Thanks to advanced technology buying a new TV has become as complicated as selecting the right car insurance plan. All types of display now offer improved picture quality but there are a lot more features to take into account: Should I go for a backlit or edge-lit LED TV? How ‘smart’ do I want my …
Thanks to advanced technology buying a new TV has become as complicated as selecting the right car insurance plan. All types of display now offer improved picture quality but there are a lot more features to take into account: Should I go for a backlit or edge-lit LED TV? How ‘smart’ do I want my TV to be? What about 3D? And what’s with this 4K and OLED stuff everybody is talking about? We are cutting through the jargon and help you determine which type will best fit your needs.
Types of TVs
LED TVs make up the lion’s share of the market and are by far the most popular type of television. Unlike CCFL-based LCDs, LED TVs use LEDs for their backlight, resulting in better picture quality and contrast ratios. LED TVs also consume less power than traditional LCDs.
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can be placed either behind the screen or alongside its edges. LED-backlit LCD TVs enable local dimming which contributes to reduced leakage and substantially deeper blacks. However, since local dimming is cost-intensive, more and more manufacturers are investing in edge-lit LED TVs. As the lights are not directly behind the screen, edge LED TVs can be amazingly thin and thus more aesthetically appealing. But a stylish slim design also means worse screen uniformity and flimsier audio performance.
All main manufacturers like LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips feature an exhaustive range of LED TVs with various screen sizes and features that cater to both high-end and practical users. The Toshiba 42L7453DB is one of the best-priced models on the market, while the Sharp LE650 is a top pick for big-screen experience.
You’ve always wanted to buy a Plasma TV? Now is probably the best time to get your mitts on one. Once hailed as the next-gen TV display, Plasma TVs have almost disappeared from store shelves due to an advance in LCD technology. Key players like Panasonic and Samsung SDI have ceased production of plasma display televisions. Much to the dismay of videophiles who believe that Plasma TVs have more advantages over LCDs including better contrast ratios, viewing angles and enhanced colour depth.
If you are a purist, head to the nearest store and scoop up a Plasma TV before they disappear for good. Try to get your hands on one of the last Panasonic ST60, a rare gem of performance and price. As one of the very few manufacturers still in the game, LG has announced four new ranges for 2014 including the LG 60PB6900 with a beautiful plasma image, Active 3D and enhanced in-built sound quality.
If mobile phones, watches and even washing machines can be ‘smart’, why not your home entertainment system? Connect your TV to the Internet to access a wide range of online services including video on demand, music and social networking sites. Some high-end models even feature video calling via Skype and a full web browser. Samsung has one of the most extensive range of Smart TVs and features with the Samsung UE40H6410 being one of the best-priced models on the market.
High-definition is fairly common nowadays but if you want a step further, 4K picture quality will blow you away. 4K or Ultra HD TVs display four times more pixels than a traditional Full HD, with sharper images and more vibrant colours. Sony’s second generation of 4K, the Sony KD-65X9005B, is setting the benchmark for UHD technology with a beasty 65″ diagonal screen and superb audio performance.
But what use is having crystal-clear picture quality if there is no actual content to enjoy it? 4K TV users only have a few videos on Netflix and YouTube to choose from; dedicated UHD download sites, UHD channels or a 4K disc format are virtually non-existent. It’s this lack of
domestically available 4K content together with an incredibly high price tag that will relegate Ultra HD TVs to a niche market. Best wait until prices hit the bottom and content becomes more widely available.
OLED panels are deemed the next-generation technology to outperform Plasma and LCD TVs. Instead of backlighting, OLED TVs use sets of red, green and blue ‘organic LEDs’ (hence the term ‘OLED’) to light up each picture individually. This translates into brighter, richer and deeper colour saturation. OLED TVs deliver a picture that exceeds your wildest dreams, with pin-sharp clarity you’ve never seen before. The only deterrent is the technology’s rather hefty price tag. LG‘s ground-breaking 44EA980V, for instance, costs a whopping £3,000.
But with more and more manufacturers rolling out OLED models, prices are falling quickly.
What you need to consider
Stick to your budget: Let’s face it: Reading up on 4K or OLED display technology is pointless if you can’t afford it. Prices can vary hugely, from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds depending on the model and screen size you go for. But the good news is that high quality television is no luxury anymore, so there are great TVs out there to suit even the slimmest budget. So, determine your budget before you hit the stores or online shops to ensure you get the best deal for your money.
Size matters: Pop into your local store and you’ll notice that TVs have become considerably thinner and less bulky, which means you can fit bigger screens into more compact spaces. TVs with 19-32 inch displays are ideal for kitchens or bedrooms, while 32-46 inches is good for high-resolution pictures. If you have a lot of space available, go for a large-sized 60-inch model or more to create an entertainment hub for the entire family.
Big is not always better. But larger screens generally provide a higher resolution and better image quality. A large high-resolution screen is simply a wonderful thing, especially if you are a movie buff. So, instead of investing in “smart” features, consider stepping up on screen size to get the most for your money. And if you don’t have enough space for a large-sized model, why not getting rid of some old furniture?
Some large-screen models also come with a curved shape for an immersive viewing experience. Earlier this year, Samsung released the UE65HU8500, a stunning 65-inch curved screen with 4K resolution. But priced at £3338, it’s a home entertainment system exclusively designed for people with deep pockets.
When and What: What you will be watching on your TV and when will affect your decision-making just as much as where you’ll be placing it. Will you be watching television mostly during the day or in a well-lit room? Especially when your TV is placed in a room with a lot of windows, you should opt for an LED TV as they can create brighter images. Or do you plan on watching your set mostly at night or in a darkened room? Then a Plasma TV may be your best choice, they have deeper black levels and better picture quality compared to LED displays.
3D or not 3D? Most 3D TVs like the leading Sony Bravia XBR or the Panasonic Viera are perfectly capable of displaying normal 2D content, so 3D is more like an extra feature than a separate TV category. Watching a blockbuster movie in 3D is an incredible viewing experience, but the chronic lack of 3D content and channels have rendered this feature rather useless. Sky is currently the only 3D channel in the UK and you need a subscription to access 3D content. Moreover, many 3D glasses need to be purchased separately which can quickly get expensive, especially if you want to stock up pairs for the entire family.