So you want to upgrade your TV to watch the Rugby World Cup in hi-tech, new-generation comfort and precision – so what should you buy? What's the best type of TV for watching sport?
Forget brand and model names just for a minute. One group of experts says your best bet is a three-point plan: an Ethernet cable, an upgraded router and, finally, a smart TV.
Harvey Norman's national sales & marketing manager, Dan Robinson, says the new generation of Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic smart TVs (which connect to the internet) all have the Spark Sport app required to watch the RWC live by streaming (though other cheap entry-level sets do not).
But, as New Zealand and Spark Sport have never done this before, there remains residual concern among viewers that the live feed might drop out or otherwise affect their watching of the All Blacks.
"We highly recommend hard-wiring your TV," says Robinson. That involves the (very cheap) purchase of an Ethernet cable, one end which plugs into the port present on all modern TVs with the other end clipping into the router or modem.
Upgrade your router while you're at it, Robinson says: "I did this the other day. I bought a new router and instantly got better speed and performance at home. Typically, internet providers give you a cheaper router and upgrading can work wonders when it comes to performance."
Even if people have a TV without an Ethernet port, a new Google Chromecast Ultra sells for about $109. A Chromecast turns a non-smart TV into a smart one, allowing streamed content to be transferred from other devices to the TV. The new version has an Ethernet port, again enabling hard-wiring.
"The reason we are strongly recommending this to all our buyers is wi-fi," says Robinson. "It can be glitchy; speed loss and drop-outs can be significant. You don't want to go to the trouble of upgrading your hardware and find your viewing is interrupted or unsatisfactory.
"We also advocate this because we can't control what Spark Sport do. We know, from the huge number of people buying smart TVs with the Spark Sport app on board, that they are gearing up for the World Cup.
"But we don't want people coming back saying the TV doesn't work properly – when it is not the TV at all. So we are trying to educate people about what to do to ensure they have the best chance of enjoying the World Cup live."
Finally, select your new TV. Robinson says the big four – Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sony – are responsible for 87 per cent of all TV sales right now, according to industry data. All have the Spark Sport app and other apps (like Netflix, Lightbox, Neon, Amazon Prime, TVNZ On Demand, YouTube, Sky Go, Three Now) needed to best enjoy the streaming phenomenon changing the way most people view TV.
So here are the technology choices: high definition and ultra-high definition (HD and UHD), with UHD including 4K and 8K. If you are going for SD or even HD, understand that many of the cheaper, entry-level sets are not the best for viewing sport.
Robinson says the key is how the TV captures fast movement, what is sometimes called "motion flow". The cheaper sets have 50Hz processors; medium-premium sets have 100Hz processing power, meaning they capture sport better.
4K TVs look better, says Robinson, even if you are just watching HD content on a 4K TV. The RWC is not being streamed in 4K but a 4K TV will still produce a better viewing experience.
"They look better, the colour is better and the overall picture quality is much better – you can see the difference. If you watch 4K content on a 4K TV, well, that's a game-changer." Netflix Premium has most of its latest shows and movies in 4K, for example.
Top of the line is 8K and Robinson says it doesn't matter that there is little 8K content around right now. There will be soon, he says, and you are future-proofed with an 8K set.
More to the point, 8K TVs have clever upscaling technology – no matter what definition the content is filmed in: "If you look at a 4K next to an 8K TV, even with 4K content, the 8K TV upscales it – it is really noticeable.
"That's true whether the content is HD or 4K – it upscales it to its own version of 8K. It has 16 times more pixels than Full HD and four times more pixels than 4K; the colours, the precision and the fine detail are tremendous."
Of course, the price tag rises along with screen size and technology improvements; 8K is highly recommended if you are really into big-screen TVs, a trend Harvey Norman has noted.
They used to sell more 40-50 inch screens than anything else. Now that has moved to 55-65 inches and more people are buying 75-inch and 82-inch screens – with several 82-inch sets sold recently costing about $17,000, says Robinson.
One customer even spent $80,000 on a giant 98-inch screen – for which Robinson says 8K is a must: "Those really big screens need 8K and you need a big room for them. We deliver and install this TV at no extra charge as it takes four people to lift them."
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