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Best TVs - review

CHOICE has reviewed TVs across a range of different brands and sizes, including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and more. Read our TV buying guide to help select the right type of television for your home, and then find the best television with our comparative review (member content).

Have a question about televisions? Ask us in the comments below.

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Your review includes a reference to Smart TVs - I was an early adopter of this technology and have three of different ages. Samsung, LG and Sony. I have a rather jaundiced view of Smart TVs based on my experiences - To date, my Samsung has removed the Netflix ap, and the LG has removed the You Tube ap. The Sony as my most recent purchase is still intact. The manufacturers failure to provide long term support for the aps is a problem that no one would be aware of when purchasing a Smart TV. I don’t know about the price premium for a Smart vs Dumb TV but I would recommend that a better solution would be to purchase a separate box such as an Apple or Telstra TV. I have a Telstra TV which came free and is constantly being upgraded. At the end of October it had a major upgrade and it now provides a search function across all its streaming aps. You can search a TV program or movie and it will tell you which of its aps to use to watch it. None of my Smart TVs can match it.

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We’ve updated our TV review (member content) with the latest models and testing results.

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We often get asked about product reliability, and recently we surveyed 6800 CHOICE members about their TV performance to help answer that question. See which TV brands performed the best (member content).

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I would like to echo older comments that with smart TVs a common source of problems is not hardware but software. I have problems regularly, probably every couple of weeks on average, with a streaming service refusing to work properly. The symptoms can be a crash or freeze or buffering and poor quality. I am fairly sure it is not the data feed as no other device on my network has such problems and the download speed is consistently several times that required for a HD stream. The problem happens with both Stan and Netflix, I cannot say if it is the apps or the OS or some combination. The usual fix is a cold boot from the powerpoint.

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This sounds incredibly frustrating, and it could be argued, I think, that the TV is not fit-for-purpose. If you purchase a smart TV to enable the viewing of streamed services, then the TV should be able to perform this task in an acceptable manner.

I am fairly confident that you will answer ‘yes’, but have you checked that the TV has the latest firmware and app updates ? In the lab, we can see that some manufacturers roll out updates very frequently. When we are at our busiest, we can turn around a test batch in around three weeks, and we often see firmware for some brands changing between batches.

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Yes, part of the fun has been forcing updates to take place even though ‘auto update’ option is turned on. The problem used to be much worse and I did pursue it then but now it is at the point where it is tolerable. I haven’t been keeping a log of what happened and when recently and to me it isn’t worth the trouble of taking it further now. Spending hours on the phone or swapping emails is no fun unless you have no choice, so I just reboot and the streaming service takes us back to where it died and we go on.

With no keyboard or mouse the interface is particularly slow and klunky for debugging and keeping track of things so that you can work through all the combinations of hardware, local network, internet, server, OS and app it is all too painful.

Your point that the combination of hardware and software must be fit for purpose is well taken. In the past whenever a support person has been tempted to claim its someone elses problem I beat them over the head with that and we continue.

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Our updated 2019 TV review is here (member content).

A key point that is missing from the Buying Guide but which comes through very clearly from customers here is …

Apps (Netflix, Stan, ABC iView etc.) can be downloaded to your smart TV, so you can watch online content

but apps stop working.

The service provider will make an incompatible change to the service (or discontinue it altogether) and between the service provider and the manufacturer, no updated app is ever released - so the service is no longer usable.

Part of the problem is that if the manufacturer is a bit niche, the service provider may have negligible interest in providing an updated app for that platform - while perhaps the manufacturer does not have sufficient information to provide an updated app. Hence scale (critical mass) becomes important, but we know from the desktop world how that story goes. (Occasionally it may be that an updated app is simply not possible because upgraded hardware is needed.)

In my view this situation isn’t good enough and either the ACCC needs to step in or, if the ACCC has insufficient power, the parliament needs to step in. Mind you, the ABC - ostensibly government-controlled - is an offender in this regard.

There should be a legal requirement with Smart TVs that a service is available for X years after the TV is sold. That implies that the manufacturer should sign contracts with the service provider to pass on that obligation.

I am not suggesting that all of the above discussion is appropriate for the Buying Guide - but some kind of warning should be present.

The other side of this coin though is the expansion of the Big Tech monetisation model to TVs. Google has released a TV platform, which is likely to be popular and well-supported by service providers, but you would then be selling yourself when you watch TV just as you do when you use any number of other Google services.

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Recent TVs - well, those that have a USB port, or which support Bluetooth, or both - may allow a keyboard to be connected, and maybe even a mouse. This could be useful when entering text for example when searching for YouTube videos. However that is not something that I have ever tried.

Sorry, but this isn’t the big problem. The real problem with ‘smart’ TVs is that they are effectively Internet appliances, and pretty much everything that connects to the Internet is likely to be targeted by one or more ‘black hats’ at some point.

That’s fine, of course - for as long as the manufacturer keeps issuing security updates. Has anyone in this thread received any security updates for your TVs lately?

Both of the TVs in my household are ‘smart’, and neither is or ever will be connected to the Internet except as a dumb device at the end of a protective chain. TV makers are not online security experts, and are more interested in selling you the ‘right’ TV at the ‘right’ price than making sure their security is actually half-decent. Yes, I am aware that many TV manufacturers also produce Android phones - but that will generally be in an entirely different division of the (very large) corporation and I strongly suspect they don’t yet understand the need to cross-pollinate.

Oh, wait - here’s an article I found about this very problem.

Unfortunately, the article ignores the fact that if your TV is on the same network as your computer/phone/tablet etc., then being able to hack the TV gives the black hat an entree into that network.

It has been for me and I think I have read other people in this community mentioning the same issue.

However my point and your point aren’t mutually exclusive. Re-reading the Buying Guide, it also glosses over the security aspect of things, so that is another area of improvement.

Our experts are warning to avoid these three TV models that performed poorly in our tests:

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Here are 10 tricks to watch out for when buying a new TV in store:

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These TVs should have two separate tuners so have the retailer record some live TV and switch to another channel to see if it’s being recorded properly.

I think this overstates it.

It is a valid use case to record TV on the TV and only have one tuner (i.e. you won’t be able to watch another program on that TV while recording). For many people having two tuners is a ‘nice to have’.

There are TVs that record on USB and only have one tuner. There are TVs that record on USB and have two tuners.

Some people have a dedicated recording device (a PVR or similar) and it itself may have two tuners, in which case recording on the TV could be an infrequent requirement.

Freeview Plus

Freeview Plus is a major problem. If this is a requirement then check each network’s catch-up TV to see whether it actually works i.e. is the icon for the network even present and if it is does it work?

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Or 4 tuners! My lovely partner has one with 4 tuners that can record 10, yes 10 shows at once when they are on the ‘right mix’ of services; and two others that each can only do 8 from 4 tuners! She keeps them going just in case she might want to watch something and deletes almost as much as she records without watching. To be honest I got her to turn one and maybe a second off but not disconnect either. Perhaps I can persuade her to start her own paid catchup service :rofl:

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Almost every new TV supports FreeviewPlus. It allows users to view each broadcaster’s catch-up service without using a specific app installed on the TV ( I imagine that this is what you are referring to by “the icon for the network” ). The TV needs internet access for Freeview Plus to work. If catch-up works for one channel, it will work for all of the others.

Older TVs often required an app to be installed for each individual catch-up service, and sometimes these would not be maintained or new features would mean they would no longer run on older model TVs, and users would lose access at some point after their TV purchase. eg pre-2012 model Samsung TVs cannot access SBS On-Demand, but can still access ABC iView.

Freeview Plus essentially runs “the app” remotely, and does not require an app to be on the TV itself. ( although you can still install some local catch-up apps if you prefer )

Whilst viewing any channel, you can access Freeview Plus by pressing the green button on your TV’s remote control, or use the red button to go straight to that broadcaster’s catch-up service.

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I have noticed that freeview and the specific tv apps can be different. We have a Sony TV (2016 model) and SBS freeview has different range of content to the SBS app. We find that SBS freeview has limited selection of programs and often we can’t find the one we are after…whereby the same searched program exists on the SBS app.

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SBS requires users to login to access some of their content. Login with a password is supported by the SBS On Demand app, but not by Freeview Plus. I believe this is the reason for the different range, but will look for more information …

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Not for me (new TV purchased some time this year). The TV supports FreeviewPlus. When I change channel to ABC or SBS it offers me on the screen for a short while “catch-up icon: red button FreeviewPlus: green button” and the buttons do work to bring up various catch-up programs (and those two channels also appear in the apps, as a really inefficient way to get the same thing). On other networks (7,9,10), no offer, red/green buttons don’t work, no apps.

It isn’t important enough to me to have followed up why this is.

(If I recall correctly, to get SBS On Demand working, we had to use a computer to create an account with SBS and then that information was laboriously entered on the TV as a one-off, and now it “just works”.)

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