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(Pocket-lint) - The humble television is one of the biggest tech purchases in the home, not only because they generally cost a fair bit, but they provide the hub for almost every form of entertainment.
With the abundnace of streaming services, there's even more reason to spend time in front of the TV today. All the more reason to ensure that your set can deliver the best viewing experience.
There's a lot to consider when buying a new 4K HDR TV though. You want to make sure that it has all the technology to see you through the next five years of entertainment and more. So, with many choices out there, let's expore some of the best TVs on the market if you're looking for a new 4K HDR set.
Our Top Pick for the best 4K TV is currently our EE Pocket-lint Awards 2021 winner, the Philips OLED806. We also recommend looking at the Panasonic JZ2000, Samsung QN95B, Philips OLED+936 and LG C1 OLED
Our pick of the best 4K TVs available to buy today
- 4-sided Ambilight
- Excellent picture quality
- Complicated menus
- Requires some effort to get the best results
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.
And this EE Pocket-lint Awards 2021 winning TV supports all the latest standards - Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos for sound. It even offers a 120Hz display with support for gamers too with VRR, ALLM and FreeSyc/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.
It is a little fiddly to get around the menus and the interface, so it takes some patience to get the best from it, but you'll find the effort is well worth it.
- Great picture performance
- Dolby Atmos sound system built in
- Not all ports are HDMI 2.1
Panasonic puts its heart and soul into picture performance and cinema-quality images, and the JZ2000 is no exception.
Coming with a Master OLED 4K panel, it hits excellently bright peaks without loss of deep black levels.
There's also a better focus on gaming with this model (than many previous TVs from the manufacturer). VRR, ALLM and 4K120 are all supported, as are every HDR format you can think of, including HDR10+ Adaptive and Dolby Vision IQ.
Where it differs from many other flagship OLED TVs though is in its all-in-one soundsystem, which is Dolby Atmos certified and even sports upfiring speakers.
- Impressive visuals
- Class-leading local dimming
- No Dolby Vision
The Samsung QN95B more than holds its own amongst flagship OLED TVs thanks to its QLED panel and Mini LED backlight.
This latter technology provides thousands of small LEDs that can be dimmed depending on the action on screen and therefore offer OLED like black levels combined with some of the brightest images around.
Samsung TVs do not support Dolby Vision, but you do get HDR10+ Adaptive, which offers an almost identical effect. While gamers will be very happy with the suite of options, including a dedicated Game Bar to select different picture profiles, ALLM, VRR and support for up to 144Hz refresh rates.
- Exemplary picture quality
- Bowers & Wilkins intergrated soundbar
- Complicated menu system and picture setup
As with the Philips OLED806, the OLED+936 needs a lot of tender loving care to eke the best pictures from it. But tweaking the setup is well rewarded with some of the best images around.
The four-sided Ambilight continues to be a joy, while the integrated Bowers & Wilkins sound system (attached to the bottom) is class-leading. You really won't need a separate audio package.
This is an Android TV too, which means the app support is excellent, and gaming is well supported across the board, with all the major compatibilities and standards.
LG C1 OLED
- Picture quality
- Really low imput lag
- Limited peak brightness
- No HDR10+
LG will soon unleash the predecessor to this set, the C2, but this is a very worthy entrant on this list as things stand.
It offers the best technology and performance, but without getting into the crazy prices of the higher models in LG's range.
The TV supports many of the latest technologies, including support for 120Hz, ALLM, VRR, FreeSync and G-Sync for gamers, 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.
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.
- Mini LED - a form of direct LED, Mini LED features thousands of tiny bulbs that can be locally dimmed, offering superb brightness but without impacting on black levels.
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.