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. 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 TV. Whether it’s your favourite streaming service, the hottest sports in season or the latest movie releases, nothing can beat watching it on a big-screen smart TV.
Buying a new television can be a pretty big financial investment – especially with the higher-end large-screen models – but you’ll often find some keen bargains that can save you a substantial amount of money.
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 Binge, Amazon Prime Video and the hugely popular sports streaming service Kayo catching up fast. Add YouTube on top of that and you’ve got such a vibrant choose-your-own-TV-schedule system you’ll forget the broadcast channels even exist.
Streaming on Smart TVs
The smart TV is basically a big-screen TV with a computer powering it, complete with an operating system and the ability to install and update apps – giving you easy access to your favourite streaming services. What apps and user interface you actually get depends on who makes your TV, as each brand uses a different approach. There are three main popular options on the market right now:
Last audited 12 May 2021
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. Extensively used across most of the Sony product line, amongst others, it’s also found on stand-alone streaming devices like the Chromecast with Google TV and Nvidia Shield. 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 sometimes 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 LG and Samsung TVs respectively, both of these are designed by the manufacturers to work with their TVs’ unique features, but 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 data 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. Unlimited Broadband plans are becoming the norm rather than the exception these days, but you’ll want to get one with an internet provider that can deliver reliable, fast streaming no matter what time of day.
One great choice is Telstra’s acclaimed NBN unlimited broadband service, which is highly ranked by the experts for its reliably fast connections and buffer-free streaming even with the most demanding 4K content, from Netflix to YouTube. Telstra Broadband also throws in three months’ access to Binge and a month of Foxtel Now to get your streaming started.
What to Look For When Buying a TV
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. If you buy wisely, that portal to everything from streaming Netflix to the newest video games will give you years of enjoyment.
Size Is Important!
If you’re looking for a TV for the home’s family living area or if you’re someone who rents an apartment and may be soon relocating, you probably don’t want the TV screen to dominate the entire room. We’d recommend screen sizes ranging from 49 to 55 inches – they’re a great balance between price and screen size. 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 inches can often double the price. If you’re going to be streaming in 4K, though, the extra size can be well worth it.
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, OLED… what does it all mean? Let’s quickly run down the basics – there are actually only two screen types that are referred to with these.
LED, LCD, QLED
All of these are used to tell you that the TV uses an LCD screen (the same as the display on many 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 (this is why they’re often referred to as “LED” TVs).
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, while 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.
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.
One More Thing…
The terminology that gets thrown around might make shopping for a new TV seem confusing and stress-inducing, but it’s not as bad as you’d think. Like 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 experience with the TVs you’re thinking of buying (especially to make sure they support all the streaming services you use), 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.