Guilherme Radaeli is a lawyer, writer and blogger born in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Part-time techie and overall mad lad.
Gone are the days of when choosing a new TV was just a matter of balancing cost with size and image quality. With the every increasing market for smart devices, the unstoppable encroachment of the internet into our daily lives and the incredible leaps in imaging technology and graphical fidelity that we have experienced in the past decade, suddenly buying a new TV is becoming more and more like buying a new computer.
Because TVs have, essentially, become computers. That's what the "smart" part means, after all, a Smart Tv is essentially a computer whose components and function are dedicated to displaying images, all while giving you access to the applications and facilities a computer can.
With this in mind, this article aims to inform you of what I consider to be important things to know when browsing for a new TV, what to look for and what may or not be good for you, depending on how you plan to use your TV. I'm going to be giving simple descriptions and explanations of much more complex topics, and if you want more in-depth explanations, keep watching this channel, since I plan this to be the first in a series of articles about TVs and other smart devices.
First, lets start with the basics.
Probably the very first thing a prospective buyer thinks about when buying a new TV (smart or otherwise) is size. This, of course, makes complete sense, as a bigger screen is (usually) more capable of displaying better graphical fidelity simply due to the extra physical space that the image is displayed on.
However, one must note that TVs nowadays are considerably bigger than they were a decade or two ago, and not only that, image quality has jumped considerably since, meaning the amount of visual information being blasted into your eyes and brain has exploded to much greater volumes.
And with that, comes new health concerns you need to consider when setting up your newfangled TV.
As a general rule, the bigger your TV, the farthest you should stand from it. If you're prone to headaches, you better follow this rule, or you'll be in for a bad time whenever you plan to go on a Netflix series binge. Now, the problem isn't some sort of magical evil radiation from the TV or anything like that, but rather the powerful light and excessive visual information that large TVs can blast into your visual cortex.
The excessive strain on your eyes that standing too close to a TV can cause isn't likely to cause permanent damage, but can easily lead to eye pain, blurry vision, and headaches.
Even 85 inch monsters like these are common nowadays, and not even that expensive!
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy yourself a veritable monster TV to enjoy your favorite shows. It just means you need to plan its placement ahead of time, after all, it's not exactly easy to just place table-sized displays anywhere. This is not only important for your health, but also for making efficient use of the available physical space.
FHD, UDH, 4K, 5K, HDR, OLED, QLED, ETC: What does all of that mean to you?
You must've seen the wall of text you're usually bombarded with when you check Smart TVs ads on amazon and other outlets. You must've felt your eyes gloss over them and look for screen size and other more known aspects of TVs.
Unfortunately, you may be skipping on aspects of your possible new TV that will directly impact your user experience and may make all the difference, as a single ignored acronym can change your entire experience.
Behold, the mighty word salad that assaults you alongside a good product
SD vs HD vs FHD vs UHD
As you likely already know, the "D" in these acronyms means definition. The variation here, as the picture explains, is the resolution size. Without going into specifics of the measurements involved in the most known resolution sizes, here's a quick and easy explanation of the different terms and what they mean:
The TVs and monitors of the "old days" are defined as SD, or "Standard Definition". Your dad's old 29'' likely went up to 480 pixels or 720 x 480 resolution.
HD or "High Definition" was the first great leap in TV resolution. The first step was 720 pixels, or 1280 x 720, offering considerably greater detail above SD. 1080 pixels or "Higher Definition" as some dubbed it, but the proper term is FHD, or "Full HD". This resolution is still widely used in streaming applications such as Youtube and Netflix since it doesn't require a very powerful internet connection (for today's standards) and delivers decent image detail for most screen sizes.
Nowadays, though, what you want is UHD, or Ultra High Definition, also known as 4k, due to the nearly 4000 pixels resolution. Unlike the gap between HD and FHD, there's a veritable abyss between FHD and UHD (as you can see from the picture). With double the resolution, UHD/4k is today's standard high-end image quality denominator. In short, its what you're looking for if you want to buy a TV that's on par with most of the best things on the market.
Of course, there's greater stuff already available. With 5k and 8k already appearing on the horizon and hitting the consumer market in many different ways, TVs that support such resolutions are already out there, for a pretty penny.
HDR, or High Dynamic Range
Another very important thing to look out for when buying a new TV is it being HDR compatible. While resolution sizes are very easy to explain, HDR is a bit more complex, but may actually be more important for your viewing experience.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it doesn't refer to the number of pixels on the screen, but rather to the color range that said pixels can display. This can make a world of difference, as the picture demonstrates, giving you greater contrast, allowing your eyes to extract much more detail from the same image.
An image without HDR has a much smaller range of colours, especially with its whites and blacks. But as you already know, there are different shades of whites and blacks, not just "grey". This High Dynamic Range of shades of colours is what turns a drab image of a night sky into a beautiful spectacle of colour and light.
QLED vs OLED
This is where we get a little bit more technical, and also more choosy. I say choosy because this one will actually be a choice.
Most Smart TVs nowadays come with 4k definition and HDR, but OLED and QLED are competing technologies that are very, very different in a very basic and crucial thing: how they display light and color.
OLED, or Organic Light Emitting Diode, is a technology that was implemented by electronics company LG, who then sold the technology to other brands. And yea, you did read right, OLED uses an organic carbon compound to emit red, green and blue light, allowing it to replicate the entire colour spectrum.
And it just happens to do so using less energy, with greater brightness and contrast than any other diode.
Not only that, OLEDs are flexible, ideal for those fancy curved ultrawide screens that many companies are pushing nowadays.
LG is the champion of OLED displays
Not only that, but QLED's can also just dim completely without turning off, allowing for truly deep black colors, which in turn creates amazing contrast, aiding image quality. This means that, if you're in the dark and your TV is showing a dark scene, it will actually look dark, and not that weird "lit" dark that theater screens and most TVs display.
OLEDs also dispense the need for an LCD backlight panel, which most TVs use, lowering energy usage and completely avoiding those "light leak" defects that most TVs can end up having.
All of this doesn't come with its own caveats, however.
As with anything organic, OLEDs are less durable than competing technologies, Most LCD and LED displays can last up to 40000 hours of display time, while QLEDs tend to last only about 14000. OLED is also still a new and complex technology, meaning anything using OLEDs will be considerably more expensive than other devices using other tech.
While "quantic" may sound like something you'd only see in scientific articles about particle colliders, quantic tech is already hitting the consumer market. While LG and Sony put their bets on the future of display technology on OLEDs, Samsung came up with QLED, or Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diode.
Based on the usage of "quantum dots" in a liquid crystal medium, which are small conducting particles that are less than a nanometer in size, this display technology allows for an incredibly detailed imaged to be viewed from a much wider angle, meaning the image won't distort or lose detail if viewed from the side, for example. This means an entire group of people watching the same TV in the same room get the same view quality, regardless of where they sit (unless they somehow happen to be sitting behind the TV, of course). The energy usage is also much smaller than your regular LED TVs.
It's also considerably cheaper than OLED, as it doesn't need any fancy organic compounds to work.
The caveat is that, since it still relies on an LCD backlight, its brightness and colour contrast isn't as powerful as QLED can display.
Samsung is the champion of QLED displays
I hope you come out of this article better informed about the main things to look out for when browsing for a new TV. As tech advances, it's important to be aware of the new things coming out in the consumer market, so you know exactly how and where to spend your hard-earned money.
If this was useful for you, keep watching this channel, as this is the first part of a series about entertainment technology, buying, and maintenance!