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Best 4K TVs

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 88 Models Considered
  • 16 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 97 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best 4K TVs

    Last Updated December 2018

    Even if you’ve just grown comfortable with 1080p being the highest-quality picture you can get, those days are over. The new standard resolution that is slowly being adapted is 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD). While 4K has been around for awhile, consumer model UHD TVs have just started to become affordable in the last two years or so.

    You might wonder what's so great about 4K — after all, your 1080p TV works just fine. It all comes down to the little squares, called pixels, that make up the image on your set. The more pixels you can pack on a screen, the better quality the image is going to be. While 1080p was a massive leap from the old TV standard of 480i, you'll get a respectable upgrade when you switch from 1080p to 4K UHD.

    If you're expecting a huge difference between 1080p and 4K, you're bound to be disappointed. The images will be much sharper, but it won't be like the incredible difference between tube TVs and flatscreens. However, with over four times the pixels found on a 1080p TV, a 4K set will make a scene that looks great in regular HD look even more gorgeous.

    If you want to be on the cutting edge of technology, and enjoy your favorite TV shows, video games, and movies in the best quality possible, you'll want a 4K UHD TV.

    Before purchasing a TV, measure the area where you wish to place it. A spot you thought was perfect might seem a lot smaller once you actually have the TV.

    What to look for in a 4K UHD TV

    All TVs aren't created equal. When you go to your local department store, you'll see a ton of huge screens in the electronics section. Some of these TVs are 1080p, but increasingly, 4K TVs are pushing those older models off the shelves.

    Looking at this wall of monitors, you'll be hard pressed to tell them apart. Gone are the days of unique television designs; now products are made to maximize screen size with the smallest bezels possible.

    With all these TVs looking the same, you'd think they'd be the same price. However, 4K UHD televisions run the gamut from as low as $400 to as high as $10,000 or more.

    How much you pay for your new TV mostly depends on what type of screen it has, whether or not it's a smart TV, and what sort of features are included.

    Screen types

    There are essentially two types of screen found on 4K UHD televisions.

    LED screens are by far the most common type, and any set under $1,500 will almost definitely be equipped with one of these.

    Within LED type screens there are several subtypes which, while not typically clearly marked on signage, can make a major difference in image quality.

    EXPERT TIP

    Make sure the TV you’re buying has enough HDMI ports for your devices, Most mid- and high-end models have at least four, but cheaper TVs might only have one or two.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Try to find a picture online of the remote of the TV you want. Even if everything else about a TV is great, frustrating controls may make you change your mind.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Types of LED screens

    Edge-lit LED

    The majority of LCD televisions on the market have this type of lighting. An array of LEDs on the edge of the screen shine light across the LCDs, which allows you to see the picture. Edge-lit displays allow a television to be thinner than those that use other types of technology, but you'll also sacrifice a lot of contrast and local dimming capabilities. However, the cost of edge-lit sets is typically lower than those that use other screens. If you find the perfect TV for your living room, an edge-lit screen shouldn't be a dealbreaker.

    Full-array LED

    Full-array screens contain LEDs directly behind the LCD screen. These LEDs can be individually lit or darkened, producing a wide range of contrast. This technology used to be available in high-end sets only, but as production costs go down, more and more sets are being equipped with full-array backlighting.

    QLED

    QLED technology, also known as quantum dot technology, is typically used in tandem with another type of backlight. When a 4K TV is equipped with QLED technology, it means that there are small, nanocrystal dots on rails between the LCDs. When these dots are hit by the LED backlight, they light up; more manufacturers are including them in their sets nowadays. If you see "Quantum" or "QLED" anywhere on a 4K TV’s packaging, it more than likely contains this tech.

    OLED screens

    Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) sets are the pinnacle of current screen technology. Instead of using a backlight, each pixel has an organic LED light that can be switched off and on. These screens have the best contrast, and can achieve the best black levels. There are some drawbacks to this burgeoning technology, though. OLED doesn’t have the brightness that high-end LED sets do, and it’s still very, very expensive. OLED screens are almost exclusively made by LG, and even Sony, Philips, and Panasonic’s OLED TVs use LG-sourced panels.

    HDR

    Arguably more important than having higher resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a technology that makes your TV image more lifelike than ever. If you’ve ever noticed that grass doesn’t seem the right shade of green, or a sunset on TV lacks the pop it has in person, you’re not alone. Before HDR, TVs just didn’t have the color or contrast range to capture what things really look like.

    TVs that are equipped with HDR technology actually contain two important components that allow this more lifelike picture to happen. They have brighter and more controlled lighting, so that they can create the needed adjustments for a wider contrast range. They also contain screens with Wide Color Gamuts (WCG).

    Until recently, there was no standard for telling a TV how to handle colors outside the range of the standard color gamut. However, with the advent of HDR10 and Dolby Vision, along with high-speed data transmission standards like HDMI 2.0, TVs can now display a picture just as vivid as the one you see in theaters.

    HDR10 vs. Dolby Vision

    Right now there are two (somewhat) competing standards for HDR format: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision is technically superior to HDR10, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a difference between them with most content.

    HDR quality usually comes down to how well your TV is made.

    If you can, make sure your HDR-compatible TV supports both formats. This will allow you to access HDR content with no worry about which format it’s in.

    If you have to choose though, HDR10 has the most content available at this time.

    If you have a large living room, make sure the TV you want to purchase has excellent viewing angles. Many screens may look great head on, but some suffer a tremendous quality loss when looking at them even at a slight angle.

    Smart TVs

    If you’re buying a 4K TV, you’re not going to have a choice between getting a smart TV or non-smart TV. Every 4K set at the consumer level has some smart functionality built into it. If you’re using a set-top streaming box like an Apple TV or Roku, it doesn’t matter what sort of smart features your prospective 4K TV will have. Almost any purpose-built streaming device is going to work faster, and have better reliability than the apps built into your TV.

    If you don’t want to deal with hooking a second device up to your TV, though, find a model that has reliable and varied apps. As a rule, the more expensive the TV, the better the processor and RAM it’ll have powering its smart apps. Lower-end TVs may have decent smart functionality, but you’ll get less lag on higher-end models.

    However, almost every smart TV, from the lowliest off-brand model to the top-end OLED sets, has issues with lag and lock-ups at times with their streaming apps. If you’re okay with a little frustration from time to time though, a smart TV can take the place of a dedicated streaming device.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some 1080p screens are manufactured with HDR currently. Though they’re rare, make sure the TV you’re looking at is a 4K model before purchasing it.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Make sure you have a source of 4K content. Without a 4K Blu-ray player, streaming service, or game console, there’s no real reason to have a UHD screen.

    Cost of a 4K UHD smart TV

    You’ll find that the asking price for 4K TVs is dropping all the time. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t find a single model under $1,000, but now you can get your hands on a basic set for around $400. Keeping that in mind, right now there are several price brackets that 4K TVs fall under, that generally correspond with the brand name, screen size, and feature set.

    Under $400

    You’re not going to find a 4K TV at regular price for under $400 right now. You may be able to find some refurbished or second-hand lower-end models for this much, but it’s doubtful. Be wary of deals below $400, especially if it’s through a non-traditional seller.

    $400 to $600

    In this price range, you’ll start getting some decent, lower-end 4K UHD TVs. They likely won’t have HDR capability, and you’re probably not going to find anything above a 55 inch screen.

    $600 to $1,000

    If you shop smart, you’ll be able to find a very lovely, feature-packed 4K TV in this price range. The smaller, name brand LED flagship models of last year can usually be found on sale for under $1,000. If you’re looking for a great 55 inch or maybe even 65 inch you can likely see it here.

    $1,000 to $2,000

    This is about how much the current brand name flagship LED models cost. These will likely have a full-array backlit screen, and possibly QLED technology. You may be able to find some lower-end OLED screens in this range as well.

    $2,000 and up

    For $2,000 and up you’ll find the latest and greatest 4K UHD TVs. For LGs, larger OLEDs, and massive LED screens, you pay quite a bit of money. Unless you plan on keeping a TV for a long time, or have a lot of disposable income, you’ll probably want to stay under this price range, since the technology is maturing so quickly. There’s no sense in buying a $3,000 OLED TV if three years down the road it’ll be obsolete.

    If you have a lot of sources of reflection in front of the area you want to put your TV, look into a model with a strong backlight. Turning up the backlight can help deaden some of the reflection for a clearer picture.

    FAQ

    Q. What kind of connections should I look for in a 4K TV?
    A.
    Using 4K video requires a new input, called HDMI 2.0a. The connection looks just like the one on your old TV (HDMI 1.4), but can carry more data. Some 4K TVs only have one HDMI 2.0 port, while on others you’ll be able to input 4K on all ports. The easiest way to research this is to get the model number of the TV you’re interested in, then look up the owner’s manual online. Most brands will have this manual available as a free download on their website.

    Q. Do I need new HDMI cables for 4K?
    A.
    If you’ve bought an HDMI cable in the last few years, it’s likely you won’t have to replace it to watch 4K. The only thing you need to do to make sure your HDMI cable is 4K-compatible is to make sure it’s a “high-speed” variety. That doesn’t mean you have to buy the fancy, gold-plated cable for $50. Most HDMI cables currently sold are high-speed cables, and you won’t notice the difference between the ones you buy on Amazon for $10 and the $50 or higher cables.

    Q. But what about HDMI 2.1; I’ll need new cables for that won’t I?
    A.
    Okay, so it’s a little more complicated. HDMI 2.1 is a brand-new specification that provides a lot more data bandwidth. However, you don’t have to worry about it. HDMI 2.1 ports are backward compatible with HDMI 1.4 and 2.0 devices. When HDMI 2.1 devices do hit the market, you’ll need new cables, but that’ll be years from now. It’s best to think of HDMI 2.1 as a way to futureproof devices. Until 8K TVs become a commonplace, though, HDMI 2.0 will be good enough.

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