Welcome to the in-between moment in TV land. CES 2021 showed us all of the new models we could expect to see this year, but for the moment, only a scant few of these TVs have made it through our review process.
So this list of the best TVs is, for the next little while, a hybrid of 2020 and 2021 models. Over the coming weeks, as we get more new TVs in for testing, we’ll gradually swap out our older picks with the new ones, so make sure you check back frequently if you’re going to be making a buying decision over the next four to eight weeks.
Before we get to the full list, let’s take a quick look at the new TVs we know are headed our way, but that haven’t received the full hands-on treatment yet:
- 1 2021 TVs coming soon…
- 2 Best TVs at a glance
- 3 The best TV: LG G1 Gallery Series 4K OLED (2021)
- 4 The best value TV: 65-inch TCL 6-Series (2020)
- 5 The best TV for cinephiles: 65-inch Sony A90J OLED 4K HDR TV (2021)
- 6 The best TV for cinephiles on a budget: 65-inch Sony X900H HDR TV (2020)
- 7 The best TV for bright rooms: Hisense U8G 4K ULED HDR TV (2021)
- 8 The best affordable 8K TV: Samsung Q800T
- 9 The best budget TV: 55-inch TCL 6-Series (2020)
- 10 Research and buying tips
- 11 How we test 4K TVs
- 12 Glossary of terms
- 13 4K Ultra HD
- 14 High dynamic range (HDR)
- 15 Full-array local dimming (FALD)
- 16 Wide color gamut (WCG)
- 17 Quantum dots
- 18 Phosphor-coated LED
- 19 OLED
- 20 HDMI 2.1
- 21 HDCP 2.2
- 22 HEVC (H.265)
- 23 VP9
- 24 Editors’ Recommendations
2021 TVs coming soon…
- LG’s A-Series OLED TVs look like they will set a new low price for OLED technology, possibly undercutting even Vizio’s OLED models.
- Samsung’s Neo QLED 8K lineup will come closer than ever to OLED-level picture quality thanks to the introduction of Mini-LED backlighting. But with its clever OneConnect breakout box that can hide away or be attached to an integrated center stand, it’s a shoo-in for the best design in a TV.
- Samsung’s MicroLED TVs represent something of an unknown. When they arrive, they will likely set a new benchmark for brightness and color, but we still don’t know how much they’ll cost.
- TCL’s 6-Series Roku TVs were already upgraded with Mini-LED backlighting in 2020 (see below) but this year, we’ll get TCL’s first 8K models, which we can pretty much guarantee will be the best value going for 8K if that’s what you want in your next TV.
- In 2020, Sony’s X900H proved to be the sleeper hit in the TV world, offering one of the best price-to-performance ratios we’ve seen in a long time. For 2021, the X90J Bravia XR 4K TVs pick up where the X900H leaves off, with the same XR processing technology that the company has introduced to all of its best models.
Now, on to the main event:
Theis the best 4K TV you can buy right now in 2021. With its latest-gen LG OLED Evo panel, it delivers the brightest image we’ve ever seen from an OLED TV and that helps it to trump all of the other models we’ve had a chance to test.
As LG’s flagship 4K model, the G1 boasts an enormous number of leading-edge features like full HDMI 2.1 support, a host of gaming-friendly features like variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low-latency mode (ALLM), Nvidia G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, and HGiG. Plus there’s no denying that this TV looks stunning when wall-mounted thanks to its slender profile.
The G1 is superb in every way, but it carries a premium price tag, which puts it out of reach for many. But the good news is that many of the best TVs of 2021 are far more affordable. And even if they can’t quite match all of the G1’s attributes, some come very close.
Can’t find something you like here? Check out our lists of the best TVs under $1,000 for more options.
Best TVs at a glance
The best TV: (2021)
Why you should buy this: It does it all and does it beautifully.
Who it’s for: Anyone who can afford it.
Why we picked the 65-inch LG G1 Gallery Series 4K OLED TV (2021):
If you’ve been following our coverage of OLED TVs, and in particular, LG’s OLED TVs, you know that superlatives just come with the territory. We loved the 2020 LG GX OLED, and the new 2021 G1 series is even better.
For a few years now, TV reviewers have observed that despite OLED’s incredible black levels, contrast, and color, OLED TVs haven’t been able to match QLED TVs in terms of brightness. The LG G1 Gallery Series goes further than any other OLED TV to address this gap, through a new kind of OLED panel that LG has labeled “OLED evo.”
It’s essentially a tweak of the materials used to produce OLED panels, but it yields visible results. How good is it? “The LG G1 Gallery Series produces the cleanest, most enticing imagery I’ve seen from a TV yet,” our reviewer enthused.
That performance is also helped considerably by LG’s latest picture processing tech, quarterbacked by its fourth-generation Alpha 9 AI Processor 4K along with its AI Picture Pro algorithms. While it can sometimes be a little overzealous with motion smoothing unless you intercede, its ability to upscale compressed, non-4K content is the best we’ve ever seen.
The G1 is ideal for those who want to wall-mount their TV — it comes with everything you need. But it’s one of the few TVs that doesn’t come with a stand. If you need one, there are two options: A set of feet and a fancier, tripod-based unit, but both are paid extras.
With four HDMI 2.1 inputs, the G1 is more than a pretty face — it’s a gamer’s dream. With Nvidia G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, HGiG profile support, variable refresh rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), and 4K 120Hz in HDR at full RGB color, this is one of the only TVs in the world that can provide gamers with a big-screen experience that can compare to a dedicated gaming monitor.
LG has also — finally! — updated its good but aging WebOS interface. It’s now thoroughly modern with a clean, task-driven interface and there’s even a dedicated gaming control center for quick access to all of the settings that gamers need. LG’s magic remote has been given a beneficial makeover too, and a clever new “MagicTap” feature that uses NFC to quickly pair your phone to your TV.
There’s really only one drawback to the: Its price. $3,000 for a 65-inch TV is a lot of money.
If you’re wondering about a cheaper option, there is one — LG’s C1 Series OLED TV is superb in every way and is the best OLED TV value for the money. But it can’t quite keep up with the G1 in terms of overall picture quality, so the G1 remains our top pick.
Read our in-depth LG G1 4K OLED TV review
The best value TV: (2020)
Why you should buy this: It brings black levels and contrast into OLED territory without the OLED price tag.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for great picture quality at a reasonable price.
Why we picked the 65-inch TCL 6-Series (2020):
TCL’s 2019 6-Series was already our pick for the best value TV, but the 2020 model takes this TV to a whole new level in terms of picture quality. That’s because this year, TCL has given the 6-Series a Mini-LED backlight to complement its quantum dot technology. The result is color accuracy, black levels, and contrast that are not only better than any other TV at this price, but they’re also almost as good as OLED, which is saying something.
Mini-LEDs accomplish this feat by replacing hundreds of large LEDs with thousands of tiny LEDs, for much better control over local dimming. “I deem the black levels on this TV to be excellent,” our reviewer said, “with good preservation of shadow detail.”
Unfortunately, getting the most out of the 6-Series requires some deep digging in the settings menus, some of which can be a bit tricky to decipher. But the effort is well worth it.
As a Roku TV, the 6-Series benefits from the Roku OS’s ultra-clean and easy-to-use interface, which extends to all of the TV’s functions. The voice remote can be used to adjust the volume level, swap s, and search for a particular movie or show across all the content services you’ve linked. With support for thousands of streaming services and apps, it’s easily one of the best smart TV experiences you can get right now.
But the 6-Series is also going to appeal to gamers. It’s one of the only TVs to feature THX’s Certified Game Mode, and those Mini-LEDs do a superb job of providing tons of shadow detail, something we’ve noted can be a challenge on OLED TVs.
With AMD’s FreeSync and VRR, you get clean, judder-free video all the way up to 120Hz. The only downside is that the 6-Series’ HDMI ports aren’t quite fast enough to let you game at these refresh rates while using 4K resolution, so if smooth action matters, you’ll have to confine yourself to 1440p.
All in all, theis an exceptional TV that brings premium-tier picture quality to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
If you’re willing to spend $400 more, the 65-inch Sony X900H has even better picture quality, in part thanks to Sony’s picture processing technology, which is the best in the business.
Read our in-depth TCL 6-series (2020) review
The best TV for cinephiles: (2021)
Why you should buy this: Sony’s latest picture processing tech delivers an unmatched movie viewing experience.
Who it’s for: Those who seek perfection in movie and TV picture quality and have the money to pay for it.
Why we picked the Sony A90J OLED 4K HDR TV:
Last year, we declared Sony’s XBR A8H OLED TV as the most cinematic 4K TV, thanks to the subtleties in detail that Sony was able to extract from its OLED panel. This year’s pick, the Bravia A90J Master Series, deserves the title of most cinematic TV for very similar reasons.
If you checked out our description of the LG G1 Gallery Series above, you know that its LG’s brightest OLED TV to-date, thanks to the new LG OLED evo panel and LG’s picture processor. Well, Sony has always had a way of squeezing even more performance from a given panel than LG, and the A90J exemplifies this capability.
Through specialized heat-sinks, Sony is able to run the A90J’s panel longer and harder without damaging the OLED material itself, which leads to an exceptionally bright image — brighter even than the G1. And when you layer on Sony’s latest Cognitive Processor XR — a computer brain that Sony claims works a lot like a human brain — you’ve got what our reviewer described as the “best picture quality I have ever seen […] this TV is now the benchmark, and it’s going to be hard to beat.”
Yes, the same reviewer said something similar about the G1, but in fairness, he had not reviewed the A90J yet.
The A90J also scores very highly when it comes to sound quality. Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ turns the entire OLED panel into a speaker, while its XR Surround makes that sound feel as though it’s coming from all around you — perfect for virtualized Dolby Atmos without a soundbar. But given that most A90J buyers will be running an A/V receiver for their sound, it’s pretty darn cool that the A90J has its own center channel speaker terminals, which lets you use the TV as a replacement for your existing center channel speaker.
With Android TV (and the new Google TV experience) running the user interface, it’s like having a top-notch streaming media device built-in, plus Sony has embedded Apple’s AirPlay and HomeKit in addition to Google’s Chromecast, leaving no stone unturned in terms of wireless device connections.
There are really only two drawbacks to the A90J, and one of them may not matter to you at all: There’s no VRR support for now, which gamers should be aware of, as it might affect their favorite games. The other is the price. At $4,000 for the 65-inch model, the A90J is very, very expensive.
That’s why the LG G1 won our overall best pick: It comes incredibly close to the A90J in terms of picture quality, it has every gaming feature you could want, and it costs $1,000 less.
Still, if you want the best cinematic experience in 4K TV, theis the TV you’ve been waiting for.
Read our in-depth Sony A90J OLED review
The best TV for cinephiles on a budget: (2020)
Why you should buy this: It delivers truly superb picture quality at a price that’s significantly less than OLED-based TVs.
Who it’s for: Those who want an affordable HDR TV that will perform well in all kinds of environments.
Why we picked the 65-inch Sony X900H HDR TV:
If you’ve just finished reading our glowing review of the Sony A8H OLED TV and found yourself sighing because such a TV is well beyond the scope of your budget, we have some really good news. Sony’s supposedly “mid-tier” X900H offers impeccable picture quality for about 50% less money than the A8H.
Granted, it’s not quite as stunning as the A8H, but that’s not surprising given its price of just $1,400. What is surprising is just how close the X900H gets, given that it must rely on a conventional, backlit panel to achieve it.
The key to the X900H’s excellent contrast and color can be found in Sony’s image processing chip, the X1 4K HDR Processor, and its full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight. Between these two elements, the display is able to produce extremely dark blacks. Sony’s control over backlighting is, according to Senior Editor Caleb Denison, “the best in the business.”
But there’s more to the X900H than just a great image. It’s also packed full of the latest technologies. Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, HDR10, and HLG are all natively supported. Apple AirPlay 2, Apple HomeKit, and Google Chromecast are all built in. Planned firmware updates will bring HDMI 2.1 features such as 4K at 120Hz, HDMI eARC, auto low-latency mode (ALLM), and variable refresh rate (VRR), which will make the X900H an impressive gaming monitor.
Google’s Android TV controls the show, and performance is snappy and satisfying. There are thousands of apps to choose from including virtually every major streaming service we can think of. Plus, you get a voice remote with direct access to Google Assistant for a multitude of voice commands that go well beyond controlling the TV’s functions.
The only caveats you need to consider are the‘s slightly reflective screen, which might not be ideal for locations with big, bright windows, and its viewing angles, which are narrower than OLED TVs and IPS-panel LCD TVs made by LG.
Read our in-depth Sony X900H HDR TV review
The best TV for bright rooms:
Why you should buy this: It pumps out enough brightness to overcome even the brightest of rooms, and does so without impairing black levels.
Who it’s for: Those who want an affordable and well-featured HDR TV that will perform well in all kinds of environments.
Why we picked the Hisense U8G 4K ULED HDR TV (2021):
The Hisense U8G picks up where last year’s H9G Quantum left off, which is to say, the U8G improves on the excellent H9G in almost every way, while keeping the price within striking distance for buyers: The U8G is about $200 more.
But Hisense rewards that extra investment with a TV that is stunningly bright and has a laundry list of desirable features. How bright is it? Our reviewer did the measurements and found that in HDR mode, the U8G could pump out 1900 nits after adjustments. For perspective, that’s the equivalent of the Samsung QN90A, a TV that costs more than twice what you’ll pay for the U8G. It’s also nearly twice as bright as the H9G.
As with the H9G, all of that brightness is accompanied by black levels that are very satisfying, with minimal blooming (the leaking of light from bright parts of the screen to dark parts).
Hisense has also added valuable HDMI 2.1 features, something the H9G was lacking. VRR, ALLM, HDMI ARC/eARC, and 120Hz gaming in 4K are all on tap, which, when combined with the U8G’s stellar brightness, makes it a compelling gaming display.
Hisense uses Android TV for the U8G’s smart OS, and the performance is snappy. And while the company has no plans to switch to the newer Google TV interface, the TV has full Google Assistant support, letting you issue voice commands via the included backlit remote control or hands-free via the TV’s built-in microphones.
HDR support is comprehensive: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+ are all included. Audio support is equally impressive with both Dolby Atmos and DTS Audio when watching IMAX Enhanced content.
Just about the only critique we have is the U8G’s off-angle picture quality. Watching from the sides can hurt black levels and you become more aware of the backlight. The best seats in the house will be directly in front of the U8G.
Still, that one concern aside, theis a terrific value.
Read our in-depth Hisense U8G 4K ULED HDR TV review
The best affordable 8K TV:
Why you should buy this: It can do 8K resolution at a 65-inch screen size for under $4,000.
Who it’s for: Those who want to be on the leading edge of TV resolution without arranging for a second mortgage.
Why we picked the Samsung Q800T:
8K is still very much an emerging corner of the entertainment world, so much so that there isn’t any actual 8K content readily available right now. That hasn’t stopped TV manufacturers from rolling out 8K displays, though, and so far, the Q800T is the most affordable way to get in on the 8K game.
OK, technically speaking, now that the 55-inch Q900 from last year is being deeply discounted, it’s the most affordable 8K TV. But, we’d argue that 8K resolution on anything smaller than 65 inches is pointless — you just won’t appreciate all of those extra pixels unless you’re sitting very, very close to your TV.
In order for an 8K TV to give you a better picture even when using 4K content as its , it needs to do a really good job at upscaling. Our experience with the Samsung Q900 suggests that the Q800T will be superb at doing just that.
And given the Q800T inherits pretty much every feature from last year’s Q90R, we feel pretty confident that the Q800T will be just about the best QLED TV you can buy.
The Q800T also has some neat tricks up its sleeve. It doesn’t have Chromecast or AirPlay 2, but its Tizen smart TV software is equipped with a dual-screen mirroring system that lets you see the contents of your phone or tablet side by side with content the TV is playing — or you can simply go full screen with either .
It also has an intriguing speaker system that uses a 4.2.2 channel setup. Using six speakers and what Samsung refers to as Object Tracking Sound+, it can offer a more immersive, 3D-like sound, without any extra speakers.
Gamers get AMD FreeSync support, HDMI VRR, and ALLM, and a single HDMI 2.1 port. Meanwhile, eARC is also on tap.
It’s also worth mentioning that theis one of the few TVs you can buy that comes future-proofed for the next wave in free, over-the-air TV thanks to its ATSC 3.0 tuner. ATSC 3.0 (or NextGen TV as it’s also known) is pretty exciting — we’ve got a full explainer here — and there’s a lot to be said for not needing an external tuner when your local TV stations start broadcasting in the new format.
The best budget TV: (2020)
Why you should buy this: It’s a good-sized TV with the best features available for its price range.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a big screen TV with great features for a minuscule price.
Why we picked the 55-inch TCL 6-Series (2020):
As a refresher, go and check out all of the great things we had to say about the 65-inch TCL 6-Series (2020) — we’ll wait.
OK, so all of those attributes like awesome black levels, contrast, and generally sweet picture quality? They all apply to the 55-inch version, but it only costs $700. When you consider that just a few years ago, that kind of money could barely get you into 4K resolution, it’s an impressive accomplishment.
We’re still waiting to get our hands on TCL’s new 2021 5-Series, which we expect to be an even better budget pick, but until we do, theis our gold standard for what an affordable TV can be.
Read our roundup of the best TVs under $500
Research and buying tips
What size 4K TV should I buy?
The answer to that depends on many factors, including your stylistic preferences, the size of the room, and how far away you’ll be sitting. Take a look at our guide to choosing the perfect TV size for you.
What is the best Roku TV?
These are the best Roku TVs.
How well does 4K TV upscaling work?
That depends on the TV but as a general rule of thumb: The better (and more expensive) the TV, the better the upscaling.
What if I need a 4K TV for a bright room?
You’ll need an OLED or QLED TV, like the 65-inch LG G1 OLED and Hisense H9G Quantum.
Are budget 4K TVs any good?
Almost all new TVs are 4K, so there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from at the lower end of the pricing scale. Don’t expect a standard LED TV to rival an OLED, though — set your expectations accordingly. We recommend looking for a quantum dot LED TVs (QLED) model as these will offer the best picture quality at lower prices.
Can a 4K TV work well as a PC monitor?
Yes, so long as your computer has an HDMI output. Adapters can be used for other output types but frequently do not pass along audio.
Do 4K TVs usually have Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?
Most modern TVs can be paired with Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant through either an Amazon Echo, Fire TV, or Google Home. Some televisions even have them built-in, eliminating the need for a smart speaker.
Right now, there are no TVs that have Siri built-in. Those that support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, however, can be controlled using Siri on an iOS device, such as an iPad, iPhone, or HomePod mini, as well as a Mac.
Do 4K TVs have problems with burn-in?
OLED TVs are the only type of 4K TVs that have the potential to suffer from burn-in, though it’s incredibly uncommon. Unless you like to leave the same news channel playing for eight hours a day, seven days a week, for weeks on end, you probably don’t need to worry about it.
How we test 4K TVs
We begin each model year by bringing in the top-tier televisions from each of the major brands, including Samsung, Sony, LG, and others. These premium televisions help set the highest standard for the year, managing expectations for each model below them, and providing context among the competitors.
We begin testing by setting up each TV in a completely dark room and adjusting its picture settings using tools and methods readily available to consumers — just like you might do at home. From there, we use a series of test patterns and familiar content, from streaming services to Ultra HD Blu-ray to over-the-air (OTA) TV, to judge each TV’s performance characteristics, including color production, motion resolution, black levels, backlight influence, brightness, HDR quality, and detail resolution.
Once we’ve analyzed a TV’s picture quality, we move on to elements that affect the user experience, including each set’s smart TV interface, user settings interface, remote control, external device recognition and control, and other essential touchpoints.
When possible, we’ll place two competing models side by side to provide additional context for the pros and cons of each TV. Finally, we decide which type of user a TV might appeal to. For instance, some TVs provide better bright-room performance, while others are better for a dedicated home theater performance. Some are better for sports, while others are better for watching movies or playing games.
In short, we make a thorough evaluation to determine not only which TVs offer the best picture quality, but those that offer the best overall user experience. After all, you’ll be living with your new TV for years to come, and using it should be a joy, not a pain.
Read our complete test methodology for more information.
Glossary of terms
Here’s a rundown of some of the most common terms associated with today’s TV technology.
4K Ultra HD
This refers to a display resolution that is four times that of 1080p HD. A 4K Ultra HD TV’s pixel resolution is a 3,840 x 2,160 grid in a 16:9 aspect ratio, resulting in nearly 8.3 million pixels. This increase in density adds striking detail and realism to an image and allows larger screens to be viewed from closer distances without individual pixels becoming visible.
High dynamic range (HDR)
High dynamic range is probably most familiar to people through the HDR mode on their digital cameras. It’s designed to deliver a picture that has greater details in the shadows and highlights, plus a wider range of colors. HDR in televisions pursues the same goal. The color palette is wider, blacks are deeper, and whites are brighter.
Presently, there are two major HDR formats: HDR10 and Dolby Vision, with a third — HDR10+ — beginning to show up on new models, particularly those from Samsung. The first is the HDR standard, but Dolby Vision offers a premium experience. Consider a TV that supports both. HLG (hybrid log gamma) is another recent addition to the HDR collection, which supports over-the-air (OTA) broadcast content with HDR.
Full-array local dimming (FALD)
This refers to an LED TV’s backlighting system. A FALD display contains an array of LEDs spread out in a grid behind an LCD panel, rather than just at the edges of the TV. This LED array is broken up into zones that can be dimmed when necessary to achieve better black levels. Another benefit is more uniform brightness across the screen.
Wide color gamut (WCG)
These are the expanded color reproduction abilities of a 4K Ultra HD TV, which are closer than ever to what we see in a digital cinema. By approaching the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) P3 color specification, a 4K UHD TV can produce billions of more colors than a 1080p HD TV.
A layer of film loaded with tiny nanocrystal semiconductors that is placed in a TV’s display panel to help produce a more accurate array of colors. Quantum dots work by producing a purer form of white light from a TV’s backlighting system, which helps the TV’s color filter perform more accurately.
An alternative to Quantum Dots, phosphor-coated LEDs have a chemical coating to alter the light’s output. When used in a TV, this results in a purer backlight that’s more easily manipulated by a TV’s color filter, resulting in a wide color gamut and increased color accuracy.
This stands for organic light-emitting diode. In an OLED display, the pixels also produce their own light, eliminating the need for an additional LED backlight, making OLED screens super thin. Because each pixel can be individually turned off when not in use, OLED displays create a perfect black, which is why you will see claims of “infinite contrast” on some OLED models. For more information, see our OLED versus LED article.
The latest version of the HDMI spec. It offers new enhancements for video games like variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low-latency mode (ALLM) and the ability to pass 4K signals to the TV at up to 120Hz, for ultra-smooth motion. HDMI 2.1 is a requirement for 8K video s like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. For most non-gamers, HDMI 2.1 is a nice way to future-proof yourself but it’s nowhere near a necessity yet.
The latest version of the High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection technology, which provides copy prevention specifically of 4K Ultra HD content. Any device that requires HDCP 2.2 will require a 4K Ultra HD TV with an HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI port for a compatible connection.
Stands for “High-Efficiency Video Coding.” A new compression technology developed to make large 4K UHD video files smaller and, therefore, easier to stream over broadband Internet connections. HEVC is said to double the data compression ratio over H.264, the predominant encoding technology used today for 1080p videos while retaining the same video quality. A smart TV or streaming set-top box must be able to decode HEVC to playback 4K Ultra HD video from sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
An alternative to HEVC developed by Google and used predominantly for encoding 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos. For a smart TV or streaming set-top box to play 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos, it must be able to decode VP9 videos.