Finding a new TV is not an easy task with so much jargon and techy standards to get your head around like 4K, Ultra HD, HDR and so on. Don’t worry though because our smart TV guide is here to take you through everything you need to know to pick the right set.
There are various things to consider, especially when you can spend under £300 or over £2,000 on TVs that on the whole look like they offer the same thing. We’ve got a mix of prices here but you can check our dedicated chart of the
best budget TVs if you haven’t got much to spend.
‘Best’ is subjective as it depends on what is most important to you, so we’ve reviewed and ranked a range of different TVs covering budget and premium prices and various features from various manufacturers including Sony, Sony, Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense.
Remember that we can only test one size (typically 55in if we can) but specs can vary slightly between models. Note that we’re adding 2022 models as and when we test them, but 2020/21 TVs are still good and discounts might mean you can pick up a bargain so check our live prices from the top retailers.
4K Smart TV buying guide
4K TVs have a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, which is exactly four times more than Full HD. You should look for a model that has several inputs – not just one – that can handle incoming 4K content sources. These can be Ultra HD Blu-ray players, games consoles and media streamers such as the Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV 4K.
The key specification to look out for is HDMI version 2 input with HDCP 2.2 support. The latter is a version of copy protection used by all external 4K sources, so the more inputs that support it the better. If you buy a budget TV, it most likely will only have one HDCP 2.2-compliant input. Learn more about
HDMI ports here.
This means you can only connect one 4K device to the TV, which is not ideal. The prices of 4K UHD TVs have fallen dramatically, so most cost the same as HD models did a couple of years ago.
While the extra resolution that 4K offers is best appreciated on a large screen (50in or more), that hasn’t stopped smaller panels appearing. While there’s no reason not to buy a 4K TV at 40 inches, and the performance can be excellent, don’t expect to see overt picture improvements if you’re sitting the typical 8-10 feet away.
If you want 4K resolution at 120fps (or 120Hz) to make the most of the PS5 and Xbox Series X then you’ll need HDMI 2.1. Find out more about
next-gen console compatibility here.
All the TVs tested here have 4K resolutions. These UHD (Ultra HD) sets are the ones to buy now. Only go for a Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) set if you can’t afford a 4K model or you’re buying something under 40in.
4K content is becoming more widely available with broadcasters gearing up to show a lot of sport and drama in 4K. 4K is also available over your broadband connection as long as it’s quick enough.
Around 15Mb/s should provide you with a source of 4K video from Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and
Sky Q. Alternatively you can buy a 4K Blu-ray player and 4K UHD Blu-ray discs.
BT also broadcasts sport in 4K (football, rugby, Moto GP, squash, to name but four) via its Infinity broadband. Because this streams at 2160/50p a much faster broadband connection is required. BT will generally refuse to offer a 4K set-top box to those Infinity customers on less than a 45Mb/s connection.
4K? What about 8K!
Just as 4K is starting to become mainstream, manufacturers are now beginning to shout about 8K. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a 4K TV.
8K broadcasts are a long way off, and there is almost no 8K content to watch. But just like 4K TVs, 8K models will upscale video so it looks sharper. But the same rules apply about screen size: you need a very, very large screen to notice the extra detail.
Unlike previous leaps in TV quality (black and white to colour, SD to HD), both 4K and 8K started off without proper, agreed standards. This is another reason why 4K is a more sensible purchase now: modern sets have the necessary H.265 support to decode broadcasts, but some early models didn’t.
You can plump for 8K now to future-proof and you’ll get HDMI 2.1 by default supporting next-gen consoles, but you won’t get 120fps as you’ll be limited to 60Hz.
A new generation of HDR (High Dynamic Range) UHD TVs arrived in 2017 which offer higher peak whites and better colour depth than what came before. However, to appreciate these capabilities you need to feed your HDR 4K TV with HDR content, and there aren’t masses around although it’s on the rise.
You’ll find UHD Blu-rays such as Planet Earth II, and content on Amazon and Netflix, but the rest is likely console games rather than TV shows and films. HDR comes in different standards including HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. You can read more about
Dolby Vision here.
There’s plenty of HDR content around now but the different versions make it a little tricky. Also note that while cheaper sets support HDR, they tend to have much lower-grade panels. They particularly struggle to offer enough brightness to really show HDR content properly.
Make sure you read our full reviews to see how each TV performs.
The Google Assistant, Bixby and Siri are assistants that originated in smartphones but are gradually finding their way into TVs.
With a voice-activated assistant onboard, you’ll be able to adjust the volume and change the channel on the TV, but also control anything else within its scope, such as smart lights and heating. It’s certainly a nice feature to have, but it’s not a deal-breaker if it’s missing.
If you can’t install your TV yourself, note that
Amazon now offers services including wall-mounting from around £100. What you can do yourself is to tweak the settings using our guide on
how to get the best picture from your TV.