Don’t buy a TV before reading this, ultimate buying guide 2016
Today the TV market is as crowded as ever, but if you want to splash out on the latest high end set that will last you many years to come, then there are a few key features to look out for.. not all TVs are created equally and there’s no such thing as a free lunch…!
HDR the must have technology
A multitude of TVs are now being offered with HDR (High Dynamic Range) support as they are able to offer a far greater range of colours that make the picture you are watching feel more real, so much so, if you are watching a football game you’ll be convinced you are there looking overheard, such is the clarity of colour, however picking out an HDR is fraught with complications. If you are going to buy a TV it absolutely must come with HDR support otherwise you are locking yourself out of the very best content being produced in the next few years. But picking a suitable HDR TV set is not as easy you’d think… surely you can just buy any TV that says HDR on the box and your golden right?
Not all HDR is created the same
Well this is the kicker, just because it’s on the box that it supports HDR, it won’t tell you how good the HDR functionality actually is, or how compliant to industry standards it is, after all you don’t want to buy some cheap chinese set and realise it doesn’t support the full range of colour you were expecting. However it gets way worse than this, turns out a lot of sneaky manufactures will happily slap HDR all over their TVs but WONT tell you that you can only play HDR content in a few circumstances… HDR content only for local media (you’ll have to play it from a USB stick), HDR for online streaming content only (Netflix only from the TV) all of these restrictions basically mean bye bye to playing it over HDMI and whatever fancy pants Blue-Ray / SKY set top box you just shelled out for.
An expensive TV costs a lot for good reason
So now armed with our knowledge that their are many really cheap HDR pretending TVs out there, we wanted to ask ourselves what does a good HDR TV look like, how do I know what I’m getting is properly supported and going to look great? Well fortunately HDR does actually have an industry standard which is “UHD Premium” certification, any TV that proudly boasts this you can guarantee you will get a least the minimum amount of HDR support to be half decent… so now think about just how shockingly bad those “HDR” sets are, that can’t even meet these minimum standards? The bad news is, the TVs that do support this are not cheap and for good reason. If you spend some time to look over the cheaper TV’s the less restrictions they impose on being able to play HDR content the more they cost. So in a nutshell if you want a TV that can just play proper HDR from any source you chuck at it, you will have to pay for a quality brand and don’t even tempt yourself that you can get the same level of quality or support from cheaper brands… if you could they would all be touting the “UHD Premium” branding.
OLED vs Quantum Dots vs SUHD
You will notice that we have so far left out talking about 4K and 3D so far, for good reason, right now if you buy a new TV you are expecting these two to be thrown in, but we will come back to those later. For now I want to tell you why nothing can match the new generation of OLED screens. You’ve likely read all about all the baffling new technologies coming out and wondered that they must be comparable to the quality of an OLED screen? Well they aren’t. If you put an OLED alongside any other TV you will notice that their picture quaality is vastly inferior to an OLED. OLEDs have amazing colour presence that suck you into the picture you are looking at. Other TVs on the other hand will look massively washed out and you will never get over the fact you are just watching a TV, the very best LED TVs with whatever new buzz words they’ve invented for this month, can not match the breathtaking almost real colour an OLED can put out.
The single one reason OLEDs are worth the premium
This may be a really obvious one, but hands down its the single reason to purchase an OLED TV over everything else. something which seems to escape most review websites. OLEDs LOOK GREAT NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE WATCHING! Woah hang on, what do I mean by that! Now I haven’t mentioned 4K until now for good reason… Critics will argue that 4K TVs are a waste of money and that you cannot make out the detail when you are sat back on the sofa in your living room, because you are too far away to notice any real difference. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but what you can be damned sure of, is that you WILL be able to appreciate all the vast colours an OLED can produce at what ever distance you are looking at it!
And it gets even better! When buying your TV and you’re busy wondering about quantum dots, HDR and whether or not you need to know about what sub-pixels are (OLEDs don’t concern themselves with any of this), the picture you would have seen in a shop that makes the TV look great and influences your buying decision, only looks great in the shop, afterall it’s a highly tailored test film that shows the absolute best the TV can look… But what happens when you get home and you hook it up to your standard or broadcast set top? How will it look without all that fancy special HDR footage they were using… Now you just have a plain o’l boring TV that doesn’t any of its HDR super powers and looks grim and you feel ripped off and sad inside and wishing you could send it back to the shop… OLEDs do not suffer anywhere near as much degrading shame… If you’re watching DVDs, Blue-Rays, Netflix, cable, satellite, hooked up to your PC, HDR or not, an OLED will look amazing no matter what the content… HDR just makes them mind-blowing even more so. At the end of the day, there is severely limited amount of 4K HDR out there right now, and if you bought an LED / LCD based on how it looked in the shop, you bought it all on a dirty lie! That non-oled TV you just bought, will only look any good in a very few set of circumstances.
But OLEDs get even better
When LG say they are in a class of their own, they really do mean it! OLEDs have perfect black for razor sharp infinite contrast with almost no colour bleed. They don’t have to worry about how good local dimming is, because EVERY PIXEL can switch off! They don’t have to worry about the amount of brightness nits, because the who the hell has their TV turned all the way up to full 10,000 candle brightness!! (Essentially this is how OLEDs qualify for HDR certification by having perfect black contrast and no one actually turning up to full brightness) OLEDs don’t have to worry about panel response times and motion smear with their imperceptible 0.01ms response times (15.6ms for SUHD). BUT the latest OLEDs have one last ground breaking trick…
Dolby Vision 12 bit colour
As of writing this there only three TVs that can support Dolby Vision as they are capable of displaying 12bit colour and surprise surprise both are OLEDs… Now the best part is if you don’t have any Dolby Vision content then you can fallback to HDR 10.. but what’s the difference between 10bit and 12 bit, well around 1billion colours for 10 bit and 12billion colours for 12 bit content. Now when you think about HDR content whose sole aim is to make content more realistic… this is a staggering amount of possible extra colours available to you and this is why not all HDR is created equally.. if most of the cheap sets struggle to get anywhere near minimum standards (HDR10) let alone live up to consumer expectations (eg play a blue-ray over bloody hdmi) then 12bit colour is simply mind blowing… It’s the difference from being part of the movie to just watching TV and it’s all down to how realistic the colours look with a far greater range available.