It seems so easy. Search through a list of the best flat screen TVs and pick the one you want. Simple.
Unfortunately, these days I seem to begin most of my guides in the same way - “It’s really complicated to decide on the best <insert name of device here> for you”.
Now, some may say that’s because I’m not a great writer and I should try a bit harder. You got me there! However, it’s also because it’s true.
Unfortunately, with modern flat screen televisions, we come across the same problems. A confusing list of specifications and acronyms that blind us with science. It can make choosing the right TV appear impossible.
However, let’s not give up too easily. Why don’t we take this one step at a time and try to understand the choices we have?
First, I’ll point out the different types of flat screen TV available today. Then, I’ll provide a buying guide and highlight some of the most important features that I think you should be looking out for.
Finally, I’ll review a few models that are some of the best TVs to buy in 2020.
Ready to get going? Hold on to your hats, by the end of this article, we’re going to be flat screen TV ninjas.
|Image||Model||Screen Type||HDR?||Screen Sizes (inch)|
|LG C9 OLED TV||OLED 4K UHD||HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG||77 / 65 / 55||Check Price|
|Samsung Q90R QLED TV||Full-array | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10+ / HDR10 / HLG||82 / 75 / 65||Check Price|
|Sony A9G OLED TV||OLED 4K UHD||HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG||77 / 65 / 55||Check Price|
|Sony X950G LED TV||Full-array | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG||85 / 75 / 65 / 55||Check Price|
|Samsung RU8000 LED TV||Edge-lit | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10+ / HDR10 / HLG||82 / 75 / 65 / 55 / 49||Check Price|
|Samsung Q70R QLED TV||Full-array | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10+ / HDR10 / HLG||85 / 82 / 75 / 65 / 55 / 49||Check Price|
|TCL 6-Series R625 LED TV||Full-array | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG||65 / 55||Check Price|
|Hisense H8F LED TV||Full-array | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10 / Dolby Vision / HLG||65 / 55 / 50||Check Price|
|Samsung RU7100 LED TV||Edge-lit | VA LED | 4K UHD||HDR10+ / HDR10 / HLG||75 / 65 / 58 / 55 / 50 / 43||Check Price|
|LG UM7300 LED TV||Direct-lit | IPS LED | 4K UHD||HDR10 / HLG||65 / 55 / 50 / 49 / 43||Check Price|
If you are an old so-and-so like me, you will probably remember your old CRT TV. Up until the mid-2000's, CRT was the TV technology. The problem was, this type of TV was bulky and very heavy.
You couldn't hang one of these babies on the wall!
Also, it was impossible to produce a TV with a screen size larger than around 40-inches.
I remember my first widescreen CRT TV. It was a 28-inch beauty and it needed two of us to carry it into the house. Boy, you could really put your back out moving one of those around!
Mind you, I thought it was the bee's knees. I'd never seen such a HUGE television picture. 28-inch widescreen! Hey, don't laugh, we were easily impressed in those days.
As TV technology developed, the trend was for televisions which were thin and wall-mountable. Not only that, but we all wanted ever-larger screen sizes.
This was made possible by two different TV technologies - LCD and plasma TVs.
Although these TV technologies worked in different ways, they both allowed for thin TVs which could be easily wall-mounted. As with all technology, there were fans of both types.
The LCD TV was the most widely available in a large range of screen sizes - and was generally cheaper. The plasma TV was a little bulkier than an LCD TV and more expensive.
But, many believed it to have the best picture quality.
However, all good things come to an end, and we have now moved into another era for the flat screen TV.
To improve the picture quality, the technology of LCD TVs evolved
into the LED TV.
An LED TV is essentially the same technology as an LCD TV, but with LED lights used for the backlight. The marketing departments decided it sounded more impressive to call it an LED TV, rather than stick with the LCD tag.
Unfortunately, you'll come across this quite a bit in the world of TVs. Using new names and branding to make existing technology sound fresh and exciting.
As the trend continued towards higher screen resolutions and cheaper prices, plasma TVs started to decline.
Plasma TV technology was unable to compete with the price and improving picture quality of the best LED TVs. So, by 2014, LG and Samsung became the last two plasma TV manufacturers to stop production.
Goodbye, my old friend. It's been emotional.
So, where does this leave us in 2020? Well, you have a simple choice these days.
You can buy an LED TV or an OLED TV.
In some ways, this current choice is like that between the old LCD and plasma TVs.
Very generally, an LED TV offers better value and a wider choice of screen sizes. An OLED TV is more expensive, but many consider it to have the best picture quality.
By the way, it’s impossible to discuss this subject without mentioning some technical terms. In some cases, I’ll briefly explain things as we go.
However, if you go to the bottom of the page, I’ve included a section where I've explained some of the flat screen TV technical terms in more detail.
The LED TV is the most common type of TV you can buy in 2020. They come in a wide range of screen sizes and with many different features.
You can get budget models if you want something cheap and cheerful - or high-end models with top-notch picture quality.
There are two main designs used when building TVs with LED backlights:
If you want more
detail on the differences, go to the article on edge-lit vs back-lit LED TVs. It explains more about the differences
between edge-lit and direct-lit LED screens.
One point you may want to consider is that there are two different panel types that can be used to build an LED TV.
A VA panel (Vertical Alignment) or an IPS panel (In-Plane Switching). I shan’t bore you with the design differences, but they do make a difference in the performance.
In short, a VA panel should have the best picture quality and will be more suited to viewing straight-on in a dark room i.e. better for your home theater TV.
However, if you need an LED TV that gives a good picture in a living room with wider viewing angles, then you may want to buy an LED TV that has an IPS panel.
The main advantages of an LED TV are:
Just to add to your level of confusion, at this point I should mention the QLED TV.
Don't blame me, it wasn't my idea!
This is a name you might come across when looking at Samsung TVs. They are also known as Quantum Dot TVs.
To keep things simple, you just need to know that QLED is a type of LED/LCD TV technology. Not some completely new display technology.
Samsung has decided to try and improve on LED technology rather than produce a range of OLED TVs (see below). You will find these at the top end of the Samsung LED TV range.
The main advantages of a QLED TV over a standard LED TV are:
biggest downside of these TVs are they are considerably more expensive than
standard LED TVs. You need to decide if the improved performance is worth the
If you must have the best picture quality, then an OLED TV should be high on your shopping list.
OLED technology is relatively new to the mainstream TV market and is a different display technology to that used by LED TVs.
It shouldn't be confused with the QLED TVs described above.
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. An OLED TV has an organic layer that emits light when it is fed an electric current.
Due to the way this technology works, these TVs can be very thin and light because there is no backlight.
The lack of a backlight also means that the contrast ratio is fantastic. The contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks - which is very important to the perceived picture quality.
OLED TVs produce almost perfect black levels because when the electrical current is removed from a pixel, it goes black instantly.
So, the main advantages of OLED televisions are:
OLED TVs do have some potential disadvantages:
In most situations, image retention is unlikely to be permanent and will fade quickly. But this may prove annoying for some people.
It is more likely to be a problem if the screen is used regularly for gaming where there are static logos or banners. Or, you watch the same TV channel with fixed-position logos.
Most of the main TV manufacturers now have one or two OLED TVs in their range (although, at the time of writing, not Samsung).
However, you won't get a large range of screen sizes to choose from as with LED televisions. Although, that could be a positive as it makes it easier to make your choice!
If you want help finding the best OLED TV, check out the reviews further down this article.
No matter what type of TV you are looking at - LED or OLED - there are some common features that you will find for both types.
So, let's take a look at some of the most important features. This should help to narrow down which TV you want to buy.
Plus, there are also a few other considerations that you might want to think about before you decide which TV is the right one for you.
For LED TVs, screen sizes range from a dinky 15-inch model to put in your kitchen, up to a huge 85-inch beast to use as the centerpiece of your home theater.
In fact, you can get some LED TVs even larger than this.
If you want an OLED TV, then the screen sizes are currently more limited. Most models will come in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, although some brands offer slightly larger models.
However, anything below 55-inch is rare and so you may not have a choice if you are looking for a smaller screen.
For many people, the million-dollar question is, 'what size TV is right for my room?'.
Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer to this question.
A common rule-of-thumb is that the ideal viewing distance for a flat screen TV is around 1.5 to 3 times the diagonal size of your screen. Using these figures, we can either:
There are also a number of other factors to consider:
Unfortunately, there is a right or wrong answer when choosing the best
TV screen size for your room.
My article Understanding TV Viewing Distance investigates
this in a bit more detail.
The screen resolution of a TV screen refers to the number of physical pixels that make up the screen. This is also known as the native resolution of the screen.
When you are looking to buy a modern flat screen TV, there are currently four main screen resolutions to choose from:
resolution refers to the actual number of pixels, a smaller TV screen is likely
to be 720p or 1080p.
This is because it is easier and cheaper to make a small screen with fewer pixels. As the screen size increases, then you will more likely see 1080p or 4K screen resolutions.
For most manufacturers, all their higher-end models will be a 4K resolution. 1080p and 720p models will likely be smaller screen sizes - or budget versions of larger screens.
At the time of writing, 8K TVs are new, rare… and expensive! The main advantage of an 8K TV is for very large screen sizes - where the extra resolution might be more noticeable.
I'm talking 80 or 90-inches. Or more! Don't expect to find a 40-inch 8K television any time soon. There's no point.
At present, you will also struggle to find much 8K content. So, anything you watch will need to be upscaled.
Does it matter if you buy the 1080p or 4K version of a TV?
If you have a choice, then it really depends on what you are going to watch on the screen. And, how far away from the TV you will be sitting.
You will benefit from a 4K TV if you will be watching lots of 4K video content - and be sitting close enough to be able to see the extra detail.
However, at present, there aren't many ways to watch true 4K pictures. You can:
If you don't have any of these, then your 4K screen will just upscale any lower resolution video content. This will look fine but won't be true 4K.
In fact, 1080p content upscaled on a 4K screen can look pretty darn good. SD content upscaled to a 4K TV may not look so great, especially if you are sat fairly close.
The article on Understanding TV Resolutions: Do You Need a 1080p or 4K TV goes into this in a bit more detail.
This is where it can get subjective. A 'good' picture for one person, might not look so great to another. However, there are several technical factors that contribute to a ‘good’ picture.
And, the quality of a TV picture depends on these factors working together.
We need to consider things like
If you really want to get into the technical details, there are many independent websites that measure all these variables.
If that is all a bit much for you, you can either go by independent recommendations and reviews (hey, you know, like here), or by going to a store to take a look for yourself.
Just be aware, in many stores, the TV picture is often set to be very bright and colorful so it stands out. However, these settings will often be too much in a home environment, and the TV may not look so great when you take it home and dial the settings back a bit.
If you want a generalization, an OLED TV is widely thought to have the best picture quality. However, the picture is often not as bright as the best LED TVs, and so an OLED will work best in a darker room e.g. watching a movie with the lights down.
An LED TV is more versatile in a range of lighting conditions - and is available in more screen sizes.
If picture quality is the most important issue for you, and you don’t want to buy an OLED TV, then an LED TV made with a VA panel is the way to go.
An LED TV made with an IPS panel is a better all-rounder in a larger room with wide viewing positions.
The bottom line? These days, even mid-range LED TVs can produce a fantastic-looking picture. TV technology is improving year-on-year.
There has never been a better time to replace your old TV - whatever your budget.
A relatively new development is the introduction of High Dynamic Range (HDR) video content. HDR video includes metadata that increases the contrast ratio of an image.
This means that the blacks are darker, and the whites are brighter.
But, that's not all. The specification for HDR also allows for greater brightness and a wider color range.
To watch HDR video, your TV will need to support it. So, an HDR-certified TV must be able to display a very bright image and a wide range of colors.
The result is an amazingly vibrant and life-like picture. There will be greater detail in the picture, even when there are both bright and dark areas on screen at the same time.
So, while this is a good thing, there are a couple of gotchas you need to be aware of:
HDR images on a supported TV really do make a difference to the picture quality. You can often get some 'WOW' moments when watching some movies and documentaries.
With TVs, you will come across many technical features which can complicate your decision making. You will see specifications that sound really great… but you’re not completely sure what they actually mean.
A cynical person might say that manufacturers like to highlight these features just to make their TVs sound more exciting! Fortunately, I’m not a cynical person…
Anyway, for the average user, many of these features will have a very small impact on their day-to-day use.
I don't want to list every technical option that you might see for TVs, as the point of this site is to keep things simple. I try to narrow things down to the most important features to avoid confusing everyone (and, to be fair, myself).
There are other websites which go into these in more detail if you prefer.
However, the refresh rate of a TV is a good example of a specification which sounds really exciting – but, in reality, it may not make that much difference to your daily viewing.
The theory is that higher refresh rates will look smoother to the human eye. This can be especially useful for fast-moving images such as sports.
In the US, the standard refresh rate of a TV is 60 Hz. However, we now find new TVs with higher refresh rates.
Some will have a 120 Hz refresh rate. Some will claim even higher rates such as 240 Hz (they’re not really).
The problem is, the refresh rate of video and movie content hasn’t changed. Video is 30 Hz (in the US) and movies are 24 Hz.
So, for a TV with a higher refresh rate, it simply duplicates the same frames to play at 120 Hz.
Either that or reduces its own refresh rate to match the 60 Hz of the source. This makes no difference to how smooth the image looks.
If you want the video content to actually play at 120 Hz, you can enable motion interpolation in the TVs menu. This will be called different things according to the make of the TV.
Motion interpolation takes the 30 Hz video content and creates new frames that don’t actually exist in the recording. It just ‘guesses’ how the image will change between frames.
While this technique can sometimes be effective for fast-moving images like sports, it creates something called the ‘soap-opera effect’. This can make the picture look unnatural, and many people don’t like it.
There are four main benefits of a 120 Hz TV:
If you are looking to buy a native 120 Hz 4K TV, then you will find most of the mid to high range models will support this. Cheaper models, or Full HD TVs, are more likely to be 60 Hz.
Believe it or not, this is the simplified version.
If you are you are in a particularly geeky mood today, or just have too much time on your hands, you can see this explained in more detail in my article which looks at the question - what is a TV refresh rate?
If you prefer a video, you might the following video interesting. It looks at the difference between refresh rates and frames per second:
By viewing angle, I mean, does the TV picture still look good if you are sat on one side of the screen?
In an ideal world, you will install the TV in your room and sit directly in front of it. You may be close, or further away, but you will view the TV screen front-on.
However, if you have a larger room with several different seating positions, then you won’t be able to fit every viewer in front of the screen. Therefore, some people will be looking at the screen at an angle.
With some types of TV, this can be an issue because the picture will lose its quality if you view it at an angle. The contrast will reduce and the colors will lose their accuracy and brightness. In short, it won’t look very good.
This may not be such an issue if your TV is just for general day-to-day viewing. But, if you want it to get the best picture possible, then you might want to give this some thought.
If you know that your room will have people viewing from the sides, then it would be wise to buy a TV where this won’t cause too many problems.
In the image above, the ideal position is obviously at 0°. Directly in front of the screen. The wider you move either side towards the 45° position, then the image will get worse.
You will find there will some degrading of the image at around 25 to 30°. Although, that will vary depending on the TV. In the worst cases, it may start as low as 15°.
Currently, the best televisions for viewing angles are OLED TVs. This technology allows for a wide viewing angle where the picture won’t degrade a great deal.
Although, the wider you sit, the colors may still change a little.
Historically, LCD/LED TVs have always had problems with the viewing angle. If you want an LED TV that works well at an angle, then look out for one which is made with an IPS panel.
The alternative is a VA panel, which will have the best picture quality when viewed straight-on but will look worse from the side.
One of the aims of QLED TV technology is to improve the viewing angle over standard LED TVs. You may well find the viewing angle of these to be improved, although still not as good as an OLED TV.
You can play all the different types of video on a modern flat screen TV. Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD) and even 4K and 8K (UHD).
Every TV has a built-in video scaler. This device will upscale or downscale any incoming video to the correct resolution for the screen.
So, if you play some SD content, a 1080p/4K screen will upscale it so it will display on the higher resolution screen.
Play some 4K UHD video, then a 1080p TV will downscale it to 1080p before it is displayed.
Higher-end TVs will have better quality scalers, and so will perform this process better. This isn't so important if you mainly watch HD content on a 1080p screen as no scaling is required.
But, if you still watch plenty of SD content (like DVDs), then it is more important to check reviews to see if the TV provides good quality scaling.
Also, bear in mind, a DVD or Blu-ray player may also have a high-quality video scaler. So, if you have a high-end DVD player, you could let the player scale the content to 1080p, and it doesn't matter about the scaling on the TV.
In top-of-the-range 4K UHD TVs, 1080p content can still look really good. So, a 4K TV can still be worth getting even if you don’t have much 4K content.
A flat screen TV in 2020 will have many of the standard audio and video connections found on all modern AV devices.
The most common connection used these days is HDMI. You will probably just need this for connecting your devices.
However, you may find a combination of one or more of the following:
Most of the above
will be inputs, for sending signals
into the TV.
Some TVs will also provide audio outputs - for connecting to a home theater surround sound system. This is important to have if you need to send the audio from the internal tuner, or apps, to a surround sound setup.
However, if your TV supports HDMI ARC, then you may be able to use this to send audio back to your speaker system. In which case, you won't need to use any digital audio outputs.
You may also find a DVI or VGA port for connecting your computer. Or, you may be able to use a spare HDMI port depending on the output connections your computer has.
Many modern TVs will also have Ethernet or wireless connectivity to access your home network and internet connection.
Access to the internet will allow you to stream video content from online - usually via the many built-in apps such as Netflix. You may also be able to stream files via DLNA from your home network.
The main thing to consider is; what connections do you need? Try to think about this before you buy a new TV.
If you are planning on using an AV receiver to connect all your devices - as part of a home theater system - then you may need fewer input connections on the TV.
In this case, you will connect most of the devices to the receiver and just send one HDMI cable to the TV.
The article how to set up surround sound explains this is more detail.
The sound that you hear on your TV will depend on your setup. A screen will usually have built-in speakers - although some 'professional' models may not, so it's best to double-check before buying. These speakers will provide a decent, if unspectacular, sound.
The quality of the onboard speakers does vary. So, if you are going to be relying on these speakers completely for the sound, then it may be worth paying more for a model with better speakers.
If you aren't happy with the sound that you get from your current TV, check out my guide on how to improve the sound of your TV.
However, many people will use a separate surround sound speaker system and may not use the onboard speakers at all.
Installing surround sound systems takes a bit more effort. But, it's not that complicated, and it will be well worth it in the end when you hear the improvement in sound.
I will always recommend that you use a surround sound system because it really takes watching a movie or sports to another level. But in the end, it is something that you can decide for yourself.
Another popular way of improving the sound of your TV is by installing a soundbar. If you find the idea of installing an amplifier and speakers too scary – this can be a simpler solution.
You may be surprised to learn; I have a guide on how to choose the best soundbar for your TV. You're welcome!
Most modern TVs will come with some form of Smart functionality. This means there will be an interface that allows you to use various apps to play content on your TV.
You can access this by using your remote control.
You will need to connect the TV to the internet to use these services. This will either be via WiFi - or by an Ethernet cable.
Make sure that the TV you buy has the right type of internet connection for your circumstances.
I always try to connect everything with a cable, as this will give the fastest and most reliable connection.
However, as long as you have a strong WiFi signal in the room, this should be enough to stream video.
Be aware though, 4K video will need to transfer more data than HD or SD. So it is even more important that you have a quick and reliable connection if you plan on streaming high-resolution video.
Different models of TV will have different Smart TV platforms, and the apps that you can access will vary. If there is a specific app you want to use, then you should check that the TV you are going to buy has that app.
Although they are similar, not all Smart TV platforms have the same apps.
Popular apps include Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Hulu, Google Play and a web browser.
Your Smart TV platform may also allow you to stream content that is stored elsewhere on your home network. This is done via a standard called DLNA – although it may be called something different depending on your model.
Your TV will be the DLNA client, and it will be able to ‘see’ content stored on a server within your network – like a PC or NAS. You can then play this content on your TV.
This is something that many people don't consider.
The TV that you buy may even depend on where you are going to install the TV in your room.
If you are going to wall mount your TV, then you may feel a larger screen is more suitable for that space.
The bigger screens seem to work really well when wall mounted. They never seem to look as big in the room as those which are placed on furniture. Or is that just me?
If you have a smaller space or are planning on placing the TV on a cabinet, then maybe you might want a slightly smaller model?
There’s no hard and fast rule. And it really depends on your room, and where you will be watching the TV from. Personal taste too.
However, these are all things to consider before you buy.
The range of different TV models can make your head spin.
First, don't forget that the same model of TV will come in different screen sizes. So, you might see a list of 5 TVs, but they may simply be the same TV at 5 different screen sizes. You just need to pick the best screen size for your room.
You will also get several ranges from the same manufacturer that have small differences in features. It can be tricky to see what the differences are between the two models.
It may just be something relatively minor, like different speakers - or an alternative stand.
Some manufacturers have a comparison feature on their websites where you can compare two different models. This can make it easier to spot the differences.
You should also be aware that the model number of a TV may be different around the world. On this site, I am referencing the US TV model numbers. If you are located somewhere else, then the model number may vary.
Some brands do keep the same model number worldwide, which I think is much better.
In case this wasn't confusing enough, some brands will release a TV model exclusively for a particular retailer. So, you may see a model in one store, that isn't available anywhere else.
Often, very similar versions of this TV will be available elsewhere with a different model number.
No wonder we get so confused.
Most brands will release a new model of their product range once a year. This is part of the reason why you will see so many different TVs when you are looking around for the right one to buy.
Some will be the new range, and others will be last year's release. And maybe the year before too!
Now, it may be that the TV for this year has a new feature that you just must-have. That the performance is improved so much that it makes no sense to buy the old version.
However, if you look closely, you may also find that last year’s model has all the features you need. Many updates aren’t always going to be a huge improvement on before.
If so, you can usually get the older TV for a bargain price. You may find that you can save some serious money. That older TV hasn’t suddenly become obsolete. Remember, it was the best you could get in that price range just a few months ago.
You will find that as time goes on, the stock of the older models will gradually run out. But, if you get in quick, you can get a real bargain that will serve you well for years to come.
The main thing to consider is, are the features of the new TV something that I will really benefit from or not?
The answer to this question may well depend on where you are in the world. There are a few brands that dominate globally, but some areas have manufacturers which only supply their local region.
In the US, there are three main TV manufacturers which are global brands - Sony, LG and Samsung.
These dominate all the TV markets - from small HD Ready LED TVs to large cutting-edge 4K OLED and LED TVs.
They are the place you should start if you are looking for high-quality TVs.
Other popular brands are VIZIO, TCL, Sceptre and Hisense, which all provide a wide range of great value TVs.
Some well-known names from the past are still around - such as Sharp, Toshiba, Philips and JVC - although they don't provide as many models as the main players.
In the UK, many of the names already mentioned are also present -except for TCL and VIZIO.
However, Panasonic TVs are still popular in the UK - whereas they have pulled out of the US market.
Now that we have looked at some of the most important features of flat screen TVs, let's think about some models.
It can be very frustrating when choosing a TV because there are just so many to choose from.
The aim here is to try and give you somewhere to start looking. I'm going to list a few of my favorite flat screen TVs.
Any of these will be great for most people. They are some of the best OLED and LED TVs available today.
The higher-end TVs are nearer the top. It should come as no surprise that these offer the best quality and features - and are more expensive!
However, that doesn't mean the others aren't worth considering. We all have different price brackets and reasons for buying a TV.
I've tried to select a range of TV types and prices that are the best in their price brackets.
Also, although I have highlighted a certain size TV, don't forget that each model often comes in different sizes. I'll list the available sizes in the specification table.
The five TVs we have seen offer a great choice for many people. However, there are many more TVs out there to choose from.
The aim of this list is to try and narrow down your options a little. To give you somewhere to start at least.
So, let me suggest five more TVs which I think are worth considering. To give you even more choice, I have tried to include some of the best cheaper and smaller TVs.
There are no two ways about it, buying a new TV can be a very confusing business.
Not only are there an endless list of different model numbers - there are different types, sizes, features and prices.
It can seem impossible to decide on which are the best flat screen TVs.
You need to decide which size will be the best fit for your room. If you need an HD Ready, Full HD or 4K screen. If it has all the right connections for your external devices.
It's not easy.
However, I hope this guide has made it a little easier to decide which way you need to go.
And, has explained some of the confusing technical jargon that makes the decision even harder. I've even picked my top 10 LED and OLED TVs.
Enjoy your new TV!
One of the hardest things about researching a new TV is that there are oodles of acronyms and new technical jargon to understand.
Some of these are useful to understand. Some are just there to make this new screen sound more exciting. Here I will summarise some of the terms you might come across:
BT.2020: a set of standards for displaying Ultra HD TV. It includes standards for the display resolution, frame rate, bit depth, chroma subsampling and the color gamut. If you use an AV receiver, it will need to support BT.2020 to pass this type of content to your 4K-compatible TV.
Contrast Ratio: the difference between the brightest (white) and darkest (black) color signals that a panel can produce. It is expressed as a ratio and tells us how many times brighter the white is compared to the black level. i.e. a contrast ratio of 2000:1 means the white is 2000 times brighter than black. A higher contrast ratio is theoretically better as it means the whites are whiter and the blacks are blacker. This produces a more realistic and detailed image – especially for dark scenes. An OLED TV will often be shown to have an infinite contrast ratio. This is because it has perfect black levels – measured as zero. However, don't get too carried away by the numbers alone. In real-world situations, it can mean very little. A TV that is placed in a bright room won’t display its full contrast ratio as the ambient light will wash out the image. So, the contrast ratio is more important if you watch movies in a dark room. Just be aware that this is something to look out for when comparing different TVs in a store. Can your eyes see a difference between the blacks and whites on different screens? Which looks better to you?
DLNA: Stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. A trade organization of over 250 companies. They aim to create a set of standards to make it easier to use and share digital music, video and photos. A 'DLNA-certified' device will be able to share data with other DLNA devices on the same network. A standard setup would have a DLNA server that stores the digital media - like a PC or NAS drive. Then, DLNA clients will be able to 'see' the server on the network and be able to playback the files. A client might be a TV, laptop or an AV receiver.
Dolby Vision™: a variation of HDR developed by Dolby. The main advantage over standard HDR is that it can transmit scene-by-scene data to the TV screen on how it should display. It can also adjust to the capabilities of each TV. Sometimes referred to as Active HDR.
HDR10: an open-source format of HDR supported by several hardware manufacturers. Currently the most common version available on sources and displays. It uses static metadata which is set for the whole length of the movie or TV show.
HDR10+: an updated version of HDR10. Like Dolby Vision, it supports dynamic metadata which can adjust with each video scene or frame. It is becoming more common in some manufacturer's products.
HDCP 2.2: to play encrypted 4K content, every device in the playback chain needs to support this copy protection standard. If your Ultra HD Blu-ray player and your TV support HDCP 2.2, but your 4K AV receiver doesn’t, then the content won’t play. HDCP is included in the spec of the HDMI ports and was introduced with HDMI 2.0.
HDMI ARC/eARC: ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. On a TV, AV receiver or soundbar, some HDMI ports may be labeled as ARC. This means that you can send audio from the TV back to the AV receiver or soundbar. Both your TV and receiver/soundbar HDMI ports need to support this for it to work. This can simplify your connections. It can mean that you don't need to connect a separate optical cable if you want to hear the audio that is generated within the TV e.g. from the Netflix or Amazon Prime Video app. This is also useful if your TV doesn't have a digital audio out. eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) is a new version that also supports sending higher bitrate audio like Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Atmos.
Hybrid Log-Gamma: known-as HLG for short. Another variation of HDR developed by the BBC and NHK in Japan. It is designed to be used by broadcasters for transmitting HDR pictures.
SDR: stands for Standard Dynamic Range. SDR video doesn't have a greater dynamic range like HDR video. Similarly, an SDR TV cannot display the increased contrast ratio and color gamut required to display HDR video.
SUHD: a term used by Samsung to label their high-end 4K LED TVs.
Although the name might suggest a higher resolution TV - it doesn't mean
anything in terms of UHD. The resolution of the screen is the same as any other
4K TV - 3840 x 2160.
Super UHD: a term used by LG to label their high-end 4K LED TVs. As with the Samsung term above, these TVs are the standard 4K resolution. It refers to technology which is supposed to improve the colors.
VRR: stands for Variable Refresh Rate. A screen that supports VRR can synchronize its refresh rate with the output of a computer graphics card. This is particularly useful for gamers. It means there is no conflict between the refresh rate of the game you are playing and the screen that you are playing the game on. The result is a smooth gaming experience with no screen tearing. It can also reduce power consumption. Examples are NVIDIA G-SYNC and AMD FreeSync. Both the graphics card and screen will need to support the same version of VRR.
Wide Color Gamut: a color gamut refers to the number of different colors a device can show. This device might be a TV or projector. Over the years, there have been different color gamut standards for TVs. These standards have gradually evolved with the technology e.g. the introduction of high definition TV. The 4K Ultra HD specification introduced a new standard called BT.2020. Part of this new standard included the display of more colors. This improved color standard is often referred to as the wide color gamut.
Widescreen: a widescreen image has an aspect ratio that is wider and shorter than the original standard of 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio. Typically, we mean a 16:9 (1.78:1) aspect ratio when we talk about widescreen, as this is the standard size for flat screen TVs. However, films are traditionally shot with an even wider image size such as 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. This is why we get black bars at the top and bottom of a film on our 16:9 TV - because the original film was shot with a wider aspect ratio than our TV can show. Check out TV Aspect Ratio - Understanding Widescreen and 4:3 for a more detailed explanation.
There are so many technical questions related to flat screen TVs. It can be difficult to answer all these issues when discussing TVs in general.
So, here I will summarise some common questions related to TVs. You might find this useful as a general reference.
In very simple terms, an LCD screen has pixels filled with liquid crystal - and a backlight. The backlight illuminates the pixels.
Each pixel can be controlled individually to produce different colors. A variable electrical current is used to control the intensity of the light. And, a matrix of color filters is used to create the colors.
The picture you see on the screen is formed by all those tiny pixels changing their colors very quickly. If you go very close to the screen you can see each individual pixel.
The fact that an LCD screen uses a backlight is the main difference between an LCD TV and plasma or OLED screens - which don't use backlights.
It is useful to understand that LED TVs are simply LCD TVs with different backlights. The traditional LCD TV uses a CCFL backlight, whereas an LED TV uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to create the light.
A plasma TV is a type of flat screen TV - like an LCD TV.
However, it is made in a completely different way to an LCD screen and so has different advantages - and disadvantages!
To put it very simply, a plasma screen is made up of small pixels that are filled with gas. These pixels have a phosphor coating and, when fed with an electrical charge, the phosphor interacts with the gas to create colors.
By controlling the electrical charge, a plasma screen can accurately create over 16 million colors. Now isn't that clever!
Plasma TVs are no longer made by any of the major TV manufacturers.
While the picture of a plasma television was often considered the best that you could get, they weren’t perfect. Take a look at this article if you want to learn a little more about problems with plasma TVs.
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.