The 9 Best TVs For Movies Games And More
Your TV is like a ticket to escape lifes stressesif only for an hour or two at a stretch. To make the most of that valuable time, its important to choose the best TV for your needs. Researching tech can be a bit intimidating, so weve narrowed down some of the greatest smart TVs of 2021 for everything from sports to movies to video games.
And if youre not even sure where to begin, check out our TV buying guide first.
Contrast Control Zone and HDR improve clarity in dark and bright scenes.
60 Hz refresh rate may result in screen tearing in fast motion scenes.
IPS technology creates a true-to-colour picture.
No HDMI 2.1. means there may be lower quality visuals.
Quad Core processor and TrueMotion technology helps make quick motion appear smooth.
Two HDMI inputs may mean the occasional cable swap.
Support for HDMI 2.1 is perfect for gamers.
60 Hz refresh rate may be slow for high-speed action film fans.
HDR performance gives colours a lifelike vividness.
A sound bar will need to be purchased for more immersive sound quality.
Android makes it easy to access content on multiple streaming apps.
The bezel is on the thicker side and its plastic, not metal.
QLED, HDR and 120 Hz refresh rate deliver exceptional picture quality.
May need assistance to safely move and set up.
Comes preloaded with smart TV apps.
Has average brightness, not ideal for gamers.
It costs just $8 per year in electricity with average use.
No HDR means some scenes may look less vibrant.
How Do I Get The Best TV Sound
Most TVs sound terrible because their thin cabinets don’t have room for decent-size speakers or bass. If you want to get good sound you should buy an external audio system. Even an inexpensive soundbar will deliver much better audio quality than a TV’s built-in speakers.
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Screen Size: Finding The Sweet Spot
Whether you’re looking for a basic or high-performance TV, the biggest factor in your decision will probably be screen size. Consider how many people in your family typically watch at once and where you’re going to put your new set. Then pick the largest screen size that will fit comfortably into that space and your budget. The sweet spot today, considering price, performance and the typical living room, is between 55 and 65 inches.
Screen size also depends on how close you sit to the TV. Basically, if you can see the individual pixels of the screen, you’re too close. A good rule of thumb is that you should sit at a distance from the TV that is three times more than the height of the screen for HD and just 1.5 times the screen height for 4K Ultra HD. In other words, you can sit twice as close to a 4K UHD TV.
Here’s a more in-depth guide to calculating the proper TV screen size based on the dimensions of your room, as well as the resolution of the TV. And check out the best TVs by size:
No TV buying guide, no matter how detailed, can replace your own experience and judgement. If you have the opportunity, go to a store and look at the TVs. Even though 4K content is less common than 1080p, you may want that higher-resolution technology if you plan to sit close to a very large screen.
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Tips For Testing TV Picture Quality
While Ive described the features you should look for in a TV, as I said before, image quality is the biggest part of the equation, and that you largely judge with your eyes. That said, there are some handy, cheap, color- and brightness-measuring apps for smartphones these days. Even if theyre not 100-percent accurate, you can compare the results to spot differences.
The questions you should be asking yourself when you judge are:
- How accurate is the color? Are reds orangish? Is there too much yellow in the green?
- Is there good contrast between light and dark when next to each other?
- Do details in dark areas stand out?
- Are the blacks black, or charcoal gray?
- How bright are the brightest spots?
- Is there banding in subtle color transitions, such as sky shots?
- Is there bleeding from the backlight in dark areas?
- Is there blooming around bright objects on dark backgrounds?
- Are motion scenes jerky?
- While being panned or moved, do detailed areas shimmer or create ugly patterns?
- Are there cloudy areas on a white screen?
Im sorry to say it, but even the best TVs will have issuesjust fewer of them and less severe. The closest Ive seen to perfect processing came courtesy of Samsungs Q900 8K UHD smart TV. As Ive already said, having all those extra pixels and subpixels to play with apparently helps.
For your convenience, weve placed several screens for you to download below .
Use pure red, green, and blue to test color accuracy.
Reds should not appear orangish, or pinkish.
What About Smart Features And Streaming Apps
As with 4K, it’s now hard to buy a TV that doesn’t have a smart platform packed with streaming apps. Almost every TV will have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on board, and Disney+ is fast approaching a similar level of ubiquity. Apple TV is becoming increasingly common, too.
You’d have thought that BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5 would be present on every TV available in the UK, but there always seems to be one brand that’s lacking so do check before you buy if any of those are important to you.
Other apps that are less common but potentially worth looking out for include BT Sport, Now, Britbox, and music apps such as Spotify and Tidal.
Also Check: How To Airplay To Samsung TV
TV Refresh Rate And Contrast Ratio
One of the biggest problems with narrowing your choices to a single TV is the sheer number of specs. To make your job a little easier, two of the biggies, refresh rate and contrast ratio, are safe to ignore.
Refresh rate, the speed at which your TV’s panel refreshes its image, is expressed in hertz . The theory is that a faster refresh rate results in a smoother image. But in reality, there are several reasons this simply isn’t true, and it’s not worth paying more for a set with a faster response rate. In many cases, 60Hz will do just fine for films and 120Hz will be plenty for video games and sports . Also, numbers above 120Hz tend not to indicate a panel’s native refresh rate they’re usually numbers produced through various backlight flickering and other image processing tricks, so keep that in mind.
When’s The Best Time To Buy A New TV
- New TVs are released every year, usually between April and July.
- They are usually expensive at launch, so it’s best to wait at least a few months.
- TVs from the previous year will still be available for up to six months following the launch of new models.
- We’ve found that TVs tend to hit their cheapest point around eight months after launch.
- You’ll find good deals on Black Friday, in the January sales and when their successors are released.
We can also help you find the best TV deals.
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When Should I Buy A Smart TV
With all technology, there’s always something new around the corner such as 8K. Simply put, you should buy a smart TV when you need one.
If your existing TV has failed or you want to upgrade, check out our guides for more information on what would work best for you.
It’s worth considering whether you also want to go for a QLED or OLED TV too.
While new TVs are launched quite regularly amongst the main brands, it’s often worth hanging back and buying last year’s models. They’re usually available for a lower price and the improvements are typically incremental rather than substantial.
As ever, it’s worth looking at the differences between a new model and the version it’s replacing. The introduction of Samsung’s Ultra Viewing Angle technology was a big boon for its high-end QLEDs as is the implementation of Mini LED on new Samsung TVs but other updates aren’t nearly as notable.
How Much Do TVs Cost To Run
When it comes to how much energy your TV uses, it tends to be its size that dictates how much more it will add to your electricity bill. Whichever size you go for though, they don’t tend to cost a great deal to run.
- 43-inch 4K TV will add £15.45 to your energy bill each year
- 65-inch one will add £24.40
- 49- and 50-inch 4K TVs are the most popular – they cost £17.27 to run
- 55-inch ones cost £20.12
- 8K TVs are far and away the most expensive to run. The Samsung QE65Q800T we tested in 2020 will cost £59.68.
All of our TV reviews include detailed information on energy use and how much a model will cost you to run per year.
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Know If The Software Is Upgradable
Smart TV manufacturers regularly roll out software updates for their products. Updates are there for the simple reason of patching bugs and resolving security issues. Software engineers constantly release them to upgrade an old feature or add newer ones. Android TVs are known to get an upgrade that is why many consumers prefer this type of operating system on smart TVs.
Smart TVs: Most Already Are
An increasing number of sets come with built-in Wi-Fi for connecting Internet-based services like Netflix for streaming videos or to run apps for watching special-interest programs, downloading on-demand movies, playing games or even posting to Facebook. The latest models can even search for content across streaming services and live programming on cable and satellite.
In the past, you could have bought a less expensive “dumb” TV and made it smart with a streaming device like the $50 Roku Streaming Stick. But nowadays, it’s hard to get a TV that isn’t smart, even if you’re going for a small bargain model. Find out more about the functions and features in our guide to smart TVs and How to buy a dumb TV and why you’d want to.
Bottom line: Smart capability is now a standard feature in TVs, so it’s less and less of a factor in your buying decision.
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The Final Word On New TVs
Theres never been a better time to buy a new TV. Manufacturers are constantly trying to outdo each other by including and even developing advanced technologies to make the viewing experience second to none. As a consequence, those wishing to be at the forefront of technology may have to be prepared to pay a premium, with TVs often costing $5,000 or more. In this case, it can be worth looking at brands with reputable warranty periods and servicing to ensure your prized possession is well taken care of should anything go awry. In any case, you can essentially expect to get what you pay for, and the bigger brands have a good reputation for a good reason.
TV Buying Guide And TV Terminology
James K. Willcox
I’ve been a tech journalist for more years than I’m willing to admit. My specialties at CR are TVs, streaming media, audio, and TV and broadband services. In my spare time I build and play guitars and bass, ride motorcycles, and like to sailhobbies I’ve not yet figured out how to safely combine.
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The State Of TV Technology
CRT TVs were around for more 50 years and were still being improved when they fell out of favor. LCD TVs arent nearly that mature, and youll still find the occasional entry-level models with color and contrast issues. Color and contrast have nonetheless improved drastically in the last few years, and the improvements have trickled down almost to the lowest rung on the ladder. OLED remains at the pinnacle, but remains expensive to manufacture. Ill talk more about LED versus OLED in a bit.
Theres also a resolution race in progress, though it seems to have stalled for the nonce at 8K UHD. Buying a TV with resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels remains a pricey proposition, and theres almost no content to take advantage of it. Apart from 4K Blu-ray, most video content is still delivered in 1080p resolution, even though 4K UHD TVs with resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels rule the roost in terms of sales.
The best news, to expand on my previous point, is that top-end technology has filtered down to the mid-range . We havent seen one that quite puts it all together yet, but TCLs 6-series come darn close. Too close, certainly, for the big three to remain comfortable.
TV Types And Jargon Explained: Lcd Led Lcd Oled
Aside from projection sets, there are basically only two types of TVs on the market: LCD and OLED. Unless you have a lot of disposable income, you’ll probably be buying an LCD TV.
LED and LCD Sets
The lion’s share of televisions today are LED LCD. These HD and Ultra HD sets use light-emitting diodes to illuminate the LCD screen and can be extremely thin. Many of these TVs can dynamically light up specific portions of the screen and dim other parts to better represent a mix of light and dark areas in a scene a feature known as active dimming or local dimming. No-frills LED LCD sets can be had for as little as $200 for a 32-inch screen, while a top-of-the-line 90-inch model can go for $8,000.
One hidden feature separating the budget TVs from the premium models is backlighting. With several different types of LED backlighting used in modern TVs, it pays to knwo the difference between the different options. Check out TV backlights explained: Edge-lit vs. full array vs. Mini-LED for an in-depth look at modern TV backlights.
Another LCD technology, called quantum dots, is becoming more common, spurred on by the requirements of HDR to produce a wider array of colors and more brightness. An LCD that uses quantum dots basically has another layer, or added rail, of different size nanocrystal dots that light up when the LED backlight hits them. The result is a wider color spectrum and increased brightness.
MORE: QLED vs OLED TV
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Lg Electronics: An Oled TV Cheerleader
If your eyes been caught by an OLED television, you can thank LG. The manufacturer makes OLED panels for both itself and competitors, and has enabled the resurgence in OLED years after interest in the technology was waning.
Does that mean LG makes the best OLEDs? Possibly. The LG CX OLED topped our best OLED TVs guide for a while until the company’s 2021 range added a new 83-inch size and 42-inch models to go with it, allowing for a wider variety of budgets, sizes and consumer needs. The latest LG C1 OLED is now our top OLED pick, as well as second place in our guide to the best TVs of 2021 overall.
Why go with an LG OLED? You’ll be getting brilliantly vivid colors, sharp contrast, gorgeously deep blacks, and LGs leading webOS smart platform tying the whole experience together. LG sets also tend to have a bit more pop to the colors, compared to the restrained tone mapping of sets sold by Panasonic.
- LG TV 2021: all the LED and OLED sets coming this year
K Resolution: Hold Off
If you thought the jump to 4K resolution was amazing, you’ll be floored by 8K, which ratchets up the detail even further with 7680 x 4320 pixels. It’s amazing to see, and it’s the next big thing in consumer TVs. But any worthwhile TV buying guide should be telling that it’s not worth spending your money on just yet.
TV manufacturers are betting big on 8K displays, and there’s no doubt that it’s the next big thing in TVs. But all that eye-popping detail is still missing an essential element: Content. There are no 8K movies available for purchase, and streaming in 4K is already more taxing than many people’s internet connection can handle.
So far, companies are hoping that fancy AI-powered upscaling will make everything look good enough to justify prices that far outstrip the cost of premium 4K sets. The 8K models on the market are expensive, but it’s getting better. While early models boasted enormous screens and equally outsized prices , smaller, more affordable 8K sets have emerged, like the 65-inch TCL Roku TV 6-Series 8K , which sells for just $2,199 less than some of the top 4K smart TVs.
Bottom Line: You can leave the pricey 8K TVs to the early adopters. Until content is available, you’ll just wind up paying a lot of money for upscaled 4K video.MORE: The best 8K TVs you can buy
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