Television manufacturers release new models at least twice a year and the technology in their latest sets is constantly improving. It can be hard to keep up at times.
Even if you’ve bought a new TV recently, you might not know what it is truly capable of; what all the badges and logos on the box actually mean.
That’s why we’ve looked at some of the most important new TV tech buzzwords to help demystify them for you.
Just when you finally understand the benefits of a Full HD TV and 1080p video a new, better format arrives. Otherwise known as Ultra HD or even 4K Ultra HD, it is a standard that refers to the new resolution boost manufacturers are giving their TVs to make them sharper and more detailed.
4K TVs come with a resolution of 3840 x 2160, so are capable of showing around four times the amount of pixels as a 1920 x 1080 Full HD set. That means that, when displaying a native 4K film or TV show, it will look much more sharp than before.
The refresh rate, which is generally 50Hz in the UK, 60Hz in the US, refers to how many frames are displayed on your TV in a second. 50Hz means than your TV screen refreshes 50 frames per second (fps) and therefore seems smooth and judder free.
Some formats use different frame rates, such as movies. Most films are shot in 24fps so Blu-ray playback invariably offers the same – ensuring that the action looks as the director intended. Videogaming though is better when displayed in as high a frame rate as possible, with action benefitting from more frames to keep it fast and smooth.
Although the TV industry has largely settled on 4K and Ultra HD to describe the new, higher picture resolutions, you might also hear it referred to as 2160p.
That’s because a 4K pixel resolution is 3840 x 2160, while the picture shown is progressive, hence 2160p. “Progressive” describes the way images are refreshed on your screen. Each image is shown in its entirety with a progressive signal, while an interlaced signal means that only half the image is updated at a time. A progressively scanned image is therefore smoother and better than an interlaced one.
Almost all TVs sold these days connect to the internet and commonly called Smart TVs. That means that they can download applications for different services, utilities or even games.
Different manufacturers use different operating systems on their TVs, but most offer the main apps for streaming services, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix and Amazon Video. The latter two often have 4K content available to view too.
Catch-up television is becoming more and more popular. Rather than having to record a show, you can now stream any programmes you missed directly through your connected Smart TV. All the major channels have their own catch-up service, but not all TVs give you access to all of them. If your TV has a Freeview Play badge (as detailed below), it is guaranteed to have the catch-up services from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV Play's channels: Dave, Yesterday, Drama and Really.
Recording programmes is still very popular, but the ease of use and convenience of catch-up and on demand services makes them very compelling.
We detail high dynamic range (HDR) picture technology below, and Dolby Vision is a specific HDR standard.
There are plenty of HDR TVs out there, far fewer that support Dolby Vision too. The latter, branded tech is fractionally better although both are capable of showing a wider colour gamut and greater contrast between dark and bright areas. Dolby Vision TVs are renowned for their image quality with compatible content. Some Netflix 4K shows are capable of being shown in Dolby Vision, for example.
EPG stands for electronic programme guide. Most EPGs show you seven days worth of TV schedules but with Freeview Play, for example, you can also scroll seven days back to choose retrospective shows to play through catch-up.
Freeview Play is Freeview’s catch-up TV service and appears on a rapidly increasing number of televisions. The most recent TVs from Panasonic, LG, Finlux and JVC sport Freeview Play and it gives users the ability to catch-up with their favourite shows by scrolling backwards through the electronic programme guide.
By clicking on shows on BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV channels (which include Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama), they open in each broadcaster’s respective app automatically, then play for you to enjoy. It makes catching up more simple.
High dynamic range (HDR) picture tech allows a TV to show a wider colour range than conventional sets. They are also capable of greater brightness and/or deeper black levels. The end result is a more natural picture that can be bright and vibrant without losing definition or detail in darker areas.
4K Blu-rays have HDR encoding, so look great on a HDR TV. Both Netflix and Amazon also offer HDR on many 4K shows on their streaming platforms. Both the Xbox One S and PS4 consoles have HDR output these days.
LED refers to the backlight technology now adopted for the vast majority of LCD TVs. The backlight uses either side or rear-mounted LEDs to illuminate the LCD panel pixels.
Many TVs now have zonal backlighting, which allows for darker areas of a picture to remain as dark as possible because the backlight is only shining in sections of the screen where needed rather than across the whole display.
Benefits to LED technology are very high brightness - especially on HDR LED TVs - and cheaper cost as they are easy to manufacture in bulk.
The biggest rival TV screen technology to emerge in recent times is OLED, which has a couple of major image benefits over rival tech. OLED pixels are self-illuminating, so an OLED TV does not need a backlight.
This makes OLED sets much thinner than their LED rivals. And black levels are much better as when an OLED pixel is off, no light whatsoever shines through it. There is also very little light bleed from pixel to pixel.
OLED TVs aren't as capable of the extreme brightness of some of the more recent LED TVs, however. They are also much more expensive.
Like your mobile phone or tablet device, a modern TV will have a processing unit dedicated to ensuring apps and menus run smoothly. This will not be the same as the picture processing chips that have been used in TV manufacture for many years.
Therefore, it can sometimes be important to check the speed or quality of the internal processor, as that will determine how well your TV responds to your actions. Some TVs even sport octa-core processors nowadays, much like premium smartphones.
Get catch-up and on demand TV for £0 per month with Freeview Play. Click here to find out more.