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Now Is the Time to Buy a 4K TV—But Which One?

Which Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4K TV should you buy? This is about the easiest “What (fill in device type) should I buy?” question a tech nerd has ever had to answer. Without commercial bias or compensation for the recommendation, there is only one answer: The newest OLED TV from LG—the [easyazon_link identifier=”B01MF6AN6N” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]LG OLED65B6P[/easyazon_link], available for a price of under $3000 on Amazon. If that price tag seems a bit steep, opt instead for the 2015 [easyazon_link identifier=”B010RX0UKY” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]LG 65EF9500[/easyazon_link].

[media-credit id=3 align=”alignleft” width=”1000″]Time to buy a 4K TV - Stewart Wolpin - Image[/media-credit]

Why is this question so easy to answer? These two LG sets, or even the company’s flagship Signature [easyazon_link identifier=”B019O5F7TK” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]OLED65G6P[/easyazon_link], check off all the boxes of a desirable and virtually future-proof 4K TV that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Or until 8K TV is foisted on us.

Our Picks Have No Backlighting

So what makes these two LG sets so great? First and foremost is LG’s OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology, which is vastly superior to standard LED LCD.

“OLED is vastly superior to LED LCD”

Just as a 35 mm film needs a projector, an LCD panel requires a light shown through it from the rear. On most LCD TVs, this backlight is supplied by LEDs arrayed around the edges of the frame. Some LCD sets, such as those from Vizio, offer superior “full array backlighting” (FALD). With this, a grid of LED lights arrays behind the LCD panel. FALD backlighting enables “local dimming.” With local dimming, specific lights in the LED grid adjust to the lighting needs of a section of the image.

But LED backlighting is indiscriminate, including (to a lesser extent) FALD. Even if a scene requires absolute black, such as a scene in space, still some backlighting is needed. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to see the stuff in space—stars, ships, planets, etc. As a result, blacks look more charcoal gray on an LCD screen because that backlighting is always on.

OLED doesn’t need any backlighting. Each of the individual 8 million pixels on an 4K OLED TV is self-illuminating. If a scene calls for absolute black, those pixels just turn themselves off—no light, no nothing. Scenes in space are stygian, and colors jump off the OLED screen as if painted on black velvet. No other TV technology, not even plasma, has ever rendered blacks as perfectly and utterly black as OLED.

But why only LG for OLED? Because LG bought the original OLED patents from the technology’s inventor—Kodak—and it took LG 10 years to perfect it. Most name brand TV makers have tried—and failed—to successfully and, more importantly, cost-effectively, manufacturer OLED TVs. And they all failed. So, for the time being, LG is and will be the only OLED game in town. This solitary supplier situation should not worry you in the least. There are no 4K compatibility issues involved, and LG is as committed to OLED as the Pope is to the Vatican.

With 4K TV, Size Matters

Why a 65-inch set? What’s wrong with a smaller, less expensive model? Because buying a 55-inch 4K TV or smaller is a waste of money.

4K TVs pack in 8 million pixels, four times as many as a regular HDTV, also known as 2K. More pixels means smaller pixels, and smaller pixels means you can sit much closer to your 4K TV than your current HDTV and not see the individual pixels that make up the 4K image.

As a result, optimal viewing distance from a 65-inch 4K TV is around 4 to 8 feet. In comparison, you’d need to sit around 9 to 12 feet from a 65-inch 2K set for optimal effect. You can calculate your own screen size/resolution/distance figures using this interactive tool.

To see any benefit from a 55-inch 4K set, you’d have to sit 4–5 feet away from it—fine for intense (maybe too intense) gamers, not so comfy for the rest of us. But from a normal viewing distance—7 or more feet away—it’d take a pair of platinum eyes to detect the difference between a 55-inch 4K and a 55-inch 2K TV.

If a 55-inch TV is as big a TV as you want, opt for a much cheaper 2K model, such as the [easyazon_link identifier=”B019PZD68I” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Vizio D55-D2[/easyazon_link] or [easyazon_link identifier=”B01E9MAX2O” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]E55-C2[/easyazon_link], both FALD LED LCD models, both priced at less than a tenth the price of our recommended 65-inch 4K OLED.

Better Than More Pixels

More pixels are nice—you’ll see a lot more detail than on a 2K set as long as you’re close enough to the screen. But what you really would notice between last year’s 4K TVs and this year’s is improved contrast and more colors.

Widely available for the first time in most of this year’s top 4K models, both OLED and LCD, are new HDR (high dynamic range) and WCG (wider color gamut) technologies.

If you’ve got an iPhone or a top Android phone, you’re somewhat familiar with HDR, a feature that dramatically boosts the contrast of still photos you snap. You don’t need the aforementioned platinum eyes to see the difference between side-by-side HDR and non-HDR sets.

WCG raises the numbers of colors a TV set can display from millions to billions, and can display more than 75 percent of the colors the human eye can see, compared to not even half those colors on a standard HDTV.

Check out some vivid before-and-after HDR and WCG differences on this UHD Blu-ray promotional site (and you can now buy the first 4K UHD Blu-ray player, the [easyazon_link identifier=”B01A9V6OI6″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Samsung UBD-K8500[/easyazon_link].

Flat Is Phat

You’ll notice that both our recommended LG 4K TVs are flat, not curved. This author believes curved TVs are an awful idea, a scam perpetrated by cynical marketing types.

You see, 4K TV makers knew you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between 2K and 4K sets exhibited under the bright fluorescent lights at your local big box electronics store. So TV makers curved their 4K sets to better differentiate them from plain old 2K HDTVs, then spun a false narrative about how “enveloping” the curvature made what you were watching.

The truth is that curved TVs are actually detrimental to TV viewing. First, the curvature cuts down the side viewing angle. Second, ambient light gets reflected weirdly like on any curved glass or mirror. Third, a curved TV eliminates the advantage of a thin TV—and OLED sets can be as thin as a pencil—especially if you plan to mount it on a wall. So, we insist you buy only a flat 4K TV.

Bottom line: A 65-inch flat 4K LG OLED is your best long-term TV investment, and the best TV you can buy today—unless you’ve got the deep pockets to spring for the company’s drool-worthy soon-to-arrive 77-inch Signature [easyazon_link identifier=”B00TRQNZG4″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]OLED77G6P[/easyazon_link]. How much? If you have to ask … we only know we’re seeking a reverse mortgage or a loan shark—or both—for one.

Stewart Wolpin is a veteran consumer electronics expert who writes about the latest technology for eBay.com, where you can find many of these TVs and other devices to satisfy your home entertainment needs.

 

HDTV Buying Guide – The Basics

If you are looking to upgrade your dated television but are intimidated by the vast number of features and options available, set your mind at ease. In this article, you will find information that will help you wade through the buying decisions involved in purchasing a new high- definition television (HDTV).

Determining how much you can spend is a key step when shopping for an HDTV. Assign yourself a price bracket, and then explore the various different HDTV options within that range.

In general, there are five different technologies that are used to produce high- definition TV: CRT, LCD, plasma screen, HD rear projection (RPTV), and HD front projection.[GARD align=”left”]

With the exception of HD front projection, the price of HDTVs are almost always directly related to size: the larger the size, the more expensive the set.

When determining the right size television to buy, note that dimensions are specified by the diagonal measurement across the screen (from corner to corner).

CRT Televisions

CRT (cathode-ray-tube) televisions have a special vacuum tube that produces images when an electron beam strikes a phosphorescent surface. The first televisions produced in the 1940s were based on CRT technology, and this was the only widely available type of television until a decade ago.

CRTs now come in high-definition models and are usually capable of displaying 480 or 1080 horizontal lines of interlaced resolution (referred to as “480i” and “1080i,” respectively). Most HD CRTs improve upon the standard definition (480i) format by refreshing the pixels in a “progressive scan” process called “480p.”

CRT TVs are relatively affordable and reliable. They come only in 36-inch or smaller models, and their mid-sized screens are mostly appropriate for small rooms.

These television sets are much bulkier and heavier than other television technologies; most are about 24 inches deep, and they can weigh up to 200 pounds. One other drawback is that a CRT’s picture quality can deteriorate after several years.

Of course, you’ll pay more for a high-definition CRT than a standard-definition one. Though you can get a 32-inch standard-definition CRT for $400 to $650, a high-definition 30-inch model runs from about $600 to $800.

Despite the drawbacks, high-definition CRTs are a good, low-budget choice for budget-conscious consumers who want to upgrade their TVs.

LCD Televisions

If you are shopping for a new high-definition television and you have a fairly large budget, you might be interested in an HD flat-panel LCD TV. LCD flat-screen HDTVs are available in a variety of sizes, ranging from about 23 inches up to 70 inches.

As with other types of televisions, price increases with size. LCD prices are typically from $750 to $1,000 for 42-inch sets and $1,500 to $3,500 for up to 70-inch sets.

If you want the newest and best, be ready to spend significantly more for a 1080p set.

An LCD TV is typically 4 to 6 inches thick, and even units with screens larger than 40 inches can weigh only 50 pounds—about half the weight of comparably sized plasma TVs (see below). This makes them great for mounting on the wall.

LCD TVs stand up well when it comes to minimizing reflections, too; they generally perform better than plasma screens in brightly lit rooms.

Also, LCD TVs are not as susceptible to “burn-in” as plasma screens. This is a phenomenon in which a ghost-like image can be permanently etched into the screen from paused pictures or lasting lines and colors such as those from news tickers or video games.

Like other top-end HDTVs, LCDs have outstanding picture quality and very fine resolution.

Plasma Screen Televisions

Plasma-screen HDTVs are among the best in HDTV technology. They are known for their superior contrast, deeply saturated blacks, and accurate color representation. They also have outstanding viewing angles (no reduced picture quality when viewed from off center).

Flat-panel plasmas can range from 32 to 103 inches and are usually between 4 to 6 inches deep. Plasma HDTVs are roughly comparable in price to LCDs. They range from $750 to $1,300 for 42-inch sets and from $1,000 to $1,750 for 50-inch sets. As the size of the HDTV grows, so does the price. Plasma screens that measure 60-plus inches fall into the $1,600 to $3,100 price range, and, like other types, newer 1080p-compatible models cost more.

Plasmas can run on the heavy side, with 40-inch screens weighing more than 90 pounds, and they can be slightly more difficult, though not impossible, to mount on a wall.

Also, their glass screens can be highly reflective, which causes annoying glare in bright rooms. This can be helped but not necessarily cured by anti-reflective coatings.

Lastly, plasma screens can develop “burn-in.”

Rear Projection Televisions

If you’re looking for a large-screen television at a lower cost than that of a plasma or LCD TV, a rear-projection TV (RPTV) may be for you. Just be aware that, as the size of the screen goes up, the resolution goes down. That’s why it makes sense to go with high-definition technology if you’re going to get a rear-projection TV.

High-definition rear-projection TVs have screens that run from 50 to 65 inches. They are from 16 to 24 inches deep, depending on their technology. They are surprisingly lightweight, and many have very good picture quality and fine resolution.

Rear-projection HDTVs use either CRT or microdisplay technology.

CRT RPTVs employ a tube-based technology like that used for traditional televisions. One major downside of a CRT is that its vacuum tubes require more space than microdisplay technologies and often extend up to 2 feet from the front element.

The HD varieties of RPTVs are relatively inexpensive for their size but have marginal viewing angles and usually less-than-perfect picture quality when compared to microdisplay RPTVs.

Microdisplay RPTVs either bounce light off or shine light through microchips en route to the screen. They come in three types: DLP, LCD, and LCoS:

DLP (digital-light-processing) technology, created by Texas Instruments, utilizes a light-bouncing microdisplay. These HDTVs usually have very good picture quality, especially in 1080p models, and are available in numerous brands at many prices. Like other types of RPTVs, some undesirable “rainbowing” can appear around bright on-screen objects.

In the past, LCD RPTVs were typically found to be less acceptable than DLPs, partly because of their less-saturated black color balance and their tendency toward a “screen-door effect”—viewers sitting close to the screen could see the grid-like structure of the pixels.

LCD RPTV technology projects light through a microchip onto the screen, which nearly eliminates any “rainbow effect” that may otherwise disrupt the smooth edges of bright on- screen shapes. 1080p sets match the picture quality of DLPs.

LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) is another type of RPTV technology that bounces its projector’s light off a microchip and onto the screen. These RPTVs are known for their dark, rich blacks and 1080p brilliance. Though 1080p models are expensive, LCoS RPTVs have a solid performance record and, like the LCD RPTVs, have virtually no “rainbow effect.”

All rear-projection HDTVs use bulbs to project the HD image on the front display element. The projection bulbs need to be replaced after about 5,000 hours of use and cost around $200 each. You can have them installed for around $200 or install them yourself. RPTVs generally require more repairs than other types of HDTVs.

Front Projection Televisions

They have a relatively complicated setup, but front-projection systems provide the largest image possible among HDTV options.[GARD align=”right”]

Similar to a movie theater setup, front-projection TVs employ a screen and a projector, each sold separately. The screens can range from 70 to 200 inches.

HD projectors start at $1,000 (expect to pay more for 1080p projectors); a good screen will run several hundred dollars.

There are many types of HD front-projector units. They utilize the same technologies as rear-projection HDTVs.

DLP and LCoS systems bounce light off a microchip, through the lens, and onto the screen, and LCD systems project light through a microchip and onto the screen.

An advantage of a front-projection system is that you can resize the image at any time by simply moving the projector closer to or farther away from the screen. Also, these setups are highly portable. Screens can be rolled up and projectors unplugged and moved whenever you want to relocate your HDTV.

Front-projected images are highly susceptible to light wash-out, so they require a dark room to fully appreciate the high-definition picture. Also, setup and installation of front-projection systems can be complicated when connecting speakers, a DVD player, and the tuner with the projector mounted on the ceiling.

The bulbs used in HD projectors last about 2,000 to 3,000 hours and cost approximately $350 each. There is also a risk of “rainbow effect,” as there is with rear-projection televisions.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Home Theater Installation Pro

TV & Home Entertainment

From simple systems that incorporate television or movies with surround sound to high-end “theater rooms” built specifically for

entertainment, the home theater is becoming an increasingly important element of the wired home. With the rollover to mandatory HDTV on all television sets, a “buying boom” is underway, and high-quality HDTVs can be found at great prices.

In this section we will help you make informed choices about buying and installing various types of HDTVs and give you advice on incorporating surround sound to create the best home entertainment experience for your needs.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Home Theater Installation Pro

TV & Home Entertainment

From simple systems that incorporate television or movies with surround sound to high-end “theater rooms” built specifically for

entertainment, the home theater is becoming an increasingly important element of the wired home. With the rollover to mandatory HDTV on all television sets, a “buying boom” is underway, and high-quality HDTVs can be found at great prices.

In this section we will help you make informed choices about buying and installing various types of HDTVs and give you advice on incorporating surround sound to create the best home entertainment experience for your needs.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Home Theater Installation Pro

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