The latest ultra-thin TVs combine elegant form with super-sharp images and a host of other treats such as online features and 3-D.
Best for value Toshiba 32RL858 £399
TVs are getting slimmer and the trick used by all but one of the size zero sets on test is edge LED lighting, which replaces an entire layer of the TV — the backlight — with lights around the edge of the frame. Such technology makes this 32in Toshiba just 30mm thick. Despite its bargain price it comes with extras such as a Freeview HD tuner, access to online features and video and audio playback via USB. But it is not 3-D. The unusually good — for the money — quality of the edge LED system and picture processing helps it produce sharp pictures with more contrast and punchier colour than almost any other 32in TV at this price.
Verdict One heck of a bargain.
Best for ease of use LG 42LW550T £640
Everything about this 42in TV is friendly. It’s just 39mm thick; its onscreen menus are the best designed on test; and LG’s online offering is full of fun video and app content. Even the passive 3-D playback is family-friendly, as you get seven pairs of glasses free, don’t have to recharge and sync the glasses with the screen or even dim the lights to avoid the flickering oftenseen with the active 3-D systems used by the Philips, Samsung and Panasonic. Its 3-D images don’t look quite as polished as on active sets, but pictures are still good.
Verdict All TVs should be this simple to set up and use.
Best for performance Philips 46PFL9706T £2,300
The one set on test not to use edge LED is this 46in Philips. It uses direct LED: lights sited to the rear, which can be automatically turned on and off to produce much more accurate contrast than edge LED offers. It has exceptional sharpness and excellent motion handling — pictures were the best on test for contrast and colour — but packing that technology into a panel 39mm deep results in a high price tag. Other features include HD 3-D, multimedia file playback and startlingly powerful sound. ~
Verdict The best picture on test — for the most money too.
Best for design Samsung UE55D7000 £1,800
The slimmest set on test has a chrome bezel, or surround, barely 1cm wide and just 29mm deep, making this 55in screen look like it’s hanging in thin air. It’s not just a pretty face, featuring one of the best presented, content-rich online services, plus multimedia playback options and 3-D. Picture quality, too, is dazzling, with potent colours, great clarity and a strong contrast range. During dark scenes some parts of the picture can look unnaturally bright — but this effect can be adjusted by delving into the settings.
Verdict One of the least obtrusive big-screen TVs you can buy.
Best for gaming Panasonic TX-L37DT30 £720
Blessed with a 37in screen, unusually wide viewing angle (unlike some edge LED sets) and low, 30-millisecond input lag (the time between a picture arriving into a TV and it appearing on screen), this is a great screen for video gamers. With 3-D gaming starting to take off, it’s a bonus that this set, which is just 33mm deep, produced the cleanest 3-D images seen to date on any set that isn’t a plasma. Panasonic offers good online features too, and the pictures are sharp and clean, though contrast isn’t great. And it’s a little expensive.
Verdict Fast responses but not cheap.