Buying a TV used to be simple and easy. Today, among other factors, there is a load of confusing acronyms to contend with: HDR, OLED, QLED, HDMI, UHD, 4K – the list goes on.
We’re here to make things simple again, with a comprehensive rundown of the best 4K TVs on the market right now; a rundown you can actually follow and understand.
While 4K TV is no longer a groundbreaking subject, the TVs are still getting better every year: those on our list represent the best of the bunch: from superb entry-level models, to cutting-edge designs you may not have known were possible.
Buying your new 4K TV should be exciting, and with just a little help from us, it will be.
10 Best 4K TVs Reviewed 2018
The big hype around 4K TV is the number of pixels: four times the resolution of full HD. However, there is so much more goes in to making a first-class model:
- High Dynamic Range – The quality of those pixels is what matters. HDR means brighter whites, darker blacks, and the most lifelike picture possible.
- Sound System – What’s a Hollywood blockbuster without the epic sound effects, and scintillating soundtrack? Audio is always important.
- Color Quality – Most buyers don’t realise just how many colors a modern TV can produce. A wide color gamut is essential for maximising 4K content.
- OLED vs LCD – TVs now come in two completely different screen types. We’ll explain clearly what these mean, as this will be a defining decision in your next TV purchase.
Sound good? Then let’s dive right into the action.
We’ve personally inspected dozens of models, read hundreds of reviews and spent countless hours researching these products.
Here are our top 10 best 4K TVs for 2018, all available to buy online or in-store. Get ready for the viewing experience of your life!
|Model||HDR Formats||Screen Type||Ports||Sizes||Smart Interface||Price||Shop|
|1. LG OLED C7 TV||Dolby Vision||OLED||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||55”, 65”||webOS 3.5||1,696.99 (55 inch) - 2,596.99 (65 inch)||Check Price|
|2. Sony A1 OLED 4K UHD Smart TV||Dolby Vision||OLED||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||55”, 65”, 77”||Android TV||2498 (55"), 3198 (65")||Check Price|
|3. Samsung Series 9 Q9 UHD QLED TV||Dolby Vision, HLG||QLED||4 x HDMI, 3 x USB||65”, 75”, 88”||Eden||5,297.99 (65")||Check Price|
|4. Sony XE93 LED 4K UHD Smart TV||Dolby Vision, HLG||LCD||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||55”, 65”||Android TV||1998 (65 inch)||Check Price|
|5. LG OLED E7 TV||Dolby Vision||OLED||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||55”, 65”||webOS 3.5||3999(65 inch)||Check Price|
|6. Panasonic EZ1002 4K OLED TV||HLG||OLED||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||65”, 77”||My Home Screen 2.0||Check Price|
|7. Samsung MU7000 Ultra HD LED LCD Smart TV||HDR10||LCD||4 x HDMI, 3 x USB||49”, 55”, 65”, 75”||Smart Hub||Check Price|
|8. Sony XE93 LED 4K UHD Smart TV||HDR10||LCD||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0||49”, 55”, 65”, 75”||Android TV||65 inch (1498)||Check Price|
|9. Samsung MU8500 4K UHD TV||HDR10||LCD||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB||55”, 65”||Smart Hub||65 inch (1200)||Check Price|
|10. LG W7 77" HDR 4K UHD Smart TV||Dolby Vision, HLG||OLED||4 x HDMI, 2 x USB2.0, 1 x USB3.0||77”||webOS 3.5||20,000||Check Price|
1. LG OLED C7 TV – The Best All-Round 4K TV
Factoring in the price, performance, and aesthetic, LG’s C7 is the best 4K TV you can buy in 2018.
In addition to 4K resolution, new buyers are looking for top HDR performance. Since the C7 is an OLED design, it offers the darkest blacks possible: a complete absence of light that is impossible with LCD screens.
Not only that, but the C7 is compatible with Dolby Vision, the world-leading HDR format. Dolby Vision optimizes the picture scene-by-scene, attempting to create the perfect color balance for every shot. Against this perfect black, the colors pop and come to life in a way that is impossible with LCD screens.
The OLED Screen
The C7 uses the exact same screen as LG’s flagship models – the E7 and W7 series – meaning the image is incredible powerful. Its unique design means that the screen does not suffer from washed out colors at extreme viewing angles: you can sit yourself at 45o to the screen and enjoy a perfect picture!
Why Not the B7?
If you’re familiar with this line of LG 4K TVs, you may have heard of their other entry-level model: the B7. These two sets are virtually identical, yet the C7 is slightly more expensive. So what do you get for this extra cash?
This TV is compatible with Dolby Atmos (via firmware update), which is the sound standard used in movie production. Unfortunately, the B7 saves on its speakers, which have a weaker sound than this setup. While the C7’s built-in speakers can’t compete with a full surround sound system, it still offers the best out-of-box audio for any TV in its price bracket.
If you’re a gamer, and particularly if you’ve bought a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, then don’t overlook the LG C7. With an input lag of only 21 ms on all modes and a stunning image, it will serve your gaming needs for years to come.
Some users have reported burn-in problems with the C7, but we left a console on all night without a problem.
Do you know what lets down many 4K TVs with stunning visuals and immersive sound? The user interface. While Android TV is considered quite clunky, LG’s webOS 3.5 system is sleek, smart, and intuitive.
The “Magic Remote” wand lets you control an on-screen cursor, and is very responsive. The menus are laid out intelligently and are easy to navigate, giving access to all of your favorite 3rd party apps – including Netflix and Amazon which supply native 4K HDR content.
Best of the Bunch
You might be wondering why the C7 sits top of the pile in our list of the best 4K TVs in 2018.
Quite simply, it is the best value for money – by a distance. The picture quality is equal to that of LG’s flagship models and costs thousands of bucks less than Samsung’s jaw-dropping Q9F OLED .
If you’re looking for a first-class 4K TV without selling your car, get the C7.
2. Sony A1 OLED 4K UHD Smart TV – The Most Beautiful 4K TV
Until very recently, LG had been the sole flagbearer of OLED technology. This year, however, Sony has dipped its toes into the pool and produced a masterful 4K TV.
Sony offers the A1E in 3 sizes: 55”, 65”, and 77”. You might notice a trend here – LG offers the exact same sizes. This is because Sony (and Panasonic) are using LG’s OLED panels for their new televisions!
Doing What Sony Does Best
We weren’t exaggerating: this is a sublime feat of engineering. For a start, Sony has chopped off the feet which usually accompany these large TVs. Instead, the set sits directly on its edge, perfectly flush with your unit.
This “One Slate” design is thin enough to rival LG’s E7 ultra-slim model, and when combined with the narrow, dark bezel, the A1E could be mistaken for a pane of glass.
The bulky electronics, cables, and ports are all contained within the weighted stand behind the screen, where there is also some neat cable management infrastructure. Some users were worried about the 5o backwards lean onto the kickstand, but it shouldn’t be an issue unless you are extremely picky.
Acoustic Surface Technology
You might be wondering: “Hey, where are the speakers? Or does this TV require an external sound system for audio?”
The incredible answer is that the screen is the speaker.
The A1E’s most defining and unique feature is its pioneering Acoustic Surface. As opposed to using, you know, speakers, Sony has built two actuators into the back of the screen, which causes the screen to vibrate and produce audio.
Like most people, we were pretty skeptical about this approach. And, like everyone else, we’re now eating our hats.
We found that the surface vibration performed admirably. We blasted the volume without any distortion, there was great tonal balance, and the vibration had zero noticeable effect on the image. Remarkably, these screen-speakers can also handle directional audio: if a character speaks on the left-hand side of the screen, the audio comes from over there. Full, clear, crisp sound.
The bass notes are handled by a nice sub-woofer contained within the kickstand.
Stunning Picture Quality
For our money, when companies start asking for thousands of bucks for a TV, the picture needs to leave us slack-jawed.
To deliver that kind of quality, Sony uses its most powerful processor: the X1 Extreme. The processor controls over 8 million self-illuminating pixels to provide the absolute blacks, precise contrast, and brilliant color unique to OLED screens.
By default, this TV uses the HDR10 format for high dynamic range, but Dolby Vision is available through a firmware update. Long story short, you’re getting as good an HDR experience as with any other TV in the world.
In terms of brightness, Sony claims up to 1000 nits – during testing, this was more than adequate, even in brightly lit rooms. Top LCDs may offer 1500 or 1800 nits, but without the perfect blacks, shadow details and immaculate lighting uniformity of Sony’s OLED, it’s honestly not an issue.
If money is no barrier, however, the 65” model might be the best money can buy.
3. Samsung Series 9 Q9 UHD QLED TV – Jaw-Dropping Color & Brightness 4K TV
The Samsung Q9F might just be the brightest, most colorful 4K TV money can buy.
This set was designed to deliver ultra HD content with cutting-edge HDR performance and brilliant colors. For its eye-watering price tag – over $6,000 for the 65” version – it needed to be nothing short of breathtaking. We were not disappointed.
Ultra-Bright and Colorful Picture
Does the Q9F provide the same jaw-dropping quality we saw with Sony’s A1E?
In a word, yes.
The biggest selling points of the Samsung Q9F is that it’s the brightest 4K TV ever released (as of 2018). In some small areas it can push 1800 nits (nearly double that of LG’s latest TVs) and thanks to their world-class handling of HDR’s PQ curve, you don’t miss the subtle tonal detailing either.
The colors burst out of the screen thanks to Samsung’s Quantom Dots technology, and the Q9F is Premium HD Certified: this means it exceeds expectation in terms of resolution, peak luminance, color capacity, and high dynamic range.
The Full Package
Complementing the beautiful picture is Samsung’s Boundless 360 Degree design. The bezel is virtually invisible, just a thin dark line around the screen. At only 0.98″ deep, the Q9F is much slimmer than most LCD TVs. When fitted onto the wall using a no-gap mount, its presence is completely unobtrusive.
A common complaint from high-end buyers is that remotes feel cheap, or poorly made. Living up to its price tag, the Q9F remote features a sleek metallic finish with limited buttons: a classy partner to this premium TV.
Since this set is so slim, Samsung supplies an attractive external connections box, complete with Wi-Fi, four HDMI ports (all 4K compatible) and 3 USB ports.
There’s one other area where Samsung is leaps ahead of the competition: voice recognition. Samsung’s TV voice control system is, believe it or not, incredibly functional!
Gone are the days of complex commands. Instead, users can say “switch to HDMI 1” to change device, or “game mode” to adjust the picture settings. In conjunction with Eden, Samsung’s smart TV interface, voice recognition is a pleasure to use, and a major plus point from us.
The fact that the Q9F doesn’t top our list is evidence of the ludicrously high standards of modern TV sets. Don’t be fooled though – this is a top-tier piece of kit!
4. Sony XE93 LED 4K UHD Smart TV – Perfect for Bright Rooms
We’ve seen a couple of OLED TVs so far, with their bottomless blacks and impressive viewing angles, as well as Samsung’s
QLED technology. Now it’s time to see what good-old traditional LCD has to offer.
Packing Sony’s meanest-ever picture processing engine, the X1 Extreme, this TV is built for high performance. For a start, it can upscale HD content to 4K better than any device out there. Most users are still consuming HD (or even SD) content every day, making quality up-scaling a premium feature.
At the same time, this TV offers smooth color gradation and supports both Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma, the world-leading HDR formats.
Looking to the screen, the XE93 brings a return to Sony’s unique Slim Backlight Drive+ system, creating beautiful brightness levels and deep contrast. Slim Backlight Drive+ works with two sets of edge-mounted LEDs and complementary light plates, doubling the amount of controllable light zones compared to traditional LCD.
As bosses of the audio industry, we expect top notch sound systems from Sony. Considering how flat this TV is (and how hidden its speakers are) it produces a very impressive sound.
The speakers are powerful and open, but lack the deep base of a standalone sound system. Of course, you can always just connect up your bluetooth headphones or your own sound system.
The limited viewing angles shouldn’t be a problem, since you’ll be sitting front-and-centre at all times!
If the setup in your room adheres to such viewing angles, then for us, we highly recommend considering this beautiful T.V. Just make sure you get a buddy to help you set it up – it weights over 90 pounds!
5. LG OLED E7 TV – Slim, Gorgeous, and High Performing 4K TV
Remember the C7 from the start of our review? This is its bolder, slimmer, and pricier big brother: the LG OLED E7.
Straight out of the box, the picture is near-perfect – we didn’t even adjust it for the first few hours of testing. The TV is easy to set up, and looks gorgeous – even on standby!
The E7 supports Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 – along with most of the TVs on this list – and provides extremely deep contrast thanks to its perfect blacks. Its OLED technology also means there are zero issues with backlighting.
While the E7 shares a lot of similarities with the cheaper C7 TV, there are a couple of key differences which justify its increased cost.
LG has taken the beauty of OLED TVs to a new level with their picture-on-glass design. The screen is barely a half an inch thick for most of its surface, and is made by fixing the OLED film directly onto a sheet of glass. The result is incredibly thin, gorgeous, and luxurious.
It’s worth noting that because of backlighting requirements, LCD TVs physically cannot match this ultra-thin design. It’s the same thickness as a smartphone, for goodness sake!
If you’re worried about fragility, there’s no need. The TV is made from toughened glass, and the stand keeps it firmly stuck to the ground. There’s also a small, not-so-slim section on the back panel which houses the soundbar and beefy electronics.
LG’s Signature Picture Quality
As LG is no longer the sole supplier of OLED TVs, it was important that their flagship model really raised the bar – and it has.
In addition to its picture-on-glass screen and tremendous sound, LG has really boosted the brightness levels for the E7 (up to 1000 nits) which, combined with their perfect blacks, allows for outrageous HDR performance.
The brightest whites are literally a single pixel from the deepest blacks: no light pollution, no banding. For watching during the daytime, try the “expert bright room mode” for best performance.
With more 4K HDR content being produced all the time – especially from Amazon and Netflix – owners of the E7 might be enjoying the 2nd-best picture of any TV in the world: it’s hard to outrank the Sony A1E and Samsung Q9F without bias!
The problem with LG OLED TVs in the past has been with light control. While many of these issues have been addressed for the E7 – less blocking or fizzing noise in dark background areas – some do remain.
But we really are nipicking there. The E7 is a half-step above the #1 entry on our list, which shows just how closely matched these TVs are. If you can find an E7 on sale, we recommend snapping it up!
6. Panasonic EZ1002 4K OLED TV – A 4K TV Capable of Professional Image Mastering
As well as Sony and LG, there’s another frontrunner in the OLED race this year: Panasonic, with its EZ1002B TV. But do they bring enough to the fight?
The Screen and Picture
Let’s start with the EZ1002B’s strongest suit: the image. We know that OLED TVs offer, pretty much as standard: exceptional blacks, wide viewing angles, and a heavy price tag – and this TV fits right in!
Panasonic’s flagship product for this year, it uses their HCX2 processor to deliver a semi-professional level of image quality, motion handling, and color accuracy. Straight out of the box, we were blown away by the picture. In fact, after several hours of messing around with picture settings, we ended up with a near-imperceptible difference.
You’ve probably noticed the one oddity with the EZ1002 – the Dynamic Blade Speaker on which it’s resting. Running the width of the TV, is the Technics-tuned sound system which produces brilliant audio. While we personally weren’t in love with the aesthetic, it certainly appeals to many customers. As one reviewer put it, they’re marmite speakers.
An Understated Smart Interface
When the biggest complaint from many high-end TVs is the user interface, using this Panasonic set is a breath of fresh air. It’s attractive, simple, and effective. Rather than inundating users with apps and content, Panasonic lets you place your favorite apps on the home screen, for optimized search & view.
7. Samsung MU7000 Ultra HD LED LCD Smart TV – A Fast, Attractive, Affordable 4K TV
At at a glance, you can see the MU7000 isn’t quite in the same league as its big brother, the Q9F we put near the top of our list. That said, it also costs a fraction of the price!
Like most new TVs, the Samsung MU7000 keeps its bezel narrow and subtle: a chrome edge with a silver base stand at the bottom. The stand is quite attractive, with the legs space around 35″ apart.
An Entry-Level Package, But Superior Performance
Unless you’re splashing the cash on a top-of-the-range set, performance should always outweigh aesthetics when it comes to 4K TVs. The smart OS on the MU7000 is fast, which is not always guaranteed with the second-tier sets. Quick navigation, short loading times, and the TV reacts instantly to commands from the Samsung Wand Remote.
At over $1,000 cheaper than Samsung’s premium TVs, you’ll also be watching on a lower quality screen. This model doesn’t use the Quantom Dots technology we see on the Q9F, and also lacks support for Dolby Vision. That said, it does provide pretty deep blacks despite lacking the brightness of higher-end TVs.
What really impresses with this TV is how Samsung has managed to create, in most respects, a very high performing TV (with incredibly low input lag!) at such a great price.
Sure, the HDR performance isn’t that good, the viewing angles aren’t perfect, and you wouldn’t want to watch a movie with direct sunlight on the TV – but since those are the main negatives, Samsung will be pretty happy.
8. Sony XE93 LED 4K UHD Smart TV – The All-Rounder on a Budget
As usual, Sony wins bonus points for its impeccable aesthetic design. The muted silver base is nice and narrow (unlike many budget TVs) and the matte black bezel subtly trims the screen. All four HDMI ports support 4K.
At the lower end of Sony’s 4K TV range, the X900E still provides incredible value for money, with a razor sharp screen and superb motion handling.
Performing on a Budget
While this TV doesn’t support Dolby Vision or HLG, it works impressively with HDR10. In fact, when we ran tests using UHD Blu-Rays designed for Dolby Vision, the HDR experience was still there – just a step or two below what you’d get on a higher-end TV.
HDR10 is also (currently) the most widely-used HDR format in the world, so you won’t be short of tailored content. In terms of future proofing, this may not be the case in a few years’ time.
The TV’s peak brightness is around 1000 nits – the same as the LG C7 but without the perfect OLED blacks. It’s a bit dim compared to the XE93 (Sony’s premium 4K LCD TV) but given its price, this is still a superb picture.
Motion Handling and Gaming
When it comes to motion blur handling, this TV is punching above its weight. The native 120Hz screen, Motionflow XR, and uniform backlighting all contribute to a great viewing experience.
While the LG C7 might offer the best all-round gaming performance (vs price) on our list, there’s a lot to like about the X900E. The HDR performance takes a hit with the TV’s low brightness, but it’s better than anything else at this price range. In addition, the direct LED backlight with local dimming offers awesome picture uniformity.
Most important, the TV has an input lag of 34ms (aka pretty low) which, combined with the motion handling, made our games beautiful and responsive during testing.
While the X900E excels in terms of picture quality and upscaling to 4K, the entry level price begins to show when we examine the speakers. They’re reasonably good for hidden speakers, but we’d recommend investing at least $100-200 in a quality sound system to transform this into a premium experience.
Just a Little ‘Hit and Miss’
There is so much to like about this TV. The motion handling feels professional, and the moderate price tag is hugely inviting. What stops this being a premium product is that there are too many “little things” inhibiting performance, and make it slightly worse than the MU7000 from Samsung.
If Sony addresses some of these faults in next year’s edition, this could be the one to buy!
9. Samsung MU8500 4K UHD TV – An Immersive Curved 4K TV for Gamers
The most affordable option on our list of the best 4K TVs in 2018 is Samsung’s MU8500.
Despite coming in at number 9, it still offers a superior picture, build quality, and viewing experience to most TVs.
A TV With Curves
The standout feature of this Samsung TV has to be its curved LCD screen. Most manufacturers are moving away from this design (though more slowly than they’re running from 3D) and focusing instead on enhancing the picture quality (especially HDR) of flat screens.
It’s argued that a curved screen can offer more of an immersive experience and make the screen appear larger then it is. Although for the most part, it comes down to personal preference.
Therefore; it’s logical to consider such a curved screen if you are buying your TV primarily for gaming, or if your sofa sits directly in-front of the screen (due to the limited viewing angle). You’ll sure be impressed at how engaging the picture is.
However, for head-on viewing, we found it offers a truly immersive experience – certainly compared to other entry level 4Ks.
This is a smartly organised set. Once you get through the (relatively painful) process of preparing and setting up the TV, it just works. All of the inputs are routed through the One Connect Mini (great for cable management) so you can keep everything nice and neat.
The power cable is quite short, which is a pain, but it’s not a deal breaker. With a maximum thickness of 3.78″, the MU8500 is hardly a CRT TV, but it’s also far from the slimmest design on the market. However, given its price and backlighting structure, it’s not bad at all.
In terms of aesthetics, we were pleased. The silver bezel and legs aren’t subtle by any means, but when you have a curved TV, you’re not looking for subtlety. The curve helps limit glare from natural light, and the unique Wand Remote from Samsung was easy to use.
While exceptional HDR performance would be nice for immersive gaming experiences in the years to come, there are far more important specs for serious gamers.
Our own experience agreed with every review we found online: the picture is very good. It isn’t jaw-dropping, and the high dynamic range isn’t really that high, but the image quality of both normal HD and Blu-Ray UHD is more than adequate.
Samsung has also included its 4K Color Drive Extreme technology: in layman’s terms, the TV provides more colors, and brighter ones, than many more expensive models. The colors really do pop.
Unfortunately, for all that, it’s still a curved LCD screen that uses edge lighting. For bright highlights on-screen, there is visible blooming which follows the action. Again, it’s not a dealbreaker, but simply a matter of getting what you pay for, and considering that, it’s definitely worthy of your consideration.
10. LG W7 77″ HDR 4K UHD Smart TV – The Longest, Slimmest 4K TV in the World
The 77” Signature W7, also known as the Wallpaper TV, is the best, biggest, and slimmest 4K TV on the market.
While we couldn’t push it off our list entirely, it’s no mistake that it occupies the bottom spot: retailing close to $20,000, it is simply unaffordable for most consumers.
However, we promised you a list of the best 4K TVs in 2018, and so that’s what you’re going to get!
Wallpaper Thin Screen
The W7 is the slimmest commercial TV in the world, producing arguably the finest picture to boot. Ignoring the fact that most lounges couldn’t accommodate all seven feet of it, this TV is a sight to behold.
Incredibly, it is a mere 0.15″ deep – skinnier than many of our house keys. The actual screen is the same as we’ve seen on the cheaper E7 and B7 models, and represents the cutting-edge of OLED technology. However, taking that screen and applying it in such a uniquely thin and beautiful way… it is jaw-dropping.
There is a call for hiding the major components in a little black box, and eradicating the bulky soundbar. Users can then hook up their external sound systems for the ultimate at-home cinematic experience. We think that’s a bit picky, but if someone spends around 20k on a TV, they’re entitled to an opinion!
Of course, even the best TVs still have wires, and we still want them hidden. The W7 maintains its classy appearance by housing all major electronics (as well as all ports) within its huge soundbar. Most users will wall-mount the TV, and the soundbar connects to it via a ribbon-thin, proprietary LG cable: you can stick it to the wall, and even paint it to match if you like: it’s very subtle.
To help combat OLED’s difficulties in bright rooms, LG has added a “Neutral Black OLED Polarizer”. Essentially this is an enhancement on the existing anti-reflective film. We played some dark content in a bright room, and it performed better than expected.
Worth the Money?
Without extensively testing them all at once, it’s hard to say whether the W7 offers a better experience than Sony’s A1E or Samsung’s Q9F, but it would be close. What we can say, is that buying this set from LG would give you a TV unlike anything else in the world.
That is where the huge price tag comes in. Worth it? Well, we’ll leave that up to you.
4K TV Buyer’s Guide
Buying a new TV in 2018 can be an intimidating experience: the terminology is confusing, and there are (virtually) limitless options. Our buyer’s guide is designed to streamline the whole process, running you through the most important aspects of modern TVs, with simple explanations of what they mean.
Without further ado, here are our top tips for buying a new TV this year.
There’s a reason this entire review is about 4K TVs: future proofing. High definition TV is no longer the industry standard, and new content for the next 5-10 years at least is likely to be filmed in 4K.
By getting a 4K TV now, you’ll be able to enjoy all of that new content at the right resolution (3840 * 2160). In this review, we’ve used the terms 4K and UHD (Ultra-High Definition) interchangeably. There is technically a difference (4K is slightly wider) but since few TV manufacturers make the distinction, we thought it was better left unsaid.
4K TV isn’t a bank-breaker, either. Even your middle-of-the-road TVs (around $500, perhaps less) will be in 4K this year, so there’s no excuse for settling!
High Dynamic Range
Known as HDR for short, this is probably the most “in vogue” aspect of modern TV design. The reason 4K is likely to hang around for a while is that manufacturers are no longer focused on the number of pixels: it’s the quality of those pixels which matter.
The term high dynamic range refers to the on-screen contrast. Watching content with HDR means brighter whites, darker blacks, and richer colors. It brings the content to life in a way that pure resolution never could: it’s like watching real life.
You know when you see a TV image that is just jaw-droppingly beautiful? That’s usually HDR at work.
There are lots of different formats, but as long as your TV says “supports HDR”, you should be okay. The trouble is that there’s no “standard” that everyone has agreed on yet. Many consider Dolby Vision the best there is, but HDR10 is the most widely used. The options are:
- Dolby Vision
- HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)
- Advanced HDR
As for which one is the best? Well it depends on how you look at things. Obviously HDR10 has the advantage of being the most supported, but Dolby Vision has been known to produce a better image quality (even if just slightly).
When it comes down to it, the more expensive TVs support every HDR format, and the cheaper ones may only support HDR10. Make sure to check what yours supports before you buy, but any of the formats we’ve highlighted will do the job just fine for the majority of users.
In addition to HDR, this is where the most confusing acronyms are found. Let’s clear it up real quick:
- LCD TVs – The vast majority of the world’s modern flat screens are liquid crystal displays or LCD’s, including Samsung’s beautiful new QLED range. They use backlighting against a liquid crystal display to create images on-screen.
Where QLED is different, is that it uses so-called Quantum Dot technology to improve display brightness and color gamut. However, it is still a backlit LCD at its core, and suffers from the same lack of viewing angles (especially in daylight) compared to OLEDs.
LCD TV are also, quite confusingly, known as LED TVs.
- QLED TV’s are different in that they use so-called Quantum Dot technology to improve display brightness and color gamut. However, it is still a backlit LCD at its core.
- OLED – This is an entirely different design of TV, and is still quite new. Rather than illuminating a screen inside the TV, OLED screens consist of LEDs which can turn themselves on and off independently. Therefore, these can produce perfect “blacks” (because the LED is turned off) and can be made much thinner than LCD TVs.
In our opinion, if you want the very best picture possible, choose OLED. It’s more expensive, but you’ll get a thinner TV and a more dramatic, lifelike picture.
When it comes to a picture, there are loads of specs you could use to help guide your decision: brightness, range of color, sharpness, and so on. However, the terminology can get pretty confusing. For example, we use “nits” as a measure of screen brightness: anything upwards of 500 nits is “bright enough”, but the higher you can go, the better! But things start to get pretty technical. If you’re a non-expert, we recommend choosing the TV whose picture you love the most.
Of course you should read reviews to find out if there are common problems, or to learn which TVs offer the highest-quality image, but within that bracket you’ll always have options. The deciding factor should always be what do I like most? Once you answer that, you’re sorted.
Two recommendations we should make are:
- Choose a refresh rate of 60Hz or 120Hz
- Choose a TV with good upscaling from standard and high definition
A good refresh rate means your content will be nice and smooth at all times. The upscaling is necessary because we’re years away from having all new content on UHD, and you’ll want to watch those Friends reruns in the best quality possible!
You could say price is a factor in any purchase, but that goes double for a new TV. In our list alone, the prices range from around $1,000 for a high-quality, entry-level model, to close to $20,000 for a 77” OLED that’s less than 0.16″ thick.
Our recommendation would be look at the features you want (picture quality, smart TV interface, screen type, and so on) and then compare those expectations to your budget.
Then, get the best TV you can actually afford. If your heart is calling out for a specific model and you can’t quite justify it, then wait a few months! It’s not going anywhere, and it will not need replacing for 5-10 years, at least.
Over to You
That’s all from us. Now it’s time for you to go out, do your research, and find the 4K TV of your dreams. Reviews like ours can be incredibly helpful, but nothing beats getting eyes on the real thing: if you can visit your local tech dealer and spend some time watching (and listening to) your favorite 2-3 sets, then you’ll know instinctively which is right for you.
It’s like selecting a work of art. If money is no object, we can’t recommend the LG W7 enough – it is utterly unique. Otherwise, you’ll need to do a good amount of thinking, and do your best not to rush the decision!
Remember that buying a TV should be a fun, empowering experience. We hope our buyer’s guide and reviews will help you on your journey.