Best HDR TVs Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best HDR TVs you can buy in 2019.
4K might have dominated the headlines in recent years, but there's another way to really boost your TV's picture quality: HDR. This stands for high dynamic range, and it enhances the difference between the light and dark parts of the image, giving the picture more depth and making it look more vibrant.
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've another format war on our hands.
The most common form is HDR10. It's an open standard that has been adopted by numerous manufacturers, service providers (like 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 dynamic metadata is added to an HDR image on a frame-by-frame basis (whereas HDR10 adds it scene by scene). Though in reality, it depends on how well the film or disc implements the tech. LG, Panasonic, Sony and Philips TVs all employ Dolby Vision, though not all of their ranges do, so it's worth checking before you buy. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
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 doesn't flag it as such so it's 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, but the content is currently very thin on the ground. This could become a bigger deal in years to come.
Finally, Advanced HDR by Technicolor is a format made by LG and video specialists Technicolor. As such, LG is the only TV maker so far to support it, though we're yet to see any content mastered in the format.
So that's the current state of the HDR landscape. You'll find our pick of the best HDR TVs around below. And with Black Friday around the corner, it's a good time to be keeping an eye out for 4K TV deals...
Last year's LG C8 was our TV Product of the Year, and its successor, the C9 is very much in contention for the same Award this year. The panel for this LG TV is broadly the same, but extra processing power and AI smarts have brought unexpected picture improvements, making the best even better. Contrast is glorious, colours are rich and vibrant, and detail levels are exemplary.
Considering it's around the bottom of the 2019 range in terms of its speaker system, it sounds really rather good, too - although we would, as ever, recommend buying a quality sound system to do justice to the fabulous picture.
Also check out the OLED65C9SLC, which is the same but for the design of the pedestal stand.
Read the full LG OLED65C9PLA (65in) review
Read the full LG OLED55C9PLA (55in) review
The Samsung UE43RU7470 seems like impossibly good value. It ticks all the right tech boxes – 4K, HDR (including HDR10+), and peerless selection of streaming apps that includes the brilliant Apple TV and arguably the best user experience in the business. All of this wrapped up into a lifestyle-friendly 43 inches and priced at a wallet-friendly £429.
To top it all off, the performance is excellent. A more premium (and therefore almost certainly bigger) TV will go even brighter than this, but the RU7470 is punchy in its own right and takes a much more sophisticated and subtle approach to colours and definition than you might expect. All told, it's a lovely TV to watch and to live with.
It’s worth noting that UE43RU7470 is a Currys exclusive, but that Samsung says its performance is identical to that of the UE43RU7400 and UE43RU7410, with the only differences between the three models being aesthetics. Having not tested all variants we can't vouch for that, but there's little reason to doubt Samsung's claim.
Read the full review: Samsung UE43RU7470
Always one to plough its own furrow, Samsung has created QLED, a TV technology to rival OLED. For this set, it's addressed previous criticisms and greatly improved viewing angles, while also improving the amount of detail visible in dark scenes without compromising black levels. Which is no mean feat.
Colours remain on the cooler side, maintaining a more neutral balance but with no loss of punch. Again, impressive. The one slight niggle is motion processing, but if you can live with that you'll be more than happy with this set.
Read the full Samsung QE65Q90R (65in) review
Read the full Samsung QE55Q90R (55in) review
If you're looking for a high-end TV at a smaller size than 55in, the Sony KD-49XG9005 should be at the top of your list. It doesn't get every feature of its bigger XG9505 siblings (hence the slight difference in model number), but it does get most and delivers an excellent picture for its size and price.
Brilliantly balanced, natural colours, lots of detail and super-sharp edges combine to deliver a picture that's both authentic and enticing, not to mention consistent across all sources. And it requires almost no tweaking to get the TV performing at its best.
The Android TV operating system, while still a bit behind the Samsung and LG alternatives, is steadily improving and boasts all of the apps you're likely to need. Sony has also added YouView to ensure all of the usual UK catch-up services are on board.
Read the full Sony KD-49XG9005 review
The new Panasonic GZ950 isn't quite up there with the LG C9 and Samsung Q90 for dynamism and punch, but it is a good deal more affordable than both, sounds much better than both, and boasts Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
What's more, it's an accomplished performer in its own right, with an excellent, natural colour balance and the sort of all-round consistency that means you never question what you're watching. A sleeker operating system and more apps would be nice, but the major bases are covered, including Netflix and Amazon Video in 4K and HDR.
Read the full review: Panasonic TX-55GZ950B
The Samsung UE49RU8000 is an example of the mid-range at its very best. This is a TV that offers most of the performance of the company’s excellent flagship 49in set with a significant discount. It is, in other words, a great buy.
In many ways, it has the look and connectivity of a flagship TV, with four HDMIs (one of which is ARC-enabled), two USBs, an optical output, aerial and satellite inputs, and an ethernet socket for those who prefer a wired connection to the built-in wi-fi. There's Bluetooth, too. The streaming library includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV and Rakuten in 4K and HDR; BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5 for all of your catch-up needs; Plex and VLC for local streaming; and Spotify, Tidal and Deezer for music. Last but not least, there's the Apple TV app.
The picture delivers detailed, sharp and clearly defined edges that render each scene with excellent depth and solidity. Colours are vibrant but realistic, and there's plenty of punch in the colours, even if it can't match the flagship models (as you'd expect). For an affordable TV that still delivers great performance, this is a bit of a bargain.
Read the full review: Samsung UE49RU8000
This is last year's TV, and it's more of an incremental step forward than an outright revolution in itself. But considering LG was already leading the pack when it comes to OLED tellies, it's still one of the best sets money can buy.
HDR comes courtesy of Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG, and the telly itself proves a supremely capable, consistent and natural performer. Colours are incredibly rich and punchy, while bright detail doesn't leave you wanting. But despite all this pop, the picture always looks natural and lifelike, never artificial. In a word, stunning.
The GX800 range is one of the first we’ve tested that supports both of the two competing dynamic metadata-based HDR formats, Dolby Vision and HDR10+, and this 50in set comes at a bargain price. Panasonic (and other brands) claim that HDR formats with dynamic metadata are of more use to lower-end sets than flagship models, as they tailor the image to the specific capabilities of the set. It’s a compelling argument, and while this TV can't match the premium TVs, this is an undeniably great budget TV for the money.
Amazon and Netflix are here, in all their HDR 4K glory, as well as a whole host of the usual catch-up streaming TV apps, but no sign of Now TV or Spotify. There are enough HDMI and USB connections, plus optical and headphone outputs. The picture produced is natural, clean and free from motion judder. Black levels are pretty good, though they're let down by poor viewing angles, the picture losing brightness off-axis.
Still, despite typically lightweight sound from a flat TV (even with 'Atmos' mode on board) we still think the performance here is good enough to make it a great deal at this price. A simple but effective 50 inch 4K TV and its 58in sibling is just as brilliant (not to mention a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award-winner).
Read the full Panasonic TX-50GX800B (50in) review
Read the full Panasonic TX-58GX800B (58in) review
A 49in premium TV is something of a rarity. OLEDs don't currently go below 55in, and neither does Samsung's flagship Q90R (or the Q85R and Q80R, for that matter).
With the Q70R series, though, Samsung has opened up the options and is offering a 49in version. In other words, this is the best (or, at least, most advanced) TV that Samsung will sell you if you can't squeeze in a 55incher. That alone makes it a tasty proposition.
Thankfully, this is more than just a great on-paper proposition. Punchy and vibrant QLED colours, great detail and sharpness, and a great operating system bursting with apps (including Apple TV) make this an excellent option if 49in is as big as you're willing or able to go.
Read the full Samsung QE49Q70R review
This is Sony’s top 2019 model below its Master Series ZG9 8K LCD and AG9 OLED, and it’s intended to bring the Master Series’ authentic approach to a greater audience.
A direct-backlit set with loads of punch, the XG9505 gets the same X1 Extreme processor of Sony's 2019 flagship sets but costs a whole lot less. If you can put up with a slightly inconsistent backlight and poor viewing angles, this is a lot of very good TV for the money.
Read the full review: Sony KD-65XG9505
If your house - and budget - is big enough to accommodate a 65in set, you'll be in for a treat with this set. Looks-wise it's something of a design statement, while it's packed with features including a four-part noise-reduction system, frequency-based image sharpening, object-based contrast enhancement and adaptive colour mapping. Phew.
The result? The picture bursts with colour, and there's a jaw-dropping level of detail and clarity. It also adjusts its sound balance to suit your room set-up.
Read the full review: LG OLED65C8PLA
This TV is part of Sony's Master Series - a range of professional-grade TVs that aims to provide picture quality that's nigh-on identical to what the original content creators intended. So you won't be surprised to learn it's a stunner, from the easel-style stand that makes it look like a work of art to the spectacular picture quality and exceptional level of detail. Three grand well spent.
Read the full review: Sony KD-65AF9
A ridiculously cheap £400 gets you an awesome 50in, 4K HDR telly with the company's own Ambilight tech to make the picture more immersive.
While the setup is more than a little fiddly (you have to go tinkering in the menus, and then again for HDR mode), it's worth it: the image pops from the screen, delivering bold colours but still with subtle hues within them. It's equally adept at handling skin tones. The user interface might not be quite as slick as Android TV found on its pricier sets, but this set is still unbelievable value for money.
Read the full review: Philips 50PUS6703