(Pocket-lint) - The humble television is one of the biggest tech purchases in the home, not only with the potential to cost a lot, but with the ability to provide a lot of entertainment. Thanks to the abundnace of streaming services, there's even more reason to spend time infront of the TV - with even more reason to ensure that your TV can deliver the best viewing experience.
Thanks to streaming services, we're getting higher resolution and better quality content available at our fingertips, so having a great TV is no longer the preserve of those home cinema fanatics. Streamers and gamers want to get in on the action, with the trend being for bigger, slimmer and better across the board.
There's a lot to consider when buying a new 4K HDR TV, because you want to make sure that your new TV has all the technology to see you through the next 5 years of entertainment. With so many choices out there, let's expore some of the best TVs on the market if you're looking for a new 4K set.
Our pick of the best 4K TVs available to buy today
LG C1 OLED
- Picture quality
- Really low imput lag
- Limited peak brightness
- No HDR10+
LG has a range of OLED TVs and the C1 is the pivot points, smack in the middle of the range where it offers the best technology and performances, but without getting into the crazy prices of the higher models.
It supports many of the latest technologies, it's great for gamers with support for 120Hz, ALLM, VRR, FreeSync and G-Sync, while also offering Dolby Vision IQ.
It's a great OLED television, boosted by the fact that it comes in sizes from 48-77 inches, so you can choose the best model for your room.
- Impressive visuals
- Excellent dimming
- No Dolby Vision
Samsung's QN95A (known as the QN90A in some regions) is Samsung's flagship Mini LED TV. This is the first of a new wave of Neo QLED, designed to take the fight to OLED, using Mini LED for even more precise dimming.
That all works too, resulting in an outstanding quality of picture, but with plenty of brightness to really push through those HDR results. There's no Dolby Vision support, however, because Samsung won't support it.
But Samsung offers a great TV experience, connected and smart, while supporting a lot of other technologies, in a slim design with the separate OneConnect box meaning you can keep your connections tidy too.
- Excellent picture quality
- Complicated menus
- Requires some effort to get the best result
Philips has impressed with its OLED televisions, boosted by its unique feature - in this case offering four-sided Ambilight, for illumination that extends beyond the screen.
Philips here supports all the latest standards - Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+ - while offering a 120Hz display with support for gamers too with VRR, ALLM and FreeSycn/G-Sync.
That results in excellent picture quality, boosted by substantial sound quality, so this is a TV that sounds good with its inbuilt speakers.
But it is a little fiddly to get around the menus and the interface, so it takes some patience to get the best from it.
LG BX OLED
- Great picture quality
- Older processing engine
The LG BX OLED is a step down from LG's C series and in this case, from 2020. Don't let that worry you, because you still get a great panel for the price - and one that supports 120Hz too.
There's an older processor in this model so it doesn't have the picture processing power of the higher models - but this processor is also found in some 2021 models, so you're not missing out.
It comes in 55 and 65-inch sizes, which is what the vast majority of people are looking for, while you still get many of the latest technologies like Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker Mode.
- Excellent picture quality
- Great sound
- Lacks support for gamers
- Not the brightest TV around
The Sony A8 - and A9 which is a 48-inch model - were announced in 2020, but offer a great experience for movie lovers. This model uses Sony's acoustic surface principle, packing the speakers behind the display to give it a more direct sound system than some rivals.
This is an entry-level Sony OLED and it misses out on some of those technologies you'll find on more recent TVs designed to support gamers - sadly this doesn't offer 120Hz support.
But for those looking for movies and TV content, the Sony A8 continues to be a solid choice, especially when it comes to sound quality.
- Great picture quality
- Integrated soundbar
- Lacks support for gamers
Panasonic is looking to differentiate itself by boosting the sound quality and the integrated soundbar means that this TV sounds great, but is a little thicker than some rivals.
The picture quality is great and Panasonic supports a wide range of standards on this TV, but it doesn't stretch to offering support for gamers and it's only a 100Hz panel.
That won't worry movie fan who will find that this TV offers a great experience. It's a little older, but it's still a great TV.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides, including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality and value. Many of the devices we consider don't make our final best guides, but that doesn't mean they're no good.
These are some of the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top picks:
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, uses static metadata.
- Dolby Vision - an alternative form of HDR, promising a more enhanced HDR experience, uses dynamic metadata.
- HDR10+ - an evolution of HDR10, a competitor to Dolby Vision, uses dynamic metadata.
- Dolby Vision IQ - a version of Dolby Vision that allows for ambient light levels.
- Filmmaker Mode - a mode to show the content as the creator intended, overriding user settings.
- 120Hz - the refresh rate for the display, only really applicable if connecting an Xbox Series X/S or PS5.
- VRR/ALAM/Nvidia G-Sync/FreeSync - technologies to deliver superior experiences in gaming.
- HDMI 2.1 - the latest HMDI standard supporting 120Hz and 8K content.
- 1080p - also called Full HD, or 1920 x 1080 pixels.
- Ultra HD/UHD/4K - 3840 x 2160 pixels.
- 8K - the step up resolution, 7680 x 4320 pixels.
- 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, also called full array.
- Edge LED - where the illumination source is in the edges and channeled across the rear of the display, resulting in thin designs, but without 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, but the confusion doesn't end there, because we now have Mini LED too, which is what Neo QLED uses. This makes the LEDs much smaller, meaning much more control over the brightness levels in the different areas of the television. Mini LED is better than older LED technology and in high-end TVs, the decision is now coming down to OLED or Mini LED.
Considerations when buying a new TV
When it comes to buying a new television there's a lot to consider. The most important thing is size - you need to make sure that it's going to fit into the room that you put it in. Despite changes in technology, it needs to be comfortable to watch, so so you can't watch it without moving your head, then you might want to go smaller.
One of the big considerations at the moment is around resolution. With 4K now being fairly common and affordable, we have 8K waiting in the wings. But 8K is only really for larger TV sizes, those over 70 inches, where you'll need that resolution to keep the picture sharp. There's currently no real 8K source of content with everything based around upscaling instead, so for many, 8K isn't really part of the equation right now.
The other biggest change is HDR. Every TV you buy from the premium manufacturers covers a number of HDR standards, which we've detailed below. The only real consideration is that if you're buying a Samsung TV, you won't get Dolby Vision support - and if you've got access to a lot of Dolby Vision content, you might want to look elsewhere. If you're a keen gamer with the Xbox Series X or S or a PS5 - or you want to connect a PC - you'll want that 120Hz support and technologies like VRR, ALLM and FreeSync/G-Sync.
We've discussed the panel type above and the battle between OLED and LED continues, with Mini LED putting up a valiant fight against OLED. OLED is getting more affordable and is now available in a much wider range of sizes and is the choice for many - but top LED televisions can offer a better HDR effect because of that higher peak brightness.
Ultimately, much might come down to what sort of deal you can get. TVs can drop in price fairly rapidly with a yearly refresh cycle, so checking out a slightly older TV, as long as it does what you want, might save you a lot of cash.