There was a time, not all that long ago, when Samsung was the undisputed king of budget TVs. Year after year, its latest entry-level LCD TV would smash its rivals into submission and would take a What Hi-Fi? Award in its stride. Not anymore: the quality of Samsung’s budget TVs has dropped considerably and no brand has seemed willing or able to take the crown. Until now.
Last year’s What Hi-Fi? Awards were without a budget TV winner, not for want of searching on our part, but because we couldn’t find anything worthy of an Awards gong. This year, though, two TVs have arrived that have smashed budget expectations – and neither is from a brand that could previously be considered one of the TV industry’s big boys.
Amazon Omni QLED – the best budget set
First up is the Amazon Omni QLED, which takes the prize as the best budget 48-50in TV. We were pleasantly surprised by the 65-inch model when it graced our test room earlier in the year but, knowing how much TVs can vary in quality as you move up and down sizes, we were keen to also check out the 50-inch model.
We’re glad we did; the 50-inch Omni QLED is every bit as thoughtfully put together and tuned as its larger sibling, but it also minimises its few flaws and represents even better value for money, particularly if you buy it during one of Amazon’s regular sales. This is a TV that What Hi-Fi?’s reviewers would happily have at home, and that is something that can’t be said of the vast majority of TVs at this price.
TCL C845K – affordable AND big
The Amazon Omni QLED is a superb TV at its price, but the TCL C845K arguably redefines expectations of affordable TVs. TCL and others such as Hisense have long promised to shake up the TV market by offering high-end quality at more affordable prices, and while we’re not quite at that level yet, TCL’s C845K delivers to a hitherto unseen degree.
Modern affordable TVs usually fall into the trap of trying to offer a performance of which they’re not actually capable. They promise flagship-baiting brightness but sacrifice black depth to get there and super-vibrant colours without consideration for shading subtlety, and edges so sharp that they look horrifyingly exaggerated.
Not so the TCL C845K. This is a TV that delivers on its promises. It’s a Mini LED that goes supremely bright but, thanks to its hundreds of dimming zones, is also capable of deep blacks and largely excellent contrast, its Quantum Dot-boosted colours are vibrant but refined, and it pops without looking forced. What a TV.
LG C3 – OLED reigns the premium end
But while the TCL C845K is a category-shaking new entry, it’s not an OLED-beating masterpiece. On that front, at the smaller sizes, LG reigns supreme. We may have been slightly disappointed by the 65-inch LG C3 on account of its high price and marginal improvement over the preceding C2, but the 42- and 48-inch models launched with smaller price hikes and have faced limited competition. At these sizes, the C3 is an irresistible intersection of performance, features and price, particularly after a series of discounts.
Sony A80L – cinematic big-screen OLED
Last but by absolutely no means least, we have the Sony A80L, a TV so good that it contributed to the 65-inch LG C3 receiving ‘just’ four stars.
There was a suggestion that 2023 would be all about MLA and QD-OLED and that ‘standard’ OLED TVs would be no better than before, but the Sony A80L makes a mockery of that assumption. This is a TV that combines the spectacular with the subtle to superbly cinematic effect. Unless you’re a very hardcore gamer, this is an irresistible TV.
And the LG C3 again... for gaming
If you are a very hardcore gamer, there’s an Award-winner for you, too, and it’s the LG C3. We specifically recommend the 42-inch model on account of its desk-friendly size and relative affordability, but the C3 range as a whole is particularly well-suited for gaming thanks to its support for every important gaming spec over all four HDMI sockets, plus really impressive optimisation and exceptionally low input lag.
That’s six, hugely deserving Award-winners, but only one can be our Product of the Year. Which will it be? Stay tuned to What Hi-Fi? on the 15th November to find out.
See every What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winner here
And here is the complete list of the best TVs you can buy right now