As consumers living in the 21st century, we have a near-infinite number of choices when buying the things we need and want. In general, this is a good thing, as it means there is a product out there for everyone, but it can also make things more difficult. With sixteen million models to choose from, how can we ever know which one is the best for us?
Things are no different with TVs. Americans love their television, and so there are countless options out there on the market, enough to make your head spin.
To cut down on some of the stress that might go into making this choice, and to ensure you can quickly and easily find the best TV out there, we've identified nine we think stand out as being the best. We've divided them into three groups: high-end, mid-range, and budget.
There's something for everyone on this list, so check out which TVs made the list and find the one that's ideal for you and your home.
Televisions have come so far over the years that we could easily do an entire guide just on the features they offer.
However, to make a smart purchase, you don't need to know about TVs' evolution over the years and how much more they can do than before. You do, however, need to know more than just the size and the price, although these are also important.
Below is a list of the key features to consider when purchasing your TV, as well as a short description of each.
For us as viewers, a TV is a screen. Of course, there's a lot more that goes into it, but when talking about pure functionality, the screen is possibly the most critical aspect of your television.
The type of screen you have will seriously impact your TV's functionality, mainly because each screen offers different things in terms of color, brightness, viewing angle, contrast, etc.
As a result, it's essential to understand the different screen types out there and what they have to offer, as this will make it considerably easier to narrow your choices and choose the right device for you.
In general, there are three (but really just two) types of screens you can buy. They are:
This stands for Light Emitting Diode Liquid Crystal Display. Essentially, these TVs have a layer of liquid crystals on the surface that is lit by a backlight (the LED). This allows these TVs to be considerably brighter than others, but they don't offer as much contrast in colors, which means the picture definition will be slightly lower.
Also, LED LCD TVs look best when you're looking straight at them, meaning the picture degrades if you're watching from an angle.
However, LED LCD TVs can still deliver an excellent picture. Because this technology has been around for quite a while, television manufacturers can offer it to you at great prices, making these TVs an incredible value.
Lately, television manufacturers have been putting layers of quantum dots in their LED LCD TVs which allows them to control the brightness of the pixels in the LCD, which makes it easier to deliver sharper contrast and better picture definition. Samsung has been the leader in this technology for some time, but other manufacturers, such as Vizio, are entering the fray to compete and keep up.
Also known as Organic Light Emitting Diode, the main difference between OLED and LCD LED is that OLED screens are made up of pixels that illuminate independently. In other words, there is no backlight behind the pixels needed to light up the screen.
The main advantage of this is that each pixel can be turned off, which creates a true black and an infinite contrast ratio (more on this later), making images sharper and producing better colors.
For example, while watching a video of the clouds on an OLED screen, you would see the different shades and layers more easily than on an LED LCD TV. Also, OLED TVs boast wider viewing angles because they do not rely on a backlight.
However, OLED TVs are much less bright than LED LCD TVs. Also, they only come in 55-inches and above, meaning they are only suitable for large rooms. Many people feel OLED is the future of television, especially as new technologies continue to allow for higher definition images.
In many ways, plasma was the precursor to OLED, and if you haven't bought a TV in the last five or so years, you may still have it in your mind that plasma TVs are the best available.
These screens had a plasma that contained diodes that could light individually with an electric current. This mirrors what OLED does in that it could produce better blacks and higher contrast by controlling each individual pixel's brightness. Plasma TVs also have better viewing angles.
However, very few manufacturers still make plasma TVs. In fact, in the United States, it's almost impossible to get one. So if you have it in your mind that you want a plasma TV, you will probably be out of luck.
OLED is really the new plasma, so if you want the old plasma TVs' functionality, this will probably be the route for you.
Another thing you need to consider is the television's resolution, which refers to the number of pixels on the screen. In theory, more pixels means a better picture. However, as we will discuss later, more factors impact your TV's image's overall quality.
Fortunately, understanding screen resolution is pretty straightforward: the higher the number, the better the resolution. On the lower end of things is 720p, but most TVs these days have a much higher resolution.
The industry standard used to be 1080p. This refers to the number of pixels running lengthwise across the screen (the total amount is much larger) but for our purposes, know that 1080p is average.
However, the newest trend is Ultra HD television, also known as 4K, which has nearly four times the pixels as a 1080p TV. As a result, colors and picture quality tend to be much better, but only if the TV does well in several other areas, which we're about to discuss.
It's a quantity vs. quality thing. Of course, having more pixels is good, but only if the rest of the TV uses those additional pixels in a way that improves the picture.
In 2021, manufacturers are starting to develop 8K televisions, which is an even higher resolution.
At the moment, this capability is still limited to mainly the highest-end TVs, and not much content is created in this format. This will likely change in the future, though, so if you want a TV prepared for the next best thing, consider looking for TVs with 8K resolution.
However, many of these TVs retail for around $30,000 (yes, thousand), so it might not be worth the investment just yet.
Contrast is probably the most important thing to consider when comparing picture quality between TVs. Think about it: what defines the images?
Colors and brightness are important, but it's the difference between the colors that makes images look more authentic.
Just think about real life. When you stare out to sea, you don't just see blue. Instead, you see a shimmering mix of blue, green, and white, and within each color is a wide range of other colors that helps add depth and beauty to what you're watching.
As a result, you must have a high contrast ratio to get the best possible picture quality. This ratio is measured by dividing the brightness of the whitest white by that of the darkest black. The bigger the ratio, the greater the contrast, and the better the picture.
OLED TVs are described as having infinite contrast because their darkest black emits no light at all; the pixels are simply turned off. As a result, you're dividing a very high number by 0, which we know to be impossible. Because of this, OLED TVs have the best contrast ratios and the best picture quality, despite having a lower overall brightness level.
However, to help improve their TVs' contrast capabilities, manufacturers, especially those of LED LCDs, will include local dimming options that allow you to play with the backlight's potency. This can improve contrast and help produce a better image, making the overall image less bright.
We've mentioned it a few times already related to other features, but it does deserve its own category because the general consensus is that brighter TVs have better picture quality. This isn't so much because brighter images are better but rather because a TV that can get brighter can produce a more significant difference between lights and darks, which means better contrast and a crisper image.
Brightness also matters when the TV is in a bright area, such as a room with lots of sun or outside. Brighter TVs will make it easier to see the picture with sunlight, but they can also put a strain on your eyes if you watch them for too long.
Brightness is measured in lumens and nits; a nit is equivalent to about 3.4 lumens. The mathematical concepts behind both measures are complicated, but they aren't all that important for our purposes. Just know that the higher the number, the brighter the TV.
To give you an idea, TVs that are HDR-ready (more coming in a second) typically need to be able to emit 1,000 or more nits. Still, OLED TVs can reproduce HDR images with just 540 nits because of their higher contrast capabilities.
Before things get too confusing, just remember that brighter is usually better.
HDR stands for high-dynamic range, and it is an upgrade from high-definition (HD). It works by using metadata stored on the content that tells the TV more information about how to display colors, leading to a more accurate picture and more sharply contrasted images. This means HDR TVs come outfitted with a more complex processor that can handle this overload of information.
However, for HDR to work, having an HDR TV is just the first part. You also need to be watching content designed for HDR. Nowadays, Netflix and other streaming services offer more and more HDR-ready content, and Blu-Ray discs are also coming outfitted for HDR content as standard.
In general, we're still in the early stages of HDR, but we can expect it to grow in the coming years, meaning investing in an HDR TV now is probably a good idea. Any TV worth buying today must have at least some HDR capability.
Remember, though, that not all HDR TVs are the same. Without the right processor and contrast capabilities, HDR content can look worse than traditional images since it will be processing and trying to display information it is not physically capable of doing. Yet if you go with a mid-range or higher-end TV, this most likely won't be an issue.
Just as the world has started to get more comfortable with the concept of HDR, TV manufacturers have gone and introduced new formats that make things even more confusing. This is because we are still in the early years of HDR, and there is a fight going on for who will own the technology everyone uses. A similar thing occurred when Blu-Ray and HD DVD were fighting over the high-def disc market.
In short, HDR is the base technology that works to mimic the contrasts and colors we see in real life. It is now being referred to most often as HDR 10, so if you see this as part of a TV's specifications, know that it's referring to basic HDR capability.
Most HDR content is shot on a scene-by-scene basis, meaning your television only processes the data when, say, the camera angle changes. This is good, but it puts some limitations on the image's quality, which some companies have tried to tackle by releasing versions of HDR that analyze the image on a frame-by-frame basis.
The leader right now is Dolby Vision, which was developed alongside Dolby Atmos for theaters but adapted for the small screen. HDR10 and Dolby Vision are compatible, and the amount of content produced with Dolby Vision is smaller. This could change in the future, and many TVs are outfitted for both, which helps ensure you get the best possible television experience.
HDR+ is essentially the same thing as Dolby Vision, but it refers to Samsung's specific technology. They plan to license this technology out and compete with Dolby Vision, and it seems to be doing well. At the moment, Samsung has secured contracts with Panasonic, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. to start creating HDR+ content.
Lastly, there is HLG, which is the HDR technology used for live broadcasts. This version of HDR is still in its nascent stages, but it will most likely become quite important, especially for sports fans, in the next few years, so it might be worth it to invest in an HLG-ready TV now if you're ready to ride the wave of the future.
Many tech companies (Apple, for example) are moving away from including traditional hardware ports on their devices in favor of wireless connections. With some TVs, this is also the case, although there is still demand for conventional ports and connections. This is something you should consider when making your TV purchase.
The most important ports are HDMI, as these are how you will connect Blu-Ray Players, Chromecasts, and gaming consoles, but other things to look for are USB and SD card connections, which make it easy for you to watch videos and view photos from your phone or camera.
You will also want to decide before making your television purchase how smart you want your device to be. Most TVs these days come equipped with WiFi capabilities so that you can more easily watch Netflix and YouTube. Still, many models are going further with voice control, either with their own software or with third-party programs such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
It's also essential you choose the right size for your TV. We usually have the idea that bigger is better, but this is not always true, especially if you're going to be putting the TV in a relatively small room.
OLED TVs are only sold in 55-inch models and above, whereas LED LCD TVs are available in virtually any size. So, if you want a new TV but don't have the space for a massive outfit, then you'll need to settle for an LED LCD TV, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The best thing to do here is to visit at least one store and see for yourself how big the TV you're considering is. Then, measure your home and consider how prominent you want your TV to be in the room where you put it.
Lastly, you must make a budget for yourself before you start looking up options. Otherwise, you run the risk of falling in love with a device you simply can't afford, leading to disappointment and/or credit card trouble.
There are many different models out there, so you can either spend a lot of money or choose a budget option. To give you an idea, know that OLED TVs and similar models are usually at least $1,500, but they are often more than $2,000. Some are crazy expensive and are really more initial prototypes than actual consumer products. Yet if you want to spend $10,000 on a TV, you most certainly can.
LCD LED TVs can range from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand, but they are typically more affordable than OLED TVs, although some of the more advanced models rival the OLEDs in price.
As a result, if you're looking to get a new device for less than $1,000, you'll probably want to focus on the LCD LED options available to you.
Now that we have enough background, we want to present our list of the nine best TVs on the market. We've divided them up into three categories: High-end, Mid-Range, and Budget.
We did this because we know that each person is different, and although more money typically gets you a better TV, there are still plenty of great inexpensive TVs out there. Here's a snapshot of our list with more detail on each down the page.
For those looking for the best of the best and who are willing to shell out some dollars for the most advanced technologies, you can't go wrong with any of the following choices:
LG owns the proprietary technology for all OLED screens, meaning if you buy an OLED TV, it will come with LG tech. As a result, it should come as no surprise that one of the best TVs you can buy is the LG G9 OLED.
In terms of display, the G9 is not much different than some of LG's other OLED models. What makes this one better and more expensive is the a9 Gen 4 Intelligent Processor, which can handle more metadata and produce better images with less lag.
The E9 also has a slightly better sound system, which is vital if you don't plan to set up your TV with a surround sound system.
The E9 series also comes with wide-angle viewing capability, making it a great option if you plan to put the TV in a large room where people will be watching from many different places.
If you think this is the TV for you, be ready to break the bank; the 55-inch model, the smallest one available, costs around $2,199.
Here's a breakdown of all the specs on this TV:
Sony has long been a leader in the world of television and home entertainment, and this is still true today. As one of the only other manufacturers to also offer an OLED TV (although they use the same core technology as LG), Sony has managed to set itself apart with its XR A90J Master series.
Building on its past models, the A90J includes Sony's XR technology, a processor software that knows how humans hear and see, allowing it to adjust the image and sound to be more immersive and more realistic.
The Sony XR A90J Master series rivals the LG E9 series in terms of functionality, although this model does not come with wide-angle viewing.
However, Sony beats out LG with its sound system, something we should probably expect due to Sony's history, and it also offers a more streamlined smart TV experience by making use of Android TV 8.0. It also has a built-in Chromecast, making it far easier to stream videos from your mobile devices.
The only knock against this TV is its price. The 55" model starts at around $2,999, and it's another $1,000 for the 65" model. If you're prepared to spend this kind of cash, then you really can't go wrong with this TV.
The last TV in the "high-end" category is the Samsung Neo QN90R QLED TV. At first glance, you might think this is another OLED TV, but it's not. QLED stands for Quantum Light Emitting Diode, and it is the name Samsung has given to its proprietary quantum dot technology.
The technology adds a "quantum" layer to the TV screen, allowing the device to control colors similarly to an OLED TV. However, they cannot turn completely off, something which affects contrast.
The contrast ratio on this TV is still impressive, and it's more than enough to deliver a crystal clear picture. It's slightly lower than you might see with some other TVs because Samsung has made viewing angle a priority with this TV, something that sacrifices contrast. However, it still projects an incredibly sharp image, and the wide-angle capability just makes this TV all that much more impressive.
One might wonder why Samsung did not just make an OLED TV, but it would appear they've developed this technology to provide an OLED-esque image with the brightness of an LED LCD TV, something we've mentioned is a shortcoming of OLED TVs.
Samsung also installs its Neo Quantum Image Processor on its TVs, which is one of the most advanced on the market, allowing it to deliver excellent image quality on demand.
Of course, if you're looking to be part of the wave of the future, i.e., OLED, this TV will leave you out, but the technology behind the Neo QN90R is as advanced as it gets and won't disappoint. Furthermore, there are more size options with the Neo QN90R.
Despite not being an OLED TV, this device still comes with the OLED price tag, though Samsung has worked hard over the years to bring prices down, and they now offer more sizes than ever.
The smallest version, the 50", retails for $1,499.99, which is considerably lower than you will see with any other TV of this quality. Of course, larger screens command higher prices.
Screen type: LED with Samsung's proprietary Quantum dot technology.
As you can see, the TVs in the "high-end" categories are pretty impressive. However incredible they are, few of us can honestly afford to shell out more than two grand for a television.
The good news is that you don't have to. There are plenty of mid-range options that offer excellent image quality and similar features for less money.
For those looking for an OLED TV without the price tag of the LG G9 series, the C9 from LG is likely your best bet.
The only fundamental differences between the C9 and the G9 are the picture processor, slightly slower on the C9, and the sound system, which isn't quite as advanced on the C9 as it is on the G9.
The C9 is also slightly less bright than the G9, but the difference is only about 50 nits, which the naked eye can detect, but not so much so that you will suffer.
However, almost everything else is the same, and the C9 is on average $1,000 less than the same-sized model of the G9 series.
Vizio has built a name for itself in the television industry as the maker of quality TVs at affordable prices. Vizio has come a long way from being more of a budget option to being one of the leaders, especially with their P-Series Quantum TVs, some of the best on the market.
In general, P-Series Quantum TVs can do everything the other devices on this list can and more. They even have a slightly better contrast ratio than the Samsung Q90R, which we've identified as one of the premium TVs on the market. However, you don't get the same wide-angle capability as you do with the Q90R, so some sacrifices are made with this product.
This TV also has multiple HDMI 2.0 ports, which makes it a good option for gamers. At around $1,000 for the base model, the P-Series is one of the best value TVs on the market.
This mid-range model from Samsung offers similar picture quality as its top-of-the-line Q90 QLED TV with some missing features that make it considerably less expensive without sacrificing too much.
In short, the only things missing from this model are:
However, one advantage of the Q80A QLED is that it has many more size options than the Q70.
It comes in 55, 65, 75, and 85-inch models. The smallest versions are quite affordable (a little more than $1,000), but the larger models end up costing around what you would pay for a higher-end TV, though you can get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of screen size since this is a "mid-range" model.
Here's the rest of the specs for the Samsung Q70 QLED:
If you're in the market for a Sony TV, but you don't want to shell out for the XR A90J OLED model, the XBR X900F is an excellent LED LCD alternative that delivers a fantastic picture for much less money. It also boasts many of the same features as the A9F, such as a built-in Chromecast and a 4k HDR Processor.
The X900F series also delivers excellent contrast, although the picture won't be quite as sharp as OLED models purely because of the difference in technology. A powerful local dimming option keeps this TV as one of the best on the market.
As is often the case when downgrading from the high-end model, the Sony X900F loses its picture when you view it from an angle as it doesn't have the same OLED and Wide Angle Viewing option as its more expensive counterpart.
These modest shortcomings become less important when considering the savings you can enjoy by going with this model. The 65" X900F ($1,699) is more than $1,000 less than the 55" A9F ($2,799). Going this route will allow you to get great value as the X900F is still an excellent TV.
Here is a summary of the X900F's specifications.
While there is some great technology out there that can deliver a truly incredible television experience, not everyone wants to or can spend $1,000 and more on a television. In reality, you don't need to. High-definition TVs have been around for a long time, and they are quite good.
Just because these models are labeled as "budget" does not mean they are bad. Instead, you save by skipping over some of the frills and fuss and newer technologies, which leaves you with a high-performing TV for a fraction of the cost.
Here are our choices for the four best budget TVs on the market.
As we've mentioned, Vizio has long been the primary brand for high-quality yet affordable TVs. In recent years, they have moved to enter the high-end market, with their P Series Quantum TVs leading the way. However, the company still understands its roots, and with the M Series Quantum, it has produced an excellent television that you can have for less than $1,000.
The M Series offers 4K resolution, excellent contrast, and HDR capability, which means it gives you more or less the same performance we expect from a high-end TV, although none of these features quite match up to the P Series or its competitors.
Probably the biggest thing missing from this television is brightness. With a maximum brightness level of around 700 nits, the TV is bright enough to deliver a great picture but not bright enough to give you the full HDR effect. Another knock on this TV is that the image degrades considerably when you view the television from an angle, so only go for this TV if you can place it in a central location.
However, despite these minor issues, this is still a great TV with an excellent contrast ratio made even better with the TV's local dimming option, nice color, and a fan-friendly price, although it's still not the cheapest available. If you go with the Vizio M-Series, you can get a 70-inch TV for just $800. that's pretty tough to beat.
Here's a breakdown of the specs
That the TCL 6 series is labeled a budget option speaks to how far we've come in the world of television tech. This really is a fully loaded TV, but it comes with a much less daunting price tag than that of some of the higher-end models.
However, it doesn't quite match up to those at the top of the list despite its outstanding performance. The contrast is great, but it's not as great as it could be. It does have superb peak brightness, which helps make the HDR experience that much more exciting.
The 6 Series has also been lauded as a gamer's TV because of its low lag and fast refresh rates. It also comes equipped with the Roku TV platform, making it super easy for you to navigate between your different entertainment suites.
The only noticeable downsides to this TV are its somewhat less than average uniformity, meaning shots meant to be all one color may appear to be shaded or off-color, something known as the dirty screen effect. Also, the viewing angle is a minor issue, with picture quality degrading considerably at an angle, and the TCL 6 does not support HLG, which will slightly harm the HDR experience.
However, these negatives are minor at best, considering the 55" model costs only $699.99; it's tough to get too picky. Interestingly, TCL seems to be raising its prices. The introduction of their 8-Series, which uses Quantum dot technology, suggests they are looking to change their image as a budget-friendly option.
However, for now, this is an excellent TV that doesn't require you to break the bank.
Given how important the television is to our daily lives, it should come as no surprise that there are so many choices out there. When you consider how quickly the technology is advancing, it's almost impossible for anyone who's not a tech expert to distinguish between true trends and mere fads.
Our aim with this guide was to distill the key things to look for in a TV, such as resolution, contrast, HDR capability, etc., and then point you in the direction of nine different options that will meet your needs and your budget.
Of course, there are many more TVs to choose from, and we encourage you to do your own research. Just know that we've spent the time to review and test these products so that you can move forward with the buying process looking at the best. Good luck and happy watching!