TV BUYING 101 – BLACK FRIDAY 2016

WHEN are better technology TV’s being sold for the best price?
What do I need to be cautious about?
What technologies should I purchase?

 

We love our technology devices and between the screens in phones, computers and televisions, we are pretty much glued to one or more of them many, many hours of each day.

So, if you are currently suffering from television envy or screen too small syndrome, we hope that this short article will hit the bullet points and provide some guidance.

 

WHEN should I purchase to get the best “deal” on a new TV?

This is a trick question because on ANY better quality TV’s the major television manufacturers set and essentially regulate the price under “Colgate Policies” aka as Unilateral Pricing Policies (UPP).  Local, Big Box and on-line retailers are locked into selling the same television products at the same prices and the risk of violating these UPP guidelines means that there is no pricing variability.

Isn’t that called price fixing?  The US Supreme Court stretching back almost a century answered that question as a qualified NO (see 1919 ruling, United States v. Colgate & Co. and a 1984 ruling Monsanto Co. v. Spray-Rite Service Corp.).  As a result the court “recognized the manufacturer’s right to deal with whomever it wanted, and as importantly, its right to refuse to deal. This distinction allowed manufacturers to announce terms under which they would deal with their re-sellers and then refuse to deal with those who failed to comply.

So the question becomes when will prices will be at their lowest levels?  Looking at current pricing guides from Sony/Samsung/LG and our long history of selling higher-end televisions, the sweet spot in pricing will this year be Sunday, November 20th – “Cyber-Monday” November 28th.   On larger higher-end TV’s expect to save up to $500 off of typical pricing and on lower-end models, expect savings in the range of $50 – $200.  Be very leery of savings that seem to good to be true.  Want to get a sense of what that advertised model typically sells for over time?  Check out that TV model on www.camelcamelcamel.com for a pricing calendar over time.

Black Friday “Derivative” Model Televisions – Proceed with Caution!

Some vendors create a specific, often stripped down model that is made in very limited quantities and sold only during this Black Friday period.  If the deal looks too good to be true, or a quick Google search turns up virtually no on-line reviews, then we suggest caution.  Often these sets come with outrageous, “fake” retail pricing that can entice the deal monger that resides in all of us to take the plunge to “save” hundreds or even thousands to then later discover that the set lacks key, critical features or is essentially unknown by the manufacturer when tech support or service is needed.

>>>  What KEY technologies should I look for in my new TV?

4k RESOLUTION 

The industry switch-over from “regular” HDTV to Ultra 4k has occurred within an astonishingly short period of time.  At this juncture, if you are looking for anything other than a basic “entry-level” television, by default what you will see in stores and on-line will universally feature this newer 4k resolution.

4k means what?  Very simply, a “regular” HD television has 1920 pixels (dots of color) by 1080 pixels.  4k is 4x those dots of color, for a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (8.3 megapixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9).

BLACK LEVELS

The ability for your new TV to approximate black is mission critical.

Why is black level critical?  Black to white represents the “dynamic range” of a television in much the same way that the difference between a sound system’s ability to resolve quiet and then loud, dynamic passages helps to recreate the dynamics of live music.  If the display technology in your selected set does a poor job resolving black levels, then darker scenes will appear gray, washed out and in many instances the result will be loss of image details in darker portions of the picture.  Particularly poor implementation turns those darker scenes into a messy gray/purple … yuck!

Beyond the ability of your chosen TV to reproduce inky jet blacks is the “gray scale” ability of that TV.  As the picture scene slowly brightens, can the set in a graduated and controlled fashion slowly move from black to various shades of gray?  Some sets handle black well, but then “crush” blacks by taking what should be dark scenes, removing low light detail and then essentially turning then black.

Interestingly, black levels are less critical in brighter rooms and much more evident (and critical) for nighttime darker family room viewing.   IF you are trying to judge the black level capabilities of a television in a store, have the salesperson play a dark scene AND then have him/her turn down/off the showroom lights.  You CANNOT judge the black level capability of a television on a brightly lit showroom floor!

Below are is our rough ranking of technologies that provide the best black levels (listed worse to best).  YES, there will be some variability, so consider this only a rough guide.

LCD with … (and quoting from our modified Wikipedia listing)

  1. Edge-lit LEDs – (NO local dimming) in which the LEDs are formed around the rim of the screen, using a special diffusion panel to spread the light evenly behind the screen (the most common use).
  2. LED backlighting (Full array) – behind the screen, whose brightness is not controlled individually.
  3. Edge-lit LED’s with local dimming.
  4. Dynamic “local dimming” backlight – LEDs controlled individually (or in clusters) to control the level of light/color intensity in a given part of the screen.

OLED

5.White OLED (LG – based on Kodak patent) / RGB OLED (SONY)

As a rough rule-of-thumb, our ranking of best picture black levels would be ranked (best to worse) 5,4, 3, 2, 1.  Of course the “devil is in the details,” and various manufacturers can vary pretty significantly in their ability to tame this beast.

COLOR ACCURACY (WCG)wcg1

Also known as … WHO has the larger(est) box of crayons and who knows how to stay within the lines and then combine those colors to create realistic images?  More colors, accurately reproduced equals a more lifelike, realistic image.

First and foremost, if you are looking for a better quality set, you should insist that that new television feature a “wide color gamut” (WCG).  Why would you want to purchase a new television based upon a TWENTY-FIVE year old (Rec. 709) standard vs the much newer DCI-P3 (in fact, Apple’s just released new Touchbar™ 13 and 15” laptops feature screens that comply with this P3 standard as does their new iPhone™ 7) or Rec 2020?  Gamut, or “color space” is the hue-saturation plane of the television’s display and is determined by both the color capabilities of the panel itself AND the computing power within the set that outputs and drives that panel.

Different vendors use their marketing departments to put their own spin on WCG, so look for Sony’s TRILUMINOS™ or Samsung’s Nano Crystal Technology or finally, LG’s Quantum Dot Technology.

Simply offering WCG isn’t a guarantee of performance, so check out shading on faces, green playing fields or a red apple to see what you think as you compare various brands of televisions.  We do find that poorer implementation of WCG often results in cartoonish image rendering that seems to “push” excessive color saturation.

 

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR)

In a nutshell, televisions that support HDR (and yes, there is a bit of a format war with THE standard, HDR10 vs “Dolby Vision™) can potentially provide a brighter, more lifelike image.

HDR is an interesting enhancement in conjunction with WCG, since the combo helps to expand the realism of the image.

hdr1 hdr2

Quoting from Sony’s professional products website: “HDR empowers cinematographers and directors with a far bigger palette of brightness and color with which they can tell stories. Even though average brightness levels are similar to SDR presentation, you’ll immediately notice that peak highlights are far brighter. Because the contrast is greater, shadows appear far deeper and richer. You’ll see texture in the extreme highlights and shadows that SDR cannot reproduce. Even the mid-tones are better. The three dimensional shape of the leading lady’s face is visually defined by the play of light, as revealed by subtle gradations of color. With HDR, those gradations are far more revealing. Storytellers can use this new visual language to create more immersive, more emotionally compelling experiences.”

HDR content is currently available on select 4k resolution BluRay movies as well as streaming services like Amazon and Netflix.

So, now you have enough info to wade into the television buying jungle and fend for yourself!  Of course, we’re here to help, so please drop by to check out some of the incredible products and REMEMBER our favorite phrase – VIDEO WITHOUT AUDIO IS CALLED SURVEILLANCE, so don’t ignore the audio that will be part of your television viewing.

So in summary, here are technologies that we look for when judging the picture quality of modern TV’s:

4k // Ability to attain excellent black levels // Wide Color Gamut (WCG) // HDR capable … and finally (and most importantly), does the image produced on the set look lifelike?

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