The holiday shopping season is here and that means now is the best time to buy a TV. In 2021 chip shortages and supply chain issues will push the prices of entry-level TVs higher, but discounts on midrange and high-end TVs — in other words, those with the best picture quality — are as deep as ever. We’ve reviewed many of the best TVs of the year and gathered our favorites for the list below.
TVs come in all sizes and prices, so I concentrate on picture for the money. LCD TVs with local dimming, Mini-LED or QLED TVs are usually less expensive than an OLED television, still support 4K resolution with HDR and perform well, too. An OLED television will give you the best picture, but it’s expensive and might not be available in the size you want. Based on my years of experience and side-by-side comparisons in CNET’s test lab, I’ve chosen the best TV of every type and price. We’ll keep tracking new deals all season long and update this list periodically to help you shop TVs like a pro. (Watch our 4K TV buying guide.)
Best TV for the money: TCL 6-Series Roku TV
No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for as little cash. The TCL 6 Series has an excellent image thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It’s also a solid choice for gamers with a THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
This TV first came out in 2020 but will stay on sale throughout 2021 — in fact it just got its holiday price cut — and remains my top choice so far. TCL also sells an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra money, as well as a Google-powered version I have yet to review (although according to TCL its image quality is the same as this Roku version).
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 65-inch size.)
Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.
$999 at Amazon
$1,000 at Best Buy
$1,149 at eBay
Best high-end TV for the money: LG OLEDC1P
With picture quality as good as any TV I’ve ever tested and a price that’s not too crazy, the LG C1 OLED TV is my go-to pick for people who prioritize picture and are willing to pay for it. It beats any non-OLED TV on this list, including the Samsung QN90A below, with its perfect black levels, unbeatable contrast and superb off-angle viewing. It also has the best gaming features, making it the perfect companion to an Xbox Series X or S, PlayStation 5 or both. The C1 comes in the widest variety of sizes of any OLED TV, although the bigger models are really expensive.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, 83-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our LG C1 series OLED TV review.
$1,297 at Crutchfield
$1,282 at Amazon
$1,300 at Best Buy
Best OLED alternative: Samsung QN90A
Looking for a high-end TV with spectacular image quality, but don’t want an OLED? The Samsung QN90A is your best bet. This TV uses QLED TV tech augmented by mini-LED for a brighter image than any OLED TV. The spectacular contrast of OLED still won out in my side-by-side tests, but the QN90A QLED screen comes closer than ever.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.
$1,600 at Samsung
$1,598 at Crutchfield
$1,598 at Amazon
Best alternative for tighter budgets: Vizio MQ7
The three TVs above are amazing, but what if you can’t afford that level of picture quality? The Vizio MQ7 is one of the least-expensive TVs to feature full-array local dimming, which lets it reproduce TV shows, movies and games with enough contrast and pop to do HDR justice. It’s a 60Hz model, not 120Hz, but it still handles variable refresh rate games for extra smoothness. If you can’t save up for the TCL 6-series, the Vizio MQ7 makes an excellent consolation prize.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 58- 65-, 70-, 75-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Vizio M-7 Series Quantum (2021) review.
$580 at Amazon
$580 at Walmart
$580 at Best Buy
Best cheap TV: TCL 4-Series
Roku is our favorite platform for live TV streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR performance don’t do much to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 43-inch size.)
Read our TCL 4-series Roku TV (2021) review.
$280 at Amazon
$318 at Walmart
$280 at Best Buy
Best ultraslim TV, money no object: LG OLEDG1P
What’s that you say? You just want the best TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my tests the LG G1 OLED TV and the cheaper C1 above were the best TVs I’ve ever reviewed, with unbeatable contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. The main advantage of the G1 is slimmer, more wall-friendly design compared to the C1, so if you value that style and can afford it, this is the TV to get.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read the LG G1 series (2021) review.
$1,700 at Best Buy
$1,697 at Crutchfield
$1,662 at Amazon
Best cheap TV runner-up: Vizio V-series
Vizio’s V-series is our favorite budget alternative to the TCL 4-Series Roku TV. We liked Roku’s smart TV system better (sound familiar?), but the V-series has some advantages, including a better remote with voice and more advanced picture settings. Picture quality between the two was basically the same, so if you don’t have a preference, it makes sense to get the cheapest one.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 58- 65-, 75-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read the Vizio V-Series (2021) review.
$428 at Amazon
$428 at Walmart
$430 at Best Buy
Best midpriced alternative to TCL, Vizio: Sony X90J
With excellent picture quality, anchored by full-array local dimming and plenty of brightness to make HDR content shine, the X90J is Sony’s answer to the TCL 6-Series and step-up Vizio models. This LED TV’s sleek looks and the Google TV operating system score additional points, as does its next-gen console support (it has 4K/120fps inputs and Sony promises VRR… someday) and built-in NextGen TV tuner. If you want an “S” brand, this is one of the best values we’ve tested.
Sizes: 50-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch, 75-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Sony X90J series (2021) review.
$988 at Amazon
$998 at Walmart
$1,098 at Crutchfield
Best design in a midpriced TV: Samsung Q60A
Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone and one of the most popular is the Q60A series. Its sleek OLED screen design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultra-thin OLED models are even sleeker — it offers better features and image quality than budget models like the TCL 4-Series, and it comes in a vast array of sizes. The TVs above are all superior values, but if you want a Samsung TV and can’t afford the QN90A, this is a great choice.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 60- 65-, 70- 75-, 85-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Samsung Q60A series (2021) review.
$698 at Crutchfield
$678 at Amazon
$698 at Walmart
Best TV for maximum brightness: Hisense U8G
Most of the TVs on this list are bright enough for just about any room, but maybe you want a screen that’s as bright as possible. The U8G outshines others in its price range and was basically as bright as the significantly more expensive Samsung QN90A. Its image quality falls a bit short in other areas and its selection of sizes is limited, but if raw brightness is what you crave, the U8G delivers.
Sizes: 55-, 65-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Hisense U8G series review.
$700 at Amazon
$750 at Walmart
$750 at Best Buy
How does CNET test TVs?
Our TV reviews follow a rigorous, unbiased evaluation process honed over nearly two decades of TV reviews. Our primary TV test lab has specialized equipment for measuring light and color, including a Konica Minolta CS-2000 spectroradiometer, a Murideo Sig-G 4K HDR signal generator and an AVPro Connect 8×8 4K HDR distribution matrix. We Portrait Displays CalMan Ultimate software to evaluate and calibrate every TV we review. In every CNET TV review, three or more similar TVs are compared side-by-side in various lighting conditions with different content, including movies, TV shows and games, across a variety of test categories, from color to video processing to gaming to HDR. Our reviews also account for design, features, smart TV performance, HDMI input and gaming compatibility and more.
I’ll post the answers to commonly asked TV questions below. If you have any others, feel free to reach out on Twitter (@dkatzmaier), or by clicking the little envelope icon on my CNET profile page. Doing so will let you send a message straight to my inbox.
How big a TV should I get?
In my opinion bigger is better, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality. The answer also depends on room size and seating distance: If you have a big room and sit further away, you’ll want a bigger TV. The answer also depends on room size and seating distance.
What is OLED TV burn-in?
Burn-in is when part of an image — for example a channel logo, news ticker or a scoreboard on a TV — persists as a ghostly background no matter what else appears onscreen. Burn-in is possible with any OLED TV, but it’s not likely with normal use. The best way to prevent burn-in is to vary what you watch.
Do I need HDMI 2.1?
No. The latest HDMI standard is available on newer, higher-end TVs and works with the Variable Refresh Rate and 4K/120 fps features found on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles. Those features can deliver smoother gameplay, but the difference often isn’t massive, and TVs that lack HDMI 2.1 will work perfectly well with next-generation consoles.
What is the best smart TV system for streaming?
At CNET our favorite is Roku for its simplicity, but different systems like Google TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung and LG have different strengths, in particular for voice commands. In any case we don’t consider the built-in smart TV system that important because you can always connect a streaming device to any TV.
How do I get the best TV sound?
Most TVs sound terrible because their thin cabinets don’t have room for decent-size speakers or bass. If you want to get good sound you should buy an external audio system. Even an inexpensive soundbar will deliver much better audio quality than a TV’s built-in speakers.
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