Making the connections - the basics

A critical part of buying a new TV is understanding your existing set up and how it will connect to your new set.  You will also want to consider what devices you may want to replace and what you may connect in the future.

There are three main areas to consider:

  1. Where does my TV source come from?
  2. Will I use a separate sound system?
  3. What other devices will connect to my TV?

TVs with Built-in Freeview

Freeview is the only accredited and confirmed Free-to-air digital terrestrial television service in the United Kingdom.  Pretty much every TV will have a Freeview tuner built in.  If you have a co-ax cable running from a TV aerial, you are good to go.

TVs with Built-in Freesat

Many homes have a satellite dish installed from a previous SKY subscription, or if a TV aerial signal is weak.  An F-plug cable running from a dish will deliver a great picture and free TV channels without a monthly subscription.  Only selected models will have the capability to plug straight into a Freesat tuner, so check models carefully if you receive your TV from a satellite dish.

TVs with Built-in Youview

This is similar to Freeview, but will provide the added bonus of mixing in some internet content directly into your TV guide, providing a hybrid system.  This system will require a TV aerial set up (the same as Freeview) and a monthly internet subscription.  Any smart TV will have an ethernet connection and/or Wi-Fi to connect to your broadband provider.

Will I need a separate sound system?

Sound bars and home theatre kits are selling well due to flat panel TVs delivering inadequate sound capabilities.  Tiny built in speakers often pointing in the wrong direction don’t make for the best audio experience.

If you are considering this option it’s worth knowing the three main ways to connect and making sure you have flexibility and compatibility when making your purchase:

1. Analog outputs

These will be in the form of a 3.5mm jack plug (like a headphone connector) or red and white RCA connectors.

2. Digital optical audio outputs

These take the form of a square peg and the port has a distinct red light when powered on.  These connections are excellent for quality sound and work well with 5:1 or 7:1 surround sound.

3. HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC)

If you are buying a new TV and sound bar I would recommend trying to find products that will support this connectivity.  The sound quality again will be excellent, with the added feature of being able to simplify your set up.  Your sound system will fire up when you turn the TV on too, limiting the requirement for extra remote controls all the time.

Connecting other devices (usually HDMI)

HDMI cables will be the primary connector for any modern devices that you have or may want to own in the future so make sure any TV you buy has plenty.  I suggest three at an absolute minimum.  This will include games consoles, blu ray players and 4K TV boxes (use HDMI 2.0 cables for these).  You may still find SCART or COMPONENT connections for old DVD or TV boxes but this is not certain.  If you have older boxes this may be the time to think about their replacement at the same time as your TV as you are likely to be disappointed with the quality results from antiquated equipment.

Make a clear road map of existing and new products you are considering BEFORE thinking about your TV purchase.  This will save you a lot of pain down the line if you find that the TV you have bought can't accommodate your set up, or you are have to make two and three trips to the store looking for expensive adapters, replacement boxes or cables.