Confused about TV tech? That’s just what they want! (Q3 2023 mini-LED update)
LCD, LED, QD, Mini-LED, Micro-LED, OLED, QD OLED, 4K, 8K, Laser… Confused about TV tech? Well, there are so many made-up terms and so much marketing hype to delight and confuse you that you can end up buying the wrong TV. We explain the differences and help you decide what is best for your needs. First, we need to define some terms.
Mainstream brands (% global market share)
- LG (About 12% in a mix of LED/LCD, OLED, NanoCell Quantum Dot, QNED QD/mini-LED/LCD made in South Korea and China)
- Samsung (about 22% of the global market share in mini-LED/LCD, Quantum Dot, LED/LCD made in South Korea and China) and now QD OLED.
- Sony (about 4% in LED/LCD and OLED [LG Panels] made in Malaysia. its new 2022 QD OLED panel is from Samsung)
Most people buy these brands on reputation and are willing to pay a premium for that. But these three brands only have a one-year warranty. We think that relying on Australian Consumer Law (See Why Australian Consumer Law warranties are vital for tech) for remedies after that devalues the brand’s value. And while you are at it, check if the warranty is on-site (it is hard to take a big TV back to the Retailer) or have any obvious exclusions.
Challenger brands – try harder
- Philips (TPV technology made in China) 2-year warranty
- Hisense (Guangdong government-owned with public listing) 3-year warranty
- TCL (Qingdao government-owned with public listing) Makes the TVs and uses TCL/CSOT panels (China) 3-year warranty
We are impressed with the quality and value these challenger brands provide, not to mention the longer warranty. Are they as good as the Mainstream brands? Apples for apples, e.g., similar technologies and comparative models, there is not a lot between them and mainstream brands.
Generics sold in Australia – highly substitutable
Most use existing designs from a small group of Chinese ODM (original design manufacturers) and panels from about five Chinese makers. There is little between them. Here warranties vary – some offer two years, but these TVs are made to a price and generally last 3-5 years.
|Akai (TPV Technology)||Bauhn (TPV Technology)||Blaupunkt (Ayonz ODM China)|
|Changhong Chiq (Sichuan Changhong Electric China)||Eko (Ayonz ODM China)||FFalcon (TCL)|
(TPV Technology ODM China)
|House brands (like Kogan and Medion – ODM China)||Jaeger|
(Ayonz ODM China)
(AmTRAN ODM China)
(MEW Australia ODM China)
(NG Enterprises OEM China)
(no longer sold in Australia)
(Ayonz ODM China)
|Sharp (Foxconn and made in China)||Soniq|
(Hisense made in China)
|Vivo or Viano|
(Vivo made in China)
Premium brands – don’t ask the price
- Grundig (Arçelik A.Ş. Turkey TVs made in China)
- Loewe (German assembly with LG panels)
- B&O (made by LG in China, sound by B&O)
Our advice here is not to be a brand snob – select the TV that suits your needs.
Confused about TV tech? Panel types
Type (% sales)
Regardless of all the marketing hype, there are only two TV technologies – so unless it says OLED, it uses older LCD technology.
- LCD (90%)
- OLED (10%)
LCD TV panel variants
LCD means Liquid Crystal Display, and it uses one of the back-light sources below. Essentially the light shines through the LCD ‘gate’ that controls on (open) or off (closed) and then colour filters. LCD suffers from light bleed from adjacent gates (ghosting of light images). It can never achieve true black as OLED can, so it has a lower contrast ratio. VA panels have a higher peak contrast (5000:1) but lower off-angle viewing. IPS panels have lower peak contrast (1500:1) but are better for off-angle viewing.
LCD is cheap to make, but this old technology and being pushed to its limits with the new Mini-LED backlights.
LCD Backlight variants (in order of lowest to highest cost)
- Edge-lit LED. Light comes from one or more edges and is transmitted via a fibre-optic backplane to cover the screen. It is the cheapest panel type and not capable of HDR (High Dynamic Range) colour gamut. These generally don’t have local dimming, so you see white ghosting around white text and light areas. Edge-lit panels are generally the thinnest as they don’t have a bulky backlight.
- Direct LED. Same as above but with some dimming zones (<30).
- Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD) – Back-lit with more LEDs and more granular control with 30-100 dimming zones to reduce ghosting. FALD is generally not able to do Dolby Vision.
- FALD Pro – as above but with dozens of LCD dimming zones to further reduce ghosting and can begin to display HDR and Dolby Vision content
- Mini-LED – as per FALD but with thousands of mini-LEDs, usually with dozens to hundreds of dimming zones. Capable of greater brightness for HDR10+ or Dolby Vision.
WARNING. Not all mini-LEDs are created equal. In fact, one brand is now claiming Mini-LED for its edge-lit models (that use mini-LED instead of regular LEDs that are 40 times larger). And some are not using dimming zomes, whereas others have hundreds or more. It will be a highly abused marketing term in 2023 – like Dolby Atmos is now.
Update: Mini-LED – the best LCD but has inherent limitations
We have reviewed a few 2023 mini-LEDs this year; without exception, the out-of-the-box calibration has not been ideal. Let me explain because there is a conundrum.
Do you want natural colours as the filmmaker intended or bright, over-saturated colours that bear a passing resemblance to reality?
Without getting too technical, you need to calibrate for a good balance between brightness, contrast, and colour accuracy. The problem with Mini-LED is you can get perhaps two out of three right. For example, the Cinema and Filmmakers modes are more accurate for natural colour and contrast, but brightness suffers. Vivid and Standard modes are bright but bear little resemblance to accurate colour and contrast (black levels) suffer.
The answer is that Mini-LED/Quantum Dot colour is generally an abomination to videophiles (like me), but Joe and Jane Average love the bright saturated colour.
Quantum Dot or QD (QLED [Samsung], NanoCell [LG], TriLuminous [Sony], Hisense [ULED] and TCL (QUHD) is a colour overlay for LED/LCD. It adds more colour gamut to LCD TVs via ‘excitable quantum dots’ and now accounts for nearly 35% of TVs sold here – mainly because Samsung doesn’t do OLED (it does do a Quantum Dot OLED)
QD is the best LCD colour tech you can get, but it is still not a competitor to OLED for image quality and 100% black (contrast).
OLED (ORGANIC LIGHT EMITTING DIODE) or, specifically WOLED
Simply put, each 4K/8K (8M/33M) pixel is self-emissive (light a light bulb) for extremely granular light control. LG uses WOLED-CF with four white OLED subpixels with colour filters on top (W+RBG).
OLED has superior images to LED, but it is not quite as bright, so it is best where you can control ambient light.
If you want the best look at LG or Sony OLED that use Gen 9 or later panels. Most Chinese OLED panels are generally Gen 4-6, so OLED quality can vary.
Enter QD OLED
It uses a blue OLED backlight (self-emissive) for 100% dimming zones and pure blacks (off). It overlays a QD layer (instead of a colour filter layer) that is excited to produce red, green, blue and almost every colour or tone in between. So, it is similar to an OLED backlight with QD colours. These panels are far more costly to make, and LG OLED is also getting better with brighter EVO panels so it is more about marketing hype. But to be clear LG OLED is true OLED and QD OLED only uses an OLED backlight.
The QD OLED battle has just begun.
It is not yet a commercial technology, but millions of individually controllable RGB micro-LEDs produce the image without the need for LCD gates. Damned expensive!
We won’t go into detail, but Laser TV projection is not for you unless you invest in a media room. At this stage, there are a few too many compromises for daily use. Remember, there are many different types of lasers.
Confused about TV tech? Stuff you may consider if you are not buying on price
SDR, HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Vision IQ and Dolby Atmos
Most free-to-air TV is Standard Dynamic Range (SDR), meaning even the lowest-cost TVs can display 16.7 million colours. It has <400 nits peak brightness and no processing to highlight dark areas and show detail in bright areas.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) content needs an encoded metadata stream encoded to use HDR or above.
Static HDR has 16.7 million colours and is the next level above SDR. It means the TV panel has sufficient brightness (400 nits peak) and contrast to show some highlights.
Dynamic HDR10 (HLG) has 1.07 billion colours and uses metadata at the beginning of a movie that tells the TV what to expect. Settings do not change during the movie.
HDR10+ has 1.07 billion colours and is Samsung’s proprietary tech. It uses dynamic metadata to adjust picture images on a frame-by-frame basis. HDR10+ Adaptive has an ambient light sensor to adjust to room lighting. Note that Samsung does not support Dolby Vision but downmixes it to the vastly inferior HDR10.
Dolby Vision (DV) is capable of 12-bit 68.7 billion colours (not yet available in a TV, so it down-samples to 10-bit 1.07 billion colours). It implements its metadata on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis, and it needs at least 1000 nit peak brightness. The new DV IQ has an ambient light sensor and can adjust the brightness to room conditions.
IMAX Enhanced is just another HDR version and has DTS audio – it has minimal content.
Dolby Atmos (DA) sound comes with DV content, and it has multiple sound channels and 3D height channels. If a TV has a DA decoder, the sound metadata downmixes to the TV’s speakers (usually 2.0 or 3.0) or passes through to a DA decoder soundbar. See ‘Do I need a soundbar?’ later.
Colour space – Rec. 709, DCI-P3, and Rec 2020.
8-bit colour is 16.7 million colours and tones (most generic TVs). 10-bit colour is over 1.07 billion colours and tones (most HDR10+/Dolby Vision TVs).
DCI-P3 colour gamut is a standard developed by Hollywood movie producers. It uses about 45.5% of the available colour spectrum. The best OLED and QLED panels achieve about 95-99% of this and earn the Ultra HD Alliance (UHDA), Ultra HD Premium certification. OLED wins because it has pure blacks and whites.
Low-cost TVs may quote 100% Rec.709, but that’s only 35.9% of what colours we can see. The new standard for 4K and 8K is Rec. 2020, and no TV has 100% coverage yet.
Go for as high a DCI-P3 percentage as you can get – ideally 95% or more.
Motion and blur rate
Motion blur is the softening of the image when an object, or the entire screen, is in motion, and it is often called the soap opera effect.
Most cheap panels are native 50/60Hz refresh (screen refreshes per second). It is the same as your electricity – Australia is 230V/50Hz, so the base is 50 (PAL), not 60Hz (NTSC)
Australian SDR TV transmits at 24/50Hz, and US TV is 30/60Hz. No matter – manufacturers use the US terminology as it sounds higher.
TVs often quote ‘made-up’ rates – LG TruMotion, Samsung Motion Rate, Sony Motionflow etc.
Cheap TVs use black frame insertion (BFI) to call a 60Hz panel 120Hz, and some use two/three BFIs and claim 180/240Hz. Not good – turn it off except where the content can accommodate it.
Better TVs start with a more expensive 100/120Hz panel and use a mix of BFI and frame interpolation (AI) to estimate the frame insertion content using the last frame and the next. These are wrongly called 200/240Hz.
Gaming, especially Play Station 5 and Xbox X, needs HDMI 2.1, 48Gbps ports that support eARC (and the older ARC), 4K@120Hz, Dolby Vision/Atmos, VRR (Variable refresh rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), HGiG (HDR Gaming Interest Group), and Free/G-Sync.
These TVs will also have a dedicated Game Console Mode. As far as we can tell, only LG 2021 C and G-series OLED, Mini-LED (QNED) and some higher-end LG NanoCell TVs do this. Samsung is adding a gaming hub to its Mini-LED QD TVs. Most good 2023 TVs will have at least one HDMI 2.1 port.
ART Gallery or other content
Samsung’s The Frame (Edge-lit QLED/LCD) can display art from various art galleries for a monthly subscription cost, and LG also offers a similar service. Most can use your photos and images for free as a screen saver, and some have a clock and weather. Unless you need this feature, you can do better with other TVs.
8K – is it ready?
No. There is minimal native 8K content, so 99.99% of what you watch will be upscaled from 480, 720, 1080, 4K to 8K. The 8K TVs we have seen so far seem to do a good job with 1K and 4K, but Free-to-Air HD SDR TV is patchy. For now, 4K is fine, and your next TV will be 8K (when it is the same price)
You need an NBN speed plan to cater to your needs. But if you are using Wi-Fi to the TV, it may not steam well from the router. We recommend using a Wi-Fi 6 AX full-duplex router and a full-duplex Ethernet cable to connect your smart TV to the router, as it gets preference over Wi-Fi connections.
- 720p SD – 3Mbps (Megabits per second)
- 1080p 1K – 5Mbps (NBN 20/5 plan)
- 4K – 25Mbps (NBN 50/20 Plan at least)
Do you need Bluetooth, AV-In, Digital out, USB and more?
Assume most TVs have this. But they are not reasons to buy. Bluetooth is for a keyboard and mouse or headphones. USB usually has too low a voltage to power modern external SSD or Chromecast devices. Digital out is for a soundbar, but HDMI ARC/eARC is best.
- Edge-lit TVs (5-6 star) will use about $150 of power per year.
- OLED varies from 2-4 stars (depending on panel size) and costs $200-400 per year.
- Mini-LED and QD OLED are likely to cost over $400 per year.
Confused about TV tech? What to buy?
The best TV is the one you can afford
The average TV sale is <$1000. When a TV can cost $500 to $10,000 (or more), most buy the largest screen cheap TV and forget about the nuances.
If all you have is $500, the decision is solely about screen size. Look for Google (Android TV operating system), as it has the largest number of streaming apps. Why? Because most generics come from a handful of Chinese factories, all using the same panels and tech. It is just the operating system, brand sticker, and packaging that changes.
If you have $700 ditto on Android TV, you will find brands like TCL and Hisense (VIDAA) with entry-level offerings.
If you have $1000-1500, you will start to see TCL (Google TV), Hisense (VIDAA TV) and entry-level models of Sony (Google TV), Samsung (Tizen) and LG (WebOS 23). Make sure the streaming services you want are there – many TV operating systems don’t have Kayo, Binge etc.
If you have more budget, you can shop for features like HDR/Dolby and more.
All lower-cost TVs use Edge-lit, LED/LCD and do not support Dolby Vision/Atmos content. They all use very similar components, so look for Android TV OS and the best warranty. Never buy so-called extended shop warranties – Australian Consumer Law covers your rights. TV life – expect two to five years as low-cost electronics have a use-by date.
Size (% of brands/models driven by consumer demand)
- <48” – 5%
- 48-50” – 15%
- 55-60” – 18%
- 65-70” – 38%
- >75” – 34% and 75″ is the fastest-growing segment.
Larger LCD and OLED panels are getting cheaper to make, so prices are falling. You can also sit closer to a 4K (or even closer to an 8K) than the old 1080p, so bigger makes sense.
Let’s look at chocies
Post-COVID saw a glut of 2022 (and some 2021) models sitting in retailers’ warehouses being cleared at almost any price to make way for 2023 models. It was a good time to buy. In 2023 we saw a very late introduction of 2023 models.
- LG 2023 TV range – bigger, better, brighter (April, but general availability was much later)
- Samsung 2023 TV and Soundbar range – bigger is better (ditto to LG)
- Hisense 2023 TV and Laser range (June but really not readily available until September)
- TCL August for its C745 and C845 Mini-LED
There are two classes of smart TVs – those that do not support Dolby Vision and those that do. Samsung still does not support Dolby Vision on any of its range, and none rate our DV ‘Pick’. Our picks are based on 65″ and above.
Of the TVs reviewed this year (from lowest to highest cost)
- TCL C745 QLED 4K Google TV for the masses
- LG QNED86SRA Mini-LED TV – bright and colourful
- TCL C845 – a superior Mini-LED with the lot for the best all-around
- LG C3 OLED EVO 2023 – Model C3PSA – save a few pennies
- LG G3 OLED EVO 2023 Model G3PSA – the best OLED yet
Hisense gets an honourable mention, especially its good/better/best Hisense U7KAU 2023 Mini-LED TV – value mini-LED, U8KAU (not much more and worth the jump) and UXAU (this looks very good on paper).
Get the biggest screen your TV viewing area will take.
Once you have a 65” screen or larger, it is hard to go back to 50-55-60. OLED is best followed by QD Mini-LED, FALD, QD/LCD, Direct-Lit and Edge-Lit.
Do you need DV/DA?
The bulk of free-to-air TV and streaming will be SDR or HDR and in 2.0 or up to 5.1 sound. So HDR, yes. A DA soundbar will not create height channels, so a 3.1 to 5.1 surround soundbar is all you need.
If you want the best TV experience and have DV/DA content (pay extra for Netflix 4K or use 4K Blu-ray movies), then yes, it is nice to get a DV/DA TV as these have the best processors, backlights, upscaling and power to make an average TV image sing even with SDR content.
Do you need a soundbar?
Yes, absolutely. TV sound is passable at best but generally has Left/Right 2.0 stereo speakers that don’t have the dynamic range to hear low/mid-bass and mid/high-treble.
Even a low-cost 2.1 (Left/right/subwoofer) will make a huge difference. You will feel the bass (not necessarily room-shaking) and have a low-treble range of up to 10khz, so you get sound directionality.
A 3.1 adds a clear dialogue centre channel for 1-4khz and is great for spoken word.
A 5.1 has left/centre/right sound and left/right angled speakers for surround.
Read Five tips for better TV sound – Dolby Atmos for beginners for a full explanation.
Wall or bench mount
Most will bench mount at around 80cm off the ground. That means when you sit in a chair, the dead centre of the screen should be at eye height.
If you wall mount, be careful not to place it much higher because the more you view off-angle, the more colours are washed out. OLED is a lot more forgiving for off-angle viewing.
But there are traps to wall mounts. Unless the TV uses a standard VESA wall mount (200 x 200, 300 x 300, 400 x 300, 400 x 200, 400 x 400 or 600 x 400) you may be up for a costly TV maker’s mount. Look for the VESA mount size.
Also, you won’t want to have the antenna, power, HDMI, or other cables hanging down from the TV, so look for ways to disguise them. The easy and relatively low-cost answer is to get a plasterer to place a sheet of painted plasterboard on 50mm timber studs on the existing wall to create a false wall through which you can run all the cables.
Note that wall mounting can deaden some TVs’ sound if they have rear-firing speakers. You may need a soundbar.
Look for VESA mounting if you intend to wall mount.
Cybershack advice – Confused about TV tech?
You can go mad trying to compare TVs, so we do it for you.
- Average – Edge-lit for every second TV
- Good – FALD/Pro – and usually HDR10
- Better – Quantum Dot and FALD/Pro and usually Dolby Vision and Atmos (for your primary TV)
- Betterer – Quantum dot and Mini-LED with Dolby Vision and Atmos (except Samsung)
- Best – OLED with Dolby Vision and Atmos (if you have ambient light control)
- Undecided – QD OLED – we are yet to see these and determine if they are better than the best OLED
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