Tip: Our TV reviews include older models that are listed as discontinued, but we've noticed that sometimes the models the manufacturers told us were discontinued suddenly turn up in the Boxing Day sales.
How to tell a new TV from an older model
You'll notice some of the major retailers will be promoting very good deals on specific TVs over the holiday season, often with stacks of them piled up when you walk into the store. This year, most of these discounted TVs are likely to be 2017 models.
But if you want to get a good deal on a 2018 model or drive a hard bargain with the salesperson on an older model, how can you find out the age of the TV? The secret is knowing what the product codes for each TV really mean.
How to read a TV's product code
A TV's product code can tell you all about its size and specifications, but in particular it'll tell you what year it was released.
There are two code systems to watch out for with LG TVs, the OLED range and the LCD range.
For LG LCD TVs:
- The second letter in the product code indicates the release date. So for the LG 55SK8500PTA, K indicates a 2018 model.
- A 2017 TV will have the letter J, such as LG 55SJ850T.
- A 2016 model will use the letter H.
- Avoid codes with the letters F or G (unless the TVs are being given away) as these are from 2015.
For LG OLED TVs:
- The first two numbers in the product code indicate the display size in inches, and the last number indicates the year of release. So LG OLED55E8PTA means that it's a 55-inch OLED TV and a 2018 model.
- The letter between the numbers for the display size and year of release indicates its price position in the range. The C8 series is the most affordable, the E8 is mid-price and the W8 range is priced from $10,000 to $20,000.
Tip: Expect to see some substantial 2018 LG OLED bargains leading up to Christmas particularly with whatever model didn't sell as well during the year between the C8 and E8 series.
The Samsung TV offerings include a QLED TV range (which is sort of like Samsung's answer to the OLED TV) and an LCD range.
For the 2018 QLED range:
- The product code should show a QA followed by the screen size in inches and a single number to show the position in the range.
- For example, the Samsung QA65Q9FNAWXXY is a 65-inch QLED TV in the premium series 9 (the range works down through series 8, 7 and 6).
For the LCD TV range:
- The first number indicates the size of the TV in inches, and is followed by a letter indicating the release date.
- N means it's a 2018 model. So the Samsung UA55NU8000WXXY is a 55-inch display from 2018.
- The 8000 (and 8500) series denote the premium range, while the 7100 series is entry-level.
- 2017 models generally have an M after the display size number, e.g. Samsung UA55MU7000.
- If you see a Samsung TV in store with a K after the display size, then it's a 2016 model and you should be able to negotiate a much lower price.
Panasonic indicates the release year by the first letter after the display size, with F being a 2018 model (e.g. Panasonic TH-55FX700A) and E indicating a 2017 model (e.g.
- The numbers in the series indicate the increase in quality and price from the lowest 32-inch TH32F400A through to the FS500A series, FX600A series and so on up to the top of the line 4K FX800 series with all the bells and whistles.
- Panasonic also have two OLED models (FZ1000U and FZ950U) at 55 or 65-inches.
- If the Panasonic TV you're looking at has an E after the display size number, tell the salesperson you know it's a 2017 model and you want a much better deal.
- If it has a D after the the display size, avoid it unless you're getting a super discount as it's a 2016 model.
The Sony releases for 2018 didn't start appearing in stores until June, so expect to see 2017 on the shop floor into next year.
- If the last letter on a Sony TV ends with an F (Sony KD-65X9000F) then it's the latest model for 2018.
- But if it ends in a D (Sony KD-55X8500D) it's technically a 2016 or early 2017 model and you should be asking for a lower price.
When are new TVs released?
- The latest range of LG and Samsung TVs arrived between April and July 2018.
- Sony's latest and greatest appearing in late June.
- Some of Panasonic's models only arrived in July so these models will still be considered new in the lead-up to Christmas.
Tip: Brands that released their TVs early in 2018, such as LG and Samsung, may be showing up with discounted prices so keep a look out for these models in the sales.
Should you buy a smart hub?
One of the biggest changes we're seeing with 2018 models is the move from a smart TV to a TV that's a smart hub.
Like smart TVs, smart hubs let you access online apps such as Netflix and catch-up channels like iView and SBS OnDemand. But they're also more likely to interact with other smart devices on your home network, as well as using voice assistants such as Google or Amazon Alexa. Plus, they can answer queries about the weather, turn on your air conditioner, talk to your fridge and order more milk, and turn off the lights when you go to bed.
Other developments that you'll notice with newer TVs is the wider support for HDR and almost universal support for 4K video on TVs with a display over 40-inches.
Tips for your new smart TV
Keep track of your streaming subscriptions. Signing up for the 30-day free trials with Netflix, Stan and other streaming services may sound great, but if you don't cancel them you could easily end up spending more than $50 a month once the free trial period is over.
4K/UHD/SUHD are all terms to describe the next top option in TV resolution: 3440 x 2160 pixels.
By contrast, a Full HD TV has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
TV resolutions compared. 8K isn't really in the consumer space right now, but is an example of future tech.
Is your lounge room big enough for your big TV?
It's not just a question of 'will it fit?'. You should also consider the optimum viewing distance, as sitting too close to a big screen can be quite uncomfortable.
- A 127cm (50") TV showing HD video should deliver its best viewing experience when you're sitting around two metres from the screen. If you sit closer, you may see the individual pixels (depending on the quality of your eyesight).
- If your room size forces you to sit closer, or if you really want a larger TV, then a 4K TV may be a good option to avoid that pixilation. Although you'll need to be watching 4K video for the best quality picture (and for now most content is still in HD or even SD).
What is HDR?
HDR is all about increasing the range of brightness in images in order to boost contrast between the whitest and the blackest elements. This technology essentially expands the TV's colour palette by displaying high levels of contrast between bright and dark colour. Almost all 4K TVs support HDR, and you'll find plenty of HDR-compatible movies and TV shows on disc and via streaming services.
When you buy your TV, ask the salesperson if HDR is on by default or whether you'll need to activate it. Some brands require you to turn it on for each HDMI port. Once activated, it should automatically switch on and off when you switch between HDR and non-HDR video and games.