Is it Worth It to Spend Extra on a TV?
Modern content consumption methods like online streaming services and video on demand services mean that traditional cable TV is on a steady decline. Back in 2014, studies showed that most people, particularly millennials, prefer consuming video content on their phones and laptops over traditional television sets.
Despite this, TV technology has still been consistently improving. Some might even consider the constant releases as a testbench for new technologies, soon to be integrated into other modern peripherals. It might sound like a strange claim, but the signs are there. Stuff like 4K resolution, high-refresh rate monitors and even the quickly forgotten 3D craze were first seen on home-cinema setups before their widespread adoption in smartphones and desktops.
One of the big buzzwords is OLED technology, and you’re probably experienced these yourself a few times before. In this article, we’ll give you a quick intro to OLED displays, and let you know whether an OLED TV is worth it.
Organic LED (OLED) Technology
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) aren’t new. These began life as a viable replacement to the old tungsten and fluorescent bulbs, having a higher emissivity and lower power consumption than their traditional counterparts. The only real drawback early on was the increased cost. LED’s widespread adoption rate also extended to monitors and TVs, completely removing plasma TVs as an option.
So, where do organic LEDs come in? The first OLED displays entered the market in 2013, and they’ve only grown in popularity as time went by. The “organic” in the name describes the materials used in the construction of the diodes, and these LEDs are characterised by being thin, flexible and being able to deliver ‘true-black’, where pixels can be turned off completely.
Apart from that, OLEDs can deliver better visuals due to the way they work. While LCD screens are illuminated with a single LED backlight, LED displays use individual light diodes for each pixel. Since OLEDs are even smaller, that means you can get an even higher pixel density, meaning sharper and more vibrant visuals.
The differences aren’t too obvious in picture form, but a quick browse through your local electronics store should have you convinced.
Why buy a TV?
Modern day TVs aren’t just for watching networks and videos. Smart TVs like the Vizio M-Series Quantum integrate smartphone-like connectivity, 4k TVs such as the LG OLED77C8 seek to deliver stunning sharpness, and futuristic curved TVs like Samsung’s KE55S9C use the flexible nature of OLEDs to, if you’ll forgive the marketing spiel, “bend reality”.
Furthermore, OLED displays allow manufacturers to incorporate upgrades to visual fidelity throughout the years means HDR-compliant TVs such as the LG C8 TV gives a life-like degree of colour accuracy.
While the fixation on OLED displays might seem a bit off topic, the three recommendations all use OLEDs in their screens in the pursuit of stunning visuals, and clearly displays how OLEDs are the superior choice if you want a feast for the eyes.
There’s no way around the OLED price tag. While we can certainly attest to the amazing viewing experience, there’s still the barrier of entry to consider. While there are naturally going to be more affordable options (such as the Roku Smart TV we recommended above), you’re still paying a premium compared to the LCD screens of old.
So, we’ve got to make our purchases count. Now that we’ve got a good understanding of OLED tech and TVs in general, let’s get to our recommendations, and more importantly, what you need to look out for.
This is the most important thing to consider when getting a new TV. While the massive 75-inch home cinema-style TVs are eye-catching, consider your living space and how you normally watch content. Do you prefer a solitary viewing experience, or do you like watching from the couch with your whole family?
In general, 55-inches seems like a good size, fitting into most households without much of an issue. For the best results, take quick measurements of where you’re going to place the TV. It always helps to be prepared.
Resolution describes how many pixels a screen can display. So, a 1920x1080 screen has 1920 pixels horizontally, and 1080 pixels vertically. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the numbers, the sharper the image.
If you’re considering purchasing a TV, 4K resolution is a must. While you’ll mostly be watching 1080p videos and movies, the miniscule extra cost for futureproofing is very much worth it.
Personally, I consider 1080p to be a resolution more suited for smartphones and laptops. On smaller screens, the pixel-per-inch density (or PPI) is higher, and that means more detail. Consequently, a larger screen, like the terrifyingly huge 75-inch LG OLED77C8, would suffer given the same resolution.
4K resolution falls around the ballpark of 3840x2160, which is perfect for large screen sizes. In my opinion, this gives the best video watching experience, and is a must if you’re purchasing a new TV. Websites like Netflix and Youtube have 4K content on-demand, meaning you’ll instantly have access to a large library of content.
8K seems like the next logical step, and 7860x4320 doubles the pixel count from 4K TVs, which is better, right? Well, the problem with 8K is that its still extremely new, and there’s not too much content available right now, and any new technology will have to go through its growing pains.
As it stands right now, if you want 8K, I’d suggest waiting a bit.
Refresh Rate is an indicator of how fast the screen can switch between static images. Since video is a series of snapshots, a faster refresh rate means a more fluid video-watching experience.
60Hz has been the norm for a long time, and was hardware-limited back in the CRT and Plasma TV days. Now, 120Hz seems to be the new adopted standard, with certain premium and experimental TVs aiming for 240Hz.
This, much like 8K, isn’t something you can take advantage of right off the bat. Not a lot of video content utilizes ultra-high refresh rates (movies are generally 24fps). However, if you’re a gamer, then 120Hz is a liberating experience if you have the hardware for it. If you ever have the chance to give 120Hz gaming a shot, go right ahead. You’ll never want to go back.
HDR and High-Contrast
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and is only available on 4K TVs. There are a few implementations of HDR, though the main differences are in how processing is done. I’ve personally tested TVs with Dolby Vision, which is Dolby’s HDR standard, and the colours are definitely a lot better compared to non-HDR compliant TVs.
However, I wouldn’t say its essential. Dolby might be the industry pioneer for HDR content right now, but other companies like IMAX are attempting to optimize the processing in their own proprietary standards to challenge Dolby for the throne, and the battle still rages on.
Since HDR sets demand a higher price (especially those with Dolby certification), I would hold off for now. On the other hand, if you want more visual fidelity, anything with Dolby Vision support should be a safe bet.
Soundbars and surround sound setups are popular for a reason. Most, if not all TVs out there suffer from lacklustre sound, and that’s not surprising when you look at their size. TVs are so slim that there’s no real space for fully-fledged speakers and drivers.
I wouldn’t worry too much about sound when purchasing TVs right now. Focus on the screen, as that’s the main attraction.
Smart TVs are cool. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’m a sucker for virtual assistants and reactive technology. Smart TVs seem like an obvious choice, allowing you to connect directly to the previously mentioned streaming services via your own Wi-Fi connection.
However, there really isn’t too much to discuss here. All of the TVs I’ve recommended so far are Smart TVs (though some have better user experiences than others), and it’s a common sight throughout the industry.
So, don’t get too suckered in by televisions sets touting themselves as Smart. When everyone is special, no one really is.
So, in general, we’re looking for a TV that is:
· 55-inch or larger
· Has 4K resolution
· 120Hz refresh rate of more
· Dolby Vision HDR-compliant (optional)
· Has Smart TV features
A TV that covers these bases beautifully is LG’s OLED55C8. While the LG C8 isn’t the most affordable of the bunch, it is hands down one of the best value-for-money purchases out there right now. LG has most of the patents for OLED technology, and their experience shows. The C8 has nearly unanimous praise, as indicated by it’s amazing 95% metascore. Reviewers are recommending this left and right, and the consensus is that the this is hands down the best OLED TV out there.
If you want the best of the best with little to no regard for pricing, I’d recommend looking into the Samsung Q90 QLED TV. While this isn’t OLED, I have to say that this looks the best, and it’s HDR visuals are second to none, even without Dolby Vision certification. We might cover QLED TVs in a future follow up, but right now, the price deters all but the most adventurous of early adopters. As it stands, the Q90’s 96% metascore says it all, this is one of the best TVs you can find, and while you’re paying an arm and a limb for it, you’re getting all your money’s worth.
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