You are still using a 1080p aka Full HD TV and wonder if it’s time to upgrade into 4K HDR TV. Well don’t be fooled by marketing tricks making you think you have to, it all depends on your needs and budget.
What is 4K also called UHD?
It the resolution of the image your panel can display, LCD TVs started with 1280×720 aka HD Ready sometimes also 1024×768. Then they went to a bigger resolution couple years later with 1920×1080 FullHD. Some PC monitors got a special resolution with 2560x1440p (that some people wrongly as 2K) a bit later. And finally 3840×2160 which is 4K which is twice bigger than 1080p.
What is HDR and is it important?
HDR or High Dynamic Range means the panel is capable of using a larger palette of colors called ”wider color gamut” than SDR Standard Dynamic Range TVs (which are simply non-HDR TVs), a higher contrast and also a higher brightness.
It will make the image richer thanks to more colors, deeper blacks and whiter whites, making the result more ”alive”.
It’s a feature that is seducing more and more gamer as newer gaming consoles like PS4 and PC with new generation of graphic cards have the HDR option to boost the imaqge quality.
More and more TV series are turned into HDR compatible as well as movies on Blu-ray.
Should a TV need 4K resolution to have HDR?
Many people think that to get HDR you need a 4K TV, but in reality some 1080p TV models made by Sony in 2017 got HDR, these W6xx and W7xx were made mostly for teenage PS4 users who want HDR for their games at a reasonable budget.
But this HDR is not HDR10 or other 4K HDR standard like Dolby, it’s a Sony made HDR specially designed for 1080p. So the result is not as good as a 4K HDR TV.
Will Sony continue to make these series in 2018? We will see
Entry level VS expensive 4K HDR TVs
Nowadays you can get a 50” or 55” 4K HDR Samsung, LG or Sony TV for less than 900$, while other models easily be in the 1500 to 3000$ for the same size.
Why is there so much difference in price between an entry level model and high standard one?
There are several factors than can boost the HDR effect on a TV: 10 bit capability, color gamut, local dimming, contrast ratio and peak brightness.
In 2017 all entry level 4K TVs had a good to very good 10 bit reproduction, Wider color gamut was present on most of them like Samsung MU7000 and Sony X800E but not on the cheaper one X700E. Local dimming is a feature that we rarely saw on 4K TVs under 1000$ in 2017, only the TCL 55P607 got it.
Contrast ratio is greatly dependent of the panel type, we have the worst for contrast which is IPS (used by Sony on X700E and X800E series) with poor blacks, the VA panel which is much better (Sony X9xxE, TCL P607, MU7000,MU8000…) and Qled for Samsung and Oled for Sony and LG. So entry level 4K TVs have IPS or VA panels, Qled and Oled are automatically beyond 1500$, they have perfect blacks so a perfect contrast.
Peak brightness on entry level TVs is low to average on HDR, it can be as low as 250 cd/m2 or very acceptable with 600ish cd/m2, while with solid 4K TVs like the Sony X930E it can reach easily 1000 cd/m2 which is considered by professional as optimal for HDR.
So you can get an entry level 4K TV at a very good price but it will lack local dimming and peak brightness which are very important for optimal HDR reproduction, if you want to have a good HDR TV then you will have to either get a relatively expensive Sony X9xxE series (which is cheaper than Qled and Oled though) or take the risk to buy a cheap TCL P607 that has a VA and Local dimming but no idea about its reliability over time.
Why is it too soon to buy a 4K HDR TV coming from a FHD one?
HDR on 4K TV is still a relatively new feature, we have several standards now HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision that are trying to settle as the best of all.
Like we saw, only the expensive models can reproduce HDR like it was meant to be, if you are waiting to buy a Sony or Samsung TV with optimal HDR reproduction for less than 1000$ then you will have to wait another year or 2, or crazy special black Friday offers.
HDR contents are still low, if we are talking PC or console gaming, only a handful of them were HDR compatible in 2017, they should increase a bit in 2018 but don’t expect to see all of them with HDR. Also bare in mind for PCs that if you want to play in 4K + HDR + 60fps + everything on Ultra, only very expensive graphic cards like the Geforce 1080 Ti can run them a these settings.
TV cable channels are still mostly on 720p, so don’t expect to see HDR contents here either.
Dsitance between you and the TV is also important, if you are watching close to your TV then 4K will show you more details, but if you are far from your TV like 2.5-3 meters away then unless your view is 20/20 you won’t notice a difference between a FHD TV and a 4K TV less than 55” size.
But 4K HDR TVs can already be the perfect TV for you
If you don’t mind the price of a TV like the Sony X9xxE (soon to be X9xxF) or even more expensive ones like Qled or Oled, or you want to simply get a TCL P607, then yes you can say it’s a great investment as it will give you future proof features with optimal HDR reproduction and 4K resolution that will give you hours of eyes orgasms playing HDR games or watching your preferred movies on BR 4K HDR discs.
If your budget is tight unless you definitively need a new TV set (your ”old” FHD one is broken or burned) or willing to get a ”non-big brand” TCL P607, then just wait another year or 2 (or even 3) till the ”expensive” features like local dimming and high peak brightness are included in entry level models.
Stay away from IPS models, the poor contrast ratio will make your ”old” VA 1080p still much better to the eye.
If you don’t mind paying more than 1000$ then I highly recommend the X930E for gaming, Oled and Qled TVs shine for movies.