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Best TV 2021: the best 4K Ultra HD TVs

What Hi-Fi? 13/01/2021 Tom Parsons
a group of people sitting at a table: Best TV 2021: the best 4K Ultra HD TVs © Provided by What Hi-Fi? Best TV 2021: the best 4K Ultra HD TVs

Best TV Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best TVs you can buy in 2021.

There's just one problem with 4K TVs: there are so many of them, that it can be almost impossible to work out which one is best for you. But before you tumble down the well of indecision, allow us to take you by the hand and lead you along the path to TV nirvana.

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 bonafide hit, so you know you're getting top bang for your buck.

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.

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

The XBR-65X900H is one of the TVs that Sony is selling as "ready for PS5". That means it'll have 4K@120Hz (often referred to as HFR), VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). We say "will" because the set requires a firmware update, but we're sure that'll land in time for the PS5's launch.

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've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Finally, you can buy a 4K OLED TV that's smaller than 55 inches. In fact, it's quite a lot smaller: the OLED48CX is, you guessed it, a 48-inch TV, and therefore brings flagship OLED performance to under 50 inches for 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 this Christmas.

Read the full LG OLED48CX 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

We've already covered the new 48-inch version of the CX above, but it's worth remembering that the 55-inch model is still available and arguably offers better value for money.

For not a huge amount more, you get seven extra inches of OLED panel real estate and all of the excellent picture qualities and advanced features of its smaller sibling. It sounds a bit better, too, thanks to the bigger chassis, although the CX isn't the best-sounding TV in its class.

All in all, this is an extremely compelling all-rounder.

Read the full LG OLED55CX review

The Samsung Q90T is a slightly tricky proposition. It’s the top 4K TV in Samsung’s 2020 TV range, but as a result of the company’s increased focus on 8K models, it’s also less of a flagship model than last year’s Q90R.

Whether you consider the Q90T to be the true successor to the Q90R or not, it is a better TV overall. It has a more natural balance, significantly better motion and a much-improved sound system. It’s true that it doesn’t go quite as bright or quite as black but, in fairness to Samsung, the Q90T is also more aggressively priced.

More important than how it fares against its discontinued sibling, though, is how it fares against similarly priced 2020 TVs such as the LG OLED55CX. This set goes blacker and produces brighter highlights in otherwise dark images, but the Samsung is vastly punchier with almost everything you watch and images pop from the screen in a way that OLEDs still can’t match. It also has the best, most app-packed operating system by quite a margin, and a feature set that will keep it relevant for years to come. 

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Q90T is an excellent TV, and you certainly shouldn’t discount it for not being an OLED or not having as many dimming zones as its ‘predecessor’.

Read the full Samsung QN55Q90T 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

This Samsung QLED set a formidable benchmark for 55 inch TVs in 2020, offering a high-end performance at a fairly mid-range price.

The Q80T looks much like any other Samsung QLED, but that's no bad thing. Inside there are four HDMI inputs, which support the key features of HDMI 2.1, such as eARC, VRR and HFR. 4K HDR streaming is available via the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+. In fact, the app support is superb, with pretty much every video and music streaming site you can think of on offer here. The only feature gap of real significance is the lack of Dolby Vision.

A simple TV to set-up when it comes to getting the best possible picture, the Q80T ultimately delivers a brilliantly dynamic image with deep black levels, excellent contrast and neutral but vibrant colors. While there are rare occasions when watching HDR that a skin tone seems slightly overcooked, the color balance is a great strength overall, while motion is handled confidently and smoothly throughout our testing. And while we'd recommend a soundbar or some speakers, Samsung's Object Tracking Sound technology provides open, engaging audio.

Read the full Samsung QN55Q80T review

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