Flat screen TVs are here to stay. Bulky CRTs are a thing of the past. It’s clear that a modern 32 inch (or bigger) flat screen on a wall or shelf looks much better than a clunky CRT in a corner. But if you’re on a budget, what should you be looking for?
Firstly when it comes to choosing between a Plasma TV or an LCD TV, there isn’t that much difference. Plasmas are said to be better at displaying dark colours and fast moving images while LCDs tend to be better at dealing with glare, so a LCD TV would be better in a bright room, whereas sports fans may be better off with plasma.
Generally, your budget will limit the size of screen you can afford, although some lower end TVs can provide a screen size of up to 40 inches for under £400 if you’re willing to sacrifice on features and quality. The best of these budget brands is arguably LG for both LG LCD TVs and LG Plasma TVs.
Many videophiles will say there is no point buying a flat screen LCD or plasma that has a screen of less than 26 inches as, at these sizes, especially on budget models, a CRT is likely to perform better. However, it is more important to look at the size and shape of the room your TV will be situated in. As a general rule, you should be seated at eye level with your TV and at a distance of two to three times the size of the screen.
Once you’ve selected screen size, look at the features you’ll need. You won’t get a 3DTV for under £400, but you should be able to get a digital tuner should you need it. You should also be able to get a HDTV. The Sharp LC32LE600E offers excellent value with a built-in digital tuner and LED backlighting for a better picture (they are commonly sold as LED TVs).
You’ll also need to look at the connections you need for your peripherals, such as Blu-ray player, DVD recorder, HTPC set-up, etc. All TVs come with HDMI these days, just make sure you have enough SCART connections for your older devices. A front-facing A/V connection is handy for a video game console or camcorder.
Of course, the picture is important too. Everyone sees TV displays differently, so check out the models on the high street, but make sure the shop has a room that imitates the conditions under which you’re likely to view the TV at home. In many shops, the TVs will be set up to look better under bright shop lighting. Samsung’s are a good mid-range brand in this respect. The Samsung LE32B450C4 has a feature known as Wide Colour Enhancer 2 for more lifelike hues and excellent surround sound, handy if you’re not passing your sound through a home theatre system.
What about the remote control? Do you want a model that comes with a universal remote, or a ‘learning’ remote to control other devices? Take all of this into account, before you make your choice. Again, many Samsungs come with a universal remote.
In addition, some TVs come with dual tuners to allow Picture-In-Picture (PIP) to watch two channels at once.
One solid all-round performer we found was the Sony Bravia KDL37S5500U. This 37 inch LCD has been given excellent reviews by satisfied buyers. With a superb contrast ratio for a near-perfect picture and a USB port that allows you to play media content from a USB drive, this TV can be found for just over £400. Happy viewing!
Best TV Shops
You can buy TVs from most electrical stores and high street retailers, including dedicated TV shops. Popular TV stores with a wide selection of models to choose from include: