If you want to take advantage of this year to change your TV and have been watching models for a while, it is very possible that you have a good mess of terms in your head. Actually, at a technological level, there may not be as many different technologies, but manufacturers are trying to rename some terms to suit their own marketing. Hence when we look at features we see so many different acronyms and names. This can get us involved and make us not know exactly what we are buying.
In this article we have proposed explain what each of the terms and technologies that we find in today’s televisions means. Don’t worry, we are not going to make it so technical that only the engineers understand it. On the contrary, we want everyone who is interested in buying a television to know what they are talking about when they say words like OLED, QLED, Dolby Vision or NanoCell. Go for it.
LED, OLED, QLED, ULED and NanoCell: two great technologies with different trade names
The first thing that we will have to decide when buying a television is what type of panel we are going to choose. Although manufacturers use many trade names for their televisions, the truth is that there are only two great technologies when talking about panels: LED and OLED. So what are QLED, ULED, NanoCell and other terminologies that we see on manufacturers’ websites and advertisements? Let’s try to explain it.
QLED, ULED and NanoCell televisions are evolved LED technology televisions. They all use the quantum dot technology, or Quantum Dot, to offer higher image quality. The use of quantum dots offers a higher level of brightness and a color reproduction capable of covering 100% of color volume.
The other technology, as you can imagine, is OLED. It is a self-luminescent technology, based on carbon-composite semiconductors. That is to say, each sub-pixel emits its own light without the need for filters or backlight. This means that each pixel lights up or shines on its own, no external lighting needed.
Which one is the best? Summarizing a lot we could say that OLED technology. However, the distance between one technology and another depends a lot on the television models that we compare. If we compare OLED TVs with some very high-end LED models, such as the Samsung Q95T, the forces are much equal. And it is that, as we will see later, not all LED TVs are created equal.
To give you an idea of what you are going to find if you choose one or another technology, we are going to tell you, in broad strokes, the strengths and weaknesses of OLED technology and LED technology.
TVs OLED win at black levelSince they are self-luminescent pixels when a black image is shown on the screen, they simply turn off, so we have pure black. This avoids the annoying effects of clouding (a kind of light clouds that appear on the screen when we have a black image) or light pollution.
Another advantage of OLED models is that, thanks in part to their black level, they are able to offer a practically infinite contrast. So the image seems to come to life. And we can’t forget about viewing angles, since an OLED TV can be seen practically horizontal to the screen without losing quality.
Among its weaknesses we could talk about the famous retentions or burned. Being an organic technology, OLED panels are at risk of “burning” if we keep a fixed image on the screen for a long time. The most common example is the fly (the logo) of a television channel or the markers that some games have. That is, static images that can remain many hours in the same place.
If we abuse this type of images, when changing to a different image we can see that a mark of the image that has been on the screen longer remains. But the truth is that on current televisions (and those of at least 2-3 years ago) it is very difficult for this to happen. Manufacturers are aware of this limitation and include in their models a panel cleaning system that eliminates these marks. We would have to spend many hours with the same image for a retention of this type to become permanent. However, the risk is and is something that we must take into account.
Another one that we could consider weak points of OLED technology is its brightness limitation. The top models reach 1,000 nits, but it is not usual. Most OLED TVs tend to be around 700-800 nits. If we compare it with the 2,000 nits of the most advanced 4K QLED models, the difference is clear.
Let us now turn to LED technology. A general level, the big disadvantage of LED TVs is that they are not able to deliver such deep black like the one that OLED models get. This is due to the incorporation of a light emitter that is what really illuminates the LEDs. Here we must make some clarifications, but we better leave it for a little later.
Other disadvantages is that the contrast is less than that of an OLED TV and that viewing angles are much worse. That is, if we are a very large family and some member of it has to watch TV very sideways, surely they will not see it with the same quality that it would have if they see it from the front.
Among the advantages of LED models we have a full burn tolerance. That is, we can have a still image as long as we want without fear that it will remain marked on the screen. This makes them ideal for, for example, gamers or people who have the TV on for many hours a day.
Another aspect in which LED televisions beat OLEDs is in the gloss capacity. As we have discussed before, the latest QLED televisions are capable of reaching a maximum brightness of more than 2,000 nits. This makes the contrasts deeper and the brightness broadens to reveal the most hidden details in very dark or bright areas.
Finally, we must bear in mind that Both the advantages and disadvantages of LED panels may vary depending on the TV we buy. Choosing an entry-level television is not the same as opting for a very high-end model.
Edge LED, Direct Full Array, Local Dimming, IPS, Pure Colors and other terms
Before moving on to other topics such as resolution or HDR, it is worth commenting on some terms that you will see in the descriptions of the televisions that affect the type of lighting and the characteristics of the LED panels.
OLED models are clearly differentiated and, beyond some manufacturer-specific settings, they all offer very similar image quality. However, as we mentioned in the previous section, the range of televisions with LED panel is so wide that we can find models of 300 euros and models of 3,000 euros. This is where other terms come in that we should know about.
The most important is undoubtedly Full Array. LED televisions can be lit in various ways. The term Edge LED refers to a lighting system placed on the sides of the TV (some models change it to the top and bottom of the device). In other words, the light source that illuminates the screen is placed on the left and right. This is the most common system and the one used by the vast majority of low and mid-range models.
As this system is not efficient at all, since it causes clouding, light pollution and light leaks among other problems, the mid-high and high-end models use the system. Direct Full Array. This consists of placing the lighting system on the back of the panel, which allows the television to control the areas it is lighting at a much more precise time.
If you like to review the characteristics of various models before buying, you have surely seen that many manufacturers put “surnames” to the Direct Full Array system. So we can find terms like Direct Full Array Plus or Direct Full Array Pro, among others.
Although sometimes they can be simple marketing, generally refer to the number of lighting zones that the system has. A Full Array system with 500 independent lighting zones will be able to control light emission much better than a system with 50 lighting zones. The bad thing is that the manufacturers do not always tell us how many lighting zones each model has. But the normal thing is that the more we go up in the range the more lighting areas it has. In any case, any Full Array system will be better than the Edge LED.
Even between televisions with Full Array lighting we can have great differences. Why? Because here comes into play another technology called Zoning or Local Dimming. This system is in charge of controlling the on and off of the LEDs, so it is really important. Each manufacturer and each model can count on a more or less successful implementation of this system.
When reviewing the characteristics of televisions we will find many more terms, most of them specific to each manufacturer. For example, NanoCell televisions use technology Pure Colors to offer more vivid colors. On the other hand, this year’s QLED models arrive with Adaptive Picture, a system that uses AI to automatically adjust brightness and intensity when detecting variations in lighting.
These are just two examples, but manufacturers use many more. We are not going to describe them all because we would make the article eternal, but some may have an impact on image quality and others will only be a marketing strategy.
8K, 4K, FULL HD and HD: resolution is not the only thing to consider
In 2020 you probably already know what it means for a TV to be 4K. And we could say that today we have this term even in the soup. Effectively, refers to the resolution offered by the television. We will also see this term when we are looking for content, for example on streaming platforms.
Known as SD It is the resolution that was used before in DTT and that we can still see today in the non-main channels of the media, such as FDF or Neox among others. The resolution Full HD or FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) we can also see it as 1080p and it is the resolution that we find in the original Blu-Ray movies, in some streaming services such as HBO and on the main channels of DTT. Or at least that’s what it should be, since there are many terrestrial channels that do not use a real FHD, but instead use scaling.
From FHD we went to 4K just a few years ago. Actually the 4K used in televisions is not a full 4K, hence the vast majority of advertising posters you see the term 4K UHD, which corresponds to a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. It is a resolution much higher than the FHD, something that is noticeable in content that is actually recorded in this resolution. It has become the new standard, making it even more difficult to find televisions with FHD resolution today.
The last one to arrive, and which you have surely seen in some television commercials, is the 8K, which corresponds to a resolution of 7,680 X 4,320 pixels. That is, we are doubling the 4K resolution with a total of 33 million pixels compared to 8 million pixels for 4K resolution. The problem is that, at this time, there is no native 8K resolution content yet. Also, 8K televisions are still fairly prohibitively priced for most users.
HDR10, HDR10 +, Dolby Vision and HLG: HDR is as or more important than resolution
The resolution is very important when it comes to talking about the characteristics of a television, but many times we forget about another characteristic that is even more important: HDR. At Tuexperto we have talked about HDR many times, but it is worth remembering what it is and what types of HDR we currently have on the market.
The abbreviations HDR correspond in English to High Dynamic Range, or High Dynamic Range. It is a term that photography fans know very well, but that was not so common in video. The objective of this technology is to provide more realistic images, closer to what we see through our eyes. That is, it seeks that what we see on a television is similar to what we would see in a real life scene.
So we have two key advantages when viewing images in this format. The first is that HDR technology brings with it a greater difference between the brightest and darkest points in an image (dynamic luminance range). Similarly, the transition between them is much richer and more progressive, since the screen is capable of displaying more intermediate tones.
On the other hand, a television without HDR displays 10 shades of one color while a television with HDR is capable of displaying up to 1,000 tones. That is, we have a much more detailed image both in scenes with a lot of light and in very dark scenes.
HDR has also evolved over the years, so we now have various types of HDR on televisions. In other words, producers currently have various HDR standards available to create content. And it is they who decide which one to use in their movies and series.
The most common is HDR10, this being what we could call basic HDR. It is a standard based on an open platform. It has been baptized with that name because it uses a 10-bit color quantification scale. Each manufacturer can implement it as they wish, hence we sometimes see nomenclatures such as HDR1000. It’s about a static HDR systemThat is, it is fixed, it does not change with the image. It is the one with most movies and series.
Based on the HDR10 we have the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), an HDR standard created for television broadcasts. But why is a special standard necessary? According to BBC technicians, current HDR technology is very sensitive to interference and connection loss. This system can be used in prepared content, such as movies or series, but not in live broadcasts. For this reason, the HLG system began to be developed, which combines standard dynamic range images and high dynamic range images in a single video signal. This is played as SDR on normal screens and as HDR on HLG compatible screens.
Over the years the HDR10 system has been advancing and the HDR10 + and Dolby Vision. These two HDR systems use dynamic metadata, being able to optimize each scene to show the content as it should be seen, without forcing neither brightness nor colors.
And of the two, it seems that Dolby Vision is being the winner. The vast majority of producers have opted for this format for their 4K UHD movies, with many titles already available on the market, both physically and on streaming platforms such as Netflix.
Dolby Vision is a superior system to HDR10, since proposes a 12-bit quantization and rigorous control from calibration of the master record in the post-production stage to viewing. This basically means that it goes from 10 bits of normal HDR to 12 bits (the more bits the more image quality), and that the calibration of the content in post-production is controlled as much as possible so that it reaches the television as the director wanted.
Regarding the HDR10 +It is also a dynamic system. It is a free standard, that is, manufacturers don’t have to pay to apply it to their televisions. Hence, you see that some models are only compatible with this format and not with Dolby Vision. However, at a technical level it is below Dolby Vision, which means that currently there is very little content that has opted for this format.
Dolby Vision IQ, Dolby Atmos and FILMMAKER MODE: the fashion terms in 2020
They are the last to arrive. Terms such as Dolby Vision IQ or Filmmaker Mode will only be seen on televisions in 2020. In fact, they are two of the few innovations that we will see in this year’s models compared to those of 2019.
With Dolby Vision IQ, the screen brightness, color and contrast are intelligently adjusted according to the genre of content and light conditions. That is, it is a system that modifies Dolby Vision images so that they are seen correctly in any condition, whether we are in a totally dark or bright room.
He Filmmaker Mode it is simply a new image mode that we will see included in some televisions. This image mode turns off motion tweening and all the effects that today’s televisions apply to try to show movies and series with the creative intent and cinematic experience their creators were seeking. It has drawn quite a lot of attention because it is a mode created by very important people in the Hollywood industry, but it is nothing that cannot be achieved with a good adjustment of the television.
Dolby AtmosHowever, he is an old acquaintance. We have been hearing about this system for some years, but it was in 2019 when we saw how many devices with this technology came to the market. And there are more and more televisions that claim to have Dolby Atmos sound, so it is a term that we should include in this article.
Dolby Atmos is a sound technology that stands out for being the first hybrid surround sound system. Mix the classic sound channels (5.1, 7.1 or 9.1), called ‘Beds’, along with dynamic sound objects known as ‘Objects’. The technology Dolby Atmos allows you to place up to 128 of these objects anywhere in the room, with total versatility of movements and intensity. For this, metadata is used, which a compatible audio equipment will know how to place on the different speakers in the room. So, the more speakers we have, the better result we will get.
I imagine that now you are wondering, and how is it possible that a television has Dolby Atmos sound? Actually, it is not. When a manufacturer says that their television has Dolby Atmos, they usually mean that supports this format. It may also be that they have a sound system that simulates spatial sound, but as is logical if we do not have speakers scattered around the room we are not going to have a very striking effect. Finally, many times it also refers to the television’s ability to pass this type of audio to external equipment.
Tizen OS, webOS, Android TV, My Home Screen and VIDAA U: the operating system will determine what we can see with our Smart TV
If you are going to buy a new television, surely you want it to be a Smart TV model. Yes, it is true that today practically all are, but be careful because not all brands use the same operating system. And it is a decision that can condition us in the future when it comes to enjoying certain content.
Among the main Smart TV systems that we can find in the market, two stand out: Tizen OS and webOS. The first is the one that uses Samsung, while webOS is the one that includes the televisions of LG. As these two are the manufacturers that sell the most televisions in Spain, they have highly recognized systems that include practically any application that we imagine.
Another of the most common systems is Android TV, included in the televisions of brands like Philips, Sony, Xiaomi or TCL. The Google system is somewhat heavier when it comes to moving than that of Samsung or LG, but it is one of the most complete and in it we can find some applications that we will not have in Tizen or webOS. But the best thing is that it includes all the streaming applications, which are, after all, the ones consumers are looking for the most.
The three previous systems are the most widespread and known, but not the only ones. There are several manufacturers who have chosen to create their own operating system, but the truth is that they have not been as successful as Samsung and LG.
So on televisions Panasonic we can find the system My Home Screen. It is an operating system that works well, but which lacks such important applications as Disney +, HBO or Movistar +. This is the main problem that we also find in VIDAA U, the operating system of televisions Hisense.
HDMI 2.1, eARC, VRR, ALLM, FreeSync and G-Sync: for you gamers
We did not want to finish the article without explaining some terms that, without being exclusive to this year’s models, it is in 2020 when they have taken much more prominence.
We start with the HDMI connectors. These digital connectors have been with us for a long time, so you surely know which connectors we are talking about. However, it is good to know that not all HDMI connectors are the same, since there are several versions. The most common is HDMI 1.4, which will be what we have if we have a TV with some years.
If our TV is from last year or maybe even from 2018, chances are we have an HDMI 2.0 connector, at least if it is a high-end model. In fact, it is the most common connector for this year as well. However, some models such as LG OLEDs already come with HDMI 2.1.
But what differences are there between them? The HDMI version determines, roughly, the resolution and Hz with which our television can work. So the HDMI 1.4 supports 4K only 24Hz, he HDMI 2.0 supports 4K at 60Hz and the HDMI 2.1 supports up to 8K at 120 Hz.
In addition to increasing resolution and speed, HDMI 2.1 connectors come with other very interesting advantages for gamers. They are between them VRR and ALLM, two technologies designed to reduce entry delay and achieve a shorter response time.
Also with HDMI 2.1 the system has arrived eARC, an improved audio return channel With which we can send HD sound from the TV to the sound bar or external audio equipment. This is necessary if we want to send Dolby Atmos sound from platforms like Netflix to our home theater system.
However, manufacturers have managed to include some of these features in HDMI 2.0 connectors, so many times it will not be 100% necessary that the TV has a full HDMI 2.1. Of course, we recommend that if you plan to buy one of the new generation consoles, opt for a television that has at least one connector with HDMI 2.1 features.
And these are the vast majority of terms that you will come across when searching for information on current televisions. There may be more, but most likely they correspond to very specific characteristics of each brand. To guide you a little through the models that each manufacturer will launch this year, here we leave you the video of one of our last podcasts where we talked about 2020 TVs.
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