Monday, 10 August 2015

Choosing a TV

Looks like red/white/blue/green pixels on LG OLED
Choosing a new TV can be tricky - it is one of those things that is always moving forward and there is always new technology and something new to tempt you.

So I am going to try and cover some of the things that may help in the choice, and explain some of the experiences I have had with TVs recently.

I have used many TVs, from different manufacturers, and the latest is testing a 55" LG OLED HD TV.


The price is perhaps the key thing for almost everyone - and typically you'll buy a TV that is just slightly more than you budgeted for as there will always be some feature that is available if you stretch that little bit on budget.


One of the key factors in price is the size of the TV, and this is likely to always be the case. The other key factor is the use of latest features in the technology, but size is a massive factor. To be fair, size is often a matter of what will fit the room - a small room does not need a 65" TV, and even a large room can work perfectly well with a 55" TV. You need to consider what you can afford and how it will look. It is possible for a TV to be too big if in a small room.


A curved TV is one of the latest things. It is possible with some of the newer technologies, and is an odd thing if you ask me. I could not really see the point of it, to be honest. A curved TV will almost always not be wall mountable (I know one person that has). However, the key thing I have noticed when trying one is the reflection. In my front room my seat (my "spot") gets reflection of the windows at the back of the room, and that is annoying. However, a curved TV reflects a smaller part of the room, and just by sitting slightly to the left or right I can completely eliminate the reflection of the windows. This, for me, is one of the only reasons to consider a curved TV - otherwise you hardly notice the slight curve.


The latest tech for TVs is OLED (organic LED) which is where each pixel is individual LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) which emit light. This products an amazing picture, and the black is black and the contrast is infinite. It looks stunning, I have to say. The only issue is lifetime which I cannot easily tell on a new TV. I am impressed with OLED (on an LG).


The slightly older technology is LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). This is damn good, but confusingly we see TVs sold as "LED", which just means "LCD" with an LED backlight. The way LCD works is you have a backlight behind the screen, and the LCD blocks some of that light. Compared to OLED this uses more power, and the black always lets some light through so the contrast is not as good. The best LED backlit LCD TVs use selective lighting behind the LCD, so that you get black when the screen (or large parts of it) are black as they turn off the back light in those areas. LCD is cheaper than OLED but not quite as good. Even so, these days, LCD is damn good. An LED backlit LCD is usually lower power and thinner than an older LCD, but not always as good in terms of quality.


3D is a nice feature, and some 3D films work really well. There are two ways to do this - one uses a fast screen changing left/right image and shuttered glasses. These are, in my opinion, bad. They need batteries that are always flat when you want to use them, and are expensive. They flicker which is annoying if you can see it. They bleed through as very difficult to make them work perfectly (each eye sees a "shadow" of the other eye's image slightly offset as a ghost image). They only work when your head is dead level. By contrast, the other method as used in cinemas is polarised glasses (circularly polarised) with an LG TV (they are the ones with the patent). Only downside is you lose every other line of the image as each line is left or right eye and fixed (see below re 4k TVs). However, the image works at off angles, has no flicker, and really works well. The glasses are cheap, light, and even have "clip ons" for normal glasses that also work in the cinema. This, for me, means an LG TV as they are the only ones with such a system of good passive 3D.


Most TVs these days are HD, so 1920x1080, but the latest standard is 4k (usually 3840x2160). 4k is expensive as a latest tech, and is not typically broadcast though netflix have some 4k content and no doubt it will be the next big thing. One nice thing if you have a 4k 3D LG is you can watch HD 3D without losing lines, as every other 4k line is left/right so at HD nothing is lost (in theory, I have yet to test). I have seen 4k though, and it is impressive - I can see the difference with SD/HD but 4k is just that bit better and impressive.

Smart TV

I don't really expect to use the "Smart" features of a TV as I will use with an AppleTv, Sky box, PC, and so on. But they are pretty good these days. The latest LG has netflix and talks to flex, and so on, so not too bad. They even have half decent web browsers these days. Beware that they log all you do back to the manufacturer (often unencrypted) so you may want to firewall them. I'd be happy if they did a TV with just many HDMI and not "smart" at all.


I am no expert on sound and would connect to some external thing via optical - sorry I am not a lot of help on that.


Well, for the garage, it will have to be LG (for the passive 3D), OLED (just looks so good), 4k (well, you have to), and probably 55" or 65" (big room). Sadly that will have to be curved I expect. It will not be cheap.


  1. The great frustration I have with TVs (mostly when recommending them to others, such as parents, parents-in-law etc) is that I have not found a single model anywhere on the market with a decent built-in PVR function. If you want something Sky+ esque (i.e. freeview or freesat recording function, live pause, multiple tuners, etc) then you need a second box at which point all the "TV" parts of the TV (and all the Smart TV features) become completely redundant - it just becomes a dumb monitor.

    My main TV is a plugged into a HTPC which is fine (and our smaller TVs are LCD computer monitors without tuners inside them at all) but I really cannot fathom why there's no all-in TV on the market to suit someone who just wants a single box with a single remote control. The closest you can get is to buy the TV and the PVR from the same manufacturer and hope that the remote for the PVR includes power and volume buttons for the TV.

  2. I considered all these things -- except smart tvs (too gimmicky) and 4k (*way* too gimmicky; storage tech, distribution tech and networks are nowhere near the insane amounts of bandwidth these things need).

    Then I threw it all overboard and went for an HD projector. Yes, pricey (£700) and a bit power-hungry and gets the room hot after a few hours -- but you can't get 105" diagonal images for less than fifty thousand pounds using any other technology, and most importantly to me it was *invisible* when off. TVs leave a huge black square looming over the room, and my study already *has* two of those.

    Not for everyone though, I'll grant you that -- among other things it more or less forces you to go for a full separate-receiver/speakers/projector setup, and it means a lot more setup (stringing wires and mounting things in the ceiling) versus a TV which you can just sling into place in five minutes.

    1. 4K makes sense for passive 3D, since when you're showing a 3D film alternate lines hit each eye.. on the 1080p TVs that means you're really only seeing 540p/eye (the brain stitches it together in a way that makes it seem much higher though).

      4k gives you the double resolution to play with. OTOH I'm not sure I'd really pay that much (since I gave 3d up as a useless gimmic years ago).

    2. Ah. Not something I considered, since I don't have stereoscopic vision anyway so 3D is just a headache-inducing waste of money to me.

  3. I was never really impressed with HD, digital SD already gives a pretty good picture. I now have a 4K monitor (Philips BDM4065UC), 4K video is impressive in a way HD never was.

  4. Say I were lucky enough to find an IPv6-speaking "smart" TV, some chance, I know, but hypothetically, how would I firewall it using my Firebrick to stop the TV phoning home? The problem would be if the src IPv6 address the device chose was pseudo-random. I would need to either map MAC addresses to firewall rules (?) or force the device to obey only DHCPv6. Or something.

    1. For outgoing the FB can use source MAC in firewall rules. For incoming you would expect it to use the SLAAC MAC based address or a fixed address or more likely you don't allow it at all.

    2. For what it's worth, my Sony 32" TV I bought last year (can't remember the model off the top of my head) speaks IPv6. It can also talk to Kodi via UPnP and play mkv-wrapped files, which not many other devices I've had have managed to do.

      The one downside is the remote control takes about 30 seconds to become "active" after the TV first turns on...

    3. I think I have the same model 32" Sony TV, it talks IPv6 if enabled (in the Advanced section) and on switch on it can only display what you were watching last time for about the first 20 seconds (while Linux boots I suspect).

  5. BTW, I can't make posts to this blog from iPad 8.x (64-bit) Safari. Safari cycles round and round in a sequence of redirects, or similar after I hit Publish. I succeeded here because I used iCab instead.

    1. Posts only work if you allow 3rd part cookies (at least from sites you visit). Damn annoying.

  6. Agree with all your conclusions, except in a practical sense there is one problem with LG TV's.. they're poor at doing Standard Definition content and that's where Samsung and Sony are better choices by far. This is important because most TV channels don't yet have an HD twin and the HD that does exist isn't always of a good quality, especially on Freeview.

    But despite that I also recently got an LG, mainly because on a 4K set you finally get good 3D BluRays in proper HD (as you rightly point out, the passive 3D on a normal HD TV lowers the image quality). So, even though I only watch one 3D film every couple of months, just to have that feature made me pick LG.. geek choices :).

    However if I were making the decision again today then I'd go back to trusty Samsung, they've never done me wrong and ordinary TV image quality tends to be much better. LG's WebOS UI is also painfully in need of some intelligent design changes.

  7. With regard to audio there is one thing that you need to be careful of and that is that as the TV delays the picture due to the processing that it does it also delays the audio. So you can connect speakers to either the headphone output or the optical output and the lip sync is fine.
    The problem with the optical output is that it is still often only stereo (normally with prologic surround encoding).
    So if you want good surround sound you are best off with a sound bar or an AV receiver which takes the HDMI output and strips out the sound before sending the picture to the TV. The TV communicates back down the HDMI information about the picture processing delay so the AV receiver can delay the audio accordingly.
    I think one of the recent HDMI spec additions allows the TV to strip out the digital audio, delay it and send it back out another HDMI socket unaltered which means sound bars etc... don't have to worry about switching multiple HDMI sources themselves.

    1. The TVs do allow an audio adjust though to help sort the lip sync.

    2. The TV itself should not need it as it will adjust the audio for the amount of processing it is doing.
      Sky TV boxes allow you to adjust the audio offset and I used to do that when I had the optical connected to the amp but the problem was that depending on the source the picture processing delay varied so lip sync was rarely perfect.

  8. Still not quite figured out the point of HD - if your'e watching a nature documentary or something then its nice and that's fair enough, but for anything with a story I'm left thinking that the story must be really crap if you notice the difference between SD/HD, let alone 4k. Same with 3D - I avoid 3D movies at the cinema because they are expensive, cause me a bit of eye strain and I honestly don't notice the 3Dness of them after the first 2 minutes.

    On the other hand, I was stuck watching some bad 80s TV on someone's HDTV the other day and I found it very distracting - movement in low contrast bits of the picture was very obviously "lagging" behind the high contrast bits, leading to really distracting stuff like the outlines of people's faces moving whilst (some of) their facial features didn't, etc. I've got no idea whether this was some crazy processing in the TV (SD->HD upscaling magic?), crazy processing by the broadcaster or if the broadcaster simply hadn't dedicated enough DVB-S bandwidth to the channel, but I'd much rather watch a low resolution Youtube clip than put up with that kind of crap!

    1. I turned most of the clever picture processing features off in my Sony HD TV, this made upscaled SD images look much more natural with none of the lagginess you mention (which was present initially).

    2. The artifacts in low movement /detail pays off the image is due to the MPEG or H. 264 video encoding in use, independent of the resolution.

  9. British Football (previously known as British Telecom) now have an Ultra HD Sport channel - online, rather than broadcast. Allows you to watch one footie match per weekend in 4k Ultra HD. If that's your thing.

    BT have rebranded themselves as British Football because they're more interested in football than fibre.

    They still offer some Internet products:

    o Asymmetric Digital Soccer Line (ADSL)
    o Football to the Cabinet (FTTC)
    o Football to the Premises (FTTP)

  10. LG just launched their first range of non-curved UHD OLED TVs: