Three best 4K TVs
Critics and fans agree: we're living through a Golden Age of television, and our favorite shows are more compelling and engaging than they've ever been before. Coincidentally, we're also right in the middle of a TV technology revolution. Modern 4K sets with giant screens and cutting-edge visual tech like HDR are more affordable than ever, making it easy to enjoy TV's Golden Age in unprecedented detail.
If you're ready to join the 4K revolution to try all of the latest and greatest features -- or if you're just ready for a new TV and need some help cutting through the jargon -- we're here to help. Read on for the lowdown on 4K TVs, and you'll be up and running in no time.
Considerations when choosing 4K TVs
TV manufacturers are constantly upgrading and evolving their products, but not all of the new features are worth it. When it comes time to pick out the right 4K TV, there are three features that matter more than all of the others.
Screen size: The factor that will have the biggest impact on your TV viewing experience is screen size. 4K resolutions create incredible, crisp detail -- but only if your screen is big enough to show it all off. Most 4K TVs range anywhere from 40 to 80 inches, although many users consider 55 inches to be just right.
HDR and Dolby Vision: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby Vision are two competing visual standards found on 4K TVs. They function similarly: with properly enabled movies, they dynamically adjust the picture's brightness and color palette, which creates a much more realistic and vibrant image. HDR is more commonly available because it's a free standard for any manufacturer to implement; Dolby Vision is a commercial standard and only found on select sets. Home theater enthusiasts don't agree on which is better, but if you're conflicted, that's OK -- some 4K TVs support both standards.
LED versus OLED: Traditional TVs are made with LED screens, which means that pixels are backlit in clusters. Newer premium TVs use OLED screens, which light each pixel individually. LED screens look great, but they can't rival the pixel-perfect clarity of OLED displays. If you want the absolute best 4K picture available, go for an OLED TV; just be prepared to pay about twice as much as you would for a traditional LED TV.
4K TV prices
4K TV prices are all over the map, so it can often be hard to tell if a given set is a good deal or not. Here's what to expect when it comes to how far your money will go.
Between $300 and $500, you'll find low-end 4K TVs that feature a 4K display, and that's about it. If you're looking for a smaller TV or you don't need features like HDR, it won't be hard to find a good bargain.
Between $500 and $1,200 is where the real values are. 4K TVs in this price range come in all sizes and typically include game-changer features like Dolby Vision or advanced screen technology like Samsung's XLED sets. If you're looking for an exceptional 4K TV, you don't need to spend more than this, but if you need bleeding-edge features, get ready to pay a little more.
Between $1,200 and $3,500, you'll encounter the best the industry has to offer. Sets with high-end OLED screens, support for Dolby Vision and HDR, and even included learning remotes are all common in this price range. While it can be hard to spend so much on a TV, if you're passionate about visual tech or cinema, the extra money is definitely worth it.
Q. When I'm buying a 4K TV, is it better to buy a smart TV, or should I buy a traditional 4K TV and purchase a streaming box separately?
A. The short answer is that most 4K TVs are smart TVs, so the choice is more about whether to use your TV's onboard apps or to buy a separate box. Most smart TV apps are totally adequate for streaming, although TV manufacturers update their software less frequently. Streaming boxes are generally faster and often include apps not found on smart TVs. If your primary source of TV content is through streaming apps, get a streaming box. If you mostly use a cable TV box or a Blu-ray player, there's no need to buy a separate streaming box.
Q. Where can I find 4K TV shows and movies?
A. In the early days of 4K, a lot of TV owners complained that there weren't enough TV shows and movies in 4K, but those days are long gone. Nowadays, it's easy to find 4K content on 4K Blu-rays and on major streaming services like iTunes, Vudu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.
Q. What are the differences between 4K, UHD, and 2160p TVs?
A. 4K TVs go by a lot of different names, but they all mean the same thing. UHD stands for "Ultra High Definition," a moniker intended to distinguish 4K TVs from older HDTVs. The term 4K comes from the resolution: 4K TVs run at a resolution of 3840x2160, and the first number is simply rounded up. The term "2160p" refers to the height of the resolution, in pixels, of a 4K broadcast. If you see a TV labeled as 4K, UHD, or 2160p, rest assured it's a 4K TV.
4K TVs we recommend
Best of the best: Samsung 75" QLED 4K TV
Our take: Samsung's enormous 75-inch 4K TV is an absolute beast. Not only does it have one of the largest screens on the market, but it also includes niche features like a universal remote built to work with all of your other TV components. Add that to Samsung's next-generation TV panel technology, QLED, and you've got a first-rate TV that will feel like owning your own jumbotron.
What we like: Samsung's QLED screens deliver a new level of brightness and color saturation that makes everything visually pop. Samsung's smart TV apps are fast enough to compete with most streaming boxes.
What we dislike: There's no support for Dolby Vision, which is surprising at this price point.
Best bang for your buck: TCL 55" 4K Roku Smart TV
Our take: Roku is the biggest streaming box maker in the world, and they've built on their success by creating smart TVs with their apps built in. Their 55-inch 4K set reads like a wishlist of features and competes with models that are much more expensive.
What we like: It's got support for HDR, the new TV technology for creating a brighter, more vibrant picture, and Roku's app catalog is near-comprehensive when it comes to streaming video services.
What we dislike: Roku's remotes are an acquired taste (and they're small, so they're easy to lose).
Choice 3: Sony 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart TV
Our take: An incredible set at a killer price. The perfect 4K TV for people who don't want to bother with details but need their TV to look great with minimal fuss.
What we like: It's got Android TV built in. Sony's "Triluminous" displays deliver incredible picture quality.
What we dislike: It's got limited viewing angles, so you pretty much need to sit directly in front of it to appreciate the screen quality.
Jaime Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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