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The best and worst rated TVs for watching sport

Our experts sort the winners from the losers in our latest lab test. 

best tvs for watching sport
Last updated: 14 July 2021

Whether it's cricket or car racing, Olympic athletics, football or netball, live sport is action-packed and full of vibrant colours, and some TVs will always show it better than others. 

Factors such as picture clarity, processor speed and colour balance all play a big role, and can mean the difference between feeling like you're in the front row, or stuck up the back trying to figure out who's got the ball.

But if you're shopping for a new TV, how do you tell the winners from the losers?

Our lab experts test models specifically for sport as part of their comprehensive TV reviews, so we asked them to reveal the top performers and the ones that belong in the sin bin.

Our tests for sports viewing quality

Choice lab expert Scott tests a TV

CHOICE test coordinator Scott in our TV labs.

In our extensive TV lab testing, our lead tester Scott O'Keefe and his team of experts score every model for sports in both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) as part of our assessment of various content, which also includes DVD and Blu-ray movies and broadcast SD and HD TV series.

Usually, each model's sports scores are factored into their CHOICE Expert Rating. But as a special treat for sports lovers, we're revealing these dedicated scores so you can see the players that truly give 110% (or closest to it).

Remember, sports viewing is just one criterion for a TV. Join CHOICE to see our full TV reviews, which assess picture quality, energy consumption, user interface, remote controls, key features and more.

Top rated TVs for sport

Large-screen TV

Best scoring for sport: LG OLED65C1PTB

SD viewing score for sport: 90%

HD viewing score for sport: 90%

Price: $4095

This 64-inch LG TV rated 'very good' for overall performance, including for both SD and HD sport viewing. Our testers says the sound quality is very good with "good presence, crisp vocals and balance", although it does have a slight boomy base. 

At just over $4000, it's one of the more expensive LG models, but it's just the ticket if you want to create that stadium feel at home. Just BYO crowd roars and mid-strength beer. Check out more options in our full TV reviews

Medium-screen TV

Best scoring for sport: LG OLED55CXPTA

SD viewing score for sport: 90%

HD viewing score for sport: 90%

Price: $3595

Along with the LG monster above, this 55-inch model scored highest for HD and SD sport, making it the joint gold medal winner of our TV tests. Its OLED screen offers excellent, crisp detail and impressive black tones in a real knock-out performance. 

Small-screen TV

Best scoring for sport: Akai AK4020NF

SD viewing score for sport: 90%

HD viewing score for sport: 80%

Price: $345

At its modest price, this unit certainly punches above its weight compared with others in its size division. Our experts rated it excellent for SD sport, and very good for HD. It does fall down in some other areas, such as general TV viewing (for movies and TV shows) and sound quality. But with a separate soundbar to boost it, it'd have most sports fans cheering.

Worst rated TVs for sport

hisense-65s8_2

The Hisense 65S8 failed to impress our testers.

Large-screen TV

Lowest scoring for sport: Hisense 65S8

SD viewing score for sport: 65%

HD viewing score for sport: 50%

Price: $1495

Hisense, low scores. Our lab experts noted its SD quality was "dark and oversaturated with some blockiness around some edges" while HD was all that plus "juddery" too, which translates to red cards all round. Hisense makes some good large TVs – this just one isn't one of them.

Medium-screen TV 

Lowest scoring for sport: Philips 55PUT6103/79

SD viewing score for sport: 65%

HD viewing score for sport: 60%

Price: $595

This model is cheaper than others of its size but that's as good as it gets. Rating just OK for SD and HD sport in our tests, it's best left on the bench if you want your teams to really shine on screen. 

Small-screen TV

Lowest scoring for sport: TCL 43P8M

SD viewing score for sport: 65% 

HD viewing score for sport: 55%

Price: $545

If you're looking for a smaller TV for the shed or man-cave, be wary of this wooden spooner from TCL. While it does a pretty average job for standard definition sport, it drops the ball even more when you switch to high definition viewing. That's a foul in our books.

A sports-lover's guide to buying a TV

1. Know your source

Before buying a new box, you need to know the broadcast quality of your favourite sports. Are they shown in SD (720 x 576 pixels), HD (1920 x 1080) or ultra high definition (UHD), aka 4K (3860 x 2160)? The answer will vary depending on the sport, the channel and the state you live in (for example, free-to-air AFL games are often shown in HD in Victoria and SD in NSW).

Before buying a new box, you need to know the broadcast quality of your favourite sports

If you're watching an SD broadcast on an HD TV, it needs to upscale the video to display at the higher resolution. How well it bridges this gap depends heavily on the quality of the unit and its internal processors. This can vary notably between models and definitions, which is why we score separately for SD and HD sources above.

2. OLED or LCD – which is better?

According to our experts, OLED is definitely the MVP (i.e. the best choice) here, particularly if you can control the ambient light in your TV room. But OLED TVs are usually more expensive, so it will depend on your budget.

What's the difference? Well, LCD (liquid-crystal display) TVs require a light source behind their screen panel, meaning they can go very dark grey but never full black. By comparison, OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens have lights integrated within each diode and they can simply turn off when required, giving you true blacks.

3. What size TV do you need?

Bigger is always better, right? Not always with TVs, because it also depends on your room size and how close you like to be to the TV when you watch. If you sit too close to a massive screen, you may be able to see the pixels – and that's not pretty.

As listed in our TV buying guide, there are three important factors you need to consider for the best viewing experience:

  1. Your TV's screen resolution (HD or 4K)
  2. The size of your room
  3. How far you sit from the screen.
What-size-TV-should-I-buy

What is the best screen size for a high-definition (HD) TV?

What-size-TV-should-I-buy-4K-distance

What is the best screen size for an ultra high-definition TV (UHD aka 4K)

4. Testing a TV instore

Retailers usually play animated movies on instore TVs because they look amazing. Sport is a completely different ball game, so switch to a match or race to truly test their mettle. If that's not possible, you could take in your own sports DVD to test.

Evaluate key specs such as picture clarity (are the numbers on jerseys sharp?), motion, and colour balance (do skin tones look right?). Cycle through picture modes and note nasties such as judder (lack of smooth panning), motion blur (trailing elements behind fast-moving objects) and odd saturation.

Retailers usually play animated movies on in-store TVs, so switch to a match or race to truly test their mettle

Store TVs are often muted too, so turn the volume up if you can and study the sound. Is it rich or tinny? How do commentators' voices sound? If it's ordinary, you might need to buy an accompanying soundbar too – check out our soundbar reviews.

5. Suss out the screen angle

Got friends coming round regularly for the footy? Then you'll want to test the screen angle and ensure they'll all be able to see well.

As you move sideways from the centre of the screen, most TVs will lose some colour and contrast. Stand in the middle of the screen at your normal viewing distance and then take a few steps sideways. If the picture degrades too much, keep moving till you find a screen that does a better job. Your friends will thank you.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE