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New TV Technology: What’s in It for You?

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Are you in the market for a new TV set?  You may want to look into some of the new TV technology becoming available now and in the near future. Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) and Quantum Dot sets, 4K and Ultra HD resolution standards, High Dynamic Range (HDR) contrast standards, and mobile video streaming could change the way you experience TV.

OLED is the gold standard for TV picture quality. OLED TV sets deliver much deeper blacks and more saturated colors than you can get with any other type of set. Look at an OLED screen next to an LCD-LED screen of the same size, and the difference will be obvious. The only drawback with OLED TV is the dent it will make in your wallet. OLED TV sets are expensive to manufacture, and the consumer prices reflect this.

Quantum dot TV sets approach OLED TVs in image quality, but cost much less to manufacture, so consumer prices for them will be much less. Several manufacturers exhibited quantum dot sets at the latest Consumer Electronics Show. Quantum dot sets cost much less than OLED sets, but they’re still not cheap. You can expect to pay about twice as much for a quantum dot set as you would for an LCD-LED set of the same size, but as the technology develops, and as manufacturers become more efficient, you can expect the price to come down.

Ultra HD and 4K sets offer a brute force approach to picture quality, simply packing more pixels onto your screen. Conventional HD TV sets are calibrated to a 1080p standard. 4k and Ultra HD sets offer four times the resolution. You might not notice the difference between conventional HD and 4K TV on your home set, though. When you upgraded from standard definition to HD, you probably got a much larger screen, and screen size alone would dramatically affect  your viewing experience. 4K and Ultra HD sets are available in the same sizes as conventional HD sets, and the closer resolution is hard to discern from a distance. Unless you sit within six feet of the screen, you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference. Also, there won’t be much 4K or Ultra HD content available for several years, because the extra resolution requires encoding four times as much information. This complicates the work of content producers and  broadcasters, and it consumes much more bandwidth.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a subtler approach to improving picture quality. Not just a method for manufacturing TV sets, HDR begins with the way TV shows and movies are shot. HDR brings a much wider color gamut, greater depth of field, a wider mid-range,  and much finer detail in shadows.

To understand HDR TV, it may help to know the way light is measured. For commercial cinematographers, light levels are measured in ‘nits’. Direct overhead sunlight near the equator could be as high as 1.6 billion nits, starlight can be as low as .0001 nits, and the human eye can perceive  differences within a range of about 10,000 nits. Most TV sets, though, are calibrated to display a range of only 100 nits. A few of the better ones are calibrated to 400 nits. But in December of 1013, Dolby Laboratories demonstrated a TV set capable of displaying up to 20,000 nits, fifty times what the best non-HDR TV sets could display. Dolby wasn’t interested in brightness for its own sake. Too much brightness can cause eyestrain, and even standard TV sets can be too bright. Dolby Vision doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with light.  In its HDR set, the highlights in the image might be at 20,000 nits, but the darkest areas will be dimmer than the darkest areas of a standard TV image, so the picture will be truer to life. Dolby wanted more than maximum brightness; it wanted more contrast, and more nuance in the mid-range.

High Dynamic Range requires about 25% more information than conventional HD does. This is a fraction of the additional information required by 4K TV, so producers, directors, and manufacturers can accommodate it much more cheaply, and for much greater  improvement in the viewer’s experience. Of all the new TV technology, HDR does more to improve picture quality than any other.

Mobile video streaming is not a new TV technology. It has been around in one form or another for several years. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon offer stand-alone internet streaming for their movie catalogs. The consumer appeal of such services is limited, though, because these services do not carry live TV or sports. Several cable and satellite TV system operators have offered their own mobile streaming services as additions to their subscription in-home video services, but not as stand-alone services. This changed in January 2015 with Dish Network’s launch of its Sling TV platform. Sling TV is independent of the standard Dish TV service, does not require the purchase or lease of a satellite dish or any receivers, and does not require long-term contracts. You can take Sling TV on a month-to month basis.

Sling TV offers twenty channels in its basic package, which sells for $20.00 per month. The package of seventeen channels includes ESPN, ESPN 2, and AMC, which separates it from other stand-alone video streaming services. For an additional $5.00 per month, you can get a nine-channel Sports Extra Package, a five-channel  Hollywood Extra package, a seven-channel News Extra package, a six-channel Lifestyle Extra package, or a five-channel Kids Extra package. A typical bill for cable plus service, the next step up from the bare bones basic cable package, is around $65.00 per month, so if you get Sling TV with two or three premium packages, you’ll have service comparable to cable plus for about half the price.

With Sling TV having paved the way, expect more cable and satellite system operators to offer their own stand-alone internet video streaming services.

These are the more important examples of new TV technology available now or in the near future.

(Editor’s note:   To get the most out of any new TV technology, you’ll need the right service provider to suit your interests and budget. Shop with Bundle Deals for all providers and plans available in your neighborhood, then order any service with just one phone call.)