Got your eye on a new TV but confused by all the acronyms associated with various models? We’ve deciphered the technobabble, so you’ll know an LCD from an OLED and can make a more informed choice as to which TV type best suits your viewing requirements, and have a better understanding of what’s actually under the hood.
When affordable flatscreen TVs banished the old tube telly to the nature strip, the choice was like VHS and Beta – LCD or Plasma. LCD was the winner in market dominance, offering higher resolution, energy efficiency, and a thinner and more lightweight display panel. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, which is also used in laptop screens and camera viewfinders. Think of it like a sandwich, with a liquid crystal layer the filling between two polarized glass layers. An electrical current passing through the individual crystals enables them to block light and create images. LCD screens use Cold Cathode Flourescent Lights (CCFLs) as a source of screen illumination, and this backlighting creates a brighter screen.
LCD technology was pretty much future-proofed and can support resolutions from 480p to 8K.
LED screens are technically still Liquid Crystal Displays, albeit being lit by Light-Emitting Diodes instead CCFLs. That’s why you’ll find models described as LCD/LED. LED lighting offers greater contrast, a wider colour gamut, and a higher ‘refresh rate’, which is how often a picture/frame is changed per second. Edge-lit LEDs are the most common, with the backlight positioned around the edges of the screen unlike LCDs, which are backlit only. There is also Direct-LED, with the diodes located behind the screen to allow for more focused lighting of screen areas. LEDs can be individually dimmed, allowing more control over the light that’s emitted, providing better contrast, colour, brightness and black levels – the fundamentals of the best possible viewing experience.
If superior colour and contrast is a necessity, an ‘O’ can make a lot of difference! OLED means Organic Light Emitting Diode, which can produce colour and light without the need for back or edge lighting – a cooler description being ‘electroluminescence’. While the Organic element of OLED displays might conjure images of the breathing telly from the movie Videodrome, it’s simply a carbon-based film through which a current passes to create light. With better pixel accuracy, OLED TVs deliver higher response times, contrast levels and colour definition, as well as perfect blacks, making them ideal for dark home theatre rooms. The display panels are thinner and lighter in design than LCD/LED, and sizes start at a generous 55 inches.
Invented in 1897, the Cathode Ray Tube would make domestic television sets a reality. From cabinet-sized models to portables for the bedroom or caravan, the chunky ‘tube’ TV contained a projector gun that fired electrons onto a phosphorescent screen. A staple of every 20th century home prior to the arrival of the flatscreen, those who grew up with a black-and-white or colour model will fondly recall the sheen of static that would build up on the surface of the screen, and a central white dot that would slowly fade to black when the TV was turned off for the night.
REAR PROJECTION TV
Popular during the 1980s, an RPTV was the closest you could get to recreating the cinema experience at home. Well, almost… Movies on VHS – and Atari video games – never looked quite as sharp as they did on a CRT TV. A limited viewing angle meant you had to sit dead centre of the screen to get the best effect, but that was a minor drawback – it was all about the BIG screen experience! Using technology similar to CRT, a red, green and blue light source was fired from a horizontal traffic light array of projector guns onto an angled mirror, which flipped and reflected the image onto a fixed screen. Cutting edge back in its day!
PLASMA DISPLAY PANEL
Plasma TVs incorporated small cells containing ionized gas (or plasma) that emitted UV light when responding to an electrical field. Thicker, heavier and less energy efficient than its LCD competitor, a big Plasma TV could double as a heater in winter if you sat close enough to the screen. Although offering solid black levels and vibrant colours, the thick glass screen lacked the antireflective properties of LCD TVs, which could often result in you watching yourself watching TV.