by Bill Monahan, Homebuttons
They are all Smart TVs these days and the same old rule applies: you get what you pay for. Higher price means better electronics. But TV manufacturers now compete on the basis of bells and whistles. You may be paying extra for “apps” you’ll never use. The most important criterion is still picture quality but today you buy a TV that fits in with your other electronic lifestyle choices. Ask yourself these questions before you go shopping.
1.DO I HAVE WI-FI?
What they call a “Smart TV” is essentially a TV that can access the Internet. If you don’t have Internet in your home,you can’t access the extra features a Smart TV offers. You have to connect your modem to the TV. If it is close enough you can do that with the same type of cable you use to connect your computer to the Internet. If you have Wi-Fi you can enter the name of your network and your password to have the TV access the Internet directly.
2. WILL IT WORK WITH MY EXISTING EQUIPMENT?
The big shakeup in home entertainment came when TV went digital. It uses a whole different process to send and receive the signals, so different cables are required. The common cable for digital use is HDMI, which stands for High Definition Media Interface. Modern TVs have plenty of inputs and outputs for these cables. An older TV had a lot of connections for the multi-coloured ends of the analog cables. If you are feeding a cable box, or a DVD player to your TV use an HDMI cable if you can. One HDMI replaced five analog cables. If you still use your VCR it is very unlikely to have an HDMI output, so send it to the one and only analog input that the TVs of TV include.
3. DO I NEED 4K OR ULTRA HI-DEF?
Now that we are all used to HD (high-definition), there is a new and improved TV standard that they call 4K or UHD (Ultra High Definition). Both terms mean the same, a TV picture with twice the detail of HD. It requires four times as much data. There is not yet a lot of content but Netflix has 4K content. Remember that it drinks up your data at four times the rate of a high-def movie so arrange for unlimited data from your service provider if you can.
The beauty of a high quality 4K TV is that it can “upscale” the image resolution to make regular HD look better than it does on another TV. So you still get the value of it while you wait for the content stream to catch up.
4. DO I WANT IT TO DISPLAY CONTENT FROM MY TABLET OR SMART PHONE?
For a lot of us everything comes through the phone or the tablet these days. If you buy a TV with “Screen Mirroring” it will let you download an app that wirelessly sends the image and audio on your phone or tablet to the TV screen, providing you with a nice big monitor.
5. DO I NEED ENHANCED SOUND?
If you have a home theatre receiver with speakers around the room you already have good sound. The only new wrinkle might be that if you are streaming programming from the Internet directly to your TV, you’ll need to run a cable from the TV to your AV receiver so you can play it in surround sound. Most commonly an optical cable is used for this.
If you don’t have surround sound, a soundbar is a good substitute, especially in a small room. It’s long and low, sitting under the TV. It contains several small speakers pointed in different directions. A good quality soundbar comes with a subwoofer, often one that connects wirelessly from across the room. It may also include sound processing, so that you can push a button to change settings between movies and music, or to tone it down when someone is sleeping. Some higher quality soundbars do a pretty good job of imitating surround sound, especially if the room is small enough for the sound to bounce around. It may have a setting to bring out the dialogue so if your hearing is failing you can catch it more easily. If it has Bluetooth capabilities that means you can wirelessly stream music from the playlist on your phone to play over the soundbar.
6. WHERE WILL I PUT IT?
Large flat screen TV’s are now relatively lightweight. Although your TV will come with a stand so that you can set it on a surface, many people find it convenient to mount the TV on the wall. (It’s a tricky and time consuming process to properly align everything but that’s a service Homebuttons provides).
Remember you’ll want to be spending hours watching the big TV in the most comfortable way possible. Don’t mount it too high above eye level. You might want a reciprocating bracket that will swivel in several directions or tuck back against the wall. The mount you use has to be the right match for the size, weight and VESA pattern of the TV. The VESA pattern is the layout of screw holes on the back of the TV where the mount connects.
Wall mounts vary widely in function and quality. The simplest is a pair of bars that hold hooks that have been affixed to the TV. Options are to have it tilt or to tuck it as closely as possible to the wall. The low-profile bracket which holds the TV tight to the wall must be carefully planned to allow for the cables that are connecting to it.
For that matter, the cables are usually the biggest challenge with a wall mount. The TV needs to be plugged in to power (and they always come with a short power cord) and it needs the cable connections to the source components. The cables running between the components and the TV can often be hidden in the wall (another Homebuttons service) or can be enclosed in less conspicuous paintable plastic channels.
When you’ve asked yourself these questions you can go shopping with a sense of what you are looking for. When you are actually looking at TVs, judge them by the quality of the picture. As it always has been, that is still the most important criterion.
When you get home, call on Homebuttons for expert help in installation and complete setup of your new TV. Customers of Leon’s Furniture in Owen Sound and Collingwood, where good service is guaranteed, are referred to Homebuttons when they are looking for top quality installation.