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What you should know before buying

by SuperiorInvest

Christmas shoppers are looking for Black Friday deals

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Black Friday is a popular time to buy TVs, but it can also be intimidating if you don’t know what you need.

There are so many TV specifications that it makes shopping for one overwhelming and confusing. It’s like a shortcut attack. What is HDR? What does 8K mean? What is the difference between LCD, OLED and QLED displays? How the brand is important?

The discounted TVs on Black Friday may not be the best of the best. “The TVs you’ll find on Black Friday will typically be entry-level sets,” says Paul Gagnon, vice president and industry consultant at market research firm The NPD Group. Gagnon, who has been in the TV industry for 25 years, says that especially with a discount, it’s important to make sure the TV you’re buying has all the features you need.

Here’s a guide that explains all these important features so you can find them The TV that’s best for you.

What is 4K?

4K TVs are the standard these days. If you’re not sure what 4K means, it describes the resolution of the image. 4K TVs have four times more pixels than standard 1080p sets. Keep in mind, though, that most live streams still aren’t shot in 4K, so you’ll see the benefit mainly on apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or if you subscribe to YouTube TV with a premium 4K package.

When choosing between resolutions, specifications such as Ultra HD, UHD or 4K may be displayed. They all mean the same thing.

What is 8K?

8K resolution has twice the resolution of 4K. It has four times the number of pixels compared to 4K and 16 times more pixels than 1080p.

While this may sound tempting, you probably won’t enjoy any of the benefits of 8K because there is no content shot in 8K yet. Not to mention that 8K TVs are expensive. Be prepared to spend upwards of $2,000.

What is HDR?

David McNew | AFP | Getty Images

HDR, otherwise known as high dynamic range, allows your TV shows and movies to look the way the studio that made them intended when shot in HDR. You’ll get more light in darker scenes, meaning content will be easier to see. Most 4K TVs also have HDR compatibility.

The quality of HDR TVs is wide. Expensive ones can look great while cheap ones don’t. If done right, HDR can actually be a more important feature than 4K.

Good HDR is all about brightness and contrast. When the bright parts of the TV picture are brighter, colors are improved and the picture appears to have more depth, and movies and TV shows can look more vivid. Let’s say you’re watching a movie with an ocean shot, you’ll see the nuances and textures of the waves, the deepest blues and whitecaps, making you feel the realism of the scene.

However, HDR performance can vary drastically from TV to TV. Make sure the TV you buy has at least 400 nits of brightness – a measure of brightness intensity – as sometimes TVs below 400 are sold as HDR TVs. 600 nits or better is better, with the best performing HDR TVs reaching 1000 nits or more.

You will see a lot of different types of HDR marketing. HDR10 is the most widely used because it is an open and free technology standard. Almost all HDR-capable TVs will work with HDR10 content.

There’s also HDR10+, which is supported by most major streamers, except for Netflix. However, keep in mind that TVs can receive updates, so if a manufacturer decides to use HDR10+, the company can add that option to your TV without you having to do anything other than update the software.

What does refresh rate mean?

People will be able to play Xbox Game Pass games over a cloud connection on Samsung Smart TVs in 2022.

Microsoft

A TV’s refresh rate is the number of times per second it can reset and display the image. Most TVs today offer either 60Hz, meaning the display refreshes 60 times per second, or 120Hz, refreshing 120 times per second.

The latter is more expensive, but may be better if you watch a lot of fast-moving content like sports or action movies. When refresh rates are low, motion blur is created, making a moving image look blurry.

This number is especially important for players. The latest consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X offer 120Hz refresh rates, but you’ll need a true 120Hz TV to see the graphics as clearly as possible.

If you’re connecting a gaming system that uses a higher refresh rate, “make sure the TV has an HDMI 2.1 input,” says Gagnon. That’s the port that will support those fast refresh rates, he explains.

What is the difference between LCD, OLED and QLED?

Amazon Fire TV Omni Series in QLED

Amazon

Almost every television today uses either a liquid crystal display (LCD) or an organic light emitting diode (OLED) screen. The latter is capable of producing the best picture quality, while LCDs usually cost less but can still give you a great picture.

OLED is a newer technology. It does not have a standard backlight. Instead, each pixel is lit individually. On the other hand, the highest quality LCD displays have local dimming, which means that parts of the screen can be dimmed without affecting the brightness of the rest of the screen.

“The biggest advantage of LCD is that it is by far the most affordable of all technologies,” says Gagnon. “Very high-end LCD TVs do a pretty good job of approaching or matching the performance of OLED displays.”

With OLED, “then you’re usually talking about what’s the most powerful display. So it’s going to have higher contrast levels and better color performance.” It will also be easier to watch TV from multiple angles and likely have the fastest refresh rate, Gagnon explains.

There is also QLED, which stands for Quantum Light Emitting Diode. A QLED TV is essentially an LCD TV with quantum dots. Quantum dots are tiny tiny molecules that emit their own differently colored light when struck by light. Thanks to this technology, QLED TV emits colors more accurately, which improves the overall picture quality.

With QLED, “you get better color performance, you also get a small efficiency improvement, which means the set can be a bit brighter, and often these are TVs that include additional features like higher refresh rates and more HDMI inputs,” says Gagnon.

What about smart TVs?

iTunes running on a Samsung TV

Samsung

Almost all TVs are now smart, so no matter what brand you choose, you’ll likely have apps pre-installed on your new TV. You can connect an external streaming device to any TV, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku box, or Apple TV. If so, choose one that offers 4K and HDR if your new TV supports it. This way you can ensure the best possible viewing experience.

When it comes to using pre-installed apps on your TV, it’s important to know that the smart TV stores where you can download apps for your TV vary depending on TV brand. Samsung TVs give you access to the Samsung Smart TV Store and LG TVs have the LG Content Store. Other brands work with streamers you know. TCL, Hisense, Toshiba and more are partnering with streaming providers you know like Roku, Google and Amazon.

It’s less important to find a TV that has a built-in smart service that you like, and more important to find the highest quality TV. You’ll always have the option of adding an external streaming device to your TV if you prefer one company over the other.

If you’re relying on your TV’s built-in apps, Gagnon suggests making sure the Smart TV you’re buying supports all the streaming apps you use frequently. And if you have an iPhone and like to mirror your screen, make sure your TV supports Apple Screen Mirroring. If you’re using Android, make sure your TV supports Casting, Google’s version of sharing content from your phone to your TV.

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