If you want the crispest and clearest image on your TV, you have to go 4K. Thankfully, they’ve finally become mainstream enough that there are great options available for $1,000 or less.
That said, when buying a 4K TV on a budget, you may have to make some sacrifices. For example, there are different types of lighting for TVs and you may have to choose between a large, edge-lit 65-inch TV, which may have a dim picture and a smaller 55-inch TV that’s brighter and has better contrast because it features direct lighting.
The Sony X85J 55-Inch is backlit, so the images are bright and have a high level of contrast, and it also features a native 120Hz refresh rate that makes it ideal for gamers and those who watch a lot of sports or action movies.
Technically speaking, there are only two types of 4K TVs: LED and OLED. However, when looking at the various models on the market, you’ll also encounter terms like QLED and XLED, which can make things confusing.
Other than OLED TVs, which utilize a completely different type of technology, all of the other TVs are a form of LED TV. In LED TVs, the screens are either lit from the edge or from behind the images. Models that are lit from the edge are known as edge-lit TVs, and those that are lit from behind are known as backlit. Backlit TVs can be further broken down into direct-lit and full-array. All backlit TVs offer better brightness and contrast than edge-lit TVs, and of the two types of backlit TVs, direct-array models are the best because they’re capable of illuminating separate sectors behind the display.
Despite having LED in the name, OLED TVs are not actually LED TVs. Instead, they use a different type of technology that allows them to emit light on a pixel-by-pixel basis rather than in large sections behind the images or from the edge of the display. On an OLED TV, unused pixels can be turned off, so you can have a pitch-black pixel right next to a bright white one, resulting in an image with exceptionally high levels of contrast and clarity. Unfortunately, 4K OLED TVs are often very expensive and it’s difficult to find one for less than $1,000.
When choosing a 4K TV, you shouldn’t automatically just pick the biggest one you can afford. You may find that you have a better viewing experience on a 50-inch TV with a better lighting system than on a 65-inch model that’s edge-lit.
You also should consider the space you’ll be placing the TV. Ideally, a TV should fit in well in a room, rather than looking like it’s oversized and taking over the entire space. For bedroom use, 40- to 55-inch TVs are usually a good option, while living rooms can often accommodate TVs 60-85 inches.
The refresh rate of a television refers to how many times per second the image on the screen is refreshed. The more times it’s refreshed, the smoother movement will be. This is very important for fast-action content, gaming and sports. These days, the standard refresh rate is 60Hz, but better-quality TVs have a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rate.
High-dynamic range is a type of software that increases the brightness, contrast and color of a TV. When watching HDR content on a TV that supports it, the blacks will be deeper, the colors more vibrant and the shadows, highlights and textures more prominent. It should be noted there are different levels of HDR, such as HDR10 and HDR10+. HDR10+ is significantly better as it adjusts the brightness, color and contrast on a frame-by-frame basis. This is in contrast to standard HDR, which uses the same settings for the entire movie or TV show.
Dolby Vision is similar to HDR10+ in that it enhances the brightness, color and contrast of images dynamically, but it’s even better at increasing colors and contrast. It offers 10 times the brightness of HDR10 and 2.5 times the brightness of HDR10+. It’s also capable of producing up to 68 billion colors.
If you plan on watching any content on popular streaming services, you need a TV with smart functionality. This enables it to connect to the internet and run apps. While nearly all 4K TVs have smart functionality, they can run different operating systems and have different interfaces. The most popular operating systems are Android TV, Google TV, Roku, WebOS and Tizen.
The number and type of ports a television has determine what peripheral devices you can connect to it. Some budget models may only have a single USB and HDMI port, which won’t be enough if you plan on connecting a cable box and a video game console at the same time. Others have several USB and HDMI ports.
The least amount you can expect to spend on a 4K television is around $300, and these are generally edge-lit models 45 inches or less in size. If you want a quality backlit model, it’s better to budget $500-$1,000, depending on the size and other features.
A. Currently, the best place to watch 4K content is on popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. They all have a large variety of content in 4K, so you won’t be left wanting for things to watch. Unfortunately, if you rely solely on broadcast cable for your content, it may not yet be worth buying a 4K television, as most have few, if any, channels in 4K.
A. Without a doubt, there’s a quality difference between images displayed in 1080p and 4K; however, there are some caveats. The size of the TV and the distance you sit from it determine how noticeable that difference is. If you have a 45-inch TV and sit more than a few feet away from it, 1080p and 4K will look almost identical to the human eye. However, if you have a 75-inch TV, you could easily sit 6-10 feet away from it and notice a stark difference between 1080p and 4K.
What you need to know: The X85J offers the right balance of price and performance for most users, and it’s even compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant.
What you’ll love: It runs the Google TV OS, which has a sleek and intuitive user interface, and it features both HDR and Dolby Vision for impressive contrast and color.
What you should consider: It doesn’t have the widest viewing angles.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Samsung 65-Inch Class Q60T QLED
What you need to know: Those looking for maximum size for their budget will enjoy the 65-inch Q60T.
What you’ll love: It boasts more vibrant colors than most other TVs in its price range, and it has dual-LED backlighting that produces good contrast.
What you should consider: The 60Hz refresh rate can result in some blurring during fast movements.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: The 50-inch LG NanoCell 75 series is the ideal choice for those on a tight budget who need something for a bedroom or small living room.
What you’ll love: Gamers will appreciate its quick access to dedicated gaming settings and auto low-latency mode, while casual viewers will enjoy its lifelike color and quality sound.
What you should consider: It tends to produce a lot of glare in bright rooms.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.