Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Digital TVs

If you decide the time has come to buy a new TV, you'll find that all of the TVs now on the market include a digital tuner, either Freeview or freesat. Digital TVs with a digital tuner built in to receive terrestrial channels will give you Freeview channels through your aerial. 

Digital TVs that have a built-in freesat tuner to receive satellite channels will also have a standard tuner. These TVs allow you to receive the freesat services provided by the BBC and ITV without a separate set-top box but must be connected to a satellite dish. 

Digital televisions

All digital TVs are widescreen, and you can get flat-panel LCD or plasma screens. All new digital TVs sold are also high-definition (HD) - they have either a built-in HD tuner or are 'HD ready'

Digital TVs cost from about £135 upwards and are available in a wide range of sizes. Because they are thinner than older CRT-type TVs, they take up less space; so we recommend that you consider buying a larger screen than your older TV. For an average living room, we suggest a 32" TV is a minimum size to consider, while a 40" TV is a minimum you should consider if you want to get the best from HD channels and Blu-ray discs.

All digital TVs should have a common interface slot or module to allow a viewing card to be inserted, so you can subscribe to additional services such as Top Up TV and sports packages. You can also connect a digital TV to set-top boxes to receive satellite, cable or phone-based services if you want these. See Digital TV options for information on these choices.

LCD, LED and plasma TV screens

LCDs are modern, slim-panel TVs. LCD technology is improving and prices have been coming down. Plasma TVs are also flat-panel but use a quite different technology. Plasma TVs were originally considered better than LCDs for picture quality but now the top LCDs out-perform plasmas. LCDs are also brighter and have lower energy consumption. You may see some TVs advertised as LED TVs. This is slightly misleading because they are in fact LCD TVs that use LED backlights instead of fluorescent tubes to provide the illumination. The LED backlight allows slimmer LCDs and still-lower energy consumption.

High-definition (HD) and 'HD ready' TV?

Almost all digital TVs are designated either 'HD ready' or 'HD TV', meaning that the screen is capable of displaying pictures from high-definition broadcasts. Those designated HD ready do not have an HD tuner built in, so you'll also need a Freeview or freesat HD set-top box or HD digital TV recorder to actually receive and view HD channels. Those designated HD TV, however, do have an HD tuner built in (either freesat or Freeview). The number of full HD TV televisions on the market is increasing.

What to look for in a digital TV

  • Controls on the TV itself are handy, especially when the remote goes missing.
  • Make sure it has enough SCART sockets for your recording kit.
  • Digital TVs generally only have one tuner, so budget for a separate digital TV recorder if you want to be able to record one digital channel while watching another.

Pros and cons of digital TVs

Advantages and disadvantages of digital TVs
For Against
  • this can be a do-it-yourself option
  • no need for a separate set-top box, nor an extra remote control - less clutter
  • good choice of larger models
  • once bought, there's no more to pay - but you can choose to upgrade later with a digital TV recorder or satellite or cable
  • opportunity to get a flat-panel widescreen TV
  • provides a full 7-day on-screen TV guide (EPG)
  • the latest smart TVs connect to the internet for additional services, including BBC iPlayer
  • some models can work as single-channel recorders by adding an external hard drive
  • more expensive way of going digital - but you do get a new TV
  • you might need to buy a new aerial if you are replacing an old, analogue TV that doesn't receive a very strong signal
  • some are easier to use than others - choose carefully if this is important to you
  • you'll also need a digital TV recorder if you want easy recording of digital channels

Last updated: July 2013


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