The Insider: Small-screen TVs

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The Independent Online

Once upon a time, the only big decision you needed to make when buying a television was whether to go for a colour or a black-and-white one. Today, however, with so many different factors to consider, the decision is far from simple. Do you go for a plasma or an LCD screen? Is it worth paying extra for a TV that's HD-ready? And just how big should you go – 15 or 50 inches?

When it comes to the question of size, bear in mind that the bigger your TV is, the more power it will use – as our graphic, right, (put together by the researchers at the consumer magazine Which?) shows.

Once you've decided on size, the next move is to set a budget. Broadly speaking, the more you spend, the better quality picture and sound you'll get. The cheapest televisions on the market tend to be incredibly poor quality. In Which?'s latest survey of smaller-screen TVs (that's those with a screen of 22 inches or less), the two models under £200 had poor sound quality, poor picture quality and were not particularly easy to use either. The Matsui clocked a score of just 13 per cent in Which?'s tests – and the Wharfdale model (also under £200) didn't fare much better.

The most reliable TV models, according to Which?, are Panasonic and Sony – and the Sony Bravia KDL-23B4050 came out top in their survey of small-screen televisions.

Most new TVs are now HD-ready – and it's a feature well worth having as more and more programmes are being aired in HD format. The picture quality tends to be twice as good as the standard format, and it's particularly great for watching sport. However, smaller screen televisions tend not to do the HD format justice – so if super-good picture quality is really important, you should probably look for a larger TV of 26 inches or more.

It's also worth looking for a TV with a freeview receiver built in – so that you don't need to have a set-top box cluttering up your living room.

When it comes to picture and sound quality, it can be hard to get a real impression about which models come out best when you're shopping in a showroom. We'd advise that you take a look at research by consumer groups such as Which? – who have taken the time to test all the main models out there – and decide which model you want before you head out to buy.



Where to buy

All the cheapest deals are found online – and price comparison sites such as kelkoo.co.uk and pricerunner.co.uk can help point you to the best offers for the model you're after. Hughesdirect.co.uk does good online discounts and tend to only charge £5 for the delivery of a small TV.

On the high street, larger branches of supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's often have great deals on televisions. Again, however, the best deals are usually to be found online. The one exception is perhaps during the sales, when you may pick up a bargain at stores such as Currys and Comet, which are the biggest high-street electrical retailers.

James Daley

The Insider is written in conjunction with the consumer group Which?. For more information on the best televisions, visit their website at www.which.co.uk/tvs or call them on 01992 822800

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