Home Features 4K TV Buying Guide – Everything you need to know about modern TVs

4K TV Buying Guide – Everything you need to know about modern TVs

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4K TV Buying Guide Feature

Black Friday kicks off this week, so everyone is starting to really think about the big electronics they might want to buy. Purchasing something like a TV is a big investment, so getting a sizeable chunk of the price knocked off is always a good deal. But frenzied buying leads to mistakes, and the shiny allure of sales talk and in-store images could lead you to make a long-term purchase that you’ll very quickly regret. So if you’re looking to buy a TV this week (or in the foreseeable future), here are a few good things to keep in mind.

When looking for a TV in 2017, there are a few things you shouldn’t be compromising on right now: Display Type, Resolution, HDR and Local Dimming. TVs are meant to last for years, so you don’t want to purchase something without definitely important technology already set in. Some features are also ones you can ignore, because they’re so common that they’re past selling points. TVs touting features like Smart functionality are a dime a dozen, so if that’s front and centre in the marketing, start getting wary of what it’s trying to hide.

The core pillars are important, and the ones you should be scrutinising the most. So let’s break them down.

Display Type – LED vs. OLED (and everything in-between)

4K TV Buying Guide OLED

If you’re buying a TV, there are two types you’re going to come across. OLED will make up the most expensive purchasing decisions, and LG is really ahead of the competition when it comes to that. These panels have an array of LEDs that can each be controlled in terms of brightness individually. When a scene is meant to be dark, the pixels literally turn off – producing the deepest blacks you’re going to ever find. It’s leagues ahead of LED panels that require backlights, and can never truly get as dark. But OLED suffers when it comes to overall brightness, and concerns of image retention and input lag still crop up from time to time.

LED LCD TVs are far more common, and make up anything from top of the range to the lower end of the spectrum. They require the use of backlighting to produce brightness and reduce the amount of light on the screen, which can come in two forms (more on that later). LED LCD panels are incredibly advanced too, and have a lot of range when it comes to vibrant colours and extremely high brightness levels (very important for HDR). It helps too that they’re way, way cheaper than OLED at the moment, which definitely comes into the discussion.

Some companies, like Samsung recently, attempt to blur the line with their own marketing terms such as QLED. But even Samsung’s sets are still LEDs, albeit with much brighter ranges and more colour saturation. It’s still not, however, the same as OLED.

Resolution

Unlike choosing between OLED and LED LCD, resolution is not a question. It’s 2017, and you shouldn’t be looking to spend money on a TV that isn’t producing a 4K image. This will ensure your purchase lasts more than a few years as content for 4K becomes increasingly more common, and will ensure the best display possible for your modern consoles.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

4K TV Buying Guide HDR

Probably more noticeable than just the bump from HD to 4K, HDR has quickly become the most talked about feature on modern TV sets. And with good reason. HDR isn’t just one setting but rather a collection of multiple. It encompasses a wider colour depth, with most HDR standards calling for at least a 10-bit depth. It also concerns brightness, with LED LCD sets needing to hit 1000 nits (OLED sets require only 600 nits) to be considered HDR-10 compliant. This helps bring details out in bright areas and lets dark areas stand out better in contrast, with the wider colour depth letting the picture seem far more vibrant.

Now when you’re looking for a TV, there’s going to be a lot of confusion when it comes to HDR. There are many, many different standards that each manufacturer is subscribing to when it suits them, making each of their individual marketing HDR terms dilute the waters even more. In short, ignore them. Look up specifications around maximum brightness and colour support, and ensure that they’re 1000 nits and 10-bit respectively. Standards such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision are important too (the latter being a stricter one to hit), so keep an eye out for that.

Many sets will say they’re HDR capable, and they are. But they’re not hitting the generally accepted standards for good HDR, so it’s easy to waste your money.

Local Dimming

4K TV Buying Guide Local Dimming

Part of a good HDR set is local dimming – a feature that allows your TV to dynamic light and darken certain sections of the set based on the image being displayed. This is crucial to making bright parts really shine past otherwise darker areas of the image, and is the crux of good HDR quality. This is where the LED and OLED difference is most apparent. Recall that OLED sets can individually turn off pixels when required. So they stand unrivalled in this space, giving you the best contrast between bright and dark scenes you’re going to find on the market. And hence the best HDR picture.

Local Dimming on LED LCD sets is where things get murky. There are two core differences here: Edge-Lit and Full Array Dimming. Edge-lit is what you’re most likely going to find, especially on mid-range to high-range sets. Strips on the edges of the set light up to brighten up sectors on the TV, but reduce the number of individual zones that can be controlled. Large columns of light either horizontally or vertically on the screen are common, which can make some bright images seem washed out when they’re not meant to be.

Full-Array fixes this in a manner close to OLED. Instead of on the edge, the lighting array is placed behind the panel and has far more individual zones that can be independently controlled and altered. It’s still nowhere near as accurate as OLED, but it’s a big improvement over edge-lit. And should always be considered if possible.

Ok, so what TV do you even look at?

This is a lot to digest, I know. And if you aren’t excited by new advancement in display technology like I am, it’s an incredibly boring wall of text to read through. But it’s important to know these small details when making an expensive purchase like this, and even more important when rash decision making is thrown into the mix. But if you’re really just looking for a handful of sets to think about, the few below will be good options to sort through:

Money is no object

4K TV Buying Guide LG B7V

If keeping to a budget isn’t really a concern, then you’re probably going to be looking at LG’s OLED range. And despite the ridiculous escalation in price, you will be just as well served with some of their cheapest in the range. The LG B7V is easily the best OLED pick here, featuring the same performance and image quality as the higher C7 and coming in for a lot less. It’s got top of the class HDR support, and a high peak brightness for an OLED screen. The input lag is minimal too, which makes it perfect for video games. You’ll be looking to spend just shy of R50,000.00 in most cases, but it’ll be money well spent.

Talking about the mid-range

4K TV Buying Guide Samsung Q7C

LG dominated the OLED market, but it’s the mid-range LED LCD market that’s far more bustling. Here it’s a fight between Samsung, LG and Hisense (locally at least, since Vizio and Sony don’t really feature here at all). And in the regard, Samsung usually comes out on top. Their KS8000 was the top pick for HDR support last year in the middle price range, and their new QLED Q7C takes that spot this year. You’ll find it for around the same price (R19,999.00 on Black Friday) and get a slightly better image with the new LED technology. Beyond that it has a great peak brightness over 1000 nits, and deep colour to make all the details really pop. The Q9C might be alluring, but the Q7C does all you need it to.

4K TV Buying Guide HiSense M7000

Around the same price range you can also start looking at the HiSense M7000. It might not feature the same QLED technology (HiSense calls their own display a ULED one) but it hits all the same notes that you’d expect for the price. Hisense has a well established record of reliability and good picture quality, so if you’re finding it slightly cheaper than the Samsung equivalent you might be even better served.

Dipping your feet into HDR

4K TV Buying Guide Samsung MU series

But let’s be real – not everyone is looking to drop R20,000.00 on a TV. And there are thankfully decent options well below that, which serve similar purposes. Samsung and Hisense both have horses in this race too. Samsung’s new M-series takes the place below their QLED line, and mimics the performance of their Series 7 and 8 displays from last year. The Samsung MU6300 is a good HDR set with some lacking brightness and colour reproduction, but good response times and HDR quality that it’s still a strong choice. The MU7000 is slightly pricier and more readily available, but the MU6300 is a good choice if you can still find it.

4K TV Buying Guide HiSense M5000

Hisense features a similar range too with the same sorts of drawbacks, but is far easier to find on a shelf. The M5000 series feature HDR support and local dimming, but both lack the performance on their pricier M7000 sets. Still it’s a good decision for an entry-level HDR screen that will still serve you well in the coming years, and should be just as important a decision as the Samsung MU series.

These certainly aren’t the only sets out there warranting a purchase, and knowing about the many different aspects of a TV might help you make even better-informed decisions that the ones made here. But buying a TV in 2017 is a much more complicated process than just picking from the display. So make sure you know what you want, what you’re willing to spend and what is the most important feature for you before pulling out that credit card.

Last Updated: November 22, 2017

52 Comments

  1. Also… resist the curves. They are overrated.

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      November 22, 2017 at 13:36

      Not just overrated but also completely useless unless you have a screen the size that Ster Kinekor might want to use.

      Reply

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      November 22, 2017 at 13:45

      This. Curved screens serve no purpose and actually end up reflecting more light than you want. Avoid (this coming from a curved screen owner)

      Reply

  2. Guild

    November 22, 2017 at 13:16

    “You’ll be looking to spend just shy of R50,000.00 in most cases, but it’ll be money well spent.” How is ever spending that much money on a TV money well spent?

    Reply

    • R1ker

      November 22, 2017 at 13:41

      Totally agree – 10k is the most i am willing to spend on a tv. To be honest i am more looking in the R7000 spot

      Reply

      • Alessandro Barbosa

        November 22, 2017 at 13:49

        And this is where purchases are VERY dangerous. There’s a couple of 4K sets in this range that will say they support HDR. And at that price you’re seriously being taken for a ride.

        Reply

        • R1ker

          November 22, 2017 at 13:50

          I know 🙁 But luckily i don’t buy on impulse. I always google the kak out of the model i am interested in before buying

          Reply

      • Guild

        November 22, 2017 at 13:50

        Exactly, for me spending over R10K on a TV is way too much. I’m waiting to buy the right 4K TV but every time I think I’m going to get one I realize I really don’t need it. I just can’t justify the cost for a TV

        Reply

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      November 22, 2017 at 13:48

      Hence the “money is no object” header 😛 If you have that disposable income for a TV, that’s the one to get, no question

      Reply

      • Guild

        November 22, 2017 at 13:51

        Honestly, if I had that much disposable income I don’t think I’d waste it on a TV that I would hardly ever sit in front of.

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          November 22, 2017 at 13:54

          But think how good it would look decorating the wall of your super yacht.

          Reply

        • Alessandro Barbosa

          November 22, 2017 at 13:57

          I think your purchasing decisions become very different when you’re in that financial position XD

          Reply

    • Theorich Köster

      November 22, 2017 at 18:54

      Makro has had the C7 for R30 000 for most of this year. Still too much for a TV but way better than R50k.

      Reply

  3. Admiral Chief

    November 22, 2017 at 13:22

    LOOK AT ALL THE MONEY I’M SAVING!!!

    [cries softly inside]

    Reply

  4. Admiral Chief

    November 22, 2017 at 13:23

    On to a serious note, is the [spits] sabc (note the lower case) still forcing you to have a tv license???

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      November 22, 2017 at 13:35

      Yup.
      And you’re supposed to pay for each one in your residence.
      Which has led me to realize that I have far TOO MANY BLOODY TV’S in my home.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        November 22, 2017 at 13:40

        I haven’t paid in a few years, I refuse to support the crap that is going on at the sabc at the moment

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          November 22, 2017 at 13:41

          I did the same. Then I got a summons.
          So I paid before shit got nasty.

          Reply

          • R1ker

            November 22, 2017 at 13:45

            Bully tactics – my dad dared them to please come and seal his tv or whatever it is that they do. He told them he got it in 1980 to watch Rugby and they removed the rugby so he stopped watching and paying

          • Original Heretic

            November 22, 2017 at 13:49

            I wasn’t going to take that chance.
            I ignored a summons once before (speeding fine I just never paid….bad me!), and had to pay a moerse fine because of it.

          • R1ker

            November 22, 2017 at 13:53

            The thing is they should – which they don’t, provide you with forms to cancel your license. But they go out of their way to make it difficult as hell to cancel your license in the hope that you just will give up and continue paying

          • Original Heretic

            November 22, 2017 at 13:56

            My argument for not paying all those years was that I LITERALLY did not watch TV. I have one TV (my old Samsung 32″, HD Ready) that STILL has never felt the touch of a TV aerial. Not once.
            I bought it with my X360 and was only ever hooked up to my PC and my Xbox. And briefly to my PS4 before I got my new TV.

            So then why should I pay?!

            Of course, they didn’t see it that way.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            November 22, 2017 at 14:01

            Check all the expensive & time consuming hoops you need to jump through to legally own a TV but not pay a TV license:

            Q: HOW IS A TV SET “DENATURED” SO THAT A TV LICENCE IS NOT REQUIRED?
            A: Removal of a television set’s “tuner” renders it incapable of receiving any TV signal and, consequently, exempt from the need to be licensed. Written notice to the SABC of such denaturing must be supported by documentary proof in the form of a letter/invoice/receipt from a reputable TV repairer or installer. A R300.00 payment must accompany such application to the SABC, after which an authorised agent will be despatched to inspect the applicant’s TV equipment. On receipt of confirmation from the agent that the applicant has NO television receiving equipment [TV set(s), VCR(s) or PC(s) fitted with a tuner card] in his/her possession, he/she will be exempted from payment of licence fees for the rest of the current licensing period. Should a licence holder thereafter require such exemption to be extended, written application by way of an affidavit confirming that the applicant still has no TV receiving equipment must be made on an annual basis three months before the end of each licence year. Should an authorised inspector visit an exempted licence holder’s premises and find that the receiving capability of his/her TV equipment has been restored, he/she becomes liable for payment of all applicable licence fees and penalties, plus a R300.00 inspection fee.

            You literally have to pay them more than the value of a TV license to not charge you for a TV license. 😀

          • R1ker

            November 22, 2017 at 14:04

            Exactly. My dad told them they can send who ever they want to remove it he is not paying a cent. He just kept pushing back and eventually they gave up.

          • Admiral Chief

            November 22, 2017 at 14:56

            My summons got summoned, they can jump in the sea

      • R1ker

        November 22, 2017 at 13:43

        i have far too many family members. I borrow mine out to all of them that wants to get one

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          November 22, 2017 at 13:44

          You….borrow out your family members?!?!

          Reply

          • R1ker

            November 22, 2017 at 13:46

            no.. wait … ag never mind

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        November 22, 2017 at 13:46

        Last time I looked you don’t need multiple TV licenses for TVs you own at the same residence. You only need multiple licenses at the residence if you have other non-familial people living there who own their own TVs, and then those people would need their own license.

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          November 22, 2017 at 13:47

          You don’t need multiple licenses, but the price of your license definitely goes up if you have more TV’s. That one license covers all the sets in your home.

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            November 22, 2017 at 13:51

            Q: OUR FAMILY HAS MORE THAN ONE TELEVISION SET. HOW MANY TV LICENCES DO WE NEED?
            A: A single domestic licence is required per household, provided that: all sets so licensed are used only at the licence holder’s residential premises; all sets so licensed are used only by members of the licence holder’s family.

            So as far as I can see you’re being ripped off if you’re being charged more for having more than one TV.

          • Original Heretic

            November 22, 2017 at 13:52

            The increase in price may then have been caused by combining with my wife.

  5. Original Heretic

    November 22, 2017 at 13:30

    The only time I ever get 4K is if I ask my wife 4 different questions and she answers with “K” each time.

    Reply

  6. Ottokie

    November 22, 2017 at 13:40

    R50 000 on a tv is money well spent… I never want to hear the PC is expensive argument again xD

    Reply

    • R1ker

      November 22, 2017 at 13:43

      xD

      Reply

  7. Magoo

    November 22, 2017 at 14:10

    Good guy Alessandro!

    Reply

  8. Ricardo Harvey

    November 22, 2017 at 14:24

    Is refresh rate not important anymore. Its very difficult to get anything over 60hz for less than 10k.

    Reply

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      November 22, 2017 at 14:26

      Perhaps in a monitor sure. Many TVs tout 120Hz refresh rates but only use it for gross motion interpolated settings (which should be turned off anyway). For console gaming especially, this makes no difference.

      Reply

      • Ricardo Harvey

        November 22, 2017 at 14:37

        What would your recommendation be for under 10k – 49″ and up, for gaming

        Reply

        • Geoffrey Tim

          November 22, 2017 at 14:43

          My recommendation for that price is the Samsung Ku7000 50″. Not the best HDR, butit’s a good set for its price. Retails for just under 10k – may be cheaper on Black Friday. Sandy’s recommendation may be different.

          Reply

          • Ricardo Harvey

            November 22, 2017 at 14:49

            I had my eyes and heart set on the hisense 50″ 50M5010UW but now you making me reconsider.

          • Geoffrey Tim

            November 22, 2017 at 14:53

            I like the Hisense sets, but you’ll need to fiddle with firmware (by flashing) to get the most out of them. The local firmwares generally dont support HDR in game mode, while the UK/Franc/Italy ones tend to. It’s weird. They’re really good sets though. There are actually a few things about the Hisense M5 that are superior to the Samsung KS, like better local dimming – but overall, I think there’s just less fuss with the Sammy.

          • Admiral Chief

            November 22, 2017 at 14:58

            How to do firmware on Hisense? Might consider doing it on mine at home

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            November 22, 2017 at 16:07

            Look up online for software updates you can throw onto a USB stick. Will enable HDR support if your TV is rated for it.

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            November 22, 2017 at 16:07

            Yeah like Geoff said the KU7000 is probably your best bet at the price range for decent HDR and little fuss. I’ve used a HiSense M5 and struggled to get the HDR to work, having to go through several software updates that made me fear I bricked the TV. It’s a good TV, but that sort of stress is not great

  9. Geoffrey Tim

    November 22, 2017 at 14:56

    One thing not straight out mentioned in the article is to make damned sure that the 4K you buy supports HDMI 2.0. Most will, but those that dont will leave you with 4K content running at 30hz, not 60hz.

    Reply

  10. Peter Pan

    November 22, 2017 at 17:02

    It’s just so hard to buy into 4k now. I known it will eventually become commonplace, but ATM:
    1. DStv won’t be broadcasting in 4k anytime soon (I won’t even mention SABC, or the other satellite providers)
    2. Netflix does stream some things in 4k, but I don’t know if the SA version has 4k streams, plus you need a decent IC speed to stream 4k. Other streaming services are the same.
    3. You need a new bluray player to play 4k blurays, and even then, how many really buy blurays
    4. If you plan on getting a Xbox One X (or to a lesser degree a PS4 Pro), then yeah, a 4k capable screen would be great, especially HDR capable screens, but I’m sure that’s only a handful of people

    So how do you justify 4k, unless you plan to keep your TV for the next 10 years, but for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t make sense. Eventually 4k screens with HDR will become cheaper, inevitably.

    Reply

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