Buying a TV can be frustrating if you’re not quite sure what you are looking at. Modern televisions have a baffling array of acronyms, formats and tech jargon all designed to promote and explain their features. but if you don’t know what to look out for researching your TV can be minefield.
In this guide we’re going to take a look at the difference in TV types – we’ll focus on PLASMA, LCD, LED & OLED and give you a brief explanation of how they work.
So let’s start with the basics and a TV format not mentioned above- The CRT.
Cathode Ray Tube is the old style ‘chunky TV’ (and monitor). The reason it’s so bulky is because the box has to house a screen and a projector gun. An image is created by firing electrons through this ‘gun’ onto a screen, exciting the particles on it. These TV formats have been on the fall since the early 2000’s with the introduction of far smaller LCD screens.
LCD’s are thin displays, normally used in laptop computers and TV screens. The term ‘LCD’ Stands for ‘Liquid Crystal Display’.
A liquid crystal display is a special flat panel that can block light, or allow it to pass. The panel is made up of segments with each block filled with liquid crystals. The colour and transparency of these blocks can be changed by increasing or reducing the electrical current.
LCD crystals do not produce their own light, so an external light source like a florescent bulb is needed to create an image.
Contrary to popular belief, LED TV’s are not a completely new format of TV- Instead they are simply an updated version of the previous LCD generation. LED use the same technology as an LCD TV, but instead of being illuminated by a florescent bulb from behind, they are lit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes). These are far more efficient and smaller in size, meaning the TV can be narrower.
LED can be broken up into two further major categories Direct (Back-lit) LED and Edge-lit LED:
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs directly behind the screen. This enables focused lighting areas – meaning specific cells of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively.
As the name suggests have lights set around the television frame. Edge-lit models reflect light into the centre of the monitor, and are the thinnest, lightest models available. Since they have fewer lights in the centre of the screen.
LED is the most popular format of TV on the market now due to its cost, size and versatility, although it is not the highest quality image available.
Plasma screens are made of 2 sheets of glass with a mixtures of gases stored between the layers. These gases are injected and sealed in plasma form during the manufacturing process, hence why we have the name ‘Plasma TV’.
When charged with electricity, the gases react and cause illumination in the pixels across the screen.
Plasma, is arguably superior to LCD & LED in terms of contrast and colour accuracy. However the format, due to costs, is restricted to larger screens sizes, usually 40-inch +. In these larger screen sizes, buying the Plasma option tends to work out cheaper. It is also used in the super-sized 80-inch+ screens as the plasma screens are easier, and more cost effective, to produce over a larger size.
OLED is massive leap forward in screen technology. Unlike its name suggests, OLED is nothing like LED.
OLED stands for ‘Organic Light Emitting Diode’ and uses ‘organic’ materials like carbon to create light when supplied directly by an electric current. Unlike LED/LCD screens, an OLED TV doesn’t require a backlight to illuminate the set area. Without this restriction of an external light source, OLED screens can be super thin and crucially, flexible.
As the individual areas can be lit up directly and not via an external backlight, the colours and contrasts are much better on OLED TV’s.
On the whole, OLED is thinner, more flexible, faster at processing images, creates deeper colours and more crisp in contrast. It is, however, still very expensive and will not be seen on consumer TV’s at an ‘affordable price’ for at least another year.
We may begin to see the technology more on phones, smartwatches and wearable tech, where the screens are a smaller size and are therefore more cost efficient.
The next step is to work out what size TV is most suitable for you.