Best Smart TVs

Updated August 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
122 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for best smart tvs

Way back when the iPhone first introduced the world to apps, no one could have predicted that apps would soon take over nearly every screen we interact with, but now they’re everywhere, even TVs.

TVs with apps, dubbed smart TVs, can connect to the internet as well as interact with other web-enabled devices. They deliver everything from your favorite binge-worthy shows to the most addictive games. In fact, now when you buy a TV, you’re not just buying a screen; you’re buying an entertainment platform. Understandably, then, you would want to learn more about the details: which type to get, how much to expect to pay, and how to make the most of your investment.

Smart TVs are a lot less intimidating than they sound, so if you’re ready to dive into the world of connected entertainment, we’ve got your back.

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In addition to supporting all major paid streaming video services, many TVs include apps that deliver free content from all over the world. Whether you’re interested in global news or the best from Bollywood there is enough free content to satisfy almost anyone.

What makes it smart?

Smart TVs wirelessly connect to the internet to provide access to streaming services and other online portals. There are two main means by which a TV can be smart. High-end companies boast their own smart platform that they include in their TVs. Samsung uses Tizen, and LG uses WebOS. These are typically more expensive than TVs that integrate another company’s smart platform. These popular options include Android TV by Google, Fire TV by Amazon, and Roku TV.  While these options are versatile and accessible, they are not as fast as the higher-end options.

Depending on the brand, some platforms allow for easy integration with other smart home products. What’s more, if you buy an older TV with Tizen or WebOS, you may not get access to the newest streaming that is regularly offered online.

Streaming TV and movies

By far the most popular apps are those that connect viewers to their favorite subscription-based streaming services. The smart platform allows you access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Disney+, Hulu, or any other major service, so you can start bingeing your favorite TV shows in no time.

Games and social media

If you’re a fan of mobile games like Candy Crush or Farmville, you’ll find a lot to love with this kind of TV. Many of today’s options support popular titles imported from Android and iOS smartphones. Just be prepared for the fact that, in some cases, you’ll need to use the TV remote as a game controller, which can feel clunky at first.

Depending on the smart platform, you may have access to social media services as well, allowing you to browse and scroll. You’ll want to connect the keyboard if you’re interested in posting written content.

Casting

Some TVs feature a smartcast function, which allows you to throw content from a smartphone or tablet to the TV, provided all devices are on the same WiFi network. This is most accessible if you have a device that matches the technology of the TV or smart platform. However, some apps are compatible across different brands.

In lieu of casting, some TVs may be controlled by a voice assistant with platforms utilizing Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.

Size

Screen size is among the most important considerations when you are shopping. It is measured diagonally from one corner to the other and is typically offered in 5- to 10-inch increments. You’ll want to measure your available space in order to find a TV that fits your space. For those who plan to sit 6 to 9 feet from the screen, it’s recommended that you choose a TV of 50 to 60 inches. Adjust your dimensions accordingly for smaller and larger spaces.

Most medium-size rooms will be well-served by a 55-inch or 65-inch TV. Smaller options hover around the 40-inch range. These are ideal for dens or bedrooms. The largest choices hit 85 inches in size; choose something like this for the most immersive viewing experience possible.

Refresh rate

A TV’s refresh rate is the frequency with which the image reproduces itself every second. The standard rate, measured in Hertz, is 60 Hz. While this suffices for most content, it can lead to a lag when you’re watching live sports, action-heavy films, and video games. Simply put, a higher rate reduces motion blur associated with such content. If you enjoy sports or gaming, look for rates of 75Hz or higher, up to 144Hz. Rates above 144Hz exist, though the differences may not be easily seen or at all perceptible to the naked eye.

Most manufacturers, including Sony and LG, enhance the rate with their own technology, leading to higher rates that may reach 240 Hz. In these cases, they will boast a number that is a simulated or enhanced while also noting the native number, which will still be from 60 Hz to 120Hz. These technologies work, but keep in mind the difference between their rate and the native number.

Bright ideas: screen technology

The most important factor when shopping for any type of TV is the screen, both in terms of picture resolution and picture quality. Before you start shopping, decide what your ideal resolution is and what type of TV panel you want.

Screen resolution

You’ll need to decide if you want high definition (with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, often referred to as 1080p, Full HD, or FHD), or ultra-high definition (with a resolution of 3840 x 2160, better known as 4K). Higher-resolution screens produce more detailed images, so if you want the best picture quality you can get, spring for a 4K TV, also known as a UHD TV. If you just want good picture quality and don’t need it to be intensely detailed, a 1080p HDTV set would serve you just fine.

As technology continues to advance, 4K is becoming the standard resolution. New major films and most high-end TV shows are filmed in 4K, and most streaming content is available in a 4K tier as well. Granted, most 4K options will upscale lesser-quality content, but it’s important to make sure you have access to 4K content to enjoy the TV’s potential. That means investing in a 4K cable box or 4K player with discs or subscribing to a service that offers 4K content.

High dynamic range

HDR, or high dynamic range, informs color brightness and accuracy. HDR10+ is the latest technology and is typically paired with 4K resolution to deliver colorful, detailed content. It allows for deeper blacks and greater contrast as well as brighter whites. Like 4K resolution, you’ll need HDR-compatible content in order to enjoy this.

TV panels

Several competing screen technologies are available, but the main two are OLED and LED.

An OLED screen is vastly superior to an LED screen because each pixel is individually lit, resulting in a brighter image. However, products with these screens are also about three times as expensive as products with other screens.

LEDs comprise a wide range of options, including budget-friendly TVs as well as higher-quality models. Some companies may offer their own proprietary type of LED TV made with their own technology. LCD TV is a dated version of an LED TV, but it uses the same technology.

Edge-lit LED TVs have been common over the years. On these models, the screen is lit from the sides. Full-array TVs are slightly different. They feature zones of backlighting so you can localize dimming, resulting in finer images and detail with higher contrast.

Although these TVs aren’t for everyone, they offer many of the best prices available. What’s more, those that are “non-smart”are getting harder and harder to find.

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Accessories

Soundbar: Bose Smart Soundbar 300
While the TVs we’ve been discussing are optimized for stunning visuals and smart service integration, they often lack high-quality audio. We recommended investing in a soundbar like this option from Bose to support deeper bass and crisper dialogue.

Blu-ray player: LG Region-Free Blu-Ray Player
Although you’ll have access to streaming service, a disc player can provide a reliable and quality connection without relying on WiFi. For those who enjoy physical copies of content, we recommend this LG HD player.

TV mount: VideoSecu Articulating Full-Motion Bracket
A lot of consumers decide to mount their new purchase on the wall to save space and maximize viewability, and we don’t blame them. We really like this full-motion bracket because it’s easy to install, it can hold a lot of weight, and you can select the size you need. No need to pay for more than you need.

Home theater seating: Flash Furniture Reclining Theater Seating
For family movie night or hanging out with friends, nothing beats having a set of comfy reclining seats to make the most of your experience. Flash Furniture offers their reclining chairs in configurations of two or three. Pop some popcorn, sit back, and relax.

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Expert Tip
If you’re in the market for a new TV but unsure whether you want a smart one, note that you can still use your own content sources, such as a cable TV box or streaming box.
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Prices

Before you start shopping, it helps to know how far your money will go. Keep these prices in mind as you survey the market.

Inexpensive

Between $300 and $799, you’ll find great values when it comes to 1080p and bare-bones 4K options. If you just want a basic HDTV, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a solid deal. However, if you’re looking for 4K with all the bells and whistles, such as high dynamic range or an OLED screen, you’ll need to spend more.

Mid-range

Between $800 and $1,299, many products feature 4K resolution, but some skimp on other features. For example, some low-end 4K options have multiple inputs but only one that supports 4K content. The majority of 4K TVs in this price range are average, which is still incredible.

Expensive

Between $1,300 and $3,500, expect to find options that spare no expense. In this price range are 4Ks with features like HDR and Dolby Vision and higher-end screen panel technologies like XLED, QLED, or OLED. Most can anchor a solid home theater, so if you’re ready to turn your living room into a personal cinema, get ready to write a check with a comma in it.

If sound quality is a key concern, consider a smart TV bundled with a soundbar. Buying a soundbar that has already been paired with a TV removes all doubt about equipment compatibility.

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Tips

  • Mount your TV. Not only does mounting save space, it typically allows for a more comfortable and immersive viewing experience.

  • Never clean your screen with a commercial spray cleaner. No matter what kind of screen you have, it should only be cleaned with water, and sparingly. Most cleaning products use chemicals that can harm or stain a TV screen, so only use microfiber cloths and a small amount of water. For best results, spray water on the cloth and then wipe the TV. Never spray the screen directly, not even with water.

  • Set the software to update automatically. TV manufacturers often publish software updates that bring new features and critical security fixes to your TV. It’s easy to forget to check for software updates, so save yourself the headache and set your TV to auto-update. With auto-update, all important software updates happen in the background as soon as they’re available.

  • Cover a built-in TV webcam when you’re not using it. Some of these TVs are designed to facilitate video calls, so they include webcams at the top of the screen that integrate seamlessly with the TV design. Having a webcam can be great; it’s perfect for staying connected with friends and family. However, many privacy advocates aren’t thrilled about having an internet-connected camera pointed at them while they watch TV. If you have concerns about privacy, cover your webcam with a discreet piece of electrical tape, or choose an option without a camera.

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While Black Friday and the holiday season are popular times to buy a TV, it’s not hard to find a good deal year-round. The affordable TV of your dreams is already out there!

FAQ

Q. Can I connect an antenna to my local broadcast channels?

A. Yes, you can do this as long as the TV has a coaxial input. Most of these TVs have a coaxial input that you can use with an external antenna; the coaxial input indicates the TV has a tuner inside that can translate your local broadcast TV signals into a watchable picture. However, some manufacturers omit a coaxial input or TV tuners, most notably LG.

The easiest way to tell which models have coaxial inputs and TV tuners is to note the product titles. If a set has a tuner, it will be marketed as a TV. If it does not, it will simply be called a display. When shopping, you’re likely to encounter both, so pay special attention to which models use the word “TV” and which use the word “display.”

Q. Do I need a paid subscription to use streaming apps?

A. Yes, you will need this if you want to use a paid service. Most of these TVs come with a host of apps that are free to download and use, but they also support the most popular services, like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon Video. To learn more about paid subscriptions, visit each streaming provider’s website.

Q. Is it really safe to connect my TV to the internet?

A. Yes, as long as you follow web security best practices. For example, it’s important that your TV operating system is up to date to make sure that the latest patches and security features have been installed. If you keep your hardware updated (particularly gadgets that get you the internet, like your wireless router), your risk is minimal.

In addition to keeping software current, it’s important to secure any accounts you’ll be using with it. For example, if you plan on browsing Facebook on television, make sure you’ve protected your Facebook account with multi-factor authentication to prevent getting hacked. For each account you plan on using with the TV, investigate what security features you can enable to protect your data and credentials.

 

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