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TVs for the World Cup: How to pick the best TV for watching football and sports

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How to buy an awesome TV for the 2014 World Cup

Thinking of investing in a new TV for the World Cup? You are not alone. Finding the perfect one to watch England in Brazil is not as simple as just buying the biggest set with the brightest screen to plant into your living room.

So, once you’ve finished placing the last shiny in your sticker album and put the wall chart up, here are the key things to look out for when buying a TV for this summer’s tournament, starting with some of the bigger questions you need to decide on before you start looking.

What size TV should you buy?Divider

The bigger the better if you want to increase your sense of ‘being there’. We’d say a 46-inch TV would be our minimum, but if you’ve got a really small room you could perhaps go for 40-42-inch to get the ideal viewing distance. It's worth bearing in mind that the best quality pictures and most features tend to be on these bigger screens, too.

The general rule to get the perfect size TV is that you should sit 1.5 times the diagonal measurement of your TV. This means if you sit six-feet (72-inches, or two metres) from your TV, 46-inches or so is good. It’s just a rough guideline, though, so don’t get too obsessed about it.

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Is 3D worth bothering with?Divider

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Sony and FIFA made a great push to broadcast 25 matches from the tournament in 3D. Four years on there’s clearly not the same appetite from TV manufacturers and broadcasters as 3D has been given the cold shoulder for Brazil 2014 coverage.

The BBC recently announced it was taking a three-year break from 3D broadcasting and with just a week to go FIFA has been quiet on 3D broadcasting for this year’s tournament.

It’s very apparent that 3D will not be playing a major part in World Cup 2014 broadcasting so, if you are wondering whether to go for passive or active 3D, you needn’t worry about it.

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What about 4K?Divider

There is a greater appetite for 4K, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to run out and get one. After trialling 4K filming at the Confederations Cup last year, Sony and FIFA confirmed back in April 2014 that a range of matches, including the final, will be captured in Ultra High definition.

Which sounds great, but no World Cup matches will be actually broadcast live in 4K and the footage will instead be used for the official FIFA film, which will be released through FIFA’s 4K online platforms. BBC has also announced it is trialling live 4K broadcasts for three World Cup matches although none will be shown in public or transmitted to homes.

If you are still set on getting that 4K feeling you’ll need to invest in a 4K TV or monitor and luckily you can find some great options in our round-up of the best monitors and best 4K TVs.

Curved or not curved?Divider

The next big debate in TV, Samsung and LG are currently the only two manufacturers to embrace curved TV screens. Some of the claimed benefits include creating a greater a sense of depth and immersion, improved contrast performance compared to ‘non-curved’ screens all of which are beneficial for a big group of you huddled around a TV.

It has its downsides as well, like the that fact that you have to have a big curved screen to truly appreciate the benefits of curved TV, you need to be in the sweet spot to get the best experience and last but by no means least, they are not cheap.

It’s still too early to say whether they are more than a gimmick, but from our experience so far with sets like the LG 55EA980W and the Samsung UE55H8000, it’s still been a positive one.

SEE ALSO: Curved TVs: The Pros and Cons

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What about Smart TV?Divider

Having a Smart TV is not essential for your World Cup viewing and in fairness, most TVs now support connected features to access on-demand channels like BBC iPlayer or internet services like Twitter.

As part of BBC’s World Cup coverage, there will be catch-up content and its World Cup Rewind service to watch classic matches through the BBC Sport app. Currently Smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Philips and Sony all offer access to the application, among hundreds of other apps.

If for some reason the TV you go for doesn’t include Smart TV support this can easily be rectified as long as you have a spare HDMI port and an internet connection. Just buy a Chromecast dongle or Roku Streaming stick, two simple products that cost less than £50.

Samsung football app

What makes a good TV for watching football?Divider

So those are some of the bigger issues, but what should you look for when buying a TV specifically for watching football (and other sports) at home? Mostly they're the same things that make a good, general TV, but these two factors are particularly important.

Smooth, blur-free motion

Motion is one of the most important things. When Spain is playing its mesmerizing tiki-taka, spraying the ball from one man to the next, you need a TV with a fast enough response time and a high refresh rate to be able to ‘keep up’. Otherwise you’ll end up with blurring and fuzziness.

Plasma used to make the most compelling argument due to its faster native response times compared to LCD TVs, but the latter has closed the gap. An LCD TV like the Samsung UE40F8000 for instance has a 100HZ refresh rate to keep action looking smooth while offering exceptional contrast levels, deep blacks and detailed images.

When in the shops, look closely at the ball in demo footage and see whether it ‘shimmers’ or has a ghost like shadow. The best TVs don’t have this, or are noticeably better than lesser TVs.

Loud and clear dialogue
The other, oft-neglected, feature to look out for on a new World Cup-enhancing TV is sound quality. The trend towards ever greater slimness makes it difficult for most TVs to produce any real power and range with their audio, yet being able to accompany the sporting action with the sound of the crowd can really enhance your involvement with the action.

With this in mind, we’d recommend looking for screens that either have a bit of frame size to them, giving their speakers room to manoeuvre, or else TVs that use a separate woofer on their rears to boost bass and take some of the burden of the main stereo speakers, all of which should help ensure you can hear the commentary as well as the atmosphere.

Something like the 65-inch Sony KDL-65X9005B 4K TV for example has six front-facing speakers to deliver the best sound we’ve heard on a flat panel TV while at the other end of the spectrum the sub-£1000 Panasonic TX-L50E6 delivers a well-rounded, audio performance.

You can also consider looking at a soundbar or soundplate, which sits underneath a TV to produce a richer, more satisfying audio experience.

SEE ALSO: Best Soundbars Round-up


Best World Cup TVs: TrustedReviews RecommendsDivider

With all the above considered, we've picked out some our top picks for the best world cup TVs below. There are more, of course, but choose any of the above and you're guaranteed an enjoyable few weeks of football views, unless you're an England fan of course.

Best TV for World Cup under £500: Sony KDL-42W705B

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Well it's not strictly under £500, but it's going for around £519 on Amazon still making this 42-inch set great value for money and ideal for watching football. It offers good motion handling thanks to Sony’s Motionflow X200 motion processing which produces a 200Hz refresh rate. Black level response means dark scenes are rendered superbly well for a TV so should be ideal for those late evening kick offs.

There’s built-in Wi-Fi to access features like Social View to view scrolling tiers of Twitter feeds and a dedicated Football mode that changes the picture settings to suite football viewing while also providing shortcuts to football-related YouTube content, the FIFA World Cup History site and Sony’s own One Stadium football website. Sound is better than your average super-skinny TV but it might be worth considering an external soundbar to ramp things up in the audio department.

Price: £600 (£519 from Amazon)

SEE ALSO: Best Cheap TVs 2014

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Best TV for World Cup under £1,000: Samsung UE40F8000

World Cup TVs
A 40-inch TV we gave a full 10 out of 10 score to, it's since dropped below £1,000 making it even more of a great buy. Super slim frame and thin bezel aside, it has a healthy four HDMIs, three USBs and built-in Wi-Fi to get access to Samsung's great Smart TV platform.

You can expect outstanding contrast and sharpness performance to make sure the action comes out nice and clear with 100HZ motion rate giving it the kind of motion handling system that makes it standout from the LCD TV crowd. Considering the slim frame, the 40W down-facing speaker system also blasts rich audio which should save you shelling out extra on an expensive soundbar or surround sound system.

Price: £1,449 (£999 from Richer Sounds)

See Also: Best TVs 2014

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Best TV for World Cup when money is no object: Sony KDL-65X9005B

World Cup TVs 2
For the complete picture and sound package, this is currently the best TV to own. It’s a 65-inch beast future-proofed with 4K and includes Sony’s Smart TV platform so you can get key access to all the key on-demand services like BBC iPlayer and apps like BBC Sport.

For Full HD and 3D image quality, it excels particularly in the black level response department, while the exceptional picture sharpness and colour accuracy help produce the spectacular 2D results. Add in the brilliant speakers included from last year’s model and extras like a built-in camera for Skype video calls to gloat about the results and although expensive, this Sony TV is worth every penny.

Price: £3,600 (£3,349 from Currys)

See Also: Best 4K TVs 2014

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Or maybe go for a projector…

For an alternative big screen experience, you could always go for a projector. Whether you have £500 or £5,000 to spend, you can hook it up to your laptop or other suitable device and beam high resolution images against the nearest free wall to get similarly pleasing results.

To find the most suitable one for your price range, you can check out our round-up of the best projectors.

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