Choosing the Best TV — Everything You Need to Know
How we consume TV content has changed drastically over the recent years and with it, television manufacturers also had to adapt to increasing demands for more features and other types of innovation to deliver the best entertainment at home.
Sure, PC and mobile devices have become great alternatives to watching content at home or on the go, but if you want to get that unparalleled viewing experience, it’s better to still go for a wide-screen smart TV. Just imagine watching the latest episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. You know you’ve waited long and hard for that highly anticipated battle scene — would you rather stream it live on your phone or have a live viewing party at home, comfortably sitting on your couch and watching it on HD on your wide-screen TV? Whether it’s your favourite show, the hottest sports in season, or perhaps the latest movie releases, nothing can beat watching it on a good old smart TV.
To fully maximise what the latest models of smart TVs have to offer, you’ll also need a reliable broadband connection to support your endless streaming. Built-in apps like Netflix and Stan have been steadily increasing across different TV brands and the only way to have uninterrupted streaming is by getting the right internet speed and connection to get your TV connected to — and that’s what we’re here for.
Read through our in-depth guide below on finding the best smart TV that would suit your viewing needs, and while you’re at it, you may also want to shop around for great deals on broadband and TV that would give you the ultimate viewing experience right at the comfort of your own home.
Your Guide to Buying a New Television
It can be a big purchase that’s the home entertainment equivalent of shopping for a new car. Or it can just be a screen that’ll do the job to keep the kids entertained in the spare room. No matter what your reasons for heading out to search for a new TV, you’ll probably have walked into a store, found yourself surrounded by dozens of screens of all sizes, and wondered how to make sense of it all.
The first instinct many people have when they wander through that strange retail jungle of TVs all playing the exact same content is to search out a salesperson and ask them what’s best for you. And to be fair, some salespeople are terrific – they listen to what the customer wants, they know their products and offer good recommendations. Others, though, will try extra hard to push particular products on you, or to “upsell” you – getting you to spend more than you intended for features you didn’t even want.
It’s much better to go in with as much information as possible about the type, size and features you want in a TV. Not only does it help with narrowing down the options in a store, but it lets you do valuable research online before you even leave the house.
Regardless of whether you’re a pensioner or a family with children, or spending thousands of dollars or just a few hundred bucks on a new TV, it’s a device that’s going to be around you for years to come, sitting there staring at you every time you walk into the room. If you’re informed, smart and buy wisely, that portal to everything from streaming Netflix, to the newest video games, to Foxtel or free-to-air channels will give you years of enjoyment.
Size Is Important!
The screen size you see quoted for TVs is still most often measured in inches, since that’s how screens have been measured since TV began. And it wasn’t all that long ago that a so-called “big screen” TV was a heavy square box with a 29-inch screen size. Needless to say, times have changed just a bit. These days, with the limitations of the old CRT (“tube”) based TVs completely gone, a 30” screen would be considered a bare minimum for lounge room use, with larger sizes far more common.
The size of a screen is measured from one corner to the opposite corner – the actual diagonal size of the screen. It’s not a measurement of the dimensions of the TV itself – check the manufacturers’ web sites for the details on that if you’re trying to fit a TV into a space. The screen size is really just to give you a quick idea of how large the actual screen is. And they can get big. Samsung unveiled a 146-inch screen overseas recently, and you can walk into a store right now and buy an 85” screen for a lot less money than you’d expect. But how big is too big?
If you’re looking for a TV for the home’s family living area or something convenient for someone who rents an apartment and may be soon relocating, you probably don’t want the TV screen to dominate the entire room – but you also don’t want to have a screen so small that everyone has to gather around it to watch it. We’d recommend screen sizes ranging from 49 to 55 inches – they’re a great balance between price and screen size, with the 49-inch screens in particular offering exceptional value for money for those on a tight budget. It’s tempting to move up to 65-inch – and there’s nothing wrong with that if your living space is big enough, except for the price. That extra 10 diagonal inches can often double the price of comparable models from the same brand.
Oh, and don’t be fooled when you’re in the store. When you’re amongst all those TVs playing video at the same time, a 55-inch screen looks a lot smaller than it will when it’s in your living room at home!
For those after more of a home cinema experience, the options are there to go larger, and that can be a real plus for 4K video streaming. We’d recommend 65-inch for Ultra HD movie content – but there’s still that price wall that pops up once you head up above 55”, with a 77” OLED screen starting at around $11,000.
Bear in mind that most brand-name TVs of 49 inches and up will be 4K screens these days, but you need to be fairly close to the screen to see the benefits of 4K until you get to the larger screen sizes.
What Type of Screen Should You Get?
There’s a whole sea of letters that confront you in a store’s TV department – LED, LCD, QLED, ULED, OLED… what does it all mean? Not surprisingly, it’s a lot less complicated than it sounds. Those letters tell you what type of screen technology a TV uses – but it’s not always the whole story. Let’s quickly run down the basics – there are actually only two screen types that are referred to with these.
LED, LCD, ULED, QLED
All of these are used to tell you that the TV uses an LCD screen – short for Liquid Crystal Display (the same as the display on most smartphones and tablets). The picture is created using electronic magic on a flat surface that’s lit from behind – and the light that shines through the screen produces the picture. That light used to be produced by fluorescent tubes, but these days most TVs use much less power-hungry LEDs (similar to those that produce light in a bike lamp or a penlight torch).
The big point of difference is how many of those LEDs are used, where they’re placed and how they’re used. Cheaper TVs will just place lines of LEDs around the edges of the screen and use a “diffuser” to spread the light across the screen. More advanced ones will put a grid of hundreds of LEDs behind the entire image, and be able to change the brightness of each one individually. That’s called “Full Array Local Dimming” and if you’re buying a LCD-based TV, you want this if you can afford it. You’ll be rewarded by a picture with deeper blacks rather than that “dark grey” that cheaper LCD screens will display.
And “QLED”? That’s a Samsung-specific LCD variant that produces a superb picture.
This is the TV type that stands alone – it’s a completely different technology from anything else on the market. OLED screens are made up of literally millions of tiny LEDs, one for each pixel (or “dot”) on the screen – and they all emit their own light. An OLED screen is the only type capable of displaying black as total black, and as a result these TVs have stunning, almost cinema-like picture quality that’s a cut above anything else you can buy. They’re also incredibly responsive screens, so they’re great for video gamers – and they’re so thin that LG even makes one they describe as “wallpaper”.
But OLED is not necessarily the TV for you. For starters, OLED screens are expensive – size for size, they’re always going to cost substantially more, and the bigger an OLED screen gets the faster its price jumps up (that LG “wallpaper” OLED TV sells for $8000 here, while its 77-inch big brother will set you back over $15,000!).
And OLED screens are also prone to a phenomenon called “burn in” – when an image that’s stayed on the screen for a long time ends up permanently visible on it. If you watch a lot of a single channel with the same logo in the corner 24/7, that can be a problem (though in our experience, with the varied content most people watch it’s generally not an issue).
OLED screens are especially great for content made in HDR (High Dynamic Range) which includes everything from Netflix and YouTube to video games and 4K Blu-ray discs. Well-done HDR on an OLED TV will absolutely amaze you.
Samsung 55″ QLED 4K UHD TV
4K Ultra HD Display. Access streaming apps (Netflix, Stan etc) straight from your TV, plus voice-activated control.
Devanti 55″ 4K LCD TV
Affordable 4K viewing for everybody. Record your shows to an external USB device. Plus 2 year manufacturer warranty
Sony55″ 4K Smart TV
Ultra HD Display (4K resolution). Stream straight from your TV. Download Apps from the google play store
Samsung 75″ 4K TV
Massive screen to take full advantage of 4K media. Download apps and games
Apps Away! The Best TVs for Streaming
While boring old regular broadcast TV is something that any television can deliver for you, no matter what the price, the way most of us get our entertainment these days is via streaming. Australia has had a phenomenally fast take-up of Netflix and the home-grown streaming service Stan, with other paid services like Amazon Prime and the newly launched sports streaming app Kayo catching up. Add YouTube on top of that and you’ve got such a vibrant choose-your-own-TV-schedule system you’ll likely forget the broadcast channels even exist.
And then there’s the free-to-air networks’ own catch-up apps helping to make their networks superfluous. TVs with Freeview Plus built in can stream catch-up direct from each channel’s Freeview interface, but for user-friendliness you can’t beat a proper, dedicated app.
Enter smart TVs – basically big-screen TVs with small computers powering them, complete with an operating system and the ability to install and update apps. What you actually get will depend on who makes your TV, as each brand uses a different approach. When you’re shopping for a smart TV, it’s highly recommended that you check out the interfaces on the ones you’re considering – because now more than ever, you’re going to be interacting with it on a daily basis.
Streaming TV & Movies Plans
- Service Only Plan
- 8 Content Genres
Min Cost - Depending on title
- Service Only Plan
- 6 Content Genres
A special version of Google’s Android phone/tablet operating system that’s designed especially for big-screen TVs, Android TV is versatile and well supported with apps – but it’s arguably not the most user-friendly system out there. Extensively used across most of the Sony product line, amongst others, Android TV is tightly integrated with Google’s ecosystem (as you’d expect) but has a huge library of apps for all the major streaming services. Its clean, modern interface is great, but it can take a few too many button presses to find the app you want.
Beware some ultra-cheap TVs that say they use Android – but not Android TV. Yes, there are TVs out there that use the phone/tablet version of Android. You want to avoid those.
WebOS and SmartHub
The brand-specific operating systems for LGH and Samsung TVs respectively, both of these are custom-designed by the manufacturers to work with their TVs’ unique features, but really take a fairly similar approach. The great thing about them is that app access is usually only a button or two away, with LG’s “magic” remote even providing a kind of “air mouse” you can use to quickly navigate your way to content.
They both do the job well, with Samsung’s SmartHub going further by acting as a control center for smart appliances in your home. Yes, you can control your fridge from your TV, just like we’re sure someone has always wanted!
App selection is more limited than on Android TV, but all the big players are there.
The Best Broadband Plans for Streaming TV
With your shiny new TV all set up and ready to go, and a world of 4K streaming content at your disposal via Netflix, YouTube and more, you’re going to want a broadband plan that can deliver the goods when it comes to 4K streaming without the pain of buffering.
For sheer peace of mind, a plan with unlimited downloads is almost a must – that way, you can just stream stuff whenever you like and never have to worry about going over your monthly quota. The availability of Unlimited Broadband plans are becoming the norm rather than the exception these days, but you’ll want to pair it with an internet provider that can deliver the goods with fast streaming no matter what time of day. Here’s a couple we recommend.
Southern Phone Unlimited Turbo Plan
Southern Phone’s NBN plans keep up pretty well in the already crowded broadband niche in Australia. They’re fast, flexible, and reasonably priced. Southern Phone Unlimited Turbo plan (with unlimited data, of course) is a 50/20 Mbps NBN connection, plenty of speed for multiple users streaming at once. If you’re lucky enough to have a connection that supports the speed, you can bump that up to the Max 100/40 speed plan for an extra cost. Plans are even more flexible with no lock-in contract even the top-end ones.
Telstra Unlimited + Streaming Bundle
With their fast, reliable network and fondness for eye-opening bundles, the latest Telstra Home Broadband top-end streaming bundle gives you unlimited data at 50/20 Mbps on the NBN. A little more expensive than Southern Phone, until you notice all the other stuff that comes bundled with it. You get the latest Telstra TV streaming box, the new Telstra Smart Modem Gen 2 with 4G backup, a $125 Telstra TV Box Office credit, a 3-month free unlimited access to hayu, DocPlay, Garage and AnimeLab, and a home phone line with unlimited local and national calls as well as calls to mobiles. It’s amazing value.
Top Broadband Plans for Streaming TV
- Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 50™ Fixed Line
- Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 50™ Fixed Line
- Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
- 25GB Data
- NBN 12™ Fixed Line
Streaming Devices – Enhance Your New TV!
While modern “smart” TVs come with a set of apps built in, dedicated streaming fans have long preferred to use a full-fledged streaming device to enjoy their favourite services. Why? Well, dedicated devices usually support more apps (and more varied apps) than what’s available directly on the TV, they can support higher quality audio and video (and advanced formats like Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision) and are often a better user experience than the corresponding TV apps.
There’s no shortage of streaming devices on the market, but the most popular ones by a long way stand out from the crowd.
Apple’s hugely popular streaming box is now in its 5th generation with full 4K support (the older 4th-gen version is still available as well) and offers a superior experience to any other platform with many apps – Stan and Amazon Prime Video being two examples. The Apple TV offers apps for everything as well as a large assortment of games – and if you use an iPhone or iPad it integrates well with those. The Apple TV is also the best way to watch movies and TV shows you rent or buy on iTunes, with support for Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, 4K and HDR on many movie titles – perfect for that new TV!
Amazon Fire TV Stick
It’s only sold in its “Basic” version at the moment in Australia – a new 4K version is on the way – but the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a fast, easy option for getting access to all the streaming apps you need, with easy setup and use as much a feature as the low price. Naturally it integrates well with Amazon services including Prime Music and Video, so it’s especially useful for Prime subscribers.
The Google Chromecast is tiny device that plugs into your TV and lets you stream video from thousands of apps direct to your TV is a smash hit for a good reason – it’s easy to use, it works well and it’s a convenience you never knew you needed in your life until you try it for yourself. It’s worth noting, by the way, that TVs using Android TV (like Sony’s range) already have their own built-in Chromecast.
Best Hardware Deals for Streaming TV
Fetch TV Mighty
A highly advanced streaming box that’s also a quad-tuner DVR and a hub for Fetch’s packs of pay TV channels, the Fetch TV Mighty is one seriously capable bit of technology that’s a great match for your TV, where it’ll become the central hub for everything. Streaming from Netflix and Stan, renting and buying movies and TV, premium streaming channels, live and recorded free TV, and much more. It’s available through several internet providers, including iPrimus/Dodo, Aussie Broadband and iiNet/Internode.
Telstra TV 3
Based on the hugely popular Roku box that’s one of the most popular in the US, the Telstra TV 3 melds together streaming and live TV in the one interface, giving you access to all the key streaming apps along with a constantly updated interactive on-screen guide. This one’s a great choice if you buy movies or TV shows from Telstra TV Box Office, as its app here streams them better than anywhere else.
One More Thing…
The terminology that gets thrown around might make shopping for a new TV seems confusing and stress-inducing, but it’s not as bad as you’d think. As we said at the top, the key is to have an idea of what you want before you head to the stores. Take your time, get some hands-on time with the TVs you’re thinking of buying, and be sure to Google them to see what other people think.
You don’t need to spend the big bucks to get a quality, brand-name TV with a fantastic picture and great features, either. Keep an eye out for seasonal specials, haggle with salespeople and stay within your budget, and you’ll find a TV that’s right for you – with the right features, at the right price.