Holding out for the best unreleased TV of 2019? Hold onto your popcorn, folks: there’s a tsunami of top-end TV screens about to hit.
Manufacturers are busy prepping new 4K TVs, and planning enormous 8K models with yet greater image clarity and even more impressive girth.
CES 2019 set the ball rolling, and we've since got hands/eyes-on with more of the best TVs of 2019. We've perspired over their pictures, pawed their shinym beautiful casings, and listened hard to their audio, on the show floor and behind closed doors. Our conclusion: if you thought TVs looked good in 2018, you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Most of these big screen behemoths don't have price tags yet; we only know they’re definitely coming out over the next 12 months. It’s a fair bet most won’t be cheap. Wildly innovative and visually stunning, these are the screens you’ll drool over in 2019. Although please don't do that literally. It would be gross, and you might electrocute yourself.
- The best prices on the top 10 TVs you can actually buy now
- Best TV under £1000 – just updated!
- Best TV under £500
1. Best 8K TV: Sony ZG9 8K 85-inch LED LCD TV
8K moved from early adopter's curiosity to centre stage at CES 2019. Yeah sure, there’s no actual 8K content to watch, but AI upscaling of 4K and, to a lesser extent, full HD is the next best thing.
Although Samung actually has an 8K TV on sale, and introduced the most new 8K TVs for 2019, it was Sony that had the best in show with its ZG9 (or Z9G is you’re based Stateside).
This new Master Series LED LCD Godzilla will ship in 85- and 98-inch screen sizes, and boasts a number of innovative refinements. The most obvious is an 8K enhanced full array Backlight Master Drive, which uses ultra-dense LED modules. Specifically designed for 8K UHD, all are independently controlled for high contrast images without blooming or halos.
While Sony never talks about peak brightness or black level specifics, demos of the ZG9 in low ambient light, and full darkness proved hugely impressive. 8K X-tended Dynamic Range PRO technology is used to intelligently boost peak brightness as and when it’s needed. The TV has zing to spare.
To show the full potential of the set, Sony demonstrated the ZG9 to us with both live action and CG footage. The former, shot at the Rio carnival, was rich in minuscule detail and vibrant wide-band colour. From an optimum viewing distance of about 1.5m, we were mesmerised.
To illustrate the TV’s potential as a gaming display; we were treated to a stunning 8K render from Gran Turismo. The game’s photo realistic cars have never looked more gorgeous.
Of course, in the real world, you’ll be using the set to upscale 4K content, and unlike some other 8K upscaling technologies, Sony’s approach to this is unerringly naturalistic. There’s no obvious extra edge enhancement here, and upscaled 4K images look almost indistinguishable from native 8K content. Off-axis viewing is also excellent, thanks to X-Wide Angle technology.
Not only will the ZG9 support HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, it’ll also be one of the first European TVs to win IMAX Enhanced certification.
The ZG9 also ushers in a new sound system, which Sony calls Acoustic Multi-Audio. This comprises four front-facing speakers; two on top and two at the bottom, which lock audio to the picture area.
There’s also a TV Centre Speaker Mode, which allows all four front-facing speakers to function as a unified centre speaker in a surround sound system. Sony demonstrated this by surrounding the set with its own high performance hi-fi floorstanders, and running the ZG9 as a centre speaker for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The configuration worked surprisingly well, making this a viable option for home cinema fans.
The ZG9 will also be compatible with Dolby Atmos, via a firmware update, shortly after its launch.
2. Most cinematic 4K TV: Panasonic GZ2000 65-inch OLED TV
While its TV rivals aimed for blue sky at CES, Panasonic quietly unveiled the 4K TV home cinema enthusiasts have been clamouring for. Its upcoming GZ2000 claims a number of firsts, including being among the first OLED screens to support HDR, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, and the first with Dolby Atmos enabled up-firing speakers built in – unlike the Sony above.
It’s actually the first Panasonic OLED TV we’ve seen that we can’t think of anything to bitch about at all. This screen is majestic.
The OLED panel is a custom design. Panasonic told us it has successfully exploited technologies and design techniques first developed for its plasma TV line-up, which better manage screen heat. This has allowed it to increase overall brightness – not HDR peak brightness, but average picture level brightness.
This unique tweak brings subtle benefits to image quality which results not in just a higher level of visual crackle but also greater colour detail and fine nuance, when driven by the brand’s new HCX PRO Intelligent processor. While the final tuning of this set has yet to be completed, it’s already looking amazing.
Panasonic is also delivering huge improvements when it comes to motion handling. In the past its IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) interpolation has been heavy handed at best, but here fast motion (even in Max IFC mode) looked clean and free of MPEG image artefacts. This might well be an image interpolation setting Tom Cruise won’t rush to turn off.
This screen doesn’t just look outstanding, it sounds remarkable too.
OLED tellies have boasted Dolby Atmos compatibility for some time, but only offer immersive audio when the Atmos audio stream is routed out of the set into a soundbar or home cinema receiver. The GZ2000 doesn’t need any additional hardware, and offers an immersive listening experience out of the box. An integrated soundbar, tuned by Technics, offers an expanded front soundstage, while dedicated up-firing speakers behind the panel handle the height element of Atmos.
In full flow, Dolby Atmos movies sound high, wide and handsome; an Atmos-encoded football clip proved incredibly immersive, with elevated crowd ambience really drawing us into the moment.
This flagship OLED screen, which will be available in 55- and 65-inch screens sizes, is definitely one to shortlist when it’s released in a few months.
3. Most stylish TV: Philips OLED 804
All these high-end TVs look very sexy, but Philips European/Nordic-influenced design ethos and the (usually) subtle 'Ambilight' coloured light show that pours off the back and edges of its TVs really give it an advantage, for us.
This year's flagship OLED features minor but just about noticeable improvements over last year's OLED 803 – it is quite literally '1 better' – in all key areas: sharpness, colour reproduction, contrast and detail in challenging HDR and SDR scenes. This is all thanks to Philips' 3rd generation P5 image-wangling chip.
For reasons best known to itself, Philips insists on dialling the motion smoothing up to 11 in its demos, so movies had that horrible 'security camera/stabilised mobile phone footage' look, but our experience is that when you dial this back you get very cinematic images from Philips TVs, and hopefully that remains the case in 2019.
As well as Ambilight, the 804 has all the bells and whistles you expect from a premium TV in 2019: Dolby Vision advanced HDR (and HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG), Dolby Atmos audio, the slightly contentious, but improving Google Android TV smart platform, and compatibility with Alexa for everything from changing the HDMI socket in use to ordering a pizza. Also available is the OLED 854, which is the exact same TV but with a swivel stand.
4. Best luxury TV: LG OLED65R rollable OLED TV
It may look like science fiction - a wafer thin 4K screen rising magically from a designer console (that is also a speaker) - but LG’s rollable OLED will debut definitely this year, finally taking advantage of one of OLED’s great unsold characteristics: flexibility.
The OLED65R is nothing if not a triumph of design. We particularly like how it can partially unfurl. The so-called Line View allows the top section of the panel to double as a display for news, weather, music track playback or just ambient moving artwork.
There’s no compromis in image quality to accommodate the incredible mechanics. The picture looks blisteringly sharp, with superb colour and black level performance, thanks to its second gen Alpha 9 image processor.
The cabinet itself houses a 4.2ch, 100W sound system, and is Dolby Atmos capable, although it doesn’t have any upwards firing drivers, so any surround effects remain pure virtualisation.
LG is currently not committing to a price for this rollable debutant – however we think it’s a fair bet that you’ll need to be rolling in it to buy one. Ho ho!
5. Best for bright rooms: Samsung's 2019 QLED TVs
We don’t know what to call it yet, or just how many size variants there will be, but we do know that Samsung’s 2019 4K QLED flagship will be a clear step up on the brand’s 2018 hero, the Q9FN. While that model impressed, this update looks to be even more of a dazzler
During CES, we were ushered into a back room briefing session for an early peek at the tech behind the new screen, and we liked what we saw. Unfortunately, we can’t show you what we saw, as we were forbidden from taking any photos of the new screen, presumably because some elements of the design have yet to be finalised – hence the generic Q9FN pic used above. Sorry about that.
There are two big improvements QLED buyers can look forward to: improved black level performance, and superior off-axis viewing, dubbed Q Wide Angle with Light Control. Through some panel wizardry, the brand has reduced light leakage to a minimum. Both of these upgrades bring QLED closer to OLED in performance characteristics, albeit with the additional peak HDR brightness that LED LCD is known for.
There’s apparently no change to the peak HDR brightness with this new generation of QLED screens, but blooming has been minimised, giving a sharper, more defined and 'contrasty' picture, to use a technical expression.
With all this and Apple AirPlay, iTunes and HomeKit likely to be on board, consider our whistles suitably whetted.
6. Best affordable TV #1: Sony X950G 65-inch LED LCD TV
While Sony threw the spotlight on its 8K ZG9 debutant at CES, behind the scenes we got an early look at its mid-range 4K LED LCD, the X950G, and think this could be the affordable gem in the Sony range. This fancy flatscreen will replace the X900F when it launches later this year, and includes some ideas developed for the 8k ZG9.
For one thing, it comes with Sony’s new premium, metallic remote control – rejoice, sofa jockeys: that cheapie rubber button job has been banished from Sony’s high-end sets.
It also utilises Acoustic Multi-Audio sound positioning tweeters, located either side towards the top of the screen; these couple to standard bass reflex speakers, to anchor sound firmly to the screen. The TV itself is Dolby Atmos enabled, although those additional tweeters aren't actually used to create height effects.
The X950G will come in a wide variety of screens sizes, with 55-, 65- 75- and 85-inch models. All feature a full array backlight and the two largest models add X-Wide Angle technology for better off axis viewing.
Usability is enhanced too. The X950G runs the latest Oreo firmware, which looks to be a major upgrade on yesterday’s Android TV OS. The set is also compatible with Apple Airplay and HomeKit. Score!
8. Best affordable TV #2: Philips The One
Philips may not sell that many TVs in the UK, but its lower to mid-range offerings are often copper-bottomed bargains.
For 2019, the brand has hit on the splendid wheeze of not giving its key mid-price model a confusing name like LED65ABCD57XB. Instead, it's dubbed it The One, because it is The One TV that suits all customer needs, whilst still being affordable. Or something.
Slightly annoyingly, Philips has also called The One the 'Performance 7304 Series, and it comes in no fewer than 6 screen sizes, so it's perhaps stretching the definition of 'One' rather thinly.
However, with Philips usual styling, Ambilight, Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10+, Dolby Atmos and DTS HD audio and Micro Dimming LED backlighting, you're getting a lot for your money. It's also got Android TV and Google Assistant, and is 'Alexa-ready' (ie: you can control it via an external Echo speaker).
Since Philips can't give us a price yet we don't know if this will be the bargain of the year or just 'One' more option in the over-crowded mid-price TV market. It looks a good device, and we like the idea of giving TVs more memorable names, anyway.