Welcome to March, or “limbo-land” as we tend to think of it in the TV world. It’s the time of year where we know exactly which new TV models we can soon expect to see on store shelves — and we even know some of the prices — but we haven’t been able to get hands-on time with any of them.
That creates a void of sorts. All of last year’s models are still here and they’re still being sold, but folks are itching to know if the newer models are worth holding out for. We feel your pain.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll start with a quick round-up of all the 2021 models we’re super excited to review (and why), but immediately below, you’ll find our current batch of the best TVs from 2020 that have been through our review process. If you need a new TV right now, they’re still our top picks. Here we go…
The most exciting TVs of 2021
- LG’s G1 OLED gets the company’s improved Evo OLED panel, for better brightness than any previous OLED TV. Given that brightness is one area where QLED TVs have traditionally enjoyed an advantage over OLED, we’re keen to see just how bright these Evo panels can get. The G1 is also chock-full of LG’s latest TV tech specs, like HDMI 2.1, VRR, ALLM, HGiG, Dolby Vision IQ, eARC, Nvidia G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, 120 fps gaming, and much more. This TV will almost certainly provide the best 4K picture quality of 2021 for those who can afford it.
- 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.
- Sony’s A90J XR Bravia Master Series is the company’s flagship OLED TV, with 4K resolution and Sony’s new XR Cognitive Processor. Sony has a long history of providing the best picture processing we’ve ever encountered, and we expect to be dazzled by this model too.
- 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 hideaway, 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.
Naturally, there will be new models from Hisense and Vizio too, but we’ll discuss those once we get a chance to review them.
Now, on to the main event:
Theis the best 4K TV you can buy right now in 2021. It somehow manages to improve on its predecessor, the C9, offering better image processing while maintaining its relatively affordable price.
But what makes the CX our pick this year is its extreme versatility, especially for those who game. LG’s partnership with Nvidia has paid off, making the CX a top-notch gaming display too.
If, on the other hand, your viewing habits are purely in the realm of movies and TV shows, Sony’s A8H OLED is a cineaste’s dream.
If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, the new TCL 6-Series (2020) uses Mini-LED backlighting for black levels that are almost as good as OLED. Looking for budget picks from other companies? Consider the Hisense H9G or Sony X900H, both of which surprised us with their affordable performance.
Want to get into the world of 8K without selling a vital organ? Samsung’s Q800T can get you there for less than $3,000.
Looking for the biggest, baddest TV on the planet? It’s still the wallet-crushing 88-inch LG Z9 8K TV.
The fact of the matter is, each television on this list has something special to offer, so grab your credit card and scroll down through our cultivated lineup to meet the TV of your dreams.
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: LG CX 4K OLED
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
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 CX 4K OLED TV:
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 2019 LG C9 OLED, and the new 2020 CX series is even better.
Picture quality has once again been improved thanks to LG’s latest picture processor, the Alpha 9 Gen 3. But what really sets the CX apart is its out-of-the-box picture settings and its remarkable set of video-game-friendly features.
We’ve encountered TVs that offer superb image quality, but that performance is offset by a cumbersome menu system that buries the needed controls. This adds time and complexity for those looking to improve color accuracy and eliminate the dreaded soap-opera effect.
With the CX’s Filmmaker Mode and picture presets, like ISF Expert Bright Room, you can quickly and easily unlock the full potential of this TV, no professional calibration needed.
LG’s partnership with Nvidia has turned the into a superb gaming display, suitable for just about every type of PC or console genre. In addition to the variable refresh rate (VRR) that’s built into the HDMI 2.1 specification, the CX offers Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync for guaranteed gaming compatibility with the top graphics cards. Combined with the CX’s Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), it prompted our reviewer, Caleb Denison, to say, “the gaming experience is glorious,” even up to 4K 120Hz in HDR at full RGB color, which is “buttery smooth.”
The only caveat for gamers is a tendency for the CX to crush some blacks, which can make it hard to make out shadow details in some scenes. As with any OLED display, it’s also worth noting that burn-in (permanent image retention) is possible if you play games with static on-screen elements for many hours at a time.
We’ve got minor quibbles with the CX’s speakers (they’re fine for a TV, but you’ll likely want a soundbar) and with LG’s WebOS software — it’s still excellent, but its Wii-style magic wand interface is beginning to show its age. Despite this, theis still our top pick for 2020’s lineup of TVs.
Read our in-depth LG CX 4K OLED TV review
The best value TV: 65-inch TCL 6-Series (2020)
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
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 sources, 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: 65-inch Sony A8H OLED 4K HDR TV
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: Its slightly more conservative approach to HDR yields a picture quality that movie-lovers will really appreciate.
Who it’s for: Those who seek perfection in movie and TV picture quality.
Why we picked the Sony A8H OLED 4K HDR TV:
Last year, we declared Sony’s A9G Master Series OLED TV as the best overall TV, while the LG C9 grabbed our pick for best gaming display. One year later, both companies have doubled down on what made these TVs so good. But where LG has embraced as many cutting-edge features as it can (in addition to improving picture quality), Sony has opted for a more conservative approach, effectively reproducing the A9G’s best traits, but at a lower price, with the A8H.
So while LG’s CX has gained enough of an edge to be declared best overall TV, the new Sony A8H holds the title for the most cinematic TV. Once again, Sony has proven that its image processing technology, embodied in its flagship X1 Ultimate processor, is the best in the business. When you combine LG Display’s awesome 4K OLED panel with Sony’s imaging wizardry, you get a TV that more faithfully reproduces film and video creators’ intent than any other.
Sony has also managed to bring down the price of all of this video voodoo. The A8H is still pricey when compared to LG, but with the 55-inch model at $1,900 and the 65-inch set at $2,800, it’s up to $500 less than the A9G for the same size.
While we have zero qualms about recommending the A8H for serious videophiles, the same cannot be said for gamers. Sony hasn’t added any HDMI 2.1 features to the A8H, so 4K resolution is limited to 60Hz, there’s no VRR and no ALLM mode. Thankfully, it does have eARC (which is a must for lossless, high-resolution audio), but that’s just proof that Sony has put all of its efforts into creating a no-compromises movie display.
Two other areas of strength for the: It has enough processing power to make its Android TV operating system a snappy, responsive experience (something we couldn’t say of previous Sony TVs), and it has a built-in speaker system that is surprisingly good. You’ll probably want a soundbar or home theater sound system anyway, but it’s nice to know that if push came to shove, you could easily enjoy the A8H as a solo performer.
Read our in-depth Sony A8H OLED review
The best TV for cinephiles on a budget: 65-inch Sony X900H HDR TV
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
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: Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
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 HDR TV that will perform well in all kinds of environments.
Why we picked the Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV:
The Hisense H9G Quantum may not have cutting-edge gaming features like VRR, ALLM, or 4K 120Hz, but where it outshines the competition (literally) is its achingly bright display.
Able to pump out at least 1,000 nits of peak brightness in HDR mode (in testing it actually went much brighter), the H9G is your best bet for enjoying all that HDR content has to offer, regardless of where you place it in your home. Better yet, it manages to achieve these ultra-bright images without sacrificing decent black levels. Then there’s the price: At just under $1,000 for the 65-inch model, it’s a heck of a good value.
Hisense is also clever enough to realize that most folks don’t want to mess around for hours inside of the settings menus just to get their picture quality dialed in. When you adjust the options for standard dynamic range (SDR) material, the TV automatically selects the appropriate HDR settings. As our reviewer points out, “just sit, click, watch, and know you are getting the best picture performance.”
The H9G includes support for Dolby Vision & HDR10, the two major flavors of HDR that you’ll find on Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. Android TV is the onboard smart TV software and just like the Sony A8H, there’s enough processing power on the Hisense to make the experience satisfyingly responsive.
With Chromecast and Google Assistant, both included, theis a very well-rounded TV, at a very attractive price.
Read our in-depth Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV review
The best affordable 8K TV: Samsung Q800T
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 source, 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 source.
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: 55-inch TCL 6 Series (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 $650. 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 2020 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 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 CX 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 receiver.
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 iPod, 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. It’s not something for average consumers to worry about anymore.
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. 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 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 into the TV at up to 120Hz, for ultra-smooth motion. HDMI 2.1 is a requirement for 8K video sources 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 source 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.