4K or 8K, LCD or OLED? A Guide to TV Displays

LCD, OLED, mini LED, QLED – the endless list of acronyms and ambiguous terminology can make TV shopping confusing. Canstar breaks down just what it all means.

If you’re in the market for a new TV, you’ll no doubt have come across an abundance of confusing acronyms. While these acronyms provide important display information, if you don’t understand them, they’ll be of no use.

So, in tackling this tricky TV terminology, a good starting point is to first get your head around some display basics. Then you can weigh up the broader pros and cons of different offerings. From there, you’ll be able to narrow down your options and determine what sort of a budget you should be looking at.

Display technologies have evolved at pace over the last decade. And manufacturers continue to regularly bring new and improved TVs to market. This means that all manner of display combinations are available across a broad scope of screen sizes – from FHD to 8K, and LCD to OLED. Added to this, many manufacturers use specific marketing terminology to promote their wares.

In the following guide, we run through some of the key display features you should keep in mind when shopping for a new TV. And we sift through an assortment of acronyms commonly used by manufacturers.

LCD TV

Screen size: How big should you go?

Before delving into display terminology, it’s important to consider what size screen is best suited for your household. This depends on a range of individual factors related to the layout of your viewing area. And your budget.

Larger screens provide for a more immersive viewing experience. However, you need to ensure you have adequate space. Also keep in mind that higher resolution displays, with enhanced image quality, allow for closer viewing.

It’s worthwhile referring to manufacturer and retailer guidance on optimal viewing distances, while online size and viewing distance calculators can also provide insight. A breakdown of screen size and viewing distance specifics can be found here.

→Related article: Sony: New Zealand’s Favourite TVs

TV resolution: What is FHD, UHD, 4K and 8K?

TV resolution is measured by the number of pixels (tiny dots) that make up a model’s display. The greater the number of pixels, the higher the resolution. The pixel count is expressed as width by height (for instance, a display with 1920 x 1080 pixels has a total of 2,073,600 pixels).

Resolutions have evolved in recent years. From SD (standard definition) through to HD (high definition) and beyond, as manufacturers have set about bringing models with ever improved image quality to market.

The following are the resolution types typically found across the current (and emerging) generation of TVs.

FHD

Full high definition (commonly referred to as FHD or 1080p) comprises a display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is an extremely common display resolution. However, it has been well and truly superseded in recent years.

But, if you’re on a budget, it remains a good option.

UHD/4K

Ultra high definition (UHD) and 4K refer to the same resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels), with the two terms often used interchangeably. UHD/4K has become an increasingly common display resolution in recent years, with many streaming providers offering it as an option.

There’s plenty of room to manoeuvre within this category (according to your budget). As new models are regularly being released.

8K

Takes it to the next level, offering a resolution of 7680 x 4320 (four times that of UHD/4K). As it stands, 8K TVs are by and large significantly more expensive than UHD/4K TVs. It’s also important to consider that there is currently a dearth of actual 8K content available. Even with an 8K TV, the content you’re watching may not be in 8K.

For the time being, most consumers will probably be best off looking at UHD/4K options. But as 8K content becomes more common it will likely become standard.

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remote changing channel on TV

Display tech: LCD or OLED?

While manufacturers apply all manner of acronyms to their TV displays, it typically boils down to a choice of either an LCD or OLED screen.

LCD and OLED TVs have both been around for a while. But LCD displays have dominated the wider market to this point. However, higher-end OLED displays have become an increasingly popular option in recent years. And as the technology develops and prices fall, you can expect their popularity to continue to grow.

LCD

LCD stands for liquid crystal display. And this technology is used by a broad range of manufacturers. So there are plenty of options to choose from. As the name indicates, an LCD display harnesses liquid crystal technology to produce images.

The terms LCD and LED (light-emitting diode) are often used interchangeably. However, it’s important to note that LED TVs are simply a specific type of LCD TV. They simply use LED technology to provide the backlighting.

LCD has grown to become the most popular TV display technology over the past two decades. And, as we look at below, is marketed under a range of names. If you’re on a budget, LCD displays are a good starting point.

OLED

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. It’s a comparatively new technology that has carved out a niche at the higher end of the TV market, and which is poised for growth in coming years.

Unlike LCD displays, OLED displays do not require a backlight. This paves the way for thinner displays, as the display itself emits light. In terms of picture quality, OLEDs consistently rank as the better of the two display types.

Expect to pay significantly more for an OLED display, as higher quality typically comes with a higher price tag.

Display terminology: An assortment of common acronyms

As detailed above, different manufacturers apply a range of acronyms to their display technologies. When shopping for a new TV, it helps to build a clear understanding of these display terminologies from the get-go.

With this in mind, we’ve broken down some of the more common acronyms used by manufacturers:

  • QLED – stands for quantum light-emitting diode. This tech brings together quantum dot and LED technologies. According to Samsung, quantum dots are able to emit precise coloured light, improving overall picture quality.
  • Neo QLED – Samsung describes Neo QLED as “the next step of QLED TV”, enabling greater colour precision and light control, using mini LED backlighting (see below).
  • NanoCell – LG’s NanoCell TV line comprises its premium LED 4K TVs, which it states bring “pure colours and stunning resolution to everything you watch”.
  • Mini LED – is an evolution of LED display technologies. As the name suggests, it uses smaller LEDs for backlighting. TCL states mini LED backlighting “provides outstanding colour, contrast and brightness”.
  • Micro LED – harnesses even smaller LEDs that light the display itself. Samsung advises that the LEDs “individually produce light and colour” (it doesn’t require backlighting). Micro LED has emerged as a rival for OLED. However, the price tag is currently well beyond the average consumer.
  • QNED – stands for quantum nano-emitting diode. This has seen LG combine mini LEDs with quantum dot and NanoCell technologies. It states it “delivers an incredibly high-quality picture with deeper blacks and more vibrant colours”.

Stream with the best broadband

If you want to watch streaming TV, an ultra-fast broadband plan is essential. And if you want to know more about the best providers in the market, Canstar can help.

To help you get a clearer picture of broadband providers in NZ, Canstar Blue rates all the big providers annually. We survey thousands of broadband customers and ask them to score their providers across categories including Value for Money, Network Performance and Customer Service.

Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ internet providers compares NOW, 2degrees, Bigpipe, Contact, MyRepublic, Nova Energy, Orcon, Slingshot, Spark, Stuff Fibre, Trustpower and Vodafone, and awards the best our 5 Star rating:

See Our Ratings Methodology

The table above is an abridged version of our full research, so to find out more about NZ’s best broadband providers, just click on the big button at the bottom of this story.

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About the author of this page

 Martin KovacsThis report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies


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