Whether you watch TV just for news or you like to watch good movies with a cinema-like feeling and play games, a TV belongs to every home and sooner or later one question will come up: How do I choose the best TV?
Buying a TV can be tricky and pretty confusing when you have all the different brands offering vearious features and technologies. There are the best TVs of 2016 with new technologies, like the ultra high-definition (UHD/4K), where one can already lose overview. But what is the 4K technology and what are HDR TVs? And how to choose between LED vs OLED TVs?
To help you choose the right TV for your home, we have compiled a list of the key features and guidelines that should be considered when buying a TV.
The screen size of the TV is a major factor for your experience and should be chosen carefully. The average screen size is approximately 49 inches (diagonally). Larger screens are of course preferable, but TVs with large screens are also the most expensive. How big the screen should exactly be, depends on your budget and also on the purpose of your purchase. If you want a cinema-like feeling at home, or you like to play games with a console, a bigger TV, with for example 55 or 65 inches, can provide a great experience. An important factor when choosing the TV size is also the location of the TV, including the room in which the TV would stand, the space you have in the potential location of the TV and, most importantly, the viewing distance. There is no real guideline for the perfect distance, but generally said; The bigger the size of the screen, the further you go, but also keeping in mind the resolution of the TV. For a TV with 50 inches, for example, the minimum distance should be around 2 meters (6.6 feet) and the maximum distance around 3.8 meters (12.5 feet). Otherwise, when sitting too close the pixels will become noticeable and when sitting further the experience wouldn’t be as good anymore. TVs with bigger screen size are, for example, the Samsung UN110S9VFXZA with 110" and the Samsung UE105S9W and LG 105UB9 with 105".
For the quality of your viewing experience the screen type makes a real difference, but which one is the best? The decision on the type of screen greatly depends on what you want to watch and how big your budget is. There are LCDs (liquid crystal displays), that adjust the amount of light that passes through each liquid crystal layer, LEDs, plasma screens and OLED (organic light emitting diode displays) screens, that emit light directly through materials like carbon. The LED is basically an updated version of the LCDs using the same technology, but a different kind of illumination. LCDs are lit by a fluorescent bulb from behind and LEDs by an array of light emitting diodes, which make them far more efficient and allow the TV to be narrower. Although LEDs don’t provide the highest image quality, it is the most popular type of TV on the market now, due to its cost and size. The plasma screens have two sheets of glass with a mixture of gases in between them. The gases are sealed in plasma form and cause illumination in the pixels when charged with electricity, providing a better contrast and colour accuracy than LCDs and LEDs. Here are some advantages and disadvantages for OLED and LCD screens:
+ High response time
+ High contrast ratio
+ Vivid colours
+ Energy efficiency
- Supra-saturated colours
- Limited lifetime (due to the use of organic materials)
- Higher cost.
+ Thin and light
+ Low refresh-rate flicker
+ Cheaper to produce
- Loss of contrast in high temperature environments
- Low viewing quality in direct sunlight
- Limited viewing angles
HDR (high dynamic range) is an imaging technique used to reproduce luminosity very accurately and can therefore deliver a wider and richer range of colors and more contrast levels. HDR is an upgrade of the 4K ultra HD and exists in two formats, which results in the problem of compatibility. The versions of the UHD Alliance is called Ultra HD premium or HDR10 and is an open standard format, which leads to more manufacturers implementing it and a higher availability. Then there is the Dolby Vision’s version, which has a higher technical standard, but with the problem that many sets won’t meet the specifications that make the HDR quality better.
So when buying a HDR TV the compatibility is a very important factor because there will be TVs, like Vizio, that will only be Dolby Vision-compatible while other TVs, like Samsung, will be Ultra HD Premium-compatible. TVs that support both versions are LG TVs. Concerning the compatibility with the TVs, it is said that OLEDs will provide a deeper black, but less darkness and LEDs will be able to give better peak brightness, but less black. The content for HDR has to be mastered for it to be compatible, which is possible with Ultra HD Blu-ray and the creation of HDR content by streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon. Some of the best HDR TV are the Samsung UN105S9WAFXZA, Samsung KS9500, HISENSE H65M7000 and the PANASONIC TX-50DX750.
LCD or OLED screens exist now also in a curved form giving you the feeling of being immersed in the video. It is important to consider that when sitting at an angle of a curved TV the picture might be distorted, which is problematic when multiple people are gathered around a TV.
Besides the screen type, there are other factors to be taking into consideration when choosing your new TV, like the resolution, pixel density, contrast ratio, refresh rate and the viewing angles, which will be explained further.
The resolution of a TV is the number of pixels in horizontal lines that the TV can display. The models start with 720p (HD) and go up to 3840 pixels × 2160 lines, which is called Ultra high-definition (UHD, also called 4K). The more pixels, the sharper the picture will be. Most TVs today have a 1080p HD format (Full HD), with 1080 lines that the TV can display. HD-Ready TVs are cheaper than Full HD, but if you like to watch Blu-ray films, Full HD might be a better choice for you. If you have the budget and big plans with your TV, 4K TVs might be a good choice, since they have four times the pixels of Full HD models, which means more details are displayed and the pictures are more lifelike and vibrant. TVs with high resolution are, for example, the Samsung UE105S9W and the LG 105UB9.
The pixel density describes the sharpness and clarity and is measured in PPI (Pixels Per Inch), counting the number of pixels present per inch on the display. A high pixel density means that images are sharp and clear. It is calculated based on the resolution and size of the display.
The contrast ratio is the difference between the lightest and darkest areas of the image. A TV with low contrast ratio will have a more washed-out grey, rather than a black picture and the white areas will have less vibrance. It is hard to tell which number means a good contrast ratio, because the contrast ratio of the different manufacturers are not comparable, since the way of measuring varies a lot. It is therefore the best to test on your own how the TV displays darker scenes and how the brightness and sharpness look like. In general, LEDs, OLEDs and plasma TVs tend to have a high contrast ratio. TVs with good contrast ratio are the Samsung KS9000 65" and 55", the Samsung KS9500 55" and the Samsung KS9810 88".
The refresh rate is the frequency at which the screen is refreshed and is measured in Hz. A higher frequency results in less flickering (less noise) and less blur, so more natural movement representation in action-intense scenes, which is handy if you watch a lot of action movies or play games. Most TVs support a 60Hz refresh rate, although a better picture is provided with 120Hz or with 240Hz, especially in scenes where objects move faster. It is important to consider that the refresh rate might not always be the same like the refresh rate of the content. To handle the faster refresh rates, the TV generates and inserts an image that fits between the images. This can give a feeling of a too smooth video and can seem like a soap opera. TVs that have a fast refresh rate are, for example, the Samsung UN60ES7500F and Samsung UN55ES7550F with 840 Hz and the LG 84LM960V with 800 Hz.
Wider vertical & horizontal viewing angles are the maximum angles at which images on the display can be viewed clearly, without compromising image quality. LCDs and OLEDs tend to have very limited viewing angles, making it hard to watch TV when sitting right at the side of the screen, whereas plasma TVs often have a wide viewing angle and no color distortion, making it easier for multiple people to sit around the screen and still have a clear picture from every angle. If you plan to watch TV with multiple people, a curved TV would not be a good choice, due to its limited viewing angles. TVs with limited viewing angles are the Samsung LCD TVs in general and TVs of the Panasonic DX600 series, while the Vizio E550i-B2 has the widest horizontal viewing angle with 180° degrees.
TVs with powerful speakers will deliver a better sound quality, but, due to the flat designs, there is simply not enough space for large speakers, so most TVs have two small speakers. Therefore you need external speakers, if you want very good audio quality, like a sound bar, a stereo speaker system, or a home-cinema sound system, where you can choose between a pre-matched surround sound system and component surround sound system. If you are a gamer or you want to enjoy a movie on your own, headphones could be a good solution as well. When you don’t like cables, or you don’t have enough room for a whole system, a sound bar with a powered subwoofer is a good choice, since they are small, planed to fit to the slim design of TVs, are often wireless and provide a good sound. The same goes for the stereo speaker offering an even fuller sound with a stereo receiver, bookshelf speakers or floor-standing speakers and a subwoofer. The best sound is provided with a component surround sound system, but, on the other hand, it takes the most space and has to be connected with cables. It includes a home theater receiver, a subwoofer and five or more smaller and larger speakers. A pre-matched surround sound system also includes five speakers, which are usually more compact, and a control center, which is usually build in a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player. Soundbars are due to their price and flexibility in terms of installation the most popular choice.
Most TVs nowadays are Smart TVs and have WiFi and apps so they can be used to stream videos and browse the internet. Services like Netflix and Pandora are often included in the Smart TV, but before buying you should check out if they include the services you are interested in.
USB & HDMI ports
HDMI ports are the new standard meant to replace the old, bulky A/V cables.
Before buying it is also important to check out how many ports the TV provides, considering all the devices you want to connect to your TV, like mobile devices, laptops, projectors, audio devices and so on. When you are interested in buying a 4k, ask about a HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compatibility. A TV with fours usb ports is, for example, the Samsung UE105S9W.