TV Review of Year: Introduction
Looking back at 2014
It's been a tumultuous year for TVs. Technologies like 4K, curved screens and OLED have hit big, while old favourites have faded away.
As the dust settles, we look at the year's winners and losers.
New technologies have dramatically increased the types and shapes of TVs consumers can choose from this year, prices have plummeted again, and our approach to TV content has undergone nothing short of a revolution.
Naturally this has made buying a TV even more challenging for consumers.
But it's also put severe pressure on the big TV brands to not only keep up with the pace of change without letting standards drop, but also find new ways to stand out from the crowd.
Before getting into the new TV stuff, though, let's first pause to mourn the passing of a 'golden oldie'.
The end of plasma TVs
This year plasma technology pretty much completely died. LG and Samsung trotted out a couple of budget models in the UK to mop up any residual market (though LG let slip at a recent event that it will probably cease plasma production totally by November), but by far plasma's biggest supporter, Panasonic, totally pulled the plug on its much-loved flat panel tech.
And the more the year's gone on, the more we've found ourselves missing plasma's knack for delivering contrast-rich pictures with natural colours and sharp motion.
The demise of plasma has coincided with a disappointing rise in the number of LCD TVs that struggle to deliver the sort of contrast we expect from a modern TV – an issue which seems to be down to the growing use of IPS-type LCD panels, something we'll come back to later.
4K is here to stay
Moving into more positive territory, 2014 has been defined by the explosion in two significant new screen technologies: 4K/Ultra High Definition resolutions, and curved screens.
Where 4K is concerned, every key brand has released multiple TVs this year with the necessary 3840 x 2160 pixels – four times the resolution of full HD TVs.
The prices for 4K TVs have more or less halved versus the debut 4K TVs from last year too, and a new 4K-friendly connection standard – HDMI 2.0 – has now been formalised.
On the content side, Netflix launched a 4K streaming service in April, with Amazon scheduled to follow suit (only on Samsung TVs initially) in October.
Samsung has now launched a HDD server containing UHD movie transfers for use with its UHD TVs, and we've finally had a Christmas 2015 date announced for the launch of 4K Blu-ray discs.
Much of the World Cup was filmed in 4K, and Sky and the BBC have both openly run 4K production and broadcasting trials.
In other words, the more 2014 has gone on, the more it's become clear that 4K is here to stay.
Curved screens are here... for now
The situation with curved TVs – where screens curve away from you towards their centre - is less clear cut. For starters, only one brand has so far really pushed the curved screen format heavily and that's Samsung.
Mind you, Samsung is a major player - so much so that it really does have the muscle to bend (pun fully intended!) public opinion to its will. LG is also going curved for most of its OLED screens, and by the time you read this Sony should have launched its debut S90 curved LCD TVs for the UK (it already has a few curved models in the US). Philips launched a single curved screen at IFA too.
Early sales reports suggest that Samsung's curved TVs have outsold its flat ones by as much as 3:1, which certainly suggests there's a public appetite for curviness.
These figures may be a little skewed, though, by the fact that Samsung only puts its very top-level picture technology inside a curved TV (the HU8500 series).
We get the sense, too, that the other brands are only dipping their toes into the curved TV arena at the moment either for aesthetic reasons (the thinness you get with OLED technology is really emphasised by the curve) or because they feel they need to be seen in the market.
None have really joined Samsung in arguing the case for curved TVs radically improving the viewing experience.
As we've observed ourselves, there are advantages to watching a curved screen. But there are disadvantages too. And perhaps tellingly many of the key 'opinion makers' in the AV world appear unconvinced about the usefulness of curving TV screens. So at the time of writing we'd say that the future of curved screens in the long-term TV market seems less assured than that of 4K.
OLED is the future of TV?
If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed a couple of mentions of OLED technology. OLED panel technology is seen by many as the great hope for the future of TV thanks to its remarkable contrast, colour and motion-handling capabilities.
And towards the end of 2013 we would have predicted great things for OLED in 2014. However, these dreams were shattered at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January as almost every brand appeared to be retreating from OLED – seemingly on the grounds that it's still too expensive to make.
Thankfully, though, one brand is still carrying a torch for OLED: LG. The Korean brand has rolled out a couple of new HD panels already, and is on the verge of launching the first 4K OLED TVs.
Prices for these new 4K models are comfortably higher than the costs of same-sized 4K LED TVs – the 65-inch 65EC970V OLED will cost around £7,000, while Sony's 65X9005B 4K LED TV costs around £3,300.
But actually this isn't quite as high a price disparity as we might have feared, and certainly raises hopes for much more 'mass market' OLED pricing for 2015.
Turning next to smart TV developments this year, there have been a couple of significant ones. LG's webOS system moved the Smart TV world forward significantly with its brilliantly slick, fun, economical interface and the way it realised that you need to treat everything – even individual connections – as an app these days if you want to deliver a truly intuitive, multi-tasking TV operating environment.
We were also impressed by Panasonic's integration of both the Freetime catch-up TV system and TV Anywhere system for watching your TV on a smart device anywhere in the world.
Where has 3D gone?
One last technological development to consider is 3D - or the near death thereof.
It's been noticeable how more mid-range TVs have started to ditch 3D support, and even more tellingly, Sky recently stopped filming its Premiership football 'crown jewels' in 3D. The BBC gave up on 3D long ago, and while Hollywood is still making a few films in 3D the annual number hasn't really grown over the years, and still surprisingly few of these movies are actually filmed in 3D rather than being converted to 3D in post production.
We're not necessarily saying 3D is going to disappear completely – it will likely always be on premium TVs and there will likely continue to be a trickle of 3D movies. But it's an increasingly niche proposition that fewer and fewer households seem willing to bother with.
TV Buying Tips for Christmas 2014
Buying tips for Christmas 2014
Based on our experience of 2014's TV world, here are a few tips we'd give to anyone about to brave the market for a new TV.
1. Go 4K if you can
If you've got a decent budget, look to spend it on a 4K TV rather than a high-end HD TV – even if you have to save up a bit longer. Not all 4K TVs are brilliant, but you can get some excellent models for less money than you might think.
2. Go for a big screen... if you can
If you go for a 4K TV, go for as big a screen as you can manage, as this will emphasise 4K's benefits.
3. Check those specs
If you go for a 4K TV, make sure it has the necessary HEVC decoder for handling Netflix 4K streams, and make sure it has the latest HDMI 2.0 ports capable of handling full colour bandwidths and 4K at 60p.
4. Be cautious of curves...
Don't buy a curved TV until you've read up on the pros and cons of the format, and ideally until after you've had a demo of one.
5. Avoid IPS LCD panels...
If you're a serious film fan who likes to dim the lights when you're watching films, it's probably best to avoid TVs that use IPS panels due to their common contrast failings.
IPS panels were designed to deliver a wider viewing angle than rival VA panels, but their downside is that they offer less control over how much light is passed through the LCD crystals, meaning that dark scenes tend to look milky.
Or else pictures suffer with over-obvious light 'leaps' and light blocking problems thanks to how hard IPS TVs have to work to counter their core contrast issues.
6. The sweet spot...
If you're looking for the best value/performance sweet spot in this year's TV ranges, look towards the mid-range HD models of the main brands.
If you start spending less you run a much higher risk of finding significant picture quality issues and missing out on some of today's most useful smart features.
7. Second screening...
With more and more of us 'second screening' these days – using our phones and tablets while we watch TV – it's worth looking for TVs that offer plenty of tablet and phone content-sharing and control features.
TVs in 2014: which brand should you choose?
Which brand should you choose?
In this section of our look back over 2014's TV landscape we look at what each of the major hardware brands has been up to. Starting with…
Sony's main focus this year has been on developing its 4K TVs – an area in which the brand clearly feels it has an advantage due to its involvement in all parts of the 4K creation, production and playback story.
It's stuck with LCD/LED technology to deliver its screens, and had stayed flat until it recently unveiled a couple of curved models - the S90 series.
Its other key focus has been newly aggressive pricing of its mid-range HD TVs, delivering in the process some of the year's most attractive bargains.
Sony TV range 2014 review
It's been mostly a successful year for Sony – though there have been a couple of stumbles too. The star of the Sony show has been the X9005B TVs. These 4K sets have combined deliriously good picture quality with extraordinarily powerful audio by TV standards, making them the best all-round TVs of the year. Just be prepared to have to accommodate a serious amount of hardware versus today's usual super-slim designs.
Another stand out series has been the W829 upper mid-range sets, which have delivered truly exceptional picture quality at striking aggressive prices.
The cheaper W705/6 and W605 series have also performed very well for their money.
The misfires have been Sony's flagship HD series, the W955s, and the X8505 step-down 4K screens. Both of these ranges – which we'll be fully reviewing soon - have opted to use IPS panels, with the result that their contrast performance is clearly compromised versus the excellent efforts found elsewhere in Sony's range.
Having boldly opted to leave its beloved plasma technology behind for 2014, Panasonic came out fighting at the Consumer Electonics Show (CES) in January by unequivocally stating that it believed its top-end LCD TVs for 2014 would out-perform its best plasma TVs. Since then, though, the brand has enjoyed/suffered a startlingly up and down time.
Where the positives are concerned, a key Panasonic strength for 2014 has been its smart TV features, thanks to three great innovations. The best of these has been the integration of Freetime into many of Panasonic's UK TVs.
This allows you to access the on-demand catch up TV services of many of the UK's broadcast TV services – including the 'big four' of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – via the brilliantly simple interface of an EPG that can scroll back through time as well as forward.
Then there's TV Anywhere, which lets you watch over the internet the tuners or USB recordings of your home TV via your tablet or phone no matter where in the world you are. Finally there's My Stream: a clever scrolling, tiled interface for highlighting content from multiple sources Panasonic's TVs think you'll be interested in based on an analysis of your viewing habits.
These new features integrate nicely, too, into the superbly friendly and customisable My Home Screen interface Panasonic has continued on from 2013.
On the downside, we've yet to see the supposed plasma-beating X902 series, and with one or two exceptions the picture quality of Panasonic's first all-LCD TV range has been a bit disappointing.
Panasonic TV range review
As noted, unfortunately we haven't yet seen the TVs – known as the 4K/UHD X902 series in the UK – Panasonic reckons can outgun plasma. They are due before Christmas and they have certainly looked awesome in demos, but that's all we can say about them so far.
Of the Panasonic TVs we have seen, the AX802 4K series has been the star of the show in picture quality terms. But Panasonic made a mess of the original launch of these TVs by failing to make them compatible with Netflix 4K streams, and then telling confused journalists that the sets would never be able to play such streams.
Mercifully it was revealed at the recent IFA technology show that the AX802s could be upgraded to accept Netflix 4K streams after all, but the mess around the issue was hardly Panasonic's finest hour.
Where Panasonic's HD TVs are concerned, unfortunately a large part of the range has been affected by the IPS issues discussed in the main feature.
In other words, many of its sets have suffered with sub-par contrast. The exception has been the AS600/AS640 series, which don't use IPS panels and actually deliver good performance – and features – for very aggressive prices.
The big push for Samsung in 2014 has been curved TVs. There are almost as many curved TVs in its current range as flat ones, with Samsung underlining its faith in the technology by making its top-tier picture technology only available in a curved TV – the HU8500 series.
Samsung has also spent a great deal of time extolling the value of curved screens in enhancing your viewing experience – though there are undeniably also issues with the technology that mean that it may not suit everyone.
Samsung has also embraced 4K/UHD in a big way, with far more ultra high definition models in its range than it had last year.
It's also improved its picture quality generally, with better contrast and viewing angles and, on its flagship TVs, new wide colour gamut technology.
Key features in helping Samsung's sets stand out are the compatibility of its most expensive TVs with future external boxes which can retrofit your TV with next-generation features, picture processing technologies and even connections.
Aside from doubts still remaining over curved TV's usefulness, the one disappointing thing about Samsung's 2014 range has been the lack of progress with its smart TV features. These haven't really moved forward in either interface or content terms from 2013. Though to be fair, while the interface is starting to feel a bit long-winded, Samsung does still offer the most extensive collection of smart TV apps and streaming services in the TV world.
Samsung TV Range Review
It's been another strong, consistent year for Samsung's TV division. Across its range, from the most expensive sets to the cheapest, it's been particularly effective at delivering the sort of good contrast performance which is the bedrock of good picture quality. It helps in this respect that Samsung doesn't use any IPS panels.
Samsung has also included striking new PurColour technology in its flagship HU8500 TVs which works with these sets' 4K/UHD resolutions to deliver stunning extra detail and vibrancy to 4K pictures. Also of note with its 4K sets is the quality of its upscaling of HD and even standard definition sources.
While the HU8500s have dazzled at the top end of Samsung's range, the HU7500 series have done a good job of offering plenty of 4K quality for a pretty aggressive price – and without you having to worry about a curved screen.
Where HD models are concerned, the highlight models are the H6400 series, which combine a strong picture performance and feature count with strikingly affordable prices. But even if you go further down Samsung's range than the H6400 series you'll find plenty of screens that consistently outperform similarly affordable rivals.
The only models that have troubled us about Samsung's range this year are the H7000 HD series, which have looked too expensive for non-4K models. There remain concerns, too, about the potentially divisive nature of curved screens.
While LG might not have got everything right in 2014, it's grabbed many of the year's TV headlines on the back of delivering arguably more innovation than any other brand.
Key among these innovations is webOS. Developed in Silicon Valley, webOS basically reinvents the smart TV interface – in all the right ways. It's efficient, thoughtful, logical, friendly, easy on the eye, inviting, and inspired in the subtle ways it reinforces your actions and choices with little animations. Plus it's brilliant at multi-tasking.
LG's other massive move for 2014 is OLED. Heralded as the 'saviour of TV' for years now, 2014 has seen LG emerge as the driving force behind this hugely exciting new technology. In fact, LG has unexpectedly become the ONLY brand that sees OLED as a genuine TV force for 2014, with other brands withdrawing quietly back to their LCD panels and stating they see OLED as something for the future, not today.
LG has already launched a couple of gorgeous HD OLED models to the market this year – and crucially these have cost just a fraction of the price of LG's debut OLED TVs. Most excitingly of all, in November LG will be launching its first 4K OLED TVs, potentially offering the ultimate TV solution.
One other smaller point worth making about LG's TVs this year is that they've done some interesting things with their sound, including delivering transparent, super-slim but still good sounding speakers in the 55EA980W OLED TV, and getting audio brand Harman Kardon to supply a startlingly powerful multi-channel speaker design for its UB980V flagship LED series.
The downside in LG's topsy-turvy year has been the way issues with its IPS-type LCD panels have been fairly ruthlessly exposed by the increased quality of rival panels. Almost every LG LCD TV we've seen has suffered with contrast issues versus the best rivals. Which is why OLED couldn't have come along at a better time for LG, really.
LG TV Range Review
The stars of LG's TV showing this year have been its OLED TVs. Even though the models we've seen so far – like the 55EA980W - haven't been 4K, they've set new standards in every way bar resolution.
The brand's 4K OLEDs aren't due until November, but from every demo we've seen they look likely to bring the house down in performance terms
At £7000 the 65-inch 65EC970V isn't nearly as expensive as we might have expected, either. Even though, of course, dropping seven grand on a TV is not something your average household will feel able to do.
On the LCD side, the star of the show is a set we'll be reviewing here soon: the 65UB980V. This UHD/4K model is LG's flagship LCD TV for 2014, and thanks to a higher-level processing chip and more advanced backlight controls it's a much more capable all-rounder than any of LG's cheaper LCD TVs.
Strangely, the weakest point in LG's range is the 4K model just below the 65UB980V, the UB950V series, which suffers with some serious backlight problems and a curiously ghosty 3D performance.
LG's other LCD sets have all tempted with their webOS features and, at times, strong value. But while their pictures often look good in bright rooms and with bright content, their contrast problems are sometimes ruthlessly exposed in more challenging/serious conditions.
Philips is yet another brand that's had a startlingly mixed year, at least in picture performance terms. Again, a key factor in this mixed bag is the fact that the brand has used IPS panels in quite a few of its TVs, with the attendant problems already discussed.
Philips also continues to lag behind other brands with its Smart TV offering, and it's a shame that Philips has this year taken the decision not to bring its premium-grade TVs – sets which could have added more picture quality to the Philips 'pool' - to the UK.
Philips has taken this action for 2014 because its UK team has decided it needs to build brand awareness by actually starting to shift some TV volume – which means, of course, focussing on aggressively priced TVs. And although we miss seeing Philips' at its high-quality best, it's fair to say it's pursued its 'volume' policy quite well for the most part.
It's important to add, too, that while the Philips TVs we've had in the UK so far haven't done anything exciting in smart TV terms, at IFA Philips unveiled its first TVs powered by the Android platform, opening the gates to a hugely ramped up app count and even, further down the line, a potentially much improved interface.
Unfortunately Philips has yet to confirm if the UK will be getting one of these 'Android TVs', though even if we don't get the first generation it seems inevitable that we'll get some Android action from the brand next year.
Philips TV range review
The highlight of the Philips range so far is a range we'll be testing here soon: the PFT5509 series. This budget range offers great value by combining good, contrast-rich pictures with strikingly aggressive prices. For instance, the 48-inch model only costs £529.
Also quite strong is the step-up PFS6609 range – at least in 2D mode. Watch 3D on it and you'll just get a headache.
The weakest point in Philips current range, surprisingly, is its PUS7809 'budget' 4K range (due for a full review soon). For while we love the prices involved here – the 55-inch model costs just £1500 – the picture quality they offer is seriously compromised by yet another unimpressive, IPS-caused contrast performance that leaves pictures looking inferior to those of most other 4K TVs this year.
Best of the rest...
It's been a fairly quiet year for the smaller, price-driven brands in the UK. Toshiba, at least, has managed a genuinely useful innovation in the shape of its MediaGuide Replay function, which automatically records programmes it thinks from analysing your viewing history that you'll be interested in.
This TiVO-like feature has the potential to create your own nightly personalised 'channel' of content – though it's a pity you have to add your own USB HDD drive for the feature to work.
Toshiba hasn't set the world on fire with its picture quality this year for the most part, despite the use of a uniquely bright panel design in its premium (but still highly affordable) 7 Series HD range. Toshiba's focus on IPS panels hasn't helped in this respect.
Of the other less well-known brands, the only two worth picking out are Finlux and Linsar. Finlux we highlight as a budget brand to watch, for as well as its exceptionally aggressive pricing it's managed to deliver some genuine quality in some – though only some – of its TVs this year.
The brand's inconsistency means you should try and find reviews of a particular set you're interested in before you buy, but overall it seems Finlux is on a gently upward trajectory.
Linsar we mention because it's relatively new to the market, is a British brand, and has mentioned an intention to launch UHD TVs into the market in the not too distant future for very aggressive prices…
One last rather sad thought should be spared for a once mighty brand: Sharp.
The Japanese brand has been so quiet of late, at least where providing TVs to review is concerned, that we'd almost forgotten it was still around.
Actually, though, it's launching a new 4K range as we speak, and also launched a range of TVs earlier in the year with intriguing 'Quattron Pro' technology that supposedly offered a higher-than-HD resolution without reaching true 4K resolution levels.
But with no review samples arriving in response to our repeated requests, we can't say anything more than that these TVs exist.
The best TVs of 2014
The best TVs of 2014
Confusingly 2014 has been simultaneously a ground-breakingly great and a slightly disappointing year. There have been some amazing TVs at the cutting edge, notably in the 4K, curved and OLED markets, but quite a few uninspiring models in the mid and lower sections of the market.
There are actually a few potential key TVs still to emerge this year, such as Panasonic's X902 series, LG's 4K OLEDs, and Sony's S90 4K curved TVs.
But as things stand to date, 4K technology has been a huge winner; curved TVs have probably just about managed a score draw; OLED still looks like being the best thing to happen to TV since sliced bread; we've missed plasma loads; and HD LCD TVs have had a pretty average year.
Culled from this tumultuous backdrop, here's our pick of the best TVs of the year so far.
Best Flagship TV:
Sony's top 4K TV for 2014 is a stellar all-rounder. Its pictures benefit from arguably the best backlight handling in the LCD world, fantastically clever processing (especially when it comes to upscaling), and gorgeous colours thanks to Sony's Triluminos system. Sealing the deal is the X9005B's audio, as an array of Sony's magnetic fluid speakers belt out sound with levels of power, clarity, and dynamic range that you'd usually only get from a decent external audio system. Read: Sony KD-65X9005B review
Pushing the 65X9005B hard for best flagship TV is the Samsung 65HU8500. This also delivers contrast-rich 4K/UHD pictures with stellar upscaling processing and great colour response. Its curved screen may divide opinion, though, and it doesn't sound nearly as good as the Sony. Panasonic's 50AX802 deserves an honourable mention as another great 4K TV too now that it can handle Netflix 4K feeds.
In the HD rather than 4K world the best flagship TV is unquestionably LG's 55EA9800 OLED set.
Best mid-range TV:
Sony strikes again. The 50W829 was one of the first 2014 TVs we tested, so it's a testament to just what a great balance of performance and value it offers that it's survived the onslaught from rivals throughout the year. The key to its success is Sony's outstanding backlight control, which delivers black levels, contrast and colour heights far beyond those of the vast majority of other mid-range TVs this year. Read: Sony KDL-50W829 review
Samsung, again, pushes Sony hard in this section, especially with its H6700 series, as probably best represented by the UE48H6700. Otherwise the only other model warranting a mention here is Philips' PFS6609 series, as represented by the soon to be fully reviewed 55PFS6609.
Best budget TV:
While Panasonic has certainly missed its plasma TVs this year, it did manage to hit a nice sweet spot at the lower end of the market with the 42-inch 42AS500. Its picture quality is good for its money, it's well designed, and although it doesn't offer Panasonic's brilliant Freetime feature it does still benefit from the brand's friendly, personalisable My Home Screen interface. Read: Panasonic TX-42AS500 review
Sony has a compelling proposition again in this sector in the shape of the £429 40-inch 40W605, which we'll be reviewing soon. Also, if you want a slightly bigger bargain, you could do worse than checking out the £529 Philips 48-inch 48PFT5509.
The future of TV: What to watch in 2015
What to watch in 2015...
For the most part we expect the TV world to be considerably calmer next year than it was in 2014, at least in technology terms.
In other words, we expect to see brands consolidating this year's key innovations – curved TVs, 4K TVs and, in LG's case, OLED – rather than coming up with radical new designs and technologies.
This could be great news for the consumer. For 'consolidation' of new technology almost always means plummeting prices. So we expect 4K prices to almost halve again for 2015 having halved already for 2014. OLED prices, too, may halve, though LG may not feel too pressurised unless other brands re-enter the OLED market (which doesn't seem likely).
4K will get cheaper...
A couple of other key points about 4K are that it will start appearing on more and more screens next year (in fact, it could well be almost de facto on TVs with 50-inch screens or bigger); and that we'll really start to see content providers trying to catch up with the 4K hardware revolution.
It will be interesting to see if current 'curve sceptic' Panasonic joins Sony, Philips, LG and, of course, Samsung in offering curved screens in its range; our suspicion is that it will.
Bendable TVs are coming...
On the subject of curves, we suspect the main hardware innovation for 2015 will be 'bendable' TVs. LG and Samsung have already confirmed that they will be launching TVs where you can select whether you want your TV to work in flat or curved form, depending, say, on how many people are watching it.
Things might be more interesting on the software side, as other brands may scrabble to try and 'catch up' with LG's webOS smart TV system. Certainly we expect to see more attempts to turn every source, even each input, into its own app, to support better multi-tasking.
One other area where we might just see some gentle first moves is home automation.
We've seen previous clumsy attempts to sell the concept of the TV as a central hub for a wider home monitoring and control system, but these rather vague efforts have suddenly been given a whole new focus since Apple started to get 'serious' in this area with the launch of its HomeKit app for its phones, tablets and Apple TV device.
Who knows – we might even finally get word of the long-mythologised Apple television. Though as we argued recently, this may be one dream you're best not holding your breath for…
TV Buying Guides by size
2014's Best TVs by size...
Best 32-inch TVs
The perfect size for bedroom TVs or sets for smaller rooms
Most living rooms can't physically take a TV much bigger than 32-inch, making this size by far the best for a lot of people in the UK. But within this size division, there's plenty of choice. A basic HD-ready set can be found for less than £300 is you search hard, though it's just as easy to spend over £2k on the best ones. There's only one certainty at this size – your new TV will be a LCD TV. If you're lucky it could have LED backlighting, but it won't be a plasma; LG used to make plasmas at this size, but there's not one on sale currently. 10 best 32-inch TVs in the world today
Best 40 and 42-inch TVs
The sweet spot for plasma TVs offers lots of bang for your buck
Once known simply as 'plasma screens' in the collective consciousness, the 40-42-inch size is where the flatscreen dream started in the late 1990s - and where it's still at its most innovative and best. Now a lot more varied, with plasmas rubbing shoulders with (and quickly being outnumbered by) LCD TVs and their ultra-modern LED TV makeover, 40-42 inches is still the sweetspot for anyone not overly concerned with ruining the interior design of their living room. As well as being the fastest growing sector of the market, this size also offers possibly the best value TVs around. Serious home cinema addicts have moved on to 50-inch and bigger screens, leaving this category a swarm of slashed prices. 10 best 40 and 42-inch TVs
Best 46 and 47-inch TVs
Offering the pinnacle of performance, this is where it gets serious
There was a time when plasma screens reigned supreme in the 46-inch TV market. But in much the same way as a meteor strike killed off the dinosaurs, the second coming of the LCD TV is the invasive species that has done for plasma. We're still huge advocates of plasma on TechRadar, don't get us wrong, but the tech is dying out at this size. Old-school CCFL tech has been replaced by LED backlight scanning and technical wizardry to make LCD tech viable in large sizes. So the majority of TVs in this size bracket are now from the LED side of the wall, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. LED TVs these days are brighter than plasmas, they're thinner and there's a lot more variety on show. So here's our selection of the best 46-inch, 47-inch and now also 48-inch TVs for your perusal.. 10 best 46, 47 and 48-inch TVs
Best 50 and 55-inch TVs
Where the home cinema experience begins
The size where a home cinema turns from dream to reality, it's also at this 50-55-inch TV screen size that 3D starts to become immersive enough to convince and impress. This size, last year dominated by full HD models, is now being overrun by Ultra HD 4K models. While LED tech has gone a long way towards condemning plasma to a role on the outskirts of the TV industry, at 50-inches and above, plasma really comes into its own if you can find one. Most home cinema buffs still swear by plasma, with its cinematic colours and deep blacks making for a real movie-watcher's paradise. But 2014 sees the first batch of 50-inch LED-backlit panels off the production line, a development that further marginalises plasma technology at one of the sizes it previously dominated. If you're looking for a dream movie-watching experience, check out these home cinema beauties. 10 best 50 and 55-inch TVs
Best 60 and 65-inch TVs and above
If you want the best, you'll need to pay the best
If you're feeling extravagant or want to furnish your big living room with a similarly big TV, 60 inches or more of television will certainly make a statement. There are some truly massive TVs available these days, with Ultra HD-toting 84-inch screens such as theLG 84LM960V, Toshiba 84L9300, Sony KD-84X9005A and Samsung UE85S9ST. But for most of us, 65 inches of screen space is luxurious enough, while still being manageable. Gone are the days when the over-60s were mere monitors; expect to find all the niceties a good living room-ready TV should have, such as Freeview HD tuners, perhaps even Freesat HD tuners, too, plus smart TV apps and 3D compatibility. There's a smattering of plasmas here - it's the size category where the original flatscreen TV tech truly excels. But as plasma fades, the real story in this category is the rise of the 4K LCD. So what's the best 60-65-inch TV for you? 10 best 60 and 65-inch TVs in the world today
Best 4K Ultra HD TVs
The latest big thing in big screens
Everyone wants an Ultra HD 4K TV! Yes, okay, we all know there isn't much 4K source material to properly showcase the stunning picture quality, but Netflix has at least started to offer 4K content. There could also still be a 4K Blu-ray format later this year, and before you know it there'll be test transmissions and perhaps even a 4K TV channel from Sky or the BBC. It's all about future-proofing, though there's slightly more to it than that; some of the first batch of Ultra HD TVs pump out best-ever Blu-ray images, thanks to some wonderfully adept upscaling tech. The birth of 4K could also lead to the re-birth of 3D – it just looks so much better at this higher resolution. The big stumbling block – as always – is money, but already there are relative bargains to be had and, better still, some sumptuous designs stuffed with new innovations. The race for 3840x2160 pixels is on. 10 best 4K TVs in the world today