Finding the perfect TV
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
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 good sets
at prices that are substantially less than in past
years -- including a terrific 55-inch TV that delivers top performance and
features at a fraction of the price of some competitors.
the only other current TV technology, and if you prize picture quality over
everything else, you'll certainly want to consider an OLED TV. Cost used to be
a major barrier, with sets running into the thousands for more advanced models
with bigger screen sizes. You can still go there if you want, but we also found
a 55-inch stunner -- so good that some are putting it among the best TVs ever
made -- that will set you back less than $2,000.
55-inch TV for most people
In all the years that we've been surveying the TV market for our readers,
making a call for the best TV for most people has never been easier. TCL hasn't
been a household name, at least not until recently, though they'd been in the
TV game for many years producing house-brand sets for retailers and under
license using brand names like RCA. Now, under their own brand, the company is
enjoying explosive growth, earning a spot among the top five brands, in terms
of sales, in the U.S.
Looking at the TCL P-series TVs, including the 55-inch (Est. $650),
and the Best Buy exclusive TCL 55P605 (Est. $600),
it's easy to see why. Most experts that have tested these TVs either like them
very much, or flat out rave about them. They are an Editor's Choice at
PCMag.com, named the Best TV for Most People by Wirecutter.com, Best Value TV
by TechRadar.com and the best 55-inch non-OLED TV by CNET. Users are raving,
too; the TCL 55P607 earns a 4.3 score at Amazon.com based on over 260 reviews,
while the TCL 55P605 earns a 4.7 star rating at BestBuy.com based on nearly 250
That said, reviewers that don't grade on a curve, such as
ConsumerReports.org, are a little less impressed as the
picture quality is merely very good rather than top shelf. If you value picture
quality over everything else, and have the budget to back that up, we have a
recommendation for an OLED TV with fabulous picture quality, but that
won't completely drain your wallet, a little further down this page.
Okay, now that the picture purists have moved on, let's explore why this
is the best 55-inch TV for most people. Yes, it is outdone in picture quality
by some TVs, but it's not all bad news on that front, and testing by some
experts hold that the image is actually better than on some sets with much
bigger price tags. "Overall, the TCL offers almost all the performance
you'd expect from TVs that cost two to three times as much, says Chris Heinonen at Wirecutter.com. "Even then, you're
unlikely to ever notice a difference unless you're comparing them side-by-side
with specific content, as we did."
The set features a full-array, local dimming backlight for terrific, but
not bobble-free black performance. Various reviewers note that black uniformity
isn't perfect (which means some areas of the screen will look brighter than
others) and that blooming (a common artifact in which bright areas can bleed
into dark ones) is a little more prevalent than in some competing sets, while
also allowing that neither is particularly bothersome when viewing typical
program material. More disturbing to some is that, like many LED TVs, picture
quality can drop off quickly if you are not sitting more or less directly in
front of the set.
On the plus side, black levels are deep, allowing for "improved
contrast and pop in all lighting situations," CNET's David Katzmaier says. The TV set offers 4K resolution, HDR
support (including Dolby Vision) and Wide Color Gamut. "Wide Color Gamut
(or WCG) is the driving force behind the TV looking more saturated –
blues being bluer, greens being greener and so on," says Nick Pino at TechRadar.com. Gamers take note: The set includes a
game mode that reviewers say sacrifices a little picture quality but offers
less input lag than any other 4K set tested to date.
Saving what could be the best (at least for many people) for last, the
set has the Roku streaming platform built in. "My
favorite Smart TV system is Roku TV, with its
thousands of apps and dead-simple interface," says Katzmaier,
and most other experts heartily agree. Roku still has
more content streams than any other platform, including more 4K and HDR
content, making it a perfect match for the TV.
The TCL 55P607 comes packaged with an advanced remote control that gets
some nice feedback. It features voice search for navigating through all of the
available Roku content, a headphone jack for private
listening via the remote itself, a remote finder, and RF connectivity so that
you don't need to have an unobstructed line of sight to the TV to use the
remote. However, the remote included with the TCL 55P605 isn't quite as nice.
It's a standard IR clicker, and lacks all of those added features. If you don't
care about them, the TCL 55P605 is otherwise identical, and priced around $50
Availability is a bit of a concern. At the time of this report stocks
were tight, and thanks to its popularity and value, some retailers were selling
the TCL 55P607 above its $650 MSRP. If you run into problems locating the TV at
a fair price, you can find authorized resellers at the TCL website, and
the Best Buy exclusive TCL 55P605 appears to be in ample supply.
But perhaps the biggest negative is that if you want a P-series TCL set,
the company is only offering it in a 55-inch size. That will certainly be an
issue for some, but on the other hand, 55 inches sits squarely in the sweet
spot for many buyers, and many viewing situations.
If being limited to a 55-inch TV is an issue, the Vizio M-series that we named as a Best Reviewed pick last year remains a consideration.
The 2017 version has not been as widely reviewed as of yet as the TCL P-series,
but initial feedback is positive. That said, while PCMag.com grants it an
Editors' Choice award, it does allow that the TCL P-series TV offers both
better contrast and color range. Vizio's SmartCast smart platform is improved from last year, and
now offers some dedicated streaming apps. However, users who want something
other than the top tier streaming providers (and even some of those are
missing, such as YouTube) will be leaning heavily on its built-in Chromecast support for content.
One thing that hasn't changed is the lack of a built-in 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. Sets are
available in screen sizes from 50 to 75 inches, including the 55-inch Vizio M55-E0 (Est. $700)
OLED sets deliver the best picture
For those who
demand the very best picture quality, regardless of price, OLED remains the
best choice, and the 55-inch (Est. $1,800) is our Best Reviewed pick
among OLED sets. Even better, price drops and promotions have brought pricing
down considerably since the set first debuted. Sure, 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 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 the 65-inch (Est. $2,800) sells for around $1,000 more.
How good is
this TV? "The LG C7 is the best-performing TV we've tested to date,"
CNET's Katzmaier says. CNET hasn't made its final
call as of the time of this report, but said that it's a "Favorite for
best high-end TV of the year." Other reviewers have no reservations at
all. It's an Editor's Choice pick at PCMag.com and
Reviewed.com, with the latter granting it a perfect 10 score. It's also Recommended by ConsumerReports.com, named the best TV in both
of its available sizes at Rtings.com and is the upgrade pick at Wirecutter.com
(though the latter is based on a more casual review than what was done for the
TCL set above.). That just begins the list of accolades. Bluntly put, every
reviewer that's tested this TV gives it major props. Users love it, too,
granting it a 4.4 star score at Amazon.com based on more than 150 reviews.
HDR-compatible OLED TV hits most of the picture-quality benchmarks. Some small nits are picked by various experts, but nothing that
will show up in viewing outside of a test bench. PCMag.com grouses a
very little bit about a too warm magenta -- something that Will Greenwald says can
be cleared up by a professional calibration. CNET says that uniformity while
very good, isn't quite perfect -- though any imperfections are still far less
noticeable than what would be seen with even the best LED set ever made. But
forget the test bench -- "Besides impressive test results, the C7P simply
produces a fantastic picture," Greenwald adds. 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. One plus for big families: Unlike LED sets, there is no drop off of picture quality when viewed
LG's WebOS smart platform isn't especially robust, though CNET
says the "menu system feels more mature and snappier than ever on the 2017
models." Still, while you can find more content with other TV makers (or
via Roku), the key content providers are there -- and
the quality of the streaming platform shouldn't be a make or break issue for anyone
considering this TV.
Expert & User Review Sources
it comes to TVs, there is no shortage of expert review sources. Sites such as
ConsumerReports.org, CNET, PCMag.com, Wirecutter.com, Reviewed.com, Rtings.com, TechRadar.com and many, many more subject the sets they
review to hours of bench and real-world testing to find which ones provide the
best performance and the best value. Users fill in the rest of the picture, and
to find out which ones deliver the most satisfaction once at home, we turned to
the thousands of user reviews you can find on sites such as Amazon.com,
BestBuy.com and elsewhere.