Consuming Issues: If you're getting set for the World Cup, go HD

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The Independent Tech

Some of the biggest England fans during this World Cup will be the electrical retailers Curry's, Comet and John Lewis. Football tournaments prompt many people to go out and buy a new TV and the chains are desperately hoping England advance further than the group stages, when more people may decide it's worth splashing out on a new set.

TVs bristling with long code names and acronyms are on promotion on the high street, but how good are the deals – and which TV should you buy, if any?

Partly because the workers who make them are so low paid and partly because new sets are more efficient, TVs are cheaper than during the 2006 World Cup, when fans rushed out to buy a new generation of widescreen LCD TVs. During the 12 months to May, the price of the average television fell by 10 per cent. And advancing technology means consumers have a choice between two new and extraordinarily good viewing experiences – high definition (HD) and 3D.

Assuming you do want to watch the football on a large set rather than get away from it with a small second set, is it worth paying £500 for HD or around £2,000 for 3D?

First, 3D. While ultimately likely to have as profound an impact on our viewing as the switch from black and white to colour, three dimensional TV viewed with special glasses is an expensive fringe technology at the moment. No UK broadcaster is showing the World Cup in 3D and the BBC and ITV have not announced any plans for 3D channels.

Sky, which says it will launch a 3D service this year, has not yet revealed when, what it will cost or what it will show.

There are only a few, expensive 3D sets on the market. Samsung's 40-inch 3D TV launched in April, the UE40C7000, costs £1,799 at John Lewis, but extras push it up to £2,000. Likewise, Sony's, released last week, are £2,000. More 3D sets made by LG, the Korean electronics giant, will go on sale later this year, but they won't be cheap either.

Indeed, only a relatively small number of homes will own a 3D set by 2014, the next World Cup, and by then they will account for only 40 per cent of new sales, so you won't feel left out by not having one for a good few years. Unless you are a wealthy technophile, buying one now is unlikely to prove to be value for money.

Better to wait until prices fall and the amount of 3D programming rises. Or wait even longer until the arrival of 4D – Warner Bros in Hollywood shows a Shrek film in '4D' with moving seats, water sprays and bristles that brush your legs.

Which, practically, means an HD-ready set provides the best value now. HD delivers sharper pictures than conventional images. The BBC and ITV both have HD channels available on Freesat, Freeview and other services, which are showing every match of this World Cup. Once the football ends, though, there will still be only a limited number of "normal" TV programmes available in an HD format. Although you can watch Blu-Ray DVD discs in high definition.

Which to buy? In a test of 12 large-screen TVs, a consumer group found that Sony Bravia and LG performed better than Samsung, Philips, Alba and John Lewis. Pick of the bunch was the £599 32-inch Sony Bravia KDL-3V5810, followed by LG's £999 4SL9000.

Which?'s cheapest buy was LG's 32-inch 3LH4000, which costs £400. Incredible value, considering what you would have paid for a TV a few years ago.

m.hickman@independent.co.uk

Heroes and villains

Hero: Sainsbury's open hotels for the solitary bee

Hero: Sainsbury's

"Bee hotels" are to be set up at 38 Sainsbury's stores to help a dwindling, special bee important for pollinating fruit and vegetables. Unlike honey bees, solitary bees live on their own rather than in a hive. The hotels have an ideal habitat in which to raise larvae. Beekeeper Robin Dean has been recruited to maintain the sites.

Villain: Ferrero Rocher

When not making hazelnut-based delicacies for the Ambassador's Ball, the secretive, £5bn-a-year Italian Ferrero group moonlights as one of the world's biggest chocolate firms. It was one of the multinationals working furiously behind the scenes to thwart an EU plan for red labels on unhealthy food. Its diplomacy won. Shoppers lost.

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