HDR, also known as high dynamic range, is a key spec you’ll see on many TVs’ spec sheets that can, if done correctly, make for a radically more immersive viewing experience when watching movies at home.
This is because, when done right, HDR can radically improve contrast levels between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, revealing details you’d miss in standard content.
The downside is that to really make the most of it, you need two key things: a source that’s mastered in HDR and a TV that can understand and accurately render video in it.
The primary point is fairly easy, putting aside Blu-Ray you’ll find loads of HDR content on most modern streaming services, including Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus. The latter is more difficult as, having tested TVs since cathode ray tubes were all the rage, we can comfortably confirm not every TV is capable of accurately playing HDR content.
Jump over to the reviews section of our site and you’ll see loads of examples of TVs that on paper support HDR, but fail to deliver best-in-class picture quality during our tests. What’s more, simply paying more isn’t guaranteed to get you THE best HDR performance on the market.
This is where our team of TV experts steps in. Our reviewers make sure to always thoroughly check the HDR performance of any TV we test, playing a variety of content in various standards to make sure our advice is accurate. Scroll down to see our curated picks of the best-performing HDR TVs we’ve tested that are still available. You can also see a quick breakdown of what we look for in an HDR TV and what the most common standards are below.
How to choose the best HDR TV for you
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4K resolution (or 4K revolution, you could say) might have dominated the headlines in recent years, but there's another way to really boost your TV's picture quality: HDR. But there are a few key things you need to be aware of when picking an HDR TV.
Starting with the basics, HDR stands for 'high dynamic range', and it enhances the difference between the light and dark parts of the image – essentially the contrast – giving the picture more depth at one end at the same time as making it look brighter and more vibrant at the other.
But it's not as simple as buying an HDR TV and sitting back and enjoying the quality boost. Oh no. Rather, there are competing formats of HDR, with different TV manufacturers backing different ones. That's right, we're in the midst of another format war.
The most common form is HDR10. It's an open standard that has been adopted by numerous manufacturers, service providers (such as Amazon and Netflix) and the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). Basically, all 4K TVs should feature HDR10. This means your TV will be compatible with the most widely available 4K Blu-ray discs, 4K players and 4K streaming content – and it should offer a far better picture than a 4K TV without any HDR.
Dolby Vision is another format of HDR. It promises a subtler, improved image because its metadata is 'dynamic', in that it's added to an HDR image on a frame-by-frame basis (whereas HDR10 adds it scene by scene). In reality, results depends on how well the tech is implemented, but Dolby Vision is absolutely capable of producing better results than HDR10. LG, Panasonic, Sony and Philips TVs all employ Dolby Vision, though not on every model in their ranges, so it's worth checking before you buy. Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV all have lots of Dolby Vision and HDR10 content, while Amazon Prime Video has just a couple of Dolby Vision titles.
HDR10+ is a rival, dynamic metadata-based HDR format created by Samsung but also available to other manufacturers. Predictably, Samsung TVs feature HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision. New TVs from Philips and Panasonic, meanwhile, support both formats. Amazon also now carries a fair bit of content in HDR10+, although it can be hard to be sure that you're getting it. There's also now a handful of 4K Blu-rays encoded with HDR10+, including Bohemian Rhapsody.
HLG stands for Hybrid Log Gamma, and is designed for HDR TV broadcasts. The vast majority of HDR TVs support HLG – it's almost as common as standard HDR10 – and the amount of content is increasing rapidly, with the BBC and Sky both delivering their HDR broadcasts in the format.
Finally, Advanced HDR by Technicolor was a format created by LG and video specialists Technicolor, but it appears to have gone the way of the dodo. LG was the only TV manufacturer supporting it and it ceased doing so in 2020. No content mastered in the format has ever appeared.
So that's the current state of the HDR landscape. You'll find our pick of the best HDR TVs around below.
If you want a fantastic big-screen HDR experience then we can’t recommend the LG OLED65C2 enough. Though it’s set to be replaced by the LG C3, which was unveiled at CES 2023 in Las Vegas in January, until we get the new model in for a full test, the C2 is the HDR TV we most recommend, especially as it’s now more affordable than ever.
Despite being the middle child in LG’s OLED line-up, during our tests (which were conducted when the TV was much more expensive than it is now) we found it offered superb value, producing an excellent picture performance across the board but without a price tag that would require remortgaging your house. There are even better TVs out there but they cost significantly more, and we don’t believe that the extra cost is entirely justified by the extra performance. That’s why the C2 is the TV we recommend most people should buy.
During our tests, we found no obvious shortcomings with the C2. Picture quality is excellent across the board, and HDR performance, in particular, is superb.
The biggest improvement over the C1 it replaced is increased brightness, with the C2 boasting new OLED panel technology and enhanced processing that appears to work a charm in this particular regard, with our testers reporting:
“The improvements are most noticeable when playing Dolby Vision content, which is clearly brighter on the new C2. There’s noticeably more punch to the whole image, which pops much more effectively, and there’s significantly greater contrast and dark detail. Crucially, there’s no downside, either. There’s nothing artificial to the image – it’s lifted, but naturally, with no detriment to the colours or black depth.”
The sound is also solid, albeit not the best in class. Playing movies and TV shows we found the C2 delivers a reliable, authentic sound with better-projected voices than the company’s older C1 series. The only slight quibble we have is that the speakers suffered from slight rattling during particularly bassy soundtracks. This was particularly noticeable playing Blade Runner 2049, during the flight into LA at the start of the second chapter.
The only other downside is that 65 inches may be a little too large for some people, particularly those living in a shared or simply regular-sized flat. Thankfully, the much more compact LG OLED42C2 also proved to be a great TV during our extensive tests. It doesn’t go as bright as this 65-inch model and the sound is weaker, but it otherwise offers the same excellent performance at a size that will be much more appealing to some people.
Read our full LG OLED65C2 review
Look up ‘unassuming’ in the dictionary and you’ll probably find a picture of the Samsung UE43AU7100. This 43-inch LCD TV doesn’t flaunt a particularly flamboyant design, doesn’t sell for a particularly outrageous price – either high or low – and its features list is certainly no Lord Of The Rings-style epic.
You don’t have to spend long in the UE43AU7100’s company, though, to realise that a TV doesn’t have to be an extrovert to stand out from the crowd. Solid processing and a thoughtful, balanced picture that actually seems to have had some care and attention lavished on it can be more than enough.
While inevitably for its money it’s not without its limitations, the UE43AU7100 delivers an impressively balanced, consistent and immersive picture. Particularly great to see at this price point is how deep its blacks are. Dark elements of mixed light and dark images enjoy rich and deep black tones, while full-on dark scenes appear with startlingly little of that grey or blue wash over them that so often blights such scenes on relatively affordable LCD TVs.
Good black levels are often accompanied by good colour, and so it proves – mostly – with the UE43AU7100. Colour blends are delivered with impressive subtlety and practically no ‘banding’. And while the set isn’t bright enough to drive colours off the screen with particularly spectacular volumes, there’s still an agreeable sense of daylight lustre to the tones of sun-drenched HDR woods, vibrant blue skies and busy city streets.
The UE43AU7100 even proves a little more tolerant of wide viewing angles than most budget LCD TVs, wrapping up a picture performance that trades showiness and aggression for immersiveness and consistency in a way we wholeheartedly endorse.
On top of the surprisingly mature and accomplished picture performance, you get arguably the best, most app-packed operating system available at any price. Connections run to three HDMIs and one USB port.
The only cutting edge gaming graphics feature the HDMIs support, though, is Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which allows the TV to switch into and out of its Game mode depending on the sort of content an ALLM-capable device is outputting. There’s no 120Hz or Variable Refresh Rate support, but that's no surprise for a TV of this size and price.
One HDMI supports eARC, allowing the TV to pass lossless Dolby Atmos sound to a compatible soundbar or AV receivers, one of which you should certainly budget for if you're able. If you're determined to stick with the in-built speaker system, you'll find that the AU7100 sounds only passable, with a lack of volume and projection that makes for a presentation without much impact. That said, while it's hardly cinematic, the presentation is certainly good enough for everyday TV-viewing – just don't expect a rousing rendition of action movie soundtracks.
Ultimately, while the UE43AU7100 certainly can't hold a candle to a top OLED or QLED, it's superb for its size and price.
Read the full Samsung UE43AU7100 review
If you want top HDR performance, best-in-class audio (by in-built TV speaker standards), and aren’t too fussed about next-generation gaming, the Sony XR-55A95K is the TV to get.
The TV uses new QD-OLED panel tech, which in general terms attempts to combine the perfect black levels and contrast control of standard OLED with the increased colour vibrancy and brightness of QLED technology.
Our tests revealed that the Sony XR-55A95K almost entirely delivers on this goal, offering a wonderfully dynamic HDR performance.
Playing Rogue One in Dolby Vision, the depth and solidity of the image was immediately striking with the Sony delivering excellent sharpness, loads of fine detail, and brilliant contrast.
No Time To Die in HDR10 was equally excellent, with the set delivering best-in-class colour balance. One particular scene at sea that many sets struggle to reproduce accurately looked brilliantly true to life via the A95K, with the sun-scorched Bond thankfully free of the slightly nuclear glow produced by many sets.
With our Blade Runner 2049 4K Blu-ray, Sony’s motion processing powers shone through yet again, with the A95K sharpening and smoothing motion more effectively and more naturally than any other 2022 set, including the LG C2 and G2, and the Samsung S95B.
Blade Runner also revealed the quality of the Sony A95K’s advanced sonic powers. During the very tricky opening to chapter 2, the A95K offered plenty of weight and punch to the very deep bass notes that competing sets such as the C2 and S95B struggled with.
The only downside is that its gaming features aren’t as advanced as those of its LG rival. It only has two HDMI 2.1 sockets, for starters, and one of those is the eARC port, so if you need that for a soundbar or AV receiver, you'll only be able to connect one next-generation console to it. A lack of support for Dolby Vision gaming and the bit of faff required to get features such as 4K/120Hz working are other slight black marks against the A95K as a next-gen gaming TV.
Read or in-depth Sony XR-55A95K review
If money is no object and you’re swimming in space then the Samsung QE75QN900B is our recommended HDR TV. As well as having a giant 75-inch display, it’s the only set on this list with an 8K resolution.
While there’s almost no native 8K content available at the moment (some rather dull YouTube videos are essentially all you can watch), its stellar HDR performance and upscaling tech hugely impressed us during our comprehensive testing, making it a strong recommendation for all of the non-8K content that’s out there.
Our tests revealed the Mini LED-backlit QLED display to be one of the best HDR performers there’s ever been. This is largely due to its best-in-class brightness, which went way beyond what its main rival, the Sony Z9G, could manage when we ran the two 8K TVs head-to-head.
HDR images deliver unprecedented intensity and dynamism, achieving more impact than we’ve seen on any TV before – to the extent that our reviewers found the set can actually make a dark room feel like a sunny afternoon.
We found it matches its solid HDR performance with excellent audio, at least by TV standards. After direct comparison we found the QE75QN900B to be a solid upgrade over the older QN95B, with the speakers, which are built into the screen’s edges, delivering vocals in particular with uncanny accuracy. This is largely due to the use of the latest OTS Pro system, which is a clever feature that lets the TV detect faces in the picture to help place dialogue more precisely.
The only real downsides are the fact that it’s incredibly large and the most expensive set on this list by a considerable margin. The latter is particularly annoying as, like all Samsung sets, the QE75QN900B doesn’t support the Dolby Vision HDR standard. Though given that most streaming services support HDR10 as well, this isn’t a total deal breaker.
Read our Samsung QE75QN900B review
If you can’t afford to shell out for an OLED, but want decent HDR and reliable gaming performance at an affordable price, the TCL 55C735K is the best option we’ve tested.
The 55-inch set is compact enough to fit in most homes and, for the money, it delivers a great HDR performance.
With some tweaking to its settings – which involved turning off the Dynamic Color option and setting Adaptive Contrast to low – the TCL performed admirably during our extensive testing.
Though the picture is nowhere near as bright as that offered by more premium sets such as the LG C2 and Samsung QE75QN900B, it’s still a decent step up on most other cheap TVs.
Playing No Time To Die, Blade Runner 2049 and Rogue One, the TCL 55C735K delivered a nice amount of shadow detail. We also found its HDR tone mapping to be good enough to deliver a nice amount of subtle shading in the brightest HDR picture areas. Many affordable sets struggle with this and have an annoying tendency to bleach out the details in bright scenes.
The only real compromises arose when we ran particularly dark scenes, where blacks had a tendency to take on a slightly blue tone. To be fair, though, we’re yet to test a set with a basic LED backlight such as the one featured here that doesn’t struggle with dark scenes.
Read our TCL 55C735K review