HD Guru’s Good-Better-Best 4K UHD TV Buying Guide
It’s holiday shopping time.
After another year into the launch of 4K Ultra HD television with high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut support the selection process has become a little clearer, but we felt it might be helpful to break up all of those “4K Ultra HD flat-panel models with HDR support” into a more digestible assembly. So, we’ve broken out some top selling brands and models by how they handle brightness, black level and color gamut in a Good – Better – Best series of categories to help the search become a little more methodical.
Fortunately, selecting a premium performing 4K Ultra HD TV with HDR and a wide color gamut was clarified somewhat by the Ultra HD Alliance’s “Ultra HD Premium” logo certification system earlier this year. Those all fit into the top tier, where it will be hard to get a truly bad model. But you are also going to pay more for the capability. You might find prices on some “Better” and “Best” models will make the purchase a little more palatable, but remember that you will be trading off on significant brightness, contrast and wide color gamut as you drift lower down the model ranges of each brand. To really get the full effect of HDR it’s best to get the brightest and/or deepest black-level-displaying models you can get.
Shoppers looking for a 4K Ultra TV this year must still determine which approach to achieving some of these benefits is best for their needs, and while some models are advertised as accepting HDR metadata and presenting a wide color gamut, not all will do so to the same level. In some cases, such TVs will be able to accept and read an incoming metadata signal carrying brightness and black level instructions needed to show HDR on a TV (and to be labeled an HDR supporting display), but the TV might not have the capability to show it at perceptible levels. So, be aware before you buy any 4K Ultra HD with the intention of seeing an image with satisfying HDR and a wide color gamut.
Read more on our Good, Better and Best 4K Ultra HDTV Selections after the jump:
On the other hand, some 4K TVs and displays might actually read and present HDR and wide color gamut (WCG) to the fullest expected capabilities of the Ultra HD Premium requirements but aren’t advertised as having the ability. (Note that some manufacturers have opted not to participate in the logo program). All of this is due in part to the newness of the technology and newness in developing and implementing the standards for brightness or black levels needed to identify the range of light we should expect from HDR mastered content.
HD Guru’s 4K Ultra HDTV categories listing for Good, Better, Best will give you a pretty good over view of top TV brands and feature sets for 2016 4K UHD TV models so you can organize your Holiday checklist a little more clearly. Where available, links are provided to the products listed on Amazon to assist in making a quick purchase while checking specs and the latest prices.
(Note: prices in the article are listed as they appeared at the time this was written and posted and are subject to change at any time. Clicking the links will bring you to the latest sales and promotions for the model in question on Amazon).
At minimum, all models will be capable of 4K Ultra HDTV (3840×2160) resolution, high-quality upscaling of lower-than-4K-resolution content, support for HEVC H.265 decoding, HDMI 2.0a inputs and HDCP 2.2 content management technology.
See our 4K Ultra HDTV categories and models after the break:
Premium 4K Ultra HDTV Features
The market for top-performing flat-panel television display technologies bifurcated in 2015 with LG’s 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs pitted against top-performing full-array (or direct-lit with local dimming) LED LCD TVs from Samsung, Sony, Vizio, Philips and others. In each case, these displays present the absolute best black level performance, color depth and accuracy, advanced smart TV features, and the latest inputs capable of accepting metadata for HDR and other picture enhancements.
“Best” 4K Ultra HDTVs will perform to the UHDA criteria for “Ultra HD Premium” performance, which at minimum requires the ability to: receive a 10-bit color signal; accept signals for up to a Rec.2020 wide color gamut and display better than 90 percent of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut recommendation; read and display HDR 10 and/or Dolby Vision HDR formats; and have smart TV capability.
Inputs must include HDMI 2.0a capability to accept HDR input and HDCP 2.2 content management, and TVs must be able to decode signals using HEVC digital compression.
Best, LED LCD-based 4K Ultra HDTVs must be able to display a peak luminance level of at least 1,000 nits and a minimum black level of 0.05 nits or lower. These 4K Ultra HDTVs are comprised of models with full-array (direct) LED LCD backlighting or top-performing edge-lit LED designs, both with backlight dimming systems capable of displaying the deep black levels, and a 120Hz native refresh rate panel (in the case of LED LCD models).
Best OLED TVs (currently only available from LG) must have a peak luminance level of at least 540 nits and a minimum black level of 0.0005 nits; the ability to read and display HDR 10 and/or Dolby Vision HDR formats; the ability to present better than 90 percent of DCI-P3 color gamut; and an on-board Wi-Fi smart TV system with the ability to stream content with 4K UHD resolution and HDR.
Examples of some top-performing “Best” 2016 4K UHD TVs are the following:
LeEco flat 85-inch uMax85 full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV ($3,999.99 after rebate)
LG flat 77-inch 4K Ultra HD OLED 77G5P ($19,999)
Vizio 65-inch flat full-array LED with local dimming RS65-B2 ($5,999)
Note: Vizio Reference Series TVs support Dolby Vision HDR only and list up to 800 nits peak luminance.
Step-up 4K Ultra HDTVs
These models are 4K LED LCD TVs with most of the same features as the Premium sets except they are all LED LCD TV models and will present HDR (either HDR 10, Dolby Vision or both) but at brightness levels less than 1,000 nits, more than 0.05 nits of black level and less than 90 percent of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut recommendation. Many of these models (not necessarily all) will have 8-bit panels instead of those with 10-bit signal handling found in Premium models, and many (not all) will have 60 Hz native refresh rates, instead of the better 120 Hz for smooth motion handling. Back lighting is primarily edge-lit LED, which is typically not as good as full-array LED back lighting, and a few will offer direct LED back lighting which steps down from edge lighting in most cases.
Note: we have included Vizio P-Series models in this category because they don’t achieve the full 1,000-bit luminance level specified by the UHD Alliance Premium certification. However, Vizio considers these models Premium because they were designed for the Dolby Vision HDR format, which is not as sensitive to peak luminance requirements as HDR 10.
Some of 2016’s top performing “Better” level 4K Ultra HD televisions/displays in this category include:
Vizio 75-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Displays P75-C1 ($3,799.99)
Vizio 65-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Displays P65-C1 (1,999.99)
Vizio 55-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Displays P55-C1 ($1,299.99)
Vizio 50-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Displays P50-C1 ($999.99)
Entry 4K Ultra HDTVs
These 4K Ultra HD LED LCD models will be either TVs (with internal tuners) or displays (lacking tuners) that have many of the same features as the Better 4K Ultra HD models but will present HDR at peak luminance levels generally below 400 nits, or will not display HDR content at all. Many, though not all, models will have generally less bright and uniform direct LED back lighting instead of edge-lit or full-array LED back lighting and will not have premium contrast enhancement circuitry such as local dimming. Most panels will have 60 Hz native refresh rates.
Vizio 80-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M80-D3 ($3,999.99)
Vizio 70-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M70-D3 ($1,999.99)
Vizio 65-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M65-D0 ($1,299.99)
Vizio 60-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M60-D1 ($999.99)
Vizio 55-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M55-D0 ($999.99)
Vizio 50-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display M50-D1 ($699.99)
Vizio 65-inch flat full-array 4K Ultra HD LED LCD Display D65u-D2 ($899.99)
By Greg Tarr
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