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.
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
With that in mind, here's what the latest marketing terms mean, along with the TV maker (or makers) that's peddling them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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.