Best TV Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best TVs you can buy in 2021.
While buying a new TV can and should be a thrilling event, there is just one problem: there are just two many brands, models, types and sizes to choose from. Start from scratch and it can be almost impossible to work out which TV best for you. We're here to help, though, so before you tumble down the well of indecision, allow us to take you by the hand and lead you along the path to TV utopia.
We've run the rule over all the major televisions we've tested to bring you the best TVs available in 2021. If a TV is on this list it's a bona fide hit, so you know you're getting top bang for your buck. And, of course, with many Black Friday deals already live, your money should currently go further than ever.
These TVs are the very best options for feasting your eyes on all the Ultra HD content that's now available – the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Disney+, Google Play Movies and Apple TV are full of 4K TV shows and movies at this point. Plus you can buy 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays. Basically, there's never been a better time to take the plunge.
Below you'll find TVs of various sizes, budgets and technologies, from 55 inch TVs to OLED TVs, small TVs to cheap TVs, and even 8K TVs. If gaming is your priority, take a look at our round-up of the best gaming TVs you can buy, which goes into extra detail on game-specific features to look our for.
Do also take a look at our guide on how to choose the right TV for your needs, and check out our round-up of the best TV wall mounts if you're looking to get your set on the wall. Without further ado, here's our pick of the best TVs you can buy right now.
Black Friday TV deals
- Samsung UN43NU6900 43in 4K TV
$500$300 at Best Buy (save $200)
- LG 4K HDR OLED65BXPUA
$2300$2000 at Best Buy (save $300)
- Sony XBR-65A8H OLED 4K Android TV
$2900$1800 at Best Buy (save $1000!)
- Sony XBR-65A9G OLED TV
$3500$3000 at Best Buy (save $500)
- Samsung QN65QN90A 4K TV
$2600$1700 at Samsung (save $900)
We rate products on a performance-per-pound basis. That’s always been the What Hi-Fi? way. We’re not looking simply for the absolute best product in each category, as that would invariably involve recommending one of the most expensive products in each category; we’re looking for the best bang for your buck. The product that best balances performance, features and price.
That isn’t to say that we’re averse to recommending a premium product when it justifies its high price, and that’s why we were delighted to bestow the full five stars upon Sony’s A90J flagship OLED when we reviewed it a little earlier in the year. Simply put, it’s the best TV we’ve seen so far this year, and we suspect that might well still be the case when 2021 rolls into 2022.
It's not be the best performance-per-pound TV of 2021, though, because this A80J beats it on that metric. This step-down model in Sony’s new OLED range certainly isn’t quite as good as its flagship sibling but, by offering most of what makes the A90J great at a much more competitive price, it’s put itself in the box seat for one of our Awards.
We knew that the A80J had the potential to be a very good TV, thanks to its shared DNA with the awesome A90J, but we had expected the gap in performance to be fairly big, given the huge gap in price.
That isn’t the case. It might not be quite as bright and punchy as its flagship sibling, or as sonically weighty, but in many other ways it’s just as capable. That makes it a remarkably crisp, detailed and dynamic performer for the money, with a superior sound system to those of its price rivals.
Hardcore gamers will still be better served by the LG C1, but if your priorities are movies and TV shows, the A80J is the new benchmark at its price.
We've tested the A80J in its 55-inch size. It's also available as a 65-inch and 77-inch model. We've not yet reviewed it at those bigger sizes but you'll find the latest, lowest prices available for each version below.
Read the full Sony XR-55A80J review
Samsung's 8-series has traditionally been positioned just below the company’s glamorous range-topping QLEDs. In the past, it has proven to be the sweet spot where picture quality and price intersect to maximum effect. And so it proves once more.
The TU8000 is astonishingly good value. For comparatively very little money you're getting a 55-inch TV that performs brilliantly, particularly with HDR content, and boasts the best, most app-laden operating system available at any price.
It's sound is only so-so and it's lacking the outright brightness and next-gen HDMI features of its premium siblings, but it's still undeniably brilliant for the money.
Read the full Samsung UN55TU8000 review
LG’s C-series model has been the go-to pick of its OLED range for several years. It has always been the most affordable model with the company’s best panel and picture processing wizardry. Spending more would get you a fancier design and potentially better sound, but the picture would be no different.
That’s not the case in 2021. LG has introduced a new, brighter and sharper ‘OLED Evo’ panel, and the C1 doesn’t have it.
With so much of the focus on the upgraded G1, it’s perhaps predictable that the C1 isn’t much of an improvement on its predecessor, but there wasn’t much that needed improving. The picture performance and feature set were already exemplary, and LG has slightly improved the former with its new Cinematic Movement motion processing and enhanced de-contouring feature (which reduces banding), and slightly improved the latter with a better menu system and a more complete app selection.
The G1's picture is undeniably better in terms of brightness, sharpness and detail, but we're not talking huge margins and most people will struggle to justify the extra $500, particularly when the niche design and weaker sound are taken into account.
Ultimately, in bang-for-buck terms, the C1 is the better buy. In fact, it's one of the most recommendable TV available right now.
We've now tested the C1 in its 65-inch and 48-inch sizes, and both are equally brilliant. While we can't say it with total assuredness, we would expect the 55-inch and 77-inch models to be equally strong.
Read the full LG OLED65C1 review
Read the full LG OLED48C1 review
While Sony’s OLEDs are highly regarded, it’s typically hard to justify buying one over a rival LG. Historically, the Sony has a more authentic picture and better sound but is also a step behind on features and usability – and at least a level or two more expensive.
But what if Sony could produce a TV with most of those previously missing features, a more satisfying user experience, and a unique high-quality movie streaming app, all while raising the picture and sound quality to even greater heights? That's exactly what the company's done with the A90J.
In performance terms, the Sony A90J is an absolute stunner. It takes OLED picture performance to new, thrilling levels while maintaining the authenticity for which Sony is justifiably renowned. It also sounds significantly better than all of the other TVs you might be considering. The new Google TV operating system means the user experience is better than that of any pre-2021 Sony TV, too, and the exclusive Bravia Core streaming service is a genuine value-added feature.
Hardcore gamers might want to take a wait-and-see approach, as the set doesn't yet support VRR (an update has been promised but not dated) and we found the 4K@120Hz support a little buggy. However, if movies and TV shows are your priority and you have a big budget, we haven’t tested a better television than the Sony A90J. It’s pricey, but it’s also a clear cut above the competition.
Read the full Sony XR-55A90J review
Read the full Sony XR-65A90J review
There’s no substitute for size when it comes to home cinema. After all, the whole goal of ‘home cinema’ is to, you know, bring the cinema home. And what’s the most important part of the cinema experience? The whopping huge screen, of course. That’s why a 65-inch TV (or even bigger!) is what you should aim for if you’re looking to add some serious cinematic scale to your living room.
But we can’t all afford to go big and go super-premium. Your budget might stretch to a 65-inch TV, but perhaps not a 65-inch OLED or flagship QLED. If that’s the case, the Sony XR-65X90J (or near-identical XR-65X94J) could be just what you’re looking for thanks to its heady mix of fancy features, perfectly-pitched picture performance and a mid-range price tag.
Those features include two HDMI 2.1 sockets that support 4K@120Hz (but not VRR... yet) and the new Google TV operating system. The picture is brilliantly natural, authentic and balanced, and the sound is clear and direct too.
While you could buy a 55-inch OLED for around £1500, it’s perfectly reasonable to instead choose to go for a TV that’s a little less premium but a full 10 inches bigger. If that’s the choice you make, the X90J (or X94J) absolutely demands your attention.
If you want a bigger or smaller TV, the X90J is also available in 50-inch, 55-inch and 75-inch sizes. We've not yet reviewed those versions but below you'll find the latest, lowest prices for each size.
Read the full Sony XR-65X90J review
Samsung’s first flush of Neo QLED TVs has been nothing short of revolutionary to date. The extra-fine level of lighting control that mini LED brings has put LCD’s high peak brightness to sophisticated use. It’s added a care with contrast that’s led to a more nuanced on-screen image, with a more solid, three-dimensional depth than ever before. We’ve every reason to expect the same from the QN90A.
The QN90A is Samsung’s top 4K TV for the US this year. Typically Samsung, it’s practically bursting with features as well as raw performance power. From next-generation gaming potential to a full suite of apps and services, it’s more than ready to impress.
Last year, Samsung’s cleverly priced second to top QLED, the Q80T sold like hot cakes, and we can imagine the same thing happening this time around regarding the QN90A. Picture quality is compelling and the sound isn’t bad at all. An OLED might look better in some scenes but there’s something quite addictive about the brightness of this set. Its super-contrasty and punchy HDR delivery is ever so more-ish.
There’s still no Dolby Vision support but you’ll be getting so much from HDR10 alone that it will hardly be on your mind. This is a great TV and a terrific buy at this price.
We tested the QN95A in its 65-inch size. It's also available as a 50-inch, 65-inch, 75-inch and 85-inch model. We've not yet reviewed these versions but you'll see the latest, lowest prices below.
Read the full Samsung QN55QN90A review
It's official: 48 is the new 55. Time was that you couldn't get an OLED TV under 55in, but then LG launched the world's first commercially available 48in OLED set. And now Sony has one of its own.
Sony has embraced the smaller size, making the TV as petite as possible thanks to its tiny bezels and low pedestal stand. It does have a rather large enclosure bolted onto the back (to house the speakers, processing hardware and connections), but you'll only notice if you look at the set side on.
Disappointingly – and somewhat surprisingly for such a cutting-edge TV – it lacks some next-gen HDMI features like 4K@120Hz (HFR), VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM – basically automatic switching to the TV's game mode when appropriate). Which is bad news for gamers looking to hook up a PS5 or Xbox Series X.
But that's about the only fault we can find with this TV. Sony's X1 Ultimate processor makes images suitably stunning, there's plenty of dark detail on show, and it serves up pretty much every streaming app you could hope for. Motion control is still industry-leading, and in terms of sharpness and detail, there's never been a better TV at this size. If you can stump up the funds, you will not be disappointed.
Read the full Sony XBR-48A9S review
For the last few years, the C-class model has been the sensible choice of each new LG OLED range. Until now, it has been the most affordable model with the latest panel and picture processing tech: go further up the range and you might get better sound and a fancier design, but you won’t get a better visual performance.
For 2021, though, LG has introduced a new ‘OLED Evo’ panel that promises increased brightness and sharpness, and to get the Evo panel you have to step up to the G1. That’s slightly disappointing because you also end up paying extra for a rather niche design (the G1 is designed to be wall-mounted, to the extent that there's no stand or feet in the box) that you may not want.
Still, if the design works for you and you don't mind forking out the extra £500, the G1 is undoubtedly the best OLED that LG has ever produced. It takes the picture performance of last year’s GX and CX and improves upon it in almost every way, particularly in terms of brightness, sharpness and detail. That makes it a seriously stunning picture performer. It's also packed with apps and next-gen HDMI features, including 4K@120Hz on all four sockets.
Sound is less strong, but if you were always planning to combine your new TV with a separate sound system and the design works for you (and you've got deep pockets), the G1 should be seriously considered.
Read the full LG OLED65G1 review
The XBR-65X900H was less "Ready for PS5" at launch than the marketing suggested, but it does now have 4K@120Hz support and is still due to get VRR and ALLM (neither of which the PS5 currently supports) via a future firmware update.
With or without these console gaming features, this is an awesome TV. There are plenty of connections for hooking up partnering kit, and you won't be wanting for onboard tech: this is a full-array LED-backlit TV with local dimming, and supports the HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR standards, and Dolby Atmos for sound. It’s also Netflix Calibrated and IMAX Enhanced.
And the picture quality? Excellent. Sony’s X-Motion Clarity motion processing technology is reliably superb, making fast-moving pictures like games, sports and action films as smooth as butter. There are plenty of options to fiddle with, but just leave it on auto and you'll still be treated to a great experience visually. It even impresses on the audio front, with a high degree of precision making both voices and sound effects nice and clear. Ideal for both gamers and non-gamers alike.
Read the full Sony XBR-65X900H review
We'd been waiting for this moment for a long time. After years of waiting, LG finally launched the first 48-inch OLED TV in 2020, bringing true flagship OLED TV performance to under 55 inches fir the first time.
And it really is a fabulous performance. This isn't a downgraded flagship TV – it's a downsized flagship TV. It offers the same performance and features as its bigger brothers in the CX range (which, let's remember, also match the more expensive GX, RX and WX in terms of picture quality and processing), but in a smaller, more living room-friendly package.
The performance is superb. The perfect blacks and near-perfect viewing angles we're used to from OLED combine with bright, punchy whites and vibrant but natural colors. LG's 2020 motion processing is the best it's ever been, too, and its OLEDs continue to impress in terms of upscaling 1080p and standard-def content.
On top of all that you get certified HDMI 2.1 sockets that support next-gen features such as eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), HFR (High Frame Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), and all current formats of VRR (Variable Refresh Rate). Those last two features will be of particular appeal to those gamers looking to upgrade to the PS5 or Xbox Series X.
Read the full LG OLED48CX review
Chocolate and peanut butter, beer and chips, sleep and Sundays – some things are perfect partners, whether they were designed that way or not. Samsung’s 8K boffins might not be the same people as those in charge of Mini LED, but together they have managed to create one serious winning combination in the Samsung QN75QN900A 8K TV.
The Samsung QN75QN900A is a 75-inch version of Samsung’s third generation of 8K TVs, but the first to be backed by a Mini LED lighting system. As the name suggests, Mini LEDs are much smaller than standard LEDs, the size of glitter in your hand, and numbering in the thousands, rather than the hundreds, on your TV panel.
In the case of the QN900A, More LEDs means more granular backlight control, and more pixels means crisper definition. Forget native 8K content for now, because there isn't any – focus on the fact that this fabulous TV manages an awesome sense of scale but with the sort of sharpness and detail that we’d normally associate with a smaller 4K set. If you're going really big with your next TV, this is the model to get.
We tested the QN900A in its 75-inch size. It's also available as a 65-inch and 85-inch model. We've not yet reviewed these versions but you'll see the latest, lowest prices below.
Read the full Samsung QN75QN900A review
We've already covered the new 48-inch version of the CX above, but it's worth remembering that the 55-inch and 65-inch models are also still available and the bigger you go, the better value you get.
The picture performance is just as excellent on these bigger sets, and simply more cinematic to boot, and of course the next-gen HDMI feature set and smart platform is the same, too. What's more, the bigger sets sounds a little bigger and fuller, too, thanks to the bigger chassis, although it's worth bearing in mind that the CX isn't the best-sounding TV in its class and that you're well advised to also budget for a soundbar.
The CX has now been replaced by the C1, but it remains a great buy if you can get it with a discount.
Read the full LG OLED55CX review
Read the full LG OLED65CX review
This set is practically all screen – the black bezel is flush with the screen so you don’t notice it when the set is off. The fact it's so thin puts the emphasis squarely on the screen.
And what a screen it is. Images are beautifully natural, lending themselves to a cinematic authenticity that's great for movies. Dark detail is a particular highlight, though in high contrast sections (like white credits on a black screen) the Sony tends to play it a little safe. We would've liked more punch.
Typically for a Sony, the motion processing is superb, and SDR content remains vibrant and dynamic. It even makes standard definition content watchable. Just.
On the audio side, the A8 lacks a little bass depth and weight, but otherwise impresses with its crisp, dynamic delivery. It sounds a lot better than most of its similarly-priced rivals, though of course we would always recommend partnering it with a dedicated sound system to really enhance the experience.
Read the full review: Sony XBR-55A8H
While we'd usually like to start the year with the C-class model, which is the most affordable set with all of the best picture processing, it was the GX that we got first in 2020, and takes that same picture and adds more powerful sound and a beautiful design.
This is LG's 'Gallery' model, and as such is entirely intended for wall-mounting. You don't even get a stand in the box (although feet can be bought separately), with a low-profile mount provided instead. The set is a uniform 2cm deep, which is exceptionally slim.
Picture-wise, LG has taken the exemplary performance of its 2019 OLEDs and improved it in a few key areas, with dark detail, color richness and motion handling all getting a worthwhile boost. The set sounds decent, too, particularly for one with essentially invisible speakers.
Read the full LG OLED65GX review
Sony basically reused the shell of 2019's X950G for this X950H, which is a bit of a shame as it's fairly thick and has awkward-looking feet that give the set an overly wide footprint. But the set looks fairly smart in its own right. You do also get a better remote that's neatly laid out and doesn't require line of sight in order to send commands to the TV.
Most importantly, that shell has been stuffed with upgraded kit, including Sony's flagship processor, the X1 Ultimate, which brings with it lots of picture improvements. All told, this is a punchier and more richly colored performer than its predecessor, with more dark detail and the excellent motion processing for which Sony is renowned. It sounds impressively weighty and solid, too.
Other than a bit of blooming from the direct LED backlight, this is a great buy, particularly if you can't stretch to one of the new 48-inch OLEDs.
Read the full Sony XBR-49X950H review
If you’re looking for something small for a bedroom or perhaps even to fit out a motorhome or camper, then this budget Roku TV-powered TCL may be just the size and price you need.
You won’t find much smaller or cheaper from a recognized manufacturer and, in TCL, you’re getting a TV from a maker that’s on the up.
The software comes in partnership with Roku, whose operating system provides the platform for all the settings and controls as well the apps and service, while the hardware is TCL. This rock-bottom price only gets you 720p resolution, but that could be all you need.
While there are a lot of cheap TV pitfalls, TCL has done well to avoid most of them. The backlighting is even, the picture is balanced and the sound is clear enough. Its colors lack subtlety and its motion handling is pretty poor but, for the very small size and price, this is a good option.
Read the full TCL 32S335 review
How to choose a TV
What size TV should you buy?
While it might be tempting to think that bigger is better, the size of set that’s right for you is closely dependent on how close to the screen you’ll be sitting, and the resolution of the source material you’re watching.
Luckily, an organisation called SMPTE (which stands for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) has published detailed guidelines on exactly how far you should sit in order to optimize the performance of your TV.
If you’re sitting the correct distance from your TV, you’ll see lots of detail, good edge definition and smooth, clean motion, but if you’re sitting too close to the screen, then you’re going to see more picture noise and artefacts.
On the other hand, sit too far away from the TV and you’ll struggle to pick up all the picture detail your TV has to offer.
The following distances are a good place to start:
- 65-inch TV – minimum 98 inches (Full HD) or 83 inches (4K)
- 50-52-inch TV – minimum 87 inches (Full HD) or 67 inches (4K)
- 46-inch TV – minimum 75 inches (Full HD) or 59 inches (4K)
- 40-42-inch TV – minimum 67 inches (Full HD) or 51 inches (4K)
- 32-inch TV - minimum 51 inches (Full HD)
Should you buy a 4K or Full HD TV?
This question is pretty much moot now, as the vast majority of TVs are now 4K. It's actually rather hard to find Full HD (1080p) models, even at relatively small sizes.
If you're buying a TV below 32 inches and can save a lot of money on a Full HD model, by all means go for it (4K won't be a huge benefit at that sort of size anyway), but otherwise 4K is both worthwhile and, in all likelihood, your only option.
What about 8K?
You can now buy 8K TVs from a number of brands, including Samsung, LG and Sony. It's arguably Samsung that has lead the way, and our favourite 8K TV so far is the excellent QN75QN900A.
It's important to note, though, that almost no native 8K content is available. If you buy an 8K TV and want to show of its ridiculously high resolution, you'll have to do so using nature, scenery and space footage from YouTube. At this stage, no streaming services have even hinted at launching 8K content, and it seems unlikely that an 8K disc format will ever materialize.
For those reasons, it's hard to recommend that most people pay the extra for an 8K TV at this stage. That said, if you've got deep pockets and want to be as ready as possible for the potential 8K content of the future, there's no real harm in going for an 8K TV now, particularly as models such as the Samsung QN900A make current 4K content look better than ever.
Should you buy an HDR TV?
High Dynamic Range is without a doubt a much bigger deal than 8K, and certainly something you should consider before buying your next TV.
Essentially, the higher the dynamic range (brightness and colors), the more lifelike the picture. HDR offers greater subtlety and depth of gradations of colors, plus stronger contrast.
There are various types of HDR out there, and with different TV brands backing different variants, it can be a minefield trying to find the best option. Allow us to explain.
First up is HDR10, which is essentially the core HDR format that every HDR TV should support.
HDR10 is a static HDR format that applies the HDR values on a scene-by-scene basis (i.e. whenever the camera cuts to a new scene). Dolby Vision, on the other hand, applies this image information (called metadata) on a frame-by-frame basis. This dynamic form of HDR, when implemented properly, has the potential to improve upon the standard HDR10 presentation.
HDR10+ is a rival format to Dolby Vision. Created by Samsung, it also uses dynamic metadata but, whereas Dolby Vision is licensed, HDR10+ is a free, open format that any company can deploy as it sees fit.
Of these two 'dynamic' HDR formats, Dolby Vision is by far the most prevalent, both in terms of TVs and content, and if you have to choose between one and the other, that's the one we'd recommend. That said, you can now buy TVs from the likes of Philips and Panasonic that support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
Finally in our rundown of HDR formats is HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), which was developed specifically for broadcasting by the BBC and Japan's NHK. In the UK, HLG is used to deliver all of the HDR content offered by the BBC and Sky, but it's less widespread in the US, with DirecTV really the only major player that's adopted the format.
What inputs and outputs do you need?
These days, it's all about HDMI, which is used to connect everything from set-top boxes to video streamers, Blu-ray players to games consoles. Thanks to ARC/eARC (Audio Return Channel / Enhanced Audio Return Channel), a single HDMI connection can even be used to output sound to an AV receiver or soundbar at the same time as it receives a video signal.
Currently, three HDMI connections is standard on budget and mid-range TVs, while four is the norm for premium models.
The specification of the HDMI connections tends to differ depending on the price of the TV, too, with premium models now commonly getting at least one or two HDMI 2.1 sockets. These have greater bandwidth than their HDMI 2.0 counterparts and can support advanced formats such as 4K@120Hz and 8K@60Hz. Fancy gaming features such as Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate are often supported via HDMI 2.1 sockets, too, though not always. It's sensible to check the specs thoroughly if there are particular features you're after.
After HDMIs, USB ports are the most abundant on modern TVs. You can use these to keep devices charged (often particularly useful for stick- or dongle-style video streamers), and some TVs allow the connection of flash drives and hard drives for the recording of live TV content.
Other useful connections include optical and stereo outputs, which can be used in lieu of HDMI ARC to connect legacy audio equipment. Headphone outputs are still fairly common, too, though Bluetooth is also supported by most TVs now and Samsung TVs in fact now feature the latter but not the former.
Lastly, while some TVs feature composite inputs (often via an adapter), most – even at the budget end – have phased out legacy connections such as SCART. So those clinging on to old video cassette recorders, for example, should be aware of that.
What about smart features and streaming apps?
As with 4K, it's now hard to buy a TV that doesn't have a smart platform packed with streaming apps. Almost every TV will have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on board, and Disney+ is fast approaching a similar level of ubiquity. Apple TV (which is great for pay-as-you-go movies as well as the Apple TV+ subscription service) is becoming increasingly common, too.
Beyond those, you're going to want to look out for services such as HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+ and Peacock, with priority given to those services to which you already subscribe.
Should you buy an OLED, QLED or LCD TV?
LCD TVs, which require a backlight usually made up of white LEDs to show a picture on the LCD panel, are available in a wide variety of screen sizes and, thanks in part to the technology's low cost of production, at affordable prices.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a panel technology that uses self-emissive particles – so there's no need for a backlight. This allows OLED TVs to be unbelievably slim, while also offering convincing pitch-dark blacks, strong contrast and superb viewing angles. LG and Sony are the big brands with OLED TVs in their line-ups and, broadly speaking, they're excellent.
QLED (Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode), meanwhile, is Samsung’s response to OLED. A QLED TV is an LCD TV but with a quantum dot coating over the backlight. However, the quantum dots (tiny semiconductor particles) in current QLEDs do not emit their own light. So QLED TVs, like conventional LCDs, rely on a backlight. The advantages of a QLED TV? You tend to get brilliantly vibrant colors, plus bright, sharp and crisply detailed images. Samsung's QLEDs have got better and better over the years, existing as a fine alternative to OLEDs TVs. Interestingly, though, Samsung is set to launch its own OLED TVs in 2022.