the perfect TV
If you're in the market for a new TV you're in for
a treat as prices for HDTVs have dropped dramatically and performance has
improved just as much. Prices for sets with cutting edge technology --
including 4k (also called Ultra High Definition, or UHD) and OLED (organic LED)
-- have started to tumble as well. Smart sets -- including bargain-priced TVs
with Roku and other robust streaming platforms built in -- are also available
with lower-than-ever price tags. But, and here's the rub, finding the perfect
TV for you and your family can be a bit of a juggling act.
Types of TVs
For most buyers, an LCD TV will be the first, and in many cases only, choice. These TVs come in sizes smaller than 10 inches all the way up to 90 inches and beyond. Prices cover a similar expanse, with 32-inch sets available for well under $150 (and smaller-screen TVs available for still less) to nearly $20,000 for big-screen, flagship TVs. In between sit a host of TVs with varying performance and features. The good news is that you can find a nice assortment of top performing sets at prices that are substantially less than in past years.
OLED is the only other current TV technology, and if you prize picture quality over everything else, you'll certainly want to consider an OLED TV. The downside is the cost, with prices starting at around $2,000 for a base 55-inch model, and, again, ranging up to near $20,000 for a 77-inch flagship model. The upside is absolutely stunning image quality -- with some current models being called the best ever tested by reviewers.
Many TVs, from the priciest flagship models to some super cheap budget ones, boast some sort of "smart" functionality -- i.e., the ability to connect to the Internet to access streaming content from Netflix, Amazon Prime and a host of other well-known providers, as well as other providers most casual viewers have never heard of. Some of those integrate user interfaces that are easy to use, however none approach the functionality of those TVs that have the Roku platform -- universally acknowledged to be the most robust and user-friendly streaming system. For those who want the best smart TV experience, cord-cutters, for example, we highlight the best Roku-equipped TVs.
Finding The Best TVs
"LCD & Plasma TVs"
"Best TVs of 2016"
To find the best TV for any viewer and any budget,
we examine professional and user reviews to identify the sets that shine in terms
of image quality, features, design and value, and name those our Best Reviewed
choices. We also look at some TVs that don't fall too far behind and can be
excellent options in their own right. Experts we consult include CNET,
PCMag.com, Reviewed.com, ConsumerReports.org and many others. User feedback is
drawn from popular retail sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.
The best TVs for most people
While TV choices span a dizzying spectrum of
price, performance and features options, for those looking for good image
quality, good features, and good value, the Vizio M series looks like a winner,
especially for those that want a bigger screen TV. While reviewers like the
series in general, several note that for technical reasons (fewer dimming zones
in the 50-inch version; lower refresh rate in the 55-inch version; and a
different, less desirable type of panel in the 60-inch model) screen sizes of
65 inches and up represent the best bang for the buck in these sets, and for
that reason we are nominating the 65-inch (Est. $1,300) as the best TV
for most buyers.
While not every reviewer agrees, the Vizio
M65-D0 earns plenty of accolades. It's an Editor's Choice selection at both
CNET and Reviewed.com. Rtings.com calls it a "good all-around TV,"
with "great picture quality." Unlike many sets in its price range,
the M-series uses a full backlit array rather than edge-lighting (see the Buying Guide for more information) with local dimming for better uniformity (fewer
bright areas in dark scenes) and deeper blacks. Color performance is also good,
though CNET needed to do a little tweaking in their test to get things looking
On the features front, this 4K resolution set
has High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, but not a Quantum Dot screen to take full
advantage of all that HDR can offer (again, see the Buying Guide for more info
on those features). But the big feature is the fully functional 6-inch Android
5.1 tablet. The table isn't a world-beater specs-wise, but reviewers say it
works well enough for web browsing, email reading and causal game play. It's
also required to get the most out of the TV since settings and such usually
found on TV menus are offloaded to the device. Reviewers aren't crazy about
needing to "futz with the tablet to turn on the TV," as CNET's David
Katzmaier puts it, but a small traditional remote for everyday tasks like that,
as well as controlling volume, input selection and more, is also included. Vizio
has dumped its dated streaming platform and replaced it with SmartCast, which
uses the same technology as Google Chromecast, opening up the set to the
largest library of streaming apps short of the Roku platform. As was the case
last year, there's no 3D support in this or any other 2016 Vizio set.
While we and others like this TV very much,
there are reasons why you might not. For starters, it lacks a tuner. If you
still get local TV over the air via a TV antenna (covered in their own
report), that might be a deal killer, but it's not a concern if you rely on
cable/satellite TV or get all your programming streaming over the Web. The
other issue is the set's brightness. The trade-off for the excellent (for an
LED set at this price) black levels is that brightness is limited. That means
movie watching in a darkened room will be better than on any other set in this
price range, and even many sets priced higher, but if your viewing room is
excessively well lit, things might look a tad washed out. That said, Katzmaier
notes that the set "is still plenty bright for just about any room,"
though some tweaking might be needed.
If those issues concern you, the Samsung KU6300
is worth a look. Sets in this series span a wide range of sizes, from 40 inches
up to 70 inches, and garner respect in many corners. For example, for those
looking for a mid-sized set, the 40-inch (Est. $400) earns
Recommended status among sets in its size class at ConsumerReports.org and is
named one of the top performers in terms of picture quality among 40-inch to 43-inch
sets at Rtings.com. Other sets in the series, including the 65-inch (Est. $1,100), are equally well-liked.
Unlike the Vizio, the Samsung KU6300 TVs have
a tuner, so that box is checked. In terms of picture quality, this 4K set uses
an edge lit design with no local dimming, so blacks will not be as dark as seen
on the Vizio. On the plus side, uniformity, often awful on edge-lit sets, is
pretty good, at least according to Rtings.com's testing. Brightness is higher
than the Vizio's; though not as bright as seen on some sets, it should look
fine in even very well-lit spaces. One concern in well-lit rooms is light
reflections, and we see a split opinion there, with Rtings.com calling it worse
than average, but LCDTVBuyingGuide.com saying that "Screen Reflection is
Like the Vizio, the set is HDR compatible, though
testing shows that the set won't be able to display more colors even with HDR content.
Color performance is good for standard content, however, and
ConsumerReports.org gives the set its highest ratings for HD and 4K picture
quality. The feature set is not extensive, but a good, although not great,
streaming platform that includes most of the must-have providers is on board.
Of note, while we don't give a full recommendation to smaller than 65 inch
Vizio M-series TVs, if your room or budget demands a smaller screen, we have no
such reservations with the KU6300 series and it is a top choice among mid-sized
picture quality at a bargain price
might not be a household name among TV makers in the U.S., but a lot of
families have Hisense TVs without knowing it as the company has, for years,
supplied many of the sets sold under house brands by Best Buy, Sears and
others. Sharp TVs currently sold in the U.S. are also made by Hisense.
as it may, Hisense has begun selling TVs under its own moniker as well,
including the 55-inch (Est. $500). Most experts actually look at the slightly
smaller, 50-inch Hisense 50H8C (Est. $450),
but note that performance of the two H8 series sets should be identical.
are largely positive for these TVs, including an Editors' Choice selection by
Reviewed.com. Rtings.com gives it good feedback as well, saying that with
"good picture quality that is uncommon for the price," the TV is a
top choice for anyone looking for a larger screen size in this price range.
picture quality is not quite up to that of the sets mentioned above (or in the
same universe as the enthusiast sets covered next), but HDGuru.com's Greg Tarr is fairly impressed nonetheless. He notes
that the 50-inch set he tests has "an impressively high level of
performance" compared to other "entry level" HDR 4K TVs.
"Black levels are deep, colors rich and bright and 4K resolution sharp and
realistic," he says, adding "it's hard not to be impressed with the
amount of television you get for your dollar."
great blacks are the result of a full matrix backlight with local diming.
Contrast is good too, with good brightness, as is screen uniformity. Color
performance is spot on when measured against older, non-HDR standards, but at
this price point you won't get the boosted colors that HDR can deliver. Of
course, for that, you'll need to dig a lot deeper into your wallet for a higher
performance TV. Be that as it may, Lee Neikirk at
Reviewed com says, "But for what it is, the H8 series is a perfectly good
buy, and it's future-proofed with the best of them." The smart features
are limited compared to some TVs, but the basics are more than adequately
covered. Another plus: An abnormally long four-year warranty (one-year is the
industry norm) that covers parts, labor and in-home service for all the
company's 4K sets.
A top small-screen choice
Not everyone wants or needs a wall-filling TV.
But finding a good performing set that measures 32 inches or less can be a
challenge. Very few reviewers test sets that small, and some manufacturers have
abandoned making them altogether. The 28-inch (Est. $185) is a happy exception. This one gets good expert feedback,
including an Editors' Choice award from Reviewed.com and a Recommended tag from
ConsumerReports.org. This set was originally introduced in 2014, and has
amassed a large and largely positive catalog of user feedback -- including a
4.5-star rating at Amazon.com following more than 1,600 reviews. All that adds
up to us making it easily the Best Reviewed small TV. And if 28-inches is still
too large, the set also comes in a still-smaller size as the 24-inch (Est. $160).
It's unfair to expect a TV in this size and price class to
be a world-beater picture-wise, and that holds true for this Samsung. Still,
picture quality is quite good compared to available alternatives. Black levels
are low, but uniformity is surprisingly good. Colors measure accurate according
to one review, and easily pass an eyeball test, even right out of the box,
according to another.
The spec sheet isn't especially impressive -- on paper --
but perfectly reasonable and acceptable in a TV with this screen size and
price. Its resolution is only 720p, but that's fine in a 28-inch set. One
reviewer notes that motion performance is not terrific, but that the visible
effects are usually not noticeable on typical program material. Reviewed.com,
on the other hand, calls motion performance "good."
Features are non-existent, for the most part. There's the
typical USB port for displaying your own files -- something now found on
virtually every TV, smart or dumb, cheap or expensive. Reviewed.com praises the
Samsung remote for being back lit. A small thing, but useful for using your
clicker in a dark room, such as your bedroom at night, and something often
missing from remotes on cheap, small TVs.
Enthusiast TVs at less-than-enthusiast prices
Up to now, we've focused on good performing TVs at budget friendly
prices. If, on the other hand, your wallet can stretch a little to afford TVs
with somewhat better picture quality, we suggest you consider the Samsung
KS8000 series, including the 65-inch (Est. $1,700). No, it's not a
flagship TV, and no, image quality is not quite up to flagship standards. But
those sets can cost two, three, or many more times as much. On the other hand,
the KS8000 delivers picture quality that would have been flagship-grade just a
couple of years ago, and at a price that would have been unimaginable (in a
good way) at the same time.
The KS8000 is crammed to the gills with every key feature, including 4K
resolution; HDR10 support; a Quantum Dot screen so you can get the most out of
HDR content; ample connectivity; and a well-regarded Smart TV interface with a
healthy selection of top streaming partners, along with lots of niche providers
that most will probably never access. Smaller screen sizes, ranging from 49 to
60 inches, are available and all are expected to perform similarly.
Picture quality is excellent, especially in rooms with normal to bright
ambient lighting, and the set minimizes issues with reflections even in very
well-lit rooms. Color is precise, right out of the box; "among the best
sets in my lineup" reports CNET's Katzmaier. Image processing is first
rate as well, and this Samsung TV handles the necessities, such as upscaling
lower-resolution content, without any serious bobbles. The TV earns Editors'
Choice status at Reviewed.com, Recommended status at ConsumerReports.org, a
Highly Recommended award at FlatPannelsHD.com and good user feedback. Rtings.com
rates it among the best non-OLED TVs you can buy.
But some reviewers have a decidedly different take. If the Samsung KS8000
has an Achilles heel, it's that its black levels aren't very deep, and its
uniformity is less than perfect. Under normal viewing conditions, that's not a
huge issue, most say, but if you like watching movies in darkened rooms, it can
negatively impact the experience. That's a point that even those reviewers that
otherwise like the set concede.
If that's an issue for you, the Vizio P-series might leave you happier.
It's not without some faults of its own, but it's also an excellent TV, most
say, and some say it's one of the best LED TVs you can buy at any price.
Writing at TheWirecutter.com, ISF-certified calibrator Chris Heinonen says that
he was so blown away by the 65-inch set in the series, the Vizio P65-C1 (Est. $2,000),
that he bought one to serve as a reference UHD display in his AV testing room.
If you read our take on the Vizio M-series above, this set's pluses and
minuses should be familiar to you. Picture quality is better than on the
cheaper Vizio, CNET says, but the price is higher, too. Like the M-series,
there's a full array backlight, but with even more local dimming zones for
better black levels -- better than found on most LED TVs, including those that
cost quite a bit more. Uniformity is excellent, too, at least by LED TV
standards. Color accuracy and image processing all test out well.
The feature line up is similar to that of the Vizio M-series, including
the accessory Android table. Like everything else, however, things are stepped
up a notch over the cheaper set. In the case of the tablet, that means a more
powerful processor, more storage, and a higher resolution screen (1080p vs.
720p). But, Katzmaier says, the experience is largely similar. Likewise, the streaming
features are powered by Google's Cast technology
The Vizio-P series shares its downsides with the M-series as well. Light
output is limited compared to competing sets, like the KS8000 -- though not so
much so that it won't be a perfectly fine performer in most settings. In
testing, CNET reports that the P-Series TV is "plenty bright for even the
most sun-soaked rooms, but if you insist on maximum brightness for some reason,
you'll need to get a more expensive TV." It also lacks a tuner -- which is
a deal breaker for those that still get at least some programming the old
fashioned way, over the air via an antenna. Also, while smaller screen sizes
are available, because of differences in specifications, performance might be a
step worse, so these comments only apply to sets with larger screen sizes --
this set and the 75-inch version.
the rest of us
For those who demand the very best picture quality, regardless of price,
OLED remains the best choice, and the 55-inch (Est. $2,000) is our Best Reviewed
pick among OLED sets. You can spend more for spiffier styling and better sound
quality, or a lot more for a bigger screen, but when you can get every ounce of
picture goodness that OLED technology offers for just under $2,000 there's no
reason to. If you demand a larger image, a 65 inch set in this series is also
available, but sells for $1,000 more.
How good is this TV? "The LG B6 outperforms every other TV we've
tested, with the exception of even more-expensive 2016 OLED TVs, which perform
about the same," CNET's Katzmaier says. CNET names it an Editors' Choice,
as does PCMag.com, Reviewed.com and others.
This 4K HDR-compatible OLED TV hits most of the picture-quality benchmarks,
though it's not quite perfect (and no TV ever made has been). Black levels are
"perfect," however, PCMag.com reports, and black uniformity is
"flawless" in Rtings.com's tests. Color accuracy is excellent, though
a little tweaking might be in order right out of the box, and it can display
the wider color gamut and higher contrast that HDR delivers. Brightness is a
little bit of a laggard compared to the brightest LED TVs, but the set remains
compelling even in well-lit rooms and nearly unbeatable when watching movies or
other content in dark spaces. LG's WebOS smart platform isn't especially
robust, but the key content providers are there -- and the quality of the
streaming platform shouldn't be a make or break issue for anyone considering
On the other hand, as compelling as the overall picture quality of this
LG OLED set is, OLED is not necessarily for everyone. OLED technology is still cutting
edge and supported primarily by LG, though Panasonic is dabbling in the space
(its 2016 model is no longer available, but a new set for 2017 is promised). OLED
also requires a bit of care compared to LED sets -- a break in period and
watchfulness against static images (such as a stock ticker at the bottom of the
screen) to prevent image retention, just like with plasma sets, which have been
out of production for a couple of years now.