Freeview HD: The TVs you’ll need

If you've got money to burn, Sky+ HD is where to head for myriad high-definition TV channels. But the arrival of Freeview HD looks set to put the high-def cat amongst the broadcast pigeons - for the summer months, at least.

The reason, of course, is the World Cup. According to Government rules, the World Cup is on the reserve list of sporting events so must be screened by terrestrial broadcasters - and that means BBC and ITV. Both broadcasters now have high-definition channels, but Sky only carries BBC HD - unless you want to do some fiddling of your own with no guarantee that it'll work forever.

If you're going legit though, ITV1 HD is currently exclusive to Freesat. If you've recently invested in a Freesat dish (or you have an old Sky dish), set-top box or integrated TV, you're set-up for HD - and for the World Cup in high-def too.

That's a good option for many parts of the UK that won't be seeing digital switchover until after June but, for anyone else out there, Freeview HD looks like it's going to give you more options in the short-term with double the HD offering by the end of the year.

Take a quick look at our UK HD platforms guide and work out if Freeview HD is the best choice for you. If it is, then you're in luck as Freeview HD set-top boxes are already available from Humax and, soon, from Toshiba, 3View and Pace. The big brands have also just announced a raft of new LCD, LED and plasma TVs with Freeview HD tuners built-in. So, if you want to ride the first wave of Freeview HD in style, then these are the boards to choose from.

If you're wondering where Samsung and Philips are, then the answer is that Philips will not be doing any TVs in 2010 with Freeview HD tuners built in. You'll have to buy a seperate adaptor to slot in for that.

As for Samsung, we've had confirmation that the Korean giant will be announcing details of its Freeview HD sets soon and, with a press event in the diary for two weeks's time, expect an update to this article then. Until then, the choices are as follows:

 

Panasonic - VT20 Plasmas

Models
65-inch & 50-inch

Availability
April


The VT20s are the very top of what Panasonic has to offer right now including Vieralink - the web-enabled series of content widgets - the company's "infinite black pro" contrast technology, a couple of USB ports, support for Wi-Fi dongles, hard disk recording - if you plug one in - and all the DLNA you could ever wish for. Oh, and 3D of course. They've got typically plasma 600Hz technology, 5,000,000:1 contrast and a shimmering bronze finish.

 

LG - Infinia Plasma TVs

 

 

Models
PK590, PK790 & PK990 plasmas (50-60-inch)

Availability
April


LG's PK590 plasmas are entry-level models but still find the room to include Bluetooth (for wireless headphones or receiving pictures sent from a phone) and DivX HD playback. LG's PK990 sits at the top of the tree with an X-Black Filter as well as the standout features of the PK790 plasmas - a Wi-Fi dongle, an IPTV service, and two USB ports.

 

Panasonic - V20 Plasmas & LED Backlit

Models
42-inch & 50-inch (Plasma) 42-inch & 37-inch (LED)

Availability
May


Thankfully, Panasonic do also make the famous plasma TVs in slightly more human sizes as well. Enter the V20 range with the same refresh rates and contrast as the top end models as well as the Vieracast functionality. If you'd rather go smaller still, and down to 2-inch thin, then you can get this high end offering in LCD with 200 LED backlighting tech. The contrast goes down to just the 2,000,000:1 and the metal colour switches to a slightly more sedate titanium finish.

 

Sony – "Signature" Edge LED TVs

Models
KDL-40LX903, KDL-52LX903, KDL-60LX903

Availability
March

Sony is going two better than LG by promising that not only will it be the first to sell Freeview HD TVs, but that three-quarters of its 2010 Bravia TVs will have such tuners. Its lead "Signature" range is also capable of displaying Full HD 3D material from future 3D Blu-ray players, though Wi-Fi, DLNA streaming, Motionflow 200Hz PRO and Image Blur Reduction will be of immediate value. This Edge LED set with new "monolithic" design also features an Intelligent Presence Sensor that has face detection, though we're not sure what that's all about.

Toshiba – RV Series LCD TVs

Models
32-, 37- and 42-inch

Availability
May


Out just in time for the World Cup is Toshiba's RV Series of LCD TVs. With Full HD panels, Dolby Volume and Resolution+ upscaling tech, these non-100Hz tellies add DLNA networking, a MetaBrain picture processing engine and SoundNavi, a new speaker design that replaces down-firing speakers; perfect for wall-mounting.

LG – LCD TVs

 

Models
LD790 & LD690 LCD TVs (32-42-inch)

Availability
April


Also available from LG are some basic entry-level LCD TVs with Freeview HD inside, which includes 32-42-inch sets. Nothing exciting, but it's good to know that Freeview HD will be open to all budgets and not just a high-end feature. No images but anyone but anyone expecting anything other than a large black rectangle is in for a shock.

 

Panasonic - G20 Plasmas & LEDs

Models
42-, 46- & 50-inch (plasma) 32-inch & 37-inch (LCD)

Availability
May


If you're dead set on Panasonic but can't quite stump up for the top range, the G20 series provides a decent balance and performance without having to sacrifice the connectivity and whistles and bells of the lower S20 range. The bigger plasmas maintain the NeoPDP technology from the V20s and the LCD variants mean a drop in contrast but still with strong LED backlighting.

 

Toshiba – SL Series Edge LED TVs

Models
32-, 40- and 46-inch

Availability
May


Though so called "full" LED TVs arguably have better contrast than "edge" LED sets, the latter is usually plumper and less popular in shops. That's convinced Toshiba to concentrate on Edge LED for its step-up range of Freeview HD screens. The main additions on the these SL Series of LED TVs is Active Vision M200HD - that's 200Hz to you - as well as a Wi-Fi dongle for DLNA networking.

Sony – "Cinematic" Full LED TVs

Models
KDL-46HX903, KDL-52HX903, KDL-46HX803, KDL-52HX803, KDL-46H703, KDL-52HX703

Availability
March


"Cinematic's" chief wizardry is its Full LED panel, which basically means that tiny LED lights are lined-up all behind the screen instead of just at the sides (as in "Edge" LED TVs), but it's also based around an OptiContrast panel. Cinematic TV will also sport Motionflow 200Hz Pro, a Freeview HD tuner, Image Blur Reduction and Full HD 3D compatibility, to boot.

LG – Infinia LE9500 3D LED TV

Models
55LE9500

Availability
April


Featuring LG's "borderless" design, the 55-inch 55LED9500 is in a category all its own. As well as being 3D-compatible, this top-of-the-range Full LED screen somehow squeezes in a Freeview HD tuner into its 6.9mm deep frame as well as four HDMI ins, 400Hz tech and Skype.

 

Panasonic - D28 LED Backlit

Models
19-, 22-, 32- & 37-inch

Availability
April


One of the most consumer friendly series of all comes from the Panasonic D28 range. The panel sizes are small, with the lower two just 720p, but that doesn't mean that they can't enjoy the quality that a 200 LED backlighting system provides. It means you still get 2,000,000:1 contrast and it also comes with an iPod dock for media playback. They're available in White, Silver and Purple, just in case you're Prince.

 

Sony – "Presence" Edge LED TVs

Models
KDL-40NX803, KDL-52NX803, KDL-40NX703, KDL-52NX703, KDL-40NX503, KDL-52NX503, KDL-40NX403, KDL-52NX403

Availability
March


This is Sony's non-3D statement range of 2010 – "Presence" has a "monolithic" design, Freeview HD, Wi-Fi for both online widgetry and DLNA streaming from a PC, Motionflow 200Hz and Image Blur Reduction. That's some top tech, while the Edge LED backlit LCD panel and glass/brushed aluminium TV stand is the final flourish.  

LG – Infinia LED TVs

Models
LE8900, LE7900 and LE5900 LED TVs (32-55-inch)

Availability
April


After a bevy of Freesat HD tellies in 2009, it's no surprise that LG has promised to have Freeview HD built in to half of all its flat TVs this year. Its three-pronged approach is headed-up by the 55LE8900, a 55-inch LED TV, though more affordable options come it the shape of the 32-inch 32LE7900 and 32LE5900.

 

Panasonic - D25 LED Backlit

Models
32-, 37-, 42-inch & 46-inch

Availability
May


If you're after something nice and thin, the the D25 series has just a 1.5-inch cabinet protruding from your wall. At the same time it still has the 200 LED backlighting system Panasonic is going for this season as well as full Vieracast and intelligent frame technology as well.

 

Toshiba – WL Series Edge LED TVs

Models
40-, 46- and 55-inch

Availability
May

The flagship range for Toshiba in 2010, its WL Series builds on its other ranges to add a 200Hz mode to its built-in Freeview HD tuner despite being ultra slim (a whopping 56% slimmer than Tosh's 2009 screens, apparently). Elsewhere you'll find an integrated Wi-Fi module (no need for a dongle), four HDMI inputs and a USB port.

Sony – "Essential" Slim Edge LED TVs


Models
KDL-32EX700, KDL-40EX700, KDL-46EX700, KDL-52EX700, KDL-60EX700, KDL-32EX603, KDL-40EX603, KDL-46EX603, KDL-52EX603, KDL-60EX603, KDL-32EX503, KDL-40EX503, KDL-46EX503, KDL-52EX503, KDL-60EX503, KDL-32EX403, KDL-40EX403, KDL-46EX403, KDL-52EX403, KDL-60EX403, KDL-32EX302, KDL-40EX302, KDL-46EX302, KDL-52EX302, KDL-60EX302, KDL-32BX200, KDL-40BX200, KDL-46BX200, KDL-52BX200, KDL-60BX200

Availability
Late February

This huge range pinpoints exactly what Sony thinks is the next big thing in the mainstream market - super-slim, LED backlit TVs with almost everything inside. The flagship EX700 range features Freeview HD, Wi-Fi for access to Sony's widgets, Bravia Engine 3 and Motionflow 100Hz, though some "Essential" models - it's not clear exactly which ones as yet - will have built-in Blu-ray players.

Panasonic - S20 Plasmas & LCDs


Models
42-, 46- & 50-inch (Plasma) 32-inch & 37-inch (LCD)

Availability
May

For slightly less bang and considerably less so buck, Panasonic has its version of no frills TVs in both plasma and LCD types. The S20 range doesn't feature any of the Vieracast internet connectivity or quite the same levels of contrast but they do contain that all important Freeview HD receiver and a good range of panel sizes.

 

Conclusions

If you weren't already bombarded by the options, then you certainly ought to be by now. The take home message here is that, if you're on a budget, then you'd probably best look to buying a separate Freeview HD tuner for your current set.

If you are in the mood for a big purchase, then from plasma to LCD, with a bit of LED thrown in, there's pretty much whatever you want.

We'll add prices when we get them.