TechRadar's Gerald Lynch guides you through the top televisions for sports fans

The best TVs to watch rugby

It’s a big couple of months for rugby fans as the 2021 autumn Internationals fixtures run from late October to late November. Thanks to Amazon Prime Video streaming, as well as coverage on BBC and Channel 4, plenty of these matches will be televised – but which TV should you be watching them on?

As you might have guessed by the wildly different price points of the TVs at your local gadget retailer, not all televisions are created equal. And while sets have become much better at presenting the whip-crack speed of Sbu Nkosi and Jonny May at full pelt clearly, marketing jargon around refresh rates and motion settings can confuse which sets actually look good when displaying rugby – and other sports, for that matter.

See, a TV that’s set up to be great for films isn’t necessarily perfectly calibrated for sports, and vice versa. UK sports broadcast, for instance, is primarily at a refresh rate (the amount of times the image updates per second) of 50Hz – or 50 frames per second. Film on the other hand tends to be at 24 frames per second.

Factor in the speed and direction of camera movement and the constant motion of colour, and things can get complicated for lesser sets that also have to handle edge definition and the compressed nature that streams come in at. That’s before even considering high-end features like HDR settings (high dynamic range – how bright and dark elements of a scene are made to look lifelike together), resolution (how sharp a screen is) or general colour accuracy.

Keep in mind also that, with the Black Friday and Cyber Monday mega-sales just around the corner at the end of November, there may be an opportunity to pick up some of the better sets at bargain basement prices. Top, brand-new tellies don’t tend to see huge discounts, but a screen from last year’s big ranges might be found at a good discount as retailers look to shift stock from their warehouses, and may only be marginally behind what the latest screens offer in terms of picture quality.

Here are three top picks that’ll be great for watching sports all year around, as well as being generally great for all the other things you use your TV for, whether that’s watching Eastenders or playing with a PlayStation.

The best TVs to watch rugby


The best TV money can buy

best TVs to watch rugby

+ Excellent picture quality / Superb motion accuracy / Great for gaming
Some catch-up TV apps are missing

SPECS: Screen size 48-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch, 77-inch | Resolution 4K | Panel type OLED | Smart TV webOS | HDR HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision

With its deep, inky blacks, beautifully accurate colours and speedy web-connected interface, the LG CX OLED TV would be a great screen even if it wasn’t superb at handling sporting content. But the rugby will look superb on LG’s flagship screen thanks to its smart and smooth handling of motion.

But to get the best out of this set, you’re going to need to delve into the settings menu a little. Starting at the ‘Sports’ preset, jump into the TruMotion settings while watching a match and slide the ‘de-judder’ dial to 2 and ‘de-blur’ setting to 10. This should give you a nice and smooth presentation without losing detail – though consider switching TruMotion off when going back to watching a film to avoid that dreaded ‘soap opera’ effect.

Panasonic HX800B

Great quality without breaking the bank

best TVs to watch rugby

+ Supports all major HDR formats / Excellent value for money / Great quality even at smaller sizes

HDR could be brighter

SPECS: Screen size 40-inch, 50-inch, 58-inch, 65-inch | Resolution 4K | Panel type LED-LCD | Smart TV My Home Screen 5.0 | HDR HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR10+

Though screens of the same name regularly come in multiple sizes, smaller sets in a range usually miss out on some of the finer components and tunings of their bigger brothers. Not so with the Panasonic HX800 – despite being considered a ‘mid-range’ set thanks to its pricing, it punches well above its weight, no matter what screen size you settle on.

Incredibly lifelike (Panasonic’s latest screens tend to be the sets of choice for Hollywood’s big-name directors), the screen is richly detailed and incredibly accurate in the way it reproduces colour.

Even better, the Panasonic HX800 looks great for rugby straight out of the box without the need to tinker too much – if at all – with any of its motion settings. Turn it over to the television’s ‘Sports’ picture mode and you’re good to go (though the perfectionist may want to tweak the ‘Intelligent Frame Creation’ option to ramp up the detail in edges at high speed).

Philips 65OLED805

A showstopper when your friends are around

best TVs to watch rugby

+ Wonderful industrial design / Rich contrast / Hypnotic Ambilight feature

Requires a bit of finessing in the settings menus

SPECS: Screen size 55-inch, 65-inch | Resolution 4K | Panel type OLED | Smart TV Android TV 9.0 | HDR HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR10+

With a similarly rich display as the LG option, the Philips OLED 805 is as cinematic as it is well-stocked with image options perfect for sports broadcasts.

But the Philips OLED 805 has an ace up its sleeve: Ambilight. This feature, exclusive to Philips TVs, sees LED light lights on the back of the screen glow in colours to match the action up front. So whether it’s the yellow haze of a desert or the green grass of Twickenham’s pitch, the Philips OLED 805 will appear to expand the picture’s colours beyond the bounds of the screen and onto the wall behind it. It’s a great immersive extra, and a great talking point if you’ve got friends around to watch a game.

Just be aware that the Philips OLED 805 needs a bit of attention when you first set it up to make sports coverage really sing. Our top tip? Turn off the ‘noise reduction’ options, as they’ll end up leaving the fast-moving action looking a bit smeared.

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