Which TVs are the best for sport? If you enjoy watching sport at home, this is an important question, especially because the next few months will involve a lot of must-see action, like Euro 2020 and all of the top tennis tournaments.
Despite what you might think, not all of the best TVs on the market right now are suited to watching big sporting events. They might be cinematic and great for movies, but sport is a different ball game.
If you’re buying a TV and you know you'll be watching a lot of sport, there are a few key things to consider. For starters, there are many different aspects of picture performance to bear in mind, including detail retrieval, color fidelity, and edge definition. Of course, these are all the hallmarks of a good TV, but a great TV for sport needs some extras.
For example, televised sport is overwhelmingly concerned with on-screen motion. That’s the case whether you enjoy watching football, cricket or WWF – with all of these sports the on-screen images are constantly on-the-go.
We’d expect slow camera pans to follow faster movement, abrupt changes of direction, movement in the opposite direction the way the camera is moving, and great big swathes of uniform color with smaller elements of different color in constant motion. You get the idea, the way a TV handles motion is extremely important.
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How efficient a TV is at handling motion comes down to how well it implements different refresh rates. You don’t need to get caught up 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. Therefore, how well 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 much 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.
Or at least that should be the case. In practice, some TVs are much more accomplished at handling refresh rates than others. Here’s our guide to the TVs that are great at handling motion, and have all the other top picture-making talents built-in to go along with it.
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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
The Philips OLED 805 is a winning combination of excellent picture quality, powerful processing, and lovely build quality.
The 805 isn't quite as competitively priced as its step-down sibling, the OLED 754, but it packs in all the same features with even more impressive specs. 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 65OLED805 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 805 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 the full review: Philips OLED 805
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 now– 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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