Now's a great time to buy one of the world's best TVs. 2021's TVs will start arriving in the next couple of months, which means the best models from last year won't be around for long… and that means they've had their prices cut, pretty drastically in some cases!
It means that right now is the moment where you have the most choice: you can look at both the upcoming models and the best-reviewed sets from last year and decide how your money is best spent. Especially when last year's models are now such bargains – lots of the best TV deals are on the excellent sets from our list below!
The vast majority of the market now is 4K TVs, with some 8K TVs coming in at the high end, and Full HD sets pretty much limited only to those of 32 inches at 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 incredible job of upscaling the video so it looks crisp and sharp on the extra pixels.
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 if you're looking for an audio upgrade for your existing TV, be sure you check out our guide to the best soundbars.
Best TV 2021: which is the top TV?
Our overall top choice of best TV is the phenomenal Samsung Q950TS, by a hair. This 8K QLED screen combines high vibrancy with class-leading HDR performance and sensational color reproduction, plus its upscaling really does make 4K video look close to 8K – it genuinely makes 4K look better than it would normally, which is great at bigger screen sizes. Thanks to an innovative full-array backlight, it not only delivers convincing shiny highlights but also does a fine job managing deep black levels. It also supports next-gen gaming features, including 4K at 120Hz and Variable Refresh Rate.
If you're looking to come into more realistic price ranges, we'd suggest the Samsung Q90T/Q95T as the best LED TV pick, or the LG CX as the best OLED TV pick.
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.
Then there’s the viewing environment. If you tend to watch in high ambient lighting, or during the daytime, an LED or QLED screen will typically serve you better. If you prefer to view 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 flagship TV in Samsung's 2020 range is our new pick for the best TV you can buy thanks to the way it 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 85 inches, 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 from 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 colossal 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 thin and sleek, but more noticeable is the 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. You have the best TV money can buy right now… but it does cost a lot of money.
It’s only available in an 85-inch version in the U.S., though it comes in 65-inch, 75-inch and 85-inch sizes in the UK. The good news is that there's a variant of this TV called the Q900TS, which ditches the One Connect box and puts the ports on the TV itself (making it thicker), but is otherwise exactly the same… except that it's significantly cheaper.
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 cost 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 are 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 put bright pixels right next to dark ones continues to look stunning.
The new image processing also helps with making detail and skin tones more realistic, resulting in a notable improvement in the overall image – 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 an 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 optimization 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.
This is Samsung's flagship 4K TV of 2020, and it started at a price to match that premium ambition, but after a series of price cuts, it's now much, much cheaper… and just as impressive.
What you're really buying the Q90T for is the fantastic HDR images you get from the QLED panel. The key here is the brightness of over 2,000 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. Combined with the wide, rich colors of an OLED panel, it looks just incredible. It's vibrant and lush, but still maintains realism for people's skin tones and grittier scenes.
Localized 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 amount of backlight bleeding between them.
The AI-based upscaling is really impressive too, so both HD and 4K sources look incredible. 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. Discover more in our full Samsung Q90T review.
Shhh, don't let the secret out, but there's really very little difference in the panel or picture processing technology between this and the LG CX above (or indeed, the much more expensive GX or WX models).
The CX's screen is generally measured as a little brighter at its peak than the BX, so if you want the best picture, it still has a slight edge, but the gap between them really isn't big at all. That's partly due to the fact that the BX has all the same electronics powering it, including the same strong upscaling and motion handling, plus 120Hz support, and variable refresh rates, and all the connections you could want.
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, Apple TV 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 a soundbar to compensate.
The 55-inch version of this TV has occasionally dipped to around the $1,200 mark, which is excellent 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 $2,000, which just about edges out other budget OLEDs at the time of writing.
Discover the differences in the LG BX vs LG CX models.
The Sony A8H is the more affordable of Sony's 2020 OLED TVs – its price puts it in competition with LG's CX, and makes a strong case for itself as an alternative.
Sony is the leader when it comes to image processing, and the deft touch this TV provides to make sure that motion looks totally natural, or to upconvert non-HDR video to something close to real HDR so it pops more on the screen, makes everything you view on it better.
That's all rolled in with the overall picture quality, which is a home theater enthusiast's dream: the way it handles subtle shades, areas of hard contrast and the overall color is just about impossible to fault.
The one arguable issue with its picture is that it's not as bright as LG's OLED TVs, and even more so than the Samsung TVs above. It's also a little reflective, so doesn't stand up well to bright sunlit rooms, but if your use is mostly in controlled lighting, that won't be a problem.
Also impressive is the built-in sound system, which uses the screen panel itself as a speaker, which means unlike most thin TVs, the sound is directed right toward you – this makes elements like dialogue immediately clearer and richer. It's no substitute for surround sound, but where, with LG's CX, we'd recommend getting one of the best soundbars, this is kind of like having one built-in already.
For smart TV functions, you've got Android TV, which is fairly comprehensive for app support, though isn't the slickest option on the planet.
Those planning to get the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X may want to consider another set, though: it doesn't support 4K at 120fps or Auto Low Latency Mode, which are features of the new consoles.
If you don't care about next-gen consoles and want simply incredible movie images with sound you don't have to immediately pay to upgrade, this is an ideal TV. Read more in our full Sony A8/A8H review.
This TV is Sony's flagship 4K LCD TV for 2020, but it doesn't cost flagship money – it costs less than the LG CX or Samsung Q90T, 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. Colors 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 time, it clears up and adds detail, which is especially great for watching sports. 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 a really good choice.
For more, read our full Sony XH95 review
The Sony Z8H brings a lot of the key advantages of the Z9G to a much lower price. This directly competes with the Samsung Q950TS above for price, and it's a very tempting alternative. The image quality is simply astounding, and when it comes to making SDR sources look like HDR, or making motion looking clearer without the 'soap opera' effect, this is the best in the business.
The upscaling to 8K is truly impressive, though not really any better than the Samsung above. It still really makes the most of the huge screen though. Also impressive is the built-in sound system, which is so much meatier and bigger than just about anything else we've heard, which is a nice bonus.
As well as the full-blown 85-incher, it also comes in 75-inches for only a fraction more than half the price. So, is also well worth considering.
The support for Dolby Vision is a bonus over the Samsung above, but it lacks HDR10+ support, and does offer support for Variable Refresh Rate, which is a great feature of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. However, it does support 4K at 120Hz.
To discover more, read our full Sony ZH8 review here.
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 colors.
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 is going to be hugely popular in 2021, 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. Or, actually, it will support all those. Right this second, only 120fps is actually supported (via an update). The rest are promised to arrive very soon.
Want to know more? Read our full Sony X900H review
When it comes to value, you can’t beat the TCL 6-Series. It packs features into the set you usually need to spend some serious cash for – and it does it for well under $1,000. Along with QLED tech, the latest model uses mini-LED backlights, which makes the TV much brighter than the usual backlights you find on many cheaper units. Mini-LEDs are grouped into small bunches to allow for more precise local dimming. That creates nice contrast, too, though not as good as you’ll find on OLEDs. The 6-Series comes in 65, 55 and 75 inch models to match your room size.
Perhaps best of all is that the TCL 6-Series comes with Roku baked in – it’s the system’s smart OS. That means you get all the apps and ease of use of a Roku unit without having to use one of your HDMI ports or attaching a separate streaming unit.
Gamers will love that the 6-Series supports auto game mode and variable refresh rate – both important for next-gen consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It’s THX certified for game mode at 1440p/120 Hz (though it won’t do 4K at 120Hz) and its low lag time means you can’t blame the TV for any gameplay problems.
If you’re looking for a TV that costs around $500, the 55-inch Hisense H8G should be first in line. The TV punches well above its weight class. With solid color and excellent black levels, the H8G delivers excellent contrast. Full array local dimming helps with the overall picture quality.
Gamers working with limited funds will especially like its low lag time, though it lacks a variable refresh rate and tops out at 60Hz refresh rate. It runs Android TV, which means you’ll have plenty of apps to choose from, and includes Google Assistant for voice assistance as well as Google Chromecast for streaming content from your phone. It also handles Dolby Atmos sound for improved clarity – especially when paired with a soundbar that supports Atmos.
It supports two types of HDR – Dolby Vision and HDR10 – which puts it behind some more expensive units, but it handles HDR content well nonetheless. It’s also not as bright as TVs that cost more, so if you watch a lot of TV during the day it may not be a great match. But if you’re on a strict budget, you’ll be pleased with what you see. It also comes in 50, 65 and 75-inch models.
T3's best 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? Our in-depth guide to buying a TV should have all the answers you need, or you can peruse the truncated version below…
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 color 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 color 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.
Colors: 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, color bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it's added by the TV’s picture processing engine.
Best TV 2021: 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 a media streamer.
Best TV 2021: why now is a good time to buy
We tend to say this all the time, but now really is a great time to invest in a new TV!
4K resolution opens the door to more detail without any obvious onscreen pixel structure, while wide color gamut panels and high brightness panels make for vibrant, color-rich images, even when viewing regular HD TV channels.
The quality of HD upscaling has also never been better, as the power of image processors grows exponentially. All the main TV brands are now fast-tracking image processing which utilizes advanced AI with Deep Learning and Machine Learning, for better picture clarity.
With high dynamic range (HDR), images enjoy a greater sense of realism. HDR is basically a technology that enables TVs to show a broader range of colors and brightness, closer to what the eye is capable of seeing. Bright highlights, such as reflections and fireworks, glint and glow more realistically. HDR also allows for greater subtle shadow detail, adding extra depth.
There is a caveat though. Cheaper LED screens may claim HDR support, but they often lack the inherent brightness to actually do much with it. At the high end, the dynamics will always be more pronounced.
HDR comes in a variety of flavors. Static HDR, aka HDR10, is the standard. It’s used on UHD Blu-ray and by streaming services. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are dynamic HDR variants, able to optimize HDR characteristics on a scene-by-scene basis, thanks to the use of dynamic metadata.
Dolby Vision is the more widely used of the two. It’s favored by Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV/iTunes and UHD Blu-ray. HDR10+ appears on some discs but is more commonly used by Amazon Prime. Most manufacturers support one or the other; a few (Panasonic, Philips) favor both.
HLG is a live broadcast HDR standard, still largely undergoing trials – support is widespread.
Audio is often a key differentiator between models. Flagship 4K TVs tend to have enhanced sound systems, often with support for Dolby Atmos, the immersive 3D sound format. If you invest in a sound system or soundbar with support for vertical audio channels, this can create a 'dome' of sound with precise 3D positioning for all sounds – it's really quite remarkable.