Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Smart-Review: HDTV Buying Guide 2013-2014

2013-2014 HDTV Buying Guide

2013-2014 HDTV Buying Guide

High Definition Televisions have quickly replaced the older CRT monitors and Analog TV sets that have used the NTSC broadcast standard of the last 50+ years. The newer HD models are thinner, brighter, and display a stunning picture with many times the resolution of older sets. The newest sets are 3D Ready TVs. Below are some of the terminology used in describing HDTVs and the features they have.

Which HDTV Screen Technology is best? There are two main types of display technologies that are in mainstream HDTV’s, Plasma or LED. Each display technology has its pluses and minuses. Below are the screen technologies and a detailed description of each one and the top rated sets in each category.


The Samsung H7150 LED TV Series (click for larger picture)

Top Picks Best 2014 LED HDTVs – The latest technology in LCD HDTVs is referred to as LED. This actually is an LCD television with an LED backlight instead of the traditional fluorescent backlights that were used on older TVs. Sometimes referred to as an LCD-LED TV. LED backlights improve contrast, brightness, use less power, and allow super thin TVs. There are three types of LED TVs. One is Edge Lit (most common), which illuminates from the edge like traditional backlights. The other is Full Array “Local Dimming” which means that the LEDs are behind the screen and can turn off or dim to give the greatest level of contrast, and the last type is Edge Lit with local dimming which is cheaper than full array TVs. LED TVs are brighter than Plasma, use less electricity, and are more suitable for brighter rooms.

Smart Review’s Best Top Picks in High-End LED HDTVs:

Samsung H7150 240Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Sharp Aquos SQ15 240Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung HU8550 4K Ultra HD LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung HU9000 4K Ultra HD LED 3D Curved TV Series (2014 model)
Sony Bravia W850B 120Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)


Smart Review’s Top Picks in Mid-Range LED HDTVs :

Samsung H6350 120Hz LED TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung H6400 120Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Sharp EQ10 240Hz LED TV Series (2014 model)
Vizio M-Series 240Hz LED TV Series (2014 model)
Sharp LE650U 120Hz LED TV Series (2013 model)
LG Electronics LB6300 120Hz LED TV Series (2014 model)


Related Article: LED TV Roundup and Comparison


Samsung F8500 Plasma Series TVs (click for larger picture)

Top PicksBest Plasma TVs – Plasma displays are very popular for home theaters. They have higher contrast than LCDs (although that gap is closing), and can display HD with stunning clarity. Plasma sets also can display fast action (sports, action movies) better. The disadvantages of plasma are that they take more electricity than LCD and LED TVs (although recent models use less electricity). Panasonic has announced it will stop making Plasma sets in 2014, so the 2013 models were the last ones produced. Samsung will continue to manufacture the high end Samsung PN F8500 Series into 2014, but has committed to no new models except a 64 inch model for this year.

Smart Review’s Top Picks in Plasma HDTVs :
Samsung PN F8500 Series Plasma 3D TVs (2013)

Related Article: Plasma TV Roundup and Comparison


4K Ultra HD TVs Best 4K Ultra HD TVs – A new standard in TVs that is four times sharper than regular 1080p HDTVs has emerged. This is the 4K Ultra HD TV. It has 8 megapixels of resolution, versus 2 megapixels in a Full HD TV. Most movie theaters now have 4K projectors, so you will be getting the same resolution as the movie theater in your home. As this is a new standard, there is not much 4k native content currently. However Netflix, Xfinity (Comcast), ESPN, Youtube, and DirecTV all have announced they will be providing 4K programming in 2014. There is also new 4K mastered Blu-ray discs that have higher bitrates and are designed for 4K TVs. The 4K sets are capable of upconverting regular HD content. Sony just announced a consumer camcorder that can record in 4K to SD memory cards. 4K sets are more expensive than HD, but prices have dropped dramatically. The picture is stunning and we believe 4K will be the new standard over the next 5 years. The best brands of 4K TVs can upconvert standard HD to look even better.

Related Article: Best Rated 4K Ultra HD TVs Review and Comparison

Related Article: 4K TV Buying Guide 2014


HDTV Screen Size

HDTV Screen Size

Which screen size should I get? – One of the first decisions you will have to make, is how big a screen will you need. HDTVs come in a variety of sizes. They come as small as 19 inches and up to 80 inches. Sizes are measured diagonally. As a general rule, the smaller the room, the smaller the TV. A bedroom should do well with a 26-40 inch HDTV, although there is no set rule to this. A living room depending on the size should be in the range of 40 inches and higher. Those with larger living rooms may need a larger TV. You will need to determine which size is best for your situation.

Related Article: How Large a Screen do you need?


1080p Full HDHDTV Screen Resolution 1080p, 720p, or 4K? Screen resolution is the maximum (in pixels) that a TV can display. Earlier HDTV’s could display what is called 720p which is usually a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels (1 million pixels). The current standard is called 1080p Full HD with a much higher resolution of 1920 x 1080 ( 2 million pixels). Blu-ray discs, Playstation 3, and some cable/satellite providers are able to display the full 1080p resolution. Many Cable TV and Satellite companies are still showing high definition at the lower 720p standard, but in the future they will be broadcasting at 1080p. 1080p TVs also have smaller pixels, so if you are sitting up close it may be worth it to get 1080p (this is regardless of the resolution of what you are watching). Today’s best selling televisions are 1080p, as prices have come down, and the lower resolution 720p sets are being phased out except on small screens. We recommend only getting 1080p or 4K screens. 4K is the latest standard, at 2160p, it has 4x the resolution of Full HD.

HDMIHDMI and COMPONENT – Hooking up your high definition cable box, DVD or Blu-ray player, PS3, or other high quality source requires the right connection. The best connection is HDMI, followed by Component. Both are high quality, with HDMI having an edge in picture quality. If you have many hookups to make, you would want to see more HDMI and Component jacks on the TV you purchase. For 1080p sets, you want to have HDMI as your connection of choice. So look for HDTVs with more HDMI and Component connections if you have a lot of equipment to connect. Most have at least 3 HDMI and many are now coming with 4 or more HDMI connections.


WiFi ZoneWiFi/Internet Ready TVs – Many of today’s TVs are internet and WiFi Ready. What this means is that they can connect to the internet wirelessly through your home WiFi network, or an ethernet cable from your cable modem. Content varies on different models and brands of TVs. Some of the more common content available is Netflix, Youtube, Facebook. Some sets have their own internet browser to access any website you put into its browser. We are seeing some provide remote controls with either keyboards, touchpads, or voice control on them for easier input.

Related Article: Top-Rated Internet Ready TVs.

LG Cinema Screen 55LM8600

LG LM8600 Smart TV at CES in Las Vegas (click for larger image)

What is a Smart TV? Smart TVs are those that have integrated web apps and internet ready applications into the TV. The term internet ready is also used to describe the functions of a Smart TV. Typical applications can include, Netflix, Facebook, a Web Browser, streaming video, sports, news, and a lot of other content.

Related Article: Top-Rated Smart TVs.


Viewing Angle – Some HDTV’s displays have a more limited viewing angle than others. They lose contrast and become hard to read at some viewing angles and they have more contrast and are easier to read at others. Generally the higher the viewing angle, the better. This is especially important when a group of people are watching an HDTV at the same time. Modern High Definition TVs have much better viewing angles, and it is not as big an issue as it was in the past.

Contrast Ratio – This is the difference in light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black. Higher is better. The higher the contrast ratio, the greater the ability to show subtle color details, and better resulting picture. Details in dark scenes will benefit from a higher contrast ratio. Many manufacturers give what is called Dynamic contrast which is a higher number than the contrast ratio. So be careful not to confuse this when comparing. LCD panels regular Native contrast ratios hover around 1200-3500:1 for LCDs, and up to 40,000:1 for Plasmas. Dynamic contrast for LCDs can run as high as 150,000 and more. LED TVs and Plasma TVs have contrast ratios 1,000,000:1 and more. As noted one must consider both static (Native) and dynamic contrast ratios.

Response Time – Response time is in simplistic terms how fast the screen can “paint” the screen. It is measured in milliseconds or (ms). Lower numbers are better. A lower response time is best for fast paced games, video, fast moving movies and sports. Today’s HDTV’s have much faster response times than in the past and this issue is also becoming less important since most models today are quite fast.


3D Ready TVs

3D Ready TVs

Top Picks3D Ready TVs – Because of the popularity of 3D in the movie theater with blockbusters such as Avatar, a demand for in home 3d Television has emerged. The 3D TV is the same as a normal set except that it has a built in IR (Infrared) or bluetooth transmitter to transmit signals to special 3D glasses. (Passive 3D TVs do not need a transmitter). These sets also can convert 2D (regular TV) into 3D. There is now 3D content on Cable TV, Satellite, On Demand, Blu-ray, PS3 games, and more. Sports will become a big area for 3D, and is already on ESPN programming. Blu-ray 3D Players have now appeared that can give you full HD in 3D. **3D Glasses are not required to view regular HD programming. So even if you are not going to initially buy accessories (glasses and 3D blu-ray players), you can still enjoy the TV as a normal HDTV for high definition programming. We believe that over time, most TVs will be 3D ready. Smart-Review will feature these 3D sets as they become available.

Smart Review’s Top Rated Picks in 3D LED TVs:
Samsung H7150 LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung H6400 LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Sony Bravia W850B 120Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Vizio M-Series LED 3D TVs (2013 model)

Smart Review’s Top Rated Picks in 3D 4K Ultra HD LED TVs:
Samsung HU8550 4K Ultra HD LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung HU9000 4K Ultra HD LED 3D Curved TV Series (2014 model)

Smart Review’s Top Rated Picks in 3D Plasma TVs:
Samsung F8500 Plasma 3D TV Series (2013 model)


Related Article: Best LED 3D TV Roundup and Comparison

Related Article: Smart-Review 3D TV Buying Guide 2013-2014


120Hz LED TVs – Introduced in Mid 2007, a new type of LCD/LED HDTV technology has come out on select HDTVs. 120Hz refers to the frame rate of an HDTV. Currently sets are 60hz. The double frame rate 120Hz sets will make fast action less prone to blurring. This is important for action movies, and sports. Plasma HDTVs do not need this technology as they handle fast action without the need for 120Hz. Smart-Review will feature these sets as they become available. Top Rated 120Hz HDTVs.

240Hz LED TVs – Introduced in late 2008, this technology quadruples the normal framerate of a 60Hz HDTV, to 240Hz. Like the 120Hz, these sets will make fast action even less prone to blurring. For 2013-2014 there are many higher end models utilizing this technology in their HDTVs. Top-Rated 240Hz HDTVs.


Dual Core ProcessorDual Core/Quad Core Processors – Over the last few years, manufacturers have included dual core and quad core processors into TVs. Just like notebook computers, a dual core processor will speed up operations on the TV. A quad core is even better. This comes into play when using the Smart TV functionality and multi-tasking. Some TVs bog down when using their Internet Apps and browsers. The Dual core processor will make these operations run more smoothly, and add functions like voice control. In 2013-2014 we see the Samsung brand of TV has introduced Quad Core processors which are even more powerful for their Smart TV operations.

HDTVs that have Quad Core processors:
Samsung H6350 LED TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung H6400 LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung H7150 LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung HU8550 4K Ultra HD LED 3D TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung HU9000 4K Ultra HD LED 3D Curved TV Series (2014 model)
Samsung F8500 Plasma 3D TV Series (2013 model)

HDTVs that have Dual Core processors:
Sharp LE650U LED TV Series (2013 big screens)
Sharp Aquos SQ15 240Hz LED 3D TV Series (2014 model big screens)
Sharp EQ10 240Hz LED TV Series (2014 model big screens)


HDTV Firmware – Most of the newer HDTVs now are upgradeable with a firmware (software) upgrade. Usually they can be upgraded using a USB port on the TV, and some using wireless WiFi (this is how the PS3 upgrades itself). Firmware upgrades serve many purposes, including expanding features (such as more internet applications), and fixing bugs. Some TVs that end up being the highest rated may have some poor ratings initially that come from a bug that is later fixed with firmware upgrades. You can usually find these upgrades at the Manufacturer’s web site, or using a menu choice on your TV.

ATSC Tuner – Most of the newer HDTVs now include a digital HD tuner called ATSC. An ATSC digital tuner is required to receive and decode over-the-air digital television signals. Sets do not require this tuner if you are only receiving your high definition feed from a cable company or from satellite, as they will provide you with a high definition decoder box instead. This gives you the option to receive “free” over the air HD local broadcasts.

ATSC/QAM Tuner – Most newer HDTVs have not only ATSC, but also a QAM tuner. An integrated QAM tuner allows the free reception of unscrambled digital programming sent “in the clear” by cable providers (without a box), usually local broadcast stations. This varies by cable company. Most other stations however are scrambled.

Cable Card – Some sets allow you to put a Cable Card in a slot. This card is provided by your cable tv company and allows you to descramble the channels without a cable box. Some people would rather not rent the box provided by the cable company. However, you may lose the TV schedule and on demand features when you use this feature instead of the provided box.


Brand Name or 2nd Tier Brand? – When purchasing an HDTV you will see familiar top level brands such as Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, LG, Sharp, etc. Then you will see 2nd tier brands that sell at substantial discounts to the top brands. We recommend only top tier brands for several reasons. One is that many of these 2nd tier brands offer poor servicing should something go wrong. Some charge you the freight to either ship the TV to them or back after repair. One brand we saw offers no parts after the one year warranty is up, so in effect it is a throwaway TV. Many use inferior parts. Higher end TVs have better video processors for upconverting and reducing digital noise. For these reasons we believe that top tier brands are the best way to go even though there is a higher initial cost.

Related Article: The Latest Top 10 2014 HDTV Models

Related Article: Top Rated HDTVs 2013-2014


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