Your Next Great TV: What to Know Before You Buy
A guide to the specs and features that suit you
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Home Technology for Your Home
There are many great electronics deals out there through the December shopping season, including televisions. New technology runs the gamut, from bendable screens to an 8K display, and can be hard to keep up with.
If you are confused about manufacturer’s claims about the latest and greatest, read this review of current and upcoming TV offerings before you head to the store or shop online.
Before you make a TV purchase, make sure it has a digital QAM tuner so it is compatible with Arvig’s digital TV service. If your TV doesn’t have a QAM tuner, Arvig has digital-to-analog (DTA) converter boxes available for lease.
For screen resolution, before 2016, we had standard definition 720 or high definition 1080 pixels. The screen resolution of 4K TVs, also known as ultra-high definition (UHD), are about four times that of 1080p HD TVs, or about 8 million pixels, which means a much clearer picture.
A word of caution if you are shopping for 4K. Make sure you get the latest 4K technology or your set may be outdated sooner than you like.
In the early days of 4K, there were no agreed upon industry standards of what constituted UHD. Manufacturers have since banded together and agreed on what constitutes the best 4K technology, and agreed on the term UHD premium.
Here’s the challenge. Some lower-end models will not meet the standard, but will still be labeled 4K, while some that do meet the standard won’t be labeled UHD premium. Having a high dynamic range (HDR) for depth of color and richness is another critical feature that some early 4K models may not have.
Here are the specs to look for:
+ A display resolution of at least 3840 by 2160
+ 10-bit color depth or higher allowing for 1024 shades of each primary color (many TVs have a lower 8-bit with 256 shades)
+ A display that meets a minimum brightness, making blacks darker and whites more pronounced
+ Wide color gamut, or the ability to show at least 90 percent of the P3 color gamut
+ High-dynamic range (HDR) enabled
There are currently two standards for HDR technology. HDR1 is an open-format that companies such as Sony and Samsung are opting to use in their TVs. Dolby Vision is a closed format that requires a physical chip to be built into your TV. LG and Vizio offer sets with both technologies, but I would not let that be a deciding factor against buying a Samsung or Sony, unless you are a Vudu subscriber, which only uses Dolby Vision.
Most people know that LED stands for light-emitting diode. The Q part represents quantum dot, which is a different way for a television to produce color. QLED also addresses previous LCD and LED technology issues by creating wider viewing angles, richer colors and deeper blacks.
Like 4K? Now there is 8K
Just when you might have warmed to the idea of a 4K TV, 8K TVs have started to hit the market. With four times more pixels than a 4K, an 8K TV has the clearest picture available. 4K images measure 7680 by 4320 pixels. You could stand inches away from a 65-inch screen and not be able to make out the pixel structure.
High device costs and extremely limited programming mean 8K screens may be more appropriate for commercial applications, such as displays and movie screens, at least in the near future.
Most new televisions come with some capability to access additional programming, including shows, movies and music from the Internet. Many smart TVs allow screen sharing so you can access content from a tablet or smartphone. You can connect via Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable.
A smart start from Arvig
If you already have a TV you are happy with that doesn’t have smart features, you can add a media streamer, streaming stick, or Internet-enabled Blu-ray Disc player to your current TV.
In fact, Arvig can get you started with a Roku Premiere. The Roku is a streaming device that gives you easy access to services including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. We’ve got one to give away to a customer. Just comment on our Facebook post about this blog for a chance to win. Send us your comment by Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. No purchase is necessary. For official contest rules, visit www.arvig.net/rules.
At our house, we have a combination—cable TV and a smart Blu-ray player in our family room where we view most of our programming, and a streaming stick in the bedroom for the occasional movie. Because the streaming stick is small (about the size of a large USB drive), it can easily move out to the garage to have some background entertainment or music while working on projects. Paired with a mini wireless keyboard, we can create a smart TV anywhere we have access to Wi-Fi.
TVs for gamers
If you are into video games, input lag and refresh rates are two specs to consider when making a purchase. The lower the TVs input lag, the quicker the image transfers from your video game console to the screen. Having a higher refresh rate can provide a more realistic appearance for gamers.
Curved, thin and bendable screens
Once touted as the next big thing, curved TVs are on their way out. They may look cool, but most found they did not add to the viewing experience. You will find some major manufacturers are not even offering them anymore. Skip the curve and go flat.
While curved is out, thin is in. LG’s “wallpaper” series of OLED TVs is garnering rave reviews by owners who love the thin, light, flexible screen. At just over 16 pounds, the 2.57mm screen (about the width of three stacked quarters) hangs on the wall like art, while retaining exceptional 4K viewing quality. If you are interested in cutting edge technology of these thin, flexible utra high def screens, you may want to wait to see what Samsung and LG come out with at this year’s CES in January before making a purchasing decision.
Should you wait to purchase an 8K? The short answer is yes. While the first 8Ks produced by Sharp are available in the U.S., they are expensive, and there is scant programming to watch even if you did purchase one. Content providers are still gearing up to provide consumers 4K coverage, so 8K may take quite some time.
If you are considering a large screen purchase (above 40 inches) 4K is the way to go. If a smaller set is on your shopping list, you will do just fine with regular HD at 1080p. With the rising popularity of 4K, there should be some screaming bargains on 1080p sets this season.
QLED may be your best buy for the latest technology, combined with 4K resolution and smart features. With pre-holiday discounts, you can pick up a Samsung QLED between about $1,000 for a 49-inch 4K model up to $3,300 for 65-inch 4K stunner.
My best advice is to do some research, select three or four models you are interested in, and compare the specs side by side. If possible, go to a store and see your final selection before purchasing. Many retail stores will match advertised prices of other dealers, so save the URL of the site with the best online price of your desired television, and take this information along with you when shopping.