10 Terms To Know About High-Tech TVs
Get a jump on the latest jargon with our definitive guide.
More than 168 million people linked their televisions to the Internet in 2017, and half of those did so with a Smart TV, according to the research firm eMarketer.
New models abound with technologies that produce a dazzling display of resplendent resolution, along with a dizzying set of new acronyms. We’ll translate these terms to help you decide what kind of TV fits in with your family and your budget.
4K TVs -- Best for Big Movie Buffs
Luckily, 4K refers to the pixels, not the price. 4K TVs have 4x the pixels of standard high definition models, which have 1080 pixels (1080p). 4K TVs display screen resolution of 3840 x 2160, or about 8 million pixels. 4K sets are also known as ultra high definition (UHD). UHD is ideal for up close viewing or large screen TVs greater than 60”, where dense details are more noticeable.
HDMI -- Good Gadgets for Gamers
Multiple high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) ports on the back or side of televisions connect high-bandwidth digital cables with gaming systems, streaming media, and Blu-Ray players for superior resolution and fast refresh rates.
HDR -- Colorful Contrast
Pictures with high dynamic range (HDR) display more differences in color, contrast, and brightness, similar to the way a digital photograph looks sharper when edited with increased contrast and highlights. Pictures look more naturally illuminated if paired with programs or movies designed for HDR. Make sure your new HDR TV produces at least 600 units of brightness, or the dynamic range won’t display effectively. HDR10 is the basic version of HDR. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are enhanced versions that calculate the best brightness scene-by-scene with seamless high quality. The newest HDR, hybrid log gamma (HLG), is geared only for free over-the-air TV signals using antennas.
HDTV -- Best for Big Network Broadcasting
Major networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Telemundo broadcast their shows in high definition, which displays 1,920 pixels horizontally and 1,080 pixels vertically for a screen resolution of 2 million pixels. To the naked eye, high definition television (HDTV) display is comparable to 4K TV in sets smaller than 32”. HDTV’s 16:9 wide-screen mimics the format found in movie theaters so edges aren't clipped.
LCD/LED -- Dramatic Color Display
Many electronics use liquid crystal display (LCD), a flat screen that layers liquid crystal between two transparent electrodes to capture the crystal’s light modulation and produce better optical quality at high resolutions. However, LCD screens display light, they do not produce light. That’s where light-emitting diode (LED) technology comes in. LEDs are one way to produce backlight that makes LCD possible, either by edge lighting (where LEDs are placed along the outside edges of an LCD panel and diffused across the screen) or direct lighting (where LEDs are placed in full rows behind an LCD’s screen surface). LCD displays may also use fluorescent backlighting, commonly seen in laptop screens lit by tiny cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). Almost all LED TVs are actually LCD/LED TVs. The newest LCD/LED TVs are exploring quantum dots: red and green nanocrystals embedded in LCD panels to boost vibrant color display.
OLED -- Best Long Term Investment
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) are thin films of organic molecules layered between transparent electrodes that respond to electricity, turning on or off completely. Because they don’t require rows of LED bulbs, millions of OLEDs can transform a TV screen, turning off or on independently, resulting in truly deep blacks and rich colors. Manufacturers can create tiny, thin, flexible, OLEDs that display tremendous resolution and range in a phone screen or big screen TV. OLED technology is expensive to produce and comes at a premium price, but the results are visually stunning.
Pixels -- Detailed Digital Images
Pixels are picture elements – the smallest unit of a digital image that can be displayed. Up close, pixels looks like tiny dots or squares. High definition TVs show millions of pixels, while quick-loading computer images usually show thousands. Tiny pixels blend on screen so our eyes see them as various details and shades within a larger display.
Resolution -- Making the Magic Appear
Lines of pixel displays are known as screen resolution. Higher resolution results when more pixels are displayed on screen. 1080i is a variation of resolution that displays odd lines of pixels first, and even lines second, every 1/30 of a second. 1080p displays lines of pixels sequentially, one after the other, creating a smoother appearance. A 720 or 1080 pixel TV is a good resolution for those on a budget seeking screens smaller than 40". 4K resolution is better for big screens and folks watching up close.
Roku -- Cut the Cord, not the Quality
A Roku TV has the famous streaming service built right in. Roku offers more than 3,000 channels, including free content and premium paid subscriptions, such as HBO Go. Earlier models deemed "Roku-Ready TV" have a mobile high-definition link (MHL) and were certified to work with a Roku stick for instant music and media. The newest Roku devices, such as the Ultra and the Streaming Stick +, attach to any TV's HDMI port.
Smart TVs -- Instant Apps
Smart TVs have internet capabilities that automatically detect connections in your home to access everything with a single remote or a few easy apps. Plug them in, connect your home’s Wi-Fi connection, and Smart TVs can start playing everything from Netflix to Pandora.
Many models have links to YouTube, Facebook, and streaming media built in. Enable more fun features by adding apps that stream live feeds, from erupting volcanoes to celebrations in Times Square, play video games using the remote as a controller, and tune in to favorite radio stations.
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