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. But which are the best HDR TVs around? Let's take a look...
The C series gives you LG's best imaging tech in its most affordable package - hence it's a great bet for those who want superior visuals without breaking the bank. Despite it being more affordable (if £3,000+ can be called affordable) than some of LG's snazzier designs, it still looks absolutely gorgeous, with invisible speakers and a near-floating aesthetic. The picture doesn't disappoint: its black levels are off the chart, while there's a richness to the colours that lend skin tones a real authenticity. A truly fantastic set.
Read the full review: LG OLED65C9PLA
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
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 review: Samsung QE65Q90R
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
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 big news here is support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, and at a very reasonable price. Specs aside, this is a really good performer for the money, too. Viewing angles are pretty weak and it doesn't go as bright as some, but detail is great, colours are really well balanced and motion is excellent. This is a great buy.
Read the full review: Panasonic TX-50GX800B
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
The B8 is not only old, but it wasn't even top of the range when it launched last year. So how does it look in the face of more recent competition? Still pretty great, actually. The lush picture has bright colours and a lovely contrast ratio, meaning more detail than you can wave a remote control at. Combined with its new, lower price, it's one of the best pound-for-pound value sets around.
Read the full review: LG OLED55B8PLA
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
Believe it or not, nowadays 43in is considered small for a TV. But this set feels so much bigger thanks to Ambilight, Philips' feature that projects coloured lights from three side of the screen to make for a more immersive picture. It doesn't deliver a vintage HDR performance, but just having it at this price is a real boon. And there are decent colours and detail on show. If you're looking for HDR but don't want to - or can't - go bigger, this is a great bet.
Read the full review: Philips 43PUS6703