TV continues to innovate, so what are the current must-haves and what we can we look forward to in the future?
The adventure of buying a new TV is a microcosm of the adventure of life. You know what you dream about having, you know what you actually need and you know what you can afford. And they’re never the same things. So, unless you’re hugely fortunate, you’re going to have to do some research. Sit down, have a think about what you really must have and what you can live without, make a list, get on the web, do some comparisons and only then strike out and venture into the stores.
What you’ll most likely discover during that research phase is that there’s a bunch of different technologies, all hiding behind silly or unhelpful acronyms or abbreviations, and all claiming to be absolutely critical to your home entertainment happiness factor.
Whatever you do, don’t ask one of the in-store ‘experts’ about any of these silly names. No, come to us. We’re comprehensively versed in the silly name department – for example, ‘GUNCE’ which we just made up right now and stands for ‘Gurus of Unhelpful Names for Consumer Electronics, but is pronounced ‘gunk’ – and will guide you through the maze of ‘features’ the manufacturers would have you believe are critical for the support of home entertainment life on earth.
Some of these are fairly obvious by now. Despite the fact that someone clever is going to have to try and think of a ‘fuller’ name than ‘Full HD’ when that term, itself, is eclipsed, full HD or 1080p resolution is a must-have these days. Not only because 1080i television broadcasts are becoming more common or the PlayStation 3 can (but rarely actually does) display games up to 1080p, and certainly not because of the 1080p format of Blu-ray, but more importantly because you instantly lose boasting points with your mates if your set is limited to the now-lowly 720p.
A decent number (at least three) of HDMI inputs, DLNA (or ‘Digital Living Network Alliance; basically ‘plug & play’ for your digital equipment, guaranteeing components badged DLNA – mobile phones, music systems, printers – can share content over a home network) compliance and even Internet connectivity (such as Panasonic’s recently announced ‘VieraCast’ internet content service with Amazon Video on Demand) are becoming de rigueur too.
Another obvious one, assuming quality is a priority for you, has to be to look out for compliance with standards like ISF, THX, xvYCC and ‘Deep Colour’, or 30-48 bit RGB, covered in the HDMI 1.3 specification. THX is, of course, the set of high-quality audio and video standards made famous by George Lucas’ Lucasfilm company, ensuring that a movie will sound and look great wherever it’s played. ISF, or ‘Imaging Science Foundation’ is a self-appointed group that tries to ensure similar standards for the visual realm.
Televisions that support DLNA can share images, music, video and photos with other DLNA devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, camcorders, over a home network
THX Certified displays have a proprietary THX Movie Mode that re-creates the cinema experience of movies on DVD, Blu-ray, HD-DVD and broadcast television in the home. The mode sets the display’s gamma, luminance, color temperature and other settings to match the levels found in the studios where movies are produced
TV s that support HDMI 1.3 can display the latest Deep Colour and x.v. colour standards. These expand the colors on the display from millions to billions, offering a vividness and color accuracy which has not been seen before in display technology
HD displays with Imaging Science Foundation logo feature calibrated onscreen presets for superior image performance. Previously, only high-end companies such as Pioneer and NEC bothered with these, incorporating ISF compatibility into their sets (so the picture can be calibrated to a much more detailed level), but an increasing number of companies are getting involved, with LG leading the charge both on that, and the THX sound, front. It’s probably not worth breaking your budget to pick up a television with ISF calibration features if you only watch DVDs, but would make more sense if you’re going for a premium home theatre installation.
TVs with THX Media Director allow digital media to self-configure home entertainment devices for optimum playback settings
Part of the latest HDMI connection standard, ‘xvYCC’ and ‘Deep Colour’ refer, respectively, to the range and depth of colour available. xvYCC is an ‘extended gamut’ colour space, allowing 1.8 times the number of colours than the more familiar sRGB specification used on DVD. So you get more possibilities for colour variation, if you like.
Deep Colour allows for up to 48-bit colour – in fact, way beyond what the human eye can interpret. But more shades allow for greater colour fidelity and can help decrease artifacts such as banding, increase contrast and, within the increased xvYCC space, produces extremely clear, vivid pictures.
These two colour standards are available on discs created from AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) devices, such as camcorders and some digital cameras, and advanced games, such as those for the PS3, can be created using Deep Colour. They are not yet implemented on DVD or Blu-ray.