Choosing A Smart TV: What to Know and Look For

Credit: LG

You probably don’t have to replace your television too often. But when you finally do, it can seem like a whole new world of confusion. The latest jargon — 4K, 8K, HDMI 2.1, HDR, 120Hz, OLED, QLED, Smart LED, Ultra HD, the list goes on — is overwhelming, particularly for someone who hasn’t shopped for a new TV in five or 10 years.

The good news is, almost all new TVs come equipped with a smart platform. Some manufacturers choose to use their own smart platforms, where others choose to integrate smart platforms like Android or Roku. No matter the case, the selection of apps is great and most common apps are available on almost all platforms.

That said, let’s go on to see how to choose the best one on the market.

What to Know

Credit: Samsung
  1. What can smart TVs do? Smart TVs are internet-connected televisions that stream shows, films, and programmes over the internet, alongside (or instead of) terrestrial broadcasts.
  • What’s a “dumb” TV? A dumb TV is a set without smart capabilities or internet connection, though set-top boxes or streaming sticks can add those things in.
  • What channels are on smart TVs? This varies between country, and also your TV manufacturer.  
  • Do smart TVs have built-in Wi-Fi? No. you will need a home internet connection, either over Ethernet (wired) or Wi-Fi (wireless).
  • Do smart TVs have Netflix? All major smart platforms will support Netflix, even those with Amazon’s Fire TV interface – while some remotes these days even come with a dedicated Netflix button. You will need to subscribe to Netflix to access the content within the app, though.

What Platforms are Available?

There are five main smart operating systems: Android TV, webOS, Tizen, Roku TV and SmartCast that are used by Sony, LG, Samsung, and Vizio, respectively. Philips uses Android while Panasonic uses its own proprietary system called MyHomeScreen.  All of the smart TV platforms offer similar sets of features, including access to big apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

The vast majority of TVs use one of the operating systems listed above – but not all TVs. At lower price points, you probably won’t find any of the above as most TV manufacturers offer a narrow proprietary service instead. These will vary between manufacturers, however, by and large, they’re not as good as the ones listed above for the sheer reason that they aren’t updated as frequently.

That said, if you’re completely undecided on which smart TV to buy, it’s worth considering the value of each of these smart systems.

What Resolution to Look Out For

Just like for a laptop or a smartphone, a television’s resolution refers to the number of dots or pixels that make up the screen. The more pixels, the sharper the display—though screen size also affects sharpness, because the same number of pixels across a bigger display won’t look as clear.

The vast majority of sets you see will have resolutions of 3840 by 2160 pixels, a size known as 4K. You might see some television companies using the term Ultra HD instead, but it’s essentially the same resolution. If you’re getting a small TV, say under 40 inches, it’s not worth investing in a 4K resolution because it simply won’t be noticeable. For anything larger than that, however, 4K is the current gold standard.

What Display Technology Should You Consider?

Today’s television displays rely on two competing technologies: the ubiquitous LED LCD and the more expensive OLED. Both types of screens use LEDs for illumination, but in different ways. With LED LCD, white light-emitting diode, or LED pixels, are used as a backlight to form an image through a liquid crystal display, or LCD filter. The LEDs usually cover the whole screen, but cheaper sets sometimes limit those to just the edges of the display. LED LCD displays are generally sharper than OLED ones, and they also provide more natural-looking light control in scenes.

On the other hand, organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screens skip the backlight and instead light up individual pixels one by one using an electric current. This lets the screen respond more quickly to changing input. In addition, because a black pixel is switched off completely rather than dimmed, OLED displays tend to have better contrast than LED LCD ones. Finally, they’re more expensive to manufacture, which usually leads to more expensive television sets.

Most smart TVs will also apply some clever technology to reduce motion blur. You’ll find this type of effect under a name like motion or frame interpolation. However, the technology may or may not look good to your eyes: It can dial down the blur so much that everything gets a razor-sharp, cheap-looking sheen known as the soap opera effect. The good news is that these motion blur effects are optional, so you can disable them if you dislike them.

What is the HDMI Connection Like?

There used to be four or five spaghetti-like cords that would hook up each device. Now, with HDMI cords, each device has only one cord. Think about how many devices you want to attach to your TV and then count the HDMI ports. Hookup options include: sound bar, streaming box, game system, Blu-ray device, cable box.

At What Prices do they come?

Naira and Dollars

TVs are in three categories: standard, premium and elite, with a standard being a 4K HDR and elite being one of the OLED offerings. Basically, you can get a great deal for under N300,000, and if you’re willing to really splurge on style and performance, you can expect to spend close to N900,000. There are many good smart 4K TVs in the N200,000 range.

When to Buy

The best time of year to buy a new TV is the holiday season, from Black Friday through December. Do your research on the TV you want and the price before looking for sales so you’ll know a good deal when you see it. Another good time is late February and March because TV manufacturers start to release new products and discount older models. The best way to know whether a TV is a good deal? Look at the picture in person.

See our picks for Best Budget Smart TVs here.

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