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Best TV for a Camper in 2024 - Top 10 Features to Look For

When you're on the road in a motorhome, need a TV for RVing, or you're setting up a caravan, you won't always have internet access for streaming and apps and catch-up. Catching TV live while you're out in your own little oasis is such a core experience for many caravanners, so make sure you're packed with a portable TV!

When in the market for a mini TV, make sure you consider all the factors such as size, weight, battery life but also things like multimedia playback, DVD players and TV recording!

We've compiled a checklist of features to look for so you can be sure you're setting yourself up for a memorable and stress-free stay with TV in your campervan.

Feature 1 - 12 volt TV Power Supply

One of the key challenges of being off-the-grid is having no access to, well, the grid! With limited mains sockets it's a prioritisation game of what gets a plug and what has to do without.

While you might otherwise have take one or two sockets for a TV and powered amplified aerial, with a portable campervan TV you can save the socket for something else!

A 12v TV is a TV unit which can be charged or powered by a 12v cable. 12v or 12 Volt cables (sometimes also listed as 12-24v variable) connect directly into a car, van or motorhome dash. These unique cables provide power for high-energy appliances like TV's without needing power packs, simply by using the car's power directly from the cockpit.

It's clear why a 12v alternative to a normal mains plug is preferable for TV in a motorhome or campervan. By using the 12v plug you free up other ports, save the need for a dedicated power bank or battery pack for the TV, and can even charge / power the TV while travelling rather than when you've arrived and need the television ready to go!

Important: Depending on your model of mini TV, a 12-24v car power adapter cannot be connected at the same time as another power source, such as batteries. Make sure you're not overlapping power inputs and cause a surge or short circuit!

Feature 2 - Internal vs External Battery Powered TV

For those of you stepping out into the wilderness with a lean-to and a dream (but who still don't want to miss the latest series of Doc Who), battery power will be key. It's all very well using a 12v for in the caravan and mains at home, but out in a tent on a hill you need another way to power your TV.

Battery operated TV units are still produced in 2024 for just such occasions. They are made in two types: Internal and external battery powered.

Internal battery powered TVs use a rechargeable battery pack built in to the unit to provide wireless power in the same way your phone or tablet does. These aren't batteries you buy at a store, but come pre-installed and are simply charged up when running low.

External battery powered TVs have a removable cover to allow you to insert your own batteries. Different models might use anything from AAA or AA all the way to 1.5v "chunky" batteries.

While being able to power a TV with a battery is a must, make sure you're aware of the benefits of internal vs external batteries:

Internal Batteries Benefits:

  • More environmentally conscious and less waste to deal with on a trip
  • Guaranteed compatibility with the provided mains / 12v / USB cables
  • Integrated battery lowers both size and weight of the TV
A potable TV with the back panel removed, showing AA batteries inserted

External Batteries Benefits:

  • When batteries run out, you can swap them out for fresh ones without waiting for a recharge time
  • You can choose the brand of battery you prefer
  • Battery faults are simpler to resolve

Make sure you choose the battery that's right for you, considering the length of time you want to use the TV at once. If you only watch 1 - 2 hours a day then an internal is great, and can be charged in between uses. If you want longer use, or want to be off-the-grid for multiple days, then an external battery TV with a bag of spares in your pack is the better choice.

Feature 3 - Multimedia Player / "Offline" Playback

Just like how you'll want backup power when off the grid, you'll also want backup content. Not all areas of the UK are covered by strong enough TV signal (especially if your aerial isn't up to scratch) and so having a backup of physical media is never a bad shout. You just need to make sure the TV has a way to play it!

Often, this will be called "Multimedia" and shows the TV can play photos as a slideshow, music from MP3 files and even recorded or saved movies / TV. This provides you with a bank of offline entertainment when there's not only no internet, but not TV reception either.

You can play multimedia from external storage like USB sticks or SD cards. Be sure to check which media formats and storage types a unit accepts so you aren't left in a dark tent with nothing to watch into the wee hours.

Feature 4 - TV with Built In DVD Player

Along a similar vein as a multimedia player, some mini TV units take it one step further and include a full integrated DVD player!

Take hours and hours of content without worrying about USB and SD card formats or storage sizes, since you can simply pop your favourite DVD in and watch in DVD quality just like at home.

Physical media is increasingly important even if you aren't gallivanting into the hills with a campervan, but for motorhomes and RVing it's always a good idea to have backups. Backup food, backup drink, backup power, backup entertainment, you can never be too prepared!

A TV DVD Combo can be switched at will between DVD or TV modes, so still functions as a full-on TV unit with Freeview and TV reception. Switch modes and suddenly the screen is a fully-functional DVD interface. For those among us who hoarded our 2000's DVDs, the feature is a no-brainer.

Feature 5 - Screen Resolutions

The resolution of a screen is the amount of pixels which are rendered. To put it another way, imagine a pixel as a blob of paint. A painting with 2,000 blobs of paint will be able to be more detailed and have more range than a painting with, say, 50.

That sounds simple enough, bigger resolution = better, right?

Unfortunately it isn't that simple.

The size of the screen and the resolution are both vital to the end quality of the image, so resolution alone cannot be looked at in isolation.

For example, your mobile phone screen shows videos in as low as a 360p resolution by default. For context, a TV screen is usually above 1080p. But, the videos always look fine on our phone and this is because the amount of pixels over the small size of the screen is actually just as high-density as that larger 1080p resolution would be on a 30 Inch screen.

The quality loss is only noticeable when screen size increases but resolution doesn't, making the image thinner and less detailed as the pixels have to fill more space without any added pixels to fill it in.

A graphic shows a 40 Inch Tv and 30 Inch TV. The 40 Inch TV has lower pixel density and therefore lower quality.

Why does all this matter?

The reason the screen size and resolution relationship is so important to campervan TV is that a mini TV will often have a resolution as "low" as 1024 x 600. While this doesn't sound impressive compared to your 4K resolutions of 3840 x 2160, the fact is that 4K screens reach upwards of 50 Inches while a caravan TV is around 9 to 12 inches!

So, the resolution is perfect for the screen size. Do not make the mistake of buying a small TV boasting a 4K resolution when, in reality, that isn't adding anything to the experience as the screen size still dictates a large part of the image quality.

While a higher resolution will always result in more detail, there is a "cap" at which there are enough pixels per inch that the screen looks as good as our eyes want it to, and so extra energy and money spent on more is wasted.

Feature 6 - TV Recording

You're bound to be either so busy you miss a show, or so relaxed you forget about it when you're in your caravan! This is where portable TV's with TV recording come in clutch.

Being able to record a scheduled program ensures you won't miss the show, and can stop worrying about getting back inside in time. The show will record, usually to external storage like a USB stick, and you can catch up that night when you are ready.

Since you're on your own adventure in your own space, you're unlikely to see any spoilers that might usually creep in from an always-online society which means you're free to record and watch the latest shows "Live" just a little later than everyone else.

Feature 7 - Caravan TV Aerial Connector

A rather key feature finds itself at number 7, but luckily these features are in no particular order!

If you want Live TV you're going to need an aerial. Even Smart TV's need an aerial. There's no trick there, it's just part of the process I'm afraid.

This means you want to make sure your caravan TV has a standard coaxial aerial port which accepts terrestrial aerials, if your caravan has a wire aerial on the roof.

If you're using a motorhome satellite system or your caravan has a satellite dish, you'll need a TV which has the two-pin F-Plug connector for satellite aerials! Don't get the wrong type for your aerial.

Beyond choosing the correct type between Freeview or Freesat, there's not too much to worry about. The reception will be based on the connected aerial and your cable shouldn't be running the length and breadth of the caravan park, so won't cause any interference or signal loss.

Feature 8 - Viewing Angles

When choosing a TV for a motorhome or campervan you have to consider that the viewing angle is likely to be very different to a traditional TV. In a house, a TV is often on a TV stand and facing a pre-set area, with the height and angle made perfect for the room.

In a caravan, the TV could be whisked from the kitchen counter to the end of the bed and back all in the space of 30 minutes!

Because of this, you need to make sure the viewing angles of your mini TV will account for looking down at it from in bed, glancing across the counter and more.

"Viewing Angle" itself is the maximum angle you can be to the screen without the colours starting to fade and, eventually, the entire screen going black.

A simple graphic showing a TV with a designated area in front of it. People outside the area are cannot see the screen clearly.

You can see why this is an important factor for caravanning. No use having a screen you can't see at the slightest change in scenery when changing scenery is your whole mission!

Unfortunately viewing angles are only really testable in-person. It's unlikely to find precise data on viewing angles from store pages, but you can make sure you look for devices which have screens issues in 2024, to ensure they're the latest and therefore most likely to account for this timeless error.

Feature 9 - Headphones for TV Port

Being courteous is key to caravanning. You're sharing a space with nature, other caravanners and the general public, too. Keeping noise to a minimum after-hours is a common practice and so a TV with an aux port for 3.5mm headphones is handy.

A 3.5mm port allows you to seamlessly plug in wired headphones and catch up on the day's TV into the night without disturbing anyone both inside or outside your group.

3.5mm is by far the most common way to connect headphones, but if you have a Bluetooth-only pair then consider saving money on a new pair by using a 3.5mm Bluetooth transmitter. This will transmit the TV audio wirelessly to your headphones, so you don't have to worry about trailing cables and can cook, clean and flop into bed with no worries.

Feature 10 - Peripherals

When you've got your perfect portable TV all lined up, do make sure it's compatible with some key peripherals. Peripherals here meaning extra accessories such as a carry bag or portable antenna. It's a good idea to have a sturdy and water-resistant bag for your loose electronics in any caravan, motorhome or RV. The main restrictor will be the screen size, so just double-check there's a suitable TV bag (we recommend looking at "Laptop" bags and repurposing them) available. Some TV's even have their own dedicated bags.

Other than that, a pair of headphones, batteries, USB stick and other bits are always worth picking up together so you are ready for whatever the holiday brings!

By checking for these 10 features you will ensure you find a TV which is right for you, and will provide years of off-the-grid use for caravanning, motorhomes or even just propped up on the kitchen counter at home.

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