THE ULTIMATE HDTV BUYING GUIDE IS HERE... DON'T SHOP WITHOUT IT!


If you’re shopping for a new TV and you can’t wait to take one home then this buying guide is for you.

With so many choices available selecting the best HDTV or UHD-TV these days has become a challenge for most. The information overload, various technologies and technical specifications can be overwhelming not to mention the big ranges in prices. Choosing ultimately comes down to budget, purpose (Display for Home Theater vs. TV for a Bedroom), design and functionality.

At Sound & Visual Bliss we specialize in Home Theaters & Whole House Audio installations and our main focus is assisting clients with selecting the right technology and products to satisfy their requirements while meeting our system integration standards. Since we handle lots of different AV Gear including most leading TV brands and models we believe we can help you zeroing in the best TV for you and your family and get you a great deal.

I will walk you through everything you need to know but I’d like to start off this guide with one simple question and some reflections.

What does buying the best TV really mean to you?

If you currently own an old LCD or Plasma TV chances are you bought it several years ago. Your probably remember how fairly simple and straightforward it was to chose it. My guess is that your decision back then had to do with image quality and price. In today’s market however, the basic concept of TV has changed dramatically. In fact the appliance has evolved into something that goes well above and beyond its original AV purpose. A TV these days is a super sized monitor, a multi-core computer with apps, a video conferencing device, a gaming device, a web browser, a media streamer, etc. not to mention all the different available technologies like 3D, 4K, OLED and Curved screens.

Unfortunately when making the final buying decision it’s hard to resist the temptation of choosing the one with all the bells and whistles and just call it the day.

To some of us certain features are more important and a “must have” but if you’re a purist you may not care much about anything beyond the main purpose of its display. If money was no object you could just buy the latest, greatest and most expensive TV set on the market regardless of whether you’re going to be using it in a bedroom, den, kitchen or living room. Perhaps you'd like to finally get the largest screen you always wanted but you're concerned about the room size. Maybe you’re just adding a TV to another room of the house or thinking of setting up a 4K TV in the home office and use it as a MacPro monitor. The reality is that every room of the house serves a purpose and choosing the best TV should take some of these factors in consideration. Before you go out and buy a curved TV or a 4K UHD display you may want to get an understanding of both technologies and whether they may benefit you or not since there’s a premium to be paid for them.

With the above been said let’s look at a few tech specs that really matter these days and let me help you make an informed buying decision.

SCREEN PANEL TECHNOLOGY:

LED TV'S:

LED HDTV's use LCD technology with LED lighting instead of the CCFL. LED lighting improves picture quality and makes these TV’s more energy efficient and they last longer. LED TVs can be either EDGE-LIT (LEDS are distributed around the panel perimeter) or BACK-LIT. Edge lit LEDs are extremely thin and lightweight but less bright whereby backlit LEDs are brighter but susceptibility to blooming. Blooming occurs when light from brighter pixels bleeds over into nearby darker pixels, reducing contrast and diminishing picture quality.

There are 2 types of backlit technologies:

  • LED backlighting (Full array)- behind the screen, whose brightness is not controlled individually.

  • Dynamic “local dimming” backlight - LEDs controlled individually (or in clusters) to control the level of light/color intensity in a given part of the screen. This method of backlighting allows local dimming of specific areas of darkness on the screen. This type of display comes in white or the more expensive RGB LED configuration. This can show truer blacks, whites, proper color saturation (on RGB LEDs), and photorefractive effects[4] at much higher dynamic-contrast ratios by dimming (or brightening) the backlight locally (at the cost of less detail in small, bright objects on a dark background, such as star fields or shadow details

Backlit LED panels are only slightly thicker and heavier, and tend to deliver a better overall picture quality. Backlit displays are the preferred choice.

PLASMA TV’S:

Plasma TV’s offer very high picture quality and used to be the top choice for the discerning consumer. The technology has matured tremendously and prices have dropped making these TV’s a great choice for the budget conscious buyer looking for the best picture quality. Their popularity however has dropped due to they are hefty weight, not so sleek frame and energy inefficiency. As a result there's very few Plasma TV's on the marker today.

Plasmas tend to produce the highest picture quality in dark rooms and at the widest variety of viewing angles, but reflective glass screens can create glare in brighter rooms. Although the picture quality gap between Plasma TV’s and LED these days is are virtually non existent their 600Hz subfield refresh rate like on the Samsung PN64H5000 or the LG 60PB6900 Plasma HDTV is still unmatched by even the fastest 240Hz LED counterparts. This means that if you’re watching sports and action movies where images move at faster speeds, the display is capable of sharper fast moving images. More on this below!

MOTION BLUR:

The Motion Blur effect occurs because of the way LCDs and LEDs display images, by lighting the entire image for the full frame. When the image changes drastically between frames, as you may see during fast moving action sequences in movies and sports, the picture can appear smudged and blurry because the pixels from the previous frame are still lit. Plasma TVs display images in an entirely different way, by rapidly flashing the active pixels instead of lighting the entire picture for the full frame, and are therefore not subject to motion blur. Some viewers are unable to detect motion blur, or aren’t bothered by it at all. Others will find it very noticeable and extremely annoying. How you perceive motion blur largely depends on your vision and the type of video content you are viewing. The only way to really know how motion blur will affect your viewing experience is to go see it for yourself in person.

RESPONSE TIME:

You might have seen this parameter on computer screens but on LCD/LED TV’s this number can help reducing the motion blur effect in 2 ways. The first is by speeding up the response times to reduce the delay between when new frames are displayed and when the lighting from previous frames are turned off. When it comes to response times, lower times are better; however, response time specifications are easily manipulated by manufacturers, and are therefore not useful in predicting display quality.

REFRESH RATE:

This is one of the most recognized HDTV specifications and the one you’d be finding yourself comparing when selecting a TV and sometimes this seems the determining factor among most shoppers in deciding which TV to buy. Increasing refresh rates is the additional mean to minimize the motion blur effect on LCD/LED TV’S. Typical refresh rates you may see advertised are 120Hz, 240Hz with just a few reaching 480Hz. Refresh rate is a measure of the frequency at which the display changes the frame displayed on the screen. 60Hz has been the standard in broadcast for as long as anyone can remember. This means that the image is displayed on the screen 60 times in 1 second (interlaced method) or 30 times in 1 second (in progressive scan).

The higher the displays refresh rates the less is the motion blur effect. However, a higher refresh rate on a display doesn’t improve the quality of the video source.

The increased refresh rate also diminished another video phenomenon known as judder. Judder (AKA jittery or jerky image) results from video being displayed at a frame rate different from its original source. One example is when 24fps motion film material is converted to 30fps for display on 60Hz televisions. As noted earlier, the increased frame rates works by displaying each video frame more rapidly, either repeating the previous frame a number of times or interlacing video between frames. Since the perceived afterimage is left on the screen for a shorter period of time in between frames, motion can appear to be smoother.

MOTION INTERPOLATION:

This is the number that’s impossible to compare and a feature found on most HDTV with 120Hz and up. These TV’s process successive frames by calculating the difference between them (by interpolation) and artificially creating and applying the intermediate picture frame. Because the artificial frame is displayed between the original frames of the source video it lessens the blur motion effect.

One example is Samsung CMR (Clear Motion Rate). Their numbers takes 3 factors in consideration:

  • Refresh rate

  • Backlight

  • Processor speed

LG has its own version of CMR which they call TruMotion and SONY calls it MotionFlow. Because the interpolated image frame is artificially (computer) generated by the TV, getting a reading on how well these images are created is virtually Impossible. However, this also explains why more and more HDTV sets now feature more core processing power than ever before.

If you compare a Samsung 120Hz UHD-TV to a Samsung 240Hz HDTV you’ll notice that although the 120Hz TV thanks to a more powerful and faster processor yealds a CMR of 1200. By comparison, the 240Hz TV yealds a 960 CMR.

  • Samsung UN55HU8550...Refresh Rate: 120Hz (Native); Clear Motion Rate 1200 (Effective)

  • Samsung UN55H7150 .....Refresh Rate: 240Hz (Native); Clear Motion Rate 960 (Effective)

SMART TV FEATURES

Forward to 2018 and 4K TV sets now have Smart features that go beyond browsing the internet and standard HD streaming capabilities. And with the ever increasing computing processing power it's important to note that these new TV sets are now capable of streaming in 4K and replacing most streaming sources including your TV provider cable set top box. Is it time to cut the cord?

CUT THE CORD

Buyina a Smart TV with built in WIFI used to be a lot more expensive just a couple of years ago but these days if you're shopping for a TV set with a 55” or larger these features are almost always included. What this really means is that you may just end up getting a Smart TV whether you like it or not therefore this may no longer be a deciding factor.

In reality I almost wish that TV manufactures would remove these smart features altogether for 3 reasons. The first is that an external streamer will likely do a better job. One great example is Apple TV or a video game console like the PlayStation4 or XBOX One. The second is that when we install these feature packed HDTV sets for our clients, their feedback on usage is almost unanimously close to zero. The third reason the discrepancy between the TV (as a display) longevity versus the longevity of its Smart features and software updates. If you have a 2010 smart TV and compared to a 2014 model you will notice a huge difference in Smart features and capabilities.

3D:

If you are as enthusiastic about 3D as I am and want to take your viewing experience into the third dimension then you need to know the difference between Active Shutter 3D or Passive 3D technology.

All 3D technologies, including how we see the world in real life, work by one principle: each of our eyes sees a different picture. By perceiving a slightly different picture from another perspective, the brain automatically reconstructs the third dimension.

THE HUMAN EYE 3D VIEW:

In real life, when we look at an object, we see it in three dimensions because each eye sees it from a different perspective. The 3 inches between our eyes are enough to create 2 different images and the difference between them contains the third dimension information.

The left eye sees a little more the left side of the image, and the right eye the right side. The brain superposes these two images to construct the 3D model from it, by matching the differences of each image and deducing the perspective from them.

ACTIVE SHUTTER (ACTIVE 3D):

Active Shutter 3D works by alternating really fast the pictures displayed on the screen. The 3D glasses control which of the 2 pictures is seen, by alternating between opaque and transparent.

It is called active because the glasses are powered (using batteries) and they actively control which picture is perceived by which eye. The glasses need to be synchronized with the TV screen. These glasses are expensive and they’re usually not included with the purchase of the TV. Also, active 3D TV’s may cause dizziness to some people due to the constant flickering.

The perception of the flicker can be reduced if the television panel has a 240Hz refresh rate instead of 120Hz, available on the more advanced LED TVs. The faster the TV flashes, the less our brain sees it.

PASSIVE 3D:

This method is very similar to the technology used in movie theaters in fact you may even use the glasses from a theater with your passive 3D TV at home. Instead of displaying one picture at the time like in active 3D, both are shown simultaneously. The difference is one image has a horizontal light polarization and the other uses one that’s vertical. The way each eye sees which image is controlled passively by the different filter for each eye lens. One cuts the horizontal light, and the other one the vertical light. Since the glasses are passive they are a lot cheaper than the active powered ones required with active shutter technology.

How can two distinct pictures be shown at the same time by the screen with a different polarization? In theaters, two projectors are used, both with a different filter. Both pictures can superpose on a theater screen because the light is additive. However, this isn't possible with TV screens because the screen itself is the source.

To solve this, half the pixels are used to display the left picture and the other half the right one. The current technology interlaces eac

h lines.

The screen alternates each line of the picture. One picture gets the even ones, the other the odd ones. Each line has a predefined polarization applied to match the glasses. The downside of this approach is the reduced resolution apparent to a single eye. On a 1080p TV (with 1080 lines), only half (540) are used per picture. The horizontal resolution stays the same however (1920 pixels), only the number of lines is affected.

CONS OF WATCHING IN 3D:

Reduced brightness

When you put on the glasses, you will notice half the brightness of the screen. In both method (active and passive), only half the light gets to the eye. In an active 3D TV, the lenses of the glasses are black half of the time. In a passive 3D TV, one line out of two is black. Most TVs will automatically increase the brightness when watching 3D to compensate for this.

Flickering

Flickering, or the impression that the screen flashes, was a major problem in the first years of the 3D TVs. It still happens today, but only on

lower end active 3D sets, especially those with only a 120Hz refresh rate. Passive 3D never suffered from that problem, because each eyes are constantly receiving the light of the screen.

Crosstalk (AKA ghosting)

3D crosstalk, or ghosting, looks like two superposing images. It will make a section of the picture blurry, usually the edges of an object. The best way to experience what crosstalk looks like is to remove the glasses in a theater. This is of course the extreme case, where the complete picture has crosstalk (in a normal usage, only small parts of the screens will show that defect).

This issue is more common on active 3D TVs than passive 3D TVs, especially on lower models.

Crosstalk can be perceived for two reasons. First, some televisions don't do a good job at displaying the correct picture to each eye. For example, on an active 3D TV, if the glasses are not perfectly in sync with the television, an eye can start to see part of the picture of the other eye. 3D TVs have become a lot better at managing this, and now most the current models do not suffer from that problem.

Second, the actual media could contain crosstalk issues embedded. Even if each eye perceives the correct picture, the movie itself could be the problem. This is mostly present on lower end budgets movies or movies that were originally not filmed in 3D, but re-mastered in 3D post production.

3D Conclusion

Even though they have half the vertical resolution, most people still prefer passive 3D TVs over active 3D TVs. Passive 3D TVs have less flickering and generally less crosstalk, creating a better overall 3D experience. The glasses are also cheaper and more comfortable.

INPUTS & OUPUTS THAT MATTER:

OPTICAL AUDIO OUT VS HDMI AUDIO:

The optical digital audio output can be found on almost all TV sets and it carries multi-channel audio, like Dolby Digital. These days an Optical Audio Output on a TV may come in handy when connecting an older AV Receiver (that doesn’t have HDMI) or a SoundBar like the SONOS PlayBar.

However, the main difference between Optical Audio and HDMI is that HDMI can also pass Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio whereby the optical cable won’t.

HDMI AV INPUTS & HDMI (ARC)

Your new TV will have 3 to 4 HDMI inputs. HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface an audio/video interface for transferring uncompressed video data and compressed or uncompressed digital audio data from an HDMI-compliant source device to another.

One of these inputs (usually HDMI-1) is labeled ARC (as in Audio Return Channel). This HDMI AV input also doubles as an audio output by adding a channel that sends the audio from the TV to an audio receiver like an AV Receiver or SoundBar (with HDMI connectivity) therefore eliminating the need for another audio cable connection. HDMI is capable of carrying the highest audio quality including Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio.

HDMI 1.4 AND THE LATEST HDMI 2.0

There are 2 HDMI versions you need to know about and these are HDMI 1.4 and the latest HDMI ver 2.0 which was released a little over a year ago.

Although both standards can handle up to 4K video resolution transmission (4k=4096×2160p) HDMI 1.4 will support a 4K signal @30Hz while the 2.0 goes up to 60Hz.

HDMI 2.0 introduces support for 4K (2160p) at 50 and 60 FPS, 3D playback at 4K resolution, up to 32 audio channels (up from eight), “dynamic auto lip-sync” and the ability to deliver dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen. The max throughput of HDMI 2.0 is a beefy 18Gbps (up from 10Gbps).

When shopping for a high quality HDMI cable, stay away from the big box stores as they will sell you a fancy and overpriced HDMI cable typically priced at around $50 to $100. Do not however go for the ultra cheap either. One excellent HDMI 2.0 Ultra High Speed cable we really like is the Forspark Aurora Ultra High Speed Series. We use these cables on most of our installations and we 're confident that you'll be very happy with these as well.

HDMI MHL INPUTS:

Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) is an industry standard for a mobile audio/video interface that allows consumers to connect mobile phones, tablets, and other portable consumer electronics (CE) devices to high-definition televisions (HDTVs) and audio receivers.

Now that you understand the basics of HDTV technology how do you chose the best HDTV for yourself?

The Following are a few questions you may want to answer to determine the type of TV and core features you really need, especially if you’re outfitting several rooms of the house with new TV’s.

  • How large is the room?

  • How wide is the TV wall?

  • How far will you be sitting from the TV?

SIZE | RESOLUTION | VIEWING DISTANCE
...3 parameters that go hand in hand!

This will help you chose the right TV screen size & HD resolution for your new TV.

Be warned that most of our clients end up regretting not going for a larger TV and that's mainly because most new TV's size 50" and up have nealry a frameless design and that translates into a smaller overall physical size and a more minimalistic appearance when wall mounted.

If you have a 5-6 year old 50" TV currently wall mounted it would likely measure 60"x34"

If you were to upgrade to a new frameless 55" TV like the Samsung UN55H7150 (measuring 48.2"x29.4") the new larger screen TV will actually appear smaller than the 5 year old 50" TV.

In this particular case a 65" TV like the Samsung UN65H7150 (measuring 57''x33'') is probably the way to go. That means you just upgraded from a 50" to a 65" screen while keeping a sleek and minimalistic appearance.

1080P RECOMMENDED VIEWING DISTANCE:

Some manufacturers issue their own screen size to view distance recommendations (ranges).

THX contends that the optimum viewing distance is a position where the display occupies a 40 degree view angle for the viewer and TV manufacturers also provide a range recommendation.

The minimum viewing distance is set to approximate a 40 degree view angle, and the maximum viewing distance is set to approximate 28 degrees.

These ranges are based on standard HDTV’s using 1080P resolutions.divide the size of your screen by .84 (screen size is measured diagonally). For example, a 70-inch TV divided by .84 equals a 83.33-inch viewing distance (6.9 feet).

On a 4K Ultra High Definition TV the minimum viewing distance is shoorter than on a 1080P TV thanks to the 4x pixel higher density. (See Image below)

Here's an easy way to calculate the viewing distance on both 1080p and 4K TV's.

  • 1080P the viewing distance is 3 times the screen height

  • 4K UHD the viewing distance is 1.5 times the screen height

DO I NEED A 4K TV?

4K resolution, also called 4K2K, refers to a display device or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels. Several 4K resolutions exist in the fields of digital television and digital cinematography. In the movie projection industry, Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) is the dominant 4K standard. 4K has become the common name for ultra high definition television (UHDTV) with a resolution of 4096 x 2160.

The use of width to characterize the overall resolution marks a switch from the previous generation, high definition television, which categorized media according to the vertical dimension instead, such as 720p or 1080p. Under the previous convention, a 4K UHDTV would be equivalent to 2160p.

The television industry has adopted UHDTV as its 4K standard.

4K TV'S will allow manufacturers to make much larger screens while allowing for a shorter watching distance. The new 4K TV higher resolution make it possible to sit closer to the screen.

In a scenario where a large 70" TV or larger screen is desired a 4K UHD is the way to go. That's because 4K TV’s have 4 times the concentration of pixels than a 1080p TV set therefore on a much larger screen the image will look sharper and highly detailed. It's no wonder that 4K TV sets are designed for larger TV screens. However, TV manufacturers nor the store sales people will point this out to you because 4K technology right now may help them boost sales on the smaller screen TV's. In fact you can buy a Samsung 40" 4K UHDTV for under $900. On a smaller 4K TV unless you're viewing it from 4 feet (which is not likely) I wouldn' recommend it. At a typical seat to screen viewing distance of 6-7 feet there are alomost no benefits to rip from a 4K TV and a 1080P TV will look almost as good unless you are using it as a home office TV/MacPro display. Untill maybe 3 to 5 years from now when manufacturers will phase out 1080P and use 4K technology across all TV sizes on a 50" and smaller TV, a 1080P is still the way to go.

Currently, our best pick on a large 4K TV set is the Sharp Aquos LC-70UD27U a 70-Inch 4K Ultra HD 2160p 120Hz Smart LED TV with its THX certified panel.

WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE ANY 4K CONTENT YET?

4K technology is amazing but as of today there's nearly no 4K content available to enjoy.

What you may need to know is that regular content will look more vivid and detailed on your 4K TV thanks to the advanced upscaling technology that's built in the TV. 4K TV's upscaling technology boosts regular and HD video to near-4K quality by increasing the number of pixels through a process called interpolation. The sophisticated processing chip in your television examines the pixels from your non-4K content and guesses the missing information to fill in the blanks and create a near-4K quality image. The difference between upscaling and no upscaling is noticeable as you watch closet. An old DVD movie may actually get a visual makeover through your 4K TV.

Expect the new generation of Blu-ray players and A/V receivers tol include 4K upscaling on their list of features. However having the TV handling the upconvertion is usually the optimal choice.

2 BD Player with upscaling are the Samsung BD-H6500 3D Smart Blu-ray Disc Player or the Sony BDPS6200 3D Blu-ray Player with Wi-Fi and 4K Upscaling.

CURVED OR FLAT?

The curved screen concept stems from the i-Max movie watching experience and I believe that had to be the thought process behind the curved LED TV's that samsung, LG and a few other manufacturers have been releasing to market.

i-Max theaters have huge curved and enveloping screens and on a very large scale the curve will give you the added depth. Imagine the screen edges protruding to the sides of the seating area. When added to 3D watching a curved screen and in this case an iMax screen makes you feel like you are inside the action. I won’t go into much details on this but if you ever experienced watching a movie at an iMax theater you’ll understand.

Curved screens are defenately cool and interesting but in my opinion anything under 65” diagonal size is really not going to matter. I may also add that a 55"-60” curved TV screen may actually become a distraction and possible an issue because the viewing angle is not as wide as on a flat screen and the sweet spot for watching would have to be forced to the center. Watching form the sides is an issue at these sizes.

Furthermore, Samsung and LG have started pushing the curved screen as a marketing tool to sell more sets. In fact, both Curve screen and 4K TV's are more beneficial on large size screens but yet they're using these 2 technologies on the smaller TV's.

One proof that Curved screens and 4K live on larger screens is the Samsung UN105S9 CURVED 105 inch 4K Ultra HD 3D TV.

If you are looking to purchase a curved screen TV and 65" is the largest you can go while your seat to screen viewing distance is about 9 feet and you don't feel like spending a pretty penny for a 4K version then stick with 1080P (65 is still a nice size for a 1080P).

Samsung UN65H8000 Curved 65-Inch 1080p 240Hz 3D Smart LED TV

If you have a room where the seating to screen distance is within 7 to 8ft and you want to get a 65" Curved TV then I recommend the 4K version which makes it possible to shorten the viewing distance to about 6 feet and the Samsung UN65HU9000 Curved 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV is an excellent choice.

Samsung UN65HU9000 Curved 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV has it all.

Since I'm thinking of upgrading my 3 years old LG PZ950 60" 3D THX Plasma TV I figured I'd share my preference. When I bought it this TV it had everything I could possible wish for like a THX certified 3D display, a 600Hz SubField refresh rate, Smart features, magic remote, I even added a webcam for Skyping etc. At first I loved all the bells & whistles but a few months into it I realized that what really mattered to me was the exceptional screen quality. I watch movies and I have a nice Home Theater system. I also love Apple TV as a media streaming device because it does a much better job streaming than the TV and that really works for me. In fact I haven't used any of its smart features in over a year. Because of my current experience if I had to buy a new TV today to replace my beloved Plasma I would skip on all the latest bells and whistles and go for the TV with the best possible display. I also wanted to go for a larger 70" screen so after doing my do diligence I have set my eyes on the Aquos LC-70UD27U 70-Inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV. I still love my plasma but after installing one of these Aquos TV's for a client 3 weeks ago I fell in love. This TV would make sense for me because of its THX certified 4K display and 70" screen size. It’s also much slimmer than my plasma, it consumes way less electricity and its 4K resolution will work with my room size (20'x13) where my seating to screen distance is 13ft.

We hope you enjoyed our HDTV buying guide and that it gave you the tools and confident in picking out the best HDTV for you & your family. Don't forget to check our Shopping Recommendation Hub!

HDTV & AUDIO | WEEKLY PICK | BEST GADGETS | SMART HOME DEVICES

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