Most recently, support for Apple AirPlay 2 is being added to several new TVs (as well as older models) from LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. If you have a very fast internet connection, you can watch some excellent shows on Amazon and Netflix in 4K (and most new original programming on the services is being produced at that resolution).
The good news is that it stores 4K video with HDR (explained below), and even can handle advanced surround sound audio if your speaker system supports it. There's no consumer-ready 8K media available, and no major studios or distributors have even talked about releasing 8K movies or shows so far.
There aren't even physical or streaming media standards that let 8K video be commercially released. High dynamic range (HDR) content gives much more information to the display than a standard video signal.
The resolution remains the same as UHD, but the range of color and amount of light each pixel can produce is significantly broader. Thanks to new LCD and OLED panel technology, high-end televisions can display wider color gamuts and finer gradients of light and dark than before.
Standard video was built around the limitations of older televisions, intentionally using a set range of color and light information in the signal. The UHD Alliance certifies televisions that meet the HDR 10 standard, along with minimum brightness and contrast ratios, as UltraHD Premium.
Some newer HDR standards and variants are starting to pop up, but they've yet to see the acceptance in TVs that HDR10 and Dolby Vision have. Ultra HD Blu-ray uses HDR10 and will support additional HDR standards, and Netflix and VDU offer Dolby Vision films and shows digitally.
Whether one standard is better than the other is difficult to determine at this point; HDR10 uses more concrete values and is easier to technically evaluate, but Dolby Vision is designed to specifically fit the needs and limits of whatever television you use. No matter which you use, HDR-capable televisions can produce a better picture than TVs that don't support the wider color gamuts or increased range of luminance information.
If you can find deep discounts for the previous year's models in January, and you know they're good performers based on our reviews, you should go for them. Keep an eye out for sales around big sports events like the Super Bowl, or when football season is just starting.
Huge price slashes on Black Friday often promote budget or midrange televisions with seemingly big discounts, but their pictures might not be nearly as good as higher-end models. Check the model numbers against the reviews for a good sense of whether the discount you see is worthwhile.
You'll find a few very good deals, like the TCL 6-series that manages to combine excellent picture quality with a low price. Backlit TVs use a large array of LEDs directly behind the panel, making the screen a little thicker, but allowing it to more evenly illuminate the panel and, for high-end screens, adjust individual LEDs to enhance black levels in scenes.
Very good edge-lighting systems can produce excellent pictures, though, and TV manufacturers are making backlit LED arrays smaller and thinner, so the distinction means less than it used to. No matter the technology, an LED TV's thinness and brightness will be roughly proportional to its price range.
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays are a rare and very expensive technology for TVs, and despite their name are drastically different from LED-backlit televisions. Each diode generates both color and light, like in plasma screens, but they can be much smaller and thinner than even LED-lit panels, and can produce some of the best black levels possible.
Currently, LG and Sony are the only television manufacturers that offer OLED models, and they remain pricey, though Vizio has recently entered the fray with some relatively affordable models (though the biggest, most expensive OLED TVs can cost as much as $15,000). A big TV that's too close can be just as uncomfortable to watch as a small one that's too far away, so don't assume that the biggest screen available is the best choice.
There are a few different rules of thumb regarding TV screen size based on your distance from it. Generally, the distance of your couch to your TV should be between 1.2 and 1.6 times the diagonal measurement of your screen.
One of the biggest problems with narrowing your choices to a single TV is the sheer number of specs. To make your job a little easier, two of the biggies, refresh rate and contrast ratio, are safe to ignore.
But in reality, there are several reasons this simply isn't true, and it's not worth paying more for a set with a faster response rate. In many cases, 60Hz will do just fine for films and 120Hz will be plenty for video games and sports (though you should probably turn off those higher refresh rate modes when watching most shows and movies, or else you'll get that jarring soap opera effect).
Contrast ratio, meanwhile, is the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white a panel can display. In theory, the highest contrast ratio possible is desirable since dark blacks and bright whites contribute to a high-quality picture.
These features let you connect your television to the internet and access online services like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube. Many also integrate social network services like Facebook and Twitter, and many manufacturers offer entire downloadable app ecosystems with other programs and games you can use on your TV.
These apps are also available in most Blu-ray players, all major video game systems, and even on inexpensive media streaming devices, so they're not vital. But a friendly interface and the services you want to use available directly on your TV adds some convenience, and doesn't require you to buy any additional devices.
The most important input is HDMI, which supports all major forms of digital video sources including Blu-ray players, game consoles, set-top boxes, cameras, camcorders, phones, tablets, and PCs through a single cable. We've compared the performance of high-end cables and inexpensive ones, and found that they all carry digital signals similarly.
Hop online and find the least expensive cable at the size you need and snap it up. If you have a high-end TV and want the absolute best picture possible, you can spend a few hundred dollars to have your screen professionally calibrated, but for most viewers, it's an unnecessary expense.
TVs have built-in speakers that function well enough in the sense that you can understand dialogue, but beyond that they're typically pretty underwhelming. If you want a TV to put on your porch or deck, you need a specialized one designed for that location.
There are two different types of panels in the TV market, OLED and LED, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Generally, even the lowest-end 4k TVs offer decent picture quality, and the higher-end models are only good if you're going to use them to their full ability, such as for watching native 4k content.
8.8 Mixed Usage 9.3 Movies 8.2 TV Shows 8.6 Sports 9.1 Video Games 8.7 HDR Movies 8.8 HDR Gaming 8.6 PC Monitor Type OLED This type of panel's advantage over its LED competitors is how it's able to individually turn off pixels, and it doesn't have a backlight.
The best TV on the market with an LED panel that we've tested is the Samsung Q80/Q80T LED. LED TVs don't face the risk of permanent burn-in like Sleds, so you can easily use it as a PC monitor or leave it on the same news channel all day without worrying about damaging it.
It gets brighter than the LG CX OLED, and combined with its wide color gamut and very good gradient handling, it delivers a great HDR experience. It has fairly wide viewing angles, and the decent full-array local dimming feature helps further deepen blacks level.
Unfortunately, our unit has some uniformity issues with dirty screen effect in the center, but your experience may vary. It's an excellent choice if you want to use it as a PC because it displays chroma 4:4:4, which is important for reading fine text, it has outstanding reflection handling, and gets bright enough to combat glare.
Lastly, it has excellent out-of-the-box color accuracy, but like with gray uniformity, this may vary between units. The best TV for watching HDR content is the Vizio P Series Quantum X 2020.
It offers excellent picture quality, especially if you're watching movies in a dark room. Its VA panel has an outstanding contrast ratio and remarkable black uniformity, and when combined with its great full-array local dimming feature, it displays deep blacks when viewed in the dark.
It supports VAR technology for gamers, but it doesn't currently work and may require a firmware update to function properly. It has a quick response time, a Black Frame Insertion feature, and a low input lag.
Unfortunately, it has narrow viewing angles, so it's not suggested for a wide seating arrangement. It has trouble upscaling 480p and 720p content, so DVDs and cable boxes may not look as good on it as other TVs.
The built-in Smartest operating system is easy-to-use, but you can't download any extra apps besides the pre-installed ones. If picture quality is important to you and you don't need extra gaming bells and whistles, this is one of the best TVs that we've tested.
However, it upscales 480p and 720p content better than the Vizio, and the built-in Android TV has a massive selection of apps you can download. The Hi sense has an outstanding contrast ratio and great local dimming feature that further deepens any blacks.
It gets bright enough to bring out highlights in HDR or to simply combat glare in well-lit environments. Some may be disappointed to know it doesn't have any VAR support, but if you want to use it for gaming, it has low input lag even in HDR, a very quick response time, and a Black Frame Insertion feature.
If you want the best TV for watching HDR movies, you can't go wrong with the Vizio, but if you prefer something cheaper, the Hi sense is a good choice. It's an upper mid-range model in Hi sense's 2020 lineup, and despite its wallet-friendly price, it can compete with higher-end, more expensive TVs.
It delivers good picture quality for nearly every type of content and is suitable for any viewing condition. The contrast ratio is excellent, and even though it's not as good as some other VA panel models, it has a full-array local dimming feature that deepens black level.
It's great for gaming due to its good response time and exceptionally low input lag, but sadly, there's no VAR support to reduce screen tearing. Unfortunately, it has some uniformity issues as the screen's edges are darker, and its out-of-the-box color accuracy is just okay.
On the upside, it has built-in Android TV, which is somewhat easy to use and has a very wide selection of apps available to download. The Hi sense H8G is much brighter, but the TCL displays a much wider color gamut for HDR content.
Like the TCL, the Hi sense lacks many extra gaming features, but that's what you expect for an option in this price range. However, it has a very quick response time, incredibly low input lag, and a Black Frame Insertion feature to reduce motion blur.
It has great out-of-the-box color accuracy, upscales lower-resolution content without any issues, and removes 24p judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV. 11/27/2021: Updated Notable Mentions to reflect current market and availability.
We factor in the price (a cheaper TV wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no TVs that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).