Nothing screams high tech more than a great new TV, and we've spent the last few years testing all the best models to give you an honest take on what's hot, and what's not, in the world of TVs! And we'll let you in on a well-kept secret: most brands launch new models at premium prices between February and April, and then start discounting them steeply just a few months later. Sure, you could wait until Black Friday, but why bother? The prices are already incredible by June!
For Summer 2019, we've narrowed down our selections to our absolute favorites at each pricepoint, starting at around $750 for an excellent 55" model, and going up to nearly $4,000 for a top-of-the-line OLED. And one thing they all have in common is that they're not just 4K, but also HDR capable. As much as the 4K resolution made TVs exciting again when it first arrived in 2013, it's HDR that makes TVs look good. From basic HDR10 to the more premium HDR10+ (a Samsung technology) to the highest-end Dolby Vision (licensed by LG, Sony and Vizio), the good news is that they all look fabulous. That being said, we know you're probably wondering what all these acronyms mean, 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 was developed by Samsung and is royalty-free, 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. Hopefully that clears up all the questions you had about HDR but were afraid to ask!
The other thing we should mention is that while there are countless TV manufacturers vying for your attention, there are just three that we think should win your hard-earned dollars this year: Vizio, Samsung, and Sony. Vizio is the leader in providing the best picture at the lowest price, Samsung has the best Smart features and what we think is the best overall picture quality, and Sony has the advantage of OLED technology licensed from LG, which provides a truly unique image. Why isn't LG on the list? Because Sony's image processing is so superior that it just doesn't make sense to buy an OLED from LG directly.
One more quick tip, this one on TV sizing. In short, 55" is the new entry-level size, offering the best combination of features, price, and picture quality, and 65" comes with a big premium but offers a much more impressive experience. If you want to go beyond 65", your next step is 75". While we don't list any 75" or larger models in our guide, feel free to go with the 75" versions of any of the 65" models we recommend, but note that you'll pay at least 50% more for them.
By the way, we believe that the very best way to experience 4K HDR material is via 4K Blu-Ray discs, but sadly, the era of physical media is slowly coming to an end. It's with great sadness that we must report that Oppo Digital, maker of the very best Blu-Ray and UHD Blu-Ray players on the market has closed its doors, meaning there are few options left for true audio and videophiles. This is just a sign of the times: streaming is the future, even if it's not that good today. That's why we list our top pick for a mid-priced 4K Blu-Ray player in this guide; anyone buying a 4K TV should at least consider a player as well. But take note: every 4K TV has built-in streaming features, so we do not recommend that anyone who's buying a new TV today buy a streaming stick to go with it. You'll just be wasting your money.
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 - Summer 2019
The Mid-Range 55-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV:
If you want a truly premium picture at a great price, you simply cannot do better than the RU8000 from Samsung. Offering what we consider to be vastly better picture quality than its arch-rival Sony at a lower price, the RU8000 is the best TV anywhere near the $1,000 pricepoint. It offers incredible light output, 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 Mid-Range 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:
The Vizio P Quantum X is the ultimate 65" 4K TV for value-conscious shoppers. Vizio has made a name for itself in offering premium picture quality at bargain prices, and the P Quantum X is its best TV yet. It offers quantum dots, much like Samsung's QLEDs, which enhance colors for a truly vivid image. And it's also exceptionally bright, putting out 3000 cd/m², over twice what the best OLEDs can muster.
The Guru's Tip:
There's just one thing that holds Vizio back, and that is its second-rate user interface. While it has the picture quality to compete with the best, it's UI looks pretty drab and runs pretty slowly.
The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV:
In our opinion, the winner for best overall image quality and user experience is the Samsung QLED series, with the Q90 being the top model for 2019. Samsung bests all its competitors, including those based on OLED technology, thanks to its superior brightness, along with much better clarity in dark scenes, more advanced video processing, and excellent user interface. To learn more, rear our review of the very similar Q80R.
The Guru's Tip:
The only reason we don't choose Samsung as our top pick is that the company refuses to license Dolby Vision technology, meaning you simply can't see the best version of today's 4K content on a Samsung set.
The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:
Among many video philes, the OLED reigns supreme. And there's no doubt that 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:
While OLEDs are most closely associated with LG, Sony actually licenses LG's panels and improves upon them with far better image processing technology.
The 4K HDR Player:
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 X700 is unmatched. And while it was released in 2018, it's remains our top pick for a mainstream player.
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. In fact, its arch-rival Samsung, which released the world's very first 4K Blu-Ray player, has abandoned the market entirely, meaning Sony is essentially the only game in town (we'd take it any day over one of LG's players).
- The Mid-Range 55-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung UN55RU8000 (2019) ($748.00)
- The Mid-Range 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV VIZIO P-Series Quantum X 65" (2019) ($2100.00)
- The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung 65" Q90 (2019) ($3298.00)
- The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV Sony XBR-65A9G (2019) ($3798.00)
- The 4K HDR Player Sony UBP-X700 (2018) ($173.00)