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Everything You Need to Know Shopping for 4K TVs this Holiday Season

The Xbox One X just landed and it’s a powerhouse. Microsoft is shining up games new and old to take advantage of that power with 4K and HDR enabling patches but you may not notice a difference if you don’t have the right kind of TV. It’s not just your new Xbox either, 4K Ultra Blu-rays are becoming more common, even Netflix has 4K content now.

4K is rapidly becoming the new standard and for good reason. It’s pretty fantastic. The holidays are fast approaching and that means so are the holiday sales which means this is an ideal time to start looking for an upgrade.

LG-OLED65B7V-65.jpg

Not all 4K TVs are Created Equal

Resolution

It’s true. First and foremost make sure what you are looking at is in fact 4K. The screen resolution should be 3840 x 2160, or 2160p significantly high than an HD TV which is just 1920 x 1080p. A 4K television displays about 8 million pixels.

UHD or Bust

Second, a 4K TV is a big investment so make sure you get the best. The best is not about size necessarily it is about getting the best quality HD display. Make sure your prospective TV is UHD certified.

UHD certified means the device means the UHD Alliance standards:

  • Must meet or exceed a 4K resolution
  • Support 10-bit colour depth, BT.2020 colour space representation
  • Have HDR

What does that mean? to put it into perspective Blu-ray offers 8-bit colour depth which is capable of producing 16.78 million colours. 10-bit colour depth, on the other hand, is capable of 1.07 billion colours.

Forza 7 Screenshot

BT.2020 also related to colour. It provides greater saturation and a wider range of colours than the previous standard. Basically better resolution and better colours make a better image so make sure your TV is UHD certified.

What is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it refers to the richness of the colour in your display. While 4K TVs offer unbelievable clarity because of the sheer number of pixels on the screen it’s the HDR that provides depth of colour that makes some displays stand out the way they do.

HDR is a must but don’t assume all TVs have it. Many models more than a year or two old probably don’t include the feature standard. 2017 models should have it but always double check.

You may notice that there are two kinds of HDR out there: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision offers slightly better image quality due in part to the part is process metadata live with your picture but HDR10 is not to be dismissed. For one it is a far more common format, it’s the prefered format for the Xbox One X for instance. There is also the reality of HDR+ on the way which will process images the same way Dolby Vision does.

Dolby HDR Comparison
An example of how Dolby advertises its Dolby Vision HDR tech. The left side has HDR enabled.

Some suppliers like LG offer hybrid units both most have chosen sides. Don’t worry much though. Unlike HDDVD or Laser Disc, your TV won’t become completely useless if one wins out over the other.

Input Lag and Refresh Rate

These are important ones to gamers. Input lag is the time it takes data to travel from your console to those pixels and every nanosecond counts when you’re online, right?. Honestly, today’s TVs are sufficiently advanced that humans can’t really tell the difference. Still don’t disregard it altogether. If given the choice the lower the number the better more responsive your display will be, bare in mind most people can’t tell the difference until you hit over 120ms, and considering most game pads produce less than half of that, a TV with 50ms input lag, isn’t as bad as 10/20ms competitions make it sound

It is a little tricker with refresh rate. You still want a low number but keep in mind it also affects the TV and movies you watch. While having an excessively low refresh rate may be ideal for gaming some people find it makes video look off.

OLED vs LED

What is in an ‘o’? These two are actually very different and both offer different advantages. LED are actually LCD or liquid crystal displays while OLED stands Organic Light Emitting Diode display and the most basic difference between the two is how they light up.

LCD screens are backlit which means they offer great brightness, but using all the pixels all the time. OLED screens light each pixel individually, so in dark scenes, pixels are turned off providing true blacks. LCDs can’t achieve that but OLED screens are not as bright.

 

oledvsled-feat2
OLED displays are capable of true black and have better contrast as shown in this illustration from LG, but HRD is narrowing the gap between the two by adding vibrancy through how the video is processed rather than how it is displayed.

They match each other in many key decision-making areas like colour range, HDR performance, lifespan, etc but a few key ones with a clear winner include:

  • Power Consumption: LCD Wins
  • Contrast: OLED wins
  • Viewing Angle: OLED wins
  • Price and size: LCD offers better value in both

If you have the money to spare OLED is a good choice but it shouldn’t be a make or break issue because LED screens perform admirably.

4K displays have been gaining momentum in 2017 and now HDR and UHD are becoming standard. Many manufacturers are producing great 4K TVs that are perfect for all the 4K content on the way which makes now a great time to upgrade.

Here are a couple options to keep an eye on in the coming weeks:

Manufacturer Model Size
LG LG 55UJ630V 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart LED TV (2017 Model) 43″, 49″, 55″, 60″, 63″ LG OLED65B7V 65
Hisense Hisense H65N5750UK 65-Inch 4K UHD Smart TV 65 Hisense H43N5700UK 43-Inch 4K UHD Smart
Samsung Samsung QE49Q7FAM 49″ Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR QLED TV 49″, 55″ SAMSUNG QLED
LG LG OLED65B7V 65 inch Premium 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart OLED TV (2017 Model) 55″, 65″ LG OLED65B7V 65 inch

Are you on the hunt for a 4K display this holiday season? What models have caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below.

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