It’s been 90 years since Idaho farm boy Philo T. Farnsworth successfully demonstrated the first "moving pictures" transmission.
Little did the humble inventor of television know we'd still be staring at the fruits of his labor well into the 21st century — though today’s models bear little resemblance to the 3-inch flickering black-and-white box first shown in 1928.
Today’s televisions are huge, thin, smart and offer an ultra-high resolution picture that’s incredibly lifelike.
If you’re in the market for a new television, the following are five trends to consider.
Your next TV will be a whole lot sharper. Referred to as “ultra-high definition” or sometimes “4K” TV, these next-generation televisions offer four times the resolution of a top-of-the-line 1080p HDTV. Instead of a screen that has roughly 2 million pixels — the little dots that make up the image — these televisions boast more than 8 million pixels.
In plain English, 4K TVs present images so lifelike it’s like slipping on a pair of prescription glasses for the first time.
While 4K refers to the resolution of the television, that is just part of the story.
The latest televisions also offer HDR, or “high dynamic range,” which reproduces a wider range of brightness levels, richer colors and higher contrast levels. This not only means that you'll see the blackest blacks and the whitest whites at the same time, but also that no details will be lost in between.
When seen side by side with non-HDR content, HDR-enhanced video is incredibly bright and has vibrant colors, including striking yellows and orange hues, such as when showing a setting sun or crackling fire.
Most new TVs today — even entry-level models — allow you to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi.
Smart TVs make it easy to access online content, be it for video streaming (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Video), social networking (Facebook or Twitter), or things like photo galleries, music services, on-demand news and sports scores.
Many smart TVs give you a full web browser, too, so you can use a search engine or visit and bookmark websites; they also let you play interactive games.
In most cases, you choose which apps you want to see on your screen, not unlike icons on a smartphone.
OLED, Quantum dot
Instead of an LED-backlit LCD television — often the panel of choice today — some TVs use OLED (pronounced “oh-led”) screens for a superior image and other benefits.
These televisions, made by LG and Sony, are packed with organic light-emitting diodes and are incredibly thin because each pixel is its own light source; therefore, no backlighting is required. Along with sharp color and unprecedented contrast ratios (with super-dark blacks), these televisions are more energy efficient than other TV panel types.
As you might expect from new technology, there’s a premium cost to these televisions.
Other makers, such as Samsung, are offering TVs powered by “quantum dot” technology. Quantum dot TVs can almost match the “infinite” contrast ratio of OLED, the luminance between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. Quantum dots are teeny “nano” crystals, microscopic dots as small as one billionth of a meter, believe it or not (thinner than a human hair). Quantum dot TVs also deliver a wide, more true-to-life color palette — especially reds, greens and cyans — to rival the quality of pricier OLED-based displays.
Some television manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG, offer curved TVs whose edges slightly bend toward the user, just like the screen at your local movie theater. To many viewers, these concave screens offer a deeper and more cinematic view of the action.
It boils down to personal taste — some may prefer a flat-panel TV — but having a choice at retail or online is great for everyone. As a bonus, these curved TVs are attractive conversation pieces, even when turned off.
Unlike the first generation of curved TVs, where it was recommended to sit dead center for the best seat in the room, the latest ones deliver a consistent, sharp picture and a good sense of depth from virtually any angle.
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