Holiday shoppers are looking for Black Friday deals

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Black Friday is a popular time to buy TVs, but it can also be intimidating if you don’t know what you need.

There are so many specifications of TVs that it makes shopping for one overwhelming and confusing. It’s like an acronym attack. What is HDR? What does 8K mean? What is the difference between LCD, OLED and QLED displays? How important is brand?

The discounted Black Friday TVs may not be the best of the best. “The TVs you’ll find on Black Friday will typically be entry-level sets,” says Paul Gagnon, vice president and industry adviser for market research firm The NPD Group. Gagnon, who has covered the TV industry for 25 years, says it’s important to make sure the TV you buy has all the features you need, especially when it’s discounted.

Here’s a guide to explain all these important features so you can find the TV that’s best for you.

What is 4K?

4K TVs are the standard these days. If you’re not sure what 4K means, it describes the resolution of a picture. 4K TVs have four times as many pixels as standard 1080p sets. But keep in mind that most live broadcasts aren’t shot in 4K yet, so you’ll see the advantage mainly in apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or if you subscribe to YouTube TV with the 4K premium package.

When choosing between resolutions, you may see specifications such as Ultra HD, UHD or 4K. They all mean the same thing.

What is 8K?

8K resolution has twice the resolution of 4K. It amounts to four times the pixels of 4K and 16 times the pixels of 1080p.

While this may sound tempting, you probably won’t enjoy any of the benefits of 8K since there is no content shot in 8K yet. Not to mention that 8K TVs are expensive. Be prepared to spend over $2000.

What is HDR?

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HDR, also known as high dynamic range, allows your TV shows and movies to look as intended by the studio that produced them if they were shot in HDR. You’ll get more light in darker scenes, which means it’s easier to see content. Most 4K TVs also have HDR compatibility.

There is a wide range in the quality of HDR TVs. Expensive ones can look great while cheap ones can’t. If done right, HDR can actually be a more important feature than 4K.

Good HDR comes down to brightness and contrast. When the bright parts of a TV image are brighter, it improves color and makes the picture appear to have more depth, and movies and TV shows can look more realistic. Say you are watching a movie with an ocean shot, you will be able to see the shades and textures of the wave, the deepest blues and the white caps, making you feel the realism of the scene.

But HDR performance can vary dramatically from TV to TV. Make sure the TV you buy has a brightness of at least 400 nits – a measure of brightness intensity – as sometimes TVs with levels below 400 are also sold as HDR TVs. 600 nits or more is better, with the best performing HDR TVs reaching 1000 nits or more.

You will see many different types of HDR marketing. HDR10 is the most widely used because it is an open and free technology standard. Almost all TVs offering HDR support will work with HDR10 content.

There’s also HDR10+, which is supported by most major streamers except Netflix. Keep in mind, though, that TVs can get updates, so if a manufacturer decides to jump on board with HDR10+, the company can add that capability to your TV without you needing to do anything other than update the software.

What does refresh rate mean?

People will be able to play Xbox Game Pass games over a cloud connection on Samsung smart TVs from 2022.

Microsoft

A TV’s refresh rate is the number of times per second it can reset and display an image. Most TVs today offer either 60 Hz, which means the display refreshes 60 times per second, or 120 Hz, which refreshes 120 times per second.

The latter is more expensive, but may be better if you watch a lot of fast-moving content, such as sports or action movies. When the refresh rate is low, it creates motion blur that makes the moving picture appear blurry.

This number is especially important for gamers. The latest consoles, such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, offer a 120Hz refresh rate, but you’ll need a true 120Hz TV to see the graphics as clearly as possible.

If you’re connecting a gaming system that uses a higher refresh rate, “make sure the TV has an HDMI 2.1 input,” says Gagnon. This is the port that will support those fast refresh rates, he explains.

What is the difference between LCD, OLED and QLED?

Amazon Fire TV Omni Series in QLED

Amazon

Almost every television today uses either a liquid crystal display (LCD) or an organic light emitting diode (OLED) screen. The latter is able to produce the best picture quality, while LCD displays usually cost less but can still give you a great picture.

OLED is a newer technology. There is no standard backlight. Instead, each pixel lights up independently. The best quality LCD displays, on the other hand, have local dimming, which means that parts of the screen can be dimmed without affecting the brightness of the rest of the screen.

“The biggest advantage of LCD is that it’s the most affordable of all the technologies,” says Gagnon. “Very high-end LCD TVs do a pretty good job of approaching or matching the performance of OLED displays.”

With OLED, “then you’re usually talking about the highest performance display. So it’s going to have higher contrast levels and better color performance.” It will also be easier to watch TV from different viewing angles and will likely have the fastest refresh rate, Gagnon explains.

There’s also QLED, which stands for Quantum Light Emitting Diode. A QLED TV is essentially an LCD TV with quantum dots. Quantum dots are tiny little molecules that, when hit by light, emit their own differently colored light. Thanks to this technology, QLED TVs emit colors more accurately, which improves the overall quality of the picture.

With QLED “you get better color performance, you also get a bit of an efficiency boost, which means the set can be a bit brighter, and often these are TVs that include other features like higher refresh rates and more HDMI inputs,” says Gagnon.

What about smart TVs?

iTunes works on Samsung TV

Samsung

Almost all TVs are now smart, so no matter what brand you choose, you’ll likely have apps pre-installed on your new TV. You can connect an external streaming device to any TV, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku box, or Apple TV. If you do, choose one that includes 4K and HDR, as long as your new TV supports it. That way, you’ll get the best possible viewing experience.

When it comes to using the pre-installed apps on your TV, it’s important to know that the smart TV stores where you can download apps for your TV vary by TV brand. Samsung TVs will let you access the Samsung Smart TV Store, and LG TVs have an LG content store. Other brands partner with streamers you’re familiar with. TCL, Hisense, Toshiba and more are teaming up with streaming providers you know like Roku, Google and Amazon.

It’s less important to find the TV that has the smart service you like built in, and more important to find the TV with the best quality. You’ll always have the option of adding a streaming device externally to the TV if you prefer one company over another.

If you’re relying on your TV’s built-in apps, Gagnon suggests making sure the Smart TV you buy supports all the streaming apps you use frequently. And if you have an iPhone and like to mirror your screen, make sure your TV supports Apple Screen Mirroring. If you’re an Android user, make sure your TV supports casting, Google’s version of sharing content from phone to TV.

Soundbars are a good investment

Because TVs are so thin these days, there isn’t much room for speakers, which means that most TVs have pretty poor sound quality. Soundbars can solve this problem by providing larger speakers with deeper bass and better range. These will help you out a bit if you’ve ever run into a problem where a TV show is super quiet in some scenes and then really loud in others. You can find good ones for a variety of prices, from $100 to $800. You might even score a free one on Black Friday if retailers combine them with a TV purchase.

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