TV Jargon made Simple

Blog > Guides
13 Oct • 9 min read

We’re all guilty of it, we get to a certain level of understanding something and then we start throwing jargon and acronyms around like nobody's business. Which is fine if you work in the TV industry, but far from helpful if you’re trying to research your next purchase and are confronted with half a dozen buzzwords and acronyms which you’ve never seen before.

So we’re here today to set the record straight. We’ll be breaking down some of the most used terms and phrases about all things freeview and smart TV. These are terms that have been bandied around for yonks but you might never have been told what they mean. So here we are, pop the kettle on, grab a snack, and get ready to learn a thing or two about your favourite form of entertainment.

What does ‘set-top box’ mean?

A device that converts broadcast signals to analog or digital TV signals. For years, the set-top box (STB) was the cable box that "sat on top" of the TV. These days your box no longer has to sit on top of the TV, but they still perform much the same function.

What does ‘PVR’ stand for?

A personal video recorder (PVR) is an interactive TV recording device, it’s essentially a more sophisticated set-top box with recording capability - like the Manhattan T2-R. You might also see DTR (digital television recorder) referenced in some cases too.

Why is a Smart TV smart?

A Smart TV enables access to movies, shows, video games, apps and more - so if your current TV could do with a little more smarts then check out the Manhattan T3-R. Not only are these ‘Smart’ capabilities available in boxes, but you can also get smart TV sticks which are easily transportable from TV to TV.

What is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play stands out from the standard Freeview offering by adding the extra 'connected' element to TV viewing. The Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) can not only be used to access live programming, but also, thanks to a clever roll-back function, programmes that have aired in the past seven days. Want to know more? Check out our blog dedicated to Freeview Play!

What is HDR?

HDR stands for high dynamic range. The technology is built into almost all new TVs and it improves contrast so you see deeper blacks and brighter whites on screen.

This is software that prevents adverts from sounding too loud on your TV. It does this by compressing the dynamic range or better balancing the sound levels. Need more info? Then have a read of our HDR blog for more information.

What is an LED TV?

​​LED TVs use LEDs as backlights whereas LCD's used to use fluorescent backlights. ​​LED backlights generally come in two varieties: edge or direct (also sometimes referred to as full-array). The names are fairly descriptive: an edge LED backlight consists of LEDs running around the edges of the screen, while a direct LED backlight sits behind the LCD panel and shines light directly through it.

And, what about OLED?

With OLED TVs it’s the pixels themselves that produce the light - meaning there’s no need for a backlight and the TV can be even thinner than an LED one. They do this by using a thin film of organic compound (the ‘O’ in ‘OLED’) that emits light when you pass an electric current through it. This translates to a noticeable improvement in picture quality and contrast, particularly in dark scenes, because whereas with an LED TV the backlight bleeds and makes everything brighter, with OLED the bright parts of the picture don’t affect the dark parts.

What does resolution mean?

Resolution is the number of pixels that make up your TV’s screen. The big old tube-based TVs of old had a resolution of only 720 pixels wide by 576 high - this is now referred to as ‘Standard Definition’. Flat screen ‘High Definition' TVs increased this to 1280 pixels wide by 720 pixels high for smaller and more affordable TVs and 1920 pixels wide by 1080 high for the full HD experience. Most recently 4K TVs have become very popular and these have a resolution of 3840 wide by 2160 high.

It’s important to remember that picture quality is totally dependent on the source, meaning HD content like BBC One HD and ITV HD will generally not look any better on a 4K TV. Furthermore, the screen size and how far away you sit also have a massive impact - if you have a 42” TV and sit 10” away then whether it is HD or 4K won’t make much difference, and according to the boffins at it would need to be about 80” before you would! Check out their great article TV Size to Distance Calculator and Science. We recently wrote a blog on it if you want to know anything else!

What’s a ‘frame rate’ and ‘refresh rate’?

The refresh rate of your display refers to how many times per second the display is able to draw a new image. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). For example, if your display has a refresh rate of 60Hz, it is refreshing the image 60 times per second. Most computer screens, mobile phones and tablets refresh at 60Hz. But what about TVs? Well, the ideal refresh rate is really dependent on the frame rate of the content and in the UK all content is broadcasted at 25fps or 50fps, so UK TVs typically refresh at 50Hz or 100Hz.

The frame rate is how many individual frames there are that make up the video per second - more frames will lead to smoother video, and whereas this is great for sport and other fast-moving content it may not always be desirable. Movies are almost all shot at 24fps but when Peter Jackson filmed and released “The Hobbit” at 48fps the Independent described 48 frames per second as "kitsch and alienating", while the Telegraph said it gives the film "a sickly sheen of fakeness". It’s notable that no one has tried again and movies continue to be filmed and released at… 24fps!

Side note: did you know most movies are simply sped up by 4% (from 24fps to 25fps) for UK broadcast? And in many cases the audio is not pitch-shifted to compensate so you can actually hear everything is pitched a bit higher than it was originally!

What do ‘interlaced’ and ‘progressive’ mean?

In order to make video smaller (and broadcast more channels in the same space) the video can be ‘interlaced’, meaning each frame actually only contains half of the information. For example, if you take an HD resolution with 1080 lines, each frame will alternate between the odd and even lines, so the first frame will have the 540 odd lines, the second frame the 540 even lines, the third the 540 odd lines, etc. Our human brains piece it all back together so it’s barely noticeable, but literally half of the video has been thrown out!

‘Progressive’ simply means that all the frames are there in full, and is beneficial when watching really fast-moving content like sport. In the UK, sport is often broadcast in HD at 720p50, meaning a resolution of 1280 x 720 at 50 progressive frames a second, whereas most other HD broadcasts are at 1080i50, meaning a resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 50 interlaced frames a second. All modern TVs are clever enough to take those 50 interlaced frames and recombine them back together to make 25 progressive frames, which means 1080i50 is equivalent to 1080p25.

And that’s it. Those are our top 10 telly terms explained! Anymore you’re unsure about? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or if you have more to say, email us - we'd love to hear from you!