The best OLED TVs regularly feature near the top of our list of the best TVs overall, and deservedly so. The unique tech of OLED 4K TVs gives them mind-blowing levels of contrast and precision, meaning they're often the choice of hardcore cinephiles. But as with all TVs, there's a confusing string of letters for their specs you have to decipher when choosing between them, so our guide is here to provide the easy explanations and recommendations you need to make your choice.
OLED TVs have historically come in a narrower range of sizes and budgets than most TVs – until last year, you were generally looking at 55-inch and 65-inch, with 77-inch models available for a steep price. But 48-inch models arrived in 2020, and 83-inch models are coming in 2021 (with 77-inch models dropping in price, mercifully), so there's a much better range of sizes these days.
At the same time, the cost is creeping down as well – you don't see many OLED TVs in our list of the best TVs under £1000, but there was one regularly available for under £999 in 2020, and it sounds like there will be more in 2021.
One thing we're not really covering here is 8K OLED TVs. They do exist, but there is currently only one model (from LG) and it comes in 77-inch and 88-inch sizes, and the cost is, shall we say, luxurious. We talk about it in our list of the best 8K TVs, but in this guide, we're sticking with 4K options.
Why get an OLED TV?
OLED is an 'emissive' technology, meaning that the pixels emit their own light – this is different to LCD/LED screens, which are 'transmissive' meaning that they require a backlight shining through the pixels at all times to actually create the light you see. For that reason, it’s very hard to get really deep blacks on an LCD TV – because there’s always light behind it the pixels.
For OLEDs, that’s not a problem. They allow for truly inky dark blacks because they can simply dim or shut off each pixel's light individually, but also offer a whole palette of rich and unspoiled colours. What’s more, without that extra layer of backlighting behind the pixels, OLED panels are incredibly thin which means you can wallmount them far flusher than most TVs, or just marvel at their wafer-like beauty on a stand. The only downside with being thin is that it can mean that audio quality often isn't as impressive as the images, but you can always add one of the best soundbars.
OLED TV pixels are also able to respond incredibly quickly to changes, so they can be great for things with fast action, such as sports or video games – our pick for the best gaming TV is an OLED set, and some of the sets here support all the fancy new features offered by the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
• Where to buy PS5 – the latest stock updates
What is the best OLED TV?
The best OLED TV overall is the Panasonic HZ2000, which uses a unique panel that's brighter than any other OLED TV so far, while also handling deep black levels just as well as other sets, giving you the most lush, realistic images of any TV in the world when it comes to movies. It's damn expensive, but it looks simply glorious.
The best OLED TV for most people is the LG CX, available in 48-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch versions. The CX is packed with forward-thinking technology that will keep it relevant for years, and has LG's best display and processing tech, despite being its second-cheapest model – it starts from around half the price of the Panasonic, and often features in our list of the best TV deals.
The best OLED TVs: ranked
• Read our full Panasonic HZ2000 review
Panasonic's flagship TV stands apart from other OLED TVs thanks to its Professional Edition Master OLED panel – this goes brighter than any other OLED set, while still maintaining the rich and subtle dark areas that the technology is famed for.
This means you get more spectacular HDR performance than any of the other TVs here, and beautiful realistic colours. Panasonic's TVs are also tuned to be as close to Hollywood mastering monitors as possible, meaning that what you'll see on this TV is the same as what editors and directors see when getting the look of their movies right.
The image processing is also top-tier, with SDR material looking as bright and clean as possible, and HD video being upscaled to 4K naturally. Native 4K really has the detail brought out of it, and when combined with that HDR performance, there's no doubt you're looking at something special.
The My Home Screen 5 software and app support is solid, though it lacks Disney+ currently, so you'd need to add a media streamer to get this particular service.
The HZ2000 has forward-firing speakers and two up-firing speakers, meaning it gives you a glimpse of Dolby Atmos quality – it really works for expanding the soundstage compared to most TVs. It's no substitute for a really great separate sound system, but it's better than almost any other built-in option.
There's very little support for next-gen gaming features, and the gaming latency is distinctly average, so we wouldn't make this the first choice for gamers.
But for movie lovers, there's no better TV on the planet – this is the most richly cinematic set we've ever seen. Sadly, it's not available in the US, though we do expect a release in Canada.
• Read our full LG CX review
LG's 2020 TVs, the CX range, are its best mixture of affordability and image quality. The panel and processing tech is exactly the same as the LG OLED65GX further down this list, but with a less fancy design and weaker speakers, for much less money. For most people, this will be the 2020 OLED to buy, because the balance is perfect.
The image quality is the best of any OLED TV outside of the Panasonic above, though that's marginal – the GZ2000 offers more brightness for even better contrast, but its processing is a little behind the CX.
The CX offers a precision of detail in its dark areas that's essentially unparalleled, and that helps its contrast to look just about as impressive as OLED has ever managed. And with even better upscaling of HD footage to 4K, you really feel like everything that's in the scene is getting its best possible treatment.
We've recommended the 48-inch version here, mostly because it's the first 4K OLED TV on the market smaller than 55 inches, so it's in a class of one if you want the cinematic majesty of OLED but don't have space for anything bigger than this.
But our recommendation stretches equally to the other sizes in the range, which stretches from the small one right up to 77 inches (which is a surprisingly reasonable price in itself).
Another reason this is the TV to watch (in more ways than one) in 2020 is that it's unbeatable for gaming. It supports every whizz-bang feature of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, including 4K at 120 frames per second, ALLM for low latency, VRR for smoother visuals at all times, HGIG for optimised HDR performance in games, and Nvidia G-Sync for PC gaming… oh, and a native response time in Gaming mode that's among the best we've ever tested. This is perfect for getting ready for next-gen.
• Read our full Philips OLED+935 review
Looking for a TV that gives you a complete audiovisual upgrade in a compact package? The 48-inch version of this TV is unparalleled for this – not only is it the joint-smallest OLED TV (LG and Sony both make 48-inch models too, now), but it has a Dolby Atmos sound system built into the stand, including real upfiring drivers. It's like buying a TV and soundbar, but it takes up less space, and costs less than buying them separately. We love it.
Crucially, both the TV and audio side are fantastic. Philips' new generation of OLED TVs retain the punchy HDR colours the brand is known for, but its new AI-based processing adds more realism to things like skin tones while still making colours pop in general. It's really impressive, especially when mixed with the deep, nuanced shadow tones than OLED is revered for.
Philips detail and motion processing is better than ever too, giving native 4K content plenty of sharpness without looking edgy, and upscaling HD content to 4K with a more natural touch.
The speakers, provided by hi-fi maestro Bowers & Wilkins are more dynamic and well-rounded that pretty much anything else we've heard that built-into a set, and give separate Dolby Atmos soundbars a real run for their money when it comes to fidelity and positional audio – the upfiring speakers add real height, and sound spreads wide convincingly, too.
The only downside to this TV is that it's not great for gaming – the gaming mode is okay for reaction times, but there are no next-gen features such as 4K 120Hz support over HDMI, or Variable Refresh Rates. But for movie lovers who want a home cinema experience without the hassle of dealing with multiple products, this is just perfect.
• Read our full LG BX review
The 55-inch LG BX is living proof that you can buy an excellent OLED TV without having to sell a kidney. No OLED TVs are actively cheap, but this is one of the lowest-priced, yet doesn't skimp on quality.
It uses a slightly less advanced processor than the LG CX, but still does a remarkably good job of upscaling everything to glorious 4K while still squeezing enough out of the picture quality to deliver some very credible dark details to go with those typical OLED inky blacks.
The colours are just as gorgeous as you’ll find on the more expensive LG OLEDs – they’re rich and saturated but still natural and realistic – and, while there’s a notch or two more of picture quality to be had with those upper models (the CX is a little brighter, and a little more poised for detail in really dark areas), the BX has it nailed for pound-for-pound value.
That includes next-gen gaming features, including support for 4K at 120Hz, and Variable Refresh Rates. This makes it an excellent option for PS5 and Xbox Series X if you want a fairly big screen for a more medium price.
Like most of the TVs on this list, the sound is a bit weedy compared to the picture. You’d be best advised to buy one of the best soundbars to go with this set, but the same is true of all top TVs apart from those more expensive models which already have soundbars built in.
The BX is, of course, HDR-enabled with support for Dolby Vision as well as HDR10 and HLG – though not HDR10+, the competitor to Dolby Atmos. It’s also worth noting that LG’s webOS user interface is one of the best you’ll find on any OLED TV at present. It’s a little overcomplicated, but very much feature-complete and fitted with most of the video and music apps you’ll need, including Now TV, Apple TV+, Prime Video and Netflix as well as the usual catch-up services. There’s also a handy little gesture remote to control it. A very tidy TV indeed.
• Read our full Sony A8 review
The Sony A8 is a direct competitor to the LG CX on price, and manages to separate itself nicely as an alternative that should especially excite hardcore movie fans.
The natural yet powerful images are a dream for cinematic movies and TV – the TV is capable of handling subtle tone changes and contrast with skill matching the absolute best of the best, which means you're seeing things closer to what the directors really intended to capture, especially with HDR.
That's paired with Sony's processing, which is unmatched when it comes to making motion look clear and smooth without changing how movies are 'meant' to look, but also boosting things like sports considerably. It's also a simply brilliant upscaler not only of HD to 4K, but also of SDR video to HDR – it gives things a convincingly wider colour range and depth, but doesn't feel artificial in any way.
The only image nit we can pick is actually about nits (er, which is a measure of brightness, the TV isn't infested, don't worry). It's less bright than the LG CX (or C9 below, for that matter) at its peak, and significantly less bright than the much more expensive Panasonic above. This doesn't affect the quality of the HDR – we still think it's the business for that – but a lower brightness (and a somewhat reflective panel) mean that if you have it in a bright room (particularly sunlight), it will be harder to view.
It's not only the picture that's great: it even manages really good sound, thanks to Sony's genius technology that turns the front panel itself into a speaker. This gives it clarity and drive that most thin TVs (and especially LG's CX and BX) lack – you feel the need to grab a soundbar immediately with this.
Smart TV functions are handled by Android TV, which is good for app support, though not very slick. And gamers should think about looking elsewhere: it doesn't support the 4K/120fps or variable refresh rate features of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, sadly.
• Read our full Philips OLED805 review
The Philips OLED805 brings the same excellent image quality we saw on the Philips OLED+935 further up this list, but without the Bowers & Wilkins sound. That makes each set a little cheaper than its equivalent up there, but with no loss of picture quality – just weaker sound.
That means you get the same excellent AI processing for colours that both vibrant and realistic at the same time, and the general precision and finesse that makes OLED worth buying into.
Images look detailed and sharp without getting artificial, and motion handling is much better than Philips' previous efforts, helping things to look clearer when moving fast, too.
What’s more, as a top-end Philips TV, it also comes with the wonderful Ambilight technology. Rear-firing LEDs make for an atmospheric watch by lighting up your back wall the same colour as whatever is on-screen. Jungles look more immersive, oceans are broader and bluer.
The only flaws are a lack of eARC HDMI for high-res audio output to compatible soundbars and AV receivers (though normal ARC is here), and no 4K 120Hz or VRR support for next-gen gaming.
• Read our full LG GX review
This TV from LG's 2020 range is its more premium model, known as the 'Gallery' model. It's just 20mm thick all over, and is designed for wall mounting, and looking fantastic while doing it, especially with its thin bezels around the display. It actually doesn't even come with a standard stand (though you can pay extra for one).
The screen and processing are both LG's latest and greatest generation, but are actually the same as the LG CX TV (review coming very soon), which will be cheaper, with a less fancy design and weaker speakers, but identical in terms of other features as well as image quality.
The processing is where the main improvements are with the new range, and LG's newest AI-based system is seriously impressive, adding sharpness and detail to videos without looking unnatural in any way – the realism is astounding.
The authenticity of the images is absolutely top-class, and the way it handles HDR images is just superb – everything looks utterly real.
It's also packed with future-proofed gaming features ready for PS5 and Xbox Series X. The GX comes in 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch models.
The only reason this isn't higher in the list is that, for most people, it's pricier than is really necessary to get a similar level of image quality. When its less-expensive sibling, the LG CX arrives soon, expect that to be the 2020 OLED TV to beat!
Sony’s OLED TVs are painfully expensive. The most recent flush may not be top of the pops for picture quality either but they do have one or two advantages that some will be willing to pay for.
Motion processing is a key differentiator and, if you can’t abide a juddery picture during sports or action scenes, then Sony’s Motionflow is the only way to fly. This class-leading technology manages to smooth out fast action without making it look like a home movie – it looks clearer, but still the way it was always meant to. On a big panel size like this, that can be a considerable benefit.
The other glorious win is Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ innovation which turns the panel itself into a speaker. So, instead of stuffing little drivers around the back, the audio comes right at the viewer. It’s all done by using actuators that vibrate the screen, which is pretty impressive technology.
Best OLED TVs: what to look for
LG is the only company that makes OLED panels for TVs, and there’s very little difference in the OLED displays it makes and sells to all the other TV manufacturers year after year. In fact, one of the criticisms of OLED is that it appears to have reached a peak of innovation and that the technology is struggling to develop any further.
For the time being, though, that doesn’t really matter because, while the panel tech is the same, each manufacturer improves the processors that tells it what to do, and adds other flourishes on top. Each year when the nay-sayers claim that OLED is finished, somehow the likes of LG, Panasonic, Sony and Philips manage to squeeze out even more performance.
As such, it’s the new processing and audio technologies that are the features to look out, while you can assume there’ll be small improvements to dark details year-on-year, at least for now.
OLED TVs with integrated soundbars offer an experience that doesn’t require any additional boxes for audio. Their sound is streets ahead of sets that have speaker arrays stuck around the back of the TV.
Upscaling and contrast enhancements are also well worth noting, particularly since a lot of streaming content will be HD and at a bitrate where the image quality won't be a strong as from a Blu-ray, say – and, if you can get an OLED with good motion processing tech too, then that can be a big bonus up at the 65-inch size.
HDR support is worth thinking about, and while its preferable for a set to support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ (the two forms of higher-end HDR), there’s no need to reject one just because it doesn't include both.
If you're big into gaming – especially on the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but also high-end PC gaming – you should look for sets with HDMI 2.1 connections, including 4K 120Hz and Variable Refresh Rate tech especially. These are designed to help games look clearer and smoother where they're supported, but aren't essential for those who'll watch movies and TV only. When the 2021 TV models become available, pretty much every TV will support them, so this won't be much of a worry. But for now, it's a factor you need to consider.