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 TV specifications that shopping for a single TV can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s like an acronym storm. What is HDR? What does 8K mean? What is the difference between LCD, OLED and QLED displays? How important is the brand?

The TVs on sale on Black Friday may not be the best of the best. “The TVs you’ll find on Black Friday tend to be entry-level sets,” says Paul Gagnon, vice president and industry advisor at market research firm The NPD Group. Gagnon, who has covered the TV industry for 25 years, says that especially with a discount, it’s important to make sure the TV you’re buying has all the features you need.

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

What is 4K?

4K TVs are the standard today. If you’re not sure what 4K means, it describes the resolution of the image. 4K TVs have four times as many pixels as standard 1080p sets. But keep in mind that most live streams still aren’t shot in 4K, so you’ll mostly see the benefits on programs like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or if you subscribe to YouTube TV with a premium 4K package.

When choosing between resolutions, you can see specs like Ultra HD, UHD or 4K. They all mean the same thing.

What is 8K?

8K resolution has twice the resolution of 4K. That’s four times as many pixels as 4K and 16 times as many as 1080p.

While this may sound appealing, you probably won’t be enjoying the benefits of 8K because there isn’t any content shot in 8K yet. Not to mention that 8K TVs are expensive. Be prepared to spend over $2,000.

What is HDR?

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

HDR TVs have a wide range of quality. Expensive ones may look great, but cheap ones may not. If done right, HDR can be a more important feature than 4K.

Good HDR comes down to brightness and contrast. When the light parts of a TV picture are brighter, it improves color and makes the picture look deeper, and movies and TV shows can look more realistic. Let’s say you’re watching a movie with a shot of the ocean, you’ll be able to see the nuances and textures of the waves, the deepest blues and 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 measurement of brightness intensity, as sometimes TVs below 400 are also sold as HDR TVs. Brightness of 600 nits or higher is better, with the best 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 that sell HDR support will work with HDR10 content.

There’s also HDR10+, which is supported by most major streamers except Netflix. However, keep in mind that TVs can receive updates, so if a manufacturer decides to go HDR10+, the company can add that capability to your TV without you having to do anything other than a software update.

What does refresh rate mean?

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

Microsoft

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

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

This number is especially important for gamers. Recent consoles like 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,” Gagnon says. It’s the port that will support those high 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). The latter is capable of producing the best image quality, while LCD displays are usually cheaper but can still give you a great picture.

OLED is a newer technology. It does not have a standard backlight. Instead, each pixel lights up on its own. On the other hand, the best LCDs 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 is by far the most affordable of all technologies,” says Gagnon. “Very high-end LCD TVs do a very good job of approaching or matching OLED displays.”

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

There is also QLED, which stands for Quantum LED. A QLED TV is essentially a quantum dot LCD TV. Quantum dots are tiny tiny molecules that, when exposed to light, emit their own light of different colors. Thanks to this technology, QLED TVs reproduce colors more accurately, which improves the overall image quality.

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

What about Smart TV?

iTunes works on a Samsung TV

Samsung

Almost all TVs are smart these days, so no matter what brand you choose, your new TV will likely come with pre-installed programs. You can connect an external streaming device to any TV, such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, a Roku device, or an Apple TV. If so, go for 4K and HDR if your new TV supports it. This way you guarantee the best viewing experience.

When it comes to using preloaded 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 allow you to access the Samsung Smart TV Store, while LG TVs have the LG Content Store. Other brands partner with streamers you know. TCL, Hisense, Toshiba and more are teaming up with streaming providers like Roku, Google and Amazon.

It’s less important to find a TV that has a smart service built into it that you like, and more important to find a better quality TV. You’ll always have the option of adding an external streaming device to your 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 screen mirroring, make sure your TV supports Apple Screen Mirroring. If you’re using Android, make sure your TV supports Casting, Google’s version of sharing content from your phone to your TV.

Soundbars are a good investment

Because TVs are so thin these days, they don’t have 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. They’ll help a bit if you’ve ever had the problem of a TV show being very quiet in some scenes and very loud in others. You can find good ones at prices ranging from $100 to $800. You can even get a free one on Black Friday when retailers pair them with the purchase of a TV.

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