The key components of a future-proof 4K TV
Stephan Jukic – December 29, 2014
4K TVs have seen some truly explosive sales growth during this holiday season that just finished up and their popularity is only rising at a rapid pace. Furthermore, prices are falling while new internal features rack up on some of the latest models from the big name brand manufacturers.
Given these trends, it can be tricky to pick out a 4K TV for your home which will also be future-proof enough to actually be a worthwhile investment for at least the next couple of years or more.
Luckily however, if you can focus on the few, core future-ready features we’re about to cover, then numerous bells and whistles like curved screen design and ultra-massive contrast ratios aren’t so important.
If you’re looking at buying a 4K TV right now, then make sure these essentials are covered and you’ll be good to go for at least a couple years of solid ultra HD entertainment performance.
A Decent Screen Size
With 4K TVs, the bigger the screen the better if you really want to appreciate the extra detail that ultra HD’s 6 million extra pixels provide. Because of this, choose a TV that offers at least 55 inches of diagonal width. If you can find something affordable enough for your budget in the 65 to 75 inch range, even better but if you’re going to invest in 4K, it’s better to stay away from small screens.
You’ll really appreciate the extra inches as the latest UHD content from Netflix reaches your TV or as the new 4K Blu-ray disc movies go on sale in March of 2015.
Luckily, UHD TVs with 55+ inch screens are becoming more affordable than ever and the latest models from Vizio come with a full set of the most modern specs while costing less than $2500 for even a 70 inch screen.
Absolutely make sure that your new TV comes equipped with the latest versions of HDMI and USB.
The HDMI connection is particularly important. You absolutely want to have at least two HDMI 2.0 ports built into any model you buy (at the very least one 2.0 port). This is because of two reasons. First, because HDMI 2.0 is capable of connecting devices that load 4K content into your TV at a full 60 frames per second and 12 bits of color instead of 8. And secondly, you want HDMI 2.0 because it is equipped with the built-in HDCP 2.2 content protection protocol. Without HDCP 2.2, a lot of the best ultra HD content from Netflix, Amazon, Sony or other entertainment broadcasters will be closed off to your TV.
As for USB, try to find a TV with USB 3.0 instead of the older 2.0 since this will make connecting it to mobile devices like 4K cameras and smartphones that record 4K video much smoother and faster.
HEVC is absolutely crucial in any 4K TV worth its salt. Also going by the name of H.265, this is the video compression standard that virtually every source of streaming and broadcast 4K content uses to compress it for delivery to 4K smart TV platforms.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in particular compress all of their ultra HD movies and shows through HEVC before streaming them to customers and if your new ultra HD TV isn’t equipped with HEVC compatibility, it will completely cut you off from some of the best UHD entertainment available now and in the near future.
Most newer model 4K ultra HD TVs from any decent brand come with built-in upscaling engines that will take normal 720p HD and 1080p Full HD graphics and scale their clarity up so that they give a visual image that’s better than it would normally be.
Given the fact that (at least for now) much of the broadcast content you watch on your 4K TV set will still be in HD resolutions, an internal upscaling engine is a crucial component for making your TV worthwhile.
Full Array LED Backlighting
This is a bit of a tricky feature and not exactly essential to a future-proof 4K TV but if you can get your hands on it, you won’t be at all disappointed. Full Array LED backlighting refers to the array of LEDs that illuminate your TVs screen completely covering the back of that screen. This is in contrast to the much more common and cheaper technology of Edge-lit LED backlighting, in which LED illumination only rings the edges of the TV screen.
More and more 4K TVs are coming out with a Full Array LED setup but most of the cheaper models still come with edge-lit LED backlighting. If you can find a TV with Full Array at a reasonable price, it is definitely worth whatever extra it costs you because of the big difference in color vibrancy and brightness that it produces.
Price VS. Quality
While the best and most expensive ultra HD TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG or Panasonic will definitely cover all of the above and more, you no longer need to splurge $4,000 or more on any of these models in order to get your hands on a fully decked out and future-proof 4K TV.
Instead, shop around for discounts and look at some of the newer models that have recently emerged at lower price points. One particularly good option is the entire Vizio P-Series line of 4K TVs. They are hands down the most affordable ultra HD sets on sale today and feature every single one of the features we’ve just covered in their design, even Full Array LED backlighting.
Story by 4k.com