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How to buy a TV:what you need to know

Buying a television is more complex than ever. There are new technologies, formats and buzzwords that you have to keep up with. Plus, price is also all over the place as more companies try to unseat affordable brands like LG and Samsung.

And if you're looking for a TV specifically for gaming , Different characteristics are more important. We're breaking down everything you need to know to make the smartest purchase!

Choosing a Display:OLED, QLED and More

Currently, there are two dominant display technologies on the market:LED-LCD (including QLED) and OLED. Understanding differences will help you make the right decision. A simple rule of thumb is to match the type of screen to your viewing habits.

Most TVs on the market are LCD panels lit with an LED backlight. These include cheaper new TVs, from brands like TCL and Hisense, all the way to LG's NanoCell lineup and top-tier QLED sets from Samsung.

Not all LED illuminated panels are created equal, however. Panels advertised as using QLED Quantum Dot layer which improves the range and vibrancy of colors on the screen. Of all the LCD panels on the market, QLEDs are as good as it gets.

The only downside to panels that use traditional LED lights is that they are backlit. This means to display an image, a bright LED must shine through the many layers that make up the panel. This can result in poor black reproduction and potential light bleeding around the edge of the screen.

The latest (and best) LED-models use wide-range local dimming (DALAT) to dim certain areas of the screen and improve black color rendering. This helps LCD panels get much closer to a "true" black. Since the dimming zones can be quite large, the technology is not perfect. This process often produces a "halo" effect around the edges of the dimming zones.

OLED is a completely different technology than QLED. These panels are self-emitting, meaning each pixel produces its own light. There is no liquid crystal film and no backlight that shines through the "stack" of layers that make up the screen. In fact, an OLED stack is incredibly thin.

This means OLED screens have "perfect" blacks, as they can completely disable pixels. The result is a striking image with excellent contrast. On the other hand, OLED screens can suffer from poor near-black performance. Some models are prone to “black crush”, in which details in dark shadows are lost.

OLEDs are also susceptible to burn-in Under some conditions.

OLED technology can also be a bit more expensive than traditional LED backlit displays because it is a newer technology with a higher manufacturing cost. With this in mind, LG's flagship displays, like the C9 and CX, generally fall within the same range as Samsung's flagship QLED displays.

But there is also an outlier:mini LEDs. These panels still use traditional LCD technology, but with smaller LEDs. This means they can pack in many more dimming zones . The result is a much less pronounced halo effect and the same deep, inky blacks you'd see on an OLED.

While MiniLED televisions provide a great balance between price and picture quality, they are slim to the ground at the moment. TCL is currently the only company selling the LED-Mini models in the US market, although more are expected to land on Samsung and others in the near future.

Brightness and viewing angles

Matching your screen technology to your environment and viewing habits is important. Since LCD (including QLED) games use an LED backlight, they can get a lot brighter than OLED models. This is because OLEDs use organic compounds, the brightness of which is limited due to heat output.

A QLED set could get twice as bright as an OLED, which makes it perfect for viewing in a very bright environment. Conversely, if you like to watch movies in the dark or mostly at night, the higher black levels of an OLED will produce a better picture. If you don't like washed-out blacks, OLED is the way to go.

OLED screens also have excellent viewing angles, making them ideal for group viewing. While some color shifting can occur when viewed off-axis, the image will not dim significantly, even at extreme angles. This makes an OLED a great option if not everyone in the room will be facing the screen directly.

Different LCD models use different types of panels and coatings in an attempt to prevent this. For example, LG nanocells use IPS panels They have excellent viewing angles but poor contrast ratios.

On the other hand, VA panels, like Samsung's QLEDs, suffer from the problem of off-axis viewing angles, but have the best contrast ratios and color reproduction.

If you have a large family or like to have friends over to watch sports or movies, be sure to consider the viewing angles and ambient light in the room before selecting a television.

High dynamic range:the future of video

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a step forward in display technology. Dynamic range is the visible spectrum between the darkest blacks and the lightest highlights, and is generally measured in stops. While a traditional standard dynamic range (SDR) TV has a range of about six stops, the latest HDR displays can exceed 20.

This means you get more detail in the shadows and highlights, which makes for a richer image. HDR also incorporates a wider color gamut and much higher peak brightness. You will see more shades of colors, which results in less “banding” or grouping of similar colors. You'll also see flashes of brightness from objects like the sun, which creates a more realistic presentation.

HDR is a big deal as most new movies and TV content are taking advantage of it. Next-gen game consoles (such as the Xbox Series X and S, and PlayStation 5) also put a heavy emphasis on HDR, though last-gen systems have been using it for years. If you watch a lot of movies or play games, you'll want good HDR support.

First of all, it helps to understand the differences between the main HDR formats . Below are the most important features to highlight:

  • HDR10: This is basic, standardized HDR. Almost every TV on the market supports it. If you buy a film with a "High Dynamic Range" sticker on the box, it almost certainly includes HDR10 support.
  • Dolby Vision: A superior HDR app It uses dynamic metadata to assist the television in producing the most accurate HDR image on a frame-by-frame basis.
  • HDR10+: An open evolution of HDR10, it also includes dynamic metadata. This format is mostly found on Samsung TVs.
  • Hybrid Log-Gamma (GAN): This is an HDR broadcast app that allows SDR and HDR displays to use the same source. Additional data is provided for HDR-capable displays, so they receive a better picture.

With the exception of HDR10 (the "default" HDR app), Dolby Vision has much better support than HDR10+. Streaming services like Netflix use it for almost all new content, and Microsoft has also committed to bringing Dolby Vision to Xbox Series X and S in 2021.

Fantasy Characteristics:The devil is in the details

You can buy a large television for around $600, but spending $1,200 doesn't necessarily get you a television that looks visibly better. You might even spend more money and get a TV that somehow looks worse.

This is because TVs can differ quite wildly in terms of additional features. To avoid spending money on features you might never use, it's worth taking the time and familiarizing yourself with a few of them.

The image processor in your TV can massively affect picture quality. A good image processor can take a muddy 720P video and make it look presentable on a 4K screen. A bad image processor, however, could handle 24p cinematic content very poorly, and introduce athleticism or stutter. Cheap sets can perform poorly in this area, but premium brands, like Sony, handle this well on their high-end sets.

Some brands even go a step further with features like Black Frame Insertion (BFI), which literally inserts black frames at set intervals to make motion smoother. This might be important for movie wristbands, but it's not something you should prioritize if you just want a TV to watch the news.

Connectivity is another area that can come at a premium. Most TVs include HDMI 2.0 ports, but The new 2.1 standard it's coming out slowly. Unless you want the highest resolutions and frame rates (120Hz) on the PS5 series, Xbox, or a high-end PC, you don't need HDMI 2.1.

A high refresh rate screen lets you view content at up to 120Hz, twice as fast as most TVs on the market. However, unless the source (such as a new console or graphics card) is providing an image of that quality, you have little need for a 120Hz screen.

Gaming features like FREESYNC and G-SYNC Make gaming games a more enjoyable experience. They smooth out frame dips, but aren't necessary for most people. Unless you know you need the feature because your hardware supports it, you can discount it and save some money.

Both Sony and Microsoft's The latest consoles use HDMI VRR , for you don't necessarily need these features.

One area that seems to have improved across the board in the latest TVs is the software. While one you bought a decade ago probably has a slow or clunky interface, new smart TVs often use modern operating systems, like Android TV, LG's WebOS, Samsung's Tizen, or TCL's Roku.

You might want to test the interface before you buy a TV to make sure you like the operating system you'll be using for years to come.

Bad sound:the problem with the audio.

Modern televisions often emphasize the form factor over almost everything else. That's how we got ultra-thin bezels, slim screens, and wall mountability. The side effect of this is most TVs with down-firing speakers, which can't fill a room with good audio.

There are exceptions:Sony's OLEDs use the glass screen as a kind of speaker, and some TCL models include built-in soundbars. However, most, especially those on the budget end of the spectrum, will likely be underwhelming when it comes to sound.

To enhance your experience, you may want to leave room in your budget for some audio hardware as well. You don't necessarily have to break the bank on a Sonos Arc Soundbar, unless you want a room-shaking immersive experience from a small footprint on your entertainment unit.

Soundbars are designed to provide better-than-TV audio at a price point that won't. Many support the latest standards, such as EARC and Dolby Atmos, but those are secondary to the main function:compensating for the terrible integrated audio prevalent in TVs at the moment.

Solution:Stick with 4K

As 4K TVs and HDR support are now seeing widespread adoption, most people finally have a good reason to upgrade. So why are manufacturers already trying to get you to buy an 8K set?

Admittedly, some 8K sets, like Samsung's high-end Qleds, aren't that expensive right now. Unfortunately, 8K is still not worth the investment. For some, 8K will never be worth it because the perceived jump in image quality is negligible, at best.

The jump from standard definition to HD was huge in terms of picture quality, but from HD to 4k things start to get a bit Murkier. You have to be some distance from a TV to see the benefits of 4k, but there's no denying the picture is sharper and more detailed.

So how about going from 4K to 8K? As you might have guessed, this is a game of diminishing returns. While the difference is Viewable When you get too close to what would be considered a reasonable viewing distance, in general, you're likely to be disappointed.

Then there is the matter of content. While an 8K display will do a good job of high-quality 4K content, finding native 8K content is pretty much impossible at the moment. YouTube supports it, but there is no way to filter search results for it. Some streaming services still don't offer 4K content yet, and many cable broadcasts are still cut along standard definition.

Netflix recommends an internet speed of 25 Mbps to stream 4K content, which is already highly compressed. With this logic, you'd need at least 50Mbps for 8K content, which would also use a lot more bandwidth than 4K.

One day, 8k it will be worth it because it will be the standard, just like 4k is now. There will be better reasons to upgrade your TV when that time comes. Let's not forget the poor implementation of HDR, early 4K TVs when they came out. We've only had a few generations of truly great 4K TVs that deliver an especially superior viewing experience over our old HD sets.

Read reviews

As with any modern electronic product, independent reviewers hold the key to making an informed decision. Rtings It is one of the best resources to buy a television. Extensive testing criteria is used on all TVs reviewed, providing an objective overview of strengths and weaknesses.

Just apply your findings to your situation, your living room, and your viewing habits. There is no perfect TV for everyone. Just be sure to Avoid the common mistakes people make when buying a TV. .