Best TV for 2021 – CNET

After more than a year of pandemic-related restrictions, many people are looking to make the most of their home entertainment spaces. This may entail rearranging your living room, upgrading your couch or tricking out your binge-watching setup for ultimate enjoyment. It may even mean investing in a soundbar or upgrading to a bigger and better TV in order to better enjoy your favorite shows or perhaps a much anticipated Netflix original.

If you’re looking to enhance your TV-viewing experience, we’re here to help you pick the best TV for your needs. There are a lot of TVs on the market, but generally speaking the best TV is the one that will fit your space and budget. An OLED television will give you the best picture quality, but it’s expensive and might not be available in the size you want. That’s where this list comes in. I’ve gathered the best TVs I’ve reviewed at different prices, sizes and technologies — models that feature HDRUltra HD 4KQLED120HzHDMI 2.1 and more — based on my years of experience and side-by-side comparisons in CNET’s test lab (for the foreseeable future, that’s my basement). My focus is on finding the best picture quality for the money, regardless of brand.

In my comparisons I look at things like contrast ratio, local dimming, brightness, color and uniformity, gaming input lag and refresh rate, as well as the number of HDMI ports. All of these TVs have great picture quality, and while 4K resolution is nice, 4K TVs with Ultra HD are not necessary for an excellent viewing experience. The other critical factor is how well the television supports your streaming service app (or apps) of choice, like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and Disney Plus. Just about every TV supports smart features, but it’s not a huge consideration because you can always connect a streaming device. Speaking of connections, gamers may also want a TV that handles the latest features that maximize their Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Here are my recommendations for the best TV to watch your favorite TV shows, movies, games and more, with the following notes to keep in mind: 

  • Unless noted otherwise, all of the prices you’ll see are for 65-inch models.
  • Looking for a specific screen size? Check out: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
  • Some of the TVs below came out in 2020. New 2021 models are now available and we’ve reviewed a handful so far, with more coming soon. For the 2020 TVs on this list I’ve included a “2021 outlook” section with everything I know (so far) about the new models. 
  • If you’re worried that new 2021 TVs will have some great feature or picture quality enhancement you’ll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, you should get one
  • This best TV list is updated periodically.

Read more: Do this to your TV now: 9 crucial settings to improve the picture

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David Katzmaier/CNET

No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It also has gaming features that make it a solid choice for a gaming TV, with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.

Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch.

2021 outlook: TCL says this HDR TV will remain on sale through most of 2021. I don’t expect it to be replaced until at least the fall, and it might stick around the entire year. An 85-inch version will be released “in the coming months.” TCL will also sell an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don’t think it will be worth the money.

Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s that you say? You just want the best TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my tests the LG G1 OLED TV and the cheaper C1 below were the best TVs I’ve ever reviewed, with unbeatable contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. The main advantage of the G1 is slimmer, more wall-friendly design compared to the C1, so if you value that style and can afford it, this is the TV to get. 

Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.

Read the LG G1 series (2021) review.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Looking for a high-end TV with spectacular image quality, but don’t want an OLED? The Samsung QN90A is your best bet. This TV uses QLED TV tech augmented by mini-LED for a brighter image than any OLED TV. The spectacular contrast of OLED still won out in my side-by-side tests, but the QN90A QLED screen comes closer than ever. 

Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.

Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

With excellent picture quality, anchored by full-array local dimming and plenty of brightness to make HDR content shine, the X90J is Sony’s answer to the TCL 6-Series and step-up Vizio models. This LED TV’s sleek looks and the Google TV operating system score additional points, as does its next-gen console support (it has 4K/120fps inputs and Sony promises VRR… sometime) and built-in NextGen TV tuner. If you want an “S” brand, this is one of the best values we’ve tested.

Read our Sony X90J series (2021) review.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone and one of the most popular is the Q60A series. Its sleek OLED screen design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultra-thin OLED models are even sleeker — it offers better features and image quality than budget models like the TCL 4-Series, and it comes in a vast array of sizes. The TVs above are all superior values, and the Sony X90J has a better picture, but if you want a Samsung TV and can’t afford the QN90A, this is a great choice.

Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 60- 65-, 70- 75-, 85-inch.

Read our Samsung Q60A series (2021) review.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make a lot of sense. The picture is “good enough” and the built-in smarts are superb — just enough to watch the final season of “The Office” or “Friends” content. And the price is perfect for a kids’ room or secondary room where you don’t need a massive screen.

Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 32-inch size.)

2021 outlook: The newest version of the 3-Series has a “335” model number and is available in a 32-inch size now, but TCL says image quality is the same as the 325 reviewed here. My advice is to simply get the least expensive one.

Read our TCL S325 series (Roku TV) review.

Other stuff to know about buying a new TV in 2021

I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.

  • In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
  • If you don’t like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a streaming device from Roku, Amazon, Google or Apple. They’re generally cheap and easy to use for streaming service options — and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best streaming devices here.
  • The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars here.

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