Costs are down, and quality is up. Here’s what’s out there and how to look for another TV.
There has never been a better time to buy a tv. LCD and OLED TVs have practically all of the problems sorted out, and costs are now cheaper than they’ve ever been. They were, at least, until the recent chip shortage hit.
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Regardless, high-end 4K models cost roughly half the price of a few years ago, and excellent mid-range models (55- to 65-inch class) are now available for under $1,000. We’ll give you our top picks as well as an in-depth look at the specifications and features you’ll come across when shopping.
The first challenge in understanding today’s TV industry is the alphabet soup of acronyms and phraseology (e.g., LED, mini-LED, micro-LED, LCD, HDR, OLED, quantum dots, and more). Manufacturers want to add their proprietary, generally meaningless terminology to thicken the literary broth: What are the differences between Contrast EliteMax, Q Style Elite, and X-tended Dynamic Range PRO?
What’s the good news? You may disregard all advertising jargon and concentrate on just three things: color, contrast (including black quality), and brightness. Your eyes don’t change, but technology does.
The following are our top picks in three categories. If you want to learn more about why we chose them, there’s a detailed buyers’ guide lower down that will come in handy when you go shopping. If you want to go right to a list of our most current reviews, click here.
The Best LCD Tv
Samsung QN90A Series: Quantum dot 4K UHD TV (55-inch class)
Read SeeDPC’s Review
Samsung offers the most vibrant LED-backlit LCD image possible. Despite a few flaws, such as the inconsistency of the lighting and the lack of analog hookups, It still is a high-quality product.
Samsung has made the best LED-backlit LCD TV on the market by combining a micro-LED backlight with quantum-dot technology. OLED TVs still have greater black levels, but while this TV isn’t cheap, it’s not nearly as expensive as a high-end OLED set. We have a few bones to pick in our review, but this TV is worth the recommendation.
Sony X900F Series: 4K UHD LCD TV (65-inch class, model XBR65X900F)
The XBR X900F received four stars based on Sony’s excellent image processing. However, the color scheme is excessively blue. While the 900F is bright, it doesn’t have the same HDR impact as its competitors.
Sony is the best when it comes to LCD image processing. It’s the TV to buy if moiré, shimmering in detailed pans, jagged text, and backlighting blockiness drive you crazy.
The Best OLED Tv
Sony Bravia XR A90J: Master Series (55-inch class, model XR-55A90J)
A stunning design, luscious OLED-under-glass images, enhanced processing, and the best audio you’ll hear from a TV are among the highlights. It’s one of the best 4K UHD TVs we’ve seen, if not the best.
LG no longer produces our favorite OLED tv.; Sony’s Bravia XR Master Series A90J has taken its place. This smart TV has a stunning image and Sony’s daring audio system, which mounts the driver units on the OLED panel itself, thereby turning the entire display into a speaker. The Google TV operating system makes it simple to locate great content, and the universal remote comes with backlit and is easy to use even in low light. This one is going to be challenging to beat.
LG C1 Series OLED: 4K UHD TV (65-inch class, model OLED65C1PUB)
It’s like saying the Portofino isn’t the best Ferrari you can buy if you say LG’s C1-series isn’t the best OLED you can purchase. It’s a great TV, and it’s a lot less expensive than OLEDs have been. To select a flaw, we had hoped for better picture processing.
We all have to wait and see if LG can reclaim the title of “Best OLED TV,” but with its C1-series 4K OLED for less than $750 less than Sony’s best OLED, LG comfortably claims the runner-up slot.
Best TV for the buck
This quantum dot mini-LED TV punches much above its weight class in terms of brightness, contrast, and color. It’s a strong contender until you consider the significantly more costly TVs from major companies.
TCL is gaining a reputation for producing low-cost smart TVs that give exceptional value. Its 55-inch 6-series is no exception, combining quantum-dot color with mini-LED backlight technology to create a set with excellent color, brightness, and support for the Roku TV operating system. It appeals to us greatly.
The best deal on 8K TVs
TCL 6-Series 8K: Ultra-High-Definition Tv (65-inch class, model 65R648)
For a lot less money, TCL’s 65R648 delivers picture and sound quality that’s on a level with or better than Samsung’s QN800.
Either overspend on an 8K TV or don’t spend any money at all on an 8K TV. TCL’s 8K offering is a fantastic deal considering the quality and performance you get for the money. The TCL 65R648 is a terrific price if you don’t require the absolute finest in the 8K category.
The current state of tv technology
CRT TVs had been around for more than 50 years and were continuously improved until they became outdated. LCD TVs aren’t quite there yet, and there are still some entry-level versions with color and contrast issues.
Color and contrast have improved dramatically in recent years, with gains reaching virtually the bottom of the ladder. OLED remains the apex, but it is still too expensive to produce. I’ll go through the differences between LED and OLED in a moment.
There’s also a resolution “race” going on, but it appears to have stuck at 8K UHD for the time being. Purchasing a TV with a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels is still expensive, and there is virtually no content available to use it. Even though sales of 4K UHD TVs with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels are rising, most video content remains available in 1080p quality.
The best news is that high-end technology (quantum dots, mini-LED) has made its way down to the mid-range ($750 to $1,250 for a 65-inch-class set).
TCL’s 6-series comes close to putting it all together, but we haven’t seen one yet. The top three (LG, Samsung, and Sony) are too close to be at ease.
Even better, nearly all high-end 4k UHD 65-inch TVs that cost $600 to $10,000 or more a few years ago now cost under $3,000. Samsung’s QN800A-series 8K UHD TVs are also available for $3,500. (65-inch class).
LG’s 8K UHD OLED, the OLED88Z9PUA, in the 88-inch class, is stunning, but it costs $30,000. Ouch. However, if your entertainment unit is big enough to warrant an 88- to 120-inch-class television, that may justify the cost.
What you should look for (and what to watch out for)
While most content is still 1080p or below, the great majority of TVs on the market now are 2160p (3840 x 2160 pixels or 4K UHD). Go for 2160p unless you’re buying anything for the workshop or tool shed. Streaming in 4K is now possible. It’s severely compressed, and it may quickly exceed your data quota, but it’s still worth considering.
Most 2160p TVs will upscale lower-resolution content smoothly, and good 2160p content looks fantastic. Don’t trust any claims that you can make 1080p content seem like true 4K UHD.
On the other hand, we’ve been blown away by how much better both 1080p and 2160p content appears on the newest 8K UHD (7680 x 4320) TVs. The higher the pixel count, the more processing power it provides.
FAUX K: LG produces incredible OLEDs, and it appears that the 2.88K LED-backlit LCD TVs it promoted as 4K, the 6300 and 6500 series, are no longer being produced. So, just in case you encounter a used or refurbished on the market, here’s some information: You may either avoid it or utilize the information to bargain for a lower price. This article has further information on the subject. They aren’t horrible televisions, but they aren’t 4K UHD.
Screen size: Although 65-inch TVs are popular these days, only you know what size TV would fit best in your living room. I prefer 43-inch televisions. So there you have it.
By downsizing to 55-inches and sitting a little closer, you may save a lot of money—$600 to $900 on a top-of-the-line set. How near are we? The recommended distance is 1.5 times the TV’s advertised size.
It’s worth noting that the number of backlighting zones and other technologies varies depending on the size. Read the fine print (if there is one) since a 55-inch unit may not provide the same level of performance as the 65-inch sets that firms like to give to reviewers.
HDR: HDR stands for high dynamic range, and it has become the standard on higher-end televisions. HDR refers to a greater brightness difference between the image’s darkest and brightest areas. While it may not appear to be a big deal, a lack of contrast (a washed-out appearance) in LED TVs has long been a problem, particularly at the base level.
Lightsabers and flames, highlights in hair, water, and other elements genuinely come out with HDR, generated mainly by considerably raising peak brightness. Have faith in me. You desire it.
Standard dynamic range vs. Dolby Vision HDR Although all HDR will seem identical, only Dolby Vision and HDR10+ will change the TV in real-time during the movie.
So far, the TV industry has been reasonably forward about how they name its HDR TVs. In the small print, HDR-compatible implies the set knows at least specific HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG, and so on) but likely lacks the brightness to do anything with them. If it just says HDR, it indicates it can work with it.
The tv determines the amount it can perform. To obtain excellent HDR pop (e.g., lightsabers and flames that stand out), you’ll need at least 700 nits peak brightness, but 1,000 nits would suffice. You’ll have to read reviews to figure out how they’re rated because vendors don’t provide nits or brightness in any meaningful way. Non-HDR TVs typically have a maximum brightness of 300 to 400 nits.
Support for HDR formats: One of the real ironies in the TV market is that Samsung, perhaps the biggest player, does not support Dolby Vision. Almost all other manufacturers do as well (although not on every model).
As a baseline, all HDR TVs support HDR10, although HDR10 only transmits adjustment information to the TV once at the start of a movie. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ continually send it throughout the film, allowing each scene (and, if required, each frame) to be modified separately.
HDR10 appears to be an excellent option.
Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are more appealing. HDR10+ is Samsung’s brainchild, and the company’s most recent televisions support it. Unfortunately, while several streaming services already provide HDR10+ (which takes very little additional bandwidth), most of the company’s rivals have yet to adopt the technology. On the other hand, many sets support the HLG standard, extensively used throughout Europe.
Contrast: Contrast is the distance between the darkest and brightest points in a picture in terms of brightness. Increased contrast is also a part of HDR. A high-contrast TV is HDR, even though we’ve never heard the term before. I think it just doesn’t sound sexy. In any case, the stronger the contrast, the more delicate detail the tv can provide.
Color: Even in the market center, we’ve witnessed a noticeable improvement in color acuity (realism), with TVs from Hisense, TCL, and Vizio displaying much more accurate reds and greens (just about any TV will do blue well).
It’s mainly due to the widespread usage of quantum dots, although even TVs without them have improved their color accuracy (Sony TVs in particular).
LED-backlit LCD vs. OLED: The picture quality by OLED TVs has a sumptuous feel to it that appeals to many people, including myself. Because each sub-pixel has its light source, you get near-perfect darkness when you turn the pixels off. Light bleeds around and through LED-backlit LCD TVs, which aren’t perfect shutters.
Even the best LED/LCD TVs cannot compete with OLED’s black levels. (See below for a deeper look at Mini-LED.) On the other side, they can provide far greater peak brightness, compensating for most material and helping HDR really stand out.
The main disadvantages of OLED as technology are its short lifespan and burn-in, which results in ghosts of past pictures staying on the screen. LG says that its TVs would last 100,000 hours at half brightness when 500 nits become 250 nits and are calculated based on the TV displaying standard dynamic range material. HDR content will reduce the life of an OLED.
Those downsides will never bite you if you use the tv regularly (two hours each day). Or, at the very least, not for a long time. On the other hand, using OLEDs for signage, all-day viewing, or generating static pictures is not suggested.
Micro-LED (not to be mistaken with mini-LED backlighting) is a non-organic self-emitter technology that avoids all of these drawbacks, but it’s still too pricey for us to include in this discussion.
OLED remains the most popular choice for most consumers when using their eyes alone despite the caveats and economics. Puppies on a bed of velvet!
More definitions may be found here and link to our most existing smart TV reviews.