The 5 questions you must ask when buying a new TV

Samsung recently released a firmware update for its 2018 QLED TVs which adds support for AMD FreeSync.

AMD’s FreeSync technology syncs the refresh rate of a display to the frame rates of the content being displayed, eliminating screen tearing and stuttering.

Samsung said FreeSync is currently only available at a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, and does not work at 4K.

FreeSync at multiple resolutions is common in PC monitors, however, and is supported by newer Xbox consoles AMD Radeon graphics cards.

This tool can make a significant difference for gamers, and is something that should be factored into your TV purchasing decision – especially if you are going to connect gaming consoles to your TV.

FreeSync is just one of many factors potential TV buyers should consider, though, and we’ve outlined the most important considerations to take into account when making a purchase.


Refresh rate

Refresh rate is a crucial specification, especially if you want to watch fast-paced sports or play games smoothly.

The refresh rate defines how many times per second a new image is displayed on the panel. This is independent from frame rate, except in the case of FreeSync or G-Sync displays.

It should be noted that many TV manufacturers list the refresh rate under their own classifications, such as “motion rate” or “TruMotion”.

These specifications are defined by the manufacturers and are for marketing purposes – the figures they reflect are usually higher than the actual refresh rate of the panel.

For example, the Motion Rate figure of a new Samsung TV is generally twice its actual refresh rate, depending on the model.

Make sure to ask what the true refresh rate is, measured in Hz.


Resolution

The resolution of a TV is one of the first specifications consumers use to differentiate products.

Resolution refers to the total number of pixels on the display, and many high-end TVs now sport 4K (also called UHD) resolutions. This means 3,840 x 2,160 pixels on the screen.

While resolution is a big indicator of image quality, you should also factor in the size of the display – as there is a much more noticeable difference between Full HD and 4K resolutions on bigger screens.

If you are getting a small TV, you might not need as high a resolution as you think.


Contrast and HDR

Every display, whether it is a TV or a PC monitor, has a contrast ratio specification.

Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest and darkest images a TV can deliver, and is a big contributor to overall image quality.

The contrast ratio is often displayed in a format like 1,000:1. The higher the ratio, the better contrast a TV has.

Some TVs, more often 4K models, will also state that they support HDR.

This means their contrast ratio and colour gamut meets the minimum requirements for a High Dynamic Range standard.

TVs with HDR support deliver superior image quality thanks to more vivid colours and higher maximum brightness, compared to “standard” displays.


Panel type

The type of panel a TV uses is another important indicator of its image quality.

Most modern TVs use LED panels, which shine an LED backlight through an LCD screen – which delivers different colours to each pixel.

Newer (and more expensive) models use more advanced technology, however, such as OLED or QLED.

QLED is a technology used by Samsung which makes use of Quantum Dot technology to deliver high contrast ratios and an impressive colour range.

OLED is used across a number of products, from TVs to smartphones, and forgoes a backlight by using organic, light-emitting diodes to deliver brightness and colour.

This lets OLED and QLED panels have higher contrast ratios.


Input lag

An under-appreciated specification which is very important to gamers is the input lag of a TV.

Input lag is the amount of time taken for an input to be registered on the display, or the latency between the display and the device driving it.

For gamers, the less input lag the better, as they want the action on their screen to be as responsive as possible.

Most TVs have higher input lag than computer monitors, although certain models provide good specifications for gamers.

Input lag is measured in milliseconds. A TV with 25ms or lower input lag will be great for gaming.

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