The time of Ultra HD or 4K is now. This latest step in high-definition is no longer something for the rich and privileged, it's coming from all sides, making your TV viewing better than ever before.
There's a huge amount of choice and plenty of confusion: you'll see UHD, Ultra HD and 4K all used to describe this new level of detail that TVs can offer, as well as talk about HDR (high dynamic range), HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision just to make things more confusing.
So read on while we demystify the world of Ultra HD HDR television and help you pick the right TV for you, presenting some of the best TVs currently on the market.
Quick fire TV jargon buster
One of the confusing things about televisions is the jargon that goes along with them. Here's a very brief run-down of the important things to look out for:
- HDR - high dynamic range, to bring the latest colour and contrast, also called HDR10.
- Dolby Vision - an alternative form of HDR, promising a more enhanced HDR experience.
- Ultra HD/UHD/4K - the 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution.
- OLED - Organic LED, where the light is emitted from each pixel, meaning deep blacks, vibrant colours and amazingly thin designs.
- QLED - Samsung's latest quantum dot display, LED based and not to be confused with OLED.
- Direct LED - where the illumination source is directly behind the display, meaning deep blacks, but thicker designs.
- Edge LED - where the illumination source is in the edges and channeled across the rear of the display, result in thin designs, but with out the illumination control of direct LED or OLED panels.
OLED or LED?
This is the biggest battle in televisions right now and it's here that you'll have to make the biggest decision. What display technology are you after? Here's the current state of play:
OLED produces the light from each pixel rather than having illumination from the sides or rear like LED. This means that OLED can achieve better absolute black, because you just turn off that pixel's illumination. Having greater contrast and better viewing angles often leads to richer colours and greater accuracy, but the brightness levels aren't as high. OLED can often look better, but isn't as dramatic with HDR and can sometimes struggle with definition between absolute black and just above absolute black. However, OLED panels can be really thin, presenting great design opportunities.
LED is brighter than OLED, with some TVs outputting close to 2000 nits. The real difference this makes is that it can really boost colour and it and super-charge HDR performance, by making those bright whites even brighter - while also cutting through reflections in bright rooms. It's also a cheaper technology than OLED so LED sets are often cheaper overall (but there are exceptions). LED TVs may be direct or edge lit, but the illumination needs to be distributed behind the panel and controlled in segments or zones. Direct will normally be the most capable, while some cheaper TVs may only be lit from one side, some from two sides. QLED from Samsung is a form of LED.
To help you cut through this puzzle, we've split LED and OLED into separate sections below. After that, you need to make the call.
Best OLED TV 2017
OLED is a funny thing. With LG being the biggest producer of OLED TV panels and the greatest proponent of OLED television over the past years, it also offers one of the best ways to get yourself an OLED TV without breaking the bank. There's a lot to consider in this list, but for sheer accessibility, it's hard not to recommend LG's entry-level device. Read on to find out why.
LG OLED B7
The thing that you probably don't realise is that all of LG's 2017 OLED TVs use the same panel, same processing, same performance, same quality. That runs from the B7 up to the Wallpaper TV with the difference being the design and the sound. The C7 boosts the sound, the E7 enriches the design and adds a soundbar and so on.
However, if you're serious about watching TV and you have a sound system already, then you needn't worry about the B7's biggest downside which is poor sound quality. Instead you get to revel in outstanding picture quality with Dolby Vision support and HDR performance that beats older OLED TVs thanks to its increased brightness levels. It's also a lovely TV to use thanks to the WebOS interface, fully connected with the latest apps and services and all in a premium design at a price that will open your wallet without hesitation, especially at the 55-inch size.
- Read the full review: LG OLED B7
See the Panasonic EZ1002 on John Lewis
If it's amazing picture quality that you're after, then the EZ1002 packs a punch with its OLED flagship. Panasonic is returning to OLED, but thanks to its picture processing, this TV (called EZ1002 in the UK, but EZ1000 in the US) has won accolades, being the choice of some top-level colourists in Hollywood, and getting the THX stamp of quality approval. Basically, you could be watching movies at home that were tested on this TV in studios.
But for that you have to pay a price. This Panasonic set is expensive, not helped by the fact that the smallest size is 65-inches. It also comes with a soundbar attached, aiming to be the complete solution. You ultimately pay for that privilege, but you're rewarded with picture quality that often surpasses its OLED rivals. One omission from its skill set is Dolby Vision support, but otherwise, this is a serious OLED TV.
- Read the full review: Panasonic EZ1002 review
Sony Bravia A1
See the Sony Bravia A1 at John Lewis
The Sony Bravia A1 is as much an OLED masterpiece as it is a design statement. With a easel design, incorporating a complete sound system, the leg at the back is the subwoofer, while there are actuators behind the display turn the screen into the speaker. It's as minimalist and technically brilliant as you'll find, while also packing in all the skills of Android TV and supporting Dolby Vision.
Sony's picture processing is very much the star of the show, but this OLED panel isn't as bright as some rivals. That might not matter settling down for some serious movie watching in a darkened room, but it can reduce the impact - including the HDR performance - when things are a little lighter. But what you're really getting is as much as piece of art as it is a sophisticated TV and for that, it's pretty expensive too, even at 55 inches.
- Read the full review: Sony Bravia A1
Philips 9002 Ambilight
Perhaps a surprise entry is Philips' second OLED TV. Called the POS9002, it fuses some very clever processing with this OLED panel to give some outstanding results, dealing with things like just-above-black noise that sees LG often floundering. Impressive picture performance is slightly hampered because it's not as bright as some panels, but then Philips' unique Ambilight experience provides a dimension that no other TVs offer, if that's your thing.
Sound is on the weak side and this TV is powered by Android, which isn't quite as slick and stable as LG's WebOS, and there's no support for Dolby Vision. The flip side of the coin see this as one of the more affordable OLED sets around. Paired with at picture performance, this is a lot of TV for your money.
- Read the full review: Philips 9002 Ambilight
Best LED TV 2017
While OLED mostly dominates the flagship TV domain, offering flagship performance, LED TVs stretch from budget to brilliant with a huge range of variation. If you want the best, then you'll have to pay for it, but there are a huge range of options to choose from.
Samsung QLED Q9F
Firstly, don't fall for the QLED branding, this has nothing to do with OLED. The Q9F is Samsung's third-generation quantum dot TV and one of the brightest TVs on the market. It's also one of the most expensive LED TVs around, which might drive some to the Q7F instead, but this model is more capable, a superb HDR performer and very capable in bright rooms thanks to the brightness of the display - with better performance thanks to the dual-edge illumination.
Samsung's slick user interface is fast and hugely accomplished, one of the nicest to use, offering loads of connectivity and all the latest streaming services. There's no support for Dolby Vision and there likely never will be, and with 65-inches as the smallest size, this TV offers stellar performance, but you have to be ready to pay for it.
- Read the full review: Samsung Q9F review
Sony Bravia ZD9
The Sony Bravia ZD9 was Sony's flagship TV for 2016 holding on to that position as the best for LED for HDR in 2017 too. The ZD9 aims to be the greatest HDR TV out there, offering wonderful detail and brightness, with huge contrast from the direct-lit LED panel that out performs just about every other TV. It's also sensitively designed, with cable management built into the rear and the stand, so it always looks tidy.
The ZD9 is an award winning TV, capable in all areas, sitting on the Android TV platform and offering a full range of connected features. Sony has also said that it's due to be updated to support the latest Dolby Vision and HLG formats. The ZD9 is available in three sizes, the 100-inch model is comically priced at £60,000, but the smaller 65 and 75-inch models are more reasonably priced.
- Read our full review: Sony ZD9 4K TV review
Samsung QLED Q7F
While the Samsung Q9F is more accomplished, you can slash the price in half and have a wider range of sizes - including that 55-inch sweet spot - if you opt for the Samsung Q7F. The difference is in some of the design, a slightly lower peak brightness and that this set only has illumination from one side. That means that while this is still a great TV, it's not as accomplished as Samsung's flagship.
However, there's still a huge amount to love about this TV. Excellent colours join great HDR performance in the slim design with excellent connectivity and one of the slickest user interfaces around. It is then, the QLED TV for the everyman (if you will), giving you great performance for the price.
- Read the full review: Samsung Q7F review
Sony Bravia XE93
See the Sony XE93 on Amazon UK
The XE93 falls into Sony's rank and file TV range for 2017, pushing Sony's picture processing skills and combining great LED brightness for great HDR performance. It has the same processing hardware as the ZD9, but lacks the direct illumination, which can reveal some flaws in its performance. However, good value for money makes this an attractive proposition - along with Dolby Vision support that Samsung is unlikely to ever offer.
It runs Android TV which isn't as slick and stable as Samsung or LG's offerings, but it's still fully connected, delivering all your connected services, making for a good all-round package.
- Read the full review: Sony Bravia XE93 review
Samsung MU7000 (MU8000 in the US)
Samsung's biggest problem in TVs might be that it's sub-flagship models are just too good. This isn't a QLED TV, but it is a new version of one of the greatest TVs of 2016 - the KS7000. The key here is value for money. Not only do you get a fully-connected TV with the latest user interface that's the same as the flagship models, but you also get the One Connect box that moves the connections off the TV and into an easily accessible unit, reducing the cables you need to run to your TV - perfect for wall mounting.
From this LED panel you still get great 4K HDR performance, although it noticeably not as skilled as the Q7F. In the same breath, it's also much more affordable. Looking for bang for your buck, but still want to fly first class? It's the MU7000 you want. American readers take note - it's called the MU8000 in the US.
- Read our full review: Samsung MU7000 review