On the hunt for a shiny new 4K TV ahead of the Super Bowl? The Sony Master Series A9G is the best in the business. Period. The OLED screen is fantastic, as is the software driving it. As such, we awarded it a rare five out of five stars in our full review, in which we named it the best 4K TV we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing to date. Being the fantastic all-rounder it is though, it doesn’t come cheap — far from it, in fact — so it may not be the right choice for 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 LG C9 or Samsung Q9FN. The fact of the matter is, each television on this list has something special to offer. So scroll down through our cultivated lineup to meet the TV of your dreams.
Best TVs at a glance
- The best TV: Sony Master Series A9G
- The best budget TV: TCL 6-Series
- The best TV for gaming: LG C9
- The best TV for sports: Samsung Q70R
Why you should buy this: It doesn’t get better than this, folks.
Who it’s for: Anyone who can afford it.
Why we picked the Sony Master Series A9G 4K TV:
We can’t find fault in the Sony Master Series A9G. It’s a breath of fresh air in a competitive TV market. Sony didn’t reinvent the wheel with this television, though: It’s a minor improvement to the Sony Master Series A9F. But that’s not a bad thing. The A9G is still one of the finest 4K TVs we’ve ever gazed at, so any refinement can only inch it closer to perfection — and that’s exactly what happened with the A9G.
Not only does the Master Series A9G feature the best 4K Ultra HD OLED screen we’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing, but it’s also decked out with an innovative approach to audio that’s nothing short of fantastic. It’s called Acoustic Surface, and it works by sending sound waves through the display itself. This makes for a unique effect in which voices and sound effects better match their location on the screen (left, right, or center).
“The Sony Master Series A9G has the best picture quality you can/should buy this year,” concluded our own Caleb Denison his A9G review. Consider this testament to our claim that the A9G delivers the best viewing experience money can buy, with Sony’s incredible picture processing and impeccable HDR delivery inching it ahead of the fierce competition.
Sony’s flagship X1 Ultimate imaging processor does a fantastic job of transforming standard HD and Full HD content into 4K Ultra HD resolution. This is just one of the features that makes this TV an absolute stunner for movies of all resolutions. Fire up a classic like The Great Escape, for instance, and you’ll feel like you’re actually on location, watching Steve McQueen blast through a European town on his Triumph TR6 Trophy. This doesn’t just apply to oldies, though — the processor can upscale any movie or show to the resolution, new or old.
In addition, there’s Android TV running the show for instant access to a myriad of both on-demand and live streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. It’s also home to Google Assistant, which can be used to control both the television and other smart-connected devices, as well as Google Chromecast, which introduces the option to cast content from a computer, smartphone, or tablet directly to the television — no cables needed. For everything you watch
Read our Sony Master Series A9G review
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 is now producing phenomenal affordable TVs that rival those of LG and Samsung, especially when you factor in value. One major reason for TCL’s success? A long-standing partnership with Roku that sees Roku OS pre-loaded 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 Ultra HD screen, and multi-format HDR. The result is a television that pours out accurate color, dazzling detail, and fantastic contrast — regardless of whether you’re watching in native or upscaled 4K Ultra HD.
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, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Rakuten TV, and Sling TV.
The TCL 6-Series is also decked out with Roku 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 sources, and search for a particular movie or show across all the content services you’ve linked. What more could you want?
Read our TCL 6-series review
Why you should buy this: It’s a cheaper OLED display than the Sony Master Series A9G, has a 120Hz screen, and supports gaming features like Freesync and G-Sync.
Who it’s for: Those looking to raise their gameplay to the next level.
Why we picked the LG C9:
Let’s start with the OLED screen. Its mix of vivid colors, spectral highlights, and obsidian-like black levels ensure it is second to only the Sony Master Series A9G when it comes to all-round picture quality. Fuse that with many of the latest HDR standards — including Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and HDR10 — and LG’s Alpha 9 Processor, which upscales HD and Full HD content into impressive 4K Ultra HD resolution, and you have a top-scoring 4K TV.
But what makes it the standout choice for gaming? Well, aside from the lightning-quick response of the 120Hz screen, the C9 recently received a software update that armed it with both Freesync and G-Sync. These are two forms of Adaptive Refresh Technology (ART) that aim to smooth out gameplay, reduce input lag, and prevent screen tearing. Clump that all together, throw in the perfect black levels and impressive contrast that come with an OLED display, and we have a clear champion.
When you’ve finally put down the controller, LG’s fantastic webOS smart software is the perfect way to unwind. It’s decked out with all the leading streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and others, and all the content is available at the click of a button or the mere 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.
Read our LG C9 review
Why you should buy this: It’s a bright and beautiful QLED display that won’t break the bank.
Who it’s for: Those who want to be immersed in the on-screen action.
Why we picked the Samsung Q70R:
With a 120Hz refresh rate and software features to reduce motion blur and optimize the smallest of details (dew flying off a football, for example), and an approachable price tag, the Samsung Q70R is the perfect TV to catch up on all your favorite sports action. It’s one of the best in its class, and the QLED screen with its higher brightness potential really brings to life scenes brimming with natural light, like baseball, football, and soccer.
You don’t need to hook up a set-top box or streaming stick to tune into the latest must-see sporting bonanza, either. Everything from the latest Formula 1 Grand Prix to the Super Bowl is available through streaming applications, which can be downloaded through the Samsung App Store. Among the supported services are dedicated hubs for MLB, NBA, and NHL, as well as sports portals like ESPN and FuboTV.
We aren’t going to waste your time running through all the other reasons the Samsung Q70R is so fantastic. Instead, we’ll focus on what makes it the ideal companion for sports: We’re looking at accurate colors, brilliant contrast, and fantastic detail — all wrapped up in a slim package that won’t break the bank. Being a QLED, it is also oblivious to any concerns about burn-in that could occur if you have a static logo on the screen for hours on end, making this a great TV for gaming as well, and it will also handle movies, sitcoms, and pretty much anything else you want to watch brilliantly.
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 of 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 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos, it must be able to decode VP9 videos.
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