The latest and greatest TVs offer plenty of reasons to pick up a killer new set. While some bring new tech, others are iterations on already-great models from 2017 and 2018, offering a new feature here or there or maybe smart new design touches.
This means older models will see price drops, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the new models. Any modern TV worth its salt offers basics like 4K resolution and HDR for improved contrast and color shading, but that’s just the beginning. If anything, 2019 shows that feature-packed, brand-new TVs are becoming more affordable than ever before — the list below just proves our point.
The LG C8-Series won our award for the best product of the year. Make sure and check out all our other selections for Best Products of 2018. You can also scroll to the bottom of this list for a glossary of common TV terms.
At a glance
|LG C8-Series 4K OLED TV||Best TV overall||5 out of 5|
|Vizio P-Series Quantum||Best buy in TV land||4.5 out of 5|
|Samsung Q9FN 4K QLED TV||Best overall LED/LCD TV||4.5 out of 5|
|TCL 6-Series Roku TV||Best smart TV on a budget||4 out of 5|
|Sony X900F||Best picture processing||4 out of 5|
|Vizio P-Series LED TV||Best picture performance on a budget||4 out of 5|
LG C8-Series 4K OLED TV
The best TV overall
Why you should buy this: It’s got the best picture quality we’ve seen so far.
Who it’s for: Everyone who can afford it.
Why we picked the LG C8-Series:
LG’s entire line of OLED TVs has fantastic picture quality as each of these TVs use the same exact panel. As such, the feature set, available screen sizes, and price are the factors to consider here. Like last year’s C7 series, the new C8 series is the best for our money. The 77-inch model (costing as much as $9,000) is a bit lofty for most people, but the 65-inch and 55-inch models hit the relative sweet spot, normally priced around $3,500 and $2,500 respectively. For the investment, you get a sparkling 4K Ultra HD picture with incredible contrast, LG’s fantastic webOS interface, and the latest HDR options including HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log Gamma. As you’ll see later in this list, there are fancier TVs, but the C8 series makes the most sense for most people who want the best picture quality available.
Read our full LG C8 OLED review
Vizio P-Series Quantum 4K HDR TV
The best buy in TV land
Why you should buy this: You want the picture quality provided by quantum dots without the price tag.
Who it’s for: Those who long for an OLED or QLED TV but don’t have the scratch.
Why we picked the Vizio P-Series Quantum:
Vizio has long been a go-to pick for those looking for deep contrast and solid color performance on a budget, but the company’s fantastic P-Series has really been stepping up its game lately, and the P-Series Quantum is a testament to the company’s performance prowess. With the Quantum version of its already impressive P-Series, Vizio has added (wait for it) quantum-dot technology, which allows the picture to offer a wider color gamut and better overall vibrancy and accuracy than regular LED displays, all at a price that is well below that of most premium TVs with similar specs.
The only minor drawback here is Vizio’s Smartcast interface, which offers plenty of onboard streaming apps and even Chromecast streaming from your mobile device, but is more sluggish than we’d like. Still, with best-in-class HDR, excellent UHD and HD resolution, and impressively accurate colors and contrast, this is a fabulous TV for those who want a luxurious picture that won’t completely wipe out that savings account.
Read our Vizio P-Series Quantum review
Samsung Q9FN 4K QLED TV
The best overall LED/LCD TV
Why you should buy this: The Q9FN is Samsung’s most impressive QLED TV to date, and that’s saying something.
Who it’s for Those looking for a blend of fantastic picture, blazing brightness, and incredibly attractive design.
Why we picked the Samsung Q9FN:
When Samsung first started talking about how QLED was a serious competitor to OLED, we were skeptical, but those claims now make a lot of sense. Last year’s Q9F was one of the best LCD TVs we’d seen until the company released its follow-up, 2018’s Q9FN. Not only is the HDR picture incredibly vivid, with some of the deepest black levels we’ve seen outside of an OLED display, the off-angle picture — usually a rough spot in LCD TVs — has also been improved. Samsung has also boosted the aesthetics by adding a new Ambient Mode and the company has also bundled the power cable into the One Invisible Connection cable between the One Connect box and TV, making clean installation a cinch for anyone, not just professional installers.
Read our full Samsung Q9FN review
TCL 6-Series Roku 4K HDR TV
The best smart TV on a budget
Why you should buy this: TCL’s 6-Series likely has the best price-to-performance ratio you’ll see this year.
Who it’s for: Budget-minded buyers who don’t want to sacrifice quality or features.
Why we picked the TCL 6-Series Roku TV:
When we first saw the TCL 6-Series in person at CES 2018, it was an easy call for sleeper hit of the year. With the range topping out at around $1,000 and featuring every current HDR technology in a quality panel, this is another great option if you want to maximize your price-to-performance ratio. With 120 local dimming zones in the 65-inch model and 96 in the 55-inch model, contrast is impressive for an LCD, matching up well with the P-Series mentioned above. Its HDR Pro Gamma automatically adjusts the backlight to match your room’s brightness.
While picture quality is impressive, the 6-Series’ best feature for everyday use is its baked-in Roku operating system, which offers arguably the best smart TV experience available today. Even if you’re not on a tight budget, you might find that TCL’s models offer everything you’re looking for in a TV, sparing you some cash to use on a soundbar or home theater surround sound system.
Read our full TCL 6-Series review
Sony X900F 4K HDR TV
The best picture processing
Why you should buy this: Sony’s second-to-none picture processing is on full display.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for Sony’s signature picture quality at a value price.
Why we picked the Sony X900F series:
Picture processing may not be sexy, but it’s one of the key elements in Sony’s success these many years in the TV game. The X900F is a prime example of what amazing processing can do, offering some of the finest picture quality you can get without shelling out thousands more dollars. With a sleek design, accurate color, and excellent HDR performance, this is a 4K LCD TV that we’d be proud to have in our own living room.
While we’ve got our issues with Sony’s Android TV smart interface, it’s certainly serviceable. Moreover, if you value Sony’s approach to picture quality, this is the best available option for a price that won’t require a second mortgage.
Read our full Sony X900F review
Vizio P-Series 4K HDR TV
The best performance on a budget
Why you should buy this: You want to squeeze every ounce of picture quality possible out of each dollar.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for near-premium picture quality without the premium price.
Why we picked the Vizio P-Series :
For 2018, Vizio gave its regular P-Series TVs (those without quantum-dot technology) a new look both inside and out, starting with a three-sided, bezel-less frame and more elegant leg stands. Inside, the standard P-Series is loaded with some of Vizio’s best processing tech, including its latest Xtreme Black Engine Pro local dimming, which combines with impressive HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR performance across the full-array LED display for spectacular contrast in the brightest and darkest moments on screen.
While it can’t match the Quantum model, the cheaper P-Series also offers rich and natural-looking color thanks to impressive Wide Color Gamut technology, a bevy of 4K HDR-capable inputs to connect all your high-end devices and, back from the dead this year, a TV tuner so you can connect your HD antenna for free local channels. The same sluggish SmartCast system mentioned above comes standard with this model, but again, it’s good enough to get the job done. Moreover, if you want the absolute best picture for your tight budget, the latest P-Series may well be the TV you’ve been looking for.
Read our Vizio P-Series review
How we test
We begin each model year by bringing in the top-tier televisions from each of the major brands, including Samsung, Sony, LG, and others. These premium televisions help set the highest standard for the year, managing expectations for each model below them, and providing context among the competitors.
We begin testing by setting up each TV in a completely dark room and adjusting its picture settings using tools and methods readily available to consumers — just like you might do at home. From there, we use a series of test patterns and familiar content, from streaming services to Ultra HD Blu-ray to over-the-air (OTA) TV, to judge each TV’s performance characteristics, including color production, motion resolution, black levels, backlight influence, brightness, HDR quality, and detail resolution.
Once we’ve analyzed a TV’s picture quality, we move on to elements that affect the user experience, including each set’s smart TV interface, user settings interface, remote control, external device recognition and control, and other essential touchpoints.
When possible, we’ll place two competing models side by side to provide additional context for the pros and cons each TV exhibits. Finally, we make a determination as to which type of user a TV might appeal to. For instance, some TVs provide better bright-room performance, while others are better for dedicated home theater performance. Some are better for sports, while others are better for watching movies or playing games.
In short, we make a thorough evaluation to determine not only which TVs offer the best picture quality, but those that offer the best overall user experience. After all, you’ll be living with your new TV for years to come, and using it should be a joy, not a pain.
Read our complete test methodology for more information.
When shopping for a new TV, it pays to do some research, but keep in mind that specs are often loaded with misinformation. Trust reviews from multiple review sites (including Digital Trends, of course), then go see the TV in action at a local retailer.
If you can, try to get a hold of the TVs remote control and play around with it a bit. Ask an associate to take the TV out of store demo mode so you can look at some of the set’s built-in picture presets if possible. Moreover, try to determine if the TV’s user menu and smart TV interface are easy to navigate and intuitive.
Finally, make sure the retailer you are going to purchase from is an authorized retailer for the brand, and ensure they offer a fair and hassle-free return process. Most authorized online retailers are very accommodating when it comes to returns or replacements.
Glossary of terms
Here’s a rundown of some of the most common terms associated with today’s TV technology.
4K Ultra HD
This refers to a display resolution that is four times that of 1080p HD. A 4K Ultra HD TV’s pixel resolution is a 3,840 x 2,160 grid in a 16:9 aspect ratio, resulting in nearly 8.3 million pixels. This increase in density adds striking detail and realism to an image and allows larger screens to be viewed from closer distances without individual pixels becoming visible.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
High Dynamic Range is probably most familiar to people through the HDR mode on their digital cameras. It’s designed to deliver a picture that has greater details in the shadows and highlights, plus a wider range of colors. HDR in televisions pursues the same goal. The color palette is wider, blacks are deeper, and whites are brighter. Presently, there are two major HDR formats: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The former is the HDR standard, but Dolby Vision offers a premium experience. Consider a TV that supports both. HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) is another recent addition to the HDR collection. It supports over-the-air (OTA) broadcast content with HDR.
Full Array Local Dimming (FALD)
This refers to an LED TV’s backlighting system. A FALD display contains an array of LEDs spread out in a grid behind an LCD panel, rather than just at the edges of the TV. This LED array is broken up into zones that can be dimmed when necessary to achieve better black levels. Another benefit is more uniform brightness across the screen.
Wide Color Gamut (WCG)
These are the expanded color reproduction abilities of a 4K Ultra HD TV, which are closer than ever to what we see in a digital cinema. By approaching the Digital Cinema Initiative’s P3 color specification, a 4K UHD TV can produce billions more colors than a 1080p HD TV.
A layer of film loaded with tiny nano-crystal semiconductors that is placed in a TV’s display panel to help produce a wider array of colors. Quantum dots work by altering the light coming from a TV’s backlighting system before it is passed through the TV’s color filter.
An alternative to Quantum Dots, phosphor-coated LEDs have a chemical coating to alter the light’s output. When used in a TV, this results in a purer backlight that’s more easily manipulated by a TV’s color filter, resulting in a wide color gamut and increased color accuracy.
This stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. These are much smaller than standard LEDs, letting them function as the individual pixels of a display. For more information, see our OLED versus LED article.
The latest version of the HDMI spec. Compliance with this standard assures a 4K Ultra HD display or source is capable of providing all the digital information needed for 4K Ultra HD resolution, HDR, and Wide Color Gamut, all at up to 60 frames per second.
The latest version of the High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection technology, which provides copy prevention specifically of 4K Ultra HD content. Any source device that requires HDCP 2.2 will require a 4K Ultra HD TV with an HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI port for a compatible connection.
Stands for “High-Efficiency Video Coding.” A new compression technology developed to make large 4K UHD video files smaller and, therefore, easier to stream over broadband Internet connections. HEVC is said to double the data compression ratio over H.264, the predominant encoding technology used today for 1080p videos while retaining the same video quality. A smart TV or streaming set-top box must be able to decode HEVC in order to play back 4K Ultra HD video from sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
An alternate to HEVC developed by Google and used predominantly for encoding 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos. In order for a smart TV or streaming set-top box to play back 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos, it must be able to decode VP9 videos.