Whether it's AFL or A-League, netball or NRL, live sport is action-packed and full of vibrant colours, and some TVs will show it better than others.
Factors such as picture clarity, refresh rate, 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 TV experts test models specifically for sport as part of their comprehensive 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 test coordinator Scott in our TV labs.
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 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.
Best TVs for sport
The Sony KD-65X9500G topped our tests of larger size TVs.
Best large TV: Sony KD-65X9500G
SD viewing score for sport: 85%
HD viewing score for sport: 85%
This 65-inch Sony edged out two LG models to take out the title of the best super-sized TV for sport (although the LGs beat it in other areas). Our experts praised its HD viewing quality as "punchy and vibrant with excellent detail", making it a strong choice if you want to create your own stadium at home. Just BYO crowd roars and mid-strength beer. Read our full review.
Best medium TV: LG OLED55CXPTA
SD viewing score for sport: 90%
HD viewing score for sport: 90%
This 55-inch model scored highest for HD and SD sport combined across all sizes, making it the gold medal winner of our TV tests. Its OLED screen offers excellent, crisp detail and impressive black tones, although you will pay for the privilege with a price tag exceeding three grand. Read our full review.
Best small TV: Akai AK4020NF
SD viewing score for sport: 90%
HD viewing score for sport: 80%
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. Read our full review.
Worst TVs for sport
The Hisense 65S8 failed to impress our testers.
Worst large TV: Hisense 65S8
SD viewing score for sport: 65%
HD viewing score for sport: 50%
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. Read our full review.
Worst medium TV: TCL 55P8M
SD viewing score for sport: 60%
HD viewing score for sport: 60%
This model is cheaper than others 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. Read our full review.
Worst small TVs: TCL 43P8M and Sony KD43X7000G
SD viewing score for sport: TCL 65% | Sony 60%
HD viewing score for sport: TCL 55% | Sony 60%
Price: TCL $545 | Sony $745
With equally low combined scores, these units share the wooden spoon when it comes to smaller screens. The TCL scores better for SD sport than the larger-sized TCL above, but falls even flatter for HD.
1. Know your source
Before buying a new box, it's key 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, it's key to know the broadcast quality of your favourite sports
If you're watching a SD broadcast on a 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:
- Your TV's screen resolution (HD or 4K)
- The size of your room
- How far you sit from the screen.
What is the best screen size for a high-definition (HD) TV?
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 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.