Televisions (TV) Buying Guide
Skip to main content

 Reviews & Guides

Televisions (TV) Buying Guide

If you're curious about LCDs or plasma screens, or just want to replace your old analogue TV set, you'll find what you want on eBay.

When shopping for a television, think about what you'll use it for and what your budget is. You might want some of the amazing features found on new TVs, such as integrated digital receivers, digital surround sound and compatibility with the new High Definition technology - or you may just want to watch your favourite programme in colour.

eBay's Television Buying Guide will help you choose the perfect TV, big or small, and show you how to find it.

Size and Shape

Size and Shape

TV sets come in all shapes and sizes - from hand-sized portables to widescreen plasma panels that'll fill your living room wall. Before buying a giant screen, make sure you have space for it. If space-saving is your main priority, a portable or a combi (TV with built-in VCR or DVD player) would be a sensible choice.

Measure the area where you plan to put your new TV - length, height and depth. Then look for dimensions in the item listing. If a seller hasn't included dimensions, click the "Ask Seller a Question" link and find out before you bid. Different types of TV are better suited to different types of space:       

  • Small Room: ideal for a flat-panel LCD between 15" and 21", a portable tube up to 20" or a combination TV with VCR or DVD.

  • Long narrow Room: Rear-projection TV or flat-panel LCD or plasma screen in a popular large screen size, such as 32", 42", 44" or more.

  • Large Room: Widescreen tube, plasma, LCD or rear-projection. Again, large screens are great if space allows.

Also make sure that the screen isn't so big you can't watch it comfortably. Here's a guideline:

Distance from TV Screen Size

5 - 7 feet

32" or under

8 - 9 feet

42" to 44"

10 - 11 feet

44" to 50"

11 - 13 feet

50" to 60"

13 - 14 feet

60" to 70"

15 + feet

70" +

Note: Visible screen size measures diagonally across the screen.

Back to topBack to top

Sound and Picture Quality

Sound and Picture Quality

You'll notice terms like 100Hz, 500:1 and Nicam in item listings. Here's what they mean:

  • Frequency rate: Also known as "refresh rate", this is the number of times a TV picture is updated per second. Most conventional TVs have a rate of 50Hz, but some people notice flickering. Newer TVs are 100Hz, giving a clearer picture.     

  • Contrast ratio: The difference between the brightest white and the darkest black. Average is 500:1, but some of the latest Panasonic plasma screens have ratios of 3000:1 and 4000:1.     

  • Screen resolution: The more pixels on your TV screen, the better the picture quality. The best 15" LCD screens display around 1,024x768 pixels. * Nicam stereo: Clear sound from built-in twin speakers.     

  • Dolby Surround: Most TV programmes broadcast in Dolby Surround, and your TV uses Dolby Pro Logic to decode it. Pro Logic can also decode the new Dolby Digital signal from DVD and digital TV broadcasts.    

  • Dolby Pro Logic II: Improved Dolby Pro Logic.     

  • Dolby Digital 5.1: Currently the best sound system available. Worth the investment if you watch a lot of DVDs or play computer games.     

  • Home Cinema: Ensures the best quality surround sound. One option is to invest in separate home cinema units such as powerful subwoofer speakers from a maker like Goodmans, Denon or Sony; an amplifier from a brand like Yamaha or Technics and a digital receiver from a maker like Toshiba, Hyundai, Bush, Pace or Sony. Alternatively choose a complete home cinema system. Popular brands include Sony, Hitachi, Pioneer and Panasonic.     

  • Connections: Good connecting leads ensure the best sound and picture quality. You'll need one Scart or AV socket for each piece of extra equipment, such as digital satellite set-top box, DVD player or games console. Most TVs now come with three or four sockets, but if you need more you can find Scart switching boxes for around on eBay, along with the best gold-plated Scart leads.

Back to topBack to top

Digital Satellite TV

Digital Satellite TV

If you're not currently a subscriber to Freeview or Sky, you can find lots of products on eBay to help you join the digital satellite TV age - essential when the analogue signals are switched off in 2012.

If you need a digital set-top box, there are hundreds for sale on eBay. The range of prices and features is broad, from basic Freeview digital TV receivers by Pace, Goodmans, Thomson and Philips, to those that include a hard disk for recording or pausing live TV (PVRs, or personal video recorders). Popular brands making Freeview PVRs include Pace, Thomson, Humax and Topfield. When shopping for a PVR, look for features including a twin (or more) tuner so that you can watch or record two different channels at once, lots of hard disk space (40GB records 20 hours, 160GB 80 hours) and Top-Up card compatibility for extra digital channels.

You'll also find lots of items on eBay that help you turn your PC into a digital TV receiver and PVR. Hauppauge makes digital receivers that you plug into your TV, plus PC cards that allow you to record programmes, edit recording and burn to DVD. You may not need a set-top digital TV box at all if you buy one of the newest TVs. Many now have digital TV receivers built in (IDTVs, or integrated digital TV receivers). A TV with an IDTV lets you access to all Freeview digital channels without a separate box.

Back to topBack to top

High Definition Television

High Definition Television

You'll experience cinema-quality sound and vision on your TVwith High Definition Television (HDTV).

High Definition Television is a massive step forward in TV technology. A normal digital TV picture comprises 576 vertical lines, but High Definition doubles that to 1080. High Definition also comes integrated with cinema-standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Only TVs described as "HDTV-ready" or "HDTV-compatible" will be able to display High Definition signals with the help of a receiver or tuner. To enjoy high definition at its best, you're better off with a large screen, especially a flat-panel widescreen of 26" or more.

If you see a new TV listed on eBay and want to know whether it's HDTV-ready, email the seller for details.

Back to topBack to top

Conventional Tube

Conventional Tube

Companies including Sony, Pioneer, Philips, Panasonic, Toshiba and Hitachi still make the traditional cathode ray (CRT or "tube") televisions we know and love.

CRT works by generating beams of electrons that bombard a collection of red, green and blue phosphor dots to create the picture.

Tube televisions have many advantages. Many experts regard CRT as the best picture quality you can get, and sound quality is also excellent. They last for years and cost less than flat-panel plasma or LCD TVs. However they are also heavier and deeper, so postage and delivery can be expensive.

Back to topBack to top

Widescreen Tube

Widescreen Tube

When an eBay listing describes a TV screen as "flat", that doesn't necessarily mean it's a flat-panel TV such as an LCD or plasma screen. All CRT widescreen TVs have flat screens. FST (flatter, squarer tube) is now standard, but many newer widescreen TVs have a "pure flat" tube. This extra-flat screen has a distinctive appearance and lets you view from a wider angle without loss of picture quality.

Most widescreen TVs let you switch between aspect ratios: 16:9 (widescreen, for films), 4:3 (traditional, standard for most TV programmes) and zoom. Many new models also come HDTV (High Definition)-ready and with integrated digital TV receivers (IDTVs).

Back to topBack to top

LCD Screen

LCD Screen

If you're short of space or want to be the envy of your friends, look into flat-panel televisions such as LCDs and plasma screens. Most can be hung on the wall, and others displayed on a stand.

Sleek, space-saving liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are popular. If your heart is set on a flat-panel TV but you want good picture quality, choose an LCD rather than a plasma. Almost all LCD TVs are widescreen, though portable LCDs are available in 4:3 format.

LCDs use the same liquid crystal display technology found in LCD computer monitors to create sharp, bright images. Resolution is higher than most types of TV- widescreen 17" LCDs display 1,280x768 pixels, meaning better picture quality.

Most LCD TVs have at least one Scart socket and a PC input, so you can use them as computer monitors. Some LCD models also have integrated digital TV receivers (IDTV).

If you want a large screen TV, your LCD options are limited - most LCD TVs are 32" and smaller. But for small screens they're ideal, and there's a great range of portable LCDs from brands such as LG, Toshiba, Sony, Philips, Samsung, JVC and Sharp.

Back to topBack to top

Plasma Screen

Plasma Screen

If you want a flat-panel TV, and large screen size is your priority, invest in a plasma screen. These stylish TVs are now made by all the major manufacturers including Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony, and they come in huge screen sizes of 42" and 44" and even exceeding 70". However they're only about 7" deep, so a very large plasma screen make still take up less space than a 32" widescreen tube.

Plasma screen pictures are created by thousands of gas cells emitting ultraviolet light. They offer amazing colour quality and a good picture from wide angles.

However plasma screens use around three times as much electricity as most CRT TVs (tubes), and sound quality can be poor, so for best results use Scart leads and home cinema speakers.

Large plasma screens are heavy - about 40kg for a 42" screen - so to hang it on the wall you need special brackets.

Back to topBack to top

Rear-Projection Television

Rear-Projection Television

Rear-projection DLP (digital light processing) TVs are the giants of the flat-panel market - literally. They can have very large screens, far above 70". They're slimmer than conventional televisions, though unlike flat-panel LCD and plasma screen TVs they're not suitable for hanging on the wall.

A rear-projection TV contains a projector that transmits the picture by bouncing it off thousands of tiny mirrors. You can find rear-projection TVs on eBay where the projector is separate from the screen, so the only limit on large screen size is the size of your wall.

Toshiba, Samsung and LG are the big brands in this area, and many of their models are HDTV-ready, so they support the new High Definition signals. There are other types of rear-projection TV:       

  • Rear-Projection CRT: Brands such as Samsung, Toshiba, Philips, Panasonic and Hitachi make rear-projection tubes. They're the most inexpensive rear-projection TVs but they can be bulky.

  • Rear-Projection LCD: The newest and most expensive rear-projection TVs. You'll find slim and lightweight rear-projection LCD TVs on eBay from companies like LG, Sony, Samsung, Casio, Hitachi, Toshiba and Panasonic.

Back to topBack to top

How to Find Televisions on eBay

How to Find Televisions on eBay

There are lots of ways to find the TV you want on eBay. Here are a few tips:

  • Search If you know what you're looking for, use the Search box. Go to the Consumer Electronics Overview page, type your keywords into the box and select a category - for example Televisions, Satellite/Cable/Freeview or DVD & Home Cinema. For example if you're looking for a Panasonic TV, type in "Panasonic" and select Televisions from the drop-down box

  • Narrow your search
    At the top of the listings page you'll see a short list of the most popular brands matching your search. In the Televisions category this list is likely to include Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Pioneer, Toshiba, LG and Hitachi. Click on a brand to see matching items currently for sale.

    The list of links may also include other popular search terms, such as digital TV, large screen, 44" or flat panel. You can also narrow your search by using the Categories list on the left of the listings page. For example in the Televisions listings, the Categories box lets you link directly to Digital TVs, LCD TVs, Plasma Screens/TVs, Portable TVs, Rear Projection TVs, Standard (4:3) Tube TVs, Widescreen Tube TVs, TV/DVD Combinations, TV/VCR Combinations and TV Accessories.

    The Search Options and Matching Categories menus on the listings page also let you narrow your search. For example if you are looking for a Sony widescreen LCD, click the LCD TVs link in the Matching Categories menu to see all Sony widescreen LCDs currently for sale.

  • Browse the categories
    To browse for televisions and accessories, start from the Consumer Electronics Overview page and click the categories that interest you.

    For example if you want a digital TV set-top box, click on the Satellite/Cable/Freeview link to see all digital TV boxes currently for sale.

  • Want It Now
    Desperately seeking a remote control for your Sony plasma screen, or a digital satellite TV decoder for your LCD laptop? Post a message on Want It Now and tell millions of sellers exactly what you want. eBay sellers constantly browse the Want It Now boards for potential buyers. Want It Now is free and easy to use. Click Want It Now on eBay's homepage and post a message in Consumer Electronics or Televisions. Alternatively you could target specialists by posting in a category such as Digital TV or Television Accessories.   

  • Go to eBay Shops
    eBay Shops are run by experienced eBay sellers who sell hundreds of items each day. They tend to specialise in one area such as portable LCD TVs, so you're buying from someone who knows their stuff.

    Click the eBay Shops link on the eBay homepage, then click Consumer Electronics to explore hundreds of TV specialist shops - digital and satellite TV specialists, High Definition TV experts, flat-screen specialists, home cinema shops and so on.

    You can search just within eBay Shops. For example if you're looking for a 42" Panasonic plasma screen, type "42" Panasonic plasma" on the eBay Shops homepage. The results will look similar to any other listings page, but the sellers are all Shops sellers.

Back to topBack to top

Buy With Confidence

Buy With Confidence

You may find the rear-projection LCD TV of your dreams and want to bid on it. But before you do, here are some tips:

  • Work out the postage and insurance: Big TVs can be extremely expensive to post. Widescreen tubes are best bought from someone who lives nearby, so that you can collect it. A portable LCD can be posted, but make sure the seller will insure it.

  • Read the item description carefully: This is particularly important with expensive items like televisions, digital receivers, plasma screens and DVD players. Make sure that instructions and manuals are included.

  • Is it under guarantee? What are the terms?

  • Check the return policy: Email for clarification if you need it.

  • If in doubt, ask. Important information about included software, battery age, earphone quality, included memory cards or hard disk size will be crucial to your decision to bid.

Back to topBack to top

 Content Provided By