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TV buying guide: Everything to consider when buying a TV

Tony Ibrahim | Aug. 10, 2015
Should you buy a UHD TV? What about OLED? Which ecosystem do I want to belong to? Will it work with my smart TV? Does size matter? All this and more answered in our comprehensive TV buying guide.

Buying a television today is tough. Manufacturers are promoting different panel technologies and different software ecosystems. Deciding which television to buy is a decision made today, but it's one you'll need to live with in the years to come.

Following is a list of the most important factors to consider when buying a television.

Should you buy a UHD television?

Ultra high definition, also known as 4K, is the next generation television standard. Its 3820x2160 resolution produces four times as many pixels as the current Full HD standard and it will present UHD content in unprecedented clarity.

All four of the largest television manufacturers agree that UHD will be the future of television. Only letting it down today is a lack of content. UHD televisions have to format lesser content -- ranging between 576i to 1080p -- to larger screens. Most of the time, you won't be getting the most out of those extra pixels even though you've paid a premium for them.

It makes sense to buy a UHD television now if you plan on keeping it for the next decade. The trick is to buy a television with a good upscaling engine, so that it makes the content available today look good on its screen.

Head into a store and view the televisions from Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic side-by-side. Ask store staff to put ordinary broadcast television on. Or to watch a YouTube video on the various screens. You could even ask them to play a favourite Blu-ray.

Take particular note of the picture quality in dark scenes, such as those common to film noir movies like L.A. Confidential, Se7en and even Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. These scenes best test the performance of an upscaling engine, often revealing artifacts, too much image noise or colours that are flat.

You could -- should -- go OLED

Where the big companies stand divided has to do with the display panels. Most companies nowadays use an LCD display with LED backlighting. The backlighting is always on, if dimmed, even at times when the screen is meant to be black.

Deviating from the pack is LG, which has introduced the first generation of OLED displays. Samsung, Sony and Panasonic have all promoted OLED as the next-gen panel technology at one stage or another. Only the manufacturing process is challenging and a low yield rate has meant none of them have been able to take it to the market.

OLED displays have pixels that are individually backlit, and this means the light for each pixel can be turned on for bright colours and then off for true blacks. In comparison, LED-backlit LCD televisions shine light on black -- a colour that is meant to be defined by the absence of light.

 

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