There are some amazing deals on 4K television sets out there at the moment. But you shouldn’t buy any of them.
Black Friday will see numerous outlets featuring dirt cheap sets. Before we get into the meat of this post, here’s what I’d look for in a new TV if you’re going to buy one right now:
- 4K resolution (roughly 4 times the resolution of a 1080p screen.)
- Make sure it’s certified UHD Premium. This will, among other things, ensure that it’s a 10-bit TV.
- Don’t buy anything without HDR (High Dynamic Range.)
- Consider an OLED even though they’re more expensive. The deep blacks are incredible.
- Make sure the TV has a relatively low input lag.
Why wait until 2018?
One thing that none of these Black Friday TV deals will have is HDMI 2.1. This new, updated format increases bandwidth from HDMI 2.0 in order to begin to pave the way for 8K television and beyond. That won’t matter for a good long time.
What will matter is the new format’s audio, HDR and game support.
The new cable will allow you to send object-based sound (Dolby Atmos) over eARC to supported soundbars.
It will also support dynamic HDR, allowing for even more incredible colors. Basically dynamic HDR makes it possible to display scenes, or even frames, at their ideal levels of darkness and light on an even wider color gamut. And it will allow 4K refresh rates as high as 120Hz.
Game Mode VRR
Most importantly for gamers, HDMI 2.1 will support Game Mode VRR. This is similar to what PC gamers have with Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync. This means support for variable refresh rates, enabling a 3D graphics processor to display an image at the exact moment it’s rendered. This allows for more fluid gameplay, reducing lag, stuttering and tearing that would normally occur when frame-rate dips occur.
Right now, games have to match frame-rate to the display. So if a game is running at 45 fps but the display runs at a 60Hz refresh rate, the game has to repeat 15 frames to fix the timing. Any game not running at 1:1 (60fps to 60Hz) or 1:2 (30fps to 60Hz) will need to do this, compromising fluidity in the process. Meanwhile, when a game has frame drops it’s quite glaring.
What Game Mode VRR does is create perfect 1:1 sync via variable refresh rates. That means game developers can target a range of frames-per-second and Game Mode VRR will perfectly sync any given frame with the TV. A section of a big, detailed open-world game that would normally lead to stuttering because the frame-rate was out of sync with the display will now sync up instead and look much more fluid.
Compromises made to graphics (targeting 60fps) or motion (targeting 30fps) will become less restrictive in the future, allowing game developers to make the best looking games possible with variable framerates perfectly synced to your TV. The same applies to filmmakers who want to shoot a film at 48fps and other content as well.
But all of this will only work with HDMI 2.1, and you won’t find that in any Black Friday 2017 deals. The technology will roll out in 2018 across various brands and sets, and it’s entirely possible there will be excellent TV deals a year from now with HDMI 2.1 baked in.
It’s also worth noting that there’s already one video game console that supports this format: The Xbox One X. It’s one of many good reasons to choose that console over any of its rivals.
HDMI 2.1 may not be the biggest concern for you as a TV consumer, but it’s at least worth considering before making a big purchase that will last you for years to come.
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