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 - just to make things more confusing.
So read on while we demystify the world of Ultra HD television and help you pick the right TV for you, presenting some of the best TVs currently on the market.
- What is HDR, what TVs support HDR, and what HDR content can I watch?
- Tips and tricks to buying a 4K TV, all you need to know to help make a purchase decision
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Best televisions 2016
The Samsung JS9500 (KS9800 in the US) sits at the top of Samsung's offering, pushing the curved TVs that Samsung has now become known for. The JS9500 pumps up the brightness, delivering HDR with a punch, with the advantage of offering direct LED illumination for detailed handling across colour and brightness with excellent local dimming. Some might not like that curve, but this is where Samsung is putting all its efforts and seeing its best results. It offers bags of connectivity, intuitive navigation and control and surprisingly good sound.
The Samsung KS9500 is a worthy flagship and an excellent television, offering excellent HDR handling, colour vibrancy and upscaling and conversion to make all your content look good, although it is expensive: those looking for the same design in edge-lit tech will want the cheaper KS9000, if you're in the market for a curved TV.
- Available in 78-inches: Samsung UE78KS9500 for £8,499.
- Available in 65-inches: Samsung UE65KS9500 for £3,799.
LG OLED C6
If you're in the market for a curved TV, then you might prefer the LG OLED C6. The big sell here is that you're getting an OLED display, meaning deep, deep black and wonderfully vibrant colours, all packed into a crazy-skinny television. It's not quite as thin as the OLED E6, but with that subtle curve and a stand that makes it look like it's floating, there's little to complain about on the design front. In webOS, LG has one of the nicest user interfaces around, and it's one of the rare TVs to offer Dolby Vision support in addition to regular HDR10.
There's some jaw-dropping visuals on offer for those after Ultra HD resolutions, with detail and vibrancy, as well as that pinpoint handling of light and dark. Lacking the peak brightness of the best LED panel, the HDR sometimes isn't quite as impactful, even if it will handle some high contrast scenes with more skill. Sound is the weakness, with a thin delivery from the onboard speakers.
- Available in 65-inches: LG OLED65C6V for £4,299.
- Available in 55-inches: LG OLED55C6V for £2,799.
Sony has pitched its top TV skills into this one model, offering direct LED illumination, but only at a 75-inch size, meaning that this wonderful TV is only for those with big space and big budget. That said, the XD94 combines excellent performance with plenty of connectivity and the intuitive Android TV interface. This is topped off with a YouView EPG for a complete selection of UK catch-up services.
Overall performance is fantastic, with real punch in HDR delivery and excellent all-round performance. The XD9405 goes big on everything, so costs you big bucks. It it costs too much, check out the similar-design, but smaller X9305 instead.
- Available in 75-inches: Sony 75DX9405 for £4,999.
FULL REVIEW: Sony XD9405 review
LG OLED E6
LG has a full line-up of OLED televisions in 2016 and it's the only mainstream manufacturer to offer them. They are stunning, both in terms of design and performance, setting themselves aside from the various other LED TVs that dominate this list. While the flagship is the Signature G6, it's the second-tier TV that's likely to be of interest: it's cheaper, but offers much the same technology. The picture on glass design means the display is impressively thin, but it sits on a 40W soundbar. Not only that, but the LG OLED TVs also offer Dolby Vision, a premium take on HDR that you won't currently find offered elsewhere.
Deep, deep blacks, wonderful design and vibrant colours are fused into a TV that offers one of the nicest user interfaces around in webOS. Not only that, but the E6 also offers the intuitive Freeview Play EPG for the UK, making it fully connected, fully featured and a staggering performer.
- Available in 65-inches: LG OLED65E6V for £3,499.
- Available in 55-inches: LG OLED55E6V for £4,999.
Panasonic Viera DX902
Panasonic's flagship TV for 2016 the DX902 (called the DX900 in other regions) benefits from direct LED illumination, with the potential to offer some of the deepest blacks you'll find on an LED TV. The colours are wonderfully vibrant and thanks to HDR, the excellent contrast will give you some draw-dropping visuals. The DX902 offers plenty of connectivity, with 4K HDR streaming from Netflix and Amazon if you have a subscription; in the UK it also offers Freeview Play in the UK.
The performance of the DX902 is excellent, but it falls behind some rivals like Samsung and LG when it comes to the user interface, which could be a little slicker. This is a big TV and it excels at big performances.
- Available in 65-inches: Panasonic TX-65DX902B for £2,899.
- Available in 58-inches: Panasonic TX-58DX902B for £1,999.
FULL REVIEW: Panasonic Viera DX902 review
The Samsung KS7000 delivers its biggest punch when you look at the price. This is a fully-loaded 4K HDR television and a great performer, offering a Quantum Dot display, dripping in colour with loads of contrast. Its edge LED system is bettered by some of the direct illumination alternatives, but at double the price, the smart buyers will favour the KS7000.
Excellent performance for the money, the user interface is fluid and easy to use, offering 4K HDR streaming from it's own apps and the convenience of a separate connections box. The stand is a little inflexible, but for those wanting to wall-mount, the KS7000 is an excellent choice for those after a flat TV. Smart TV for smart money.
- Available in 60-inches: Samsung UE60KS7000 for £1,699.
- Available in 55-inches: Samsung UE55KS7000 for £1,399.
- Available in 49-inches: Samsung UE49KS7000 for £1,199.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung KS7000 review
With a design and spec sheet that looks like the XD9405 also on the list, Sony's XD9305 is a slight step down from the XD94. The big difference is that it uses edge illumination rather than direct. While that means it can offer an amazing thin design and all the connected goodness you'd want from a top-tier 4K HDR television, it's not quite as adept at handling HDR content in high contrast situations. That might leave a small hole for perfectionists when it comes to movie viewing, but that hole may well be filled by the spare cash you'll have once you've paid for it.
Excellent performance in many areas, the XD9305 does show that direct LED illumination is the better technology for handling some of the more difficult scenes, but when you're sitting watching Eastenders or 4K Premier League football, that won't matter at all.
- Available in 65-inches: Sony KD-65XD9305 for £2,374.
- Available in 55-inches: Sony KD-55XD9305 for £1,674.
FULL REVIEW: Sony XD9305 review