HDR, 4K, UHD… What are they? Smart TV Buying Guide in 2020

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Valery Aloyants
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Choose a TV it is much more than measuring the gap you have in the living room and bedroom, choosing how much you spend and buying a TV that fits these two parameters. There is so much more. There are many types of televisions and it's not always easy to choose if you don't know where to start, new technologies are full of concepts that may seem understandable to many. HDR, 4K, UHD… everything you need to know if you're going to buy a Smart TV and what to look for.

In addition to what you like, whether by design or size or price, there are several concepts that need to be clear when choosing a Smart TV: quality, resolution, dynamic range… Let's summarize, section by section, what you should watch If you are planning to buy a Smart TV, what is important we take into consideration.

4K UHD: choice of resolution

Surely you've seen 4K everywhere lately: advertisements for mobile phones, televisions… Everyone is promoting 4K and bragging about it, including streaming platforms that offer us the option of premium plans. But let's go in parts, what is 4K? What should we consider?

Initially, 4K has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, but it is a resolution that will not adapt to the 16: 9 aspect ratio of televisions. What happen? To adapt the 4K format to a Smart TV, a standard of 3840 × 2160 pixels is used which coincides with the UHD (Ultra High Definition) format and that is why manufacturers they call 4K UHD technology.

Are there any differences between the two? Not in the case of televisions, even if we bring the concept to the cinema. In a Smart TV the resolution is the same as adapting 4K to the format of a TV implies that the resolution is identical and that is why we usually see that many manufacturers directly incorporate 4K UHD into their specifications. The resolution we usually talk about does not reach the 4.000 horizontal pixels promised by its nomenclature, but it does reach it in cinema.

Full HD vs 4K UHD

That the 4K we have on a Smart TV is not the same as in cinema does not imply that there are no advantages between 4K UHD and other resolutions such as FullHD. FullHD is still present in some TVs you will purchase, in more affordable lower and mid ranges and with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The larger the screen size, the more pixels that can cover the entire screen surface without loss of quality.

Is the quality of 4K UHD better? Yes. A TV of this type is worth buying if you intend to renew your own if it's too old and you want a big leap in quality. In addition, more and more manufacturers are betting on this technology and you won't have to spend a lot of money to find a balanced option. Another major benefit is that whenever we have more possibilities to watch 4K content, the consumption of movies and series is common and this is a point in favor of the investment in buying a Smart TV with this type of resolution.

4K content

Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions we ask ourselves is: why do I want a 4K TV if I don't know where the content is? 4K content is already very common and most streaming platforms offer us the possibility. Netflix has been offering us a large number of series and films in 4K since 2014 and we can also bet on this format on the main consoles launched from these dates: PS4 Pro, for example, Xbox One X or Xbox One S allow you to play 4K UHD content. In addition, there are also Blu-Ray players compatible with this resolution if we are a movie lover and want to have them.

In addition to the "pioneers", 4K UHD content is prevalent on all platforms. We can see linear channels in 4K in which we find football matches on Movistar + or we can watch series and films on Amazon Prime Video, for example, as well as rent them from our operator services.

What is HDR and why is it important?

HDR sta per High Dynamic Range o High Dynamic RangeIt is a technology that adds a wider dynamic range of light and colors, thus improving image quality but, more importantly, making what we see on television look much more like the image as it is. It is a frequent technology in photography and you will also see when you buy a Smart TV that many TVs have HDR so that the picture is more faithful to reality.

You may have heard of photography's HDR or even seen it on your smartphone camera, but it's not the same operation. In the case of televisions, what it offers us is a better contrast between the brighter colors and the darker ones, as if we saw reality through our eyes if that reality were in our living room and not on TV.

That is, HDR increases the differences between light and dark areas : the contrast level is higher, blacks are blacker and whites are whiter, the picture is more real that if we don't use HDR. With HDR we will get better quality and its main advantage is that it offers us more realistic images and a large number of colors: with HDR we have a billion more colors than traditional TVs and this, added to the advantages of a better resolution, makes us It would allow a more realistic and faithful image of what we see.

HDR10 vs Dolby Vision

As for HDR, there are currently two types: HDR10 e Dolby Vision. HDR10 is an open television standard that everyone can use freely and that we usually find in the specifications with proper names depending on the manufacturer we choose. HDR10 is not the first (Dolby Vision is) but it is the most widespread and known, the most compatible with most models since it is completely free for the manufacturer.

In addition, there is also the HDR10 + which incorporates the characteristics of the first but improves. HDR10 + is an update that allows dynamic metadata to be included in the image that would allow us to change the color of the content or the brightness frame by frame or scene by scene, making it perfectly suited to what the person who created that movie or series wants to show. In the case of HDR10, the metadata would not be dynamic but it would be correct.

For its part, Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision came first and may be considered better but it is not free and this makes it less popular. Dolby owns this technology, and manufacturers have to pay a fee in case they want to use it when creating a Smart TV.

Also, it requires specific hardware inside. In addition to the dynamic metadata that we also have in HDR10 +, Dolby Vision supports up to 10.000 nits of brightness (versus 1.000 in HDR10 or 4.000 in HDR 10+) and supports content fino a 12 bit (vs. 10-bit HDR10). But, as we say, normally when you go to buy a TV that indicates it has HDR it will not be with Dolby Vision (unless you specify it) but with HDR10 or HDR10 + although it may have a nickname.

View HDR content

At this point, you may be wondering the same thing about 4K: why would I want to buy a Smart TV with HDR if I don't know where to watch this type of content? Streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video support this type of technology. If you are using a compatible device, the description of Netflix or Prime Video will show you a label indicating “HDR” as long as you have a streaming plan that supports Ultra HDR in the case of Netflix. You will also see the Dolby Vision label if your TV supports this technology. On Netflix you will find both the labels and the two logos next to the title you want to see at all times.

What else should we look at

In addition to looking at the brand (if we are interested in one operating system or another) or the resolution, there are also other aspects that we must consider when choosing, such as the type of panel it uses, connectivity, sound ...


It is probably the most important thing when looking at and choosing which Smart TV you are going to buy. From thirty inches to over sixty inches there are options on the market for home use, but the decision will be based solely on on the space you have in the living room or bedroom. You must have a minimum distance between the sofa (or chair or bed) which will be decisive in choosing one size or another. The OCU has a study that allows us to see the thumbs, which are indicative, based on the space from the television cabinet to the place where we will see it:

  • 1,5 meters to 2,3 meters up to 32 inches is recommended
  • At distances from 2 meters to 2,8 meters, televisions between 40 and 43 inches
  • From 3,4 meters to 3,2 meters, televisions between 46 and 49
  • At distances from 2,5 to 3,3 meters, 50-inch televisions

They are indicative measures and will vary according to the use we give or ourselves. It is possible that you feel comfortable two meters away with a 55-inch TV, that it is not uncomfortable, and that you want the largest. The most advisable, in addition to general recommendations, is to try it.

Panel type

Not all TVs bet on the same type of panel. Currently, only the cheapest TVs are betting on LCD panels, but the most modern, the most expensive and modern ones are betting on OLED technology. The advantages of OLED models are that they offer us more realistic colors or purer blacks.

Although in a few years we will see how miniLEDs and microLEDs are globalized, for now there are two options you can choose from when buying a Smart TV: LCD and OLED.

The panel type of the Smart TV goes beyond the resolution and we find LCD and OLED. In the case of OLED, it uses a series of pixels that turn on and off individually. For their part, LCD TVs have a system or a spotlight that lights up from the back of the screen: there is a backlight from the background but in this case the LED backlight.

In the beginning, LCD technology worked through fluorescent tubes, but now and for decades LED panels have been used for lighting, allowing them to be thinner and more energy efficient.

The advantage of OLED panels is that i blacks are more black, i colors stand out more and contrast is better due to the fact that unnecessary pixels can be turned off without having to undergo the ghosting effect that causes a halo of light. around. The quality is better but you will have to pay more for them.


You need to pay attention to the sound when buying a Smart TV but don't get carried away by this section as the most important because it has a solution: you can improve the sound of your Smart TV with sound bars. 

In fact, even if you take it into consideration and watch it, if you want totally immersive good sound, you will have to resort to some additional external system such as speakers or sound bars because Smart TVs do not have excellent and unbeatable quality. Therefore, it is convenient to take it into consideration, but it is not a determining factor in your choice.

While soundbar or surround equipment is essential if you want the highest quality, some Smart TVs deliver technologies such as Dolby Atmos or DTS: X which will make us improve the experience of watching a movie without having to pay "extra" for any of the most recommended peripherals to improve the sound.


It is important to look into connectivity when buying a Smart TV. Not all TVs, regardless of panel type or resolution, have the same connectivity options. For example, it is essential to note that they have HDMI ports and even better if they use the HDMI 2.1 standard, although in many cases we will find the HDMI 2.0b standard.

It is also useful that they have USB ports to connect a hard drive for Smart TV (almost all carry it but it should be fixed) and much better if it is the USB 3.0 ports that will allow us a good transfer speed in the 4K content.

In addition to the bases, USB or HDMI, it is useful to have other types of connections. Eg, with Bluetooth connection if you want to add a wireless keyboard or mouse to control the Internet from your TV in a comfortable way, for example. Another key connectivity is that it has good WiFi technology when playing 4K content or a physical Gigabyte Ethernet port.

Smart TV and types

Beyond the image quality, resolution, we have to consider the type of Smart TV when choosing a new TV as they are not all the same. As it happens in mobile phones, it will depend on the chosen model which is in one way or another, with an interface or another.

But first of all, let's review the basics: what is a smart TV? It is a smart TV, similar in shape to the regular ones but that is connected to the Internet and allows us to access applications and services of all kinds. You can watch traditional TV channels but also access video, audio, and even social media streaming services. Although its main advantage is access to streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Filmin or any other platform we have contracted for.

Types and operating systems

They are all the same? No. They all perform the same function. That is, there they all allow us to connect to the Internet to access applications and services, but not all are the same and there are different operating systems.

Samsung has its own television operating system, which is Tizen. LG, meanwhile, runs on the WebOS operating system. And other brands are betting directly on Android TV as a global operating system, as well as devices like the Xiaomi TV Box.

The main differences are in compatibility or interface. We can't say there is a better OS as an exact statement why it will depend on tastes of each, from the applications we try to have. In general, almost all or the most important applications (Netflix, Disney + ...) are available on Tizen, WebOS and Android TV and the first two have a more comfortable and intuitive interface, but Android TV incorporates some added services such as the ability to use the Google Assistant, for example.

Buying Tips

Don't buy the first TV you think will fit the features you want if you're not in a rush, find and compare and follow some basic tips:

  • Don't trust all offers you see on the Internet, on any website and with great discounts. There are usually good discounts online, but not all of them are trustworthy and it's important to look up information from the store, look for reviews, and inquire before spending money on television.
  • The same model can be a different price in two stores at the same time. Or use Amazon price comparators that will track the product and let you know if it drops in price or is worth buying.
  • Check the space. It's essential: check the space you have for the TV, check the space up to the sofa.
  • Look for opinions, information , analysis to know the advantages and disadvantages of each model before jumping into one without thinking.
  • Try to test it. If you want to buy a Smart TV online there is no problem, but if you have any doubts, go ahead and try it: many malls or specialty stores have some of the most popular models on display and you will be able to see how they look and what they offer us. .

The future: MicroLED, miniLED

We currently have large, high-quality televisions, but over time they grow even more and not only improve the size, but the quality, on the contrary, the brightness. For this reason, the future of televisions depends on two technologies: miniLED and microLED. Micro-LEDs are not yet widespread, but they have a promising future.

For its part, mini-LED screens offer us spectacular quality in televisions or panels between 65 and 75 inches. It is essential to remember both concepts as they will give a lot to talk about. And they are already giving it, thanks to the improvements it supposes in everyday vision.

What is Mini LED?

As the name suggests, mini LED is the technology that opts for smaller than commonly used LEDs and the panels are built the same way as QLED TVs but with smaller diodes and more of them. They are illuminated by a main light source and are small size LEDs, up to 1.000 times less than those than conventional televisions, so we get more in the same space.

How can we make money from it? Blacks are perfect and there are no halos, we can turn an area on or off more independently due to the fact that the diodes can be grouped into small areas. This way we get precise lighting and local dimming on the screen.

The mini LEDs are designed for panels of approximately 65 inches, no more. It may seem like a limited option when looking for professional technology for very specific areas but more than enough for most homes where we will have a high quality. In fact, there are already some TVs from brands like TLC; LG or Samsung who bet on this technology and are around 2.000 euros.

What is microLED?

Even smaller than the previous one is the microLED technology. Not only does its size vary, but also the way the screens are built. That is, there is no great source of light which makes them enlighten, but each of the pixel lights up independently e therefore they can be turned off when not needed. We get deep blacks and save energy during this time when the pixels go out.

We also have better brightness than the miniLED and it is estimated that up to 5.000 nits can be achieved. Another major advantage over the previous ones is that there is no inch limit. You probably won't be able to get a 100-inch screen at home, but if you want, you could have a microLED screen of this size without any problems.

NNo size limitations, although the price itself can be a problem because they can range from € 150.000 to € 600.000 for 4K TV quality, so for now, they have micro-lacquered the future but are far from an affordable option of any pocket or home. Also, for now, there are few brands that have microLED options.

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