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Five tips for when you are buying a new TV to watch Freeview or Freesat

I have been visiting stores where TVs are sold, and I have five tips to help you get the best value for money from your next TV.

How far is the TV screen from the sofa?  Photograph:
How far is the TV screen from the sofa? Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

Why do TV stores have a layout that makes it hard to view televisions from a "sofa" distance? 


Tip 1: Measure the distance from your sofa to the set at home and then replicate it in the store

Retail stores show the TVs on sale in a way that is somewhat different to how they are seen from a living room sofa.

Remember that you should view a TV with your eyes in the centre.  If you’re looking down, or looking up, then you won’t be able to see what the set looks like in normal use. 

The following table shows four optimal distances** in meters to be from a widescreen TV set.  The first “typical” value (shown in green) is the distance away you need to see all of the screen without having to move your head.  

"HD" is the viewing distance to see the benefit of Full HD (“1080p”).  Cinema is the distance you should be for optimal viewing of movies.  The "UHD" distance is how close you need to be to distinguish (“4k”) UHD from Full HD.

TV Screen size vs viewing distance

If your set is 3.5 meters away from the sofa, it won’t look any better to you HD than standard defintion,  even it is an "82 inch" model.  


Tip 2: Considering your lighting conditions?

You never see TV sets for sale close to exterior windows.   They are almost always at the back of the store where the lighting is constant … and low.

You might have a room like this at home, but if you don’t you might want to consider that the TV could also be in a well sunlit room when it’s being used, or is used to watch summer sport such as Wimbledon.

The less dark the viewing room, the less benefit you are going to be able to get from new technologies such as HDR (where you can see extra detail when pausing some movies).  If it’s a general use set in a well lit family area, paying extra for HDR or UHD may never be beneficial.


Tip 3: Can you see the TV you want to buy with live Freeview or Freesat channels?

When you visit, I bet that all the sets are showing wonderful looking mountains, or time-delay aerial city shots or clips from animated movies. 

If you want a TV at home to watch Homes Under the Hammer or Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish or Judge Judy – ask the store to show you BBC One, Dave or CBS Reality live from Freeview or Freesat.  


Tip 4: Does your TV need to be “Smart”?

The problem with buying a “smart” TV is the screen will last much longer than the "smart" bits - the built-in apps it will age badly because you can’t replace the built-in computer they run on.  

The software apps on mobile phones are updated daily whilst the software on a “smart” TV gathers virtual dust.    Touchscreen mobile phones have brilliant interfaces, smart TVs with their clunky, fiddly remote controls have the worst interfaces ever invented.

You might like to consider not worrying about a "smart" TV and use a  £30-ish streaming-device such as Chromecast or Amazon Fire stick, Apple TV or Roku.   You can then use the much more conveniennt (Android or Apple) tablet or phone to select things you want to watch.   If and when the streaming box goes out of date it’s another £30-ish:  you won’t need to throw away a whole TV set to get “smart” software upgrades.


Tip 5: Use external speakers

Physics says that it is impossible to make a TV flat and get good sound from it. 

So, don’t worry too much about the sound the TV makes in the store, as you won't be using it: either use an existing stereo or a sound-bar.   A good one should last for many years.   



What do you think?    Do you have better tips?   Tell me in the comments below.  


 ** Note: use this equation to calculate viewing distance, d, from diagonal screen size w, using g=30 (mixed usage), 32 (Full HD), 40 (cinema) or 64 (Ultra HD).  

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

10:23 AM

MikeP: Freesat don't broadcast any channels, all they broadcast is an EPG which FTA channels can pay to be listed on. Your TV does not receive that EPG, therefore it does not receive Freesat. The manufacturer would also be in breach of Freesat's intellectual property rights if they claimed their TVs could receive Freesat when they haven't paid to licence the Freesat EPG.

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StevensOnln1's 3,639 posts GB flag

11:45 AM


In my view, the EPG is NOT Freesat. It may well be the intellectual property of Freesat but the programmes available are collectively known as Freesat, irrespective of who originates the signals sent via the Astra satellites.

The general public view Freesat as being the collective programmes with the EPG being an add-on that provides easy access to those programmes. Some of the programmes available via Freesat are not available via Sky or other sources.

I usually ignore all the marketing 'spin' and stick to facts that users understand.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag
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