Digital Life

Review: Ultra-high definition TV the next big thing in home entertainment

Despite the lack of UHD content, these magnificent units are the current stars of electronics shop showrooms.

Ultra-high definition (UHD) may be on its way to becoming the default specification for Australian televisions, even though there’s no software for it and no UHD broadcasts – about the only things you can view on these screens that do full justice to the format are the demo reels they show in the stores.

Nevertheless, buyers are flocking to UHD like moths to patio party lights, especially with prices falling fast. It’s now possible to buy an extremely competent UHD television of 165cm, a size certainly big enough to appreciate the technology’s wonderful detail, for less than $3000.

Looking good in the house: Sony's ultra high definition TV.
Looking good in the house: Sony's ultra high definition TV.  Photo: Supplied

An online retailer is even offering a 140cm UHD for $999. Personally I’d never buy a television without taking a thorough look at it first, with lots of competitive models around it. You can do that in good stores but when buying on-line there’s a lot to take on trust. So do you feel like trusting a website?

Just as full high-definition (FHD) has become almost the universal television specification since the introduction of Blu-ray (there are still some TVs around that are only high definition, but they are almost all entry-level models) so UHD seems to be catching on so quickly that mere FHD TVs may wind up sitting on the shelves gathering dust.

Hisense 65XT880 165 cm UHD.
Hisense 65XT880 165 cm UHD. 

But at smaller than 140cm it becomes difficult to pick the difference between UHD and FHD. Also, for larger sizes, many UHD TVs have video upscaling to lift the definition of programming to UHD standard, but it works better with some inputs than with others and rarely looks as good as the native UHD you see in the store demos.

There is, however, an element of future-proofing in buying a UHD, but the crucial question is just how long you’ll have to wait for the future to arrive. When 3D was unveiled there was lots of talk about 3D broadcasts, especially of sport, but the broadcasters wound up being badly burnt and the experience is likely to make them reluctant slow to embrace UHD. As for software, well, who knows?

It could just be that by the time UHD becomes relevant, rather than just sexy, the television makers will have all moved on to mega-high definition. Or whatever they plan to call their next-generation models.

Hisense 65XT880 165 cm UHD

TCL U65E5691FDS 165 cm UHD.
TCL U65E5691FDS 165 cm UHD. 

Spotted for $2999
hisense.com.au

A good-looking 100-Hertz television with built-in Wi-Fi, the standout factors here are the bright, vivid colours, in addition to the UHD definition, something the demo video exploits. Online apps include Skype, games, social media and SBS on demand. It records broadcasts to an external USB drive and has four HDMI and three USB outlets, and a headphone plug, but only one pair of 3D glasses. A three-year warranty. Measures 146 x 88 x 35cm (WxHxD with stand), weighs 44kg.

LG LA9700 165 cm UHD.
LG LA9700 165 cm UHD. 

TCL U65E5691FDS 165 cm UHD

Spotted for $2847
tclelectronics.com.au

Another great-looking TV, with a hexagonal stand. You get in-built Wi-Fi and online offerings including social media, catch-up TV and SMH TV. The three-year warranty is also most attractive. There are three HDMIs and three USBs, and it records broadcast television to an external USB drive. Four pairs of 3D glasses are supplied and there’s DLNA compatibility. 146 x 90 x 29cm (WxHxD with stand), 38kg.

LG LA9700 165 cm UHD

Spotted for $3489
lg.com/au

A few months ago we saw it for $5289. A 200-Hertz refresh rate is a plus for sports fans, and passive 3D, rather than active, means much cheaper glasses ($5) that don’t need charging or batteries. Four pairs are supplied. The speakers retract on power off (but a soundbar provides better sound). Wonderful contrast here for an LED screen along with great definition. Three HDMIs and three USBs (all at the side). 145 x 91 x 33cm (WxHxD with stand), 44kg.

Verdict

The one that surprised us was the Hisense; it’s a terrific performer for less than $3000 and both it and the TCL, which is also most impressive, have three-year warranties. The LG is a longer-established brand, making it feel like a safer buy, and it’s attractive if you can’t afford proper speakers. Its passive 3D is a big plus.

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