Three best Ultra HD TVs

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

Because all television manufacturers measure screen size from one corner diagonally to the opposite corner, it’s easy to compare different models’ sizes.

Placing the word "ultra" in front of something usually equals greatness. You've never slept as well as you have with your ultra-soft pillow, blanket, pajamas, mattress topper ... and teddy bear.

When it comes to TV screen display clarity, ultra improves things too. Ultra HD TVs give you significantly more pixels on the screen than HD TVs, resulting in better image quality. (A pixel is one tiny dot on the screen; the image you see consists of millions of these dots.)  In fact, the Ultra HD TV has nearly four times more pixels than an HD TV, creating a noticeable difference.

To clear up one point of potential confusion, Ultra HD and 4K TVs are the same. Manufacturers and salespeople will use the terms Ultra HD and 4K interchangeably.

Considerations when choosing Ultra HD TVs

One of the most important technologies to have in an Ultra HD TV is HDR (short for high dynamic range). HDR technology delivers a bigger number of specific colors in the screen versus non-HDR TVs. You'll have an image on the screen that looks brighter with more contrast with HDR technology.

Not all Ultra HD TVs have HDR technology. And not all Ultra HD programming is shot with HDR enabled. But, where available, this technology makes a big difference in the quality of the images on the screen. So always search for HDR technology in the TV and in the programming wherever possible. At this point, unfortunately, HDR programming is not common, but it will be in a few years.

The type of technology used to light the screen may differ among 4K TVs too. LED backlighting is the most common type of TV backlighting. It carries an affordable price point and delivers fast performance levels. However, because LED backlights never quite go fully dark, you don't receive the highest level of contrast on the screen with LED.

An OLED Ultra HD TV gives you true black, delivering a high level of contrast that makes a difference in image quality. If you love watching movies, the contrast advantage in OLED will be noticeable. OLED TV prices are significantly higher than LED TVs, though.

Don't confuse OLED and LED with some other acronyms TV manufacturers use. For example, Samsung says its TVs have QLED technology. This refers to the style of the screen, rather than the type of backlighting.

Another differentiator with Ultra HD TVs is the number of input ports they offer. If you have a lot of external devices, look for a television with multiple HDMI ports. With enough inputs, you simultaneously can connect things like a set-top box, gaming console, and Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Features

You may be hoping to save a bit of money on your TV by going with an HD TV instead of an Ultra HD TV. However, this really isn't much of a bargain anymore.

Ultra HD/4K TVs cost several thousand dollars five to seven years ago. This was quite a price premium to HD TVs at the time. With today's market, though, 4K TVs and HD TVs are nearly identical in price. In fact, TVs limited to an HD resolution are difficult to find, especially in any screen size larger than 40 inches.

The biggest price differences among Ultra HD TVs involve the screen size. Larger screens will cost more. You'll find 50-inch and smaller 4K TVs for $700 and less. For a 65-inch Ultra HD TV, you may pay $1,000 to $1,200.

Ultra HD TVs that have HDR technology built into them will cost roughly 5% to 15% more than those without HDR.

How to find Ultra HD shows

Finding Ultra HD programming can be a little frustrating, as most current TV shows are shot in HD resolution, not Ultra HD. But you do have some options to find Ultra HD/4K resolution programming.

Subscription service: Cable and satellite TV providers have 4K packages you can order. These packages may run an extra $5 to $20 per month. At this point, you'll be limited to certain channels that are available in 4K, usually showing sports or movies. You also might need a new set-top box. Understand, though, that 4K programming is very limited from these services currently.

Streaming service: Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have some 4K programming. Often, movies and original series from the streaming services will be in 4K. You usually don't have to pay extra for 4K resolution programming with a streaming service. You will need a really fast Internet service to stream Ultra HD programming at a smooth level, though.

Ultra HD Blu-Ray player: An Ultra HD/4K Blu-ray disc already uses Ultra HD/4K resolution. So if you have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, it's perfectly matched with your Ultra HD TV.

Ultra HD/4K resolution programming is steadily becoming more prevalent. So, even if you don't like your options now, keep checking. You may find a really good deal on 4K programming a few months from now.

FAQ

Q. I don't notice much of a difference in Ultra HD TV image quality. Why?

A. Unless you're watching 4K/Ultra HD resolution programming, you may not notice a huge difference. To take full advantage of the Ultra HD TV, it needs to show Ultra HD resolution programming. What you're likely watching is a technology called upscaling. The Ultra HD TV will use upscaling when showing HD resolution programming. Upscaling creates extra pixels to fit the Ultra HD TV, which makes the HD programming look a little better.

Q. Is Ultra HD the last major change we'll receive for TV quality?

A. Don't count on it. It's doubtful we'll ever experience again the huge jump in quality we saw when going from SD to HD TVs. But Ultra HD/4K does give an improvement over HD in terms of image clarity. And manufacturers are already working on an 8K TV technology. So, as with all kinds of technology, expect Ultra HD to be obsolete at some point in the future too.

Ultra HD TVs we recommend

Best of the best: Samsung 55-Inch Ultra HD Smart TV 

Our take: Contains all the bells and whistles you expect for a 4K TV in this price point. Picture quality is extremely impressive, even when compared to other Ultra HD TVs.

What we like: Gives you plenty of HDMI ports to attach all of your devices. Has a nice color quality without needing a lot of adjustments from the viewer.

What we dislike: Pricier than some others. Smart TV functions can be a little confusing.

Best bang for your buck: Hisense 55-Inch Ultra HD Smart TV with Roku 

Our take: Desirable price point for an Ultra HD resolution television. Doesn't excel in any particular area, but its features all are more than adequate for a low-priced UHD TV.

What we like: Color and image quality is really nice. Includes built-in Roku software to provide the smart TV functionality, which simplifies use.

What we dislike: Viewing angle isn't as wide as we'd like to see.

Choice 3: Sony 65-Inch Ultra HD Smart TV

Our take: Offers a lot of advanced features, including a voice command remote control. Sound quality is so strong, you probably won't need extra speakers or a soundbar.

What we like: Huge screen that includes HDR technology to provide colors that pop off the screen. Good screen responsiveness for gaming.

What we dislike: Expensive. Smart TV software has some bugs. Overall picture quality could be better.

Kyle Schurman 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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