Ever since LCD TVs hit the scene about 10 years ago, we've seen small and incremental changes — better backlighting, higher quality panels. The last couple of years has been tumultuous, though, and 4K is now a thing (you'd be silly to buy a TV without it). With that done, TV makers are back to the minor iterative updates. But it's 2016, and even those updates are pretty damn cool.
Samsung's continued development of its quantum dot LED-backlit LCD televisions continues to pay dividends in the screens' wide colour gamut, LG's OLED TVs support more HDR standards than ever, and Sony's LED backlights are continually more powerful and versatile. But these changes aren't the kind of thing that you'll be able to see clearly when you're buying your next TV. The most obvious differences are away from the screen itself.
At IFA this year, Philips showed off a 4K, HDR-ready OLED TV — a really slick thing, with a thin chassis and straightforward modern styling. But it's not the TV's picture so much that stood out — being an OLED, that already means excellent contrast and deep black levels, albeit without the high maximum brightness of a LED screen.
It's the fact that Philips has imbued the 901F with its Ambilight LED screen-lighting system, a series of red-green-blue LEDs around the rear of the panel that reflect light off your wall while you're watching, mirroring the content that you're watching to reduce eye fatigue and create a beautiful visual effect. It's a small extra feature, but it looks incredible and makes a quantum of difference — you either have it or you don't.
Danish design and technology house Bang & Olufsen has the cleanest ever implementation of Android TV I've ever seen in the new BeoVision Horizon, a 4K Ultra HD TV built around the company's minimalist styling. It looks great, and works even better, and as you'd expect the Horizon's picture quality flatters any high-quality media that is played through it.
But, again, it's not Android or the design that might appeal most to buyers. It's the fact that B&O has spent years building a multi-room, multi-speaker audio system that works seamlessly, letting you connect a soundbar or stereo speakers or an entire house of audio and play your TV and movies through them. That might sound like a small extra, but when you experience it, you realise the importance that it has.
IFA this year was the most obvious demonstration of this that I've seen yet. With 4K here, HDR here, and OLED and quantum dot panels and LED backlighting getting continuously better than ever, most of all TVs that you can buy in 2016 are going to look amazing. It's what they have extra that will tip the scales in their favour. [Philips]