How effectively a TV can handle this rate of transmission will determine how smooth and convincing the on-screen motion is going to look.
Bear in mind that there isn’t a TV out there with a refresh rate of less than 50Hz. So in theory, one TV should be very like another when it comes to taking those 50 images per second from the broadcaster and delivering them at a rate of 50 per second on the screen. Shouldn’t it?
Well yes, it should. But in practice, some TVs are much more accomplished at this particular discipline than others. So here’s our list of TVs that are great at handling motion, and have all the other great picture-making talents to go along with it.
Best TVs for sport, at a glance:
- LG CX OLED
- Panasonic HX800
- Philips OLED 754
- Samsung Q60T / Q65T
- Sony A8H OLED
You’ll need to overlook the inexplicable and quite significant lack of UK TV catch-up services if you’re going to find a place in your home for LG’s superb OLED55CX – but if you’re a sports fan then you should try your hardest. The LG is a great TV for sports-viewing – once you have a delve into the LG’s extensive set-up menus.
Weirdly enough, it’s not the OLED55CX’s ‘Sports’ picture preset which makes sport look its best. Instead, get down into the depths of the set-up menus and select ‘TruMotion’, and then have a fiddle with the ‘de-judder’ and ‘de-blur’ adjusters. It’s fairly straightforward to get a balance that makes the LG’s motion-handling as smooth as freshly polished silk, while retaining all the detail and lovely color balance that the screen is capable of.
Read more: LG CX OLED review
In general terms, the Panasonic HX800 is something of a steal – the ‘picture-quality-per-pound’ ratio is perhaps stronger here than with any other TV in this list. And while it’s generous enough to offer complete HDR support (by no means a given, sadly), one of the headline reasons it’s such a bargain, relatively speaking, is the absolutely sterling work it does with televised sports.
For once, this Panasonic is a TV that looks its best with sports when set to its ‘Sports’ picture mode. From there, it takes only a moment’s finessing of the ‘Intelligent Frame Creation’ setting to get a result that combines utterly convincing motion-handling with the fine edge-definition and detail retention that makes the Panasonic such an enjoyable and absorbing watch.
Read more: Panasonic HX800 TV review
For a TV so competitively priced, Philips has certainly piled on the features. All the HDR standards? Check. Excellent P5 picture processing engine? Check. Unique-to-Philips Ambilight arrangement to make a big picture look bigger still? Check.
And Philips, of course, is the TV brand that trusts its customers more than any other. That’s why the 55OLED754 comes complete with an absolute stack of picture-adjustment options for its owner to spend hour after hour fiddling with.
It’s possible to make minute changes to the way the P5 fettles images – and as long as you have the patience, the 55OLED754 is capable of turning out some of the best-controlled and most lifelike sports pictures around. Just turn off all the ‘noise reduction’ options in ‘Standard’ mode and you’re most of the way to some brilliantly controlled sports action.
If you don't want to have to fiddle with your settings too much, though, this might not be the best choice for you.
Read more: Philips 55OLED754 review
Sasmung’s QLED technology has a lot going for it, and the company has extrapolated it into a bewildering number of TV ranges. But the price/performance sweet-spot is almost certainly here, in the Q60 range.
The Q60R is an across-the-board success in every aspect of picture-making. The sound it makes doesn’t match up in the slightest, but that needn’t concern us here. What sports fans need to know is that the Samsung is pretty capable of gripping motion hard, even with its default, out-of-the-box settings – so spend a few minutes in the ‘Picture Clarity’ section of the set-up menus and a really gratifying picture can be yours. Just remember to leave ‘noise reduction’ well alone in favour of trimming ‘judder reduction’ and you’re in business.
It's worth noting that there's a newer Q60T model for 2020 – with a Q65T variant with the Samsung OneConnect box – though due to some shuffling around of new Samsung TV models, these new versions actually have a lower-spec processor than the older Q60R. Keep an eye out for our full Q60T review in the coming weeks.
Read more: Samsung Q60R QLED TV review
As the most expensive TV in this list, it seems only right and proper that the Sony A8H should also be the most capable TV here. Whether or not it’s worth the premium over, say, the LG CX OLED is debatable – but there’s no denying it’s a better watch. Sony’s remarkable Acoustic Surface Audio system, which utilises the entire screen as a speaker, is superior too.
As far as watching sport goes, there’s no arguing with the Sony A8H’s quality. The initial settings aren’t much help, it’s true, but things improve once you get into the set-up menus and pay proper attention to ‘Motionflow’ and, within that setting, ‘Smoothness’. Then, examine the ‘Clearness’ adjuster until you’ve got what you deserve: buttery-smooth motion with no loss of detail or color volume.
Read more: Sony A8H OLED TV review
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