In the market for a new TV? The LG C9 is the best of the bunch. Period. The OLED screen is fantastic, as is the software driving it. The smart features aren’t half bad, either. As such, we awarded it a rare five out of five in our review. Being the champion all-rounder it is though, it doesn’t come cheap — so it won’t appeal to everyone.
If you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, the TCL 6-Series could be a better fit. Loyal to a different manufacturer? Consider the Samsung Q9FN or Sony Master Series A9F. The fact of the matter is, each television has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses. To meet your match, you first have to figure out all the features that matter to you the most. Once you’ve done that, scroll down to meet the TV of your dreams.
Best TVs at a glance
- The best TV: LG C9
- The best budget TV: TCL 6-Series
- The best TV for movies: Sony Master Series A9F
- The best TV for gaming: Samsung Q9FN
- The best TV for sports: Sony Master Series A9F
Why you should buy this: You won’t find a better all-around TV than the LG C9.
Who it’s for: Everyone who can afford it.
Why we picked the LG C9:
Let’s start with the OLED screen. Its mix of vivid colors and obsidian-like black levels assure it can’t be beaten in the contrast department. Fuse that with many of the latest HDR standards — including Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma, and HDR10 — and the firm’s Alpha 9 Processor, which ensures that even HD and Full HD content are showcased at a 4K Ultra HD resolution, and you have a 5-out-of-5-scoring 4K TV.
Powering the C9 is LG’s webOS smart software that’s home to several top-tier on-demand streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV, HBO Go, Hulu, and Netflix. That translates to a near-endless catalog of content, available at the click of a button or a mumble of a voice command. That’s right — the C9 has a virtual assistant (or rather, two of them) on board for tracking down content.
You have the choice of either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, though the latter is the one you’re going to want to take advantage. While both are more than capable of searching the internet for answers to questions, scanning through different streaming services to find material, and controlling various smart appliances, it’s Google’s offering that’s the smoother of the two on the LG C9.
Here’s a look at some of the commands it can execute:
- “Play Orange Is the New Black on Netflix.”
- “Switch over to HDMI 2.”
- “Set the Nest Thermostat to 72 degrees.”
- “Tell the Roomba to vacuum the living room.”
- “Turn off after this episode of Friends.”
You can even ask it a slew of contextual questions, like:
- “Who is Roger Moore?”
- “What’s the weather like?
- “Do I have any appointments tomorrow?”
- “What time is sunset on Saturday?”
There’s no doubt you’ll pay a premium for the LG C9, but for those who absolutely must have the wow of OLED and the brains of LG’s brilliant webOS system, it’s a match made in TV heaven that you’ll want to invest in.
Why you should buy this: It has a fantastic 4K screen and can tap into Roku’s endless collection of on-demand content.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a big screen on a budget.
Why we picked the 65-inch TCL 6-Series 4K TV:
TCL may not be a brand that immediately comes to mind when you think of great TVs, but at this point, it really should be. Its reputation for churning out sub-par slop is dead and buried, and it’s now producing phenomenal affordable TVs that rival that of LG and Samsung, especially when you factor in value. One major reason for its success? A long-standing partnership with Roku that sees Roku OS bundled on all its latest TVs.
With that in mind, the TCL 6-Series is a must-have if you’re after a 4K TV that won’t break the bank. It’s bundled with the aforementioned Roku OS, has a crisp, clear 4K screen, and multi-format HDR. The result is a television that screams accurate color, dazzling detail, and fantastic contrast — regardless of whether you’re watching in native or upscaled 4K.
You won’t find smart software that’s better suited to cord-cutting than Roku OS. It’s home to the largest collection of live and on-demand content we’ve ever seen, pulling material from a seemingly never-ending mixture of mainstream and niche sources, like Amazon Prime Video, Crunchyroll, DirectTV, Hulu, Netflix, Rakuten TV, and Sling TV.
The TCL 6-Series is also decked out with Roku’s own voice control feature. There’s no option to search the web or control smart-connected appliances, but it does bundle all the commands that count. You can ask it to adjust the volume level, swap outputs, and search for a particular movie or show across all the content services you’ve linked. Neat, right?
Read our TCL 6-series review
Why you should buy this: It’s the most impressive picture quality we’ve ever seen.
Who it’s for: Those who must have the absolute best OLED screen you can buy.
Why we picked the Sony Master Series A9F 4K TV:
The Sony Master Series A9F 4K TV isn’t just the best way to watch a movie, it’s also the absolute best OLED display we’ve had the pleasure to review. Utilizing Sony’s trademark X1 Ultimate imaging processor for top-tier HDR and unmatched color reproduction, this TV takes OLED to the next level. Our first look at the Master Series A9F in person was an incredible experience that made the price a lot easier to take in.
Thanks to partnerships with both Dolby and IMAX, Sony’s latest 4K HDR TVs push the envelope when it comes to picture quality. The A9F is one of the few TVs you can find with IMAX Enhanced, designed to optimize movies to their best, with incredibly accurate colors, fine detail, and brilliant contrast to reproduce what the director, editor, and producers intended.
This means any movie with HDR support will be translated with the utmost care so that you get every detail possible from your home theater experience. But what about that dusty collection of older Blu-rays and DVDs? Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor has a plan for that too, offering 4K Ultra HD resolution upscaling and remastering for an HDR-like effect.
With Google’s Android TV OS built-in, you’ll also have access to a ton of content from across the streaming landscape. That equates to easy access to a ton of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV.
And as if that weren’t enough, this baby is locked and loaded with Google Assistant to cover all your, well, assisting needs. It’s the same assistant you’ll get with the LG C9, letting you control both the television itself and the rest of the smart-connected hardware in your home with only your voice.
Why you should buy this: It’s a QLED, offers FreeSync variable refresh rate, and has an Auto Latency Mode on board.
Who it’s for: Those looking to raise their gameplay to the next level.
Why we picked the 65-inch Samsung Q9FN:
Sure, OLED is often the talk of the A/V watercooler, but don’t let yourself get caught up in the contrast game and overlook QLED — Samsung’s rival screen tech. To put it simply, QLED TVs are LED TVs that have been infused with a substrate of quantum dots, which better focus LED light and allow the TV’s processing system to tap into an incredibly wide color gamut, as well as achieving eye-blasting brightness.
This nano-tech is being seen more and more around the TV landscape, including with Vizio’s latest TVs, allowing for screens that blast out color and brightness that’s superior to that of an OLED in a bright room. Luckily, Samsung’s latest Q9FN also has excellent black levels, which give this TV the versatility to perform well in pretty much any scenario, whether your room is basked in sunlight, or locked down with shudders for a glare-free first-person shooter marathon.
That’s not the only reason the Q9FN is a dream machine for gaming. There’s also a dedicated Automatic Low Latency Mode, which is designed to kick in when your gaming console is connected to reduce input lag, and FreeSync VRR (variable refresh rate) for the Xbox One X. The Q9FN also packs Samsung’s UHD Engine for excellent upscaling of HD content to 4K Ultra HD.
When you’ve finally put down the controller, Samsung’s Tizen OS smart software is a fantastic way to unwind, offering plenty of options to tap into native 4K Ultra HD streams from the likes of Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Netflix right out of the box. If you want to get some live TV without throwing down for cable, you can even tune into DirecTV Now or Sling TV.
Read our Samsung Q9FN review
Why you should buy this: It’s the best OLED screen we’ve ever seen, but also the most versatile.
Who it’s for: Those who must have the absolute best OLED screen you can buy.
Why we picked the Sony Master Series A9F 4K TV:
With a 120Hz refresh rate, a number of software features to reduce motion blur, and a slew of features dedicated to optimizing even the smallest of details, there’s no better TV for viewing the latest sporting event than the Sony Master Series A9F — with it all coming back to that OLED screen, which is the best we’ve ever seen. Not just for sports, but also for movies.
Being an Android TV, you don’t need to hook up a set-top box or streaming stick to tune into the latest must-see sporting bonanza. Everything from the latest Formula 1 Grand Prix to the Super Bowl is available through several sport-specific applications available through the Play Store, including dedicated hubs for MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFC, as well as ESPN and fuboTV.
We aren’t going to waste your precious time running through all the reasons the Master Series A9F is so good all over again — we did that two sections ago when we crowned it the best TV for indulging in a movie. If you’re just joining us or want to recap, click here for the more detailed explanation. In short, though: We’re looking at accurate colors, brilliant contrast, and fantastic detail.
Something we didn’t dive into there, however, is the fact the Master Series A9F is armed with Sony’s Acoustic Surface Technology, which sends sound through the screen itself. How does that work, you ask? Well, there are two actuators on the back of the screen, passing waves through the front, and a third on the back — mounted alongside a subwoofer — which creates a depth in the room.
It works well, but you’ll probably want to pair it with a soundbar for the best results. That is, if you don’t want to invest in a more extensive audio setup.
Research and buying tips
- What size 4K TV should I buy?
- What is the best Roku TV?
- How well does 4K TV upscaling work?
- What if I need a 4K TV for a bright room?
- Are budget 4K TVs any good?
- Can a 4K TV work well as a PC monitor?
- Do 4K TVs usually have Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?
- Do 4K TVs have problems with burn-in?
The answer to that depends on many factors, including your stylistic preferences, the size of the room, and how far away you’ll be sitting. Take a look at our guide to choosing the perfect size for you.
The best Roku TV is the TCL 6-Series.
That depends on the TV, but as a general rule of thumb: The better (and more expensive) the TV, the better the upscaling.
You’ll need an OLED or QLED TV, like the 65-inch LG C9 and Samsung Q9FN.
Almost all new TVs are 4K, so there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from at the lower end of the pricing scale. Don’t expect a standard LED TV to rival an OLED, though — set your expectations accordingly.
Yes, so long as your computer has an HDMI output. Adapters can be used for other output types but frequently do not pass along audio.
Most modern TVs can be paired with Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant through either an Amazon Echo, Fire TV, or Google Home. Some televisions even have them built in, eliminating the need for a receiver.
Right now, there are no TVs that have Siri built in. Those that support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, however, can be controlled using Siri on an iOS device, such as an iPad, iPhone, or iPod, as well as a Mac.
OLED TVs are the only type of 4K TVs that have the potential to suffer from burn-in, though it’s incredibly uncommon. It’s not something for average consumers to worry about anymore.
How we test 4K TVs
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 decide 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.
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, with a third — HDR10+ — beginning to show up on new models. The first 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, which 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. In an OLED display, the pixels also produce their own light, eliminating the need for an additional LED backlight, making OLED screens super thin. They also tend to exhibit better black levels and color accuracy than LED TVs. 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 to play back 4K Ultra HD video from sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
An alternative to HEVC developed by Google and used predominantly for encoding 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos. 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.
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