What TV should I buy under £350?
November 10, 2018 1:11 AM   Subscribe

I have never bought a TV before. Now I want to buy a TV for less than £350, hopefully taking advantage of the sales. I'm in the UK. Cheaper is better, but not vital. Sound quality is important. I would like something with Wi-Fi and the best possible "smart" features I can get, both in terms of interface and services. Screen dimensions are not particularly important. I'm getting very confused between brands and reviews, so your guidance would be greatly appreciated.
posted by howfar to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So.. I know it's kind of bad form to answer an Ask with "you don't really want that" but nevertheless I'd like to encourage you to consider buying a TV without "Smart TV" features and connecting it to a dedicated streaming device. Compared to dedicated devices, Smart TVs usually have more limited interfaces, poor security to start with (made even more problematic by infrequent updates) and several Smart TV manufacturers have been busted divulging customer viewing habits either deliberately or accidentally.

My honest advice to you would be to buy the best basic display you can find in your budget and pair it with a streaming device of some sort -- you'll have more options, will probably get a better experience, and won't have to worry about having a device on your network that the manufacturer has no further interest in once they have completed their one-time sale to you.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:23 AM on November 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

Good point, well made. If any other respondents bear NotN's comment in mind, I would be very grateful.
posted by howfar at 1:39 AM on November 10, 2018

If you are near one, I recommend going to Richer Sounds and asking this exact question there. They are friendly, knowledgable, and low pressure. They also have good prices and will price match, plus I’m pretty sure have free extended warranties. I’ve never felt like I’ve been given the hard sell either.

I had this same dilemma and they were really helpful.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:57 AM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Richer Sounds, they are amazing and really know their stuff. I got an LG 43in TV I’m very happy with for this budget by going there.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:20 AM on November 10, 2018

I've never found the sound quality on TVs to be that good - the thin panels don't allow much room. So strongly consider adding separate speakers - even a cheap soundbar or pc speakers would be a dramatic improvement.
posted by JonB at 2:24 AM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

There is no such thing as a TV with decent sound anymore, due to the issue JonB notes. Make sure that whatever speakers you have can be controlled by the TV, either through optical out or a variable output setting. You may have to check manuals to find whether your TV supports this, and how to turn it on.
posted by wnissen at 5:15 AM on November 10, 2018

It used to be conventional wisdom to not use the Smart TV interface because their operating systems were aaaaaawful, but you can now buy something like a Roku TV, with a tried-and-tested operating system, and it's fine. But it will also have 1-3 HDMI ports should you decide to not use the Smart features, which is always open to you as an option.

This is a US model, but my husband (a television editor, so fairly picky about his visual quality) just found this really good deal on a 4K Roku TV, and we're so pleased with it so far. It's not the most cutting edge, but it is some edge, and should hold us from a technology standpoint for several years. You might note the specs on it and see if you can find similar in the UK for a similarly good deal.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:08 AM on November 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

The sound on our Samsung TVs are both pretty good, both were bought from John Lewis (who will almost certainly have a sale soon).

We have a smart TV and it's painful to use- its like using the Internet 15 years ago. Our Chromecast works much better and was not much money.
posted by threetwentytwo at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2018

Reinforcing what others say, the app ecosystems on Smart TVs tend to be quite weird and patchy, with big differences between vendors and often quite some lag in pushing essential updates to the Smart TV apps. I ran a desk research project for a certain Korean manufacturer some years ago - mapping the competitive app ecosystems across a range of smart TV manufacturers and countries, and the results were genuinely eye-opening.

Used to be that LG had the broadest / best ecosystem (and vendors like Sony had really odd massive strategic gaps - like no Amazon Fire TV or Netflix apps, though that's probably no longer the case). In general I think the safest thing to do is use third party external devices for services like Amazon Fire TV / Netflix / Now TV etc, and focus your TV budget on getting the best display and sound you can (though I doubt £350 will stretch to a great display, and a decent soundbar).
posted by bifter at 5:47 AM on November 11, 2018

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