LG

Over the years, our readers have often asked us for TV recommendations, and having recently had the opportunity to test a number of 4K TVs at every pricepoint, we've decided it's finally time to offer up a comprehensive guide to 4K TVs!

Now, first of all, you might have noticed we specified 4K a couple of times already, and we mean that. If you're buying a TV today, you better be buying a 4K TV. There's simply no sense in buying a 1080p TV, as you won't actually save much money, and you'll be losing a huge number of features, as all current 1080p TVs are stripped down to hit bargain pricepoints. And to be honest, 4K isn't sufficient; if you want a future-proof model, you need HDR. As much as the 4K resolution made TVs exciting again when it first arrived in 2013, it's HDR that makes TVs look good. So every model in our guide has some form of HDR, from the basic HDR-10 to the more premium HDR10+ (a Samsung technology) to the highest-end Dolby Vision (licensed only by LG and Vizio). The good news is that even basic HDR10 is fabulous, and every 4K disc released from here on out will include it. Some may include Dolby Vision as well, and have a separate track for HDR10 (Dolby Vision is not backwards compatible, but HDR10+ will be, once it actually shows up in content in late-2018). It should come as no big surprise that all seven of our TV picks are either a Vizio (on the affordable end), Samsung (in the mid-range), and LG (at the high-end). Each company is investing in some way or another in cutting-edge HDR technology.

OK, we know at this point that you're probably wondering what all these acronyms are about, so here it is in a nutshell: HDR10 (which stands for high dynamic range, 10-bit) provides much higher "dynamic range", up to 1000 nits typically, versus standard dynamic range content, which is limited to around 250nits. HDR10 uses static metadata to determine this range, so it works well if all scenes are similarly bright, but Samsung's HDR10+ and Dolby's Dolby Vision use dynamic metadata, which defines per-scene luminosity ranges. So say you have a dark scene in an alley, and then a bright scene on the seashore; that's where dynamic metadata really shines, as it can provide darker darks in one scene and lighter lights in the other. As for the difference between HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, the former is royalty-free (even though Samsung developed it), while the latter requires a license and has the added benefit of 12-bit color and a dynamic range that currently goes up to 4,000 nits, versus 10-bit and 1000 nits for all other forms of HDR. Don't get too excited about those specs, though, as most TVs, including all OLEDs, are limited to 1,000 nits, and there isn't a single TV on the market today equipped with a 12-bit-capable panel. Hopefully that clears up all the questions you had about HDR but were afraid to ask!

Before you dig into our selections, we have one more quick primer, this one on TV sizing. In short, 50" is for bargain hunters, 55" is the new 50" (i.e., it offers the best combination of features, price, and picture quality), and 65" comes with a huge premium (on the order of 30-40% for that extra 10"). Above 65" and you might just need a second mortgage, at least if you're buying a huge set that's actually worth paying for (cut-rate 75"-85" models don't interest us in the least bit). That being said, we have no official recommendation over 65", as it would simply be the 77" version of the TV you see pictured above, LG's 65" OLED, which is our top choice once cost is taken into account.

By the way, we do indeed believe that the very best way to experience 4K HDR material is via 4K Blu-Ray discs, so we include several disc player recommendations in this guide. While streaming content can replicate the HDR experience to a certain degree, it does so at the expense of other facets of image quality. You might get extreme brightness and colors, but experience artifacts or pixelation caused by the compression required to stream such content at Internet speeds widely available today.

One last thing: prices shown in this guide use real-time pricing engines, so they are always up-to-date. In general, all TV manufacturers release new models on a yearly cadence, with new models trickling in each spring. We list both current-year and previous-year models, because sometimes it really does pay to get a clearance model, given that in most cases not much changes from year to year (although some new models truly do represent a generational leap, and we'll highlight them in this guide). If you decide to purchase one of the products we profile, please use the links we provide, which helps support continued development of this guide.

4K TVs - Spring 2018

    The Bargain 4K HDR Screen:

    Vizio M50-E1 50" HDR UHD Display (2017)

    There's simply no better TV available under $600 than the Vizio M series. Yes, Vizio has plenty of competitors, but no, none of them offer even the slightest competition when it comes to picture quality. Offering tremendous brightness, a full array backlight with local dimming, and Dolby Vision compatibility, it's the real deal. You get seriously-premium picture quality at an affordable pricepoint. Note that because Amazon does not sell Vizio TVs (due to an arrangement with arch-rival TCL), we recommend you by your Vizio at B&H, another very reputable dealer.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If your budget is significantly below $500, you still have some choices, but none will pack in leading-edge features, nor HDR compatibility (let alone Dolby Vision). We can't honestly recommend any on particulary bargain-basement model over another.

    The Budget 55-inch 4K HDR TV:

    Vizio M55-F0 (2018)

    Take the next step up in size and features with the new-for-2018 M55 from Vizio. Offering 5" more viewing area, a slightly improved picture, and a built-in TV tuner, the new M55 is indeed a step up from the older model.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that Vizio has dropped the 50" size entirely from its M lineup for 2018. 55" is the new 50"!

    The Mid-Range 55-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV:

    Samsung UN55NU8000 (2018)

    If you want a truly premium picture at a great price, you simply cannot do better than the NU8000 from Samsung. Offering what we consider to be vastly better picture quality than its arch-rival Sony at a lower price, the NU8000 is the best TV anywhere near the $1,000 pricepoint. It offers incredible light output (around 1,500 nits), great color, and the best suite of streaming apps in the business.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Thanks to its use of edge lighting with local dimming, this TV is amazingly efficient. It uses about 2/3 as much power as other TVs its size, with no drop in brightness.

    The High-End 55-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:

    LG OLED55B7A (2017)

    If you want the ultimate picture quality in a 55" TV, scoop up the 2017 LG B7A before its gone for good! Offering nearly the same quality as 2018 LG OLEDs for $1,000 less, it's a tremendous bargain, and has no competitors at its pricepoint.

    The Guru's Tip:

    OLEDs are fantastic, but they aren't perfect. The issue isn't image retention, which most reviewers list as the only flaw of OLEDs. LG has worked around that with image shifting. The true issue is blurring in fast action and a very serious black crush - those "inky" blacks of OLEDs do come at a price - near-black images lose all detail. OLEDs are really best for vivid images.

  • The Mid-Range 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:

    Vizio 65 P Quantum (2018)

    When it arrives this summer, the Vizio P Quantum will be the ultimate 65" 4K TV for cost-conscious shoppers. Vizio has made a name for itself in offering premium picture quality at bargain prices. And the P Quantum will be its best TV yet. Available only in the premium 65" size, it offers quantum dots, much like Samsung's QLEDs, which enhance colors for a truly vivid image. And it will be the brightest TV of 2018, offering up light output of 2,000 nits, over twice what the best OLEDs can muster.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that an official MSRP has not yet been announced for this TV, so we're taking an educated guess that it will come in at $2,200. We'll soon see how good a guess this was!

    The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV:

    Samsung QN65Q8F (2018)

    In our opinion, there's no point to buying a big 65" TV with mediocre picture quality. Sure, the TV is big and might look impressive when it's turned off, but if it fails to wow once you turn it on, what's the point? That's why you really must go with a premium panel technology at this size, and there's no better LED-based panel than Samsung's new-for-2018 full-array QLED. The Q8 is the best of the bunch, offering tremendous brightness and color, and the contrast that only locally-dimmed full-array panels can provide. Last year's QLEDs, even the most expensive Q9, did not have full-array backlights.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Stepping up to a 65" TV means paying a premium, because there are two pricing breakpoints in current models: between 55" and 65" TVs, and between 65" and everything bigger.

    The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:

    LG 65C8P OLED (2018)

    The cream of the crop, it rises to the top. Yes, indeed, when all is said and done, LG's OLED reigns supreme. And it's priced in line with its reputation. OLEDs are still no bargain, despite all the recent headlines about how OLEDs are suddenly cheap (they aren't!), but they are a sight to behold. There's nothing like an OLED when it comes to producing mesmerizing color, so rich they might as well be drawn in wet paint, and the great part is OLEDs are pretty efficient too. The key to OLEDs picture quality is that each individual pixel emits its own light. That means the TV has infinite control over black levels (they can turn off pixels for pitch black), but it does limit peak brightness slightly (OLEDs run up to about 1000 nits), since each light source is so small.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you want a TV larger than 65", just go for the 77" version of this TV. In our opinion it costs too much, so we don't feel we can truly recommend it, but there's no doubt it offers a premium experience.

Optional Components

    The 4K HDR Player:

    Sony UBP-X700 (2018)

    We may not think much of Sony's current TV lineup, but there's no doubt that Sony knows a thing or two about disc playback, having been a pioneer in disc players since the very beginning. When it comes to affordable 4K UHD players, the new X700 is unmatched.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Sony was actually a little late to the 4K Blu-Ray player game, as it sat out 2016 believing that streaming would be the future of 4K. It was wrong, but it caught up quickly, as competitors like Samsung and LG just don't have the expertise in disc playback that Sony has.

    The Premium 4K Dolby Vision Player:

    Oppo UDP-203

    If you want it all, you want an Oppo. It has no true competitors in the premium 4K player market. Building off its huge lead in Blu-Ray players, it's owned the premium 4K Blu-Ray player from the start. Offering features like Dolby Vision and with audio that even serious audiophiles can appreciate (including a dedicated HDMI output for lossless audio to a receiver), it's the one and only choice.

    The Guru's Tip:

    OK, there's one thing Oppo has dropped off the feature list in its 4K player lineup: built-in apps. Given how good the apps are on every Smart TV available today, we fully understand Oppo's decision, which allowed the company to concentrate on what matters: exceptional playback of disc-based content.

  1. The Bargain 4K HDR Screen Vizio M50-E1 50" HDR UHD Display (2017) ($538.00)
  2. The Budget 55-inch 4K HDR TV Vizio M55-F0 (2018) ($700.00)
  3. The Mid-Range 55-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung UN55NU8000 (2018) ($1097.00)
  4. The High-End 55-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV LG OLED55B7A (2017) ($1597.00)
  5. The Mid-Range 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV Vizio 65 P Quantum (2018) ($2200.00)
  6. The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung QN65Q8F (2018) ($2798.00)
  7. The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV LG 65C8P OLED (2018) ($3467.00)
  8. The 4K HDR Player Sony UBP-X700 (2018) ($198.00)
  9. The Premium 4K Dolby Vision Player Oppo UDP-203 ($550.00)