From SUHD to nits: 2016 TV marketing terms and what they mean

It's a new year, and to go along with their TV announcements, companies have again belched out a cloud of confusing names for technology, new and old. Here's what they are, what they mean, and whether you should care.

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Every year TV companies come up with new terms to describe their latest, and sometimes not-so-latest, technology.

Why? Because marketing works. A catchy name can do wonders for sales. But it's also confusing, sometimes on purpose.

Savvy CNET readers know that LED TVs are actually just LCD TVs, that UHD and 4K are (effectively) the same thing, and that most marketing terms for TVs are generally a load of hooey. But they're still out there, and TV shoppers have to deal with them in some way, if only to know which ones to fully ignore.

With that in mind, here's what the latest marketing terms mean, along with the TV maker (or makers) that's peddling them.

SUHD (Samsung)

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Technically this is from last year, but it reached a new level this year. Along with being the hands-down no. 1 TV maker in terms of sales, Samsung is the heavyweight champion of obfuscating marketing (you can blame them for the "LED TV" thing). Are the two related? You be the judge.

So what is SUHD, anyway?

It's just Samsung's name for its top-of-the-line TVs. All of their SUHD TVs offer UHD/4K resolution, quantum dots (more on these later) and local dimming. They also support HDR (High Dynamic Range) content, but so does nearly every 4K TV announced for 2016.

We know the UHD stands for Ultra High Definition, but what does that "S" stand for? Super? Splended? Special? Snarky? Samsung? Nope. Nothing. It's just a letter.

Super UHD (LG)

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Confusing, but perhaps not surprising, LG copied Samsung's "SUHD" at CES 2016. Sort of.

The no. 2 TV maker in the world decided, yeah, sure, let's make it "Super." Super UHD, like SUHD, isn't a different resolution, it's merely the marketing term for LG's high-end LCDs.

What exactly makes them different from LG's non-Super LCDs? All have beefed-up HDR compatibility that LG calls "HDR Plus," said to improve color, brightness and contrast, as well as "TruMotion 240Hz" refresh rates. Which, as we've covered before, are bunk on 4K TVs.

Maybe you're wondering about LG's OLED TVs, which deliver better picture quality than any LCD TV we've tested? Nope, they aren't being called Super UHD.

uLED (Hisense)

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The no. 1 Chinese TV maker (and no. 3 in the world), Hisense is making a strong push into the US market this year. Its top-of-the-line Ultra HD LCD are branded uLED.

Much like SUHD and LED, this is not a type of TV, it's just a name that designates a collection of technologies.

They have local dimming and in the 65-inch, quantum dots.

Signature (LG)

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Another gift from LG's marketing team. The pitch is sort of like Acura is to Honda, with LG claiming Signature products are "maintaining their essence."

For TVs, it just refers to the two top-of-the-line OLED models, the G6 and E6, which are 4K and HDR-compatible, complete with Dolby Vision. Then again, so are the "cheaper" OLED TV models, the B6 and C6.

In fact, LG says all of its 2016 OLED TVs will deliver essentially identical picture quality. The exception is the 55EG9100, a 2015 model that will continue to be sold this year. Check out the full lineup here.

Triluminos (Sony)

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Sony's Triluminos moniker has been around for years. It has been used to describe several technologies, all having to do with color reproduction.

RGB LEDs and quantum dots were both used under the Triluminos name, though more recently it has been used on TVs with neither of those technologies.

In 2016, as was the case last year, Triluminos TVs have a wider color gamut than Sony TVs that lack the feature.

Spectros (Sharp)

This is just Sharp's name for quantum dots, found this year in its 9100 and 9000 series TVs.

Unlike Quattron, a Sharp marketing term from the days of yore, it doesn't utilize an extra yellow pixel.

Quantum Dots (Samsung and others)

This is the first of the names here that isn't specifically a marketing creation. Quantum dots are an actual thing! The name just sounds like something a marketing department, one headed by Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, came up with.

Quantum Dots are tiny particles that when supplied with energy, radiate a certain spectrum of light. They're very useful in creating TVs with wide color gamuts.

Last year Samsung called Quantum Dots "Nano-Crystals," but in 2016 it's using the term directly in conjunction with SUHD. Because why use just one incomprehensible term when you can use two for twice the price?!?

Nits (everyone)

Nits are also a real thing. Well, a measurement thing anyway.

"Nit" is the non-technical shorthand name for candela per square meter (cd/m2), which a way to describe luminance (i.e. how bright something is). You may have heard of lumens, which are similar, but measure luminous flux, not luminance. Lumens are generally used for projectors, while nits (and the US equivalent, footlamberts) are used for TVs and monitors.

Judging from CES 2016, you're likely going to see this term used a lot going forward, as it's one of the ways to describe how dynamic High Dynamic Range TVs are. Samsung is using the phrase "1000 nits peak brightness" to differentiate its SUHD TVs from LG's OLED models, which can get about half as bright.

Of course that's not the whole story. The way nits are measured is important, as is some perspective. As we've seen in our tests of OLED TVs vs. high-nit LCD TVs like the Samsung UNJS9500, brighter isn't necessarily better, even for HDR.

UHD Alliance Premium Certified (almost everyone)

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I want to be snarky about the UHD Alliance in general, and the Premium Certified in specific, but...I can't. Not wholeheartedly, at least not yet.

The UHD Alliance is a rather unprecedented collection of TV manufacturers, Hollywood studios and important tech companies you may or may not have heard of. Their stated mission? Make sure this next wave of 4K, including HDR and WCG, actually works. Getting all these competing companies to work together is a daunting task.

Premium Certified means the TVs meet certain specifications for HDR, WCG, and so on.

What TVs won't get the certification? Well, presumably any TVs from companies not in the Alliance. At the moment, Vizio is a notable nonparticipant, despite the fact that its high-end Reference Series seems as capable as any qualifying TV. There are also plenty of less-expensive models from Alliance brands like Samsung and LG that are "HDR compliant" (because they can play HDR content) but don't meet the specification.

In other words, Premium Certified is a badge to say a TV will work with everything, but the lack of a badge doesn't mean it won't. Nor does it give much sense to how well a TV might perform, of course.

That's our job as TV reviewers.


Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he's written on topics such as why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. OLED vs. Plasma, why 4K TVs aren't worth itand more. Still have a question? Send him an email! He won't tell you what TV to buy, but he might use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter@TechWriterGeoff or Google+ and check out his travel photography on Instagram.

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