Kya deLongchamps wades into the world wide web of TV viewing choices and looks at the hardware, the software and the bewildering choices on offer.
Presented with the new generation of TV technologies, do you know your 4K from your OLED, android interfaces and TV friendly apps?
Below, we will try to demystify the latest and the greatest in screen choices available around online and in a shop near you.
Size aside, there are a number of resolution solutions in LED (light emitting diode) and LCD (liquid crystal display) and plasma. Resolution delivers the detail and colour over each split millimetre of the screen.
What you see now on a large top flight television is an attempt to deliver true high definition, edge-to-edge, comparable to what the instruments of your eye can pick out in real life.
The best choice in new TVs for resolution are energy saving LEDs.
These include Samsung’s fascinating organic LED (OLED) range of LED televisions with clusters of light emitting diodes that emit their own independent illumination moment to moment in clusters, rather than being just backlit all over the screen.
LG OLEDs are reduced to €2,39949 for theOLED55B6V 55” TV at Harvey Norman now.
Expect to find very good top branded LDC 40” HD Ready TVs from €350 or even better. Not all sets are equal, and HD relies on a subscription to a HD service coming through a Full HD or HD Ready TV.
Shop Floor Essentials:
* Both LED TVs and LCD televisions suffer from what is termed ‘colour bleed’ to some degree. ‘Light noise’ is that grey smoke in black areas of the picture.
* Trust your eyes. We want bright life-like colour, deep blacks without tell-tale clouding and rich but comfortable contrasts. Some TVs have adaptive technology to vary contrast to your chosen settings.
* The closer you sit, the more obvious light noise and colour bleed becomes, underscoring the importance of appropriate screen sizing to the room. Judge your TV on the shop floor first with your room dimensions in mind. Stand to each side of the set too.
* The processing rate of a TV in frames per second (fps) or hertz (Hz) describes how it handles swift action such as sport. Ensure that having enjoyed the tree frog bobbing on a leaf in the Amazon rain forest, you ask to see an action sequence of at least 100fps on the TV you are considering, (common to football, for example).
* You will need a HD streaming service or HD downloaded content to receive HD television, including UHD or 4k. Choose Full HD over HD Ready, if you want to watch Blue-ray films. Prices from €420 for a Full HD set.
* A Smart TV means it can (with a cable) connect and interface with the internet and home automation hubs.
The seismic shift in televisions is the acceleration towards Ultra HD (UHD) sometimes grandstanded as cinema level 4k, and what is termed High Dynamic Range (HDR).
Expect to see both terms thrown around when you shop. UHD is a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 in the pixels that make up your TV set’s surface.
That’s an improvement of four times the standard but popular HD (1080p), a smooth, silky, painted-on-glass experience. UHD from brands including Sony, LG, Panasonic and Samsung offer clarity and detail, immersing you in the image.
However, for some of us it means headache-making definition similar to having too high a prescription in distance glasses.
UHD does mean you can sit that much closer to your TV without any perceptible loss of quality, a great choice for Play Station 4-Pro.
Expect to see new subscription set boxes including the Sky Q Box appearing in sitting-rooms near you. HDR is vying with UHD/4K among techies, and in terms of colour range and deep true blacks, is producing the lot of excitement. Some sets offer both.
Starting prices for UHD? Improving. LG 43” 43UH603V, €529. Harvey Norman, Bush 40” UHD Freeview HD, €344.99, Argos.
Shop Floor Essentials:
* Detractors argue that our eyes just don’t take in all that 4k quality. Standard HD at 1080bp with a good refresh rate of 60-100fps or better is still very, very good quality. Lacking 4k, even with an app platform like webOS for on demand services and Freeview, will put the set at the cheaper end of the market for technophiles.
* Not all UHD televisions support 4k streaming. If the set was made before 2015, it’s important to confirm this feature. Some older UHD televisions can be adapted to receive 4k content. A HDMI 2.0 socket is required and should become available as an adapter for the older style HDMII style socket.
* 4k content can be found in a growing collection from standard television broadband-based subscription services, from downloaded content from the Internet and from the 4k champion, Netflix. Expect to see the range of content expand over 2017. BluRay discs and players are on the way in UHD/4k formats.
* HD and 4k streaming relies on your broadband speed. For example Netflix and Amazon Prime currently recommend 25Mbps for 4k. Check with your broadband supplier to ensure the service to your home can handle HD performance at peak viewing times.
* High Definition Resolution (HDR) refers to a new range of contrast, colour and shadow — stunning if you haven’t enjoyed it before. Quantum Dot technology uses backlit crystals on the screen to increase the spectrum of colour.
* Look out for HEVC video compression or ‘upscaling’. This feature allows a UHD television to lift the quality of standard HD to near UHD/4k quality.
As we’ve explained, greater resolution in HD and even UHD/4k means you can if you wish, sit that bit closer, exploding the old tenets of screen placement. However, how ‘present’ do you want the television to be?
With OLED televisions wafer thin and discreetly black and frameless when off, televisions are less the visual vandals they used to be.
With better edge-to-edge picture projection in a mid to top range set, sitting at an angle to the television (without a marked curve where a central position and peripheral vision counts) everyone should be able to see — even in cramped quarters.
Shop Floor Essentials:
* Look for a screen with a discreet bezel (frame) that throws all of its size at the screen. Ensure any large TV is stable whether on the floor or wall, as large sets are extremely dangerous for young children without a properly installed support.
* Which magazine offer useful ‘angle ratings’ in their reviews, which.co.uk. 50” might be the new industry standard, but for the sake of your eyes, stay under 40” if you have less than 2.5m of distance in play. 4k televisions allow viewing distances of as little as 3m for a 50” set.
* Where many fabulous HD quality televisions with their wafer thin profile can fall down, is on sound. If you’re determined on a cinematic punch, an additional sound-bar sitting right under the screen can make all the difference.
* Sound bases support the TV as a discreet pedestal. With Bluetooth connectivity, most bars and bases can play music back from your phone or tablet as an auxiliary speaker.
* UHD 65” sets start in the €3,600 range (Philips).
Streaming is coming...
With streaming and downloading to your TV, PC or mobile device, is there any point in contracting that cable and/or satellite service?
The choice really comes down to your budget, viewing habits, tastes and use of the content on offer.
Online services, more traditional satellite and cable services and TV manufacturers are responding to the versatility demanded by customers who expect their entertainment supplied through multiple screened devices from a range of services.
Bundled with broadband, cable services still offer great value and traditional TVs are not necessarily exclusive of changes in our viewing habits.
Using a streaming stick (Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV) connected through your HDMI port, your TV serves as the largest, most sophisticated screen on offer for your internet service, the event screen, if you will.
The market is developing at lightening speed, so tailor and amend your packages to suit you and your leisure time spending.
Netflix has now started allowing customers to download their catalogue for viewing at any time, and vying for customers, those joining Sky TV from €29.50 per month on a 12-month contract will receive a free 32” Samsung TV with installed Sky Q.
This next generation box (the device for wireless Sky Q multi-screen performance and ready for the wonders of 4k resolution) allows you to record four programs while viewing a fifth.
For some of the most popular elements of Sky TV (not by any means their full catalogue) without the need for a contract or dish, consider the WiFi Now TV HD Smart TV Box, €34.99 with a three month ‘Entertainment Pass’, www.currys.ie
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