We like sports and we don’t care who knows. So if you’re anything like us, you’ll want a top-tier telly that’s capable of displaying sports events at the highest quality possible.
There are many factors that come into play when choosing a sports-ready television, including size, resolution, viewing angles, color vibrance and refresh rates, to name but a few.
With the NBA playoffs and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games coming up in April, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup following shortly after in June, there’s no better time to get your home prepared for the onslaught of sporting action headed your way this year.
In this buying guide, we’ve taken the liberty of selecting some of the best TVs for sports watching that are currently available on the market. Here are our picks for the best TVs for sports in 2018.
Sony Bravia A1E OLED (Sony A1 in UK & Australia)
One of the most aesthetically gorgeous televisions ever made, Sony’s A1E OLED delivers everything you’d want from a sports-ready television, and then some.
It’s 4K HDR Processor X Extreme is capable of upscaling SDR content to provide an HDR-like experience that offers increased color depth and brightness.
It’s also great with motion, with a native refresh rate of 120Hz lending an exceptionally smooth look to sporting events – though only when you switch on Motionflow mode.
As with all OLED televisions, contrast is extraordinary. An infinite contrast ratio means you’ll always get deep, true blacks in whatever you’re watching (depending on the clarity of source material), which would benefit sports greatly (especially for night-time events).
Perhaps the A1 OLED’s biggest selling point, however, is its unrivalled viewing angles – seriously, no other TV we’ve reviewed comes close to what this set can accomplish. You can be sitting directly beside it and still see what’s on-screen at its full brightness and clarity. It really is astonishing in that regard. If you’re the type who regularly has buddies over to join you in your sports watching, you’ll be happy to know that all of them will have a great view of the action from wherever they’re sitting in your living room.
Full review: Sony Bravia A1 OLED
LG OLED B7
Want to get an OLED television that won’t break your budget? LG’s 2017 entry-level OLED, the B7, features the exact the same panel and processor as the company’s highest-end TV in the same series.
Thanks to OLED’s self-lighting pixels, this panel has an infinite contrast ratio, meaning it’s able to produce the deepest blacks possible — perfect for watching sports.
That very same processor will also keep tabs on motion, ensuring that your image is always smooth and stutter-free. It’s also got a 120Hz refresh rate that can be put to great use with the TV’s numerous TruMotion settings — we found the TruMotion Clear setting to be the best way to watch sport on the B7, hands down.
Of course, it also has a dedicated Sports mode preset, which you can easily switch on without too much tinkering in settings. Add to this some excellent color reproduction and impressive brightness, and the LG OLED B7 is highly recommended for sports fans.
Full review: LG OLED B7
Sony Bravia X900E (XE90 in the UK, X9000E in Australia)
We absolutely loved Sony’s 9-Series TVs last year, naming the 55-inch model as our favorite mid-range screen of 2018. A lot of that has to do with how well the 9-Series handles motion — something that Sony is unrivalled at right now, thanks largely to its Motionflow XR 800 functionality, with can display content at a native 100Hz signal.
Admittedly, they’re not necessarily the brightest TVs around, but they’re capable of incredibly vibrant images. They’ve got surprisingly good audio, too, so you’ll still get a decent sound experience even if you don’t have a soundbar or hi-fi system.
Though its remote no longer includes a dedicated ‘Football’ button like it did on the 8-Series, the Sony X900E is still an outstanding 4K HDR-ready television for watching sports.
Full review: Sony Bravia X900E
Samsung Q7F QLED
One of the brightest TVs on the market, Samsung’s Q7F is the set to get if you want to avoid looking at dull, lackluster HD broadcasts of games — even if it is a little more pricey than others.
Where most televisions will produce around 1,000 nits of peak brightness, Samsung’s astonishing QLED TVs nearly double that. The Q7Fs are Samsung’s entry-level QLEDs, boasting a color volume that’s able to reach 100% for truly eye-watering images of incredible vibrance. As they’re the most affordable sets in Samsung’s QLED range, you should consider them your gateway to bright, beautiful imagery worthy of a World Cup match.
We’re also pleased to note that these tellies are the flat variety (as opposed to Samsung’s many other curved sets), meaning that everyone in your TV room should be able to get a good view of the action.
When it comes to motion, Samsung’s Q7F goes all out, with its 200Hz refresh rate providing incredibly smooth playback. This should ensure that your sports look exceptionally fluid.
Full review: Samsung Q7F QLED
Samsung MU7000 (MU6400 in the UK)
Samsung’s QLED series is as top-tier as they come, but it’s a little pricey for the average consumer who just wants a great 4K television that does a good job of displaying sports.
With that in mind, Samsung’s MU7000 Series (MU6400 in the UK) is a terrific mid-range option — one which offers impressive visual clarity and punchy HDR+ colors.
Some minor processing judder may hamper the watching of sports on occasion (the MU7000 has a 60Hz refresh rate), and viewing angles aren’t as great as some higher-end TVs on this list, though it should be noted that the MU7000 Series still performs better than most rivals in this price range.
The color richness this set is capable of displaying will blow you away, with a more full-on high dynamic range experience than you’d normally get from a mid-range television. Add to this a peak brightness of around 1000 nits, and you have yourself an exceptionally vibrant viewing experience.
Full review: Samsung MU7000
The features that matter for watching sports
So what exactly does a TV need to be good at in order to display sports at the highest quality possible? To give you a more thorough understanding of the tech that makes sports look amazing on your telly, we’ve created a guide on the features you should look out for.
Refresh rate (motion-smoothing): While we’re of the firm opinion that motion-smoothing modes can absolutely ruin the watching of movies and television shows, (applying a ghastly ‘soap opera’ effect that makes everything look sped up and overly animated), they can actually really benefit live sports watching. High refresh rates allow for smoother motion and clarity, especially during quick camera pans that track a ball’s fast movements. In fact, higher frame rates really make it feel like the action is happening right in front of you – which is exactly what you want when watching sports.
Viewing angles: This one will be most important to those who like to ‘get the whole team over’ when they’re watching sport, as wide viewing angles will make it possible for everyone in your living room to get a good view of the action. If your viewing angles are too narrow, those sitting off the the side will miss out on all the action – and we can’t have that, can we? Our advice is to take note of viewing angles when making the decision to purchase a new TV. If you’re able to look at your prospective television in-store, we suggest standing at either side of it to ensure that images are still bright and clear (and colors are still strong) from a near 90-degree angle. If the screen looks dark, you should definitely avoid it.
Peak brightness: If want your sports to look as great as possible, you’ll need a sufficiently bright television. Your TV may be capable of showing all the colors in the world, but without a high peak brightness, they can end up looking dull and muted. Most content these days targets 1,000 nits of brightness, so you’ll want a television that can reach that if you want to unlock HDR’s full potential.
4K resolution: When buying a new television in 2018, a resolution of at least 4K (2160p) is an absolute must. Though the list of sporting events broadcast at 4K resolution is still relatively small, you’ll definitely want to future-proof your living room for when live UHD really does take off. It’s also worth noting that most 4K televisions are adept at upscaling high definition 1080p content, so regardless of the broadcast you’re watching, it should still look great.
HDR: Like 4K, high dynamic range (HDR) is another feature that’s destined to become a huge deal in the not-too-distant future. High dynamic range video offers colors that are closer to what the human eye sees in real life, allowing for a much wider color gamut to be displayed on your television than regular SDR sets. This means brighter and more naturalistic colors when viewing HDR content. Some televisions, including the Sony A1 OLED listed above, employ HDR upscaling, which gives standard dynamic range content an HDR-like upgrade.