Best TV Technology of 2018
Technology is constantly changing and evolving; our devices become thinner, faster, and more powerful every day. While these improvements are welcome, it’s easy to get lost in all the technical jargon if you aren’t an enthusiast. Adding to this confusion, big-name TV manufacturers like LG, Samsung, and Sony have their own versions of the various technologies being used in their TVs, and these terms can impact your buying decision. Here are some of the most important new TV terms and features so you can be better informed and compare these technologies among the three biggest television brands.
TV Technology Terms Simplified
If you’re in the market for a TV, you’ve likely heard this term. We all know 4K resolution is a good thing, but what is it exactly? Well, resolution is the clarity and crispness of the image on your TV. The higher the resolution, the more clear and lifelike it looks. This is because higher resolutions have more pixels on the screen, and more pixels mean the screen can display more detail. Before 4K TVs, the highest resolution television available was 1080p. 4K is roughly four times as many pixels as 1080p; hence its name. It’s worth noting that 4K resolution is standardized, and that there is no better version of 4K from one manufacturer or series to another. Nowadays, all 50” TVs and up tend to be 4K, regardless of manufacturer, but is also available in smaller TV sizes.
Next up is HDR, otherwise known as High Dynamic Range. HDR is a fairly new TV technology, but even in infancy shows great improvement in picture quality. For most viewers, HDR can be summed up by saying it produces deeper blacks, brighter highlights, and truer-to-life colors. This is possible because HDR TVs use 10-bit color panels or higher, as opposed to 8-bit color panels that were standard in the past. This change allows HDR TVs to show over a billion more colors than non-HDR TVs. When it comes to HDR, however, there are two standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. You can learn more about these standards in the “Beyond the Basics” section of this article.
Now we move on to refresh rate; an extremely important feature if you’re a sports enthusiast. Refresh rate is how many times the TV displays an image per second. This means when you’re watching a football game or action movie, movements appear silky smooth and motion blur is minimized. While the standard refresh rate of a TV is 60Hz, some can reach as high as 240Hz. More commonly seen than higher refresh rates, however, is the incorporation of a technology called interpolation. Interpolation produces the illusion of higher refresh rates. Samsung, LG, and Sony utilize this technology heavily, and tailor it to provide their own unique experiences. While interpolation is a fantastic technological breakthrough, it should be noted that this technology causes visual artifacts and choppy game play in video games, and should be disabled when gaming.
Lastly, we come to smart TVs. Smart TVs are capable of streaming Netflix, Hulu, browsing the internet, and much more, all without the need of an external device like a Roku or Amazon Firestick. In terms of overall smart TV functionality, there are far more similarities between brands than there are differences. That being said, some brands and models of TVs have more intuitive and easy-to-use layouts than others, such as LG’s OLED series. Finally, some service providers like Netflix have released their own certifications to help their customers discern which TVs provide the best streaming experience for their service.
Beyond the Basics
Now that all key technologies have been explained, it’s time to delve into each brand’s unique take on them, as well as any other noteworthy distinguishing features.
To begin, let’s look at Samsung’s use of 4K. As stated earlier, 4K is a standardized resolution, so it provides the same level of clarity regardless of TV size or brand. When describing their TVs, Samsung uses terms likes UHD and SUHD, which stand for Ultra High Definition and Super Ultra High Definition, respectively. Simply put, a UHD label means that the TV is 4K, while SUHD means that the TV is 4K and HDR compatible.
When it comes to HDR, Samsung uses the HDR10 format instead of Dolby Vision. While both formats have their strengths and weaknesses, HDR10 has a larger market share because it’s free to use for manufacturers. Both Sony and Samsung use this format extensively, although they customize it to add their own unique style. Samsung makes its own tweaks and adjustments to the HDR10 format to give their TVs their signature look, then rebrands it as “HDR Pro.”
Samsung heavily implements interpolation technology to give the appearance of a higher refresh rate and labels this feature “Motion Rate.” While interpolation can noticeably increase the clarity of fast-moving scenes in action movies or sports, it’s not recommended for use with video games. In terms of true refresh rate without interpolation, the highest Samsung currently offers is 120Hz.
For smart TV functionality, Samsung uses the 2018 Tizen Smart. It’s flexible, allowing users to customize the apps that appear when pressing the home button on their TV remote. It also lets you navigate the smart hub by using voice commands. Navigation through the Smart Hub without using voice commands is done by using the circular pad to press which direction you would like to move, and pressing the center of the circular pad to select.
Lastly, Samsung’s high-end premium TVs use a new type of technology known as QLED. QLED stands for Quantum LEDs and is the next generation of the standard LED TVs that make up the vast majority of the market. By using extremely small particles called Quantum dots, Samsung’s QLED TVs can become much brighter than any standard LED TV, as well as produce more vibrant colors. These two factors improve the overall viewing experience of standard content, but greatly improve HDR compatible content. Take note: QLED and OLED are not the same technologies, and both have their own advantages.
When describing their 4K TVs, Sony uses terms like 4K X-Reality Pro. Simply put, the 4K X-Reality Pro label means that the TV is 4K, and can upscale non-4K content well. Sony also uses a 4K HDR label, which means the TV is both 4K and HDR compatible.
When it comes to HDR, Sony uses the HDR10 format instead of Dolby Vision. Sony’s Triluminous technology has the most advanced color reproduction on the market, owed largely in part to how long they have been developing TV tech. After Sony makes its own adjustments to the HDR10 format to give their TVs a customized look, they then label “HDR” and “Triluminous” as separate features.
Sony heavily implements interpolation technology to give the appearance of a higher refresh rate and labels this feature as “Motionflow XR.” While interpolation can noticeably increase the clarity of fast-moving scenes in action movies or sports, it’s not recommended when gaming. In terms of true refresh rate without interpolation, the highest Sony currently offers is 120Hz. It’s worth noting that certain Sony TVs are capable of producing the highest interpolated refresh rate of any TV on the market, with a perceived refresh rate of up to 960Hz.
For smart TV functionality, Sony uses the 2018 Android Smart TV Platform. It’s a bit more difficult to use than the other Smart TV platforms, but it has access to the Google Play Store which adds thousands of potential apps to its reservoir. By pressing the action button on the TV remote, Sony’s smart hub will bring up a short list of commonly chosen items by the user. It’s possible to navigate the smart hub by using voice commands or by using the directional arrow keys on the controller and the center button to select your choice.
Lastly, Sony’s flagship A1 series implements a new type of technology known as OLED. OLED stands for Organic LEDs. OLED TVs are fundamentally different from the standard LED TVs because of their ability to produce perfect blacks; anytime there’s black in a scene, an OLED TV can turn off those individual pixels. By achieving perfect blacks, OLED TVs produce an infinite level of contrast, which adds vibrancy across all levels of content, but even more so in HDR content.
When describing their 4K TVs, LG uses terms likes 4K Ultra HD TVs and Super UHD TVs, which stand for 4K Ultra High Definition and Super Ultra High Definition respectively. Simply put, an Ultra HD label means that the TV is 4K, while Super UHD means that the TV is both 4K and HDR compatible.
When it comes to HDR, LG uses the Dolby Vision format instead of HDR10. While both these formats have their strengths and weaknesses, Dolby Vision has the potential to show colors more accurately than HDR10 due to its use of 12-bit color panels. The tradeoff is that Dolby Vision is far less common than HDR10, as manufacturers have to pay royalty fees to incorporate it. As Dolby Vision is a trademarked term, LG does not create their own branded label for HDR.
In regards to motion rate, LG heavily implements interpolation technology to give the appearance of a higher refresh rate and calls this feature “TruMotion.” While interpolation can noticeably increase the clarity of fast-moving scenes in action movies or sports, it’s not recommended for gaming. In terms of true refresh rate without interpolation, the highest LG currently offers is 120Hz.
LG uses the 2018 LG webOS Smart Platform to run all its smart TV functions. It’s the highest-rated platform among critics due to its intuitive and simple navigation. The controls have a home button that pulls up a quick access menu, similar to Samsung’s home button or Sony’s action button. Navigation through the Smart Hub can be done with voice commands, the arrow keypad, or by simply pointing the controller at the TV to scroll through the smart options like a computer mouse. Selecting your choice is similar to all the other TV remotes mentioned here, by pressing the center button.
Lastly, LG’s high-end premium TV series implements a new type of technology known as OLED. OLED stands for Organic LEDs. OLED TVs are different from standard LED TVs because of their ability to produce perfect blacks; anytime there’s black in a scene, an OLED TV can turn off those individual pixels. By achieving perfect blacks, OLED TVs produce an infinite level of contrast. Higher contrast ratios add vibrancy across all forms of viewable content, but especially so in HDR content. It is worth noting that LG is the industry leader of OLED TV technology, and their OLED TVs are consistently voted to be the “best TV money can buy” by both critics and consumers alike.
Now that you've learned the ins and outs of 2018 TV technology, you have all the info needed to decide which TV is right for you. If you would like to see these technologies in action or to learn more, please visit one of our P.C. Richard & Son showrooms where a factory trained sales representatives can run you through all the options. You can also browse our full assortment of TVs online.