Screen legends: Your guide to modern 'goggle boxes'

Screen legends: Your guide to modern 'goggle boxes'

Looking out for your next ‘goggle box?’ Kya deLongchamps casts an eye over what’s on the market to compile this must-read TV guide.

Binge-watching a boxset (that’s not even in a physical box anymore) television remains a primary preoccupation in our leisure hours. Here’s a quick guide to what is on the market for 2019/2020, essential features and concepts for your next goggle box and how to place it safely and effectively in available space.

8K television

It’s here –- well, sort of. There’s no 8K streamed content, but for the utter technophile with at least €4,550 (Samsung 65”/165cm 8K HDR QLED/Harvey Norman) — Sony, Samsung, LG and Sharp are offering hyper-realism in eye watering resolutions.

Most of us are familiar with 1080p (HD) UHD and/or 4k content which is now well supported. To showcase these new super-tellies, dimensions are vaulting up to 85”/216cm – mesmerising on the showroom floor but a thug of equipment to actually accommodate.

As TV sizes go up to standardise home cinema sets, the pixel density that makes the image utterly crisp has to go up to preserve the quality to a plush velvet that won’t stutter or cloud in the darker shades.

A 98” 248cm Sony KD-98ZG9 (8k) will set you back over €98,000 at present (and of course –what does technology do in price over time? It crashes dramatically). The shy Sony KD-85ZG9 215cm/85” is a mere €16,149 including the WEEE to dump the shameful 40” telly.

Lotto win insanity stuff (sony.ie/electronics/televisions/zg9-series). Keep in mind as the sales person glides across the floor, that a mighty 65 inches/165cm UHD/4K TV starts at under €800. Both 8K sets include a finished back — as they are intended to stand elegantly at the centre of the room where wanted.

They are fast on its feet in other ways too — with nimble voice command, Netflix ready and able to wow with IMAX with the right apps and add-ons, fascinating ‘colour volume’ and impressive contrasts. 8k is so velvety real — it invites you to all but fall through the frame. I wasn’t moved by the jump up in pixel wealth (perhaps I’m not attuned enough).

Value viewing

Resolution in bald terms is the number of points of light making up the whole picture: 1920 x 1080 pixels in high definition (HD), 3840 x 2160 pixels in (Ultra HD) and 4,096 by 2,160 pixels is 4K.

Your eye is highly sophisticated, but not everyone will notice quality of HD to 4K or UHD. Both 4K and UHD are respected in the trade as 2160p — only separated by their means of encoding (so, who really cares).

Selling a 4K television, retailers will show it on a huge screen with 4K content and allow you to get really close — there’s no breaking up of the image when you sit less than a metre from the screen. Keep your head — this is probably not where you would normally be positioned. It’s not a PC monitor — it’s the telly.

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As 4K and LCD are not longer the vanguard, prices in superb brilliantly sharp, reactive “smart” televisions are improving every year. Televisions have become considerably slimmer in profile, shedding their frames almost entirely (the bezel). Still, with sizing going up they remain potentially, physically intrusive.

It’s vital to get the very best audiovisual performance for your size and spend. The ultimate in sound quality will probably entail a sound bar as wide as the television itself — not ugly but again an aesthetic squatter. Another vital quality is a great high-dynamic-range (HDR) which will allow UHD and the 4K content to sparkle off the screen.

OLED and QLED televisions emit their own light, they are not back-lit, and that has made all the difference in their slender depth and the way the picture appears — it’s texture, vibrancy and beauty when watching HD/UHD and 4K content.

Light-emitting diodes also reduce what is termed ‘motion blur’ where images seem to melt and hover on the screen. The shadowy water-colour look of poor contrasts is gone, with true deep blacks that outstrip similarly priced LCD.

QLED is a Samsung technology — feted for its vibrant colour and LG is generally regarded as measure of OLED quality. The speed of the processor in any decent branded TV will allow it to keep the picture moving seamlessly.

TV content

Television programming is not delivered in isolation anymore with streaming content from your broadband connection (look out for the new “device licensing” fee, intended to bag anyone streaming to something other than a conventional TV set).

There are also smart TV partnerships with entertainment suppliers Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Now TV and Amazon Prime. Should this influence your buy? For example — Netflix Calibrated Mode.

“This mode was specially developed to enjoy Netflix originals and reproduce the same picture quality on a TV as on a studio evaluation master — the creator’s vision and intent is faithfully preserved” — Sony.

So in theory by choosing that Sony TV you can optimise the quality of picture for Netflix, using their technology and pre-set interactive tools. In truth, for most viewers, Netflix will look superb shown on any decent UHD or 4K television, and any smart TV will handle catch-up TV and streaming movie services.

Screen legends: Your guide to modern 'goggle boxes'

Some operating features will be specific to the maker, but the ones you will use even on high days and holidays are a variant on a common detail — for example voice-command, picture-in-picture, and Dolby cinema-style surround sound modes.

Trial the TV in person on a high street showroom floor rather than buying into catalogue hyperbole online. An informed salesperson should understand the set’s home networking/wifi performance, available pictures ratios and the integrated technology front to back.

This will allow them to guide you to what you need for your situation and walk you through options, while ignoring technological or marketing fluff — the best vendors will attempt to save you money on a given budget (so, have one).

Placement and size

The experience should be highly immersive ,where ever you sit, in a reasonable distance and angle from front and centre to the television. The trouble with superb high resolution, is the size of television to celebrate it, and the territory it actually demands to deliver a full cinematic experience-rich clarity and matching speeds with fast, action content.

Some reviewers have found all that high dynamic content like wearing a pair of glasses one click too sharp — a headache in short. At over 2.15m across these televisions are more than electronics, they are a serious statement of the status of TV in your life, and your family life. 55 inches/140cm/65i nches/165cm is the new standard for a typical living-room television and without the bezel (frame) that’s big.

To see the difference between 1080p old tellies and the new 4K and UHD standards, you have to sit close enough to notice it, a lot closer than the old distances of 1.5 times the size of the screen.

Manufacturers suggest that to create the cinema experience, we divide the size of the TV in inches or cms by .84 to deliver a distance from the seat edge to the screen centre. Could you really sit 6.5’/2m from a 65”/165cm television? That seems very close.

The design of the screen at the right distance should offer a range of viewing angles, so that every seat for watching is a good seat. Try to secure the screen to the wall or stand it at seated eye level or 15° higher, no more.

If someone is pushed 30° out from the centre of the screen, it’s probably too small for the room and audience. Many televisions carry the same specifications through a range of 10cm increments.

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