TVs are always changing and evolving, and so is the advice for getting the best TV for your home. Unfortunately, with so many buzzword features, sizes, and brands to choose from, it can be near-impossible to find the perfect screen for your next binge-watch.
On the plus side, TV and movie watching at home have never been better, with a cinema-quality experience now in reach for pretty much everyone. And with services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ (not to mention all the rest!) churning out brilliant content at breakneck speed, now is the perfect time to upgrade your own living room set-up.
Whether you want to upgrade because of aesthetic reasons (there’s sometimes nothing worse than a boxy eyesore in the middle of the room) or you’re interested in new technology such as OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode), LED (Light-Emitting Diode), and HCX (Hollywood Cinema eXperience) and smart streaming features, we’re here to help cut through the noise a little with our ranking of the best TVs around right now.
Scroll down for more information and to see what we thought and, once you’ve chosen a new TV, why not take a look at our rundown of the best soundbars – a good picture needs good audio to go with it, after all.
The best TVs in 2021
1. LG C1 Smart 4K OLED TV
Best TV overall
Available in: 48″, 55″, 65″, 77″
Reasons to buy: good value, Dolby Atmos sound, built-in Alexa and Google Assistant
Reasons to avoid: some reviewers had trouble with screen glare
Our pick for the best TV in the 2021 release slate, the LG C1 Smart 4K OLED TV, offers a bevvy of features that will please movie fans, gamers and casual users alike.
The OLED panel offers individually self-lit pixels and optimised settings and upscaling courtesy of the a9 Gen4 AI processor. Dolby Vision IQ boosts brightness, contrast and colour depth, and there’s also a good amount of customisation in settings if you want to get the picture just right.
Alexa and Google Assistant are both built-in to make voice control and integration with your wider smart home simple, and you can make use of the popular webOS.
If you have a keen gamer in your household, then the 1ms response time, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync and Game Optimiser mode also make this a recommended set, with lots of HDMI ports to allow for multiple consoles to be plugged in alongside streaming sticks and soundbars.
In addition to its impressive specs, the LG C1 looks great in person, with an ultra-thin bezel and paper-thin panel giving it a high-end feel.
2. Samsung QN95A Smart 4K QLED TV
Best QLED TV
Available in: 55″, 65″, 75″, 85″
Reasons to buy: good viewing angles, object tracking sound, Multi View
Reasons to avoid: no Dolby Vision or Atmos sound
One of the more affordable new models to use Mini LED backlighting for its QLED panel, the Samsung QN95A 4K TV, offers solid sound and visual features that ensure your TV looks and sounds incredible no matter what you’re watching.
The Quantum 4K processor will upscale lower-resolution content. At the same time, HDR10+ ups colour and contrast, and the anti-glare screen offer extensive viewing angles – ideal if you have a large living room in which some family members struggle to see the screen. Gamers will also love the Multi View feature, which allows you to cast your phone screen to one side of the screen without interrupting your game.
The QN95A doesn’t skimp on sound, either, adapting to objects in the room and adjusting based on background noise.
3. Panasonic TX-JX800B Smart 4K LED TV
Best mid-range TV
Available in: 40″, 50″, 58″, 65″
Reasons to buy: Has Netflix, Amazon, Freeview Play and more built-in
Reasons to avoid: Some customers have noted the picture quality lacks when watching sports
With designer good looks, this talented mid-ranger is the perfect option if you want a polished LED flat screen for home cinema, sports and gaming.
Picture quality has literally been fine-tuned in Hollywood (by Stefan Sonnenfeld), and the set boasts universal dynamic HDR support, which basically means it’ll automatically maximise image quality on a scene by scene basis when you’re watching 4k HDR programmes.
It’s also a great gaming TV, even giving the Samsung Q80T a run for its money due to low input lag.
The TX-58HX800 is fashionably minimalist too. Just as we saw on last year’s Panasonic GX800 models, the LCD panel appears to sit on top of, rather than within, the bezel. It’s a cool design embellishment.
But it’s in the picture department that the HX800 really shines. Arguably the most cinematic of all the LED LCD TVs available right now, there’s a lushness to its colours and a sense of image depth that hints of OLED. But it’s brighter and more contrasty when viewed in daylight.
Also available in 65-, 50- and 40-inch screen sizes, we were really impressed by this 58-incher. The size will be a good compromise for many if 65-inches just seems a tad too big for comfort.
Intuitive and versatile, Panasonic’s own My Home Screen platform remains one of the easiest smart TV platforms out there to use. There’s no shortage of catch-up TV, thanks to Freeview Play, and there’s also Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Unfortunately, Disney+ is AWOL. Let’s hope Panasonic gets it on the platform sooner rather than later.
The set will also work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smart home products.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
4. Samsung Q80T Smart 4K QLED TV
Best premium TV
Available in: 50″, 55″, 65″, 75″, 85″
Reasons to buy: QLED technology means it’s screen burn-proof; perfect for gamers
Reasons to avoid: Some customers have noted that the TV apps don’t support Dolby Atmos
The Samsung Q80T is packed with some of Samsung’s sharpest TV technology but avoids the painful price tags found higher up its QLED range.
It’s actually the cheapest 2020 QLED TV to offer a full array backlight, which means you get punchy HDR (High Dynamic Range) images with excellent contrast. We auditioned the 65-inch screen size, which is big on impact, but it’s also available in 49-, 55-, 75- and 85-inch guises, so there’s a model to suit most rooms.
Smart connectivity is impressive. The Q80T doesn’t just offer catch-up and streaming TV services (Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Rakuten TV, Disney+, BT TV and YouTube, amongst others), it also has Samsung’s signature Ambient Mode, which turns the screen into a photo gallery when left in standby.
The Q80T is also a fabulous choice for gamers, with class-leading low image lag (just 8.7ms), so you’ll never be slow on the draw when the competition heats up in Fortnite. QLED technology is also guaranteed screen burn free (that thing where static images can sometimes get burnt into the panel itself), which comes as welcome comfort if you’re planning console marathons.
The TV also sounds surprisingly good. In addition to downward-firing stereo drivers and woofers, the set boasts additional speakers positioned top left and right rear, which work with Samsung’s OTS (Object Tracking Sound) technology to create a more involving, immersive audio experience.
We reckon there’s no better 4k HDR TV for joystick jockeys right now.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
5. Hisense A7200 Smart 4K LED TV
Best value TV
Available in: 43″, 50″, 55″, 65″
Reasons to buy: affordable, Roku one of the more user-friendly smart TV interfaces, works with Alexa and Google Assistant
Reasons to avoid: Some HDR stuttering issues
Though Hisense is traditionally a brand found in the US, last year saw the company release a suite of budget TVs exclusive to Argos on this side of the pond. Since then, the TVs have been updated for 2021 and have fast become one of the go-to choices for a user-friendly AND budget-friendly TV.
Boasting 4K HDR resolution with HDR10, DTS Studio sound, 60Hz motion rate and compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit, it’s hard to fault what’s on offer at this price point. The home screen from Roku is one of the simplest to navigate, and you’ll find all the apps here, including catch-up, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and the rest.
It is recommended for those who enjoy using the Roku streaming stick, which was true of this writer. It’s now our main TV, having bought it back in 2020, and we certainly have no complaints.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
How to choose the best TV for your home
We know many questions need answering before you commit to a new TV, so here is some advice to make the buying process a bit easier.
Is it worth getting a 4K TV? (And is 4K really better than 1080p?)
In a nutshell: definitely.
With a 4k screen, it really does look better than regular HD models. That’s because a 4k UHD TV uses 4 times as many pixels as a 1080p HD model. Think chunky knit versus fine Merino wool.
There’s no 4k TV on regular terrestrial TV. Still, you will find it from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, and premium pay-TV suppliers like Sky, Virgin Media and BT. 4k is also available on UHD Blu-rays (you’ll need a UHD Blu-ray player to spin them).
But there’s a catch. To appreciate this resolution, it makes sense to buy a screen larger than the one you’re replacing or move your sofa nearer.
Helpfully, thinner panels and better design have seen TV’s take up less space. So in the room occupied by a 2010 43-inch telly, you’ll now probably fit a svelte 2019 55-inch model.
Most all new 4k TVs will also be HDR compatible. This translates to brighter highlights, so the sun shines hotter, lights glow more realistically in the dark, fireworks dazzle.
What are the key features I should look for in a smart TV?
All our featured screens connect to the internet over Wi-Fi, which means they have access to streaming services and catch-up TV.
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are all standard attractions, but the number of secondary services varies. If there’s a specific streaming provider you want, check your shortlisted sets offer it.
For the best in catch-up TV, look for a model with a Freeview Play tuner. This guarantees all the main-channel catch-up players are on board (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5).
Increasingly, smart TVs will also work with voice control systems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant: “Alexa, play Great British Bake Off!”
Is QLED better than OLED? And what’s the deal with LED?
OLED, QLED, LED LCD? TV manufacturers use a variety of panel technologies, each with its own pros and cons.
The vast majority of TVs available are LCD lit by an LED backlight (hence LED LCD). They’re bright and affordable but can have a limited black level performance. Consequently, in a fully dark room, blacks tend to turn grey.
OLED models are only available in larger screen sizes (55-inches plus) and command a price premium. However, OLED is widely regarded as the best TV technology currently available.
Self-emissive, OLED doesn’t require a backlight. As every pixel is controllable, the technology can deliver pure, accurate blacks. Nirvana, if you’re a film fan.
As favoured primarily by Samsung, a Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode (QLED) may sound like OLED, but it’s actually an LCD variant. QLED helps improve colour vibrancy and brightness. However, as with standard LCD panels, they require a backlight.
QLED screens are TVs with brighter viewing environments, offering an unbeatable light and colour combination.
What will the sound quality of my TV be like?
Probably poor. One inevitable consequence of ever-thinner TVs is weak audio. There’s typically not enough room in the cabinet to accommodate decent loudspeakers. The result is thin sound with limited volume.
The solution is to partner your thin screen with a separate soundbar (prices range from £100 to £1000+), which will add volume, width and clarity.
A soundbar turns on and off automatically, effectively replacing the speakers in the set itself. Alternatively, you can hand over sonic duties to an AV receiver. This creates a full-blown home cinema system with speakers front and back.
There are exceptions to this rule of sound, though, and we’ve picked several TVs here. Our Best Overall TV winner, the Panasonic GZ2000, has a compelling Dolby Atmos sound system on board that offers wide, high cinematic sound.
Sony also has an inspired solution in its Acoustic Surface Audio+ system, which uses vibrating acoustic transducers attached to the panel itself to create forward-facing sound waves.
How we test our TVs
All our chosen TVs have been rated not just on technical performance but how they perform in the real world.
We’ve peered at pixels and scrutinised backlights. We’ve also taken the selfless task of sitting down and watching our favourite shows on regular TV and other sources, like Netflix and YouTube.
We ate an obscene amount of popcorn watching the latest 4k HDR (High Dynamic Range) movies from a UHD (Ultra High Definition) Blu-ray player, and we rated screens on general usability.
We also ask, do they have Freeview Play? Is their smart larder well stocked? Are they more confusing than flat-pack furniture? That kind of thing…
The post Best TV – sets for binge-watching, gaming, sports, soaps and more appeared first on Ideal Home.