The year 2017 has been a busy one for us, at least in terms of televisions. Dozens (if not hundreds) of gleaming, sharp-edged flatscreen beauties have spent time in our media room, each undergoing the same rigorous series of tests before being assigned a score and sent on its merry way.
With a stiff, competitive marketplace, TV prices have plummeted lately, leaving gobs of praiseworthy models languishing below the $1,000 mark (and even under $500, in many cases). If you’re a bargain hunter — and who could blame you? — we can point you in the right direction.
This is not, however, the place for barrel-bottom scrapers or garage sale scavengers. This is our list of the best TVs out there — period, no asterisk. This is where you want to be if you’re truly in search of the perfect centerpiece for your den or living room (or bedroom, if you’ve got that kind of scrilla). Read on to find out which displays we consider worthy of your attention, and everyone else’s.
LG C7-Series 4K OLED TV
Why should you buy this: It’s the best TV we’ve ever reviewed, and maybe even the best TV ever made.
Who’s it for: Everyone who can afford it
How much will it cost: $2,000 to $3,000
Why we picked the LG C7-Series 4K OLED TV:
LG makes five series of OLED TVs, all of which have the exact same excellent picture quality. That fact makes picking the best LG OLED tricky enough, but then Sony came out with its own stunning OLED TV this year and made settling on our top selection even harder. In the end, we choose the LG C7 OLED as our best TV of 2017 because it offers the perfect blend of performance, design, and price. You simply can’t get a better picture from any other TV, and LG’s WebOS smart TV software makes the TV a joy to use, with support for all the best 4K HDR apps. Sure, there are fancier TVs out there, but none of them makes as much sense as LG’s C7 OLED.
Our full LG C7-Series 4K OLED review
The best ultra-premium LED/LCD TV
Samsung Q9F 4K QLED TV
Why should you buy this: The Q9F delivers excellent picture quality alongside beautiful, impeccable design aimed at ideal living room integration. Plus, the Tizen operating system is great.
Who’s it for: Those who value aesthetics and functionality just as much as (if not more than) image sharpness and optimal black levels.
How much will it cost: $3,500 to $8,000
Why we picked the Samsung Q9F 4K QLED TV:
The QLED line is Samsung’s most ambitious, elegant, well-polished, high-performance TV series to date. As its flagship TV for 2017, the Q9 represents the best Samsung has to offer, and it is, without a doubt, the best LED-based TV ever made. The Q9 offers picture quality that gets dangerously close to OLED, with deep blacks, minimal halo effect around bright objects on dark backgrounds, and precious little backlight bleed around the edges. Plus, the Q9 can get seriously, seriously bright, making HDR content leap off the screen in any viewing environment. But picture quality is only part of the story here. The Q9’s design is unlike anything we’ve encountered before. The bug-eyed, jaw-dropping starts with a virtually invisible optical signal cable that carries all of the TV’s video and audio signals up to the TV from Samsung’s patented One-Connect box through a wire that looks like a lead of fishing line. The back of the Q9 is perfectly flat, with a recessed area for custom Samsung wall mount hardware, which allows the TV to be mounted flush against the wall like no other TV we’ve seen. As if all that weren’t enough, Samsung’s Tizen smart TV platform automatically recognizes connected devices, relabels inputs, and programs the TV’s remote to control them all. Simply genius.
Our full Samsung Q9F 4K QLED TV review
The best ultra-premium OLED TV
Sony A1E OLED TV
Why should you buy this: It combines nearly unbeatable picture quality with a smorgasbord of useful elements, including support for Google Assistant and Alexa via voice control.
Who’s it for: Those who are willing to shell out top dollar for the best TV experience possible.
How much will it cost: $3,000 to $18,000
Why we picked the Sony A1E OLED TV:
Sony’s gorgeous A1E OLED is as much a spectacle as it is an outstanding TV. With a unique easel-style stand that places the TV flush atop an entertainment stand — no gaps! — and an innovative screen that doubles as the TV’s speaker system, the A1E OLED is as much about art as it is entertainment. Sony’s top-notch processing does LG’s OLED panel justice here, and the TV dishes out that iconic Sony glow. You’ll pay a pretty penny for the 65-inch model, but it’s so, so worth it.
Our full Sony A1E OLED TV review
The best overall LCD/LED TV
Sony X930E 4K LED UHD TV
Why should you buy this: Sony’s X930E offers deep black levels, vivid HDR performance, and impressive brightness — all without breaking the bank.
Who’s it for: Someone who wants the best picture quality available in a flat LED/LCD TV without completely draining their savings account.
How much will it cost: $1,500 to $2,500
Why we picked the Sony X930E 4K LED UHD TV:
If Samsung’s Q9 QLED TV is the state of the art in LED TVs, the superb Sony X930E is the more practical choice for most serious TV enthusiasts. The $2500 65-inch model we reviewed features a clever cable-concealing stand, plenty of modern inputs, and a gorgeous picture with solid black levels, great detail, and superior brightness — all thanks to Sony’s excellent processing and HDR technology.
Our Sony X930E 4K LED UHD TV video review
The best aspirational TV
LG Signature OLED 65W7P W7
Why should you buy this: No other TV tops the picture quality or impressive design of LG’s Signature OLED 65W7P W7.
Who’s it for: Those who can afford to be on the bleeding edge of incredible display tech.
How much will it cost: $8,000
Why we picked the LG Wallpaper TV
If you’ve got pockets deep enough and a wall wide enough, the LG Signature OLED 65W7P W7 “wallpaper” TV will make for a jaw-dropping centerpiece to any home theater. The TV’s “wallpaper” alias comes from the extremely thin form factor of the screen, which is a ludicrous 2.57mm thin, which makes it look more like piece of fine art than a television. What’s more, the TV offers the best picture quality of any TV currently available, regardless of the ultra-cool form factor. Alongside brilliantly rendered 4K Ultra HD resolution, the TV supports all major HDR formats, meaning it’s as future-proof as it gets right now, and ready to display the very best array of colors, contrast, and picture resolution on the market.
How did LG make the TV so slim? Instead of storing the processing components behind the screen, the guts of the 65W7P W7 reside in the included (and required) soundbar. Admittedly, this makes for a larger than average soundbar that needs some serious shelf space. However, the sound quality makes up for it’s large footprint. Put this minor gripe aside (and the obvious concession that this is going to set you back a cool $8,000), because there isn’t a more impressive display on the market.
Our full LG Wallpaper TV review
The best budget LED TV
TCL 55-inch P-Series Roku TV
Why should you buy this: At an extremely reasonable price, the P-series boasts gorgeous, 4K visuals, HDR support, and the incredible Roku OS.
Who’s it for: Those who want an excellent UHD Smart TV for less than $1,000.
How much will it cost: $650
Why we picked the TCL P-Series Roku TV:
It almost seems criminal to call the TCL P-series a “budget” TV given the term’s somewhat negative connotation, but it’s TCL’s fault for making such an affordable high-performance LED TV. With no less than 72 LED backlight zones, wide color gamut, and HDR processing for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the only way this TV could be much better is if it had Roku built in. And would ya look at that! It does. Simply put: The TCL P-series outperforms TVs costing twice as much from more familiar brand names. If you’re on the fence over this TV for any reason, allow us to politely tip you in the right direction: Buy it!
Our TCL P-Series Roku TV video 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 Panasonic. 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.
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 arecloser 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.
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.
- Fall 2017 TV Buying Guide
- 4K TV Buying guide: Everything you need to know
- What is HDR, and why you should care
- Smart TVs: What are they, and do you want one?