YOU’VE NO DOUBT seen how gorgeous today’s
televisions are, but you might not be sure what’s
behind this unprecedented picture quality.
For one thing, many of today’s televisions have
an ultra-high-definition screen, which delivers four
times the resolution of a Full HD 1080p TV. Often
referred to as 4K or UHD, these new televisions provide an incredibly lifelike image made up of more
than 8 million little dots (“pixels”) rather than
roughly 2 million.
Not only are prices dropping for 4K TVs, but
more and more 4K content is available. It is coming through on-demand video services (like Net-flix and PlayStation Video); cable and satellite
set-top boxes that support 4K; and new Blu-ray
discs that deliver movies and TV shows in 4K quality. Even if the source content isn’t in 4K, these
new televisions will upscale regular HD shows to
near 4K quality.
A note about 4K from cable and satellite services: Comcast currently streams 4K content to
select Samsung TVs with its UHD app, and the
company has announced plans for its own 4K set-top box for later this year. DirecTV and Dish
Network both offer some 4K shows and movies
through special set-top boxes.
Another buzzword to familiarize yourself with
is high dynamic range (HDR), which reproduces a
wider range of shade levels than conventional
video, bringing greater color and contrast to the 4K
screen. Not all 4K TVs offer HDR, but it’s a worthwhile feature to look for. Note that to experience
HDR to its full potential, HDR content is required.
Another term you may hear is “quantum dot,”
which refers to some new TVs with a wider color
gamut and better brightness, thanks to teeny “nano”
crystals. Offering extremely vivid colors (especially
reds, greens and cyans), quantum dot technology
rivals the picture quality of OLED-based displays.
A cool new development in TVs is Google Cast.
Built into many new TVs, Google Cast lets you
“cast” your favorite shows and songs from your
smartphone, tablet or laptop—right to your television or speakers. It’s an effortless way to stream videos, photos and music from your small mobile
screen to the big screen.
Vizio calls its feature SmartCast, which is
included in some of its latest TVs. The SmartCast
app lets you stream content from supported devices,
such as Apple and Android phones and tablets and
Windows laptops, to your TV. SmartCast also works
with select wireless speakers and sound bars. (Vizio’s
M and P series TVs come with a 6-inch Android
tablet that serves as a remote control).
Another development is that many new Vizio
models don’t have a built-in tuner to receive broadcasts via an antenna. You’ll see these models referred
to as “displays” rather than traditional TVs. If you go
this route and want over-the-air broadcasts, you’ll
need to purchase a simple TV tuner.
A lot of attention is devoted to TV screens these
days, but don’t forget audio enhancements. One
option is a full-fledged home theater system, which
typically features an audio-video receiver and six
speakers (including subwoofer) spread throughout
the TV room.
However, you can also supersize your home
theater’s audio with a horizontal sound bar that sits
just below your television and simulates surround
sound for music, movies, TV shows and video
games. Sound bars are easy to set up and relatively
inexpensive, and they include Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly play music from a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Many also include a wireless subwoofer
to play elsewhere in the room and provide low-fre-quency bass. C
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes
to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of
15 books. He’s on Twitter
Saltzman will answer selected
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