The Best 4K TV
How We Found the Best 4K TVs
1 Month of Research
54 Models Evaluated
4 Top Picks
The best 4K TV
You don’t need to understand HDR, local dimming, wide color gamuts, or refresh rates to appreciate just how awesome it feels to sit in front of a quality 4K TV. We spent a month learning what produces the most stunning picture quality, and found four top models that fit any budget.
How we chose the best 4K TVs
There are a bunch of factors and features that go into producing the best images. We looked for things like a wide color gamut (capable of producing over a billion unique hues compared to HD’s 16.7 million), a wide viewing angle (looks great from any seat in the room), and full-array local dimming (capable of brightening and darkening specific parts of the screen). For a full discussion of these features, check out our 4K TV glossary.
While picture quality is defined by static images, video quality speaks to a TV's ability to translate those images into motion. This is most impacted by a TV’s refresh rate, which refers to the number of frames you see on your screen every second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the video should look. All the 4K TVs we evaluated come with either a 60 or 120 Hz refresh rate. This is especially important for games, which often come in 120 fps (frames per second). A 60 Hz screen would show significantly more blur in between frames, while 120 Hz would appear smoother and more natural.
Even more than the increased pixel count, HDR (high dynamic range) video is what really separates 4K TVs from their predecessors. Put simply, the darks are darker, and the brights brighter, resulting in incredibly dramatic and rich video. The only problem? Video has to be shot in HDR for the effect to be utilized, and availability isn’t very widespread yet. Right now there are two main versions of HDR: Dolby Vision and HDR10. Most 4K TVs are only compatible with HDR10, which is generally regarded as slightly worse than Dolby Vision. (If your TV works with Dolby Vision, it can also play HDR10.) That means you could miss out on the best part of your TV if the video you’re watching isn’t compatible. Fortunately, all of our top picks can play both versions.
Finally, we evaluated the different “smart” features on each model we looked at. While these won’t make or break a 4K TV, they can certainly make life a lot easier. The LG B7A was one of the best we saw in this respect: It was intuitive to navigate, had tons of streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube built in, and has a microphone in the remote for easy voice searching.
The 4 best 4K TVs
Why we chose it
THe LG B7A is one of the more affordable OLED TVs around, but it looks as stunning as anything else on the market. Each pixel is itself an LED (basically a tiny light bulb), so the contrast is incredible. And because each pixel can actually turn off, the blacks are as deep as you’ll see this side of a cave. The bright colors pop off the screen, too, without bleeding into darker areas. It’s this contrast that makes this TV so special. We were also impressed by the B7A’s wide color gamut, which produced hues that were as rich and vibrant as any other TV we saw.
Great for bigger rooms
With its minimal glare and incredibly wide viewing angle, the LG B7A is a great choice for bigger rooms that get a lot of natural light. In RTings.com’s analysis of TV viewing angles, they tested 58 models for color shift, brightness, and black level, and the B7A came in first place. That means that no matter where you’re sitting in the room, you’ll always have an awesome view of the screen. LG also uses an anti-reflective coating on its OLED screens, which does a great job of eliminating that annoying glare from nearby windows.
LG has its own smart platform called “webOS” that lets you access apps like Netflix and YouTube through the TV. It comes pre-loaded with all the most popular ones, but you can also download a ton more from the LG Content Store. The remote is also a huge win for the B7A. It has a microphone, so you can search for content just by speaking into the remote. It also has a cursor on the screen that follows the remote’s movement, so you won’t have to go through a dozen apps or movies to get the one you want. Just point and click.
The B7A looks almost as good turned off as it does when it’s on. It has a very minimalist look to it, with thin metal borders and an unassuming TV stand. Because OLED TVs don’t require a backlight, it’s one of the thinnest 4K TVs we saw at 1.97” thick and weighing a little more than 50 pounds.
Points to consider
Screen “burn-in” potential
Because OLED TVs are capable of such extreme brightness, it’s possible that they can be permanently damaged if not used appropriately. RTings.com is currently conducting a yearlong test on this on this effect, and the early results do show that OLEDs are more likely to permanently retain an image. However, this is a really extreme case — they’re running TVs for 20 hours a day, seven days a week, with the same content over and over. As long as you’re shutting it off occasionally and watching different kinds of content, you should be fine.
Why we chose it
Wide color gamut
Perhaps more than any other feature, wide color gamut is what separates 4K TVs from their HD counterparts, and the TCL R617 really excelled here. That means when you’re watching HDR content on this TV, you’ll see a much larger array of colors than on a model without it. This manifests in a much richer and more vivid overall look. It’s sort of like if you spent some time watching TV with mild sunglasses on and then took them off — every color suddenly jumps off the screen.
Along with its wide color gamut, the R617’s contrast also contributed to its excellent overall picture quality. It has full-array local dimming, which uses a number of LEDs spaced evenly across the screen to simultaneously light up and darken different areas. The result is very deep blacks right next to bright lighter colors, which makes every image feel incredibly life-like. While not quite as dramatic as the OLED models we saw, the R617’s contrast is still undeniably impressive.
Roku TV integration
If you’re one of the nearly 40 million Americans who use a Roku device, you’ll find the TCL R617 easy to adjust to. It has Roku’s technology built in, which is one of the simplest — if also one of the most rudimentary — streaming platforms around. It has every app you can imagine, and you can easily search for movies and TV shows across all of them by typing it in or using the remote’s voice control function. We also liked how you can control the TV by downloading Roku’s app on your phone, which easily allows you to show videos or photos from your phone on your TV.
Points to consider
With three HDMI ports and only one for USB, the R617 has the fewest number of inputs of our top picks. This won’t be a dealbreaker for most people, but if you have a lot of different types of media you want to play through your TV, it’s worth considering. A video game system, cable box, and blu-ray player could easily eat up all your inputs, forcing you to unplug one of them if you wanted to connect your laptop.
Slow refresh rate
The TCL R617 is the only one of our top picks that maxed out at a 60 Hz refresh rate instead of 120 Hz. That means it can only show 60 frames per second, compared with 120 for our other picks. Even if a video is only filmed in 60 frames per second, a 120 Hz TV can generate extra frames in between each picture to make the video appear clearer. However, since our eyes aren’t really used to this, some viewers have found it off-putting. Truthfully, refresh rate is most relevant to PC gamers using their TVs as a monitor — a lot of games can be played at 120 fps, so you’ll get the full experience of the smoother motion on the screen.
Why we chose it
Outside of OLED TVs, the Vizio E-Series produces some of the deepest blacks you’ll find. Where some TVs struggle to show dark and bright colors at once, darker, dimly lit scenes look beautifully nuanced on the E-Series. That’s because it uses a full-array backlight — the cheapest model we saw with this feature — instead of edge-lit, so it can highlight different areas of the screen to lighten or darken in the same frame.
Smooth motion handling
The E-Series has a number of features that reduce motion blur and help to produce clear and smooth videos. On content with a lot of movement like sports or video games, you can often see a small blur following objects as they move along on the screen. For the most part, this occurs because it takes pixels longer to change colors. The E-Series really excels in this regard, showing almost no motion blurring.
Chromecast comes standard with the E-Series, so you’ll be able to broadcast anything on your phone or tablet directly onto the TV. It comes with a lot of the standard streaming apps — Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon — but for anything else, you’ll have to use your phone or tablet. As such, the remote is very basic, only controlling the essentials like volume, channel, and input.
Points to consider
Color depth and brightness
Unfortunately, the E-Series is our only pick that doesn’t include a wide color gamut. You won’t get the full experience when you’re watching HDR content, because it doesn’t have the ability to show quite as many colors. It’s local dimming also leaves something to be desired, with brights not getting quite as vivid as our other picks. Don’t get us wrong — this TV still looks great, but you’ll be missing a bit on the ultra high end of video quality.
No cable or antenna input
The E-Series doesn’t have a tuner input, so you won’t be able to attach a cable or antenna directly to your TV. If you already have an antenna you like using, you can purchase a converter box for fairly cheap. We haven’t reviewed these yet, but Amazon has a number of models for around $30.
Why we chose it
Low input lag
Input lag is the number one thing that separates good TVs from great ones for gamers, and the Vizio P-Series is as strong here as any model we saw. Input lag refers to the amount of time it takes for a TV screen to reflect what the user is telling it to do. In gaming, this is paramount. A high input lag means you’ll see a noticeable delay between when you move your controller and the desired result in the game. With the P-Series, this delay is virtually non-existent.
High refresh rate
The P-Series has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, a critical speed for PC gamers. Many games are now produced with 120 Hz speeds, and you’ll see a noticeable difference playing them on a monitor or TV that can handle it. Sharp movements look miraculously smooth, without any blur or glitching. If you’re a hardcore PC gamer looking to use a 4K TV as your monitor, a 120 Hz refresh rate is essential.
Deep blacks and colors
The picture quality on the P-Series is uniformly excellent, but we were most impressed by its extremely deep blacks and wide color gamut. It uses full-array local dimming, which is especially effective when watching HDR content. The contrast between lights and darks looks fantastic, with no noticeable bleeding over between the two. This TV’s wide color gamut was similarly exceptional, producing rich hues without oversaturating.
Points to consider
No cable or antenna input
Like the Vizio E-Series, this model doesn’t have any inputs for cable or antenna attachments. All things considered, this isn’t much of a dealbreaker, as you can buy a converter box for around $30 on Amazon. Still, it’s worth noting that you might not be able to transfer your current setup over entirely without some additional purchases.
Guide to 4K TVs
How to get the most out of your 4K TV
Calibrate the settings
Once you settle on a 4K TV, there’s still some work to be done to get the best possible picture quality out of it. You’ll find that there are an enormous amount of settings to choose from, and it’s pretty easy to get lost among them. While a good reading of the user manual is always recommended, there are some rules of thumb we’d recommend sticking to.
Stick to the presets:
You might be tempted to play around with fancier settings like contrast, brightness, and dynamic, but for the most part, this isn’t really necessary. The engineers who make these TVs want you to get the best possible picture right out of the box, and that can usually be found in the presets. In general, the best picture quality can be found in Movie or Cinema mode, although it might suffer in bright rooms. In that situation, Sports and Game modes would be the way to go, though it would be worth switching back over at night.
Test local dimming:
This is one of the premier features on 4K TVs, and it can really improve how dark the blacks on your screen look. Most models come with a few options for dimming, and they’re worth playing around with to find the one that looks the best to you. A lot of TVs also have separate dimming settings for HDR content, so you’ll want to make sure they’re turned on here as well.
Soap opera effect:
One of the more controversial aspects of HDR video, Soap Opera Effect (technically referred to as “motion smoothing” or “motion interpolation”) is when TVs with high refresh rates add in extra frames to make the action appear smoother. The problem is our eyes aren’t used to absorbing video like this, and it can feel a little surreal to watch. Every manufacturer calls it something different in their settings, but it always has “motion” in the name somewhere. Still, it’s not all bad: We’d recommend keeping it for sports and video games, where quick movements can benefit a lot from motion smoothing, as well as HDR content shot with a higher frame rate.
If you’re still not quite satisfied with your TV’s picture, you can always dive into specific settings like Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness and do some more tinkering. RTings.com provides excellent walkthroughs of all of our top picks’ settings here: LG B7A, TCL R617, Vizio E-Series, Vizio P-Series.
Check your HDR ports
Not every HDMI ports on your 4K TV is capable of handling HDR content. Since this is arguably the most impressive feature of these new TVs, you’ll want to be sure that whatever 4K streaming device or game console your using is plugged into an HDR port. Your TV’s manual will clearly lay out which ones these are.
Use a 4K streaming device
All of our top picks have great streaming platforms built into them, but if you prefer the interface on a separate device, you’ll want to make sure it’s 4K compatible. Almost every streaming device manufacturer produces a model that works with 4K content, but you’ll usually have to pay a little more for it. The Amazon Fire TV with 4K retails around $50, while the Roku Premiere goes for $70. You can check out our full review of streaming devices here.
Find 4K and HDR content
Even after you have the right TV and the right streaming device, there’s still a matter of finding the right content. All of the major streaming services have 4K HDR content, but you’ll sometimes have to pay a little more for it. Netflix with 4K runs $13.99 a month, but Amazon Prime Video and Hulu both include 4K videos in their base plans. (Unfortunately, Hulu’s 4K content is only accessible via XBox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro.) We found the simplest way to find this content was to simply search “4K” on the Netflix and Prime Video apps. The same goes for video rental apps like Vudu and iTunes, although they’ll sometimes have dedicated sections for 4K and HDR. Another option is to buy or rent 4K Blu-rays, although you’ll need a 4K Blu-ray player, too.
4K TV FAQs
How far away should you sit from your TV?
Unlike older TV screens, which start to show some of their flaws if you sit too close, 4K TVs actually benefit from a closer view. According to RTings.com, you should sit between three to seven feet away for 55” 4K screens, and about four to eight feet for 65” ones. And the closer you can get within that window, the better: RTings.com determined 3.2 feet as the perfect distance for 55” and 4.1 feet for 65”.
Is all 4K content HDR too?
Not necessarily. All High Dynamic Range videos are shot in 4K, but not all 4K videos use HDR. And since most experts say that HDR does more to improve video quality than the 4K resolution, it’s worth seeking out content that employs both if it’s available.
When is the best time to buy a 4K TV?
In general, there are three great times to score a new TV. The most publicized sales happen during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when just about every retailer offers fantastic electronics deals. If you happen to miss this sales landmark, don’t fret: January through April often see similar deals, even if they don’t attract the same frenzy. Companies tend to highlight their TVs in the lead up to the Super Bowl, so you’ll often find great sales in January and February. And because new TVs are usually released in March and April, the previous year’s models are often reduced at the same time to make room for the newcomers, making the spring another awesome time for deal hunters.
Are 4K TVs future-proof?
More 4K technology and content is being released each year, making 4K gradually more accessible. Some 8K TVs have begun to trickle into the market, but it’s likely that 8K technology will make its way to the public market at a similar pace to 4K technology. In other words, 4K is likely to continue slowly replacing Full HD, and 8K will eventually take over 4K. It’s unlikely that 8K or other new technology will immediately dethrone 4K in terms of accessibility.
4K TVs Glossary
4K: Also known as UltraHD, this is a reference to the screen resolution, as measured in pixels — 3840x2160, or approximately 4,000 pixels wide. The higher the number of pixels, the greater the image quality. 4K content, technology, and equipment have four times as many pixels than the typical HD counterparts.
Pixel: Short for “picture element”, a pixel is the smallest unit of a digital image. Pixels are areas of programmable color in computers, TVs, and other display screens used for visual content. A pixel can only be one color at a time, but a high density of pixels allows colors, shades, and shapes to blend together to create an image. The greater the number of pixels, the sharper the display screen is.
Resolution: This refers to the number of pixels that populate your TV screen. It’s what puts the 4K in 4K TVs, and it’s the thing that separates them from SD and HD TVs. Standard Definition televisions traditionally have 720x480 pixels, High Definition has 1,280x720 (with Full HD going up to 1,920x1,080), and 4K goes all the way up to 3,840x2,160. That means 4K screens have roughly eight times as many pixels as HD ones, providing far greater detail and contrast in the images they show.
Wide color gamut (WCG): 4K TVs with WCG are capable of displaying a much larger range of colors than models without it. You might not realize how much your old TV was lacking in this area until you see it for yourself: The deep red of a sports car, the rich greens of a mountain valley, and natural blues of an ocean meeting the sky all come to life in breathtaking intensity. More noticeable even than a TV’s resolution, WCG jumps off the screen when you see it. We turned to RTings.com, which conducts incredibly thorough technical tests on nearly every 4K TV on the market, to determine which ones actually provide a wide color gamut (and which ones just claim to).
OLED vs. LED: You’ll see a lot of variations on LED when shopping for 4K TVs — Samsung’s QLED and Vizio’s XLED most notably — but most of them are meaningless marketing gimmicks. That’s not to say they can’t be great TVs, but what really matters is the distinction between OLED and LED. The vast majority of TVs on the market these days are LED (light-emitting diode) LCD (liquid crystal display) TVs. Without getting too technical, this basically means that they use tiny light bulbs — the LEDs — to illuminate the pixels on the LCD screen. With OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) TVs, those light bulbs are so tiny that they can be used as individual pixels, lighting up separately across the screen. And when they’re off, they’re actually off, producing deeper and truer blacks than any other kind of TV. OLED TVs produce noticeably better images, viewing angles, and are more energy efficient than LED TVs. Right now, LG is the only company that produces OLED screens, but Sony has an agreement with LG to use the company’s OLED screens on Sony TVs.
Viewing angle: Ever been stuck in the corner seat in the living room when you’re watching a movie? Some TV screens degrade in quality a ton when you’re not sitting right in front of them. The best picture will always be found directly in front of the TV, but we wanted to find 4K TVs that could also accommodate seats from all over the room. We turned to RTings.com’s meticulous testing to grade each contender on viewing angle.
Local dimming: This is essentially how the TV screen gets lit up on LED LCD screens. (Because each pixel on OLED screens is individually illuminated, dimming doesn’t apply here.) There are two types: full-array or edge-lit. Full-array local dimming has LEDs evenly spaced around the entire screen, lighting up specific zones of the screen and providing better contrast between bright and dark parts of the image. Edge-lit dimming is generally found in cheaper TVs, and it works just how it sounds: The LEDs are spaced around the edges of the screen, so you won’t get as focused of a contrast.