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The Best TVs of December 2019: Buying Guide and technical features

Determine the Best 4K TVs on the market means unraveling between acronyms, technologies and advertising propaganda and we often prefer to choose our new TV simply by relying on the offers of physical stores.

In this article we will examine in a simple way what are the most important features of a modern TV in order to become more aware buyers, at the same time we will provide an overview of the best TVs to buy. The technological evolution in the TV field leads to continuous improvements in image quality: OLED, 4K and HDR are just some of the terms and options that we hear daily.

We split the article introducing our advice to you first the best TVs to buy based on your needs and subsequently for those who want to deepen, find an in-depth explanation of all the technologies, characteristics and terms commonly used, so as to have a general idea and orient yourself in the world of TV.

Best 4K TV of December 2019 by price range

We have tried to select for you the best alternatives on the market by recommending you purchase on Amazon; TVs are expensive technological goods with a medium / long life and it is convenient to be able to count on excellent assistance such as Amazon (which also has the Amazon Protect warranty extension).

Choose the Best 4K TV not a simple operation at all and we hope that the quick (and superficial) overview of the technologies and acronyms used in this field and presented in this article will make someone a more aware consumer.

We state that there is no absolute best TV for every type of use but it always depends on your needs; however, we have selected a particular model (and three alternatives) that have the best features for a mixed use, preferring the best possible experience in viewing movies in the living room.

Top of the range

LG OLED65E8

LG OLEDs are 4K TVs with perfect blacks, having the possibility to turn off the LEDs on the screen individually (they are not illuminated by lamps). These LG E8 series have an excellent market price (for the quality it offers) very thin display, suitable for hanging on a wall or in a living room. By construction, OLEDs can be viewed from any corner without losing brightness and color depth. The LG E8 model is perfect if placed in a room with little or dark light and has an excellent performance with HDR. If the price and the natural deterioration over the years (however slow) of the OLEDs are not a problem, this is the currently best model on the market.

1 Alternative: Sony KD-65AG9

Sony has always been one of the best TV manufacturers and we could not ignore it. It is a TV 10-bit OLED WRGB with update rate set at 100/120 Hz. The software of this Smart TV completely different from that of the LG C8 but still valid (Android). Very refined design, equipped with the latest inputs HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.3. The audio part relies on Acoustic Surface Audio +

2 Alternative: Samsung QE75Q90RATXZT Q90R series

Samsung for years now more and more followed by the competition that is getting fiercer. This model excels in the colors reproduced thanks to the Quantum Dot technology and the extremely precise Direct Full Array 16X backlighting. Excellent TV even for hardcore gamers with very low input lag thanks to FreeSync (VRR) technology. The software of this Smart TV is the tried and tested Tizen operating system. Truly elegant design with attention to the smallest details. Tv compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2.


Less than 1000

Samsung QE65Q60RATXZT Q60R series

Excellent value for money TV, belonging to Samsung's 2019 QR line, equipped with a Quantum 4K processor, Ambient Mode function and Quantum HDR. Very thin frames, refined design and improved input lag thanks to FreeSync (VRR) technology.

1 Alternative: LG 55UK7550

LG 55UK7550 equipped with the recent LG Nano Cell technology, which avoids color distortions without the use of filters found in classic LED TVs. Perfect viewing angle from all angles. 4K Active HDR is present, with support for multi HDR formats, including HDR10 Pro and HLG Pro. There is the very comfortable Magic Remote, which also acts as a mouse-style pointer with the simple movement of the remote control. Support for Rakuten TV.

2 Alternative: Sony KD-65XG8096

Sony enhances the quality of colors reproduced by this TV thanks to the Triluminos Display, capable of reproducing a wider range of colors. The audio entrusted to the ClearAudio + technology which reproduces 360 surround sound using only two speakers.

3 Alternative: HISENSE H65U8BE

Ultra-thin, frames reduced to a minimum (2.39 mm) and metallic design, characterize the appearance of this TV, equipped with Hi-View Engine, technology that regulates color and contrast of the image, combined with Dolby Vision HDR, for a refined and realistic image. Here too 360 audio thanks to Dolby Atmos. Ability to control the TV thanks to the commands given with Amazon Alexa (need for Amazon Echo).


Less than 700

HISENSE H55U7BE

Like its 65-inch big brother, this TV features an ultra-thin design, frames reduced to a minimum (2.39 mm) and Hi-View Engine technology, which adjusts color and contrast of the image, combined with Dolby Vision HDR, for a refined and realistic image. Here too 360 audio thanks to Dolby Atmos. Ability to control the TV thanks to the commands given with Amazon Alexa (need for Amazon Echo).

1 Alternative: Sony KD55XF7004

TV equipped with 4K HDR X-Reality Pro technology, to increase the contrast and sharpness of the images. The audio entrusted to the ClearAudio + technology which reproduces 360 surround sound using only two speakers.

2 Alternative: LG Uk6470 55 ?

4K Active HDR for more realistic scenes, with support for multi HDR formats, including HDR10 Pro and HLG Pro. Sophisticated design with an elegant metal structure. Support for Rakuten and Netflix and the presence of the Magic Remote which also acts as a pointer to make the most of the multimedia part of this TV.

3 Alternative: Samsung UE55RU7400U

Samsung UHD TV with HDR10 + support, Dynamic Crystal Color that gives colors. Clean Cable Solution, to have all cables hidden, for a cleaner appearance. SmartThings: Samsung TVs connect with Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple's Airplay and any other SmartThings-compatible device.


Less than 500

The TVs below are all 4K and with HDR (high dynamic range) technology, capable of reproducing even too light or too dark scenes, not reproduced by conventional TVs. Size and appearance, for the three models chosen below are very similar, with a base consisting of a double foot on each side, minimal design and thin frames.

LG 55UK6500

1 Alternative: Samsung UE55NU7170

2 Alternative: HISENSE H55AE6000


Less than 300

Even in this price range we managed to find three fantastic TVs in 4K resolution. Sharp is the TV recommended in this category as it integrates in addition to HDR (also present in the first Samsung model), also Harman Kardon audio.

Sharp AQUOS LC-40UI7352E

1 Alternative: Samsung NU7090

2 Alternative: Samsung UE43RU7170U


For playing

In gaming, the best TVs to play must have:

  • Very low input lag: "Input lag" means the delay that passes between a command given with a controller and the action that appears on the screen;
  • Very low response time: how much the moving images appear blurred;
  • Other interesting features are the Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), especially useful for on a TV via PC and the absence of stuttering (difficulty in showing content with low frame rates in a fluid way). Virtually all Samsung mid-range and high-end 4K TVs have these latter two characteristics.

Samsung QE55 Q70R series

Thanks to FreeSync (VRR) technology, Samsung QLED TVs reduce the delay in signal reception to give maximum game speed. These gaming TVs are perfect as they have the least possible input lag, no stuttering, HDR10 that allow you to enjoy an optimal gaming experience both with console and on PC via HDMI. These features could also be exploited on future game consoles (not released before 2020) .Ideal if placed in a bright room because it reaches a high brightness (higher than LG OLEDs). Not very suitable if you want to stay in complete darkness and have a suboptimal viewing angle.

LG E9 OLED

Undoubtedly the 55-inch LG OLED model E9 among the best TVs for final image quality. It is an "entry-level" OLED with an affordable price for those who want to have perfect blacks recreating the same sensations that can be found in a cinema room. In addition to HDR10, it also supports Dolby Vision and has no problems with high viewing angles (like all OLEDs). Compared to the Samsung model, this cheaper LG has VRR and ALLM (Auto low latency mode).

Samsung UE55RU8000U

A cheaper alternative is the Samsung RU8000 with traditional LED technology. This is the 4K TV with the best value for money. This TV automatically changes the settings as soon as it recognizes that a game has been started via the console to ensure the least possible input lag. It supports VRR, Freesync but obviously it does not have the same quality as a QLED or an OLED.


Below, you will find an in-depth explanation of everything there is to know about a TV, concerning features and technologies, to make an informed purchase.

Screen resolution

It is the number of pixels expressed in pixels that make up a horizontal line multiplied by the number of pixels on a vertical line.

  • 720p (HD): 1280 × 720 pixels
  • 1080p (FullHD): 1920 × 1080 pixels
  • 4K (UltraHD): 3840 × 2160 pixels
  • 8K (UltraHD): 7620 × 4380 pixels

The resolution indicates the sharpness of the image on TV. 4K TVs have four times the pixel count of FullHD TVs and smaller objects have much more detail with an overall more defined image.

8k 4k quad full hd resolution

The most popular TVs are 1080p (FullHD) but at the moment 4K TVs are increasingly affordable and represent a better investment, valid for the next few years.

However, there are limits to the details that our eye can see and if we position ourselves very far from the TV (it affects the screen size a lot) we would not be able to appreciate all the details that a 4K image can provide.

For example, with a 55 screen and 4K resolution (the most convenient size / resolution ratio at the moment) at a distance of 2.5 meters we would not be able to perceive the differences compared to a more common FullHD screen.

Note also that the difference in the FullHD -> 4K pass is not as clear as in the SD (low resolution) -> FullHD pass.

So Upscaling

4K content is not currently so popular and unless you use Blu-Ray 4K (with a 4K / UHD Blu-Ray disc player) or Netflix in 4K resolution, our TV will always carry out an Upscaling process to bring input content at the native resolution of the TV, artificially increasing the number of pixels.

It is important to understand that the amount of information that arrives on TV does not change and no more details will be present if you use this process.

Upscaling capacity is not the same for all TV models and is often a neglected factor which, on the other hand, must be taken into account if most of the time we use content at a resolution that is lower than that of TV (e.g. 4K TV with FullHD source) .

OLED vs QLED vs LED

One of the most important features is the type of panel that mounts the TV that we are going to buy.

This determines the parameters we hear so much about: contrast, brightness, viewing angle, color rendering.

A display LCD a panel that exploits the optical properties of liquid crystals. Pixels are electronically regulated using liquid crystals and polarized light. Without going into detail, the liquid crystals block or allow the passage of light and ultimately precisely the intensity of the light that allows each pixel (or rather each sub-pixel of which a pixel is composed: red, green and blue ) to display millions of different colors. Obviously liquid crystals are not able to emit their own light and are usually illuminated (backlit, or illuminated from the side). This lighting method does not allow to completely turn off the light source causing the impossibility of having a real black color (black = complete absence of light, not a simple very dark gray) and affecting the contrast and the overall visual rendering of the image on the screen.

Over the years, a series of technologies have followed to manage and illuminate the LCD panels, improving the parameters we have mentioned and at the same time optimizing duration and consumption (often not negligible).

At this point it is important to understand that a type display LED exactly one LCD screen; they use the exact same type of technology and differ in the way the liquid crystals are illuminated. While the LCDs are illuminated by CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting) lamps, the LED displays use diodes that emit light (which are precisely the LEDs). Instead of heating a wire that, when it reaches high temperatures, turns white as happens in incandescent lamps, LEDs emit light using the controlled movement of electrons that pass through a solid material.

The individual LEDs are organized laterally, along the display or in a grid directly behind the liquid crystals and can be turned off, allowing better distribution and uniformity in lighting.

The benefits concern contrast, the viewing angle, lower production costs, a wider range of colors and reduced consumption.

At the moment the technology that has established itself, by retiring both Plasma screens (which we have not talked about but which have been difficult to find since 2014) and normal LCDs with CCFL lamps.

We get to OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode), the most modern innovation in the field of LCD displays. Compared to LEDs, OLEDs produce light through the use of organic molecules. They are smaller and more flexible than traditional LEDs and consume less energy, at the same time responding much faster to refresh requests; they are in the order of 200 times faster. OLEDs are able to reproduce perfect black and provide a very wide viewing angle.

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On the other hand, they are subject to the degradation of organic molecules and are destined to have a duration that is up to four times less (a few tens of thousands of hours of use) compared to traditional LED / LCD displays.

It is a relatively recent technology and the panels currently on the market (at least as regards TVs) are made by LG which will devote itself to other optimizations in the years to come.

The cost of OLED displays has already become more affordable thanks to the diffusion of this technology, widely used on SmartPhone, Tablet, Smart Watch; Apple too with its new iPhone XS and XS max, has adopted this technology (lagging behind other manufacturers).

A parallel TV technology and very close quality that stands as an alternative to OLED displays, the Quantum Dot LED or QLED from Samsung.

Potentially able to achieve the "infinite" contrast ratio of competing technology, better colors and energy efficiency. The structure of a QLED display similar to that of an OLED; the difference that the emission of light occurs through nano-crystals (quantum dots).

These types of displays are suitable for reproducing the dynamic range of colors required by the HDR standard. As for the final quality, the QLED displays are still a step lower but the trend is rapidly changing and the 2018 QLED panels are very close to the quality of the OLEDs.

TV with Curved Screens

We open a small parenthesis on the curved screens; they do not have a different visual rendering from traditional screens, they do not reduce reflections (this in part could have meant something) and they do not produce a better viewing angle. It is one of the different marketing ideas from which we strongly advise you to stay away; the fact that it is possible to make curved screens does not mean that there is a real need at the base or that it is a new technological solution.

TV with 3D screen

A relatively young technology that has not had a great response in consumers and many manufacturers are completely abandoning the idea of ??integrating 3D on new TVs.

The problem with this real technological flop lies in the lack of content; in fact only Blu-Ray 3D films support it if we do not consider pale attempts made by streaming services.

Our advice to completely ignore this feature (perhaps used by 1% of buyers) and save money by taking a larger or more visually performing display.

Smart TVs

They are TVs connected to the internet with a real operating system capable of installing applications, updating themselves, sharing content with other computers or home hard drives and providing you with many different services (streaming, recording, etc.).

Each manufacturer has its own interface (or its operating system). The technical characteristics of a TV which concerning CPU (quad-core or dual-core) and processing capacity, usually refer to the ability to manage the resources of this part of TV functionality. In fact, like a computer, the processing power of the TV will allow you to take advantage of Smart functionality in a reactive and fast way.

It is advisable to move towards TV models that are also Smart and inquire if the applications we would like to use work perfectly or are supported (Netflix, Plex, other streaming services,).

In any case, an Apple TV, Roku, an Android TV Box, Raspberry Pi, Blu-Ray players with integrated apps, are certainly alternative options and often better than those integrated by the manufacturers in their operating systems for TV.

Update frequency

The refresh rate (or Refresh Rate) the number of images that the TV can show in a second, or rather the number of times the TV updates the image it is viewing.

It is measured in Hertz and typical values ??are 60Hz, 120Hz, 240Hz (and multiples of 60). As with resolution, taking full advantage of this feature depends on the content and video source.

In the field of video games, a console or a computer processes and outputs a certain number of frames (images) per second; There is talk of very high values ??that can even reach 120Hz (120 frames per second). A display must be able to display at least as often the number of frames per second that it receives from a console or computer. What would otherwise create an annoying effect called Screen Tearing, which can be translated as a screen tear, due to the fact that the TV does not synchronize with the source content and causes an artifact in the image, since in a single frame there is the information of multiple frames.

To understand what we are talking about watch this video:

Battlefield 4 PC Gameplay Screen Tearing

When you watch a video, things change dramatically. A film generally shot at 24 frames per second (increased to 30 or 60 by adding the same frame several times). In this case, any display capable of reaching a maximum 60Hz refresh rate would be sufficient.

Modern TVs improve the refresh rate but do it artificially (films and videos cannot provide missing frames). They use an algorithm (interpolation) to build frames in the middle of those provided by the original source and thus reach 480Hz or 600Hz.

The result of this process is to have a kind of more fluid animation which is at the same time unreal and artificial.

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The benefit of such a process can be seen in videos with very lively actions (sports programs) or in the field of video games. Normal video experiences, on the other hand, make (in the vast majority of consumers) people in doll videos and totally surreal situations. You see Refresh Rate and Soap Opera Effect.

Marketing focuses heavily on updating time by using it as a mirror for larks and inventing seemingly important terms and acronyms that always indicate the Refresh Rate with a frame interpolation technique: TruMotion, Image Motion, AquoMotion, Clear Motion Rate, MotionFlow, Clear Action, SPS. In addition to this, the measurements reported by the manufacturers are not consistent with any standard and are carried out in different ways: a TV with a manufacturer's 240Hz Refresh Rate, could be equivalent (from the point of view of the refresh rate) to a TV with 120Hz from another manufacturer.

The advice not to focus when choosing a TV on the values ??in Hz of the update frequencies and disable or minimize the frame interpolation functionality (TruMotion, Image Motion, AquoMotion, Clear Motion Rate, MotionFlow, Clear Action, SPS) in all cases, except when viewing sports events or enjoying video games.

HDR

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the feature that could really make a difference at the moment. Note that HDR for TV is by no means the same HDR that is mentioned in photography.

HDR technology can expand the contrast and color range of a TV giving more depth to black and white. The expansion of the range allows for even lighter whites and richer colors to reach levels never seen before. It is a very obvious difference that immediately catches the eye and also causes some amazement if never seen before.

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The main characteristics of a TV are precisely the contrast ratio and the accuracy of the colors that seek to make an image (in motion) as close as possible to its representation in reality.

Also in this case it is the contents that have to make the difference; the "richer" information concerning colors and contrast must reach the TV to be viewed and cannot be generated in a procedural way by a generic algorithm. Who produces films and content will be able to take advantage of the dynamic range of colors needed to represent it at its best.

For all this you will need 4K Blu-Ray (UHD) or TV Streaming services enriched with information metadata for HDR (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video).

Even in the field of video games (with PS4 Pro, Xbox One S, Xbox One X) we have come to have HDR available (perhaps currently one of the best ways to appreciate it).

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At the moment HDR can be implemented by TV manufacturers following two different standards: HDR10, an open standard that is usually referred to generically with the abbreviation HDR and the standard Dolby Vision, a proprietary solution that promises even higher quality than the HDR10 standard. For Dolby Vision, since it is a proprietary solution, required by those who build the panels, to pay a license. Devices must also have Dolby Vision support as well as Blu-Ray discs or other type of digital format. For cost reasons, it will be very difficult for Dolby Vision to establish itself as a standard for HDR despite being qualitatively superior.

Our advice at the moment is definitely to choose a TV with HDR10 (where not specified therefore, simply HDR) and avoid investing on a TV exclusively on the basis of support for Dolby Vision which is less supported.

connectivity

Let's talk about connections and ability to decode the input signal from a source to the TV. The number of physical inputs (input ports) is very important if you plan to use multiple video sources: Blu-Ray player, game console, smart device, etc. Fortunately, all TVs are equipped with HDMI inputs but it should be noted that the standards for HDMI are different and indicated in the product specifications.

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Older TVs have one or more ports HDMI 1.4 which is just enough in terms of bandwidth to convey 4K resolution video information at 24 frames per second. As mentioned in the paragraph on update frequencies, these would be sufficient to ensure a good viewing of a film (shot at 24 frames per second, then adapted to 30 frames per second for TVs) but not a standard to focus on for gaming ( which requires at least 60 frames per second) or for content that in the future may have a greater number of frames (films shot at 48 or 60 frames per second).

The latest version of the standard HDMI 2.0a(but the standard is under review HDMI 2.1 for TVs coming out in 2019) which uses the same type of connector as the previous version (you don't have to change cables) and supports higher resolution images with a higher frame rate.

In addition to this, it allows the transmission of the information necessary for the use of HDR (see paragraph above). HDMI 2.0a compared to HDMI 2.0 shows changes only from the software point of view; in other words, a TV update is enough to go directly from HDMI 2.0 to 2.0a.

To play the latest generation of content (Blu-Ray 4k / UHD), the TV must also support the HDCP 2.2 digital content protection standard, a measure against piracy without which it is impossible to reproduce this type of content from Blu-Ray sources.

Looking to the near future, there are some features to consider that concern the ability to decode video streams from the internet (via streaming services) or from traditional television broadcasts.

Having a DVB-T2 tuner for essential digital terrestrial and a modern TV should also be able to decode videos made with the codec HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), intended to take the place of H264 in the field of video compression and to have support for VP9, used in streaming content from some of the most important services (YouTube 4K videos for example).

In conclusion, from the point of view of connectivity and the ability to decode video streams, we must focus on updated versions of the standards (HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2) and pay attention to the support for video decoding (HEVC, VP9).