Thinking of buying a new TV? Bamboozled with the mass of technical terms? Lack of assistance by the sales staff when wanting explanations?
Yes, all of that so how do we choose the TV that is right for us and will last another 10 years?
It is a good thing to learn a little of the sort of things that will help to guide you to a better choice of set, because
just relying on the visual appearance of the screen of a TV in the store may not be enough. It has been known that big stores that may want to sell a particular model that day may help guide you to that model by reducing the brightness or tweaking contrast on other sets so just one screen outshines the others.
There is a frightful lot of marketing terms which even well trained sales personnel may not be fully up to date with, so a bit of background knowledge could be useful for you when ready to go shopping.
My own TV is what is known as a 1080p also called HD = High definition, that was the greatest and latest 10 years ago. Since then 4K has come and that is today’s minimum and is known also as ultra high definition. It shows much brighter picture and more detail. They say that it means 4 times the pixel density of HD, but what it really means is instead of having 1080 rows of little lights it has 2160 rows occupying the same screen size, now that means better ability to render finer details.
An important spec is the Contrast ratio, this is the measure that shows the difference between the brightest bright and the blackest black. The bigger the ratio the better the TV picture typically looks. A smaller ratio means washed out display.
The sales person may tell you about refresh rate when they mean frame rate, the former describes the hardware the latter refers to the media such as DVD, videos and digital downloads, but regardless for both the larger the number the better, though anything above 120 frames per second or 120Hz for the refresh rate is unlikely to be notable by the human eye.
You may also come across the term HDCP which stands for ‘High bandwidth digital content protection’, not really a feature but a lot of streaming services require it to be present.
The newer middle and high level TVs now has HDR = High dynamic range, meaning a broader array of colours, lightness and blacks that makes the images more realistic looking [not the same as HDR photos, a different process].
The old LED = Light emitting diodes, lighting is typically used for backlighting so when you see a TV described as an LED TV you are not looking at the LED, but most likely an LCD screen backlit by LEDs. By the way if it is edge-lit it means that the backlighting is from a strip of LEDs around the bezel rather than a complete layer of lighting sitting behind the screen. Edge lit means thinner TVs.
We have gone from the bulging cathode ray tubes to LCD when it became the in thing around 2007 and many TVs still use the LCD display with backlighting or even without, but not recommended now that we have moved to OLED technology. OLED = Organic light emitting diodes, they make their own light when a current flows through them, as a result we get thinner TVs and they handle colour and light much better.
To try to cut this a bit, just a mention of Quantum dots, an alternative to back lightning. It improves colour and brightness for LCD screens by using coloured lights rather than the white edge or full array sets.
Be careful if you are looking a Smart TV, do the manufacturer use proprietary smart system not automatically updated or Google Android. Google can be slow in updating too. Smart TVs have been at the centre of privacy scandals.
Depending on where your TV is located the viewing angle may be important, check online reviews and go check in your local store to see if colour and light levels fade when viewed from an angle.
As if the above wasn’t enough to worry you I have come across what is called fake HDR. Lots of people buy HDR for the full HDR experience, however, to be an HDR TV it does not need to be able to show the benefits of HDR. It only needs to have the software that can read the HDR information contained in the signal, and then use that to display an image, that means your TV does not show brighter, richer colours and can’t dim to improve contrast. All you get is an image identical to a standard SDR image. With other words you have paid a premium for a true HDR set and there are millions of people who saved up to buy a set thinking it was HDR were left unhappy.
Save up to buy a 4K OLED display with true local dimming, edge lit or full array, look for peak brightness level in ‘nits’, OLED can do 700-750 nits usually, LCDs around 300-2400, HDR needs 500-600 to be effective.
HDR is great and you’ll have movie shows on your TV superior to what you get in a cinema since you get highlights which are not possible in most cinemas, just be careful of what you buy.
Enjoy the new technology.