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August 20, 2022  |  TVs

How to choose the best TV for watching movies

TVs aren’t just for TV shows anymore. The ever-expanding streaming market brings more blockbuster films straight to your living room than ever before. Add the increasing performance, efficiency and affordability of high-end TVs, and it’s a better time than ever to invest in a TV for your home theater.

What makes a TV good for movies?

Some types of content — sitcoms, for example — don’t rely heavily on premium image quality for the most entertaining experience. Others, such as sports broadcasts, have specific requirements, including gray consistency and high-speed motion handling. If your main concern is image quality in movies, there are distinct features and specifications to consider.

HDR support

High dynamic range is one of the biggest marketing buzzwords right now. Great HDR performance indeed makes for an exceptional home theater experience. It’s also easy for manufacturers to claim HDR support but not quite deliver on the technical specs.

There are a few important ways that TVs support HDR content. What’s good for HDR performance is also good for watching movies, even if they aren’t mastered for HDR playback.

  • Dynamic contrast: A panel’s native contrast (called the static contrast ratio) is set in stone and can’t be changed from moment to moment. Dynamic contrast, on the other hand, continuously interprets brightness and contrast levels. This lets a TV bring out the most subtle highlights in both well-lit and dim scenes.
  • Wide color gamut: This refers to the number of colors a TV can produce. The engineering and production quality of each TV’s panel make a big difference. Several advanced technologies also enhance color volume. These include filtration methods, such as QLED, and entire display technologies, as with OLED TVs. The most important color space metric for watching movies is the DCI-P3 color space because that’s what most movies are mastered in.
  • Local dimming: This is necessary for a true HDR experience. Traditional LCDs have a single backlight that’s filtered by a matrix of material, so it appears that some pixels are lit and some are dark. Local dimming allows a TV to dim individual sections of the display, which enhances dynamic contrast.
  • Peak brightness: While contrast is important, high peak brightness is an often overlooked part of the HDR experience. Some of the best overall TVs, such as OLED TVs, can fall somewhat short here. For those trying to save money, an LCD TV offers a much better price-to-performance ratio than an OLED TV, especially when it comes to brightness.


Deep and realistic black levels

Unfortunately, the majority of TV LCD panels can’t produce perfect black levels. This is due to the fundamental way their backlighting and liquid crystal layer work together.

Local dimming is one way manufacturers fix the issue, but overusing local dimming leads to bright and distracting blooming around well-lit objects in dark scenes. In general, look to high-end models from reputable manufacturers for the premium engineering and tight tolerances that deliver the best black levels. Alternatively, OLED and up-and-coming miniature LED technology both do a great job at producing deep, inky blacks.

Ability to remove judder

Movies are almost exclusively shot at 24 frames per second, known in the film industry as 24p. 4K TVs have 60- or 120-hertz refresh rates. When a panel refreshes 120 times per second but has only a 24 FPS signal to work with, distracting stuttering can result. This shaking effect is called judder. Most TVs offer motion interpolation that can mitigate the effect, but that adds its own distracting soap opera effect.

Instead, investigate how well each TV does at removing judder. Manufacturers are constantly fighting, as display panels get faster but movie frame rates stay the same. It’s more likely that a 120-hertz panel removes judder better than a 60-hertz one, but it’s no guarantee.

FAQ

Q. How do I choose the right size TV?

A. Professional movie and TV engineers recommend a 30- and 40-degree field of view for watching TV shows and movies. What this means is if you sit 6 to 8 feet away from your TV, choose a larger TV. The most common size is 55 inches, so consider moving up to 65 inches for a more cinematic experience. It’s easy to find a decently priced 75-inch TV these days, which is ideal for larger rooms — just don’t go overboard. Having a field of view that’s too wide will leave you craning your neck and missing important details.

Q. Is Dolby Vision worth it?

A. Dolby Vision is a popular HDR protocol similar to HDR10. Compared to HDR10 and the improved HDR10+, Dolby Vision supports a number of more advanced features. One is a higher color bit depth, which means Dolby Vision can produce more precise colors. It also has an advanced tone-mapping algorithm that delivers superior dynamic resolution overall. In contrast to standard HDR10, it also offers dynamic scene-by-scene metadata to ensure that dim and bright objects are displayed properly throughout the entire film.

Possibly the most compelling reason to get a Dolby Vision TV over one with simple HDR10 support, however, is that far more movie studios master their films using Dolby Vision than HDR10 or HDR10+.

Q. Are projectors good for watching movies?

A. They can be in the right setting. Aside from a good screen to project onto, the most important thing a movie projector needs is a low-light environment. They can’t produce anywhere near the same brightness as either LCD or OLED TVs.

To get the most out of your movie collection or streaming service, you’ll also probably want a 4K projector. They can get far larger than a TV, and as long as you get one with a true 4K resolution, they rival traditional televisions in terms of clarity.

If you’re shooting for an extra-large movie screen, though, beware of 4K projectors that use pixel shifting, which essentially produces every other frame at half resolution and interlaces them to simulate a true Ultra HD picture. While pixel shifting is a novel and effective technology at small to medium screen sizes, it can noticeably degrade image quality at sizes of roughly 70 inches or more, depending on the projector.

Best TVs for watching movies

Hisense U9DG

This novel TV uses a pair of fused display panels to deliver nearly unrivaled dynamic contrast and cinematic performance. If you have room for its 75-inch frame and plan to use it in a home theater, there are no better choices. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sony A90J OLED

Possibly the best overall TV, this premium model from Sony delivers the impeccable black levels and wide color gamut you expect from an OLED TV. In addition, it boasts a peak brightness that few other OLED panels can match. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Hisense U6G

This remarkably well-priced option from Hisense sports several premium features, including quantum dot filtration and local dimming, that help it punch far above its price class. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Samsung Neo QN90A

Since this is last year’s model, you’ll find it at a significant discount. At the same time, it’s nearly identical to Samsung's newer model with industry-leading color volume and local dimming that provide impressive HDR performance. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

LG Evo C2 OLED

Unlike its predecessor the C1, the C2’s enhanced OLED panel offers the peak brightness needed for effective highlights. It also boasts the perfect black levels that OLED technology is known for. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

TCL R646

It’s near the top of TCL’s 4K TV lineup, but the price is squarely in the midrange category. Despite the reasonable cost, it looks nearly as good as high-end options from premium manufacturers. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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