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How to buy a bargain TV

Deciphering product codes can help you get a television for less.

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Last updated: 26 June 2020

CHOICE TV testing has just begun for 2020 with our labs recently reopened and testers back on board (observing all relevant social distancing measures). 

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted our lives in so many ways, and it's also dramatically affected the release of new TV models, with the traditional launches in March and April now scattered throughout the year, depending on the brand.   

With this in mind, expect to see a mix of 2019 and 2020 models available instore and online. But if you know what models were released when, you might be able to bargain when getting a new TV.

When are new model TVs on sale?

The latest range of 2020 LG and Samsung TVs have only just been released – in limited models and ranges, with many online retailers showing 'coming soon' banners for 2020 TV models, even though it's already June. 

Sony's latest and greatest have arrived later than usual and may not make it into stores before this year's EOFY sales. We've tested the latest X8000H series (55-inch model) and expect more models to arrive later this year. So for Sony, expect some great deals on TVs that were released in 2019 – from now until the rest of this year.

Panasonic no longer sells TVs in Australia so if you see one of their TVs for sale, it's a 2019 model or older. They will continue to offer warranty support for units bought in Australia but if you're considering them, we recommend you either get an absolutely fantastic deal or avoid altogether. 

How to get the best deal on a TV

The bargaining process may be more difficult this year because the current year's models are being released so late. Ordering online and not being able to drive a bargain with the salesperson in front of you may also be an issue.

The trick is to know which TVs are 2020 releases and which ones are older – from 2019 or earlier.

1. Using our reviews

In addition to new releases, our TV reviews also feature older models that are listed as discontinued (just ensure you've ticked the box in the Related Content field to see them). Sometimes these models suddenly reappear in the EOFY sales at a drastically reduced price and this could be very common this year.

When shopping online, make sure your searches include the exact model name that is in the CHOICE product finder and size so you can determine the online retailer with the best price. Also, make sure you don't simply click on a retailer on the first page of the search as the top few results often pay for the privilege of appearing at the top of the page. 

The Sony X7000G series from 2019 has the 49-inch model on sale at some retailers for $1095, and the 65-inch size for only $200 more.

2. Using a TV's product code

Major retailers will be promoting very good deals from now through to August and beyond, often with stacks of large-screen TVs piled up at the store entrance, or with big star bursts in the catalog or online. Most of these TVs will be 2019 models, or even the occasional 2018 model.

How do you find out the age of the TV? The secret is in the product code. Not only does it tell you the size and specifications, it contains information on the year of release – if you know how to read it.

Here's our brand-by-brand guide to cracking the code: 

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Tips for your new TV

TVs are getting smarter

One of the biggest changes we're seeing with 2020 models is the move from a smart TV to a TV that's a smart hub and stronger streaming options.

The latest TVs are 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.

Streaming

Keep track of your streaming subscriptions. Signing up for the 30-day free trials with Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and now Binge may sound great, but if you don't cancel them you could easily end up spending more than $100 a month once the free trial period is over.

resolution_chart

TV resolutions compared. 8K isn't really in the consumer space right now, but a couple of very expensive TVs with support for 8K are now available.

High-res options

4K, UHD and 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.

What do all these numbers and letters mean?

  • SD is the format you're watching when catching old reruns of Friends on TV and DVD movies.
  • Full HD is High Definition broadcast TV (TV shows made in the last few years) and Blu-ray movies on disc.
  • 4K/UHD (Ultra High Definition) / SUHD (Super UHD) is the format used for the latest blockbuster movies streamed on Netflix or a 4K Blu-ray disc, which look great on a 65-inch display TV and won't be noticed on a 32-inch display TV.
  • The arrival of 8K TV is no reason for you to throw out your 4K TV just yet. While it is true that an 8K TV can offer upscaling of 4K content, this feature is not a big enough reason to move over to the new resolution until more movie and streaming content arrives to take advantage of the higher 7680 × 4320 resolution. 

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?

High dynamic range (HDR) is all about increasing the range of brightness in images 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.

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