TV technology has evolved significantly in the last few years. Quality is improved, and manufacturers have added numerous features that enhance various aspects of the video picture. You’ll want to consider size, price, how much content there is and whether a new TV will last you for years or become obsolete, so here are some of the basics of new TV technology so you can understand your options. You can scroll through the article or jump to the section you would like to read first:
Will your next TV be HD
Advantages: inexpensive, lots of HD content available
Disadvantages: will eventually become obsolete
HDTV: The Basics
HDTV is High Definition TV. It improved on the older SD or Standard Definition TVs, offering much better resolution—first 720p, but most HD sets are now 1080p. For many years this was the best quality TV you could buy. That was until 4K TV came along a few years ago. HD quality is good, though as will all technology, it will be replaced by the newest, most striking image offered by the newest kid on the block, so expect HDTV to eventually be replaced. How long that will take is anyone’s guess, though.
The majority of content we watch today (TV signals, DVDs, Netflix, etc.) is made in HD. So getting an HDTV ensures you will be able to watch pretty much anything you want that is currently available.
HDTVs are available in a variety of sizes from small 30” sets, to wall-filling size. Most people will choose the largest size that they can fit in the space where the TV is meant to go.
HDTVs are now the least expensive when it comes to price. A small set will run you just a couple hundred bucks, and even larger 40+” sets are around $500. (Check BestBuy.ca for all current pricing on HDTVs.)
While you won’t spend a lot on an HDTV today, you’re not going to get wowed by these sets either. Neither their design, nor the picture quality is revolutionary any longer. These are great basic sets perfect for most casual viewing spaces.
Is it Future-Proof?
HDTVs will eventually become obsolete as better technology continues to evolve. You’ll get a few years out of an HDTV, but plan to need a better one when 4K completely takes over, or when you want to start taking advantage of a growing amount of 4K content.
How is 4KTV better
Advantages: amazing viewing experience!
Disadvantages: lack of content, slightly higher cost
4K TV – The Basics:
4K TV is the highest resolution you can get in a TV today; it’s four times more detailed than even full 1080p HD so it makes lines razor sharp, and creates a video picture so real you’ll want to reach out and touch it. (Read more about 4K TV vs HDTV technology here.)
Content: there is a growing list of 4K content, from DVD movies, to streaming services like Netflix offering some content in the new higher resolution format. The challenge for home owners has been the amount of data that each 4K show requires you to download, a challenge that many internet service providers have been working hard to overcome. As 4K becomes the new standard, expect 4K streaming to be the most likely place for you to get new content. It will undoubtedly help that Apple just announced that 4K availability will be a big focus for it’s newest version of the Apple TV.
4K TVs are available in a variety of sizes, however many experts say that a very small 4K TV is a waste, since you won’t be able to enjoy the resolution on a grand scale. In smaller sizes you just can’t discern the differences in resolution well enough to make it worth the money. Go big or go home applies more to 4K than it does to HD.
4K TVs have dropped drastically in price in even just the last 3-4 years. They are now quite competitive with HDTVs. My advice: spend the extra couple hundred dollars and get the better quality 4K TV. As you can see on Best Buy’s website, they now come in a wide range of of prices, so there is something for almost any budget.
There’s definite wow factor when it comes to 4KTV. The quality of the picture is so much better than traditional HDTV that it can actually stop you in your tracks. If you haven’t had a chance to see a 4KTV in person, get yourself to a Best Buy store and take a look.
Many 4K TVs have a small or practically non-existent bezel (the edge frame around the screen) so all you see is picture. You’ll be surprised at how they seem to melt away into your room, becoming just part of the room, rather than what you traditionally expect from a television.
Is it Future-Proof?
4K TV is definitely future proof. Since this is the newest iteration of technology, and more producers are creating TV shows and movies in 4K, 4K TV will eventually become the new standard.
Will HDR be a deal breaker
Advantages: extraordinary colour, improved lighting
Disadvantages: lack of content
HDR – The Basics:
HDR TVs are about light; gone are the harsh brights and washed-out blacks from days past. Now you get brighter bright spots without glare and deeper blacks too.
The term HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and in this context it’s also about colour. HDR allows TVs to display a wider spectrum of colours and a greater difference in contrast. That means you get a better and more realistic picture, because instead of graduated layers of colour, you’re getting more of a true-to-life blending.
HDR technology is typically packaged with 4K TV technology, and as with 4K technology, you’ll need content that’s been shot in HDR. Watching regular HD content or non-HDR content on an HDR TV won’t add much to your experience. But watch 4K HDR content on this set and you will notice a profoundly better image.
Look for HDR TVs in similar sizes to 4K. As with 4K TVs, it’s better to choose a bigger model so you can fully appreciate all the technology it brings to the video picture.
It’s rare to find an HDR TV under $500 and the price goes up from there, depending on the size you choose.
As with 4K TV, when you see HDR TV beside a regular picture, the difference is stark. You will however need video that’s been shot in HDR to fully appreciate the contrast, and most streaming devices from Roku Ultra (shown here) to the new Apple TV will be able to bring that content to your television.
The best of the best: OLED
Advantages: amazing video picture, impossibly thin
Disadvantages: expensive compared to standard LED
OLED TV – The Basics:
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. These TVs use organic compounds that produce their own light so they don’t rely on external sources (like the backlight in standard LED TVs) for their ability to light up. Plus, every pixel can be turned off or on individually, providing outstanding contrast and more realism.
OLED technology is a newer TV technology that has changed the way light is used in TV sets. That technology is creating TVs that are quite literally paper-thin. Both Sony and LG are making this type of TV. Check out this article for a more detailed explanation.
What’s the difference between OLED and LED or LCD displays?
The main difference between OLED and LCD is that backlight. OLED TVs have pixels that are able to produce their own light, while traditional LED TVs use tiny Light Emitting Diodes to spread light across the back of a screen. With OLED there’s more control over individual pixels, so rather than large swaths of black or bright areas on the screen, these areas can be fine tuned, providing a more realistic image.
You’re likely to only find OLED TVs in larger sizes, starting at about 55” and up. Most importantly, OLED are the thinnest televisions you find. Many are no thicker than a painting on your wall.
OLED TVs are a significant investment. You won’t typically find one under about $3,000. They are simply the best offered today, so expect to pay more.
You’ll definitely impress the gang with an OLED TV. Everything looks amazing.
Is it Future-Proof?
Until we get holograms this is the thinnest and best quality TV you can get right now. Plus it’s ultra versatile when it comes to where you place it in your home. Designers are clamouring for this TV for their clients so it should serve you well for many years.
Other TV buying tips
Plan to buy a sound bar with your new TV, no matter which one you get (though some newer thinner TVs such as LG’s W series are including a separate sound bar in the package). TVs are just too thin nowadays to physically be able to contain proper speakers. Read more about why you need a soundbar here.
Most TVs today have smart capabilities built in. So your new TV will be able to a lot more than that 10 year old set you are looking to replace.
The best way to pick a new TV is to set your budget then see what you can get with that. Fortunately many newer TVs have several of these technologies built in so you’ll likely get at least a few of these upgrades in your next television purchase. Also you will find that Best Buy regularly offers these sets on sale so you can always find a great set within your budget.
Want to know more about the difference between TV types? Read our in-depth guide