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The best 8K TVs for 2021

Good news TV fans: After a longer than normal wait, we are finally receiving review models for the latest 2021 TVs and that includes your most anticipated 8K TVs. Keep checking back with us over the coming weeks — by the end of the summer, we expect to have full reviews of nearly every new 2021 8K TV model from Samsung, Sony, LG, and TCL.

2021 8K TVs we’re excited to try:

  • Officially speaking, LG’s ZX 8K OLED (see below) will carry over from 2020 as the company’s flagship 8K OLED for the U.S. market. However, in other markets, LG will start selling the Z1 OLED. With the latest-generation 8K OLED panel and Alpha 9-based picture processing, and a giant array of the latest tech specs such as HDMI 2.1, VRR, ALLM, HGiG, Dolby Vision IQ, eARC, Nvidia G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, and much more. This TV will almost certainly provide the best picture quality of 2021 for those who can afford it. There’s a slim possibility the Z1 might actually make it stateside in the second half of the year. If that happens, we’ll be sure to let you know.
  • LG might be best-known for its OLED TVs, but the company has also been hard at work on its new QNED models too. We should have a review of the company’s first mini-LED 8K QNED99 TV ready for you in the coming weeks.
  • Sony’s Z9J Bravia XR Master Series 8K TVs will be the ultimate showcase for Sony’s legendary picture and audio processing, using the company’s new XR technologies. They’ll offer 120 frames per second at 4K resolution for ultra-smooth gaming, and a sound system that can generate a virtual Dolby Atmos experience without any additional speakers or soundbars.

Right now, the LG ZX 8K OLED is the best 8K TV you can buy — its OLED panel delivers an unmatched level of pure black and perfect contrast, but it’s not the only 8K kid on the block. Here’s our guide to the 8K TVs you should have on your shortlist.

The best 8K TVs (that you can buy) in 2021 at a glance:

LG ZX 8K OLED TV

family watching LG ZX 8K OLED
LG

Why you should buy it: OLED is still the leader when it comes to picture quality, and this is the only 8K OLED TV you can buy, which pretty much makes it a no-brainer as long as you have deep pockets.

Who it’s for: Those who want the very best 8K TV on the planet and have the means to pay the sky-high price.

Why we chose the LG ZX OLED TV:

If you’ve been following our TV coverage over the past few years, you know we’re simply gaga about OLED. When it comes to picture quality, viewing angles, and black levels, it’s simply the best type of TV display you can buy. Last year, we got a chance to review the $30,000, 88-inch 2019 LG Z9, which is very similar to the LG ZX. We declared it the “future of TV” and gave it a rare perfect 10 out of 10 score. So it makes sense that LG’s 8K ZX OLED TV series, which follows in the Z9’s footsteps will be the best 8K TV you can buy in 2020.

Because true 8K content is going to be hard to come by for the next year or two until the studio and streaming worlds catch up, an 8K TV must do an excellent job of upscaling 4K or Full HD content. Otherwise, you’re just wasting all of those pixels. The Z9 featured LG’s second-gen Alpha 9 8K upscaling, and when we did A/B comparisons between 4K and native 8K versions of the same content on our Z9 review TV, the visible differences were minimal. The ZX gets LG’s third-gen Alpha 9 8K upscaling, which we expect will be even better.

You may be wondering about Sony. After all, Sony’s A9G 4K OLED actually managed to eclipse LG’s C9 4K OLED despite having the same OLED panel made by LG Display. You can bet that when Sony creates its first 8K OLED TV, it will be a force to be reckoned with. But that won’t happen in 2020, as Sony’s only 8K models use the company’s LED-backlit panels. As such, it’s unlikely they’ll be a match for LG’s 8K OLED TVs.

Design-wise, the 88-inch version of the ZX series (which is also available as a 77-inch model) is also a stunner physically, with a polished aluminum stand that turns the TV into a sculpture worthy of a modern art display. The one downside: The stand and the display are integrated to the point where wall-mounting the panel portion separately is impossible.

Unfortunately, LG wasn’t able to bring the price of the 88-inch LG Z9 8K OLED down from 2019 (it’s still a heart-attack-inducing $30,000) but it is making a 77-inch model available for the slightly less frightening figure of $20,000. Though who’s kidding who? If you can afford a $20K TV, what’s another 10 grand?

More TVs:

TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED 8K TV

Space imagery on the TCL 6-Series model R648 screen.
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: You won’t find a mini-LED 8K TV at a better price in 2021.

Who it’s for: Those who want all of the benefits of 8K resolution (and a lot of handy extras) at a (relatively) affordable price.

Why we chose the TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED 8K TV:

It will be a few more years before 8K TVs become as affordable as 4K TVs, but in the meantime, TCL’s new 6-Series Mini-LED 8K QLED TVs are an amazing value. Available in 65- and 75-inch screen sizes, these Roku-powered TVs deliver everything we love about 8K resolution and then some.

It starts with the 8K panel — TCL’s very first 8K panel — which makes images tack-sharp and incredibly detailed. It’s bolstered by TCL’s upscaling technology which does an admirable job of converting 4K material to 8K resolution. FullHD (1080p) content isn’t quite as sharp, but that’s to be expected — it’s not easy to render an image with 16 times more resolution than it was shot at, without losing a little in the process.

But the reason to pay a little more for TCL’s 2021 8K model (versus 2020 8K models from Samsung, which are a bit cheaper) is the 6-Series’ mini-LED backlighting. OLED TVs will remain the kings of contrast and black levels for some time to come, but mini-LED, with its thousands of tiny LEDs, is the next best thing. And in a brightly lit room, it even outperforms all but the most expensive OLED TVs.

The 6-Series Mini-LED 8K QLED TV isn’t just about picture quality. TCL has also equipped this model with a surprisingly good sound system, complete with a built-in subwoofer, stereo tweeters, and down-firing midrange drivers. It won’t outshine a really good soundbar or dedicated speaker system, but if you’re determined to stick with just a TV, the 6-Series will make you happy indeed.

This TV also scores on usability. When it comes to smart TV interfaces, it’s hard to beat the Roku OS for ease of use and simplicity. But this year, TCL has gone under the hood to make picture adjustments just as easy as finding something to stream. A smart settings algorithm pays attention to how you want one input or source to behave in terms of brightness, contrast, etc., and then automatically applies that to the TV’s other inputs and sources. You can tweak them individually, but having them closer to where you want them saves a lot of time and effort.

Speaking of inputs, it’s also worth noting that TCL has given the new 6-Series two HDMI 2.1 inputs with 4K/120Hz, and that’s over and above the HDMI 2.1 you get on the dedicated HDMI eARC port. Only LG offers more HDMI 2.1 inputs.

Finally, we need to mention all of the acronyms and tech terms that any top-flight TV must offer in 2021: Variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low-latency mode (ALLM), gaming at 4K/120Hz and 8K/60Hz, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, THX Game Mode, AirPlay 2, HomeKit, and compatibility with Google Assitant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri for voice control. The 6-Series has it all.

Read our in-depth TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED 8K TV review

Samsung QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV

2021 Samsung QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV.
Samsung

Why you should buy it: It will probably have the best picture quality of any non-OLED 8K TV, and it has a drool-worthy design.

Who it’s for: Those who want an exceptional 8K TV that can also be wall-mounted.

Why we chose the Samsung QN900A:

While we haven’t had a chance to formally review Samsung’s gorgeous new QN900A 8K Neo QLED TV, we know it’s going to be spectacular. Last year’s flagship Q950TS was a stunner, and the QN900A takes a giant step forward in terms of picture quality, design, and features.

Using Samsung’s Infinity Screen design, the QN900A’s picture extends to the very edges of the frame — as close to a “bezel-free” look as we’ve yet to see. The chassis itself is also amazingly thin: Just a hair over half an inch. Not quite OLED-thin, but given that the LG ZX can’t be wall-mounted, the QN900A grabs the title of thinnest overall 8K TV.

Speaking of wall-mounting, the One Connect breakout box — which houses all of the TV’s ports and its power supply — can be positioned on a tabletop, wall-mounted, or attached to the back of the TV’s massive central stand for a very clean look.

Then there’s its picture quality. Samsung has traditionally enjoyed some of the best upscaling technology for taking 4K signals to 8K resolution, and the QN900A gets the company’s latest Neo Quantum Processor 8K.  But the big change in Samsung’s TV lineup for 2021 is its use of mini-LEDs for backlighting. That’s the “neo” in Neo QLED. Mini-LEDs are tiny when compared to traditional LEDs, and you pack thousands of them in the same space that once held only hundreds. The result is better brightness, contrast, detail, and black levels.

QLED TVs have always held an edge over OLED TVs when it comes to brightness, and the QN900A will likely push that advantage even further. But with its mini-LED backlight, it might even give OLED a run for its money in terms of black levels and contrast — typically OLED’s biggest selling feature.

If the QN900A succeeds at this, it will be a no-brainer when it comes to price too. The 65-inch clocks in at $5,000. No, that’s not very affordable for a TV, but when you consider that the 85-inch model is a mere $9,000 — less than half the price of the 77-inch LG ZX — it starts to look like a helluva value nonetheless.

To top it all off, the QN900A is loaded with tech. All four HDMI ports support HDMI 2.1 features like variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low-latency mode (ALLM), and 4K @ 120Hz, all of which are key for gamers. The built-in TV tuner is ready for ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV), there are 10 built-in speakers, and if you buy a Samsung Q-series soundbar, the TV and soundbar can coordinate audio via Samsung’s Q-Symphony feature.

Want to stream from your phone to your TV? Android users can use tap-to-connect which creates a wireless bridge once you tap your phone to the TV remote control. Once you’re connected, the QN900A can do multiview, which shows you your TV content and phone content side by side.

The only weakness we can find is Samsung’s ongoing refusal to play ball with Dolby on its Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound technologies. The QN900A only works with HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG. The TV will pass through Dolby Atmos signals to a compatible soundbar or receiver, but it won’t natively decode it so you can hear it with just the TV’s speakers.

Samsung QN800A Neo QLED 8K TV

Samsung QN800A Neo QLED 8K TV.
Samsung

Why you should buy it: It packs almost every benefit of the QN900A, at a much lower price.

Who it’s for: Those who want great 8K TV but are willing to sacrifice some picture quality for better affordability.

Why we chose the Samsung QN800A:

When you examine the specifications of the QN900A and the QN800A side by side, you quickly realize that Samsung has essentially created one TV with two different panels. In other words, the QN800A gets you the same gorgeous design, including the flexibly-placed One Connect box, and all of the tech tricks like HDMI 2.1, NextGen TV, tap-to-connect, Q-Symphony, etc. And even though it also uses a mini-LED powered Neo QLED display with Samsung’s Neo Quantum Processor 8K, it won’t look quite as stunning as the QN900A.

But given that the QN800A is $1,500 less than the QN900A for the same size of screen, we think a lot of folks will be just fine with that tradeoff.

How much better is the QN900A? It’s hard to tell from the specs that Samsung publishes as it omits numbers like peak brightness in nits. What it does tell us is that the QN900A delivers “Quantum HDR 64X” in the 75- and 85-inch sizes, while all sizes of the QN800A have “Quantum HDR 32X.” Logically, that should mean that the QN900A gets twice as bright, but it’s likely a little less — we’re not certain that this number directly correlates to brightness.

As soon as we get both of these models in for a full review, we’ll be able to give you our hands-on impression of this performance difference.

Check out some of the other advancements Samsung announced for its 2021 TVs and soundbars.

Sony Z8H 8K TV

Sony Z8H TV
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy it: You get an 8K TV with Sony’s legendary picture processing.

Who it’s for: Those who care about great picture quality for movies and TV shows.

Why we chose the Sony Z8H 8K TV:

Though the Z8H is technically a 2020 model, it’s still Sony’s best 8K LED TV that you can buy right now (the XR Z9J is about to replace it, but it’s still only available for pre-order).

Its ultra-sleek and elegant design are complemented by the kind of picture quality we’ve come to expect from Sony. Here’s what our reviewer had to say on that topic: “If we had to pick one word to describe the Z8H’s picture quality, it would be striking. There’s intense brightness to the HDR highlights, and it maintains very good black levels and mitigates blooming to a great degree. In our test of bright images on pure black backgrounds, the backgrounds were a deep, inky black, while the bright objects stayed extremely bright.”

Color accuracy is also impeccable, and Sony’s motion smoothing technology makes fast-action content like sports a pleasure to watch (you can turn it off if you’re sensitive to the so-called soap opera effect).

With full support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the Z8H does an outstanding job with HDR material. Its 8K upscaling isn’t quite as good as you’ll find on Samsung 8K models — we detected some minor shimmer in a few instances, but it’s not a deal-breaker. What should be noted, especially for gamers, is that there is only one HDMI port that supports 8K and 4K at 120Hz. And surprisingly, that 120Hz capability seemed to be incompatible with the Sony PlayStation 5. Another absence: There’s no support for VRR or ALLM.

Audio is another big strength of the Z8H. In addition to supporting Dolby Atmos, the entire metal frame acts as a tweeter, giving the TV an impressive degree of realism. For those with A/V receivers, you have the option of turning the Z8H’s built-in speakers into a center channel, making a much cleaner setup — especially if you opt to arrange the Z8H’s legs at the ends of the screen, which sits it flush to the counter surface.

Plenty of smart TV features round out the Z8H’s capabilities including Android TV, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2 with HomeKit, and hands-free access to Google Assistant.

Read our in-depth Sony Z8H 8K LED TV review

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