The approach of a sports event the importance of the Football World Cup is an opportunity for many manufacturers to launch new products. For resellers, it’s about melting old model stocks. For the individual, it is an excuse to invest in a new TV and take advantage of advances in the field. Finally, for the hi-tech journalist, it is the opportune moment for a technical file on the criteria to be taken into account before such a purchase. Are you ready ? Follow the guide…
4K vs. UHD vs. Full HD
Until recently, Full HD reigned supreme in supermarkets. However, 4K TVs exist since 2011, but the lack of content has limited their adoption by their public and, in doing so, the decline in prices related to amortization of production lines. Netflix was among the first to multiply 4K content, but as often, it is the sport that accentuates the phenomenon and the FIFA World Cup organized in Russia will benefit from preferential treatment with a live 4K broadcast on TF1 and beIN Sports.
Standard widely adopted, the term Full HD allows to indicate the definition of image of your television. Behind this expression is actually a television capable of displaying – at most – images in 1920 points horizontally on 1080 points vertically. Today, this standard is losing momentum and our guide focuses on the next step, the 4K. Be careful though, this name is misleading. Indeed, the real 4K is a definition that is only used in the cinema: 4096 points out of 2160 points.
In the world of television – or computer – we use slabs significantly smaller able to display images in 3840 points on 2160 points. In order to distinguish these two image definitions, another term has emerged, even if it is still little used: the UHD for Ultra HD. This one illustrates well the rise in power compared to Full HD, but loses the proximity with the 4K. Therefore, some also use the term 4K UHD to associate the two terminologies.
As we said, the broadcast of the World Cup will be in 4K and Netflix already offers content in 4K. However, this is not the only way to take advantage of this image definition and Blu-ray adopts this standard. They are stamped 4K Ultra HD: their image definition is of 3840 x 2160 points. Finally, be aware that it is possible to display Full HD content on a 4K UHD TV. You could even enjoy a better image, as long as the upscaling module (responsible for resizing the image) does a good job.
What screen size? How far to stand?
The question of the size of your TV is not just for aesthetics. Maybe an 86-inch model would do very well in your living room, but the most important is the comfort of your eyes. It is therefore important to pay close attention to the distance that separates you from your TV, a distance that obviously depends on the size of the television, but also on its image definition. Be careful, the graph below has no medical or scientific value. Directed by Samsung, however, it has the merit of framing things a little.
There are colored surfaces showing the most interesting distances depending on the size of your TV and its image definition. Thus, to fully enjoy the image accuracy of an Ultra HD TV, it should be 1.2m – 2.3m distance for a 55-inch diagonal. You do not have more distance in your living room? No need to turn to the 86 inch models!
The mirage of 3D
In order to distinguish one from the other, the manufacturers of televisions – but also of computer monitors – compete according to the case of ingenuity or crazy ideas. As a logical consequence of the equipment of the cinemas, arrived the first models of televisions in “3D”. There are two technologies that coexist today: so-called active 3D and so-called passive 3D. In the first case, it is essential to have glasses powered, because it is they who will obstruct alternately the left eye and the right eye to create the sensation of third dimension. The advantage of this technology lies in the image quality – largely preserved – compared to the passive model.
On the other hand, it is necessary to do with glasses heavier and therefore tiring in only a few tens of minutes. In contrast, so-called “passive” technology uses simple polarized glasses. On the other hand, one loses clearly in image quality with, in particular, a brightness in withdrawal. In either case, the glasses are not enough and in addition to a compatible TV, it is obviously necessary that the program is also in 3D. Some TVs can convert 2D content into 3D, but the result is more than questionable.
Finally, know that after a good period, 3D is losing ground in recent months / years. Several manufacturers have even completely abandoned the technology. We therefore do not recommend investing in what looks more like a past fashion gadget.
Towards a perfectly flat screen … or curved
After the episode “3D”, the manufacturers have devised a new “accessory” to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The curved screen has spread widely. At first glance at a TV of this type, one is impressed by its bold form. But past the “wow” effect, these TVs seem to have a real argument. Indeed, a viewer would always be at the same distance from the image and thus enjoy a better comfort of vision. Moreover, apart from the additional cost -relative – to the manufacture of the curved slab, these TVs do not generate any additional costs: no glasses to pay for example.
Still, the promise of these curved televisions is not based on very solid ground. Indeed, if the viewer located in front of the center of the screen enjoys increased comfort, it is not the case and the further we go on the sides, the less the contribution of the curvature of the screen seems obvious. The future will tell us if buyers are convinced by this technology, but for our part, we advise you not to consider what is in our eyes a pure gadget.
LED, OLED or Quantum dots
Until now, we had only touched the tip of the iceberg. With this chapter, we touch the heart of the subject, what will really differentiate TVs market and justify a price difference of up to fivefold. Of course, the diagonal screen has a place of choice in this criterion price, but you will see that the technology implemented is what is most important.
You have undoubtedly spotted various mentions on the commercialized models: LCD, LED, OLED, Triluminos, ULED, SUHD … As many abstract terms which refer to the very design of the slab. In the past, all flat screens were LCDs, but changes in the backlighting have followed one another. The builders first used fluorescent tubes. The image often suffered from a lack of homogeneity and this technique has since given way to that of LEDs.
Today, all TVs – or almost – are so called LEDs, although there are still differences between LED edge and full LED. The first uses diodes arranged on the edges of the screen and then reflected on the entire surface when the full LED models use more diodes – distributed over the entire slab – and ensuring an even more homogeneous image. Note that we stay in the field of LCD screens.
To change the category, we must turn to the OLED which we speak more and more in recent months. At first exorbitant, the OLED has actually taken its time to become “accessible”. In quotation marks, because it must still pay a minimum of 1200 euros to enjoy the technology. The OLED no longer uses a backlight because it is the diodes themselves that produce the light. Without going into technical details, the interest is multiple. First, note that the diodes go out completely to “produce” black and the OLED has a perfect contrast. To avoid spoiling, the color rendering is also exceptional and the viewing angles are more important. Finally, the power consumption is better than LCDs.
As we said, the problem of OLED is its cost. This is why several manufacturers are trying to bring out an alternative technology to evolve the LCD. Quantum dots or quantum dots come in the form of a sort of filter that is integrated with LCD screens. If the solution is more economical than the OLED, we estimate that the rendering is slightly lower especially with regard to contrast or viewing angles. Still, the majority of manufacturers go for their solution quantum boxes with different terms: Triluminos at Sony, SUHD for Samsung, ULED at HiSense, ColorPrime for LG …
More recent than the OLED, the acronym HDR multiplies these last words in the shelves. This is obviously an acronym that stands for high dynamic range or high dynamic range imaging in the language of Molière. The idea here is to further improve the color reproduction by recording the images in 1024 brightness levels (against 256 levels before). In doing so, one can get impressive shades and avoid too dark areas and their clogged blacks or too bright areas with burnt whites.
As always when we talk about television, the setting up of a new technology is only valid for its adoption by all content producers. For the moment, there are some Blu-Ray or some programs on Netflix for example, but it does not go far. Still, for once, the majority of players in the television market seem to agree on the interest of HDR. As far as your budget allows, we advise you to take a curious look at compatible models.
Connected TVs, Smart TVs and Internet
A few years ago, having an Ethernet port on his TV was exceptional. Today, the majority of manufacturers are using their solution to connect television and make it as “smart” as possible. In this area, France has always had a special place in that many homes are equipped with a box that makes any television “smart”, but France is not alone in the world and for many manufacturers, the idea of Smart TV makes it possible to insist on the added value that the consumer can derive from it.
Whether it involves an Ethernet connection (RJ45 socket) or Wi-Fi, the principle remains the same overall. Television is connected to the Internet and allows you to enjoy a wide variety of services ranging from content broadcasting (Netflix, CanalPlay …) to Internet browsing via the display of weather or access to social networks. To do this, however, we must go through a user interface and there, the solutions are almost as numerous as the manufacturers. LG has its WebOS when Samsung trusts Tizen. Panasonic relies on Firefox OS when Sony and Philips uses Android TV.
The idea remains however the same everywhere and we strongly advise you to try said interface before making your choice.
What about connectivity?
Can not finish this guide b.a.-ba TV without making a turn on the side of connectivity. We just mentioned the case of the RJ45 port to benefit from a network connection called “Ethernet”, it is obviously not the only take that we find on current TVs. Since we talk about 4K devices, it is a connector that can be eliminated almost completely, the Scart socket. Vestige of a time that the under twenty can not know, it can still be useful to connect a VCR – and recover old VHS – old game consoles. However, the law does not matter to integrate this modern television sets are not available at all.
SCART has been dethroned by HDMI. More compact and more efficient, HDMI is a digital format combining image and sound. Several standards have appeared and, to complicate things a little, there is nothing physically to distinguish a HDMI 1.4 socket from an HDMI 2.0 socket. While both standards are capable of delivering 4K content, only 2.0 supports evolutions such as animation fluency in 60 frames per second. Note that only HDMI 2.0a supports the previously mentioned HDR. At this little game, no mystery, you have to look at the technical sheet especially as a TV with multiple HDMI ports mix standards (1x HDMI 2.0a, 2x HDMI 1.4).
A TV is generally not limited to HDMI sockets and its connectivity often incorporates other standards such as composite (for old analog devices) or component (for old HD devices). In some – rare – cases, you can also count on the Display port, a connector very close to the HDMI used to connect a computer. Many TVs include more outlets, but oh so practical. You can have a headphone jack or a digital audio output and, most importantly, USB ports. This last case obviously allows to connect USB keys and external hard drives, provided that the TV is able to decode the files contained.
Our technical guide is now coming to an end. We hope that it will allow you to see a little more clearly when choosing your 4K TV. Of course, we invite you more than ever to take the time to look at the models on display before making your choice, but keep in mind that the ambient lighting and settings (or rather the lack of settings) stores change the game considerably. Let’s finish by highlighting the fact that a buying guide with a precise selection of products we estimate should arrive very soon.