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Buying a Television

PLEASE NOTE - This is by no means a complete run-down or checklist. We cannot be held responsible for your actions on the basis of this information. This is signposting / opinion only. We are not responsible for external links. We try to keep this up to date but of course technology changes very quickly!

Updated Dec 2015.

Explaining the technical terms

LCD - A type of technology called 'Liquid Crystal Display'. This is an older technology. Look for 'local dimming'. LCDS are powered by cold-cathode florescent lamps which are not as efficient as LEDs.

LED - Another technology - known as 'Light Emitting Diode' and commonly used. Again, look for 'local dimming'.

Plasma - another technology used to create TVs.

OLED - Organic light emitting diodes. These are a higher-end technology than normal LED and produces higher contrast ratios than LCD.

Full HD - High Definition. Full HD is 1080p (1080 scan lines, progressive). 1080p is made up of a total of 2 millions pixels (1920 x 1080).

4k - Generally refers to a horizontal resolution of approximately 4,000 pixels. Full 4k has well over 8 million pixels and a resolution of 4096 x 2160 and is used by the video and film industry. When HD technology replaced SD (standard definition) technology, the difference was huge. The improvement that is visible on most consumer home devices with 4k is not as obvious over HD but it is still there.

Ultra HD / UHD / UHD 1 - Ultra HD is a consumer format of 4k and has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160. This is 16:9, or approximately a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This standard is mostly used in consumer television and media. This standard has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p. This is used by Youtube for 4k. Often referred to as 2160p. Some TVs will 'upscale' content to Ultra HD.

8k / UHD-2 / UHDTV 2 - 7680x4320 pixels. Also known as 4320p.

Upscaling / Upconversion - A technology which attempts to converts a lower quality technology (for example one with a lower resolution) to a higher quality specifcation (for example a higher resolution). These can't exactly increase quality because the original 'information' isn't there, so the upscaler 'interpolates' (adds) the extra information in based on what's around it. The quality will never be as good as a high quality signal in the first place - and upscaler quality varies.

Pixels - Pixels are the little dots that make up your LCD screen. The higher the amount of pixels, the more accurate and detailed your picture will be.

FPS - Frames per second. Standard UK TV and DVD is 25fps (frames per second) and is known as PAL. The US standard called NTSC is 29.97fps.

NTSC / PAL - Different systems used by the US (NTSC) and Europe (PAL) - except the French who have to be different, and have a system called SECAM. NTSC plays back at 29.97 fps (frames per second). PAL runs at 25fps. Other standrad soubling the frame rates are now on the market in video cameras, projectors and TVs (so that's 50fps and 60fps).

Smart TV - A Smart TV will be able to connect to the internet (and even receive signals from other wireless devices connected). It will have other interactive functions too. This is part of the technological convergence you'll find between devices. Smartphones can control the TV etc. It often has various extra software and you can add-on other software.

Size of screen - most commonly measured in inches in the UK (26" - 32" - 46" etc). This is measured diagonally across the screen (eg bottom left to top right) and NOT simply left to right.

Contrast Ratio - This is the range / difference between the brightest white and the darkest black colours that your LCD TV displays. The colours should be accurate, without other colours 'bleeding' (getting into) other colours, especially the whites. Measured like this: 700:1 contrast ratio. These give the image an apparent greater depth and realism.

Wide Colour Gammut - this expands the range of colours your TV shows meaning more vibrant reds, greens, blues (and therefore all colours).

Screen Brightness - The brightness levels your screen can handle. Ideally they should be as high as possible, but this doesn't necessarily mean a better picture as it's much more complex than that! Measured like this - 500cd/m2.

Viewing Angle - The angle at which you can still see the TV effectively. Most TVs have a 'viewing arc' of around 170 degrees.

HDR - High Dynamic Range. This is a common feature on cameras and basically creates a more vibrant image by increasing the amount of exposure and luminance (light) that is seen. It does this by creating 2-3 or more 'images' of the same image and then combining the images with the highest luminosity. Can also be used to create effects.

Freeview / Integrated Digital Television (IDTV) - All TVs have this as standard, to receive UK TV and FreeSat if you use that.

DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) - industry-wide standard for sharing data over a home network.

WiFi / Ethernet connectivity - Relating to the above point, does the TV offer WiFi / ethernet connectivity for connecting to the internet.

USB - for connecting your media devices and sharing photos, music and video.

Composite Cable - The lowest quality of cable, although quality varies according to the amount you pay. These look like 'hi-fi' or 'RCA' leads and you find them split into 3 - Video (yellow), Right and Left audio (red and white).

S-Video (also called SVHS) - S-Video splits the video signal into 2 parts (called 'chrominance' and 'luminiance') although down one cable - and usually produces a slightly better quality signal than composite.

Scart Cable - Scart will carry both the video, and the audio signal from a source (eg DVD player) to your TV. RGB Scart sockets are higher quality than normal Scart.

Component - a high quality way of transmitting video information, splitting it into 3 separate connections (referred to as Y,Cr,Cb, or Y,Pb,Pr - the Y channel acting as the 'luminance' channel for the brightness, the Pr being 'red' and Pb being 'blue'. The LCD calculates levels of each as they enter the screen). All in all, this keeps signal loss and problems to a minimum. Again, look for shielding in these cables. These cables will only carry the video signal.

HDMI - High Definition Multimedia Interface. A high quality (digital) way of transmitting both High Definition (HD) images and audio. This will be essential in the future for some broadcasts via satellite. An HDMI cable is digital, compressed by what's called TDMI ('Transmission Minimized Differential Signaling'). T.M.D.S. has a blue channel with horizontal and vertical sync, and separate green and red channels. HDMI also carries the audio signal, so this helps avoid cable clutter. HDMI can help 'upscale' a high definition image from a DVD player. There are different HMDI cables - e.g. 1.0 or 1.4 (which can carry 4K signals).

HDMI 2.0 - While HDMI 1.4 can carry 4k signals, they are carried at 30fps maximum. The HDMI 2.0 standard increases bandwidth up to 18Gbps and supports 4K Ultra HD at 50/60 fps, with 12-bit 4:2:2 colour.

DVI - Digital Video Interface. A high quality way of linking TVs, LCD displays etc. Many computers (especially Macs) have DVI as standard too. Some TVs will allow you to plug into the TV from your computer. DVI is one high quality way of doing this.

VGA - A method of connecting computers to monitors. Some TVs have a VGA socket. If you think you'll need this or fancy hooking up your computer games to your TV for example, get a TV that has this - or better still, DVI and HDMI.

Progressive Scan - quite complex to present but basically it means that your image on screen will be higher quality.

Other Things To Look Out For | TOP

Warranty - Extended warranties in the UK can be a complete rip-off. I have seen some companies advertising 3 year warranties for TVs for £299. Remember, you get a Manufacturer's Warranty for 1 Year. When you buy an extended warranty, it includes this year. So a 3 Year Warranty includes the 1 Year Manufacturer's Warranty - plus 2 more years.

Not every company is out to make great sums of money off you - so shop around if you feel you need a warranty (bear in mind LCD / electronic equipment is now pretty reliable and is more likely to break down well beyond the end of your warranty). So shop about - some companies that don't have the cheapest prices offer the cheapest warranties. If it's off the internet, find out what kind of warranty it is - eg. do you pay to have it sent to the company by courier if it breaks, or is that covered? Do they come to you? If it breaks and they can't fix, what then?

There are also warranty companies around that will save you money. Do a search under extended LCD TV warranty uk' on google and shop around. and are the 2 that pop up most commonly. I'm sure there are others..

Colour and image quality - on your TV, have a look at how it displays colour. Are the colours accurate / rich / vivid / lifelike. Not every LCD TV displays colur well, so often it's best to read advice and go and look at TVs.

Noise / Image Artefacts - sometimes you get some funny images on TVs. These can be due to the way the TV handles the signal. Look out for jagged movements, noise, artefacts (things on screen that shouldn't be there). Also look out for what's called 'ghosting' which is when an image on screen (say for example a person) moves and there is a residual image after they've moved. So for example, when the person moves, they appear to leave a 'trail' after they move. This isn't good.

Audio - What kinds of audio connectivity does your TV have. The TVs have in-built sound controls. Some have NICAM which produces a stereo sound (left and right and everything in between). Other TVs simulate Dolby, which is a surround sound (the kind of sound you'd get in the movie theatres). To take full advantage of surround sound, you'll need to set up a home cinema, with extra speakers surrounding where you would sit to watch TV.

Audio quality varies massively between TVs. Look for a rich sound, with a really good and deep bass - nice treble and a clear, 'un'muddy' sound - and good clarity on vocals.

Obviously most TVs are very thin so your best sound will always come from a separate audio system and preferably surround sound - 5.1 etc. Otherwise a sound bar is your friend.

Response - How fast does your LCD TV respond to you pressing buttons on it, or on your remote? Some LCD TVs react very slowly to changes you make (changing channel etc. especially). This may be a factor for you.

FINALLY - Be absolutely sure to test a potential TV watching terrestrial and/or digital TV in a shop, rather than settling for just watching a DVD, BluRay or 4k feed. Why? Because TVs will show their true colours by being able to handle poor quality signals well. A professional DVD or BluRay or 4k feed is made to very high standards and will be great quality. So choose to assess based on the weakest as well as the strongest point. This goes with buying anything. Otherwise, make sure you buy magazines from the shop that will help guide you in the right direction.


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