The 9 Best TVs We’ve Tested (and Helpful Buying Tips)

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Saving up for a new screen? To help you navigate the dozens of seemingly identical TV models from Samsung, LG, Vizio, TCL, Sony, and other manufacturers, we’ve watched hundreds of hours of content on them and picked a few of our favorites. We’ve listed everything from the best budget TV to the absolute best set you can buy—and a few excellent choices in between.

We also believe you should invest in a good soundbar and TV streaming stick. TVs now come with wonderful displays, but they’re terrible at sound and running apps. Be sure to check out our many other buying guides.

Unless labeled otherwise, every TV we link to is 55 inches. There are often larger and smaller sizes available on the retailer’s site, but this is a very good size for most living rooms. All of these models have a 4K Ultra HD pixel resolution (and some have 8K), because there aren’t a lot of good reasons to buy a standard HDTV anymore, or many for sale.

Updated June 2021: The latest models are just starting to trickle onto the market, and we’ve seen mild price fluctuations due to the international chip shortage. We’ve updated the links and prices and will add new models as soon as we’re done testing. There isn’t a huge reason to wait for new models. The picks on this list are still worth buying.

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  • TCL flat screen TV

    Photograph: TCL

    The Best Overall

    TCL 6-Series (2020)

    Most of us don’t have gargantuan budgets for a new TV, but we do want to buy one that will last. For that, our favorite TV at the moment is the 2020 TCL 6-Series (9/10, WIRED Recommends). It’s a beautiful 4K TV that marries advanced technology like quantum dots (great for bright colors) and local dimming (for deeper blacks) with a built-in Roku interface.

    TCL is known for competitive pricing, and the latest 6-Series is no exception, providing the image quality we’d expect from LG and Samsung models that cost nearly double the price. It even has Dolby Vision support, our favorite high-dynamic-range format, which provides exceptionally vivid colors.

    The included Micro-LED backlighting is the star of the show, providing exceptional contrast and nearly none of that annoying “halo” effect when you look at bright objects on dark backgrounds.

    ★ Alternatives: The Samsung Q80T (Amazon, Samsung.com) and Vizio P Series Quantum both have similar picture quality, though at much higher prices (unless you find them on sale). If you like to try TVs in person before you buy and can’t find a 6-Series, look at one of these two.

  • Photograph: TCL

    Best TV Under $500

    TCL 5 Series (50-inch, 2020)

    TCL’s partnership with Roku has made its TVs quite popular—and they deserve the praise. The 6-Series offers the most perks, but the 2020 5-Series 4K TV with HDR is the entry-level TV we recommend.

    Unlike the previous model, which was edge-lit, the 5-Series gets full-array local dimming, which means it has deeper contrast than many TVs. It’s usable for gaming and looks better than the HD set you might have right now. It comes with Roku built in, so the remote is easy to use, and it streams right out of the box. We recommend the 50-inch model, because it’s the best bang for your buck, but TCL makes other sizes.

  • Photograph: Vizio

    Other Good TVs Under $700

    Other Mid-Range TVs

    The Vizio M-Series Quantum 50-Inch ($598) looks good, though we have not been able to try it. Vizio usually makes some of the best affordable TVs, and we have no reason to believe it isn’t one of the best. Vizio also improved its Smartcast interface, which makes casting tabs from laptops and cell phones that much easier. Expect great contrast, thanks to Vizio’s excellent local dimming technology.

    The Hisense H9G ($700) is a great TV for the money, with great local dimming and a bright, quantum dot-enabled display. The one downside is the Android TV interface, which we just don’t like as much as the TCL’s Roku interface. Otherwise it’s a great-looking option. It’s also available at Walmart.

    The Sony X800H ($698) is one of the prettiest TVs for the money, thanks in part to its image processing and onboard X1 chip. Below $1,000, the processing is a huge part of what makes one TV better than another, and Sony has long had some of the best. Even without local dimming, the display looks bright and vibrant and doesn’t bleed too much during dark scenes. It has a game mode that works well with PlayStations (though it can’t attain the 4K, 120-Hz refresh rate of the PlayStation 5). If it isn’t on sale for less than $700, wait until it is. It’s also available at Walmart.

  • Photograph: LG

    Best for Gamers (PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X)

    LG CX OLED TV

    Any TV in this guide will work for gaming on a next-generation console like PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S, but if you want to own the best picture possible, you should seek out an OLED TV, and LG is the only TV maker that manufactures them. (Sony and others buy OLED displays from LG.)

    LG OLED TVs are better for a simple reason: They light up pixel by pixel. They don’t have a backlight, so when you see black areas of the screen, they’re as black as possible. This means excellent contrast—perfect for darker scenes in The Mandolorian. LG’s WebOS interface isn’t our favorite, but the picture quality trumps any qualms we have.

    I particularly love the 2020 CX OLED (8/10, WIRED Recommends), because it has Nvidia G-Sync, which means it works just as flawlessly as a gaming monitor. That’s a whole lot of screen real estate. It is among the only TVs with the ability to do 4K at 120 Hz, which means noticeably smoother gameplay on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

  • Photograph: Vizio

    The Cheapest OLED TV

    Vizio OLED (55-Inch)

    Vizio’s first-ever OLED TV is the cheapest we’ve ever seen, frequently appearing below the $1,000 mark during major sales like Black Friday. I loved the perfect contrast and bright highlights during testing, and a recent update has made the TV work with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 at 120 frames per second in 4K. That’s pretty rad. If you want the best possible picture for the money and you’re willing to spend more than you would for the TCL 6-Series above, check out this TV first.

  • Photograph: Sony

    The Prettiest TV

    Sony A8H 4K OLED TV

    If you’ve found your TV viewing time to be one of the only peaceful pleasures of quarantine, and want to be further mesmerized by what’s onscreen, there is perhaps no better-looking TV for most people than the Sony A8H OLED (8/10, WIRED Recommends).

    Sure, it’s north of a thousand bucks, but you won’t find anything with the same excellent processing and gorgeous OLED panel. It will change the way you see your favorite content, for the better. Depending on how tight your budget is, such a beautiful picture might be worth the extra money.

    We also like its Android TV interface more than many built-in smart TV operating systems, though it’s not as easy to use as Roku.

  • Photograph: Samsung

    Best 8K TV

    Samsung Q900R QLED 8K TV

    We love the deep black levels offered by LG’s OLED models, but if money was no object, we’d buy Samsung’s 2019 flagship model, the Q900R. It has an astonishing 8K display (the first to hit the market), full-array local dimming for deeper blacks, and an amazingly wide viewing angle for bigger rooms.

    We also love that it has AMD’s FreeSync technology, which makes games look smoother. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X next-generation consoles will also support 8K resolutions.

    You might not be able to find any 8K content to watch for the time being (honestly, it’s still hard to find a lot of 4K content), but if you’re looking to buy an amazing, (somewhat) future-proof TV for the upcoming 8K era, the Q900R is the best you’ll find.

    Possible Alternative: Samsung has a new 2020 flagship, the Q950TS, but we’ve seen it in person for only a few minutes. For now, we’ll let the reigning champ keep the title, but with built-in surround sound, tiny bezels, and staggeringly adept upscaling, we imagine the Q950TS will soon take its place as the crazy-expensive TV to beat.

  • Photograph: Samsung

    WIRED and TIRED TVs

    Some TV Buying Tips

    If a TV isn’t made by LG, Samsung, TCL, Vizio, Sony, or Hisense, make sure you’ve done your research. Those are our favorite manufacturers at the moment. A cheap set might look enticing for the price, but try to avoid dirt-cheap models from brands like Sceptre, which can seem like great deals but may not offer good picture or build quality.

    If your budget is so tight that you can’t afford a new model from the above brands, we recommend looking into last year’s TVs (often sold at steep discounts) or factory-refurbished options.

  • Photograph: Wikimedia

    Helpful Definitions

    What Do 4K, HDR, and Other Buzzwords Mean?

    Buying a TV requires navigating a sea of lingo—let’s quickly define a few key terms.

    • 4K or Ultra HD refer to television tech with four times as many pixels (dots of light) as a traditional HD TV has.
    • 8K displays have four times the pixels of 4K, but you can ignore 8K for at least a few years. 8K sets are still very expensive, and the 8K content is scarce.
    • HDR stands for high dynamic range, and all good 4K TVs have it now. A TV with HDR technology has better contrast (brighter brights, darker darks) than older TVs. There are three main versions of HDR to be aware of: HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. Modern TVs typically come with HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, with higher-end models supporting HDR10+.
    • Full-array backlighting means that there is a grid of lights behind the TV screen, instead of it being lit from lights on the edges.
    • Local dimming is enabled by full-array backlighting. It means the TV tries to intelligently lower the backlights in areas of your screen where a movie scene is darker and brighten them in light spots.
    • OLED TVs allow every pixel on the display to independently light up or turn off. That ability gives OLEDs vibrant color and deeper blacks than traditional LCD or LED TVs; LED and LCD TVs are mostly the same thing these days.
    • QLED TVs mean that the TV has some form of quantum dot technology, which often means brighter and better colors. It might look like OLED on paper, but QLED is not the same indicator of quality as OLED is in terms of picture. Sure, they typically look better than non-quantum-dot-enabled TVs, but don’t let the marketing fool you: They are not always on par with OLEDs.

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