From 4K to OLED: A guide to grasping the latest tech powering your TV

From 4K to OLED: A guide to grasping the latest tech powering your TV

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sony bravia tv design river logo blackWhen HDTVs first came out, only three things mattered: resolution, resolution, resolution. What simpler times those were. Today, anyone out in the market for a new TV is likely to come across dozens of acronyms, abbreviations, and confusing terminology that can read like a bunch of technobabble if you’re not familiar with what they mean and why they matter. A Sony BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV, for example, might have a lot of letters that don’t look like words, but we promise they’re all important. (Yeah, engineers get carried away when they’re excited, but at least they’re making us lots of cool stuff.) With this in mind, we put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand all the latest tech powering our state-of-the-art televisions.

4K

We’ll start with the basics here. Just as high definition (HD) TV upped the ante in terms of resolution compared to standard definition, 4K ups it again. Resolution, in its simplest sense, is a measurement of the number of tiny dots that make up a display, and it’s commonly referred to by the number of horizontal columns. So, 480 resolution has 480 columns of pixels, which was pretty good … a few decades ago. HD is considered 720 (or 1,080 for “Full HD”), and this is where images really start to pop. However, HD has been around awhile, and displays have evolved a lot since.

4K TV has twice the amount of horizontal columns as HD, with beween 3,840 horizontal columns of pixels. This approaches the Digital Cinema resolution 4096 pixels, which is where we get “4K,” for four thousand. Remember, though, that a 4K TV also has a vertical axis too, which is also twice as dense as Full HD. And you’ll recall from math class that when you double the length and the width of a shape, you end up with four times the surface area. 4K displays have four times as many pixels making up an image as Full HD. A Sony 4K HDR TV, for example, has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, for a total of over 8 million pixels. Count ’em — that’s a lot of detail.

HDR

Sticking with image quality, HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range.” Things start to get a little bit more complicated here, but basically “dynamic range” refers to the level of contrast that we can perceive, and “high dynamic range” means there’s a lot of it. Think of it like this: your eye can perceive a lot of contrast. For example, when you’re standing in the sun and a shadow passes over, you can easily see objects that are in the sun and in the shade. Cameras, meanwhile, have a lower dynamic range than the human eye—as such, they can only capture detail in light or shadow. Most TVs have even an even smaller dynamic range than cameras, which causes them to lose a lot of detail on the brighter and darker ends of a picture. Your eyes demand better.

Modern cameras are getting better at expanding their dynamic range, and there are a number of tricks to capturing images that are really close to what we perceive in real life. The question, then, becomes whether you want your TV to be able to translate all that real-life detail back to you on the couch. 4K and OLED (which you’ll learn about next) have made HDR easier, simply because more pixels and more color give us more opportunity to provide rich detail. A Sony 4k HDR TV will provide full detail even in light and dark areas of an image, creating a more true-to-life picture.

OLED

There was a time when your choices for a flatscreen TVs were between Plasma and LCD. Both had their advantages, but LCD (which stands for Liquid Crystal display) mostly became the standard over Plasma because they were lighter, more energy efficient, and more affordable. Every TV contains a light source in order to make the image visible, and LCD TVs contain a limited number of LED lights behind the display that are responsible for illuminating the panel. The major downside to this approach is that areas of the screen that were far from the light source were dimmer, often quite noticeably so. To address this, TV manufacturers started putting more and more LEDs in, and each light was responsible for lighting up a segment of the display. This isn’t a bad solution, but it remains difficult for LCD TVs to provide even illumination. Theoretically, this segmentation could go on forever, until each pixel has its own unique light source … And that’s exactly what OLED is.

An abbreviation for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode,” OLEDs have a more even, uniform brightness than LCD displays. Again, it’s helpful to contrast OLED and LCD TVs. With LCD TVs, each pixel adopts the appropriate color, which becomes visible when the LED behind them shines through, like a flashlight. With OLEDs, each pixel is an LED. Rather than having a backlight, each pixel is illuminated when an electrical current runs through them. Not only does this make for more even lighting, but individual pixels can actually be turned off, allowing for deep blacks and stronger contrast, which goes back to the benefits of HDR. All of these reasons are why Sony’s latest BRAVIA OLED TVs make use of OLED displays.

Connected or “Smart” TVs

This is where things get fun. There are hardly any devices and appliances that can’t be connected to the internet anymore, and Sony Android TVs are no exception. In its simplest sense, Smart TVs are just TVs that are connected to the internet. The benefits can vary based on the manufacturer, but let’s take a look at our own TVs, which provide as many features as we could think of.

With cord-cutting and streaming services on the rise, Sony Android TVs have popular streaming apps built-in, and an app store where you can find thousands more app services. Netflix, Amazon, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu can all be accessed directly on the TV, without the need to hook up a computer or extra device. And if you do want to hook up a computer — if, say, you’re giving a presentation or want to browse the web on your 4K display — Chromecast is built right in, meaning you don’t need an extra dongle to cast. But that’s just the core of it.

Sony Android TVs can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet, and devices can even be used as a second screen. You can, for example, scroll through the guide or browse the newest releases without pausing your content. In addition, the search feature will browse every service you’ve installed at once, so you won’t have to type in The Americans on six different apps to find it online — in fact, you won’t have to type it all. Just say “The Americans” or “Kendrick Lamar” into the voice remote and start streaming. Sony Android TVs are “Netflix Recommended,” which means the streaming service has recognized its high performance and cutting edge features, judging it capable of streaming shows like House of Cards and Marco Polo in 4K HDR—exactly how they want it to be seen.

While many TVs on the market now will provide you with some of these features, Sony BRAVIA OLED TVs will provide you with all of them. And this is really just the beginning. In addition to the above, Sony BRAVIA OLED TVs are capable of displaying more colors than your typical set, and have revolutionized TV audio with the world’s first Acoustic Surface, which emits sound from the entire screen itself. So, whether you’re after 4K HDR blockbusters, or 4K HDR gaming with explosive action, the displays of Sony BRAVIA OLED TVs’ are large, with absolute blacks, precise contrast, and immersive audio. It all makes for picture and sound in perfect harmony.