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The best and worst new TVs for watching sport

Footy finals are here - is your TV kicking goals or dropping the ball?

illustrations of sport supporters watching tv and sports
Last updated: 13 September 2019

Whether it's AFL or F1, NRL or netball, live sport is action-packed and full of vibrant colours, and some TVs show it better than others. Picture clarity, refresh rate, processor speed and colour balance are all big factors and can mean the difference between feeling like you're front row, or stuck up the back trying to figure out who's got the ball.

If you're looking to upgrade your viewing experience in time for the footy finals, we've rounded up the best and worst buys.

CHOICE tests for sports viewing quality

In our extensive TV lab testing, our experts score every model for sports in both Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) as part of a rigorous assessment of various content including DVD and Blu-ray movies as well as broadcast SD and HD series.

Usually this content is factored into each TV's overall score in our TV reviews, 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).

Of course, sports-viewing is just one criteria for a TV. Join CHOICE to see our full TV reviews, rating annual energy consumption, user interface, key features and more.

Our lab experts watch a SD and HD version of the same AFL game on the TV, played from a Panasonic PVR. The same signal can be distributed simultaneously via HDMI to up to 14 test TVs. Both the SD and the HD content is viewed by three panellists on each TV. The image quality is compared to our reference TV and the colour accuracy is compared to our reference Eizo studio monitor.

Top rated 55-inch TVs

Fifty-five inch TVs are the most popular size in Australia right now and here are the frontrunners.

Brand / Model Price SD Score HD Score Average
LG OLED55C9PTA $2999 90% 90% 90%
LG OLED55B8STB $2495 90% 85% 87.5%
Panasonic TH-55FZ1000U $3499 85% 85% 85%
Philips 55OLED873/79 $2695 85% 80% 82.5%
Panasonic TH-55GX600A $1295 80% 80% 80%

Top rated 65-inch TVs

The nation's second-most popular size is expected to be number one later this year. Again, LG claims the top spot with their OLED range.

Brand / Model Price SD Score HD Score Average
LG OLED65C9PTA $4999 90% 85% 87.5%
Sony KD-65X9500G $3199 85% 85% 85%
Samsung UA65RU8000 $1995 85% 80% 82.5%
LG 65SM8600PTA $2999 85% 80% 82.5%
Samsung QA65Q60RA $2995 85% 80% 82.5%
Samsung QA65Q80RA $4495 85% 80% 82.5%

Top rated smaller TVs (various sizes)

Looking for a screen that's a bit more subtle? These are the best performing smaller players we've tested. When comparing price, keep in mind these units are different sizes. 

Brand / Model Price SD Score HD Score Average
LG 50UM7600PTA 50" $995 95% 80% 87.5%
LG 49SM8100PTA 49" $1295 90% 80% 85%
LG 43UM7600PTA 43" $799 85% 80% 82.5%
Samsung UA43RU7100 43" $695 80% 80% 80%
Hisense 50RG 50" $899 80% 80% 80%
Samsung UA50RU7100W 50" $1095 90% 70% 80%
Sony KD49X8000G 49" $1295 85% 75% 80%

Worst rated TVs (various sizes)

Here's the back of the pack, according to our latest lab scores.

Brand / Model Price SD Score HD Score Average
Sony KDL50W660F 50" $999 60% 65% 62.5%
Kogan KALED58ZU9010SKA 58" $949 70% 50% 60%
TCL 43P8M 43" $695 65% 55% 60%
Hisense 43R6 43" $695 60% 60% 60%
TCL 55X4US 55" $1599 60% 55% 57.5%

A sports-lover's guide to buying a TV

1. Know your source

Before buying a new box, it's key to know the broadcast quality of your favourite sports. Are they Standard Definition (720 x 576 pixels), High Definition (1920 x 1080) or Ultra High Definition, 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 New South Wales).

If you're watching a SD broadcast on a 4K 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. However 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 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 in store

Retailers usually play animated movies on in-store TVs because they look amazing. Sport is a completely different ball game, so switch to a game 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 like picture clarity (are the numbers on jerseys sharp?), motion and colour balance (do skin tones look right?). Cycle through picture modes and note nasties like judder (lack of smooth panning), motion blur (trailing elements behind fast-moving objects) and odd saturation.

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 purchase 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.

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