The new TVs for 2020 are (mostly) here, but while it's certainly 'in with the new' when it comes to stocking store shelves, that isn't necessarily the best approach to buying a TV right now – especially if you're looking out for a TV bargain.
As the new TVs arrive with typically high price tags, last year's models are dropping in cost as, in some cases, they come to the end of their lives. These 2019 TVs won't have the latest specs and the performance of the screens that succeed them, but the best will still offer an exceptional performance and should be firmware supported for years to come. Best of all, they will cost less than the new models just hitting stores.
So, should you take the plunge on a 2019 TV or splash out for a brand new one? We take a look at the pros and cons, and the best 2019 TVs on sale right now...
2019 TVs vs 2020 TVs
Today, you'll want your TV to have a few things – a 4K panel, HDR support, and a decent smart app offering that has, at the minimum, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and BBC iPlayer (in the UK) or Hulu (in the US). Thankfully, most TVs from recent years that you'll see in stores or online will have all three. So what specifics should you look out for?
HDR format support
Firstly, there are a few HDR formats you should be aware of. For years, HDR TVs have supported HDR10, the standard 'static' format supported by video streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+, and also 4K Blu-ray discs.
The slightly newer Dolby Vision is a more premium, 'dynamic' HDR format that is also supported by Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and 4K Blu-ray discs. The similar HDR10+ format is the less common alternative, found on Amazon Prime Video and fewer 4K Blu-ray discs. Both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support can be found on a number of both 2019 and 2020 models.
HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) is the HDR format for broadcasts, so if you want to watch future 4K broadcasts in HDR, from BT, Sky and the BBC, for example, you'll want your TV to support HLG too – which plenty of 2019 models do.
Bear in mind that some 2020 TVs (from LG and Panasonic) are introducing Dolby Vision IQ for improving a Dolby Vision picture based on a room's lighting conditions. Select 2019 models combine standard Dolby Vision with an ambient light sensor to perform a similar job to Dolby Vision IQ, but won't be exactly the same thing.
Filmmaker Mode is another new format for 2020 that you won't find on a 2019 TV, but our experience so far suggests this is no great loss.
HDMI 2.1 support
Spec-wise, arguably the biggest feature of 2020 TVs over 2019 sets is HDMI 2.1-certified ports. Many new TVs from the big brands will support HDMI 2.1, which guarantees support for features such as eARC, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and 4K at 120fps/8K at 60fps passthrough.
LG's 2019 OLED TV range supports HDMI 2.1, as do Samsung's 2019 8K TVs, but there will be vaster support for the new HDMI certification and features in 2020 models. It's worth noting, though, that while most 2019 TVs have HDMI 2.0 sockets, many do support specific HDMI 2.1 features, with ALLM being particularly common, eARC not being unheard of and a number of Samsung's having VRR.
Picture performance progression is the biggest reason to invest in a brand new 2020 TV. Having seen only a handful of 2020 models so far, we're encouraged by the improvements they offer. For example, this year's LG 4K GX OLED TV offers improvements in dark detail, colours and motion handling over the brand's 2019 OLED TV performance. Samsung's flagship 4K Q95T QLED TV, meanwhile, is an improvement on its 2019 Q90R in practically every way.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much more you are willing to spend on an improved picture, compared to a reduced 2019 telly. If you're looking for the best performance-per-pound propositions out there, these TVs from 2019 are just that...
Best TV deals: discounted 2019 TVs
Tested at £1999 / $2499
This 55in 4K OLED TV won our most recent Product of the Year award for being the best-value premium proposition out there. Now it's been heavily discounted by over 30 per cent, it's an even more attractive option.
Read the full LG OLED55C9PLA review
See the 65in version: LG OLED65C9PLA review
Tested at £1849
This 65in 4K OLED TV is one of the sharpest, punchiest and most detailed 2019 TVs you can buy. Add to that Ambilight technology, an accomplished audio performance and a discount over the original £2000 price tag and you're looking at a bargain.
Read the full Philips 65OLED804 review
See the 55in version: Philips 55OLED804 review
Tested at £2999
This 55in Panasonic is the best-performing OLED TV of the 2019 lot – and you have to pay for that. It's still pricier than the LG C9 at number one spot on this page, but its price has come down a lot from its original figure. An exceptional TV.
Read the full Panasonic TX-55GZ2000B review
See the 65in version: Panasonic TX-65GZ2000B review
Tested at £1099
This 49in Sony LCD TV is another What Hi-Fi? Award winner. This is a lovely TV to watch, it sounds good by prevailing standards and its app selection leaves you wanting for little. Want a 49in TV? You can buy this Sony with confidence, especially as it's discounted by around 25 per cent.
Read the full Sony KD-49XG9005 review
Tested at £1779
This entry-level 65in LG B9 4K OLED features the company's 2018 tech in a 2019 panel, but nevertheless it's an excellent TV that offers a whole lot of picture and features for its competitive price. We'd be tempted to pay the extra few hundred for the upgraded 65in LG C9 model, but if the budget doesn't stretch that far, this is a fantastic option for the money.
Read the full LG OLED65B9PLA review
Tested at £999
Another What Hi-Fi? Award winner, this 58in Panasonic LCD TV is a big, budget TV with excellent features, an impressive, natural picture performance and a 35 per cent discount. What's not to like?
Read the full Panasonic TX-58GX800B review
See the 50in version: Panasonic TX-50GX800B review
Tested at £1799
At the time of writing, this 55in 4K OLED TV has almost 40 per cent off, making it mightily tempting considering its fine all-round attributes. Great value and with impressive sound, the Panasonic GZ950 should definitely be on your OLED shortlist.
Read the full Panasonic TX-55GZ950B review
Tested at £1999 / $2200
What this 65in LCD TV offers is a watchable and forgiving picture with wonderfully balanced colours, superb detail and simply the best motion processing tech around at the moment. It offers not far off flagship performance for, especially in light of its recent discount, much less than flagship money.
Read the full Sony KD-65XG9505 review