What’s the best TV out there?
I’ve done another piece on this subject some time ago, however given the considerable evolution of electronics, I’ve decided to discuss more about 2016-2017 TVs. Remember, it’s just an article based on my experience with tvs.
As I mentioned before, some of the main changes for the latest TVs are:
- 3D technology is fading away slowly, not managing to convince to many users of its worth
- On the other hand, smart TV capabilities have evolved considerably, being able to compete head-to-head against a low-level notebook.
- 4K resolution became a standard feature on most models available for sale.
- New picture enhancement technologies have arisen: Quantum Dot, OLED, HDR.
Let’s get a bit into the specifics of these technologies and see what’s worth buying at the moment. This article is based on real-life testing of various Samsung, Sony, LG and Phillips TVs developed since early 2016. Also, the article reflects a fully personal opinion, from a buyer’s perspective.
TVs that have been tested: Samsung 49KU6402, Sony 49XD7005, Philips 43PUS6501, LG 49UH603.
Year 2016 brought along thinner TV screens and better looking frames. Design is a very subjective aspect, thus I won’t give it a lot of thought. It’s a good idea to check frontal as well as side photos of the TV if you’re going to get one online.
Is the curved screen worth it?
Once again, this is a subject I’ve focused on multiple times in the past. Samsung managed to create thinner curved screens, improving the overall aspect by quite a few notches. Unfortunately, the price rose as well.
4K vs. Full HD
Let’s discuss what a good TV should provide in terms of resolution. Of course I’m thinking 4K or UHD, especially since these technologies became cheaper over the last year. Some products offer various technologies on the side of 4K resolutions, some more useful to the end user than others.
While there is quite difficult to fully enjoy 4K resolutions given the lack of media sources, the upscaling function works pretty well. For example, a Full HD rendered text where you can see the sharp edges of the letters will appear smoother on a 4K screen after upscaling. The edges will be perfectly round and on close inspection, the overall picture quality is improved. This improvement works on any HD or FullHD media source.
The same works for Smart TV, specifically on YouTube. I’ve ran a few YouTube videos with 4K resolution and the picture looks decent, with more details that you’d expect from a medium-range TV like KU6 series from Samsung.
In conclusion, the sudden drop in price and picture quality improvements is the main positive aspect of getting a 4K TV.
Gamers have now a valid reason to purchase a 4K TV since PlayStation 4 Pro comes with full support of 4K resolutions.
What should you look for in a 4K TV?
Make sure it has an HDMI 2.0 port, or HDMI 2.0a for premium models. This will ensure a higher fps in 4K videos.
Which TV has the better picture?
A number of modern image enhancement technologies are dominating the market in 2016.
OLED keeps a hard to match position but comes at a premium. Organic light emitting diodes provide a quality that’s almost impossible to come close to.
Quantum Dot technology by Samsung tends to come near OLED in terms of performance. It would take more than 2 pages to fully explain how Quantum Dot works; instead, I’ll just list the main benefits. Compared to a standard LED TV, Quantum Dot brings powerful brightness, color accuracy, a vivid picture and highly intense black tones (close to OLED).
HDR is one of the youngest technologies found in modern TVs. The term is derived from photography and its main purpose is to increase picture dynamic range. For example, clouds on the sky will be rendered using multiple shades of grey, getting closer to how they are in real life. More details will also be present over the screen and colors will feel alive. You will also notice a bunch of shades you would otherwise miss on standard TVs.
Videos featuring a lot of dark tones (videos shot at night) will have better detailed lit-up areas without compromising on the intense black tones of the background. A fireplace appearing in the middle of the screen will appear bright and detailed, without sacrificing the pitch-black surrounding.
Is HDR a noteworthy technology, even if the price isn’t quite accessible? That’s hard to say for sure. After viewing a number of videos on Samsung, Sony, LG and Philips TVs I’ve drawn a few conclusions you may or may not resonate with.
Sony usually brings colors that are more pleasing to the eye and more natural tones. The overall contrast is great and black comes at a decent intensity. On the other hand, it lacks in terms of brightness, giving an overall darker screen.
Samsung offers bright and shiny pictures. Vibrant colors and lightning are at their highest. On the downside, it feels like the color palette lacks a particular natural side, for example red and blue shades look forced. The heavy brightness doesn’t help in improving colors.
In terms of picture quality, Philips offers some of the best products on the market. It comes quite close to Sony and there is hardly anything to nag about, especially in the mid-high end range.
Don’t forget about LG. Sadly, it doesn’t stand out of the crowd in the mid-range when compared to main competitors. Contrast is okay and overall picture is medium.
Picture quality – conclusion
Personally, I’d go for Samsung or Sony, but we definitely need to take in account all the other characteristics. For those aiming for a vivid picture, I strongly recommend Samsung ( 7xxx series or up ) while viewers interested in natural tones should consider testing a Sony TV. Philips limps along as a third choice, mainly because it performs in other areas. LG is, sadly, just a choice for a limited budget ( except OLED wich is the best choice for quality).
The best Smart TV in 2016-2017?
Smart TV technology had the highest development rate this year. All medium and high-end TVs now come with decent running speed, a well performing web browser and dozens of apps for everyone. Let’s check out the main Smart TV technologies.
Tizen is the Smart operating system found on Samsung TVs. It’s a well-designed platform that comes close to an entry level laptop. The browser is able to quickly load up to 5 pages simultaneously and it is capable of rendering online content.
Apps are sorted either by category or popularity, thus you can find virtually anything you’d think of: games, Facebook app, HBO Go. Loading time is incredibly short; errors are as often as rain in the desert and ease of use rocks.
A special wireless keyboard is recommended, as the Smart remote is rather tricky to get hold of.
Android OS is the prime choice for Sony and Philips. It went through a bunch of critical updates, as result most errors and freezing is gone. The not so natural app placement makes it a tad difficult to operate through the menu.
Sony TVs come with Opera browser as a default option. It is able to load even complex web pages with high resolution pictures without taking too long. It does still however feel more difficult to work with compared to Tizen. On the other hand, I found the remote control to be easy to handle when introducing text, given the oversized Android keyboard.
Web OS is the main strong point of LG TVs. Apps load the fastest and the browser resembles as much as possible to a desktop version. While most apps are available, one important downside is the lack of HBO Go software.
YouTube worked fluently on all Smart TVs when running 4K video. After all, YouTube is the main video streaming apps used on Smart TVs.
In terms of control, Samsung offers a great special remote; however it’s Philips that gets the 1st prize for its double remote – a classic side and a tech side with full keyboard and microphone for vocal commands.
What’s the go-for Smart TV? Personally, Samsung and LG are my favorites since I haven’t been fully convinced by the Android system. However, if you want the latter, try one of the higher end TVs from Sony or Philips.
Are there any other options?
Almost all TVs since early 2016 come with a very good movie player, regardless of the brand.
Quality sound can only be obtained by means of a sound bar or home cinema system. No matter how much they’ve improved, TVs are still far from offering a cinema sound. On the other hand, the volume comes at a satisfactory level and distortions are less and less observable. I’d also choose Samsung or Sony when it comes to sound.
Finally, what’s the best choice out there?
It really depends on a bunch of criteria: price, offer, and the needs of the buyer. I’d stick to Samsung as in my opinion it gets the best overall grade. However, the best price offer is probably going to come from Sony and Philips.
For those willing to pay a premium ($2000+) for their TV, a new generation OLED screen from LG is the proper choice. A high-end Sony HDR TV is also something to look for in the same circumstances.