Best TV Buying Guide: settle in for TechRadar’s round-up of the best TV sets you can get your hands on in 2019.
Although it’s still early days for 2019, we can already tell that this year will be one of the best for TVs. We caught our first glimpse of this year’s futuristic flatscreens in early January at CES 2019 and walked away impressed with all the new tech Samsung, LG and Sony have cooked up for us later this year.
The first of these new screens, the Samsung Q90, is already available now, and it’s an early contender for TV of the year. While we expect LG to arrive with a vengeance with its lineup of 2019 OLED screens in the next month or two, if you want something right now, Samsung’s the way to go.
If you’ve got your mind made up to buy a Sony, Vizio or LG from last year, however, that’s totally fine. Below you’ll find our list of the best screens out right now, along with their key specs, while the second page will teach you more about what makes a TV tick and why those specs matter so much.
“Should I buy a TV now or wait it out?”
This is a question we get a lot. Like most technology (cough, iPhones) TVs are getting incrementally better all the time – which means, yes, if you wait a year – or even a few months – there will probably be a bigger, flashier TV out there for less money.
But while doing so will certainly net you a larger screen at a better price, some of the best panels are already being manufactured today. While tomorrow’s screens might be a bit larger, a bit brighter and a bit cheaper, today’s screens are just as competent in their own right.
We can say that with confidence knowing that most manufacturers have finally embraced the three most important standards in TVs: Ultra HD, Wide Color Gamut and HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision). If a TV you’re looking at doesn’t support at least one of these, you should probably look somewhere else.
Not sure where to start? Here are the best TVs we tested this year.
1. Samsung Q90R QLED TV (2019)
Bright and beautiful but still missing some key components
Superb picture quality
Incredible HDR performance
Wider viewing angles
Comprehensive smart platform
No Dolby Vision
Last year, the Samsung Q9FN was the TV to beat. It won plaudits galore for its features and image quality, not to mention its excellent, improved smart platform that came with Bixby support and Samsung SmartThings.
However it wasn’t perfect and there were legitimate complaints about viewing angles and an over-aggressive local dimming system that crushed detail just above black.
Samsung has clearly taken these criticisms to heart, and directly addressed them in the Q90. The new model has a visibly superior viewing angle that holds its own against an OLED TV, and the local dimming delivers deep blacks without losing shadow detail. To that end, the new Ultra Black Elite filter is nothing short of a revelation, rejecting ambient light in a way that just staggers belief.
The Q90 is able to deliver images that can directly compete with an OLED, with natural colors, bright highlights, deep blacks, and well defined shadows. It can also surpass any OLED when it comes to HDR, with images that are often breathtaking in their detail and dynamic range.
In fact our only real criticism would be that, unlike some of the competition, the Q90 doesn’t support Dolby Vision. However in all other respects the Samsung Q90 is an absolutely stellar TV that takes QLED to another level.
Read the full review: Samsung Q90R QLED TV
2. LG C8 OLED Series (2018)
LG sets a new standard with its 2018 OLED range
55-inch: LG OLED55C8 | 65-inch: LG OLED65C8
Superb picture quality
Highly effective smart platform
Limited peak brightness for HDR
No HDR10+ support
At the top of our list for 2018 is the LG C8 OLED – available in both 55 and 65-inch iterations. It’s here because it combines an impressive picture, an extensive set of features, an attractive design and its unrivaled smart platform, to deliver one of the best TVs we have seen to date. It’s not as bright as an LCD TV but those deep blacks make a huge difference to the dynamic range of the image. It’s also capable of vibrant and gorgeous colors, not to mention an astounding level of detail with native 4K content.
There are other OLEDs worth considering this year (see: Sony’s A1E and A8F OLED or LG’s own E8 and W8 OLED models) but we think the OLED C7 offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any TV under the sun in the year 2018.
Read the full review: LG OLED C8 (OLED55C8, OLED65C8)
3. Samsung Q9FN QLED (2018)
Samsung’s best TV ever? It certainly was!
65-inch: Samsung QE65Q9FN
Spectacular HDR picture quality
Powerful, well-rounded sound
Good smart system
Limited viewing angles
Black level crushing
After an underwhelming debut, Samsung’s QLED technology really needed to bounce back in style in 2018. It didn’t surprise us in the least, then, to discover Samsung threw the kitchen sink in with its new Q9FN QLED Series of TVs.
As well as being even brighter and more colorful than last year’s equivalent model, Samsung’s 2018 flagship screens use a completely different lighting system to combat its predecessor’s contrast problems: Full Array Local Dimming rather than edge-lit LED lighting. The FALD panel works in tandem with Samsung QLED Quantum Dots to produce a picture that’s brighter and more colorful than near any we’ve seen come from the South Korean manufacturer.
Do those features alone make Samsung Q9FN the best TV on the market? No, but throw in technology like HDR10+ and Q HDR EliteMax – what Samsung bills as its maximum High Dynamic Range experience that’s exclusive to the Q9FN – and there’s very little doubt in our mind that this was Samsung’s best TV ever until the Q90 came along.
Read the full review: Samsung Q9FN QLED TV (65Q9FN)
4. Samsung Q900R QLED TV (2018)
An 8K LCD-LED TV for the history books
85-inch: Samsung QN85Q900RAFXZA
8K pictures look immense
Incredible brightness and color
Ground breaking upscaling
85-inch screen limits market
…it’s also $14,999
With most people – *cough* content providers – only just getting to grips with 4K resolution, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Samsung had gone nuts by introducing the world’s first true 8K TV. And yet, while it’s easy to be critical about the Samsung Q900R, it truly does usher in a new era of TV picture quality.
Its native 8K pictures are incredible, looking just like the real world – only better. But even more crucially given the dearth of true 8K content for the foreseeable future, the 85Q900R makes all today’s lower resolution sources look better than they do anywhere else, too.
Whether 8K delivers the same impact on smaller screens remains to be seen, but if you have a big enough room and budget, the 85Q900R is a vision of the future that’s actually spectacularly worth buying today.
5. Sony Bravia A9F OLED (2018)
LG isn’t the only OLED maker in town – the A9F is Sony’s killer screen
65-inch: Sony Bravia 65A9F | 55-inch: Sony Bravia 55A9F
Audio+ sound system
Android Oreo smart platform
Lean back design
Sony’s second-generation OLED flagship, the A9F, is coming at a good time – just as Samsung and LG have stepped up their games with the Samsung Q9FN QLEDand LG E8 OLED, Sony has fired back with a phenomenal OLED of its own.
Even better than the A1E before it, the A9F is unquestionably Sony’s best OLED offering to date, and arguably a strong contender for high-end screen of the year.
While we experienced some minor issues (notably Black level crushing on Dolby Vision, and that Netflix Calibrated mode), niggles are to be expected on a set as ambitious as this. If you can live with the slightly idiosyncratic design, and afford the asking price, it’s a glorious UHD display.
6. LG E8 OLED Series (2018)
A tiny processor makes a huge difference to the OLED range
55-inch: LG OLED55E8 | 65-inch: LG OLED65E8
Awesome picture quality
Opulent and beautiful design
Excellent operating system
Occasional picture noise
Lacks brightness vs LCD
Having potentially pushed the hardware capabilities of its current OLED screen technology as far as they can go, LG has for 2018 turned its attention to the software that drives these screens – and this shift in focus has yielded surprisingly impressive results, improving and even removing many of the residual niggles associated with 2017’s already in truth outstanding OLED sets.
The OLED65E8 loses a bit of ground sonically from its predecessor, and there’s some stiff competition this year from Samsung’s new Q9FN flagship LCD TV, but all the growing legions of OLED fans will probably need to hear is that the OLED65E8 is comfortably the best OLED TV LG has ever made.
7. Samsung Q8FN QLED TV (2018)
Samsung’s 2018 QLED TVs continue to impress
Extremely bright HDR pictures
Good smart TV system
Limited viewing angle
Some mild backlight blooming
Although it’s clearly a step down from Samsung’s all-conquering Q9FN, the Q8FN is still a fantastic TV. Phenomenally bright, colorful and ultra sharp – it has all the right stuff for getting huge impact from today’s cutting edge picture sources.
Worth calling attention to, this is a fantastic TV for HDR content as its direct lighting system manages to produce a whopping 2,100 measured nits of light from a 10% white HDR window. This sort of brightness is unparalleled for the TV’s price point, and ensures that it delivers the upper extremes of HDR’s extended brightness range with spectacular effectiveness and punch.
So why isn’t it higher on our list? If you watch the TV from an angle, color saturations reduce, and backlight blooming becomes much more noticeable. Also, Samsung’s Auto motion processing system is a bit over aggressive, causing too many distracting side effects for comfort.
8. Sony Bravia X900F Series (2018)
Sony’s mid-range model offers affordability and stellar images
65-inch: Sony Bravia X900F
Direct LED with local dimming
Excellent motion handling
Unfussy but elegant design
HDR is a bit dim
OK, so you don’t want (or can’t afford) Sony’s new A9F OLED or the fantastic-but-pricey Z9F. So what should you buy? Check out the X900F series. With superb 4K image clarity, powerful SDR-to-HDR remastering, and a smooth direct LED backlight, Sony is offering something very different with the X900F. We loved the consistency of its images, the eye-popping vibrancy of its wide color gamut panel and its easy-to-watch HDR – you get spectral highlights without accompanying eye fatigue.
Given this set’s high-but-fair price point, any niggles we have are negligible. The X900F is highly recommended and deserved our Recommended award.
Read the full review: Sony Bravia X900F (XBR-65X900F) review
9. TCL 6-Series (R615, R617) (2018)
An exceptional 4K HDR TV for the budget-minded buyer
55-inch: TCL 55R617
Bright, colorful HDR
Supports Dolby Vision
Roku TV is amazing
Loss of darker details
Limited motion settings
If you had deep pockets and checkbook filled with blank checks, we’d tell you to reach deep and shell out for only the best TVs on the market – LG’s crazy-thin OLED W8 or Samsung’s ultra-bright Q9FN QLED (both featured on this list). But that’s not realistic. For the vast, vast majority of us, our budget to spend on a TV is limited to somewhere under $1,000 – and often less than that.
To that end, it’s absolutely fair to say that the TCL 6-Series is the best TV you can possibly get in this price range. Its performance per dollar is unmatched and its picture quality – despite a few minor flaws – will truly impress you.
Read the full review: TCL 6-Series (R615, R617)
10. Vizio P-Series Quantum (2018)
This is Vizio’s best and brightest TV
65-inch: Vizio P-Series Quantum PQ65-F1
Full array backlight
Quantum dot technology
Vivid mode is blinding
SmartCast OS isn’t enticing
If Samsung sold you on the idea of a quantum dot TV only to scare you away with their price, the Vizio P-Series Quantum is a good compromise. It’s a big, bold and affordable screen that supports most forms of HDR and has the ability to light up the room with its 2,000 nits of peak brightness.
It might not be able to hit the inky black levels of OLED, and suffers from slow startup, but it is by far the best value quantum dot TV on the market.
Read the full review: Vizio P-Series Quantum (PQ65-F1)
Continue on to page two to read about what to look for when buying a TV!