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TV technology terms explained

It's time for a new TV, but how do you know which one is right for you and your family? Here's an explanation of what all those initials and tech terminology mean.

TV types

These new 4K Ultra High Definition TVs screens boast more life-like colors and a vivid picture to provide a more vibrant viewing experience that is a step up from traditional high-definition TVs (HDTV). Images appearing on 4K Ultra HDTV screens are smoother, more realistic and highly detailed because of the high number of pixels per square inch. More pixels per square inch translates into a better quality image, and greater viewing angles, whether you’re looking at a blockbuster movies, photos taken on a digital camera or footage from a 4K digital video recorder. Learn more about 4K UHDTVs.

Liquid crystal display televisions. These TVs offer high-resolution pictures in a wide range of sizes. They're also energy-efficient and work well in all lighting conditions. Images tend to fade slightly when viewed from an extreme angle, but newer technologies are rapidly improving LCD TV viewing angles.

Light-emitting diode televisions. These TVs are a specific type of LCD TV that offer several benefits compared to standard LCD TVs. These include a better and brighter picture with deeper blacks, a slimmer profile, greater energy efficiency and mercury-free production. Learn more about LED TVs.

  • Backlit LED TVare lit by many LEDs placed throughout the rear of the display panel. They offer exceptional picture quality, with deeper blacks and more vivid, accurate colors. They also allow for more precise, localized control over the dimness and brightness of specific screen areas (referred to as "local dimming").
  • Edge-lit LED TVs are lit by LEDs placed only around the edge of the display panel. They offer a particularly thin profile, exceptional energy efficiency and many of the picture-quality advantages of backlit LED TVs, including deeper blacks and a brighter, better picture.

Organic light-emitting diode televisions. They generate their own light and don’t require an extra lighting source. This may not seem like a huge difference when compared to LED, but OLED TVs are generally thinner, offer better blacks and consume less energy. Learn more about OLED TVs.

Plasma TV
Plasma TVs offer an affordable option for larger-size televisions (42”–65"). Benefits include deep blacks and bright colors, good fast-motion imaging and wide viewing angles. Plasma TVs do, however, tend to be bulkier and less energy-efficient. And since their screens are prone to image burn, they're not a great fit for gaming.

Smart TV
These TVs allow you to wirelessly connect to the Internet and boast built-in streaming video services such as Netflix and Hulu, music from the likes of Pandora and apps including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You can even check the weather and news—all without a computer. Learn more about Smart TVs.

A high-definition television that can display specially made three-dimensional movies, video games and broadcasts, in addition to regular "2D" video content. To view this 3D content, viewers must wear specialized 3D glasses. Learn more about 3D TVs .

  • Active, or "active shutter," 3D glasses electronically and wirelessly sync their operation with the 3D TV to produce a 3D image. They must be used with 3D TVs specifically made for active glasses. It's recommended you purchase the glasses manufactured by the same company as your TV for maximum compatibility. 3D glasses run on batteries that occasionally need recharging.
  • Passive 3D glasses are polarized and function much like the ones used in today's 3D theater releases. These glasses do not sync electronically with the 3D TV and must be used with 3D TVs made for passive glasses. The glasses come in a wide variety of styles and colors.

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TV features

Display resolution
A TV's display resolution refers to the number of pixels (essentially little dots of color) that make up the picture. TVs with a higher resolution have more, and therefore finer (smaller) pixels, which create a sharper, more detailed picture. The higher resolution of flat-panel TVs generally eliminates the fuzzy edges that were common among old TVs. There are three main resolution types:

  • 720p: A progressive HDTV signal format with a resolution of 1280x720. All major HDTV broadcasting standards include a 720p format, but you’ll want a TV with a higher resolution (see below) if you seek an unprecedented picture.
  • 1080p: A high-definition video format with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. The main advantage of TVs with this resolution is that they can display all high-def video formats without downconverting, which tends to sacrifice picture detail.
  • 4K or 2160p: Also known as Ultra HD (UHD), 4K boasts a 3840x2160 resolution—twice the pixels of a 1080p full-HD screen. This means more pixels per square inch, resulting in the most vivid picture to date, regardless of where you are sitting or standing while viewing the screen. Learn more about 4K TVs.

Refresh rate
A TV's refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), determines how many times the screen is redrawn each second. In general, the higher the refresh rate, the less image flicker you will notice on the screen. TVs with higher refresh rates also display fast motion much more smoothly. If you have gamers in your family, a higher hertz number (up to 600Hz) will make their gaming experience faster and more enjoyable.

Viewing angle
A TV's viewing angle is a measure of picture quality from off-center viewing positions. All TVs look best when viewed head-on, but TVs with wider viewing angles offer a higher quality (unfaded) picture to viewers farther off to one side or the other than TVs with narrower viewing angles. A viewing angle alone could determine the layout of your seating area. If you have a large room, consider a TV that allows a wider viewing angle.

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TV add-ons and accessories

Blu-ray is an optical disc format (similar to DVDs) that can play high-definition movies and other video content. The discs are available with both regular and 3D content.

HDMI cable
HDMI cables carry both digital audio and video (at resolutions up to 1080p) in a single cable. They provide the highest-quality connections between your TV and Blu-ray players, HD cable boxes, personal computers, video game consoles and more.

Streaming video player
A streaming video player (such as Roku or Apple TV) allows you to access television shows and movies via a small box that plugs into your TV. It's very similar to cable, with many free movies and channels, but without a monthly fee or contract. It allows easy access to your accounts on Netflix, VUDU and other streaming media providers. Watch what you want, when you want to watch it.

Ready to start shopping? Check out this helpful TV Buying Guide.

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