Many people who are buying a new television for their home just now may find it difficult to decide which TV brand, type, or model to get. It is understandable because television manufacturers continuously introduce new technologies and features. It does become hard to catch up and get updated with all the new specs and terms, such as smart TV and HDTV.
Smart TV is a TV that makes it easy for you to connect to the Internet and integrate with your smart home devices. On the other hand, an HDTV is a TV that provides a higher image resolution than the earlier technologies. You don't have to choose between one or the other, you can get a TV that's both a smart TV and an HDTV or UHDTV.
This article will discuss the different features of a smart TV in more detail, especially compared with other types of TV. You will also learn more about an HDTV and its advantages. We will then discuss what you should consider when buying a new TV.
Smart TV: An Overview
A smart TV is a TV that features internet connectivity and supports apps that you can use for a wide variety of network-based options. Using your smart TV, you can stream movies and other media content from platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
You can also access and manage your social media pages like Facebook and Instagram, and play games. You can do all these without needing a separate box. The TV functions more like your smartphone and your tablet than the ordinary boob tube you know from decades ago.
Besides these, you can also integrate a smart TV with your other smart home devices to make things more convenient, safe, and secure for you at home. For one, you can connect it with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, as well as with smart speakers. It can also be a control hub or dashboard for other connected devices like smart doorbells, smart bulbs, and smart thermostats.
What You Need With Your Smart TV
Before you purchase a smart TV, you will need a couple of things so you could take advantage of all its promised capabilities. Otherwise, you won't be able to optimize all of your smart TV's special features, and you would be better off with a regular, non-smart one.
- Internet connection: Smart TVs are Wi-Fi-enabled, making it possible and easy for you to connect your TV wirelessly to your router. You can also just use an ethernet cable to connect your smart TV to your router, although they need to be close to each other. A solution to this is to buy a long ethernet cable.
- Speedy, unlimited broadband: You will need a fast broadband speed if you want to stream entertainment content like TV shows and movies. Having a fast internet connection will ensure that you have non-buffering, uninterrupted playback. You should also get an unlimited broadband package to avoid getting charged extra when you exceed your data limit.
- Virtual assistant and smart speakers: You would also need smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Assistant in case your smart TV supports voice activation technology. These devices are not exactly necessary, but you may want to take advantage of this voice-activated feature and enjoy the world of convenience that virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa offer by getting these smart speakers.
With smart TVs, you can use a variety of apps that are either pre-loaded and readily available on the unit or are available for you to download from a brand-specific app. Many smart TV models have built-in web browsers, too, which allow you to check out websites and web pages using your TV screen.
Benefits of Choosing a Smart TV
A smart TV gives you access to many channels that offer all sorts of media content like TV programs, TV series, music, and movies, without having to connect an antenna. You also do not need to subscribe to a cable service. Additionally, there are smart TVs that allow web browsing, access to compatible media, and gaming, so you get to enjoy more than just your favorite TV shows and home movies.
Smart TVs also do not just offer you entertainment by giving you access to a wide variety of network-based apps and content, but they also offer you convenience, especially with voice-activated TVs coming into the picture.
You simply need to connect your virtual assistant and smart speaker so they could prompt your TV to perform simple tasks based merely on your verbal instructions. You no longer need to get the remote and navigate through a site or a platform.
Of course, with your smart TV serving as a central hub for all your integrated smart home devices, convenience, and even safety, it gets to a whole new level.
Drawbacks of Getting a Smart TV
Getting a smart TV has its share of drawbacks, too. For one, you may find browsing through the web quite frustrating when using your TV's remote control to navigate through some sites or pages instead of a mouse. If your smart TV comes with voice-controlled features and you have Amazon Alexa, then that would certainly help, but you would still need your remote control to access certain apps, pages, and functions.
Another drawback is that you should buy a smart TV with the intention of using it with your internet and accessing media content online. Otherwise, the smart features will only be wasted, and you might as well get a cheaper regular TV. However, smart features are becoming more prevalent, so finding a non-smart brand-new TV is becoming more difficult.
Moreover, not every smart TV operating system or platform supports the same features and apps. In other words, the brand or model determines the features and services you will have access to. You will have to think about which ones you'd like to have and make sure they are compatible with the brand and model you're picking.
For instance, some smart TV brands rely on a proprietary OS, such as Samsung, which uses Tizen smart TV software. Vizio, which uses SmartCast, and LG, which uses webOS. Some manufacturers use third-party software like Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, and Google's Android TV.
A smart TV may also lead to privacy issues. It is because smart TVs and certain content app providers typically track your TV viewing behaviors to provide apt viewing suggestions.
HDTV: What Else You Need to Know
The most popular native display resolution and one of the best quality resolutions available now is the 1080p. It means that the image is recorded with 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. As a result, you have over two million pixels of resolution, delivering a sharp and clear image.
The “p” after the number means that the image is recorded using a progressive scan. Progressive scan videos display both the even scan lines and the odd scan lines or, in other words, the whole video frame on the screen at the same time.
Other than the 1080p, which means the 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels and progressive scan, HDTVs can also be 1080i, or 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels and interlaced scan. They can also be 720p, which is 1280 pixels x 720 pixels, and progressive scan.
As such, the “i” means interlaced scan. Interlaced video displays the even scan lines and the odd scan lines as separate fields and drawn on the TV's screen alternately. Only two of the even scan line and odd scan line fields comprise one video frame. The progressive scan results in better image quality than the one with an interlaced scan.
Keep in mind that most of the pictures you will watch on your 1080p HDTV screen won't be transmitted in 1080p, so the TV will process these images for them to display properly. In the same manner, even if you have a 4K TV, most of the pictures you watch won't be transmitted in Ultra HD.
When the image resolution is different from your TV's native resolution, your TV is going to scale the image down or up for it to fit the screen.
Smart TV vs. HDTV: Which Should You Pick?
Asking which one to buy between the two is not an appropriate question for the simple reason that you can have both. You do not need to pick one over the other. Pitting smart TV and HDTV against each other is also not right because these are two different but important aspects or characteristics of a modern-day TV, and they can both be present. In fact, most smart TVs now have an HD resolution or are HDTV LED TVs.
Rather, the more important question is whether or not your TV needs smart functionality. The answer is that it depends on what you plan to watch on your TV, how much internet connectivity you need, and if you have other smart home devices you want to integrate into it.
However, you also need to consider that most modern TVs available in the market are smart TVs, so you may not have much choice. Also, regular TV sets might soon become obsolete, so if you plan on updating your old TV and buying a brand new one, you might as well think long-term.
What to Consider When Buying a New TV
Several decades ago, there were only two kinds of television sets: black-and-white TV and color TV. The B&W was the more outdated TV, so people who had to buy new television sets knew that choosing between the two was a no-brainer. As long as you could afford a color TV, a B&W one is out of the question. It was that simple.
However, in recent years, homeowners have been presented with many different kinds of TVs to choose from, and it can get overwhelming. For one, there are different types of TVs based on their technology, and then there are also choices based on screen types. After taking your pick, you will also have to consider their special features.
Types of TVs According to Technology
You can pick from six types of TVs based on their technology:
1. Direct-View TV
This type of TV is merely a rebranded classic cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV. This is a good choice if you have a very simple home theater system and into older video games that were developed especially for CRT.
Direct-view TV can be altered to be compatible with any other technology. The bad news is that direct-view TVs are generally not available anymore since manufacturers have stopped producing this model.
2. Plasma Display Panel TV
Also known simply as plasma TV, this type of TV was developed using plasma-containing pixels for a cellular grid. Electrodes surround the layer of plasma, and there are glass panels both in the front of this plasma layer, as well as in the back.
This type of TV uses the same phosphor screens as the ones used in CRT TVs, so its color depth is the same. However, unlike a CRT, a plasma TV is flat-screened, and it has a quicker frame response at 600 Hz.
A plasma TV is still bulky and is prone to image retention or burn-in over time. Most TV manufacturers discontinued plasma production in 2015.
3. Digital Light Processing TV (DLP)
DLP TVs use optical semiconductor chips that have countless mirrors that tilt into various degrees to reflect light in different directions to generate an image and process digital signals. These TVs offer a smoother viewing experience than plasmas and CRTs. They are also more lightweight, have a longer life, consume less energy, and are more compatible with 3D projection.
The production of DLP TVs was shut down in 2012 to make way for newer, thinner, quieter, faster-response, and more energy-efficient technologies.
4. Liquid Crystal Display TV (LCD)
LCD TVs are the most popular or most common TV now. LCD technology makes use of liquid crystals, which when molecules are uniquely fluid yet retain a certain crystal structure that gives them all a similar orientation. Every pixel of its display has liquid crystals that are precisely oriented and aligned in between a pair of polarizing filters and electrodes.
Light can't pass through when the display is inert, but when you apply an electric field, the molecules rotate depending on the applied amount of voltage. This, in turn, allows a particular level of light to get through the screen.
Most LCDs nowadays are called LED TVs because they have LED lights as backlights. LCD TVs are all flat-screened and lightweight. However, they can be prone to motion blur or ghost blur.
5. Organic Light-Emitting Diode Display TV (OLED)
OLED displays use organic compounds, either polymers or small molecules, that create light as a response to electric current.
This organic fluorescent compound can be found between a pair of electrodes, and one or more of these electrodes are transparent and allow you to see the compound. You do not need a backlight because the compound does emit light. As such, OLEDs are able to display deeper and darker black and generally higher contrast ratios compared to LCDs.
OLEDs can be lighter and thinner than LCDs since they do not need filter layers. Other than great color quality, this particular technology also offers significantly quicker response times than LCD technology. OLEDs can transition images a thousand times faster, reaching 100,000 Hz refresh rates.
Additionally, because OLEDs don't need backlighting, they use around 40 percent less power, resulting in more savings on your energy bills. Aside from the countless application possibilities, OLED TVs can turn out cheaper than LCD screens.
6. Quantum Light-Emitting Diode TV (QLED)
QLED technology is the latest among TV technologies. Quantum dots, which are tiny nanoparticles, are amended in an LCD, improving brightness and color. An OLED may bring you contrast ratios that are better compared to a QLED, yet the latter can have larger screens that last longer yet are not prone to ghost images. Moreover, QLED TVs are more affordably priced than OLED TVs.
TV Screen Types
You can also choose TVs based on screen types. All TVs had flat screens until recently. Currently, you now have a choice between a flat-screen and a curved-screen TV.
The curved screens are designed to provide you a better view of the entire screen when watching either directly in front or from the side of the TV. The screen's curvature enhances a viewer's perception of depth. Some brands use the Depth Enhancer technology to adjust the contrast on various parts of the image to further increase depth.
Types of TV by Resolution
Aside from the technology and the type of screen used, you should also look into the display resolution when doing your TV shopping. Resolution in TV specs means the total number of pixels that make up an image you see on your TV. One pixel consists of one very little dot on your screen.
The resolution comes in the form of numbers, and it represents the number of pixels for video display. These pixels are arranged both vertically and horizontally—the higher the pixel number, the better the TV's resolution. Older models, including many 32-inch TVs sold today, have around a million pixels, while the slightly larger 49-inch and more recent TV models boast a little over 2 million pixels.
You can choose from different resolutions for flat-panel TVs.
An SDTV is an older version of a digital TV, and it has a picture quality similar to that of a DVD. This TV typically has a resolution of 640 pixels x 480 pixels, and it does not have a defined aspect ratio.
SDTV is usually not listed as an option for a TV resolution to choose from anymore because it is already antiquated. You are not likely to find brand new TVs that still offer SD quality resolution in appliance stores. New TV models are at least HD Ready in terms of display resolution.
However, SDTV is still considered the original benchmark in which all the other resolutions are measured.
High-definition TVs have a basic resolution of 1,280 pixels x 720 pixels (or simply 720p). Compared to SDTV models, HDTVs give you a clearer and sharper image.
However, for you to watch high-definition content, you will need an HDTV. You should note that not every media content displays in HD, so you have to pick an HD channel or program to watch it in high-definition.
Under high-definition TV is HD Ready and Full HD. Let’s take a look at HD Ready and Full HD below.
- HD Ready: HD Ready TVs boast a resolution that is not lower than 720 pixels. Almost all digital TVs nowadays have an HD Ready logo. What this means is that it can show HD broadcasts. There are cheaper HD Ready TVs with a larger resolution of 1,024 pixels x 768 pixels, but their screens are also slightly different in shape or aspect ratio. These TV models tend to be on the small side.
- Full HD: This TV has 1,920-pixel x 1,080-pixel resolution. Compared to SD models, Full HD TVs are five times more detailed. You will need a Full HDTV to take full advantage of Blu-ray, Freeview HD, and other HD content.
4K or Ultra High Definition (2160p)
A 4K or UHD TV has a display resolution of 3,840 pixels x 2,160 pixels, totaling over eight million pixels. As such, this kind of TV resolution will give you four times the details you will see on an HDTV. It offers an exceptionally sharp and crisp picture quality, with plenty of depth and detail.
UHD TV models boast big screens, typically at least 40 inches (102 cm). This is because you will need a large display to fully appreciate the image quality they offer.
However, one problem with getting this kind of TV resolution is that there aren't many 4K content and streaming services available. You can get from a small selection of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, but they are still quite pricey.
There are also only a few streaming services that offer some 4K content, including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Vimeo. However, these platforms couldn't provide the consistent high-bitrate quality of a Blu-ray disc video.
UHD TVs are relatively expensive as they feature the latest technology, but the prices are also gradually dropping as these TVs are getting to be more common.
The 8K is right on top of the TV resolution ladder, with a display resolution of 7,680 pixels x 4,320 pixels. There aren't many TVs that support an 8K resolution, and those that do are very expensive. They are considered luxury large screen TVs, and their sizes would start from 98 inches (249 cm). Needless to say, the 8K gives you the best picture quality money can buy.
Types of TV Based on Connectivity
There are two main types of TV based on their connectivity. You have the smart TV and the regular or non-smart one. The main difference between a smart TV and a regular TV is that the former can connect to your home's WiFi and run network-based apps and other media content, whereas the latter cannot.
Besides its ability to access the internet, a smart TV has several other features that you cannot find in regular TV sets. These features include:
- The ability to combine the features of a computer and a TV.
- An internet browser.
- Can support various built-in apps.
- Can access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
- Sometimes it has a touchscreen display.
Other TV Features
Aside from knowing the different types of TV according to technology, screen, and display resolution, you should also consider the wide array of special features built into these television sets.
One example is the high dynamic range or HDR, which refers to the technique of heightening the dynamic range of an image or the contrast between the darkest black and the brightest white. The higher the image's dynamic range, the closer it is to real life.
Another example is voice activation technology. A TV that includes voice activation like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa can take prompts from simple voice commands. You can verbally instruct your voice assistant to “open Netflix,” and your TV will automatically turn on and open Netflix for you. This feature would significantly reduce the number of steps you need to follow using your TV's remote control.
Some smart TVs also offer advanced features like screen sharing, thus allowing you to look at media content from tablets and smartphones on your TV screen as long as they are compatible. There are also smart TVs that can do the reverse, where they send media content to a compatible tablet or smartphone so you could watch it.
A smart TV mainly describes a television with internet connectivity and/or smart home integration. On the other hand, High Definition TV refers to the TV's display resolution, and it indicates how sharp, clear, and crisp the image it shows. Most new TV models now are both smart TVs and are high-definition, so there really should be no point of contention.