Every year in TVs is a fresh start. While hi-fi products are generally expected to have a lifespan of years, TV brands refresh their lineup on an annual basis. It's simply the nature of the ultra-competitive, fast-evolving TV market.
That's why no brand can rest on its laurels, and why there's always the threat of a young upstart breaking through into the big time, which is just what's happened here.
Said young upstart is Hisense, which seems exceptionally eager to gobble up the budget TV sector that's been neglected for far too long by the traditional big boys. Those big boys are still offering budget TVs, but they're by and large not putting the effort in.
That's where the Hisense R50A7200GTUK comes in. Yes, its headline feature is its Roku operating system, which provides access to practically every app under the sun, but the real treat is the picture performance. It's far subtler and more mature than the prevailing standard at this price. For the money, this is a brilliant TV.
That isn't to say that all of the more established brands have surrendered the affordable TV ground. Samsung is a mainstay here, and while the brand's budget offerings have been a bit more hit-and-miss this year than is usual, the UE43AU7100 is absolutely a hit. It picks up where last year's UE43TU7100 left off, producing an Award-winning 43-inch performance that's streets ahead of the competition at this size.
If you want to go big but don't want to break the bank, the Sony XR-65X90J is where it's at. This 65-inch LCD TV beat more exotic QLED competition with the naturalism and authenticity of its performance. Others might be more spectacular, but the X90J delivers TV shows and movies in the way they're supposed to be seen. That's a rare quality at any price, let alone one this affordable for the size.
OLED TVs still dominate the premium end of the 4K TV spectrum, with Philips taking both the premium 48- to 50-inch and 65-inch categories with its OLED806, and Sony's XR-55A80J taking the prize at 55 inches.
The Philips 48OLED806 faced fierce competition from the LG OLED48C1 and last year's Award-winning Sony KD-48A9, as well as Samsung's QE50QN90A, but stood out by combining thrilling sharpness and dynamism with pleasing authenticity. It's that same blend that saw the 65OLED806 take the top spot in its own category, though that model had to face even tougher competition, particularly from Sony's A80J and A90J models which, truth be told, we hadn't foreseen getting beaten this year.
In fact, at 55-inches the A80J wasn't beaten. The Sony XR-55A80J is a truly superb TV that offers most of what makes the flagship A90J brilliant at a vastly more affordable price. Most notable is its commitment to delivering content as the creator intended, but it does so with a crispness and degree of detail that rivals can't match.
That an LG OLED hasn't won one of the 'normal' premium TV Awards might come as a bit of a surprise, seeing as LG is the progenitor of modern OLED TVs and the company that manufactures all current OLED TV panels. But that's simply testament to Philips's ongoing excellence and Sony's huge gains this year.
And while those who strictly use their TV for movies and TV shows will be better served by an OLED produced by one of those rivals, LG still serves one audience far better than any other manufacturer, and that's gamers.
While high-end TVs from most brands offer one or two HDMI 2.1 sockets and generally patchy implementation of next-gen gaming features, LG's C1 and G1 have four HDMI 2.1 sockets that support every single gaming spec you could hope for, right up to 4K@120Hz with Dolby Vision. That, plus the all-round excellence of the picture, has prompted us to create a new Best Gaming TV Award and to bestow it upon the LG OLED65C1.
Last but by no means least is the huge Samsung QE75QN900A, 8K TV of the Year. It might seem a little odd to have a dedicated 8K TV Award when native 8K content is still close to non-existent, but that could change very quickly and there are plenty of people who want to make sure their new TV is ready for what's next.
The QN900A is just that, but it's more as well, utilising its huge resolution and mini LED backlight to make the content you watch now look sharper and punchier than ever before. If you're going big and have an equally large budget, this is a superb TV with or without 8K content.
So that's eight What Hi-Fi? Awards-winning TVs from five different manufacturers. Each is the very best in its size and class, but only one can take home the even more coveted 'Product of the Year' prize at the What Hi-Fi? Awards ceremony on Wednesday 3rd November, when we will also announce a handful of special awards. Tune in on the night to find out which of these TVs is the very best of the best.
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