Confused about TV tech? That’s just what they want! (guide)

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, Quantum Dot, mini-LED/LCD made in South Korea and China)
  • Samsung (about 22% of global market share in mini-LED/LCD, Quantum Dot, LED/LCD made in South Korea and China)
  • Sony (about 4% in LED/LCD and OLED [LG Panels] made in Malaysia. New 2022 QD OLED panel 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 – they 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 2-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)
Hitachi
(TPV Technology ODM China)
House brands (like Kogan and Medion – ODM China)Jaeger
(Ayonz ODM China)
JVC
(AmTRAN ODM China)
Linden
(MEW Australia ODM China)
Palsonic
(NG Enterprises OEM China)
Panasonic
(no longer sold in Australia)
Polaroid
(TPV Technology)
Seki
(Ayonz ODM China)
Sharp (Foxconn and made in China)Soniq
(Quatius China)
TEAC
(TT China)
Toshiba
(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 (Germany 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 using older LCD technology.

  • LCD (90%)
  • OLED (10%)

LCD TV panel variants

LCD means Liquid Crystal Display, and it uses one of the 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.

It 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 sophisticated local dimming, so you see white ghosting around white text and light areas. Edge-lit panels are generally the thinnnest 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 hundreds to thousands of mini-LEDs, usually individually controlled or with dozens of dimming zones. Capable of greater brightness like HDR10+ or Dolby Vision.

QD LCD

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 and brightness via ‘excitable quantum dots’ to LCD TVs and now accounts for nearly 35% of TVs sold here – mainly because Samsung doesn’t do OLED.

QD is the best LCD tech you can get, but it is still not a competitor to OLED for image quality and 100% blacks (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 panels so it is more about marketing hype.

The QD OLED battle has just begun.

Micro-LED

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!

Laser

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 laser.

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.

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 billion colours and is Samsung’s proprietary tech. It uses dynamic metadata to adjust picture images on a frame-by-frame basis. The new 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 means it has an ambient light sensor and can adjust the brightness to room conditions.

IMAX Enhanced is just another HDR version and has DTS audio, and 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 pass-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 movies 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 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 frame interpolation (AI) to estimate the frame insertion content using the last frame and the next. These are wrongly called 200/240Hz.

Confused about TV tech?
(L) Good AI motion smoothing and (R) bad motion smoothing found on most generic TVs

Gaming

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 2022 TVs will have at least one HDMI 2.1 port.

Confused about TV tech?

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 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)

Streaming

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 full-duplex Ethernet cable to connect your smart TV to the router as it will get 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.

Power use

  • Edge-lit TVs (5-6 star) will use about $150 of power per year.
  • OLED varies from 2-4 stars (depends 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?

#1 The best TV is the one you can afford

According to Canstar Blue, the average TV sale is $984. 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 Blaupunkt with entry-level 55-60” offerings.

If you have $1000, you will start to see TCL (Google TV for 2022 models), Hisense (VIDAA TV) and entry-level models of Sony (Google TV), Samsung (Tizen) and LG (WebOS). Make sure the streaming services your want are there – many TV operating systems don’t have Kayo, Binge etc.

If you have more budget, you can shop on features like HDR/Dolby, and more.

Rule #1 – 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.

#2 What size

Size (% of brands/models driven by consumer demand)

  • <48” – 5%
  • 48-50” – 20%
  • 55-60” – 18%
  • 65-70” – 25%
  • >75” – 38%

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 75” – all are 2021 models (smaller sizes are lower cost)

  • The cheapest is an edge-lit LED/LCD Blaupunkt Android TV at <$1000.
  • <$2,000, you can get (all are edge-lit LED/LCD) Samsung Crystal AU8000, LG UP80, Hisense A7G and TCL C725. None of these is Dolby Vision capable.
  • <$3000, you can get Sony X85J (FALD Pro, QD/LCD), Sony X80J (FALD, QD/LCD), Hisense U9G (mini-LED/LCD), Hisense U8G (QD, FALD, ULED/LCD), TCL P725 (QD, FALD, QUHD/LCD), LG Nano75 and LG Nano80 (FALD, QD/LCD). You can even find an 85” Hisense A7G (FALD/LCD) and 86” LG UP80 (FALD/LCD)
  • <$4000 the 75” TCL C825 (QD, mini-LED/LCD), 85” Hisense U7G (QD ULED/LCD), 75” LG Nano91 (FALD QD/LCD), 75” Samsung The Frame (edge-lit QLED/LCD), 86” LG Nano75 (FALD QD/LCD), 85” Sony X85J (FALD Pro, QD/LCD), and 85” Samsung Q60A (entry level FALD QD/LCD).
  • <$5000 its 75” LG QNED91 (QD, Mini-LED/LCD), 75” Sony X95J (QD, FALD Pro/LCD), 75” Hisense U80G (QD, FALD/LCD) and 75” Samsung QN85A (QD, mini-LED/LCD)  

Now we could keep going, but above $6000 you start to OLED (LG C1 and G1 – new 2022 models to come), LGs QNED99 (QD, Mini-LED/LCD), Samsung’s better QN800A and 900A (QD mini-LED/LCD) and Sony Bravia A90J master OLED (new models to come)

Above $8,000, you start to see larger mini-LED and OLED and smaller 8K screens.

Rule #2 – 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 FALD, QD/LCD.

#4 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 format. So HDR, yes. A DA soundbar will not create height channels, so a 3.1 to 5.1 surround soundbar is all you need.

Rule #4 – 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.

#5 Do you need a soundbar?

Yes, absolutely. TV sound is passable 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 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.

#6 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 that you can run all the cables behind.

Note that wall mounting can deaden some TVs sound if they have rear-firing speakers. You may need a soundbar.

Rule #6 – 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

Given COVID related component shortages and factory closures, we don’t expect to see a lot of 2022 models before H2. 2022.



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