Ultra HD TV Buying Guide

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Written By Noah Campbell
UPDATED:
Ultra HD TV Buyer’s Guide

The world entered a whole new era of visual entertainment when TV sets became a widely purchased household item. Televisions were seen as boxes of cathode ray tubes and other basic circuitry that formed images and created sound. Today, technological advancements have pushed the limit of efficiently compressing these digital parts into a beautifully thin HDTV or high-definition TV that is present in almost all households all over the world. But when it comes to choosing which HDTV best fits your needs and budget, you should by understanding the differences in features and specifications to arrive at your optimal choice.

Depending On Your Options

Before we dive into the different kinds of HDTVs available, we shall cover what may influence your choice. Size is usually the first factor to consider especially when you are noting the space where you will place the TV. If you are placing it on a fixed furniture then you will want to get dimensions and not just read the display size on the screen because this refers to the distance between the upper left corner of the TV and measured down to the lower right corner.

Then there is the concern on the resolution. Maybe for some people on a lower budget and not too particular on the image quality, resolutions at 1080p would be enough. We will cover in more detail what kind of resolutions are available but the general idea is that image quality gets better, the higher the resolution.

Screens come in different builds such as LED screens or Light-Emitting Diode, OLED or Organic Light-Emitting Diode. You will also be briefed as to how to choose from the two.

Lastly, with the rise of connectivity options, you will also want to consider extra features. Not all TVs are considered Smart TVs; if these connectivity features are important to you, watch out for the feature enumeration for a particular TV you are considering. Not all Smart TVs are also created equal.

Size Matters

Market supply has created a large range of screen sizes where the smallest LED TV could be around twenty-four inches. However, if we are looking for the HDTV experience, the smallest screen size you will want to start with is at least thirty-two inches. This is often the standard starter size for HTDVs. Currently you can go as large as 110 inches if you are willing to pay the price for it.

As mentioned above, measuring of screen size is done diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. So when looking into dimensions, please see the table guide below:

Size (in inches)Width (inches)Height (inches)Area (inches²)
3227.915.7 438
4034.919.6 684
4337.521.1791
5043.624.51068
5547.927.01293
6052.329.41538
6556.731.91809
7061.034.32092
7565.436.82407
8069.739.22732
8574.141.73090
HD TV Sizes & Dimensions:

The table guide is a general reference but do remember that not all HDTV models have the exact dimension standard. There are also things to watch out for such as bezels and additional external casings that might make the TV bigger than the above stated dimensions.

If Bigger Is Better, Why Not A Projector?

Starting with the obvious reasons, HD TVs will win against the projector when it comes to start-up time. Depending on the projector you are buying, start-up times could be excruciatingly slow or a mere annoying few seconds. But even then, it does not compare to how fast a TV display will turn on.

Another consideration for choosing a projector is the space you have. When you are displaying a projected image, some projectors will require a good distance with no interference in between the screen and the projector.

Lastly, projector displays will not have as good an image quality as an HDTV when you put light into the picture. You will see the distinctive fading of the image when you turn on the room lights while you are projecting something.

In conclusion, you will only consider the projector if you are looking to display on a rather large space. This is the best way to appreciate a projector’s capability.

Screen Resolution Considerations

Going about it the easy way, the general idea in this year is never go below 4k. There may have been a time that 4k did not make sense because most of the content was not even made for such ultra high-definition displays. However today, you will notice that videos and images have caught up with this resolution; go anywhere below 4k, especially if you are sensitive to image quality differences, and you will notice a distinction.

Back when we were still watching movies from DVD, we would have a picture resolution of 720 x 480. When we started having HD or High definition resolutions we had an option of 720p or 1280 x 720 as well as 1080p which is 1920 x 1080. Today the gold standard for resolution is 4k which is 3840 x 2160. 4k resolutions are considered as UHD or Ultra-HD.

Judging Picture Quality of Your HDTV

Details in color, contrast, and refresh rate will be particularly important to those who are sensitive to the quality of image produced in TVs. Especially if you are willing to really invest in a good quality TV, it would help to understand the criteria for a good picture. Some things you want to avoid are light leaking or bleeding, wavy-patterns called moire (caused by low-resolution displays), and sudden jittery pictures especially in fast-action scenes. Because these images are digital of natural origin, refresh rates will be a starting point for your quality consideration.

Should You Care About Contrast

Picture contrast has been one of the common attributes emphasized when mentioning how good a TV quality is. This along with black level and brightness have increasingly become more important especially since we now have HDR  or High Dynamic Range images available in almost all 4k HDTVs.

TVs that can produce a beautiful deep back output is probably the most important factor in producing a perfect picture. The deeper the blacks, the higher the contrast and thus produces more vibrant colors. This is something you can achieve with your OLED screens. OLED technology will be covered further down this article.

The brightness capacity of your TV is also quite important especially when you are in a well-lit room. You can truly tell a TV with poor brightness because a strong indoor lighting will compete with your picture display. In the LED vs OLED battle, LEDs win in the brightness sector. But OLED is better in the dark side of pictures.

RGB Color Quality Assessment

Take note that this quality assessment will require actual testing of the TV and will only work if you see for yourself the colors. You will also need to have full-color vision to determine the flaws in the color quality of the display.

You can search online for standard pure red, green, and blue color pictures to be uploaded on a USB storage. Display each of the colors and watch out for the inconsistencies.

RED: The red image should not look like an orange color or nearing a reddish-orange hue. You also do not want it to have a light-red color which will almost seem like pink.

GREEN: Poor quality green color will not be a deep color. You will want to watch out for yellow hues which indicate that the full green hue is not displayed right.

BLUE: backlights tend to lean towards this color range. Generally you will get a good blue color when displayed but faulty displays might have a greenish tinge which means the blue is mixed with some warm color.

You can also download a black image with a grey rectangle in the center. What this does is it will force the TV to keep some of its parts still lighted up while others are shut-off. From here you can check for leaking.

A white image displayed will show if your screen has any cloudiness or dark parts which may refer to defects.

Reviewing Refresh Rates

Let us get you started with refresh rate by defining it. Refresh rate refers to the number of times per second the image on your display changes. Most displays will have a refresh rate of 60. Now marketing materials will rarely show you 60 as a refresh rate because they will use certain technologies like “black frame insertion” or “Soap opera effect” in order for them to present a higher number.

You will find higher refresh rates such as 120, 240, or even higher. Do be careful when taking it as it is because they are not always accurate. So what refresh rate would be best for your usual TV viewing experience?

Movies are often filmed at a 24 frames per second rate. When you are watching live TV shows, these are usually filmed at 30 or 60 frames per second. 60 Hz as a native refresh rate is acceptable because there are compounded technologies that may increase that or even double it. A really good refresh rate would be around 120Hz. Why go for a higher refresh rate than what is filmed? You want to make sure you do not have that motion blur effect when watching your TV. This refers to the image going soft when the picture subject is moving.

How do you know if your refresh rates are having “added efficiency technologies”? Check for marketing keywords such as Clear Motion Index in TCL, Motion Rate in Samsung, or MotionFlow XR in Sony. These are just a few examples of how native refresh rates are coupled with their own technologies to claim higher rates.

So when talking it out with a TV salesman, be specific in mentioning “native refresh rate” so you will know what you are really getting.

Screen Technology Selection: LED vs OLED

You might have come across the marketing slogan where the TV’s “OLED” build makes it best for the viewer’s experience. But what really is OLED and how does it compare to LED? Is plain LED significantly different from the more advanced OLED display?

LED Leads The Way For Most TVs

To start with, most TVs you will come across in the market are based on LCD screen technology. LCD stands for “Liquid Crystal Display”. These TV sets utilize an LED backlight which is now commonly referred to these TVs as LED LCD TVs, or simply LED TVs. To avoid confusion, it is helpful to know that LED TVs are a kind of LCD TVs. Though there are other LCD types out there, in the TV monitor industry LED is the most common.

Using a thin layer of liquid crystal solution pressed between clear glass panels, an LCD TV allows the control of these crystals to open or close. By doing so light can be manipulated to create pixel variations that produce the image you see on a TV. However, these crystals do not create the light. The light has to come from a source and this is where the LED backlight comes into the picture. We are discussing this basic explanation of the LED’s role in the LCD screen technology because this will now give a better understanding of how to select between LED TV variations.

Enumerated below are the kinds of LED backlighting that is found in your TV:

  1. Direct-Lit – this is the original form of backlighting where a grid of LEDs are spread at the back of the screen. There are only a few dozen LEDs that are used here compared to the more advanced Array-lit Compared to the edge-lit models.
  2. Edge-lit – you will find a good number of LED TVs using this backlighting. LED strips are placed either on the side edges of the screen, top and bottom edges, or even just at the bottom of the screen. There are internal guides that direct the light to create an even distribution which produces the proper picture. Because of the lesser LEDs used in this TV, you are able to make very thin TVs.
  3. Array-lit – in  a full array of LEDs that back this screen, picture quality has shown it to be the highest standard for LCD TV backlighting.

Now you might encounter HDTV called QLED which is essentially still an LCD TV but it is more advanced in the LED race only through the quantum dots innovation which enhances picture quality. The quantum dots do not refer to the LEDs backlighting the display, rather it is the crystals themselves which are incredibly small and can effectively generate concentrated light. QLED TVs are capable of producing billions of color shades that are found in 4k or HDR pictures.

OLED Rising As Competition

Considered as one of the newest technologies in screens currently available to the general consumer, OLED displays prove superior in quality in a lot of ways compared to LED TVs. This does not mean that it is perfectly superior over the LED. There is a reason why LED TVs are still most commonly used in households.

OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode which means instead of requiring a backlighting, this technology utilizes an organic material that lights up when triggered by an electric current. This organic material is what makes the screen’s layer of pixels.

In OLED pixels, each sub-pixel has its own autonomous light source which means the display will no longer require LED backlighting. Because each sub-pixel light can be controlled independently, lighting can be dimmed down or even completely switched off. Compared to LCD displays OLED is superior in producing absolute black shades when necessary. You will notice in LED TVs when there is a black screen, it does not really come out as black but some sort of glowing dark screen. That glowing you see at the edges is a common leaking visual that is found in LED TVs.

When it comes to contrast and black-levels, OLED takes the crown. Because OLED only requires the pixel layer for the image to come to life, there are no more multiple layers similar to LED TVs. You will find OLED TVs sold in the market, tend to be very thin, ultra-thin in fact. You will also have curved screen options which are made to add to the viewing experience.

When also considering the range of viewing angles, OLED maintains a great image output whether you are directly in front of the TV or viewing from the side. For LCD displays, the image is best viewed from a direct viewing angle in front of the TV.

So what are some disadvantages of OLED if it is not yet the perfect option? OLED displays are generally more expensive. That is primarily why LED TVs are still the leading HDTV choice in the world. In terms of lifetime, blue organic OLEDs have shorter lifetimes (around 14,000 hours) while red and green OLED films can go from 46,000 hours to as high as 230,000 hours for the more expensive models. LED TVs can usually go for 40,000 to 60,000 hours average. In terms of overall fragility, OLED displays are highly fragile and can easily be damaged with water or moisture. LED TVs have been known to withstand some amount of mishandling with only little damage to the whole unit itself.

Overall the biggest winning factor for the LED TV would be the price point. Almost always, LED HDTVs will come out significantly cheaper than the luxury units which use the OLED display.

Getting Connected

Display features are among the biggest considerations in your HDTV buying decision, however you are not to leave out one of the functionally vital features: display ports. If you are not looking to connect too many things to your TV then the standard available ports will be enough for you.

Normally, HD TVs today will have the following:

  1. Audio ports
  2. AV ports
  3. HDMI port
  4. USB port
  5. Cable port

Some TVs will have extra options like LAN connection. However, most HDTVs that are considered “Smart” will use wireless connectivity through their usb wifi stick. If LAN connection is important to you, you will have to double check because this is not a standard.

When all features seem to fit your needs, read as well on the fine print with the warranty provisions so you will not have a difficult time should the need for support arise. Expensive and well-known brands have great tech support to get through your device usage. If you are particular on energy consumption, check for those stickers on the TV itself where it will give you an estimation of how much electricity is consumed. Lastly, if you are buying the TV from a different country, always check the plug if it will require an adapter to fit your sockets at home.

Our team has considered all the factors outlined in this buying guide, along with their expertise and knowledge about Ultra HD TVs to recommend the top choice for you. You can shop being confident that someone has considered all relevant information and you will get the Ultra HD TV to meet your needs. Happy shopping!