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3DTVs group test: what's the best 3D TV?

We look at six of the latest LED 3D TVs

You've probably heard this before, but there has never been a better time to buy a new TV. The latest sets offer DLNA-fuelled, ultra-stylish design and plenty of new technology.

The only tough decision is deciding which television will serve you best.

Here, we round up six 46- and 47in model, a category fast becoming the main battleground for TV manufacturers as people upgrade from 42inch models. With bezels verging on Lilliputian, these larger sets tend not to occupy much more space than their smaller brethren.

See also: latest TV reviews

3D: active vs. passive

All our chosen combatants are 3D ready. (Whether you actually want to watch in 3D is pretty much academic, as stereoscopy has become a standard feature on all big brand TVs of this size.)

There are two types of 3D in modern LCD, LED and plasma TVs: active shutter and passive polarisation. Both offer 3D playback from compatible Blu-rays and broadcast 3D TV from satellite and terrestrial broadcasts.

Active shutter technology offers better picture quality and is able to present full-HD images. However, the ‘shuttering’ glasses required to enjoy the effect are expensive, prone to flicker and, in the case of LED TVs, nearly always display crosstalk (where you see double images).

Passive 3D (also known as Cinema 3D and Easy 3D) is a cheaper alternative, with the necessary glasses often handed out free to spectators of the latest 3D blockbusters. It delivers only half the horizontal resolution of the standard image, making diagonal and curvy object edges appear jagged.

Note that not all 3D-ready TVs are supplied with 3D glasses; those that are often come with only one pair. Be sure to factor in the price of additional specs – up to £80 each – unless you intend your 3D experience to be a solitary one.

Internet connectivity

With BBC iPlayer and YouTube now almost ubiquitous on smart TVs, people increasingly expect to be able to get online via the telly in their living room. Having experienced catch-up content on a TV, you’ll never want to return to streaming programmes to a laptop. See also: Laptop Advisor

Many of today’s TVs offer movie-rental services, but you should check what content is on offer if this will form an important part of your buying decision. Premium movie operators, such as Acetrax and Sony Movies Unlimited, tend to have a wider choice of new movies than Lovefilm, while Netflix doesn’t offer any new movies at all.

Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t always a given, so be sure to check if you run a wireless home network or intend to site the TV in a place difficult to reach with an ethernet cable. Some screens now offer Wi-Fi Direct or WiDi technology – handy if you want a simple hook-up for a phone or tablet, which doesn’t impose itself on your main network resources.

Modern TV sets are able to play a range video and audio files, but the results can vary dramatically between brands – a potential dealbreaker if you have a hard drive filled with MKV files. In general, USB media readers offer the widest compatibility.

Reviews:

LG 47LM670T

Panasonic Viera TX-L47WT50

Philips 46PFL9706

Samsung UE46ES8000

Sony Bravia KDL-46HX853

Toshiba 46TL963

You've probably heard this before, but there has never been a better time to buy a new TV. Technology has taken flat-screens into areas that would have seemed fanciful just a couple of years ago, DLNA-fuelled connectivity is finally coming of age and gogglebox design now attracts gasps and not guffaws. The only tough decision is deciding which television will serve you best.

 

To offer aid and solace, we’ve gathered six 46 and 47in models together. This category is fast becoming the main battleground for TV manufacturers, as people migrate up from 42inch models. With bezels verging on Lilliputian, these larger sets tend not to occupy much more space than their smaller brethren.

 

All our chosen combatants are 3D ready. Whether you actually want to watch in 3D is pretty much academic, as stereoscopy has become a standard feature on all big brand TVs of this size.

 

There are two types of 3D tech in widespread use: Active Shutter and Passive Polarisation. While they do the same job with 3D Blu-rays and broadcast 3D TV from the likes of Sky and VirginMedia, they have different characteristics. Active Shutter 3D TVs offer the highest level picture quality, presenting a Full HD image to both peepers.

However they require expensive shuttering glasses which can be prone to flicker, and in the case of LED TVs nearly always suffer to a greater or lesser extent from crosstalk (where you see double imaging).

Passive 3D (also known as Cinema 3D and Easy 3D) is the alternative, but it delivers only half the horizontal resolution, making the edges of diagonal and curvy objects appear somewhat jaggy. But the glasses are cheap (you can even use the disposable Real D specs handed out at your local multiplex) and comfortable to wear. It’s worth noting that not all TVs actually ship with 3D glasses; some are only available as optional extras, which could make a big dent in your budget at £80 per pair.

 

While 3D tomfoolery continues to divide opinion, internet connectivity is quickly becoming a must have. Once you’ve experienced streaming catch-up on your living room screen, you’ll not want to go back to watching it on a laptop. Both the BBC iPlayer and YouTube are pretty much ubiquitous on Smart TVs, but secondary services vary greatly between the various walled-gardens operated by manufacturers. It’s worth checking the content offering before slapping down your credit card, though. If you’re hoping to migrate from physical movie rentals to a Video on Demand streaming solution, consider carefully the services on offer. Premium movie operators, such as Acetrax and Sony Movies Unlimited, tend to have a wider choice of new movies than Lovefilm, while Netflix doesn’t offer any new movies at all. 

 

Another key point any prospective buyer should consider is integrated Wi-Fi. This may not be an issue if you already (and sensibly) use a wired Ethernet connection, perhaps delivered via a Homeplug wall wart, but it could prove crucial if plan to site your next TV in a difficult-to-network location. Some screens have even started to offer a local connection using either Wi-Fi Direct or Intel’s WiDi technology; this can be handy if you want a simple hook-up for a phone or tablet, that doesn’t impose itself on your main network resources.

 

Another area that distinguishes today’s TVs is their ability to play video and audio files. Results vary dramatically between brands, and incompetence in this area could be a deal breaker if you happen to have a hard drive packed with MKV files. Generally speaking, USB media readers offer the widest compatibility, but there can be gaping discrepancies when streaming files across your local network, from a NAS for example.

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