Yes, we’re past the halfway point of 2021 and yet we’re still waiting to get our hands on all of the 8K TV models that we first glimpsed at CES 2021 in January. Is this unusual? Well, yes and no.
Yes, it can often take until mid-summer for all the new models to fully work their way to reviewers. Some models don’t arrive until early fall. But this year is also exceptional. The pandemic has played havoc with a number of areas in the electronics supply chain, and that has meant longer rollout times and, in some cases, higher prices than we were expecting. In fact, we’ve seen price increases on 2020 and 2021 models from brands like LG, Hisense, and TCL in the past few months.
While we’re waiting for the reviews to roll in, let’s take a look at the new 8K TVs we’re most excited to get our hands on, and then we’ll talk about the models you can actually buy today.
- The best 4K TVs
- The best 4K TVs under $1,000
- The best 4K TVs under $500
- The best OLED TVs
- The best QLED TVs
- 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.
- Samsung’s Neo QLED 8K lineup will come closer than ever to OLED-level picture quality thanks to the introduction of mini-LED backlighting. But with its clever OneConnect breakout box that can hide away, or be attached to an integrated center stand, it’s a shoo-in for the best design in an 8K TV.
- TCL’s 6-Series Roku TVs were already upgraded with mini-LED backlighting in 2020 (see below), but this year, we’ll get TCL’s first 8K models, which we can pretty much guarantee will be the best value going for 8K if that’s what you want in your next TV. TCL is also gearing up to sell an 85-inch 8K model from its XL Collection. With an OD Zero mini-LED backlit display, it could be awesome.
- 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, theis 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.
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-inchdown 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?
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 passthrough 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.
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.
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 is 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. 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 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 on 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 set up — 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.
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