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Best HDR TVs 2020: the ultimate high dynamic range TVs

TechRadar logo TechRadar 8/12/2020 What Hi-Fi?
a person sitting posing for the camera: Best HDR TVs 2020: the ultimate high dynamic range TVs © Provided by What Hi-Fi? Best HDR TVs 2020: the ultimate high dynamic range TVs

Best HDR TVs Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best HDR TVs you can buy in 2020.

The 4K resolution (or revolution, you could say) might have dominated the headlines in recent years, but there's another way to really boost your TV's picture quality: HDR.

HDR stands for 'high dynamic range', and it enhances the difference between the light and dark parts of the image - essentially the contrast - giving the picture more depth at one end at the same time as making it look brighter and more vibrant at the other.

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're in the midst of another format war.

The most common form is HDR10. It's an open standard that has been adopted by numerous manufacturers, service providers (such as 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 metadata is 'dynamic', in that it's added to an HDR image on a frame-by-frame basis (whereas HDR10 adds it scene by scene). In reality, results depends on how well the tech is implemented, but Dolby Vision is absolutely capable of producing better results than HDR10. LG, Panasonic, Sony and Philips TVs all employ Dolby Vision, though rarely on every model in their ranges, 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, but it appears to gone the way of the dodo. LG was the only TV manufacturer supporting it and isn't doing so on its 2020 models. No content mastered in the format has ever appeared.

So that's the current state of the HDR landscape. You'll find our pick of the best HDR TVs around below.

The 55OLED805 is a Philips OLED as it should be; genuinely excellent. If you’re prepared to forego the odd next-gen feature, it's pretty much the best performance-per-pound OLED you can currently buy.

It produces stunningly crisp and detailed pictures from all sources, delivers far more accomplished audio than most rivals, adds awesome Ambilight (which extends the onscreen action onto the wall around the TV in the form of coloured light) to the mix, and has a lower price tag than its LG, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung equivalents.

Gamers may be put off by the lack of next-gen HDMI features such as VRR (eARC is missing too), but for everyone else, the 55OLED805 represents an excellent purchase.

Read the full Philips 55OLED805 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 UE55TU8000 review

The Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B is an absolutely brilliant TV. It’s just so balanced in its delivery: punchy but natural, sharp but not exaggerated, vibrant but controlled. It makes the most of 4K HDR but it also does a superb job with lower resolution, SDR content. Its motion handling is fantastic, too.

It’s a shame that none of the Dolby Vision presets feels quite right, and we would have liked to have seen some more advanced HDMI features such as VRR. The supplied remote really isn’t befitting a TV of this quality, either.

Those are fairly minor flaws, though. A slightly bigger one is that the HZ1000 is currently more expensive than all of its obvious rivals, and those TVs are all excellent, too.

Still, this is undeniably one of the very best TVs you can currently buy. If you’re in the market for a premium OLED, you really have to check it out.

Read the full Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B review

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

The performance is superb. The perfect blacks and near-perfect viewing angles we're used to from OLED, combined with bright, punchy whites and vibrant but natural colours. LG's motion processing in 2020 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.

One fairly big downside for UK buyers is that all of the UK's catch-up apps, including BBC iPlayer, are currently missing from LG's 2020 smart platform. You can obviously add these fairly easily and inexpensively by adding a streamer such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, but you really shouldn't have to.

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 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.

Of course, the 55in CX also shares its little brother's lack of UK catch-up apps, and that will put some people off right away, but if you can forgo the likes of BBC iPlayer (or don't mind adding them via an external source), 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 and Philips 55OLED805. These sets go blacker and, in the case of the LG, produce 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 QE55Q90T 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 KD-55A8

The Panasonic TX-58HX800B may be towards the bottom of the 2020 Panasonic TV range, but to consider it a low-end set would be a mistake. Indeed, it looks more like a pricier OLED, thanks mostly to the edge-lit LED backlight.

Performance is stunning, especially with dark detail. The colours falter slightly with SDR content, but upscaling brings a wealth of picture detail that otherwise would've been missed. But edge lighting does have its downside. 

The screen occasionally leaks a bit of light close to the edge of the frame and the whole panel could be a little better shielded from its light source. But that's just a symptom of mid-range edge-lit LEDs. It's not too noticeable, and is a small compromise given the saving compared to an OLED set. 

This Panny's motion handling is superb, too, and the sound has a sense of spaciousness that could convince you you don't need a soundbar (though obviously we would recommend one). 

Despite being a little pricier than some mid-range rivals (and its predecessor), the HX800 remains an excellent performance-per-pound proposition.

Read the full review: Panasonic TX-58HX800B

While most people will be more than satisfied with one of LG's C-class models, which are the most affordable sets with all of the company's best picture processing, this GX 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. The CX, by comparison, is 4.7cm deep at its thickest point.

Picture-wise, LG has taken the exemplary performance of its 2019 OLEDs and improved it in a few key areas, with dark detail, colour richness and motion handling all getting a worthwhile boost. The set sounds decent, too, particularly for one with essentially invisible speakers.

The only issue for UK buyers is the current lack of catch-up apps such as BBC iPlayer, but LG assures us it's working on this. Either way, this is a stunning TV.

Read the full LG OLED65GX review

There's a lot of pressure on the 49in KD-49XH9505 (XBR-49X950H in the States), as all three of its predecessors have taken home What Hi-Fi? Awards. While other challengers will emerge before the 2020 Awards deadline (the 49in version of the Samsung Q80T and 48in LG OLED CX could be very good), Sony's put itself in a great position to make it four in a row.

The company has basically reused the shell of last year's KD-49XG9005, 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, last year's 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 coloured 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 an absolute corker, and the new benchmark for 49in TVs.

Read the full Sony KD-XH9505 review

Brand new for 2020, the Q95T shares the top spot in Samsung's 2020 4K TV range with the Q90T. The only differences between the two are that the Q95T gets a more stylish, metal remote and the One Connect system, which sees all connections (including power) routed through a separate box that can be easily hidden away.

Somewhat disappointingly, the Q95T and Q90T have fewer dimming zones and go less bright than the Q90R, but they're otherwise better in every meaningful way. They deliver a richer, more solid and more natural picture, as well as better sound.

The Tizen operating system is largely unchanged, and that's no bad thing. No other operating system has as much content or more quickly gets you to what you want to watch.

If you're after Samsung's top 4K model, the sensible money would be spend on the Q90T, but if you like the idea of extremely clever and neat One Connect solution, there's nothing wrong with spending the extra money on the Q95T.

Read the full Samsung QE65Q95T review

This is the best cheap 50-inch TV you can buy. The Hisense R50B7120UK is a direct LED-backlit TV, with a 4K resolution, HDR support and all of the apps you could possibly need, thanks to the excellent Roku TV platform (it's the first Roku TV to land in the UK). And all at a staggeringly low price. 

It may not look much but in terms of features and connectivity, it surely offers everything you need, from HDMI, optical, USB and headphone connections, to Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Freeview Play, Apple TV, Disney Plus, Spotify, and plenty more. The universal search could be better but the content is certainly there.

The picture itself is good straight out of the box, too, though tinkering a little with the contrast, brightness and colour settings will yield even better results. Motion is handled confidently, colours are bright and dynamic but never artificial, and while absolute detail in dark scenes can be bettered by more expensive TVs, any flaws here never distract from what is a watchable picture. We can't help but give a hearty recommendation for this budget 50-inch 4K TV.

Read the full Hisense R50B7120UK review

This new Samsung QLED sets 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, although it is a little bit chunkier than the Q95T above as all of the connections are inside rather than in a separate One Connect box. There's nothing wrong with the specs of those connections, though: the four HDMI inputs 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 colours. While there are rare occasions when watching HDR that a skin tone seems slightly overcooked, the colour 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.

This is the first mid-range 55-inch TV we’ve seen in 2020, but the Samsung QE55Q80T sets a formidable benchmark thanks to its dynamic and solid picture, substantial sound and thorough feature set.

Read the full Samsung QE55Q80T review

If you're looking for a high-end TV at a smaller size than 55in, 2019's Sony KD-49XG9005 should definitely factor into your thinking. It doesn't get every feature of its bigger XG9505 siblings (hence the slight difference in model number), but it does get most and delivers an excellent picture for its size and price. A worthy What Hi-Fi? Award-winner last year.

Brilliantly balanced, natural colours, lots of detail and super-sharp edges combine to deliver a picture that's both authentic and enticing, not to mention consistent across all sources. And it requires almost no tweaking to get the TV performing at its best.

The Android TV operating system, while still a bit behind the Samsung and LG alternatives, is steadily improving and boasts all of the apps you're likely to need. Sony has also added YouView to ensure all of the usual UK catch-up services are on board.

The KD-49XG9005 has now been replaced by the KD-49XH9505, which is even better, but this older model is still well worth considering on account of how much it's been discounted.

Read the full Sony KD-49XG9005 review

The LG B9 is a mixture of the old and the not so old – it combines the company's 2018 TV processor with its 2019 OLED panel. This makes it the most affordable model in LG’s 2019 OLED range and an even more tempting proposition than before thanks to recent discounts.

The picture is natural, colourful and well-measured for contrast whether you’re watching in 4K or upscaling from HD, and whatever processor power is missing certainly won't ruin your TV experience.

Looks-wise, this LG is typically neat. From the front, it’s virtually all screen with a miniscule frame and a small, central, black plastic plinth taking the weight of the set. Just four screws anchor the panel to the stand but it feels sturdy enough. 

Fully-certified HDMI 2.1 sockets bring with them a degree of future-proofing and there are more than enough sockets to accommodate any device you might care to attach. Positioning of the ports should pose no problem for wall mounting either.

LG's new 2020 models are undeniably better and it's worth paying the extra for one of those if you can. As far as this price proposition goes, though, the LG OLED65B9PLA gets our full vote of confidence.

Read the full LG OLED65B9PLA review


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