The World Cup is coming. If you're a football fan, you'll already be excited about the arrival in June of the sport's greatest competition. If you're not a football fan, you'll almost certainly be dreading the arrival of the World Cup in the same way as a chicken dreads laying an especially large egg. But lovers and haters can unite over one fact at least -- it's time to buy a new TV!
Because the World Cup is going to be shown in high definition, and available on the BBC and ITV's free-to-air HD channels, this is the best year yet to cheer on our plucky footballers. Freeview HD should be available to 50 per cent of the country in time for the tournament, and freesat HD already offers both ITV1 HD and BBC HD to nearly 100 per cent of the population, so there's really no excuse for watching in anything other than HD.
The TVs in this round-up are something of a mix. The Philips set has no built-in HD tuners, whereas the LG telly and both Panasonic sets are all ready to receive Freeview HD. In the case of Panasonic's Viera G20 model, the TV has both Freeview and freesat HD tuners, so you can pick the service that best suits you. Having a built-in HD tuner is welcome, but, with Sky, Virgin and Freeview HD set-top boxes on the market, getting an HD signal on any of these TVs shouldn't be a problem at all.
Although the Philips 40PFL9704H/12 LED-backlit LCD TV doesn't have any built-in Freeview HD or freesat tuners, it's one of our favourite tellies at the moment. It's well worth considering, not just for watching football, but also for movies and general entertainment purposes. What it lacks in free HD services it makes up for in awesome special features like Ambilight and media-streaming capability.
For viewing sport, we think plasma TVs offer the best picture quality. Their near-instant refresh rate means you get a razor-sharp image, with virtually no motion blur at all. The LG 50PK590 is one of the best-performing plasma TVs we've seen in a long time, and, at around £1,000, it's also sensibly priced.
The Panasonic Viera TX-P42S20B plasma TV is our nod to the cheaper end of the market. As a 42-inch TV, it's got plenty to offer football fans. If you're outside of the Freeview HD coverage area (here's a postcode checker), then go for the more expensive Viera TX-P50G20B, which can get freesat via a satellite dish. If you don't have one, getting a dish fitted costs about £80.
Whichever TV you go for, expect a wild, high-definition ride for the 2010 World Cup, and beyond.