Buying A New Big Screen TV? Here's What You Need To Know

Thinking of picking up a new flatscreen TV any time soon? Whether you're thinking of spending a motza on a massive OLED, curved, 4K extravaganza or just picking up a cheap second screen for the bedroom or kid's room, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you're shopping around.

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What's The Deal With OLED?

OLED is, for some TV brands, the Next Big Thing in TVs. It's a technology that allows each individual pixel of a TV's screen to turn on and off individually, and that means a panel that can display incredibly complex and high-contrast images perfectly with 100 per cent bright whites alongside completely dark blacks.

The tech behind OLED has been evolving for a long time in small-screen smartphones and tablets, but has had some difficulty evolving when it comes to TV screens. At the moment, LG is the OLED champion and has brought the price of its screens down hugely since they first launched, but they still command a premium price compared to the long-running LED TV tech.

If you're wavering on buying an OLED TV, compare it to a similarly priced LED screen. You may sacrifice a bit of screen real estate, but you'll get a TV that is far more versatile when it comes to displaying movies and TV shows because of its extended contrast and colour performance.

OLED TVs will only become more popular as the current year (and more years beyond) roll on, which means they'll get better and better and come down in price. They're a great long-term investment now, but as with any TV you might be considering, waiting a little while for the tech to mature might pay off exponentially.

Should You Care About Curved TVs?

Curved TV is a fad -- at the moment at least -- but it's a pretty damn nifty one nonetheless. The idea behind a curved TV screen is that since your eyeball is curved, a panel with a similar curvature will look more natural and will remain an equal distance from your eyes. The science might not convince you, but the fact is that curved TVs look great.

If we're honest, curved TVs may just be primarily a fancy styling element, but that styling looks impressive and certainly makes for a conversation starter within your living room. More importantly, it doesn't have a deleterious effect on any content that you might be watching, since the panel itself is functionally the same as a flat TV.

Of course, a curved TV presents its own challenges when it comes to mounting your screen on the wall. A more expensive mount, possibly one directly from the TV's manufacturer and carrying its own curve-inflated price tag, might be required. For these reasons, you might find yourself better off with a flat screen on your flat wall.

Curved TVs seem to be here to stay, but we don't expect them to become the status quo any time soon. People are still going to like flat screens -- and we certainly do -- so don't worry, they'll be around whether you want to pick up a new screen in a year or three years or ten. Just make your purchase some time before we're all wearing virtual reality goggles instead.

Is 4K Actually Worth It?

With the imminent launch of Netflix in Australia, the debut of new and massively powerful 3D graphics cards and next-gen games, now is the right time to think about your next TV being a 4K one. Especially if you're shooting your own videos and photos, a 4K TV can give you a big boost in detail over a Full HD 1080p screen.

4K screens command a moderate price premium over 1080p ones, but that's partly because 4K TVs still sit at the high-end whereas Full HD is in everything. Because of that, you will generally get a better quality picture from a 4K TV, but you'll pay more -- and only you can do the maths as to how much extra you're willing to pay.

If you're an especially savvy or budget-conscious buyer, though, your next TV should probably still be a 1080p one. Both the Xbox One, the PlayStation Four and any moderately powerful gaming PC will still perform best when paired with a Full HD display, as well any Blu-ray. Almost all the video content out there is still only 1080p.

We're in a state of flux at the moment where 4K is becoming a big thing in Australia, but the process is slow and we're not quite there yet. If you want to plan ahead then a 4K TV is a good investment for a few years into the future, but if you plan to upgrade again soon then 1080p is just as smart.

Do You Need Apps?

After 3D TV fell by the wayside, Smart TV became the new buzzword for big screen makers to push as a value-adding extra. The idea behind a Smart TV is that, beyond just displaying your digital TV and videos from any media player plugged in over HDMI, your screen will have its own integrated Internet access over Wi-Fi.

A Smart TV should be able to directly play videos from ABC iView or SBS On Demand and many/any streaming video service, as well as play games, browse the Web through an integrated browser, and potentially even Skype or video-chat your mates and let you update Facebook or Twitter.

The problem is, these integrated apps are rarely anywhere near as good as the same app running on your smartphone or tablet or laptop. If you really want to get them on the big screen, why not consider a Chromecast or Apple TV? These cheap accessories let you wirelessly throw a bunch of apps up onto your TV.

Certain apps are genuinely useful though -- like Skype -- and some TV brands -- like LG and Samsung -- do Smart a lot better than others. If you're dead-set on buying a Smart TV, make sure it's a 2015 model and therefore the most up-to-date. You'll save money going non-Smart, though!

Are Bigger Screens Still Better?

Honestly? Yes. In Australia, we have big houses and big living rooms and that means we love our big TVs. Some TV companies say that half the volume of TVs they sell Down Under are 55 inches or larger; definitely more than a third overall are at least this big.

There's a reason for that, too. When you sit an equal distance from a large TV and a small one, the larger TV will definitely look more cinematic and immersive. In the special case of 3D content, a bigger screen will make your movies pop out more.

When you consider your budget, choose a range rather than a single figure -- make sure you have a lower value that you're willing to pay as well as a higher limit. Within this range, look for the TVs that stand out (whether they're expensive or cheap) because they're big.

Big TVs aren't even necessarily more expensive these days, especially if you can find a good deal for one at the right time of year. And if you can get an extra couple of diagonal inches for no extra cash or even a few hundred dollars more, then it's a no-brainer.

Is There Anything Else You Need To Know?

Yeah, heaps! Too much for any one article, to be honest, but that's really only useful if you're struggling to pick between two or three specific models. As a general guide, though, here are a few things to keep in mind for the next time you're out in your local big-box electronics store:

  • Always try before you buy, no matter how good the specs list looks.
  • Try not to compare two models directly against each other, even if they're right next door.
  • 'Store' modes massively boost brightness and colour to look good under bright fluorescent lights, but don't accurately reflect a TV might look in your living room.
  • Don't believe the specs list too much -- at the end of the day, it's your eyes that decide what makes a TV look good.
  • Don't spend too much on accessories -- all HDMI cables are basically the same, and most wall mounts are as well.
  • If you want your TV to look its best, tweak the settings yourself when it's set up or get a professional calibrator to do a top-notch job.
  • And, above all else, picture quality is the most important thing when buying a TV. Don't forget that.

If you have any general questions, or even if you want a bit of help picking out your next screen, feel free to leave us a comment below and we'll try to help you out as much as possible.

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Comments

    Also, NAB is on soon, so expect new high end stuff.

    I bought a LG ub850t (3D / 4K / 55 ")recently - a tad under $1500 - best screen ever - highly recommend

      I'm happy with mine too. I paid closer to 2K, but did buy it a while ago. My biggest issue with it is trying to get the stupid Freeview Plus thing to work. My wife missed an episode of Downton Abbey and I said, no worries, we'll just watch it on Freeview Plus. An hour later, I was ready to throw the remote out the window. She watched it on her iPad the next day.

        I've not hooked the bugger up to an aerial so i haven't used the Freeview bit yet ... Now i feel i might make this Friday nights beer job

      Aldi will, later this month, be selling a 55" 4K for 800 bucks!

    OLED life span is very short, and unstable, not worth the coin until they fix this issue. only expect a few short years out of OLED...DO NOT BUY!

      You mean the issue with the blue pixels losing their colour? Pretty much fixed for manufactures to guarantee 5-10 years.

    Try arrange a family in front of a curved screen.

      This is why I avoided them. Even two people, neither of us sit directly in front of the screen, so neither of us get the optimum viewing angle.

    I'm surprised "game mode" doesn't get a mention here. If you're buying a TV for games you need to make sure there is a game mode that will turn off the TV's post processing effects that introduces input lag to games (the image updates 100ms after your input, making them nigh unplayable).

    Last edited 19/03/15 11:34 am

      hmmm thats a good point.

      Good point. Also worth mentioning, if you're using your TV for gaming, panel refresh rate matters. If you have a 4k panel that only refreshes at 15Hz gaming is going to look very jerky on that screen. You're much better off with a 1080p panel that can do a "real" refresh at 60Hz. (Some panels do interpolation for higher refresh rates, but this often leads to artifacts).

      Also: Channel changing. TVs are getting better, but there are still some that take ages to change channels, and that gets annoying as hell when you have to live with it.

        And EPG propagation as well. Bought a new Samsung and it sometimes takes up to 30 seconds for the EPG data to complete.

      Ohhhh, that's what game mode does. Every day's a school day. Thanks! :)

      LG tv's take advantage of Passive 3D to provide Dual Play. Basically for 2 player, instead of being split screen, each person sees the full screen but a completely different image. It's so awesome.

    Also consider Projcetors! They have come down in price recently and will give you massive screen with decent quality for cheap.

    What do you mean picture quality is the most important feature? Surly it is the 'coolness' of the accompanying remote that is the most important!?

    In the OLED section, the difference between "OLED TV" and "LED TV" isn't obvious.

    To clarify, a "LED TV" as referred to above is a LCD colour pixel screen with LED regional backlighting. Hence why there will still be some contrast bleed for a very dark pixel next to a very light one with this technology. It's just an evolution of the early LCD panels which had fluoro tube backlighting.

    Makes sense that OLED should give much better contrast sharpness with both light and colour being emitted on a per-pixel level.

    While size is great, beware the in-store displays. That 50" TV that really looks quite modest on the shelf next to the 65 and 75s may turn out to be HUGE when you get it home. Best to measure up at home and see how big a screen you can actually reasonably fit on your wall.

    I also think it's usually worth dropping a screen size to get better picture quality. You'll get much better enjoyment out of a well-calibrated high-quality 45" panel than a washed-out, laggy 55" store brand.

      Love my 65" 4k I sit 2m away from :). Looks huge, and why wouldn't I want that?

      I moved house and found my 50" way too big for the new lounge room. Had to swap it for a 42". I've got a bigger lounge room now and am dying to upgrade to a 55" or bigger, though.

    4k is NOT a good investment. Nothing is made in 4k, anything that Netflix might make available in 4k is going to have been up-rezzed from HD. Even films at the cinema are only 2k and they look fantastic. A friend of mine has a 4k TV and the biggest problem with it is that everything looks too sharp and, therefore, unrealistic.

      Netflix shoot in 4K. House of Cards season 3 was even shot in 6K.

      Also to stream 4K TV from Netflix you need a *minimum* recommended download speed of 25Mbps (which will rule out most Australians for the foreseeable future - unless you are lucky enough to be on Labor's FTTH NBN or similar.)

        you'll be fine on Annexe M which is available at most suburban exchanges - you'll need to be within 500M of it tho

          I'm 200m from the exchange and still only get 13-15mb ever since they ran NBN fibre up the street and screwed with the pits. Used to be 18-22. Wont be coming to me though thanks to the libs.

          Annex M has nothing to do with increasing your download speed, infact, more than often Annex M will decrease your download speed because you sacrifice downstream synch for increased upload synch.

            yes your right - i looked up and for some reason i thought AnnexeM down speed was 'upto' 30 and down 3 ... i was wrong .. perhaps AAPT new 400MBps Fibre at $399 might be ok ? (if your in Sydney CBD that is)

      Nothing is made in 4k I can go outside right now with my GoPro Hero4 and shoot 4K video @ 30fps or 2.7K video @ 60fps which are both going to look great on a 4K display. And as stated above Netflix shoots original content in 4K. YouTube has 4K videos (actually shot in 4K) and you can buy 4K Bluray movies. So there is content, up to each person to decide if that is content that they will actually watch and how much it's worth to them. I've also had my current T.V. for 6 years so far and it's still going, if I buy another now there's a good chance 4K will be more prevalent well before I'm looking to replace it.

        Can you buy 4k bluray movies? I didn't think they'd finalised the 4k bluray standard. You can buy Mastered in 4k movies, which are just 1080 taken from a higher res master.

          No, you can't buy 4K movies. Hopefully this year though.

      I love my 4k. It's only 55", and is first gen Sony fare - besides film grain sometimes being overly obvious i'm yet to find a downside to it.

      It is particularly good at upscaling. Using my PS3, WDTV & other STBs to feed anything up to 1080p to it, and it looks a bit iffy when the STBs do the lifting. Drop their resolution and let the TV do it? Pretty bloody mind blowing. As you'd expect from a bit of hardware that has to power all those pixels. It also does a great job of compensating for over-compressed and older digital video files.

      Regardless, it's not *just* about resolution. Not that the above reasons are necessarily compelling enough to pay more, but they sure are reasons.

      Edit: as for sharp edges and the unrealistic video-y display - that's not necessarily 4k. All that MotionPlus and frame interpolation can make even the warmest, smoothest filmiest bit of footage appear as a home Handycam video. Turn all that crap off is my suggestion. It's like an audio EQ - why process the crap out of a music (or an image) when you really want to hear it (or watch it) as it was intended by the creator. Very few sources benefit from all that fancy processing modern TVs can do.

      Last edited 19/03/15 4:01 pm

      Lol. Just about every single time you post you live up to your username. Either you're a spectacular moron or a spectacular troll.

      They said exactly the same thing about 1080P when it first arrived, now look at the amount of content available in that format. Just watch, 4K is going to be the standard very soon. This is how technology works, it advances.

      Stick to your 12 inch cathode ray tube.

      BluRay's can upscale content to 4K as well. Some TV's I think also just do some upscaling of their own. Plus YouTube will also have 4K content. Not to mention newer mobile phones can record in 4K if thats your thing.

    You also forgot to add that you can hook up your computer to your dumb TV and make it smarter than a smart TV. Plus, who doesn't want a 60 inch screen for their computer screen.

      Me. The bugs in my code will be so much bigger.

    Back when 1080p came out as a standard, many of the tech pundits said that in order to see the increased resolution you'd need at least a 32" screen. I wonder what size you'll need to see the difference with 4k?

      55 and above - preferably 107" as i saw that in a JB (i think) some time ago - it was flipping outstanding !

    Before I forked out almost $1500 for a new TV last year I read dozens of different online reviews to decide which one was "right" for me.
    With so many reputable tech review sites available, anyone who walks into a store without already knowing what to buy is a bit silly IMO.

    The same applies to any reasonably expensive purchase.

    For a limited time, all electronics from these retailers are 20% off. It’s time for a tech spree
    @campbellsimpson there's no 20% off sale going on.

      Yeah there is, Dick Smith have 20% off a select range of TV's currently..

      http://www.dicksmith.com.au/up-to-20-pct-off-big-brand-tvs

        Is that the only one? The blurb suggests there's more than one retailer. I clicked on each of them but nothing on each of those pages came up mentioning or showing a 20% of code or discount.

        EDIT: Just realised your link is a direct link to the retailers website not eBay. The blurb is about all those retailers on eBay having a 20% off on all electronics, not their actual website having 20% TV's specifically, so my comment to Campbell Simpson still stands.

        Last edited 19/03/15 10:59 pm

    4k is worthwhile to set up as a dumb monitor for PC gaming etc. I bought a new 55" 4k TV for this recently and don't regret it. The only thing worth mentioning (and not really covered in this article) is the importance of the HDMI 2.0 spec, which has the bandwidth for [email protected] Graphics cards are slowly getting to this level, so it's a good bit of future proofing.

    Just found this on the Aldi website on special next Wednesday. 55" 4K Smart TV for $799.

    http://www.bauhn.com.au/product-listing/55inch-4k-ultra-hd-led-smart-tv

      i bet the speakers are made from bits of old recycled cardboard

        Who uses TV speakers in this day and age?

    I purchased an LG 60LB6500 mid last year for just under $1400.
    Kind of disappointed that LG have released WebOS 2 for their 2015 range and haven't touched the app store or software on the 2014 WebOS models.

    On the topic of 4K TVs, while they do look great, when i was comparing, the big difference i noticed was power consumption, the 4K LED/LCD TVs that i was looking at were using at least double that of similar sized FullHD TVs.

    It will be interesting to see how the OLED TVs compare though :D

    Any details on this 20% off electronics at select eBay retailers sale?

    The extra power load of the 4Ks is largely the extra pixels that all need power. Some may in fact be more power efficient but will still need more power to run at that resolution.

    just bought the bauhm 55"smart tv. Works great, but cant seem to change the homepage from blank. Anyone know how to set the home page

    You forgot to mention the most important newcomer in 2015 - the laser TV projector.
    The future TV technology is panel - free display. I am really impressed with HISENSE Vidaa Max, a laser short-throw projector that can beam a 100-inch HD image from an 18-inch distance. The company is currently working on optical engine with a 0.24 throw ratio - that's a 100-inch Full HD image from just 1.7 inches. Although the price of the Vidaa Max is not available yet, Hisense said that it would be "significantly lower than LCD".

    I think that the introduction and mass production of Laser TV projectors will signal the death of LCD and plasma panel TVs. The most important advantage of Laser TV projector is significantly lower energy consumption and much lower price than equivalent size LCD or plasma TV. The laser is very powerful , far more brighter and coherent light source than LCD or OLED . The laser also produces an incredibly bright , intense and accurate colours.

    Sony has released a stunning 147-inch, 4K Ultra Short Throw Laser Projector (LSPX-W1S) however the $50,000 price is ridiculous.Samsung, LG and Mitsubishi are focusing too much on USHD, OLED and curved TV instead embracing the world of panel-free laser displays ASAP.

    I wonder whether LG discontinued the production of Hecto Laser TV projector last year due to fear that customers will abandon their OLED TV in favour of the new technology.

    Last edited 05/05/15 3:25 pm

    I purchased the Bauhn 65" 4K Ultra HD LED Smart TV from Aldi for $1100 on the weekend. I am very happy with the picture. Sound isn't great but it's OK after a bit of adjustment. The wi-fi set-up needs your network to be unhidden. I hide my ssid so had to unhide it to connect up to the wi-fi - which was very easy. However, when I hide my ssid the tV loses connection. Tech support confirms that this is how this unit works. The "smart" bit isn't so smart either. You can not load apps and it doesn't come with anything usefull. No Netflix for example and a very poor web browser. I got around these issues by installing a new apple tv which gives me a great 65" 4K unit at under $1400

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