Best OLED TVs Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best OLED TVs you can buy in 2021.
The best OLED TVs offer some of the most impressive picture quality around at the moment. When they first hit the market, only those with exceptionally deep pockets could really entertain the thought of an OLED. Thankfully, prices have slowly come down and you'll find some excellent OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) TVs below that don't cost the earth.
So what is OLED? It's basically the next step on from LCD. Unlike LCD TVs, OLED flatscreen TVs don't need a backlight. This means they can be ultra-thin, and because each pixel can be isolated and switched off individually, they tend to deliver some of the best black levels in the TV business.
OLED is also a more efficient and eco-friendly technology than LCD. They are expensive to produce, though. Previously, this meant you didn't see OLED TVs under 55 inches, but 2020 saw a 48-inch set from LG hit the market and Sony followed with its own 48-inch model. More are on the way for 2021.
The very best OLED televisions combine 4K and HDR technology to devastating effect, so you'll find support for HDR10+ and/or Dolby Vision plus HDR10 and HLG as standard. We've rounded up the best OLED TVs out of all the ones we've tested below, including cheap OLED TVs from 2019, discounted models from 2020, and brand new sets from 2021.
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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 the most recommendable TV available right now.
Read the full LG OLED65C1 review
Time was that getting an OLED TV under 55in was impossible, but then LG launched the world's first commercially available 48-inch OLED set. And now Sony has one of its own. It's a petite-looking OLED TV with tiny bezels and low pedestal stand. The enclosure bolted onto the back houses the speakers, processing hardware and connections.
Disappointingly, it lacks some next-gen HDMI features such as 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 really the only fault we can find with this TV. Sony's X1 Ultimate processor produces stunning images, there's plenty of dark detail on show, and you have access to virtually every streaming app you could hope for. Motion control is sensational, and in terms of sharpness and detail, you won't find 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
It might have taken a while, but you can finally buy a 4K OLED TV that's smaller than 55in. You guessed it, the OLED48CX is a 48in TV, and brings flagship OLED picture quality to this screen size for the first time.
Picture quality is superb. The perfect blacks and near-perfect viewing angles combine with bright, punchy whites and vibrant but natural colours. LG's motion processing was a big step up in 2020 and its upscaling of 1080p and standard-def content is among the best in the business.
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). All of these are useful if you're looking to upgrade to the PS5 or Xbox Series X sometime soon.
Prefer something bigger? We've also reviewed the 55in and 65in versions of the CX series, both of which are just as impressive as their smaller sibling.
Read the full LG OLED48CX 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.
All told, this is a superb all-rounder in whichever size you buy it.
Read the full LG OLED55CX review
Read the full LG OLED65CX review
LG consistently delivers some of the best OLED TVs on the market and this GX model picks up from where the company left off in 2019. It manages to improve picture quality in a few key areas, with dark detail, colour richness and motion handling all getting a boost. The net effect is a beautifully realistic HDR and SDR picture, packed with detail. Sound from the down-firing speakers is surprisingly good too, its built-in Dolby Atmos decoding delivering a wide and expansive soundstage by TV standards.
The GX is an attractive set and one of the best OLED TVs for wall-mounting – there's no stand in the box, but there is a slim mount on which you can hang it. Inputs, which include four HDMI (2.1) sockets and a trio of USBs are all recessed on the back of the TV, so there's no external connection box. WebOS is LG's go-to operating system and the TV is a doddle to use. Streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are all onboard, too.
Read the full LG OLED65GX review
The Sony A8 is a real OLED all-rounder that combines a brilliant, natural picture with excellent audio.
HDR content (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision are supported) is bright, punchy and vibrant, and very realistic. Blacks are deep and packed with detail. It's even a great upscaler when faced with Full HD and standard-definition video.
Sound quality is similarly impressive. The Sony uses two actuators, which actually (and imperceptibly) vibrate the whole screen, essentially turning the whole panel into a big, flat driver. It's clever and does a great job of tying audio and video together. It's a dynamic and punchy performer by OLED TV standards.
The HDMIs are lacking next-gen features such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), which might be of concern to gamers, particularly those planning to upgrade to a PS5 or Xbox Series X. But for everyone else, the A8 is an excellent all-rounder that demands consideration.
Read the full Sony XBR-55A8H review
The KD-65AG9 is an impressive OLED TV and one of the best in class. Picture and sound quality are both excellent, as is the TV's motion handling. It also boasts a fabulous upscaler for Full HD content. Where it falls down slightly is with native 4K HDR pictures. In our opinion, rivals such as the LG C9 and Samsung Q90 QLED boast superior processing and HDR handling. The Sony is also significantly more expensive than its close rivals, but if your budget can stretch...
Read the full Sony XBR-65A9G review
Read the full Sony XBR-55A9G review
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