Every year after CES, there can be a new pile of buzzwords and technology geography that can go up and down the heads of many consumers - even when these acronyms often describe meaningful advances that are worth knowing about.
So with all the latest TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense and others that are now announced and to be aired over the next few months, it seems like an opportune time to review the features you must look for when buying TV.
Stay tuned in the coming months for buying guides for TV and soundbar. But if you are looking for a new TV right now, these are the terms you should look for when comparing products.
What does TV hardware features mean
ALLM: Automatic low latency mode is a useful feature that detects when you have connected a game system to your TV (or have started playing a game on a streaming box) and automatically activates the TV's "game" mode with optimized settings that produce it lowest possible input layer. This means that there will be a minimal delay between you pressing a button on the controller and seeing the resulting action in the game.
Dolby Atmos: An immersive surround sound format that goes beyond previous experiences by introducing height channels that make the sound more three-dimensional. Atmos home theater systems and soundbars often include speakers that turn on to make any action on the screen sound as if it is happening overhead.
eARC: The enhanced audio return channel is usually marked on one of your TV's HDMI ports. This is the port you want to connect your soundbar or home theater system to. On modern TVs, eARC allows the transmission of uncompressed, immersive 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround sound and eliminates the extremely frustrating audio sync frustrations that can be present when using soundbars on some older TVs. Make sure your next TV has eARC among its features.
HDMI 2.1: The "definition" of HDMI 2.1 was recently thrown into disarray when it was discovered that a device or HDMI cable marked as compatible with the 2.1 specification does not actually guarantee anything. Instead of focusing on HDMI 2.1, the best practice for consumers now is to check for the specific features like 4K at 120Hz, VRR and others mentioned in this list. As for cables, it is also important to look for something that supports 48 Gbps throughput.
HDR: High dynamic range is a must-have feature for any TV in 2022. It produces much brighter highlights and deeper, more vibrant colors when playing HDR content. Apart from the basic, widely supported HDR10 format, other HDR formats include Dolby Vision, which allows for different image optimization on a frame-by-frame basis, and HDR10 Plus, which offers similar benefits but with a smaller selection of content.
MicroLED: Throw away everything you know about regular TVs. Samsung's MicroLED displays bring together the best features of OLED - self-emitting pixels, perfect blacks and so on - without the hassle. MicroLEDs use microscopic, inorganic LEDs that individually produce light and color.
These micrometer-scale LEDs are transferred to tile-like modules, allowing the display of various shapes and potentially any size. Samsung also sells several TV-like MicroLED screens in preset sizes. But unfortunately for most of us, since MicroLED is still a new and expensive technology, it is wildly expensive and these monitors cost more than most cars. (Think over $ 100,000.)
Mini LED: For the past many years, many of the best LCD TVs have used a backlight system called "full-array local dimming" with a series of individual LEDs behind the screen that light up and dim according to the content displayed. These LEDs form dimming "zones" that allow some areas of the screen to be very dark, while other sections can be brightly lit with HDR content at the same time.
Mini LED repeats this approach by significantly reducing the LEDs - and stuffing many, many more of them into the backlight. The end result is more precise contrast and less "flourishing", which occurs when a halo of light can be seen around bright objects or text on the screen. Mini LED does not completely eliminate flowering, but it is often less noticeable. All of these small LEDs also provide better uniform brightness across the TV screen.
YOU ARE: They have long been hailed as the best TVs you can buy for a reason: OLED (organic LED) TVs offer perfect black colors thanks to their self-emitting pixels and no need for a traditional backlight. The viewing angles are amazing, the contrast is unmatched, and the OLED can make pretty much anything you put on the screen shine.
That said, OLED TVs are not perfect for that everything: They usually follow LCD TVs in overall brightness, and the possibility of permanent burning has not yet been overcome, although LG, Sony and other OLED TV manufacturers have taken measures that make the problem very unlikely.
QD-OLED: CES 2022 marked the big debut for QD-OLED panels on both TV and gaming monitors. These quantum dot OLED screens are made by Samsung Display and differ from those made by LG Display because they offer true RGB color reproduction and can preserve vibrant colors throughout the brightness range.
Traditional OLEDs emit light through a color filter, but QD-OLED radiates blue light through quantum dots to create red and green and produce the rest of the color spectrum. This more efficient approach has benefits, including improved overall brightness levels and even better viewing angles than OLED already offers.
The first QD-OLED TVs are expected to ship in 2022 and are likely to cost significantly more than those from LG, so we'll need some actual practical time to decide if these upgraded panels are worth the price. But it's still exciting to see the best TV technology (that normal people could potentially afford) continue to evolve.
VRR: The latest variable refresh rate TVs allow games on a PS5 or Xbox Series S / X to adjust their refresh rate up to 120Hz for much smoother on-screen actions. (In 2022, some TVs will increase this as high as 144Hz for PC games.) VRRs also prove useful in smoothing out short issues or decreases in frame rate to the point that they are often imperceptible, allowing you to focus on the the game instead of your console's technical performance.
Concepts you should ignore and / or avoid in 2022
8 THOUSAND: Manufacturers continue to produce new 8K TV models every year, but the entertainment industry as a whole has still not made a dent in the biggest problem area: there is still a lack of built-in 8K content that is easy to stream.
Edge-lit LED: Cheaper LCD TVs will often have edge lighting - with LEDs around the perimeter of the screen instead of behind - resulting in significantly poorer picture quality, uneven uniformity and mediocre black levels compared to sets with local dimming. It can be tempting to buy a giant size TV at a low price, but as the old saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it usually is.