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! For Fall 2018, there's nothing brand-new, but that doesn't mean it's not a great time to buy; to the contrary, it's a great time to buy, as every TV has been discounted since its introduction earlier in the year. Like cars, new TVs are announced once a year, typically at CES in January (which we attend every year, by the way!).
Now, first of all, you're not getting a new TV if it's not 4K, so that's all we profile in this guide. Second of all, it's not a good 4K TV unless it has HDR capability, so, you'll find that every TV we profile in this guide is an HDR set. But what exactly is 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. From 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 they all look fabulous. That being said, 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!
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: Vizio, Samsung, and LG. Every other manufacturer is simply along for the ride, offering lower performance at every pricepoint than what our top three manufacturers offer. Vizio is the leader in providing the best picture at the lowest price, Samsung has the best Smart features, and LG has the advantage of OLED technology. And each company has made a clear effort to move the world of HDR TV ahead.
Before you dig into our selections, we have one more quick primer, this one on TV sizing. In short, 50" and below is for bargain hunters (only low-end TVs will come in these sizes going forward), 55" is the new 50" (i.e., it offers the best combination of features, price, and picture quality), and 65" comes with a big premium (typically 30-40% more than 55" models). If you want to go beyond 65", you're going to pay twice as much for every 10" or so. For that reason, we just can't recommend TVs beyond 65" from a price-performance perspective. We're particularly unenthusiastic about the many lower-end, but still expensive, 75" and 85" being thrown at consumers, as making a bad picture bigger certainly doesn't make it better.
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.
One last thing: prices shown in this guide use real-time pricing engines, so they are always up-to-date. 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 - Fall 2018
The Budget 55-inch 4K HDR TV:
We think the perfect starting point for a new 4K HDR TV is the M55 from Vizio. Offering a big 55" viewing area, a great picture, and a built-in TV tuner (unlike 2017 models), the new M55 is the best TV in its price class, bar none. In fact, Vizio has dropped the 50" size entirely from its M lineup for 2018. 55" is the new 50"!
The Guru's Tip:
Note that due to ongoing "hostility" between Amazon and Vizio, you can't buy Vizio TVs from the mega-retailer. We therefore link to another very reputable dealer, B&H Photo Video.
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 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:
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. In fact, the 2018 B8P is essentially the same TV, with new features being reserved for the more expensive C8P this year.
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:
The Vizio P Quantum 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 is 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's also the brightest TV of 2018, offering up light output of 2,000 nits, over twice what the best OLEDs can muster. Learn more about this awesome TV in our full hands-on review!
The Guru's Tip:
We believe the Quantum has the best picture of any TV on the market today, but it does have its drawbacks, namely a slow user interface and high power consumption. But in terms of picture quality, it's unbeatable.
The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV:
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:
Learn more about this amazing TV in our full review!!!
The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV:
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. Because the 65" size is the breakpoint where each size larger costs twice as much, we really can't recommend the 77" model from a price/performance perspective, but it certainly is bigger.
The 4K HDR Player:
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 Budget 55-inch 4K HDR TV Vizio M55-F0 (2018) ($600.00)
- The Mid-Range 55-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung UN55NU8000 (2018) ($898.00)
- The High-End 55-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV LG OLED55B7A (2017) ($1647.00)
- The Mid-Range 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV Vizio 65 P Quantum (2018) ($2100.00)
- The High-End 65-inch 4K HDR-10+ TV Samsung QN65Q8F (2018) ($2500.00)
- The Ultra-High-End 65-inch 4K Dolby Vision TV LG 65C8P OLED (2018) ($3000.00)
- The 4K HDR Player Sony UBP-X700 (2018) ($248.00)