If you’ve ever purchased an electronic — and we assume you have because otherwise, how would you be reading this? — you know that companies often throw confusing terminology at you to scare you into just buying the most expensive thing. Best Buy, stop asking us about RAM and terabytes and SD cards; we don’t understand you! If you’re getting anxious just thinking about all that industry lingo, we’re here to help you out. TVs are one of the places that all that terminology can get particularly weird, especially with all those acronyms. We’re going to break down a few of the most common ones and hopefully help you out if you’re looking to buy one over the holidays or in those Boxing Day sales.
Quick disclaimer: we do not know everything about TVs (nor do we claim to, obviously). This is a brief overview of what some of those crazy letter combos plastered on televisions these days mean. If you really want to deeply understand the physics and technology behind pixels and quantum dots and the like, you should probably seek out some experts. Sorry, guys. For those of you who just want to know what that alphabet soup stands for, allow us to continue.
4K, UHD and Ultra HD
These three terms all mean the same thing: “Ultra High Definition.” These TVs have four times as many pixels as a regular old HD TV. Pixels are the tiny microscopic dots of light that make up the picture on your TV. Without getting into the technical math (like these guys do), TVs generally range from about one million pixels (in a 720p TV) to 8 million (in the 4K TVs we’re talking about). More pixels just mean for a sharper picture.
You’re not going to notice a huge difference with a UHD TV if you mostly use it for television though. TV is currently only broadcasts at regular HD (at the most) so those pictures won’t actually be in 4K even if your TV is. You’ll see the difference when you watch movies or play video games.
HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range.” HDR technology boosts the colour, contrast and brightness in your TV picture and can display a wider range of colours. Consumer Report’s electronics editor says it’s like giving your TV more crayons to work with when it colours your picture. Cute.
OLED means “Organic Light Emitting Diode.” It refers to LEDs in which the “light emitting” part is an organic compound that lights up in response to an electric current. So what does that mean for you? More depth of colour. On an OLED screen, the black levels are truly black (whereas in other TVs, the “black” is really just dark dark dark grey). This makes for a more vibrant and eye-popping image.
QD-LED or QLED
Both these terms mean the same thing and that is, “Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode.” Basically, these screens are made up of microscopic quantum dots and their technology is different from regular LEDs because they can emit monochromatic light in either red, blue or green. Regular LED TVs are backlit with white light which means that the LEDs have to work to turn that white light (which contains all colours) into just the colour you want to see. Quantum dots produce a purer colour because there’s no white light to combat.
Smart TVs allow you to download and use applications (like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video) without a media player box (like Apple TV). If you’re a big streamer, it might be a good idea to opt for a smart TV.
Size is up to your personal preference and budget, but if you want to know what size is best for a certain space, there are calculators out there that can help you out. They take into account the TV’s resolution and distance from the viewer to determine your optimal screen size.