With Christmas looming and a feast of entertainment about to arrive, you might be thinking of upgrading your television soon.
You might have already heard a lot about 4K and have decided that, with plenty of Ultra HD content becoming available, now's the time to leap on board.
Reducing your living room clutter might also be a consideration, ditching the set-top-box or paid TV service in favour of a connected Smart TV with Freeview Play.
Whatever your reason for taking the plunge, here are a few of our tips on what to look out for if you are in the market for a new telly.
4K and Ultra High Definition
One of the biggest leaps forward for modern TV technology is in resolution. Just when we've got all cosy with 1080p Full HD sets, the tech has improved further.
Ultra HD or 4K TVs have a 3840 x 2160 (2160p) resolution which amounts to almost 8.3 million pixels. That's four times the pixel count of a standard 1080p Full HD set so UHD TVs are capable of incredibly detailed and sharp images.
At present, native 4K videos are few and far between, but some 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays are now available alongside players from brands such as Panasonic and Samsung. The Xbox One S console has the ability to playback 4K Blu-rays too.
Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube each have some 4K content, which can be played back on a compatible telly, and you'll definitely see the benefit if you have access to the apps.
In gaming terms, the PlayStation 4 Pro console can play some games in 4K but it doesn't have a 4K Blu-ray player, just a standard one.
HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2
Another thing to check when you're buying a new TV, especially if you want it to be future proof, is that it has at least one HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 copy protection. You should look for even more, to be honest, as all external 4K content will require both technologies to playback on the screen.
HDMI 2.0 is the latest standard for the video and audio connectivity. It effectively allows data to be transmitted at up to 6Gbps, which means that 4K video running at 60 frames per second can be played back smoothly. HDMI 1.4 ports are restricted to 3.4Gbps, so can only playback 4K video at 30fps maximum. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players and set-top-boxes, such as the latest Amazon Fire TV, and the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro games consoles require HDMI 2.0 connectivity.
In addition, all protected 4K content is compliant to HDCP 2.2. This is a copy protection technology that is designed to prevent piracy of official 4K movies and shows. A 4K Blu-ray player, for example, will only play a disc if it sees that the TV has the same copy protection standard.
Only HDMI 2.0 ports have HDCP 2.2 currently, so you need to make sure your new set has both.
High dynamic range (HDR)
There are plenty of 4K TVs out there but only recently have we started to get models that feature high dynamic range technology. HDR basically ensures that a TV can display a wider colour range than non-HDR sets, while also giving better contrast between the dark and light areas of a picture.
This results in more natural colours, yet also presenting vivid, bright images - exactly as movie directors imagined when they shot their films.
The latest batch of 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays are encoded with HDR TVs in mind, so although the playback fine on normal 4K televisions, they look much better on sets with HDR on board.
Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube are also starting to present some of their 4K content with HDR. Some videogames playback in HDR too.
Although all televisions bought today have Freeview TV tuners - more often than not Freeview HD tuners - you might have seen a newer logo appear on some manufacturers' boxes.
Freeview Play is the free catch-up technology from Freeview that makes TV shows easier to find and watch on a connected TV without having to search through a manufacturer's own application hub, even when they have already been on days ago.
All Freeview TVs have at least a seven-day electronic programme guide that you can scroll forwards through in order to find out what shows are coming up. Freeview Play TVs also give you the option to go backwards through the EPG to catch-up on shows that originally aired in the past.
You only need to scroll back through the guide to find shows broadcast by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, UKTV and their respective sister stations, such as More 5, E4, Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama. Press play on their programme description and the respective catch-up service will launch - BBC iPlayer for BBC content, for example. The chosen show will then play automatically.
Many recent TVs from Panasonic, LG, Finlux and JVC feature Freeview Play. Other manufacturers are said to follow suit. Click here to find out more.
For Freeview Play to work, a television needs to be connected to the internet. Online connectivity is also needed for Smart TV functionality and most TVs now come with Wi-Fi and/or wired internet connections.
You're best to check that it can be connected wirelessly unless your broadband internet router is somewhere close to the set's position in your home.
Smart TVs also adopt one of several different operating systems and user interfaces, which tends to change depending on the manufacturer. Some are nicer to use than others, while some have more apps. There are TVs based on Android (Sony and Philips), Firefox (Panasonic), Tizen (Samsung) and webOS (LG). Others have their own software running the smarter features.
What's most important to look out for, however, is not the system itself but the different portals and services it offers. Most feature Netflix, for example, but not all have apps for Amazon Video or other streaming services. Basically, if you subscribe to a paid service, check it is available on your new TV before you take the plunge.
LED or OLED?
Another main factor in your choice of new TV is what television image technology it uses. LED sets have LCD panels with LED backlighting and are the most readily available. They are also the cheapest on the whole. They are capable of high brightness.
OLED TVs on the other hand are still fairly rare. They don't use a backlight at all as each pixel is self-illuminating. That allows for a much slimmer TV and less bleed through from surrounding light. And as each pixel can switch off completely, with no light shining through, the black levels are incredible.
OLED TVs aren't as capable of as high a brightness as an LED TV, but they make up for it with the deepest blacks. As it's a newer technology though, OLED sets are often more expensive.
Curved or flat?
There is one final choice to make, but it's entirely down to personal preference.
There are plenty of curved TVs available on the market - most notably from brands like Samsung and LG. A curved screen is purportedly better to watch from a central position as the screen wraps around your field of vision and therefore remains constant for contrast. However, the viewing angle can be compromised when viewed from off-centre, so in that scenario you might find a conventional flatscreen suits your seating arrangement better.
There are also many other badges you'll see on the packaging of a new TV, with many of them specific to certain manufacturers. Some promise better image processing or refresh rates. Others supposedly improve pixel stability. It is very hard though to recommend one over the other without seeing them side-by-side.
That's why we'd always recommend that, if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, you should check out TVs in a store that has many to compare alongside each other.
If you do, ask the assistant to turn off the dynamic modes on demo TVs that many retailers use in store. These invariably punch through a shop's lighting to make the image look as bright and vibrant as possible. However, it isn't the mode you'd use at home.
Get catch-up and on demand TV for £0 per month with Freeview Play. Click here to find out more.
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