The world of the best TVs is hotting up. The new 2021 TVs are just starting to arrive, and that means that the top TVs from last year are receiving some big and juicy price cuts. That puts you in an excellent position if you're buying now – you can look at both the new models and old ones, and decide which gives you the best televisual bang for your buck.
2021 is a year of big change in the flagship TVs, with new technology arriving in the form of mini-LED and next-gen OLED panels – and that means that more and more high-end tech gets added to the mid-range options, making them better value than ever.
The vast majority of the market now is 4K TVs, with the best 8K TVs coming in at the high end, and Full HD sets pretty much limited only to 32-inch TVs and smaller. All the key streaming services– including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube, Apple TV and Rakuten – offer a healthy selection of 4K video. And every TV these days is a great smart TV, meaning that these services are built in and ready to go in high quality. And even when watching things that aren't 4K, the best TVs do an incredibly job of upscaling the video so it looks crisp and sharp on the extra pixels.
Sky, BT and Virgin Media also have 4K channels available on their respective pay-TV platforms. There’s a wide library of 4K Blu-ray discs available too, and 4K is well-established in gaming, with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X taking that to the next level when combined with the best gaming TVs.
Of course, not all 4K TVs are created equal. There’s a world of difference between competing sets and the different technologies used – check out our guide to OLED vs QLED to have these two key TV types explained in plain English.
Inevitably, most of the very best TVs are fairly expensive, but the good news is that you don't have to pay lots for excellent image quality. We've got a guide specifically to the best TVs Under £1000 and the best TVs under £500. And if you're looking for an audio upgrade for your existing TV, be sure you check out our guide to the best soundbars.
What is the best TV of 2021?
Right now, our overall pick as the best TV is the Samsung QN90A, which is the flagship 4K TV from Samsung's 2021 range. It uses a new 'Neo QLED' mini-LED panel, which means a huge step up in how well it controls its backlight when compared to previous LED TVs – that means more precise dimming for dark areas, and more beautiful HDR highlights. It's a mind-blowing TV, and when it comes down to sheer scale of images, it wins out.
The current best OLED TV overall is the LG G1, which not only uses a superb new generation of OLED panel for improved HDR, but is also a supremely well-equipped gaming TV.
How to buy the best TV for you
Shortlisting your next television can be a complicated business, but a few simple rules of thumb will help.
As we move from HD to 4K and ultimately 8K, screen size becomes a key consideration. To see incremental differences in resolution, you’ll probably need to buy a bigger screen than you had previously, or move your seating closer. Long story short: think big, then buy bigger.
Counter intuitive it may well be, but ultra-large 8K screens are perfect for smaller rooms, if you want to really see every drop of detail. Everything you think you know about viewing distances is changing…
Then there’s viewing environment. If you tend to watch in high ambient lighting, or during daytime, an LED or QLED screen will typically serve you better than OLED. If you prefer to watch with low or no lighting, an OLED will deliver greater subjective contrast and shadow detail.
Smart platforms are no longer a decisive reason to buy. All TVs are smart these days, and the choice of apps ubiquitous – focus on image quality, price and any other features you're keen on.
Best TVs 2021: the list
The Samsung QN95A is the flagship 4K model from the company's 2021 range, and is the first to use the new Neo QLED Mini-LED display tech, and the results are utterly incredible. "From its stunning control of precise light and dark to its generous helpings of detail and smooth motion control, it impresses start to finish. As the total image package, it edges out the OLED TVs we've seen so far," our review says.
Mini-LED tech is exactly what it sounds like – Samsung says its LEDs are 40 times smaller than previous models, which means it can can pack in more of them, but also create smaller and more precise dimming zones. That means this set can really blast out bright HDR peaks, but also offers basically the best control of bloom from light areas to dark that we've ever seen outside of OLED TVs. Combined with latest generation of Samsung's image processing, everything you can throw at it looks astounding, even when being upscaled.
It's also future-proofed thanks to having four HDMI 2.1 ports, and we also love that those ports are concealed in Samsung's One Connect box, which is totally separate to the main body of the TV, connecting to the panel by just a single cable. It means you can hide away cable clutter, and really shows off how good the design of this TV looks… and it looks good. At 25mm thick, it's a work of art itself.
The on-board smart options are excellent too – Samsung's Tizen platform is really easy to use, is packed with streaming apps and other options, including a new Game Bar that will be genuinely useful to those who want the best from their gaming hardware.
Our full Samsung QN95A review digs deeper into why this TV edges out the competition as our pick for the best TV available, but as our verdicts says "The Samsung QN95A is, quite simply, the state of the 4K TV art as it stands at the beginning of 2021. It's a showpiece for Samsung's image quality, and the Mini-LED 'Neo QLED' tech powering it."
This is the first TV with LG's new 'OLED evo' panel – a next-gen version of OLED tech that consumes less power, can go brighter, and offers even more accurate colours. In the case of the LG G1, that means it can hit around 20% brighter than previous LG OLED TVs, giving scope for broader and more striking HDR than ever.
That's combined with LG's ever-improving control over the near-black elements of pictures, which means better performance at both ends of the brightness spectrum, giving more true-to-life pictures, and making the most of the advantage that OLED's self-emissive pixels have when compared to LED TVs (even mini-LED).
LG's new image processing powers everything, with a noticeable boost to how it handles upscaling from HD to 4K especially – everything looks sharper, but also more natural. And actual 4K video looks better than ever, thanks partly to improved 'AI' recognition of scenes – the TV is better at identifying what's on screen and tweaking its performance to make the most of it.
As well as being phenomenal for movies, the LG G1 is an excellent choice for gaming. All four of its ports are HDMI 2.1, with 4K 120Hz, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) support, and a new Game Optimiser mode adds flexibility to balance responsiveness with picture quality.
It even sounds good, thanks partly to improved audio processing, which now promises something akin to 5.1.2 channels from the 60W of on-board power.
However, there is one very notable omission here: it doesn't come with a stand in the box. This is a 'Gallery' TV, and it's made for wall mounting – it comes with a special flush wall bracket, so that it sits as slim as possible when up. You can buy some feet, or LG's fetching 'Gallery Stand', but be warned that this is something you'll have to add yourself.
The flagship TV in Samsung's 2020 range takes 4K video and boosts it to really make use of its 8K resolution, even though 8K content is non-existent at this point. It feels like such a revelation, that it won our T3 Awards 2020 award for Best TV.
The AI-based upscaling does an incredible job of filling the 33 million pixels with images that still look natural and pristine – not like they've been processed. Given that this TV only comes in at bigger screen sizes, this could not be more welcome. It's the best way to watch 4K, put simply – and the job it does of upscaling regular ol' HD is highly commendable as well, with only a few tiny processing imperfections slipping in that aren't much different to what you see when upscaling on 4K TVs.
Even more luxurious is the HDR performance, thanks to a powerful direct full array backlight, producing massively bright images beyond almost anything we've seen before. But with 480 areas of local dimming for turning that backlight down when needed, it's also capable of truly impressive contrast contrast, even in bright and dark areas right next to each other. This kind of thing used to be OLED's main strength, but this can go several times brighter than the best OLED TVs, and almost matches it for black level performance – it's just astounding.
It feels like a premium product too – it's stunningly thing and sleek, but more noticeable is that lack of bezels on three sides, so it looks like the image is just suspended in the air. To really complete that effect, all of its ports are housed in an external box, called the One Connect, which connects to the TV over a single cable, making it ideal for tidy living rooms. Add to that an excellent smart platform that makes it easy to watch any streaming or catch-up services you want, and you have a more-than-complete package.
It comes in 65-inch, 75-inch and 85-inch sizes, which are all available in the UK, though only the 85-inch version is available in the US. The good news is that there's a variant of this TV called the Q900T, which ditches the One Connect box and puts the ports on the TV itself (making it thicker), but is otherwise exactly the same… except for being significantly cheaper. Read our full Samsung Q950TS review for more on why it impressed so deeply.
The unique Professional Edition Master OLED panel is the heart of this TV's success – while most OLED TVs are ultra thin and live with limited brightness compared to LED TVs (using their deep blacks to create stunning HDR), Panasonic has made its TV slightly thicker to accommodate lots of extra heat dispersion tech, so that it can overdrive the panel to be brighter than other OLED TVs, while still having all the advantages of the deep blacks.
When mixed with Panasonic's penchant for calibrating the TVs to be as close to Hollywood mastering screens as possible (meaning what you're seeing is just like what the directors saw when approving the look of films), the result is the most sumptuously cinematic TV available.
For bring every drop of nuance from 4K HDR sources (partly thanks to being the only TV in our top 5 to support all HDR formats), we simply love the HZ2000. It also deals with upscaling from HD to 4K with aplomb, and SDR images look bright and rich too – it handles movies and TV from any format excellent. For movie buffs, there's no TV we'd recommend more.
However, there are a few limitations to it – it doesn't support the latest and greatest gaming features for PS5 and Xbox Series X, there's no Disney+ currently, and the screen size choice is more limited than a lot of models here – that mean that we still (just) rate the Samsung Q950TS higher for being a more solid all-rounder. But if you love movies, you're not bothered about games and the sizes work for you, this is the TV to get.
In a nice touch, it comes with a pretty good speaker system built-in, including real Atmos height channels. If you're spending this much on a set, odds are that you'll get a real sound system, but Panasonic has still done well.
This TV is available in the UK and Europe, and likely will be in Canada as well, but we don't expect a US release for it, sadly. Here's our full Panasonic HZ2000 review.
The LG CX is the blockbuster of LG's 2020 range: it's got the same image quality at TVs double its price, but delivers them at a price more people can afford, especially now that there's a new 48-inch size that's even less expensive, alongside the 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch models.
There's no big leap forward for OLED technology here – the developments in picture quality here are down to improvements in processing, making better-than-ever use of OLED's ability to bring out detail and subtlety in dark areas of the screen.
Brightness peaks at around 750 nits, which is normal for quality OLEDs, but because this handles the breadth of its contrast range better than almost any TV we've seen, it certainly feels brighter than that, and OLED's ability to but bright pixels right next to dark ones continues to look stunning.
The new image processing here also helps with making detail and skin tones more realistic, making the overall image a notable improvement – especially when you're watching something richly cinematic in a room with the right lighting (though the inclusion of Dolby Vision IQ means it will tweak what the screen shows to match the light levels in the rooms without harming contrast).
This is also the perfect TV for those looking at buying a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X – or to use with a PC – thanks to its excellent gaming features. We've measured incredibly low lag of just over 13ms in its gaming mode, which is almost as good as it gets – but the gaming mode keeps an impressive amount of image optimisation still going on, so it looks glorious.
On top of that, it supports Auto Low-Latency Mode, Variable Refresh Rates and 4K video at 120 frames per second – all major features in the next-gen consoles. It also includes Nvidia G-Sync support, for PC gaming with an Nvidia graphics card.
The gaming support here is so good, in combination with the TV's overall quality, that it won the award for Best Gaming TV at the T3 Awards 2020. You can read our full five-star LG CX review for more about it.
If you're looking for a total home cinema upgrade – visuals and audio – in a compact package, this is unbeatable. It's not only a fantastic 48-inch OLED TV, but the speaker bar built into the stand is a Dolby Atmos system, complete with upfiring speakers to add height.
This means that its RRP is a little more than the equivalent 48-inch OLED in LG's CX range, but it's much cheaper than buying the CX plus a soundbar of equivalent quality, making it one of the best-value TV buys right now, especially when you factor in what a superb TV it is. This all applies to the 55-inch and 65-inch versions too, but it's at 48 inches where being an all-in-one package really sings for us.
The TV takes full advantage of what OLED can do – colours are rich and punchy in the way that Philips TVs are known for, but new scene-by-scene AI-based processing helps skin tones to appear natural. Balancing vibrancy and realism in this way is almost impossible to pull off, but here we are. Support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ means that everything will look its best, too.
Philips' Ambilight tech is here too, which uses coloured light strips around the outside of the TV to project colours matching what's on the TV onto the wall, helping a small TV to feel even bigger and more immersive.
The built-in sound system is really impressive too, crucially. None of its competitors can match it for dynamism and the feeling of sounds being positioned around the screen. We dig into all this much deeper in our full Philips OLED+935 review.
The only major downside for this TV is when it comes to gaming. It has an okay gaming mode to improve responsiveness, but there's no 120Hz 4K support over HDMI, or Variable Refresh Rate support. For next-gen consoles in particular, we'd recommend sticking with the LG CX for an equivalent OLED. There's also no eARC HDMI support, though we don't this so much, since that's all about external Dolby Atmos sound systems and… well, you don't need one, do you?
Why have we mentioned two models – the Q95T and the Q90T – here? Because they're essentially the same TV, but with a small practical difference. The Q95T has an external box to house all of its connections, which connects to the panel over a single tiny cable; the Q90T has its connections on the TV unit itself, and so is slightly thicker as a result. The Q90T is also notably cheaper in countries where both versions are sold, but note that in some places, you'll only be offered one of them anyway.
With that out of the way, we can talk about the think you really need to know about both the Q95T and the Q90T: the fantastic HDR images you get from the QLED panel. The key thing here is the brightness of over 2000 nits – double what you get from even the brightest OLED sets, and easily four times brighter than your average budget TV. This is thanks to a full array backlight, much like the 8K Samsung Q950TS above, and combined with the wide, rich colours of an OLED panel, it looks just incredible. It's so vibrant and lush, but still maintains realism for people's skin tones and grittier scenes.
Localised dimming means it can give you pretty good depth of contrast too – while it can't match the OLED screens for the nuance of detail in dark scenes, it is able to put bright and dark elements next to each other with a very limited about of backlight bleeding between then.
The AI-based upscaling is massively impressive too, so both HD and 4K sources look magnificent. And it's well-suited to gaming, thanks to low input lag and a load of future-proofed features for next-gen consoles.
It's a premium-priced 4K screen, there's no doubt, but you can see where your investment has gone – it's bold and beautiful, as our full Samsung Q95T/Q90T review explains.
Shhh, don't let the secret out, but there's not a vast difference in the image quality between this and the LG CX above, and no difference at all in the smart platform or future-proofed connectivity options, including 4K 120Hz and Variable Refresh Rate support for next-gen gaming.
The CX's screen is generally measured brighter than the BX, so if you want the best picture and HDR performance, it still has a slight edge, but the gap between them really isn't colossal. The BX also has slightly less advanced processing, but it's still a class act for handling upscaling and motion.
There's no drop in HDR support either, so you get the dynamic images of Dolby Vision support, plus the webOS operating system has plenty of apps that support this, including Netflix and Apple TV. Other UK catch-up services are present, as is Freeview Play and Amazon Prime Video, though the HDR10+ support of the latter can't be used, because the TV itself doesn't support it.
However, the sound has definitely been skimped on in this TV, to save money. But that's fine – you don't have to spend much at all on one of the best soundbars to compensate.
The 55-inch version of this TV has sits just over the £1,000 mark, which is superb value for a future-proof set. But we've picked the 65-inch version because it's the best-value big OLED we've seen so far – it's often available for £1,699, and it's definitely our pick for balancing size, image quality and features at that price. Our full LG BX review explains why in more detail.
This TV is Sony's flagship 4K LCD TV from 2020, but it doesn't cost flagship money – it cost much less than the LG CX or Samsung Q95T, for example.
It still delivers high-class image quality, though: with brightness peaking at over 1,000 nits, you get bountiful HDR from it, and Sony's image processing is second to none. Colours are supremely rich without coming across as fake, and skin tones in particular have a class-leading realism to them, while still being vibrant.
It also handles motion better than just about anything else, giving fast scenes in movies an authentic look but without any judder – at the same, it clears up and adds detail, which is especially great in sport. It's also a highly talented upscaler, so HD video and streams look at close to 4K as possible.
It's not a great choice for gaming thanks to lack of support for 4K at 120fps and a few other missing features (surprisingly, given that Sony's own PS5 will support them), but if you want a TV bright enough to give you a full-on HDR experience even in a strongly lit room, this is really good choice. Read more about it in our Sony XH95 review.
Philips' OLEDs have always been known for going big when it comes to colours, delivering vibrant HDR images especially, which is only augmented by the addition of Ambilight, which uses LEDs on the rear to spread the colours on the screen onto the walls.
With its latest TVs, Philips has added impressive new AI processing that helps to maintain that boldness, but also making things like skin tones look more real then ever, so you're getting the best of both worlds: vivid colours that leap from the screen, but that are also realistic in nature.
That's mixed with OLED's ability to give incredible contrast range and depth in dark area, making this one of the most astounding and pleasing sets around for movies and TV. It's all only enhanced by improved upscaling compared to previous models, and some really impressive handling of motion, especially for the 24fps of movies, which have less motion blur (and so more clarity) without looking artificial at all.
It even sounds better than its peers! Granted, you should be pairing this with a soundbar at least to make the audio really match the images, but if you go without, you still get an impressively high and wide soundscape.
The catch? No Variable Refresh Rate or 4K at 120Hz support and average-at-best gaming lag its gaming lag means this wouldn't be our TV of choice for gaming, especially for next-gen consoles. The lack of eARC for the highest-possible output to a soundbar is also a shame, but we can live with it. See our full Philips OLED805 review for more about its pros and cons.
This is Sony's mid-range wonder TV, and finely balances image quality with budget. The full-array LED backlight here provides bright and powerful HDR that's also carefully balanced to deliver realistic and precise colours.
As usual with Sony TVs, the image processing is a big draw here on its own – the way it takes lower-res video and makes it sparkle on the 4K display is second to none, and it also handles motion with a deft touch, helping to avoid judder, but still keeping things looking clear and natural.
When combined with the really impressive HDR performance, you've got a TV that feels premium, but falls comfortably into the mid-range price bracket – this has been a huge hit, and deservedly so.
That's especially true because this is Sony's lead TV for the PS5, carrying 'Ready for PlayStation 5' branding, because (somewhat inexplicably) it's the only TV in Sony's line-up that's due to get support for every major PS5 (and Xbox Series X) new TV tech, including ALLM, VRR and 4K at 120fps. Right now, only 4K 120fps is currently supported, but Sony says the rest are coming via an update soon. Here's our original Sony XH90 review.
This TV tops our list of the best TVs under £1,000, and was the winner of the T3 Awards 2020 gong in the same category, for very simple reasons: it offers a full-quality OLED experience, but for less than the competition.
In fact, with support for both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision advanced HDR formats, it's actually better-specced in this sense than many more expensive TVs. It does use slightly older processing than Philips' latest TVs, and the smart platform is not as comprehensive as the flagship models (but still have all the major streaming services), but these don't diminish the experience at all.
Philips' signature vivid colours are here, and OLED's ability to deliver stunning contrast on an ultra-detailed screen is preserved. The image is rich, clear and inviting, and is made even more immersive with the inclusion of Philips' Ambilight tech.
In terms of pure picture quality for the money, nothing beats this set – it's a cinematic marvel. It's also available as a 65-inch model, but the 55-inch version is the sweet spot for price.
This is one of Panasonic's more budget-focused TVs, but you'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone who sees it of that. Not only does it offer colourful, precise visuals from 4K sources, it has every HDR base covered, so it's always eking the most out of every shot.
Of course, being a less expensive LED TV, you won't hit the spectacular bright highs on offer from the likes of the Samsung Q90R that tops our list, but what you see is still rich and exciting.
Processing is strong for motion control, which makes this an especially good buy for sports fans, and it also upscales fair well, though there are other options at a similar price range that are better for that – our list of the best TVs under £1000 goes into more detail.
58 inches isn't a very common size at the moment, but expect to see it become more common in the future – it's only a little physically larger than 55 inches, but feels like a nice extra size upgrade. And here, it gives you a superb amount of real estate for the money.
Though this is as affordable as Samsung TVs get, you won't feel like it's been neglected in any way – the plastic build feels perfectly premium, there's support for HDR10+ advanced HDR, and the software is essentially the same as that on higher-end models, including wide support for streaming and catch-up services, including Netflix, Apple TV (with AirPlay 2), Amazon Prime Video, and loads more.
And, crucially, the image quality also surpasses what you'd expect for the price – everything looks sharp and detailed, and it even does a damn good job of upscaling from HD, so if you tend to rely on watching non-4K stuff (which is most of it still, after all), you really won't feel like you got a budget TV here.
As an added bonus, it has a tiny 10ms response time, which means it's a great choice for gaming.
T3's TV buying tips
So you've read your rundown of the best TVs to buy and you've hopefully settled on a choice. But perhaps you have a few more questions? Allow us to help…
Should I upgrade my HD TV to a 4K TV?
Yes, definitely (although, to be fair, if you buy a new TV that’s what you’re going to get whether you like it or not).
The resolution of 4K/Ultra HD is four times higher than Full HD, at 3840x2160. It means a far more detailed picture, with content requiring a lot more bandwidth and storage space. 4K TVs tend to be good at upscaling HD video to Ultra HD, and native 4K content is now widely available from a variety of sources.
Our advice? Replace your HD screen with a larger 4K UHD model to really enjoy the resolution benefit. Similarly, buy a larger 8K TV than your 4K screen, if you’re stepping up again.
What types of TV display can I choose from?
The lighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique produces beautiful colour and high contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. LG Display is the only supplier of 4K OLED screens to mainstream TV manufacturers, meaning they all use the same panels, but picture processors and implementation all vary, so you can still expect differences between brands.
Samsung is the leading exponent of QLED, a variant of LED LCD display technology that uses a highly efficient Quantum Dot filter that increases brightness and colour volume. QLED screens with a full array backlight offer the best performance when it comes to HDR peak brightness and LCD black level control.
LED TV: Direct LED
Sometimes called FALD (Full Array Local Dimming), these displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast.
LED TV: Edge LED
With these Edge LED TVs, the LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays, but can't achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets. However, Edge LED displays do come in far cheaper, which is why the more budget LED TVs out there use this technology.
What should I look for when I'm buying a TV?
Here are some of the things we look for when we review a TV screen, so you should, too...
Contrast: Bright whites shouldn't have any signs of green, pink or blue in them, while blacks should look solid and not washed out, grey, green or blue.
Colours: Look at how bright and solid they are; how noiseless their edges are; how 'dotty' richly saturated areas are and how natural skin looks, especially in dim scenes.
Fine detail: How much texture does the screen give? Does a tree look like a green lump, or can you see the individual leaves?
Edges: Check for ghosting, bright halos and jaggedness, especially around curves.
Motion: Check moving objects and quick camera pans for smearing or blurring, trailing, jerkiness and fizzing dotty noise.
Image artefacts: Look for blockiness, colour bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it's added by the TV’s picture processing engine.
What about TV sound?
To provide the best audio to complement the pictures, your TV should be hooked up to a separate audio system, be it soundbar or home cinema separates, but this isn't always an option. So, here's what we listen for when testing a TV's speakers:
Bass: Deep, rounded rumbles that don't cause the set to rattle or speakers to distort cramp or overwhelm the rest of the sound; but that expand when needed.
Vocals: Voices should sound open, rich and clear, not boxed in, nasal or thin.
Trebles: Treble effects should sound clean, rounded and smooth in loud scenes and shouldn't dominate the soundstage.
Soundstage width/depth: A good TV should throw the sound away from the TV, to the sides, forward and back, to give an extra dimension to what's on screen, without losing any coherence.
How many HDMI sockets do you need?
For a living room TV you should be looking for a minimum of three HDMI inputs, but ideally four if you want to attach a set-top box as well as games consoles, Blu-ray player and media streamer.