How is your window to the world holding up, now that we’ve spent seven months at home fighting the pandemic?
TVs have kept Canadians informed, entertained and connected as we’ve hunkered down during COVID-19. We’re watching news and current events shows more than ever, the return of sports has us back in front of our small(ish) screens and new streaming services are bringing out the binge-watchers in all of us. A pair of new video game consoles, debuting later this year, will put even more focus on televisions.
And if it’s been a while since you shopped for a new TV you’ll be blown away at how big, thin and beautiful they’ve become. Not to mention some of the new features they offer
Here are a few timely TV tech trends to consider — and a few recommended models, too.
4K: Your next TV will be a whole lot sharper. Referred to as “ultra-high definition” or sometimes “4K” TV, these new televisions offer four times the resolution of a top-of-the-line 1080p HDTV. In other words, instead of a screen that has roughly two million pixels (the little dots that make up the image) these televisions boast more than eight million pixels.
It’s like slipping on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time.
Netflix and other services support 4K TVs, along with many television providers; if you land on a station that supports 4K TVs, you might see a pop-up that says to press “Select” on the remote to switch to a 4K broadcast.
The price of 4K TVs have dropped significantly. For instance, you can now get a 43-inch TCL 4-Series 4K television (model # 43S425-CA) for about $300 — and it has the built-in Roku Smart TV platform, too.
8K: Some newer TVs have already leapfrogged to deliver 8K resolution. So instead of about eight million pixels that make up a 4K image, we’re talking more than 33 million pixels, resulting in an unbelievably lifelike and clear picture with a resolution best appreciated on a large television.
Another way to think about it: 8K TVs offer four times the resolution of a 4K TV, and 16 times the resolution compared to a 1080p HD TV.
And yes, until 8K content becomes more readily available, these new televisions can “upscale” HD or 4K content to near 8K resolution. (Right now, 8K video is limited to a handful of YouTube channels and what newer smartphones can record at.)
LG’s NanoCell 8K Smart TVs starts at $4,999 for the 65-inch model (65NANO99UNA) and jumps to $6,999 for the 75-inch LG NanoCell 8K Smart TV (model # 75SM9970PUA).
Samsung has a whopping 85-inch 8K QLED Tizen Smart TV for $16,999 (model # QN85Q950TSFXZC).
HDR/Dolby Vision: While 4K or 8K refers to the resolution of the television — how many pixels make up the picture – this isn’t the whole story.
The latest televisions also offer HDR, or “high dynamic range,” which reproduces a wider range of brightness levels, richer colours and higher contrasts. When seen side by side with non-HDR content, HDR-enhanced video is incredibly bright and vibrant.
You might also see more televisions branded with technologies like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, which are two improved types of HDR.
OLED, QLED: Instead of an LED-backlit LCD television — the de facto screen technology just a few years ago — many premium TVs use OLED (pronounced “oh-led”) screens for a superior image, and other benefits.
Primarily from LG and Sony, televisions packed with organic light-emitting diodes are incredibly thin because each pixel is its own light source, therefore no backlighting is required. Along with sharp colour and unprecedented contrast ratios (with super dark blacks), these televisions are more energy efficient than other TV panel types.
LG’s 2020 OLED models start at $1,999. Its flagship CX OLED TV costs $2,399 (for the 55-inch model).
Sony’s flagship OLED model, the Sony Bravia XBR A8H starts at $2,499 for the 55-inch model, while the 65-inch version sells for $3,699.99.
Other TV makers — like Samsung, TCL, and Hisense — are offering TVs powered by “quantum dot” (or “QLED”) technology: microscopic dots as small as one-billionth of a metre that make up the picture. And while they can’t quite match the “infinite” contrast ratio of OLED (the luminance between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks), they generally don’t cost as much as OLED.
QLED televisions also deliver a wide, more true-to-life colour palette than other TVs, especially reds, greens and cyans.
QLED TVs start at about $899 for the 55-inch TCL 6-Series televisions.
Smart TV: Most new TVs today allow you to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.
And this includes entry-level models, such as the $399 43-inch Hisense 4K UHD Roku Smart TV (43R6109).
Smart TVs allow you to access online content, be it for video streaming — such as Netflix, Crave, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube — as well as for viewing social media posts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and online photo galleries, plus music services, on-demand news and sports scores, and so on.
In most cases, you choose which apps you want to see on your screen, not unlike icons on a smartphone.
Some Smart TVs give you a full web browser, too, so you can use a search engine or visit and bookmark websites, or they let you play interactive games. And many Wi-Fi-enabled televisions let you wirelessly play content from your smartphone or tablet.
Voice assistants: Many Smart TV makers are also integrating voice-activated personal assistants — like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa — into their televisions.
So you can press a button on the remote to ask a question or give a command. It could be TV-related, like “Play Dead To Me,” “Launch cat videos on YouTube,” or “Who directed Jojo Rabbit?” Or ask something completely different: “What will the weather be like on the weekend?” or “Turn off the lights outside.”
Some A.I. assistants will be exclusive, like Samsung’s Bixby and LG’s ThinQ platform. But many of Samsung’s and LG’s televisions support both Google and Amazon, too.
Design, decor: Is it a TV or a large artwork? The answer is both, if you’re talking about the aptly-named The Frame by Samsung (from $1,199 for 43-inches).
When you’re not watching content, this 4K HDR displays several hundred pieces of artwork. You can also import your own images.
To really make it look like a picture frame, optional bezels add attractive borders (in different colours and materials) that magnetically affix to all four sides of the TV.