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An explanatory guide to buying a Television

Perhaps, one of the greatest inventions of mankind – a television, is certainly a work of marvel. Whether one enjoys viewing cricket/football matches on weekends with friends, enthusiastically jumping out of the sofa set at every boundary/goal or if one relishes watching movies alone at night, contemplating the message conveyed in it up until dawn, or even if one is a passionate gamer and savours each latest title launched for one’s gaming console, a television has something in store for all.While the uses and benefits of a television are immense, the very choice of it among hundreds of products offered by dozens of manufacturers trying to beat one another by advertising their flashy USPs is a different story altogether. With several display technologies among LEDs, OLEDs, and QLEDs and various display resolutions among HD Ready, Full HD and 4K in which they are offered along with the different interface options among Smart, Non-smart, Android, choosing the right television that is perfect for one’s requirement is a gargantuan task.

So today, we will make purchasing a television a breezy process for all.

Image result for samsung wall tv 219 inch

Now, if you are a frequent visitor to the posts on this blog, you might be probably aware that we take each topic from the grass root level and we will do the same with this post as well. We will begin with the basics first, discuss the different types of display technologies available in the market along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. Following which, we would analyse the various display resolutions offered in televisions and how it influences the clarity and sharpness of content as screen size varies. Next, we will proceed onto discussing the three types of user interfaces among Non-Smart, Smart and Android, televisions come manufactured with and how one should go about choosing one of these for one’s television as per one’s use and requirement. Following the display resolution, we would examine the optimal screen size one should decide on keeping the viewing distance and one’s preferred display resolution in consideration. Next, we will move onto deciding which are some of the best televisions available in the market that not only offer excellent picture quality but are also made of high-quality and durable components, thereby offering the most value for one’s money.

TELEVISION DISPLAY TECHNOLOGIES

LED
As the name suggests, an LED television makes use of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) as a source of light behind the screen. LED televisions are a very popular choice among buyers all across the world primarily because of two factors: first, low energy consumption, which is an inherent trait of light emitting diodes and second, relatively thin form factor.

However, a major touting that made LED televisions so popular over their predecessors – LCD televisions, was cited to be its superior picture quality and improved viewing angles. However, in reality, none of it was actually true. LED televisions did not improve upon the image quality or viewing angles. Rather, they improved upon energy efficiency over its predecessors, thereby reducing electricity consumption.

Now, having discussed the LED display technology in televisions, let us proceed to explore its advantages and disadvantages.

PROS:-

  • Energy consumption. Perhaps the greatest advantage of LED televisions is the fact that they are quite economical to use. Typically, they consume 40–45 per cent less energy than their LCD counterparts.
  • Shelf life. LED televisions due to their utilization of LED light source can last decades. However, for ensuring longevity of the display panel of LED televisions, one should keep in check that these televisions are used in environments where temperatures lie within the range of 5–45 degree celsius.
  • Picture quality. With adequate contrast, decent blacks, crisp and sharp images, LED technology in televisions has certainly proved to be a boon for enthusiasts.
  • Pleasing aesthetics. LED technology has completely transformed the perception about televisions. In olden times, televisions were associated with big, bulky boxes of entertainment, but with the advent of LED technology in televisions, they have reduced in bulk and depth so dramatically that they are now considered to be symbols of luxury rather than just sources of entertainment.

CONS:-

  • Display dims with age. LED televisions can typically last for 35,000–40,000 watch hours. However, as number of watch hours pile up, LEDs, just like any other source of light, get dimmer and the content displayed on the screen is not as bright as what it was when the television was new. Typically, after 25,000 watch hours, the maximum brightness gets reduced to 60 per cent of original. Though, 25,000 watch hours would translate to roughly two decades of moderate use, it’s only the enthusiasts that might find the need to replace their television a little sooner than a decade mark.
  • Restricted viewing angle. LED televisions do provide an immersive viewing experience with sharp image quality, accurate colours and adequate contrast. However, one can take full advantage of their image reproduction prowess from a maximum angle of 50–55 degrees on either side from the center that translates to a total viewing angle of 100–110 degrees. Beyond which, the colours appear a little washed out and the content no longer looks as sharp. So, in settings where a large number of members are viewing a program spread out beyond the optimal viewing angle range, the ones viewing the content from further away the optimal angle range would not experience the content to be as colour rich and detailed as someone viewing the content from the center would do.

OLED
OLED stand for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. A layer of organic compounds is sandwiched between the two electrodes – one positively charged and the other negatively. When electric current passes through the electrodes, holes and electrons combine in the sandwiched organic layer, releasing energy in the form of photons of light. The colour of the light depends upon the type of organic compounds used. Typically, most major manufacturers place several types of organic films on the same OLED panel to make colour displays. The brightness of the display is controlled by the amount of electric current applied: the brighter the display the more is the current drawn.

Now, let us discuss the Pros and Cons of this display technology.

PROS:-

  • Perfect blacks. Unlike LED display technology that makes use of light emitting diodes to work as the source of backlight, OLED panels do not have any such requirement. In OLED panels, individual pixels produce their own light, thus, when viewing content on OLED televisions, the scenes in which darkness or night is to be portrayed, the pixels of that area on the screen do not light up at all, thereby giving viewers a viewing experience that is unmatched by any other display technology.
Image result for led vs oled blacks
(Illustration of perfectly black pixels in an OLED television where the content is not displayed and comparison of the same content on an LED television)
  • Near ideal viewing angle. OLED televisions have a viewing angle of about 170 degrees which converts to 85 degrees on either side from the center. This translates in content appearing as colour rich and as sharp to someone viewing it right from the center as it would to someone viewing it from one of the corners. This quality of OLED televisions makes them an ideal choice for homes where the television is to be installed in a common setting and large number of viewers are to relish the content together.
  • Faster response time. Response time refers to the time it takes for the individual light emitting diodes to turn from ‘on’ to ‘off’ state. Lower response time in comparison to LED televisions ensures less motion blur and promotes an overall more immersive viewing experience.
  • Lesser input lag. This facet of OLED televisions is especially a boon for die-hard gamers. Input lag refers to the time taken to display the action performed via the external controller device on the screen. Most major manufacturers of OLED televisions claim the input lag to be lesser than 25 milliseconds on their products. With input lag as low as 25 milliseconds, one can expect a seamless gaming performance with virtually no time difference between action performed via the controller and the onscreen reaction.

CONS:-

  • Display brightness. OLED televisions, when considered alone are bright enough for most environments and it’s only when one considers the display brightness levels in a brightly lit room, an OLED television appears a little dimmer in comparison to the other display technologies. This is mainly due to the fact that organic compounds used in the OLED panel are self-emissive and have no backlight. On the other hand, LED televisions, because of the LED sourced backlight can get several times brighter than an OLED panel and would give better viewing results in brighter settings.
  • Screen burn-in. Burn-in refers to the phenomenon of permanent retention of certain aspects of an image on the screen due to excessive use. Most cases of burn-in are a result of static images such as a channel logo or the vital information about a game character being displayed uninterrupted on the screen for several hours every day over a period of few years. However, in majority of homes, televisions are not used such extensively, therefore, burn-in can virtually be considered as an extremely rare occurrence.

QLED
QLED stands for Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diode. QLED technology entails placing a layer of quantum dots in front of a regular LED backlight panel. Unlike OLED displays, QLED panels are not self-emissive i.e. individual pixels do not emit their own light. Rather, just like LED televisions, a backlight sourced by light emitting diodes is brought into use to provide the illumination. The layer of quantum dots is made up of tiny semi-conductor crystals ranging between two and ten nanometres in diameter, and produce different colours depending upon their size. For instance, the smallest dots produce blue, while the larger ones produce red. Basically, the size of the particle dictates the wavelength of the light it emits, hence different colours are produced. QLED panels are capable of producing over a billion different colours, while both LED and QLED panels produce just a few million.

Now, having understood the key points of QLED display technology, let us proceed to discuss its advantages and disadvantages.
Since QLED televisions use the same LED sourced display panel, as in the case of LED televisions, all the advantages and disadvantages of LED technology apply to QLED televisions as well. Additionally, there are specific Pros and Cons exclusive to QLED technology, which we will discuss.

PROS:-

  • Brightness levels. When it comes to brightness capabilities, QLED panels outshine every other category of display technologies. Even in the brightest of environments, QLED televisions can reproduce some of the most vivid and bright images. Therefore in settings, where one can not possibly curtail the amount of light entering the room or if one favours watching one’s preferred content on television in brighter environments, QLED televisions deliver well.
  • No occurrence of screen burn-in. Since QLED televisions are based on LED display technology, occurrence of burn-in is completely non-existent in QLED displays due to the inorganic nature of LED panels.

CONS:-

  • Backlight bleed. Backlight bleed is characterized by leakage of backlight around the edges or corners of the display panel. This phenomenon can also be observed in LED televisions to some extent. The cause of such occurrences revolves around the fact that pixels on QLED and LED televisions rely on backlighting by light-emitting diodes and are not self-emissive. As a result, some amount of backlight leaks around the corners of the display panel. Though, it takes an eagle’s eye to observe such an occurrence and most users would not notice it at all, enthusiasts and steadfast gamers might find such phenomenon in QLED and LED displays mildly distracting.

Now, having discussed the three types of display technologies that are prevalent in the market, let us examine the different display resolutions one can find in a television screen.

DISPLAY RESOLUTION

Display resolution is measured by the number of pixels contained on a display screen. It is expressed in terms of number of pixels on the horizontal axis and the number of pixels on the vertical axis. The sharpness of an image depends upon the resolution and size of the display screen.
For the same pixel resolution, an image will appear sharper on a small screen and would gradually lose its sharpness as the size of the display screen is increased. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, the bigger the display screen, the higher should be the display resolution to facilitate pleasurable viewing experience.

Display resolution is denoted as ‘A x B’, where A denotes the number of pixels along the width of the display screen and B denotes the number of pixels along the height of the display screen. The product of A and B gives the total number of pixels in the screen.

Now, the display resolutions one can find in a television screen are:-

  • HD Ready. This display resolution is commonly seen in entry level televisions and the number of pixels along the width and the height of the screen are 1280 x 720. Another pixel configuration that comes under the umbrella of HD Ready resolution is 1366 x 768. HD Ready resolution is often known by the numeric name 720p.
  • Full HD. Full HD display resolution has 1920 pixels along its width and 1080 pixels along its height, i.e. 1920 x 1080 pixels. The numeric name for Full HD resolution is 1080p.
  • Ultra HD. Ultra HD resolution is generally found in premium televisions. The number of pixels along the width and the height of the screen are 3840 x 2160. The numeric name for Ultra HD resolution is 4K as these display screens have four times the number of pixels found in Full HD displays.
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So, having analyzed the different resolutions of television displays, let us proceed to understanding the user interface options available in televisions.

USER INTERFACE

Non-Smart. A non smart television is the one that can majorly only be used to view content provided by one’s set top box/cable network provider, but can not be natively used to consume media from online video services like YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar etc. So, there is only little one can accomplish by a non-smart television. However, with the advent of plug-in devices like Google Chromecast, any non-smart television can be turned into a modular smart one by casting content from one’s mobile phone/PC to the non-smart television. On the flip side, non-smart televisions make up for the lower segment of television market, and by deciding to purchase one, one would also miss out on other substantial qualities a decent television should have – higher display resolution, lower refresh rate, wider viewing angles, better sounding speakers, etc. Hence, only if one is considering a purchase within a strict budget would a non-smart television make for a decent choice.

Smart. The greatest advantage of a smart television is the fact that it can natively connect to one’s home’s WiFi network and thus one can seamlessly enjoy content from online video services. Moreover, most smart televisions also have an in-built voice search functionality that allows the users to search for their preferred content by simply speaking the name/description of the content. Also, with Google Chromecast built-in in majority of smart televisions, one can relish content from one’s PC or mobile phone on the television screen without requiring to plug-in any external device. That said, though one can install more than adequate applications and streaming services on a smart television from the manufacturer’s installed app store, one might find few applications specific to Google Play store which one can install only on an Android television. For this very matter, smart televisions occupy the sweet spot between limited functionality of the non-smart televisions and the extensive versatility of full-fledged Android televisions.

Android. Android is the most widely used operating system in the world. Therefore, people coming from Android mobile phones/tablets would find themselves at home with Android televisions. Unlike smart televisions which only let the users install the limited number of applications and services included in the manufacturer’s installed app store, Android televisions open the world to a whole new level of Android specific content such as Google Play Store which houses tons of applications and popular games, Google Play Movies and TV which lets one stream the latest movies and popular TV shows, some of which are exclusive to Google Play Movies and TV. Additionally, the familiarity of menus, the ease of interactivity one gets with Android televisions is unmatched by any other user interface.

Having examined the different user interfaces available in televisions and the benefits and shortcomings of each, let us proceed to analyzing the optimal screen size one should consider while purchasing a television, keeping the distance between the screen and one’s seating arrangement in calculation.


(Android TV User Interface depicting Android specific applications)

VIEWING DISTANCE AND OPTIMAL SCREEN SIZE

Screen of any display, be it television be it monitor be it mobile phone etc. is always measured diagonally, i.e. from one corner to opposite non-adjacent corner of the screen. For calculating the optimal screen size, the display resolution also needs to be kept into consideration apart from the viewing distance.
Lower screen resolution translates to lesser number of pixels in a given area of the screen which results in image appearing blurry. Therefore, to counter blur while viewing a lower resolution display, typically HD Ready display, one needs to view the content from farther away than what is required in Full HD or Ultra HD displays.

As a rule of thumb, the better the display resolution of the television screen, the closer one can view the content from, without the content appearing pixelated or vague.
Now, let us discuss the relation between screen size (measured diagonally) and the viewing distance for various display resolutions.

  • For HD Ready display. When a 720p display is in consideration, the maximum screen size is calculated by dividing the viewing distance (in inches) by ‘2.5’. The obtained result would be the highest screen size one should decide on for the viewing distance in consideration. For example, for a viewing distance of 10 feet, i.e. 120 inches, the maximum screen size one should go for is roughly 49 inches. For a screen size beyond 49 inches, keeping the same viewing distance in calculation, the content would start appearing pixelated and blurry, thus not pleasurable.
  • For Full HD display. For a 1080p screen, the maximum screen size is calculated by dividing the viewing distance (in inches) by ‘2’. The obtained quantity would be the greatest screen size that one should decide on for the viewing distance in consideration. For illustration, for a viewing distance of 10 feet, i.e. 120 inches, the maximum screen size one should settle on is 60 inches.
  • For Ultra HD display. Since a 4K display packs in four times the number of pixels of a Full HD screen, for the same screen size, one can be seated at half the distance when viewing a 4K display as compared to a 1080p display and the content would still be enjoyable. More number of pixels in a 4K panel ensure that one does not see individual pixels and enjoys a sharp and crisp image even when viewed up close. For a 4K display, the largest screen size is calculated by dividing the viewing distance (in inches) by ‘1.8’. Illustrating with an example, for a viewing distance of 10 feet, i.e. 120 inches, the maximum screen size that would impart pleasurable viewing experience in a 4K display would be approximately 65 inches.

Note:- The results of the above analysis produce maximum effective screen size one can comfortably settle on and enjoy an immersive experience. However, in practice, it is advisable to opt for a slightly lower screen size than the results produced by performing the calculations for the respective display resolutions.

(Ideal viewing distance for various screen sizes of a 1080p resolution display)

Now, having studied the relation between viewing distance and the maximum screen size one should opt for, let us proceed to zero down on some of the best televisions available in the market that not only offer great picture quality, thus an immersive viewing experience, but are also made of components that offer reliable and long-lasting service, thereby providing most value for the money spent.

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