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The best TV vs. the biggest. How I finally settled the debate

When it comes to deciding which TV to buy, where should you put your money? Better picture quality, a bigger TV, maybe a balance of both?

Let’s talk about that.

Buying-advice considerations

I get asked for individual TV-buying advice All. The. Time. And, more often than not, there’s a “most-common denominator” type of dilemma involved. It usually goes like this: Given my budget, should I buy a TV with top-tier picture quality? Or should I give a little on the picture quality so I can get a bigger screen?

As someone who genuinely wants to help you arrive at the best decision for you, this dilemma has become my nemesis. Why? Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends entirely on an individual’s priorities. Their viewing habits, their needs versus their wants, their space and viewing environment. Or how picky they are. Plus, the budget number itself.

That’s a lot of factors to consider. If I had all the time and money in the world, I would individually consult with you, asking those crucial questions to come up with an answer that is as bespoke to you as a hand-tailored suit. Unfortunately, I can’t do that.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
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And so I’ve spent the last several years racking my brain over how I could create a guide that would be helpful — something I could point folks to when this comes up. This is the result of years of thought and consideration.

And a little bit of an inspiration situation.

The best versus the biggest

Price comparison

That’s where the two TVs we’re going to talk about here come into play. One is a 65-inch Sony A95L QD-OLED TV, widely considered to have the best picture quality you can buy among TVs released in 2023. The 65-inch model is selling for about $3,300 at the time of this writing, but .

The other is the 98-inch TCL QM8 — the full model number is QM850G — and it is currently selling for about $6,000. However, TCL makes a very impressive “XL” model at this size that is , but has been as low as $3,000.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
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So, you can spend about $3,000 for a 65-inch A95L with the best picture quality you can buy, or you can spend a little over $3,000 on a 98-inch TCL XL, which clearly has a much larger screen and picture quality that is not nearly as refined as the Sony OLED, but certainly nothing to turn your nose up at.

You could get a 77-inch Sony A95L, increasing the size of the ultra-premium-picture quality, but you’re going to pay for it at $5,000 versus $6,000 for the 98-inch TCL QM8 with picture quality upgrades that put it in very close contention with the Sony, though perhaps not quite as exquisite.

Review recap

Back to our 65-inch Sony vs. 98-inch TCL comparison, both of which have been sitting in front of me for several months. And throughout that time, I’ve had the option to turn either one of them on while working on other projects or reviews, playing games, or having a movie break.

And … that’s when it hit me. I can’t give a custom answer to anyone weighing the decision to prioritize picture quality or screen size. But I can talk about my experience and my observations, and tell you which one I would buy if it were my money.

While I used to bounce back and forth between these two TVs, seemingly at random, my choice of which TV to use slowly got more deliberate until it became clear that I had subconsciously developed a preference that might surprise you. Or, maybe it won’t! Let’s see.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
Sony 65-inch A95L Digital Trends

I’ve reviewed both of these TVs, the 65-inch A95L and the 98-inch version of the QM8. Though smaller, the Sony exhibits the same picture quality traits of the 98-inch monster. (And that’s a good thing, for the most part.) You can read the full reviews if you like, but here’s a quick take on each of them:

The A95L is superb. There is a Panasonic TV not widely available here in the U.S. that can give this Sony a run for its money, but as I said, the A95L is generally considered the best-looking TV available right now. It has perfect black levels, pixel-level control, and a wide color gamut — it can make colors the QM8 can’t. It’s got stunning HDR highlights, incredible depth and pop, and stellar motion. It is a real treat for the eyes. It’s like Kobe beef. Exquisite. It’s got a few quirks, but all TVs do. Ultimately, it produces the best picture I’ve ever seen on a TV. And I love it. I love it so, so much.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
TCL 98-inch QM8 Digital Trends

The TCL QM8 offers perhaps the best picture performance-to-price ratio on the market. It’s a QLED TV with an advanced mini-LED backlight system that’s broken down into a lot of zones and attempts to look as OLED-like as a QLED TV can look. It’s got a rich, vivid picture with a ton of HDR pop, and its out-of-the-box picture performance in the Movie preset, while not as dialed in as the Sony, is still very respectable. It’s also capable of getting much brighter than the Sony — not just the 98-inch, but also equivalent sizes. If the Sony is a 10 (actually, the Sony is an 11 for me), the QM8 here is a solid 8 out of 10, price aside, and that’s a massively respectable number. The QM8’s picture quality will be a big step up for almost everyone replacing a four-year-old or older TV.

Now, there are other separating factors. The QM8’s audio system is a big letdown — especially from the 98-inch TV beast. You’d think a TV this big would have to have big sound, but it’s like the Mike Tyson of TVs. It’s big and brawny. Intimidating, even. And then it opens its mouth, and you’re like, “That voice is coming out of that?”

Even if we had the 77-inch Sony, we would still be seeing a considerable size difference.

Otherwise, they both use the Google TV operating system, they share similar gaming-friendly features, and they both have backlit remotes.

They are … both televisions. It’s just that one is much, much bigger than the other.

And I should point out that even if we had the 77-inch Sony, we would still be seeing a considerable size difference. Heck, even an 85-inch TV is noticeably larger than a 77-inch TV.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
Digital Trends

I know the above chart isn’t going to really hammer the point home as well as seeing the difference in real life, but check out the difference in square inches between a 65-inch TV and a 75-, 85-, and 98-inch TV. Just a few diagonal inches translates into a whole lot more screen real estate. And the bigger you get, the more exponentially profound that size difference becomes.

Before I go on, remember that my job is to be hypercritical of TVs. I’m well-trained to spot performance flaws and anomalies instantly. I sometimes seek out means to trip up a TV — there are some other reviewers out there that are even better at that than I (looking at you, Classy) — but I’m still pretty good at it.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
There’s a pretty major difference between a 65-inch TV and a 98-inch TV. Digital Trends

I am also super passionate about picture quality. I can’t not see flaws, even when I’m trying to turn my TV reviewer brain off and just be entertained. It’s the same with audio gear and with music. I’m never going to be able to hear a song and just enjoy it – not without also tracking the chord progressions. If a sound system sucks, I just would rather not hear it. I’m cursed like that.

And there are worse things in life, and I know it.

Living large

With all that said, over time, I’ve increasingly reached for … the TCL remote control. It’s gotten to the point that, for general entertainment, this 98-inch beauty has become my go-to. The recent Super Bowl? You better believe I watched it on this big ol’ TV.

Sure, the Sony will have better color saturation, and its processing will produce a slightly cleaner image. And its motion resolution is indeed superior.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
Digital Trends

But the sheer scale of the TCL 98-inch QM8 has won me over.

And, look. I don’t sit very far from the TV. It’s about 10.5 feet from the screen to my eyeballs. At that distance, the 65-inch Sony is a dazzling treat. And need I remind you that I love, love, love that TV?

But the 98-inch QM8 is enveloping. It wraps its big, beautiful self around you, and you cannot not be entertained. If the Sony A95L is a 12-ounce Kobe strip, the 98-inch QM8 is a prime, dry-aged 32-ounce Tomahawk.

Is it a bit much? Well, I don’t think so. But you can’t deny that it’s going to bowl you over with its awesomeness.

Even though I am very picky about picture quality, the sheer scale of a screen sways me more than I expected.

So, what have I learned from this experience? And by extension, what might be a helpful takeaway for you when considering whether to pour your TV purchase budget into picture quality or screen size?

What I learned is that even though I am very picky about picture quality, the sheer scale of a screen sways me more than I expected. I think that, sometimes, we have this notion in our minds that we know what kind of picture quality we’re going to want out of a big investment like a TV. It’s understandable that we don’t want to have any buyer’s remorse, and in an effort to insulate ourselves from that risk, we might tend to sink money into a higher-rated, albeit smaller TV, rather than step up to a much larger TV size that maybe gets an 8 instead of a 9 for picture quality.

But perhaps the standard we have conceptually in our heads doesn’t match what we actually need and want. In my experience, the combination of really good picture quality at this massive 98-inch screen size compelled me to fire up the TCL QM8 more often than the Sony A95L — even though I’ll tell you every day of the week and twice on Sunday that the A95L is a superior TV.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
Digital Trends

I can tell you that my friends and family have less stringent standards for picture quality than I do, and the TV I buy is as much for them — if not more so — than it is for me. And I know a big cinema-like experience at home is going to bring them more joy and excitement than the expanded color gamut and perfect black levels of a QD-OLED.

I think that most folks are going to enjoy a larger TV over a super high-performance TV. Most folks. There will be exceptions. Also, I think we should acknowledge that this advice isn’t (and never could be) the magic bullet I — or you — may want it to be. There are just too many factors at play.

Subverting expectations

I mean, my own expectations turned out to be wrong. I was sure that a bigger TV was just going to make any little tiny nitpicky picture quality flaws much bigger and, therefore, easier to see. That has not been the case. The sheer scale of the TV has so much power over me that I’m too busy being tickled to death to bother with being critical over backlight blooming in dark scenes.

My dream scenario is an A95L in my bedroom and a 98-inch QM8 in my living room. Or maybe an A95L in my living room and a 98-inch QM8 in my media room or entertainment den. I would not want to live without the awesomeness that the A95L offers.

Best TV vs Biggest: Sony A95L & TCL QM8
Digital Trends

But if I put myself in the position that so many folks are often in, with a budget for one TV and a deep-seated desire for that TV to have the biggest impact it can, both in the long term and the short term? I have to say, my money is going to the bigger TV in this case.

There are limits, of course. I don’t want 98 inches of trashy picture quality. Or even 85 inches of lame picture quality. But when you’re looking at premium dollars going to premium TVs, the size does matter. I think the TCL 98 XL is possibly going to be a ridiculously smart move for anyone with big-screen envy. And if you’ve got the cash, the QM8 will simply blow you away.

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Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
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