sharpOur love affair with big televisions just keeps growing. Manufacturers continue to unveil bigger and bigger screens and we keep buying them. And we don’t just like them big, lots of us have a taste for premium specification. These folk have taken to ultra-high definition with enthusiasm and want it with all the bells and whistles.

For people who set their sights a little lower this means some great deals.

Industry analyst GfK says there is a continuing shift towards premium televisions, and super large screens are experiencing strong sales. It’s the same for curved screens, although curved LED screens are generating far greater interest than curved OLED screens.

My theory is that showroom relativity is kicking in. The showrooms are vast and there are so many big televisions in them that tellies that used to look very large, like the 127 and 140 cm numbers, now look positively modest. Thus a word of caution; what may look small to middling in a showroom can turn out to be a monster at home.

Lots of people assumed this shift to bigger, ultra-HD screens rode on the back of the World Cup broadcasts last July, but the spike in sales that the industry was expecting with this didn’t happen. GfK suggests it may be because the time difference was so extreme, and this does not bode well for the 2016 Olympics also in Brazil. Retailers usually stock up before an Olympics because it’s an excuse for buyers to upgrade.

Anyway, the good news right now is that manufacturers and retailers are starting to make money out of televisions again, and that’s encouraging for the long-term future of the product, although it does suggest that the value equation is dropping for consumers. But only at the high end. Lower your sights to full HD, rather than ultra, and you can get a very big screen for less than $2500.

The salespeople I spoke to say that the biggest sellers are between 140 and 165 cm and most buyers still regard 178 cm televisions as big, even though on the shop floor they’re rapidly starting to look about average. One guy told me that pretty much every customer buys the biggest television they can afford, but gave me some very sage advice about how to figure the right size for a home. It all depends on what you watch and where you watch it from.

SonyUnless you’re still using video tape free to air television is about the worst picture quality you’ll get these days and he suggests that with a modern, full high definition screen this requires of viewing distance of three times the screen size. So if you watch a lot of free to air and want a 178 cm screen you’ll need to be able to sit 5.3 metres from it before it starts looking any good. If your viewing is mostly DVDs, or you upgrade to ultra-high definition rather than full HD, make that twice the screen size, and for Blu-rays and high quality downloads make it 1.5. That’s 3.6 metres and 2.7 metres respectively. He called up all three sources for me and it was a most compelling demonstration.

This puts monster televisions into a perspective anyone can understand. Measure how far you sit from the television and you’ll get an idea of what will work best at your place.

Of course the message from salespeople is that if your viewing distances are short you can comfortably watch a bigger screen by spending more on ultra HD.

If you’re happy with full HD rather than ultra HD smaller, full HD televisions have now become very good buying; your money goes substantially further. If you don’t need an internet connection you’re set for some bargains.

We looked around a number of 178 cm offerings in full HD and found some excellent buys, including LG’s nicely equipped 70LB6560, a 100-Hertz screen with Freeview Plus, dual play gaming (glasses not supplied), voice recognition, Skype and passive 3D with four pairs of glasses supplied for $3175.

Sony’s 100-Hertz KDL850B sounds better and is cheaper at $3078, but is more limited in internet features, although it has Skype. It has active 3D with two pairs of glasses.

If you’re into television and movies on disc, and not internet, 3D and Skype, the bargain is Sharp’s 100-Hertz LC70LE650X which we saw for $2478.

Published October 2014


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