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What Size TV Should I Buy?

Massive. Obviously. But seriously there’s more to consider. Screen size is measured diagonally from corner to corner and doesn’t include the bezel or frame around the edge of the viewable area so the quoted size isn’t the full story, check that the TV you’re thinking of buying will fit in the space you have.

Another consideration is optimum viewing distance, clearly a small screen viewed from a great distance isn’t going to look good, but the same is true of sitting close to a huge screen. At this point, screen resolution comes into play. High resolution screens look good up close, so if you have a smaller room you may be better off with a slightly small 4K screen over a larger HD tv.

Curved screens complicate things further. Curved screens are designed to look best at a fixed distance determined by the radius of the curve so read the manufacturer's recommendation and if you can, go to a store and try and stand at the distance you’ll be from the TV in your home.

Another thing to consider is how best to spend your overall budget, a slightly smaller TV with more features, better after sales support and a long warranty might be a better choice than simply buying the biggest panel available for your budget.

Should I Buy a Smart TV?

First of all, what is a Smart TV? A smart TV is a TV with built in connectivity to the internet and access to online TV and movie services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video and catchup services like iPlayer. Smart TVs need an internet connection, most will connect to Wifi but won’t perform brilliantly if the signal is weak so check the WiFi signal strength at the spot in your house where you want to put the TV. A wired connection to your router is almost always a better option, but if running cables is out of the question then think about a network over power kit.

Do I need a Soundbar for My TV?

Most TVs are designed to be as thin as possible and to have as little bezel as possible around the screen, that’s great for aesthetics but it doesn’t leave much space for decent speakers so even a high end TV can be lacking in terms of sound. You’ll most likely notice the shortcomings of your TV’s built in speakers in the bass, so simply adding a powered subwoofer can make a big difference but to get the best you’ll want a soundbar or a full surround sound setup.

Soundbars sit below your TV and deliver high quality sound in a slimline package, even a fairly basic soundbar can make a big difference to the sound quality on movies and music.

If you’re serious about sound, a surround sound system may be what you’re looking for. Surround sound systems are usually described as 5.1 or 3.1 or even 7.1. The first number is how many directional speakers there are and the second is how many sub woofers are included. For example, a 5.1 surround sound system has 1 subwoofer for bass, 1 centre speaker for speech, two front speakers and two rear speakers.

Some surround sound systems are wireless, which can make installation much easier as you won’t need to run cables under carpets, over doorways or behind furniture.

When you’re choosing a soundbar or surround sound system, keep in mind the size of the room it’s going in. It’s important to match the system to the room as an underpowered system will be underwhelming and something overpowered will be unnecessarily expensive and may distort the sound.

What are HD and 4K?

All TVs work by displaying tiny coloured dots, or pixels, the more dots packed into a given size screen the sharper the picture and the more detail you can see. DVDs are recorded at 480p, that’s 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels high. That’s the baseline in terms of picture quality. Next we have HD - High Definition. This term encompasses two different standards, 720p - 1280×720 px and 1080p - 1,920x1,080. BluRay is typically 1080p. 4K (also known as Ultra High Definition or UHD) is 3840 × 2160 px.

4K TVs are very impressive visually, crystal clear pictures are possible and the level of detail is stunning. However there is a limited amount of 4K content available. Netflix and Amazon are offering streaming 4K content but you’ll need a fast internet connection to make the most of it. Blu ray movies are available in 4K but you’ll need a 4K enabled Blu ray player to go along with your new TV.

What is an HDR TV?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, it’s not really a feature in it’s own right but an extra layer of picture quality on top of HD or 4K. HDR makes the difference between light and dark more obvious, blacks look really black, not the charcoal grey black you’re probably used to. Colours look more defined and more vivid. You’ll notice HDR most in details where there are small variations in colour, like grass or leaves.

What Does Refresh Rate Mean?

Pictures on a TV move because they change rapidly fooling your eye into seeing movement. Refresh rate is just a measure of how fast the image changes, measured in Hz or “per second”. Early films refreshed at 25Hz, 25 frames of actual celluloid film were projected every second. Modern TVs refresh faster than that, 200hz refresh rates are common. You’ll notice the difference most on fast moving scenes like sports or action movies.

Projectors

So you want a screen measured in feet not inches? Maybe a projector is the best choice for you.
Even though the cost of big screen TVs keeps coming down while the screen size and quality goes up, really big screens still aren’t cheap. A good projector can match the quality of all but the very best TVs and will give you a screen size as big as you can physically fit in the room.

There are a couple of types of projector, LCD and DLP.
In an LCD projector the light from a really bright bulb is separated into red, green and blue by a prism, each colour is passed through an LCD screen to produce the red, green and blue elements of the picture before being recombined and focussed through a lens to make the final image.

In a DLP projector, the light is passed through revolving colour wheel to produce rapid pulses of red, green and blue light. The pulses are directed at an array of tiny mirrors, one for each pixel of the image, the mirrors can be tilted in time with the colour wheel so that the red part of the picture is produced, then the green and blue. This happens so fast that your eye sees a single colour image. Some people can actually perceive the change between colours, they see it as a thin halo of one colour - often green - around moving objects on the screen. This halo effect only affects a few people and it’s less common with modern DLP projectors but do try it out before you buy.

Replacement bulbs can be expensive, check the price and availability of replacement bulbs before you choose a projector. IT may be worth stocking up with a few spare bulbs if you can find them on offer so if the bulb goes halfway through your Star Wars Marathon you can carry on without having to go out and buy a new one.

The quality of the picture you’ll get depends to a fairly large degree on what you project it onto, if the screen isn’t flat and smooth you’ll see any imperfections as shadows or spots on the picture. You can just paint a wall white, but there’s a bit more too it than that as the reflectivity of the surface comes into play. If the surface you’re projecting onto doesn’t reflect enough light the picture will look dark, too much and black areas will look washed out and you’ll get poor contrast.

Special paint is available but it’s not cheap, you’ll also get a better experience if you have a black border around the edges for improved contrast which you may not want to paint on the wall.

Most people opt for a dedicated screen, fixed screens are available and are popular with people who have a permanent home cinema. For multi use rooms you can buy retractable screens that are rolled down, by hand or by a motor, when you need them and roll away when you don’t.