How to buy a TV: everything you need to know to get a set that's right for you

Don't buy a TV without reading this first


These days the main connections you need to look for are HDMIs, USB ports and multimedia support. 

With HDMIs you’re talking about the number (try and get at least three) but also the specification. With 4K TVs, try and get a TV with v2.0 HDMIs rather than v1.4 HDMIs, to guarantee the widest compatibility with current and upcoming source equipment. 

USBs ports are useful for both playing back multimedia (especially photos and videos) stored on USB drives, and, with some TVs, recording from the TV’s tuners to an attached USB hard drive. Look for at least two, and ideally three USB ports.

Most TVs now have built-in Wi-fi and Ethernet ports so that you can connect them to the internet. Not all TVs, though, also let you use these network connections to access multimedia stored on other devices on your network. So if this is a feature you want, make sure the TV you buy supports it. Note, too, that some TVs additionally support Bluetooth communication with external devices.

Contrast ratio 

Few TV brands still quote contrast ratios. But if you do see one, it’s basically a calculation of the difference between a screen’s deepest black and brightest whites, written as, for instance, 10,000:1. It’s generally worth taking these figures with a pinch of salt, though, as they can be measured in multiple, very different ways.

Curved or flat?

Curved TVs are much less common in 2017 than they have been in recent years, with pretty much all manufacturers bar Samsung deciding that they’ve run their course.

If you are looking to buy a very large TV and/or you’re going to be sitting pretty close to your screen, the way the picture on a curved screen enters your peripheral vision can make for a slightly more immersive experience. Curved screens follow the shape of your eye, too, arguably making the corners of the picture look sharper than they do on flat TVs. Plus curved screens tend to suffer less with color and contrast loss when viewed from an angle.

However, there are issues with curved TVs too. First, they tend to distort any on-screen reflections so that they cover much more of the screen than they would with a flat TV. Second, if you watch from an angle of really much more than 20-25 degrees, the picture can start to look foreshortened. 

Finally, if you’re not sitting in the optimal position (if you’re either too far back or off to the side), curved TVs can distort the picture’s geometry.