What On Earth Is OLED TV?

OLED TV stands for organic light emitting diode television. They contain organic materials in the composition which makes it possible to produce a flatscren TV which has many advantages over other HD TV screens.

The technology involved in OLED makes it possible to create a TV screen which is flatter, lighter and able to produce deeper black and higher contrast than backlit HD TVs. Instead of being backlit, each pixel produces its own light, and when it’s off it remains completely black. Total black has long been one of the holy grails in TV technology as a black which is in fact grey adversely effects the overall picture. And because there is no need for backlight, a pixel next to a black on can be completely white (or any other colour) with no bleed, making contrast and colour noticeably better than other flat TV screens.

Bigger And Better

When the technology was first invented, as with any other new technology, it was prohibitively expensive, and the manufacturing process was less than reliable, meaning that a high proportion of TVs were scrapped before they ever even made it to the end of the production line. This difficulty still manifests itself in the fact that few OLED TVs are less than 55” in diameter as smaller screens are intrinsically harder to make. Because the process was wasteful and too expensive to realistically launch on the domestic user market, brands such as Samsung and Sony left the field. They concentrated on 4k HDR (4,000 pixel high dynamic range) while LG stuck with OLED, only to return when all the teething troubles had been resolved.

Loads Of Modes

Among the settings, all the normal colour, contrast, hue and stereo options exist, you also have a range of modes to choose. Because the TV needs to process so much detail and colour data you need to choose between viewing modes to get the best out of the TV. Action movies with fast movement and lots of noise require a different mode to wildlife documentaries or romances.
While OLEG technology is more expensive to make, the picture quality is outstanding. The screens are thinner and therefore lighter, and are more energy efficient than backlit flatscreen TVs. Also, because the screen is thinner, it is actually flexible so some manufacturers are making screens which can be bent to a parabellum, making a more immersive viewing experience. However, thanks to the thinness of the screen, the image is produced on the surface, making it viewable from a greater angle without the colours doing weird things.

Voice Or Hand Control So You Never Interrupt The Action

The current ads for OLED include LG’s ThinQ AI with the tag line “Listen, Think, Answer” as the Smart flat TV screen has smart voice activated technology built in. After reading their website, it doesn’t appear that the term ‘ThinQ’ is a play on thin and think, but simply a brand decision to mis-spell ‘think’. LGs ThinQ goods are those which are smart enabled and work in conjunction with your smart home devices, home hub, Google Assistant et cetera on a single open platform, meaning that they all talk to one another seamlessly as soon as they are in range of one another.

In the advert the hero of the story asks for the locations the movie he’s watching was filmed, the Smart TV tells him, and also brings up cast details on the bottom of the screen without interrupting the action. He asks it to dim the lights for better atmosphere, and once his daughter mentions it’s time to eat, he is able to call up the details for local restaurants, all without moving from his spot on the sofa.

The Sony Bravia is an alternative to the LG, they also are promoting the blacks and the incredibly high contrast that their product creates. Unfortunately, because of the very nature of their unique selling point, it’s hard to convey how much better their product is on the product you’re watch the advertising on. However, it’s clear that the that the richness of colour, the contrast, and the deeper than average black is something they too have nailed wonderfully. The difference being that the LG OLED TV can be spoken to directly, while the Sony requires you to speak to it via your smart speaker or home hub.

LG OLED TV Pros:

Direct voice Smart TV control, search, and control of other devices through the TV
Brilliant contrast and picture quality
Lightweight, low power and visible from wider angles than other flatscreen TVs
Controllable via voice or remote handset

Cons:

Expensive at the point of entry
Restricted in size options
Too many modes to flip between when changing programming

How To Plan Your Entry Level Home Cinema

Finding information on many aspects of home entertainment, wireless, SMART homes, home cinema and home networking can be really tricky.

If you’re only asking basic “how to” questions, but the information you get back is in depth technical specifics, product descriptions, or professional level discussions including baffling jargon and acronyms, the information is useless. So, instead of confusing you with useless data, we break it down for you.

When I started researching this article I Googled “how to design your own home theatre” just to see what other home entertainment fans were doing. Wow! Those guys REALLY take home cinema seriously!

So, this blog is going to be about what the average home entertainment fan can do in their home to create the best viewing environment, without building a soundproofed extension and furnishing it with rows of suede armchairs. Instead, this will be about screen and surround sound location. But if you do have a mancave and want it turned into a theatre, you’re welcome too.

You can skip straight to the bulletpointed list now, or read on to see why we recommend doing things the way we do

First of all, decide which room you’re going to convert into a home theatre and entertainment centre. If you’re thinking you can just put a new surround sound system into the living room, think again. The room you choose will need to be dedicated to movies and games or the entire point of investing in the effort and equipment needed is lost.

Next you’ll need to set a budget. If you know the size of room you’re converting, and the type of movies you’re going to want to watch then you’ll also know the size of TV screen you want, the number of speakers required for the best sound and the size of furniture you can have in there. The price of the TV and separates is item 1 on your budget, but then it may be necessary to add carpet, comfortable furniture, and thick curtains to keep out light and muffle sounds.

As well as the AV equipment itself, think about lighting too. Too dim and you’ll need to turn it up every time you misplace the remote or game controller, too bright and it interferes with your immersion into the picture. Lighting which is controlled by your home hub would be perfect, but a dimmer switch will do for now.

As well as dark, heavy curtains to block out the light and noise from outside your house, it’s a good idea to get dark carpet or rugs cleaned timely by carpet cleaning riverside. These not only baffle the sound while adding a soft, comfortable surface underfoot, they reduce the ambient light in the room too. Paint the walls a muted colour too, or, better yet, use a noise reducing wallpaper.

Build a rack for all your equipment. All the different pieces of technology you’ll need soon mount up, and hoping to make sense of them all if they’re strewn about will become impossible. Building a rack will mean that they’re all in one place, neatly stacked but with all vents clear and the wiring loom will be much easier to make sense of too. Nobody wants wires all over the place, but if you don’t go completely wire free, you at least want the cabling to be neat and tidy with all lines neatly identified. Find a good universal remote control too. Having half a dozen different handsets all over the place, all getting lost, needing batteries gets very tiresome very quickly.

Next you need to start making it look like a luxurious home cinema. You’ll want to place the primary seating directly in front of the screen, at approximately 1.5 to 2.5 times as far away from the screen as the screen’s diagonal width and the primary speakers should be at eye level and equidistant from your head, ideally forming an equilateral triangle of left and right channels and your head. The secondary speakers need to be set up behind you, ensuring they’re on the right sides of the room, otherwise the stereo effect will be lost. The subwoofer can go under the TV, or directly behind you. Some say it should be aimed toward the head for the best sound, while others say “no, point it at your torso for a bone rattlingly intense experience!”

Ideally the maximum width of sofa will be two seats. Wider than that and the benefits of a wide screen and surround sound will be lost. If you’re planning on having more than two people at a time watching, don’t put additional seating alongside your primary viewing position, but behind.

When choosing what furniture to use, heavy, comfortable couches with fabric covers are best. As well as being comfortable to sit in for the duration of a movie or extended game-play, the fabric will deaden ambient sound. Other furniture should be kept to a minimum. Flat surfaces reflect sound back into the room which can affect the dynamic surround. Keeping curtains closed when you’re watching will also prevent the windows reflecting sound back into the room as well as keeping out bright sunlight or street lighting.

Another reason to keep furniture such as dressers, chests of drawers et cetera to a minimum is data and signal. If you decide to use wireless devices and wireless speakers interference can come from many sources, and objects in between a signal source and the receiving device can reduce the strength of the signal, which in turn affects the output.

Finally, KISS. Keep It Simple, Seriously. Too much clutter, too many boxes and devices needing to be plugged in, swapped over, or charged, too much cable, are irritants. Even pictures and posters on the wall which can cause reflections and detract the eye all interfere with your viewing pleasure. You don’t want a bare room, but a zen-like peaceful space, at least until the opening titles run, is a must.

 

Now for that bulletpoint list:

• Dedicate your space to movies and games

• Set a budget, and tweak your expectations accordingly

• Think about how you’re going to light the room

• Use soft furnishings such as curtains and rugs to muffle sound and light

• Keep your home cinema clutter free

• Plan the layout of the room, speakers, subwoofer, screen and seating

• Use heavy fabric furniture for comfort and noise deadening

• Think about signal and data, keep the line of sight between radio sources and receivers such as wireless speakers clear

• And finally, keep it simple

This Week’s Tech Adds Explained

This week there have been a lot of ads for smart TV services which simply plug in to the back of a TV via the HDMI port, turning it from a run-of-the-mill TV into a smart TV.

We look at the differences and similarities in NowTV and the Amazon Firestick, including charges, functionality, adaptability and choice of services.

If you want to get all the services that a smart TV has to offer, all you need to do is plug in a smart device into the back of your TV, configure it and BOOM! The world of NetFlix, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Catch-Up and Spotify, right? Well, in theory. The reality is it’s a little more complicated than that.

Amazon Prime Fire Stick

The Fire Stick is a simple plug and play device which slots straight in to the back of the TV and allows you to watch TV from myriad sources, gives you voice control, Alexa functionality and immediate access to your home network. It also comes with a handset which allows you to scroll through shows, services, controls and settings. From the homepage you can find all the apps and recently watched shows, boxsets you’ve started and recommendations based on your viewing habits.

It also anticipates your budget, ie, if there is a show for free on one platform, such as NetFlix, and it’s a paid event on another, it will go to the free option as a default, but also let you know about the other options, if for example you can only stream it for free, but you can buy it to keep on the other channel. The Fire Stick is fast, so less buffering and freezing, and it has a strong receiver too, so if your TV is a distance from your wireless router, you’ll find the service better than with some other devices.

With the handset you can control like a normal remote, or talk to Alexa by pressing a button and speaking, meaning that she doesn’t start doing things or answering back in the middle of a show because she misheard or someone on screen said ‘Alexa’! But of course you can link up to your home hub, Echo, or other smart speaker if you want that kind of access.

The Fire Stick is capable of delivering Full HD up to 1080p, so if you want 4K Ultra HD or HDR then another device is for you, but as an entry level device, the Fire Stick is the device for you.

Pros:

Fast, stable connection to your WiFi and home hub

Easy to use controls and interface, handy recommendations.

At £40, it’s a very reasonable price, although this doesn’t include further subscriptions to additional services.

Cons:

Geared to Amazon services and products.

No 4K Ultra or HDR capacity

Search sometimes gives erroneous results

Now TV

The ad for Now TV makes it look like a simple solution that you can just plug and play, just like the Fire Stick. However, when you visit the Now TV website there are a number of different devices at different price points, all offering different functionality and services.

The Now TV Smart Stick, like the Fire Stick, offers HD TV and voice search, starting at about half the price while the Now TV Smart Box offers 4K. When you’re on the website you choose whether you want a stick or a box, then you have to choose which stick or box you want. This means choosing the ‘TV Passes’ you want bundled with your package. If you choose a sports TV Pass it’s not immediately clear whether you can also add an entertainment Pass. Click on the ‘Get Offer’ button and you’re taken to the purchase page, but besides a voucher code field you get no other options. But presumably because there is a stick option that has no TV Passes, and the devices themselves appear identical, it must be possible to increase your options.

While this, strictly speaking is a website/customer satisfaction issue, it bodes poorly for the customer. But ignoring the multiple TV Passes it’s possible to try for free for 14 days before starting a subscription, let’s look at what the devices actually do.

The stick itself is a simple plug and play device, plug it into the HDMI port and start watching TV instantly. After clicking around I found it’s possible to increase the number of channels you can watch, you need to buy further TV Passes via the website. Passes include 1000s of movies, hundreds of boxsets and live Sky broadcasts including sports. It also offers On Demand, Sky Store, UKTV Play and YouTube. Again, you can operate the search facility via the remote, however, looking at community pages and discussion forums, it looks like you will have problems if you want to synchronise it with your home hub without additional equipment or changing WiFi providers.

The Now TV Smart Box offers all the options that the stick does, but in 4KHD. Plug it in and make your options, including Sky Cinema, Sports, NickToons, Atlantic and many many more. Again it’s a plug and play device which is contract free, just plug it in, synch it with your WiFi, and add or delete TV Passes as you want. The website doesn’t actually say anything about whether the box connects to your home hub, whether there is voice control. You’re simply encouraged to buy the box, plug it in and add TV Passes.

Pros:

4K HD available on the Now TV Smart Box

The stick is cheap, and many of the TV Passes start with a free trial period

No contracts are required, simply buy the stick or box and start enjoying TV straight away

Cons:

It doesn’t appear to be easy to connect to home networks or home hubs unless you’re already on compatible platforms

Subscribing to multiple TV Passes can get expensive, notwithstanding the low entry cost

Trustpilot complaints include poor reception, picture freezing etc. poor customer service, problems with the stick itself and the remote not working properly.

The Wireless World’s Guilty Secret: Wires!

Start Living Your Life Clutter Free

When you’re thinking about installing your Smart Home WiFi, entertainment and security devices certain things make themselves annoyingly apparent. Cables.

Every electronic device naturally needs its own power supply, notwithstanding the application is ‘wireless’. Wireless speakers still need to be connected to the mains, even if they don’t need to be connected to the amplifier or TV. To keep up with the power supply demands means using all the available power points or littering your home with extension cables. And suddenly becoming ‘unwired’ is looking like more and more of an impossibility.

If we look at the case of wireless speakers a good deal of the problems with going ‘wireless’ come to a head. Despite the fact that the drivers don’t need to be connected to the device which is playing the sound, they do still need a power supply, so they need to be located near a power point, or have a long extension cable running to them. Wireless speakers also have a certain range. Take them too far away and they start to show a reduction in sound quality. They can also experience interference from microwaves, phones, and other wireless devices. None of these problems exist if there is a cable running to the speaker, although the wire can be unsightly, and pose a potential trip hazard.

With the advent of flat screen TVs it’s been possible to hang the screen on an interior wall. They take up almost no space and are easily located out of harm’s way. The down-side is that this means having several cables running up an otherwise blank section of wall. Read more

This Weeks’ Ads, The Latest WiFi Gadgets Explained

Our new, and hopefully regular update of the latest ads, with explainers and insights. Every week a new ad appears on TV, via social and on web pages, making the latest tech look life-changing. You didn’t know how you lived without it and now you know it exists, you’ve got to have it. At least according to the advertising. We take a look at what’s being offered, judge how useful it really is and the kind of use the regular householder will get out of it. #MythsBusted #ThatsActuallyBrilliant

Hive View indoor camera

Hive have released a new indoor home surveillance system called View. It’s designed for use inside the home, with stylish, good looking cameras which also have mics and speakers so you can use them to communicate with the home. Kids acting up? Tell them off via the security system. Dog chasing the cat? Yell at it over wifi! The cameras come with livestreaming so you can see what’s happening as it happens in your house, and person detection, so pets won’t set it off, but people in your house will. As well as livestreaming straight to your tablet or phone, you can record and keep footage for review later. The cameras are small, sleek, and come in a range of colours and finishes which should fit in with any home.

Pros: The cameras are small, and can be discreetly positioned in any room in the home. You set the time that they are operative, and you can also set them to ignore movement from pets, etc and only start recording, streaming or taking shots of people in the house at specific times of the day.

Cons: Your kids might feel a little intruded upon if they know that you’re watching them at all times. They don’t actually act as a deterrent. If someone has already broken into your home and is stealing your stuff, then gathering evidence is great, but wouldn’t you rather have exterior cameras which put burglars off of breaking into your house in the first place?

Ring Smart Doorbell

Ring produce a wireless intercom which lets you see who is calling, or lurking around your home and property. You can speak to people who call at the door, so if you’re busy, not in the mood, or even away from home altogether you can let callers know you’re on your way, that you can’t come to the door, or even that they’re being watched and should go away. The system has additional cameras available which can be installed anywhere on your property, and these have mics and speakers too, so if someone is in your garden, peeping in the windows or trying the back door you can tell them to leave or that you’ve already called the police.

Pros: the cameras can be installed anywhere, and there is an attractive bell press for the main entrance and the range can be expanded from a simple two way intercom and cam for the front door to an infrared night vision and motion detector enabled, multi-camera security system.

Cons: The hardware comes with a two year warranty, but with any wireless security camera, they’re only effective so long as the batteries are fully charged. A camera will act as a deterrent, but when the batteries start to die the signal will become less reliable. This will mean not being able to see or talk to people, and footage may not be captured in the event of a break in. Also, the intercom feature is all fine so long as you can get to your phone or tablet. If you don’t have reception, you’re busy at work, driving or out of service for whatever reason, you don’t get to enjoy many of the features.

Google Chromecast

Watching something ace online on your phone or tablet? Flip it straight over to your flatscreen TV to enjoy it on your home entertainment system for super sound and picture. All you need do is insert the dongle in the back of your TV, install it into your home hub, synch it up with all of your families’ laptops and phones and you can instantly switch from device to device. When you flip over, you basically ‘tune in’ your TV to the media you were watching on the phone, so you free up that device for other things such as calls, browsing other sites, or tweeting.

Pros: It’s not just video you can cast, many music and other entertainment channels and Chromecast enabled websites can be viewed via your home entertainment system, computer or phone. They don’t need any additional subscriptions and you can apply all the usual parental settings when you add them to your options.

Cons: Using it can be incredibly annoying for other people if they were in the middle of watching something when you flip to the show you were watching. And if you’re RFID enabled the channel will follow you if you’re walking through the house listening to music, which is fine, unless someone’s doing something and doesn’t want to listen to what you’re playing.

Look out for next week’s Ads Explained for more products explained. If you have any questions or an interesting point of view, get in touch. We love to hear from our readers and look forward to hearing from you.