2023 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for new TVs, with LG and Samsung already holding strong with their too-close-to-call flagships, the G3 and S95C, TCL at it again with its big and beautiful new QM8 mini-LED TV, and Sony's on the grid now with its excellent X93L.
So far, this year's crop is big on a few key themes, including some of the brightest TVs we've ever seen, new picture and connectivity technologies, new mini-LED backlighting technology, and faster refresh rates that gamers will be hyped for.
Of course, with all these new models come new and often higher prices. So while we continue to test the mettle of this year's TVs, many of 2022's models are still holding their own, so if you're looking to save some money on a TV, we'll be ushering you to the bottom of our list.
But which is the best TV you can buy right now? As it turns out, that has proven to be a very difficult question to answer, one that has nearly torn our TV expert, Caleb Denison, in two with a too-close-to-call race between the LG G3 OLED and the Samsung S95C OLED:
Yep, both TVs are so good, we just can't decide. Thenew micro-lens array technology (MLA) takes LG to new heights with QD-OLED-rivalling brightness and improved viewing angles that add to its already industry-leading black levels and color purity. But, landed on Denison's review table and, as you can see in the video above, it nearly broke him, making it the "hardest comparison I’ve ever done," he said. Samsung's second-generation of quantum dot OLED (QD-OLED) goes toe-to-toe with the LG G3 in almost every way, including brightness, color, upscaling abilities, and motion handling, and both TVs offer excellent design and mounting options. These TVs are so close in features and price, in fact, that we're calling this one a tie for the time being, which is good news for you because either way you choose, you're getting a great TV. Read on for all the details and more TVs to read up on.
LG G3 OLED Evo
The best TV you can buy right now
- Excellent overall brightness
- Dazzling contrast
- Clean, sharp images
- Good motion handling
- Excellent for gamers
- Disappointing sound
- Frustratingly cluttered UI
With Samsung and Sony's QD-OLED TVs from last year stealing some of OLED's thunder for their ability to hit on both the perfect blacks that OLED is known for and the high brightness and pure colors of QLED, it left many TV aficionados wondering how OLED would respond. The 2023 LG G3 OLED is that response, and as our own Caleb Denison says in his review: "Wow. Just ... wow." Denison was also thoroughly blown away by the equally impressive Samsung S95C QD-OLED that we'll get into more below, but here we'll also point out some of the differences between our two top picks.
The first of LG's TVs in the U.S. to brandish LG's new micro-lens display (MLA) and "Brightness Booster Max" technology, LGs new OLED panels deliver better brightness, better viewing angles, and better energy efficiency than their previous TVs, with the LG G3 pumping out between 1,450 and 1,520 peak nits in our testing. In short: you no longer need to look to QLED or QD-OLED (like the Samsung S95C) if maximum brightness is a key buying point for a new TV. That, and you also get those perfect, deep black levels that LG's OLED panels are famous for — now it doesn't matter whether you put this TV in a dark basement living room or a sun-soaked main floor family room.
Like its predecessor, the LG G3 comes in 55-, 65-, 75-, and 83-inch models and, as part of LGs Gallery Series, is meant to be wall mounted — it even comes with a no-gap wall mount, something the Samsung S95C does not. Connection options include four HDMI 2.1 ports, an eARC port, Wi-Fi 6E, an Ethernet connection, and Bluetooth 5, and the LG G3 has support for HDR10, HLG, Dolby Atmos sound, and, most importantly, Dolby Vision, which I've left to the end to point out that it could be the one sticking point over the S95C as Samsung still does not support Dolby Vision.
Denison's review also predicts that gamers in particular are going to be into the LG G3's extra brightness, but also its 120Hz refresh rate, NVIDIA G-Sync compatibility, AMD FreeSync Premium, and VRR specs, which will translate into some super-smooth gaming experiences.
We'll leave off with Denison's final thoughts on the G3: "Top to bottom, the LG G3 is an absolute star of a TV. It’s a delight. It’s exciting. It’s luxurious. It is everything a super-premium TV should be."
Samsung S95C OLED
Also the best TV you can buy right now
- Incredibly bright colors
- Perfect black levels
- Pristine overall picture
- Great upscaling
- Awesome for gaming
- Mediocre sound
- No Dolby Vision support
For 2023, Samsung has pushed forward with its stellar flagship quantum dot OLED TV, moving the S95B up the alphabet to its next-generation, the off-the-charts S95C. As we mentioned in our intro, after reviews of the LG G3 and Samsung S95C, both TVs are so good that flipping a coin would be the best way to choose. But let's get into the Samsung S95C.
First off, the S95C is every bit as good as the S95B (which is still on our list below), but improves on it with better brightness, sleeker design, and better features. In fact, Denison calls the S95C "the best TV Samsung has ever made." Although it doesn't come with a wall mount like the LG G3, the all-metal stand mount is sturdy, stable, and leaves enough space for a soundbar underneath, but more importantly, it cradles the S95C's One Connect box that was once only found with Samsung's 8K QLED TVs. One of the main differentiators from the LG G3, the One Connect box is a rather ingenious solution for messy and awkward cables at the back of your TV as it puts all those connections in a separate sleek box that connects to the TV with one cable.
As you might expect, picture quality is off the charts. Starting with brightness, the S95C is 60% brighter than its predecessor, peaking at 1,600 nits in our own tests. And that's bananas. True to QLED and QD-OLED panels, this TV will be more than fine in any bright room you want to put it in. Color brightness is also very good and accurate on this TV, with 100% of P3 color space, and 75% of BT.2020, and Denison praised it for having a "super vivid vibe that, when combined with OLED’s perfect blacks, is simply unmatched by any other TV technology." However, there is that matter of Samsung still not supporting Dolby Vision, the dynamic HDR format that's supported by several streaming services. If that's a deal breaker for you, and it shouldn't be, then scroll back up to the LG G3.
Gamers will be delighted by the S95s Game Mode that supports fast gaming at up to 120Hz, and because it's a Samsung, gamers can also tap into Samsung Gaming Hub for cloud gaming without the console.
One of the other differentiators between the S95C and the LG G3 is the Samsung's array of eight bass transducers on the back of the TV, which, Denison reports, don't really add much to the native sound of the set and you'd still be better off getting a soundbar. Speaking of sound, the S95C does support Dolby Atmos sound, as well as pass through via eARC, but not DTS passthrough, sadly.
Available in 55, 65, and 75-inch models ranging from $2,500 to $4,500, this TV and the LG G3, are going to be hard TVs to beat.
TCL QM8 mini-LED
The TV most people should buy
- Stunning HDR performance
- Class-leading brightness
- Excellent black levels
- Virtually no detectable blooming
- Very good color saturation/brightness
- Some motion artifacts
Sure, the LG G2 and Samsung S95C are the cream of the crop this year so far, but around $3,000 for either of those 65-inch panels can be a jagged pill to swallow. And even if you consider that the latest step-down 65-inch LG C3 OLED is still north of $2,000, may we present to you a TCL TV that has closed the performance-versus-price gap so thoroughly, that it surprised us: the 2023 TCL QM8.
With appeal to an extremely broad audience, the TCL QM8 sits at the top of TCL's new Q class flagship lineup with this 4K mini-LED QLED TV that runs Google TV. As we mentioned in the intro, 2023 has so far been all about brightness, something that TCL promises with the QM8 with its "High Brightness ULTRA LED Backlight" technology. So ... it's bright then?
You betcha. In fact, in our review of the QM8, Caleb Denison's calibration tool is only rated to accurately read up to 2,000 nits of brightness, which is already insanely powerful. The QM8 blew past that, giving readings of up to 3,500 nits in HDR mode before some tweaking settled things to a more consistent 2,500 (TCL's website lists the peak nits at 2,000 though). The TL;DR here is: schnikies, it's bright.
But how about the black levels? While deep inky blacks is the calling card of OLED technology, this mini-LED gets really close, with excellent contrast and support for Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG. Denison was impressed, stating: "The contrast on this TV is just out-of-this-world impressive, partially because it can get so bright, yes, but also because its blacks are remarkably good." The brightness and black level capabilities make this a great choice for both dark home theater dens and bright rooms.
Color-wise, the TCL QM8 is great, too, covering 97% of DCI-P3 and about 76% of BT.2020 color gamuts, and the TV looks excellent out of the box even without calibration. And while Denison did see some motion judder when viewing some higher-quality shows, there's a de-judder option in the settings that can nip that in the bud. But gamers will be pleased with the QM8's support for VRR, and there's an auto game mode with AMD FreeSync Premium Pro.
The TCL QM8 is available in 65-, 75-, 85-, and 98-inch variants ranging in price from $1,200 to $10,000.
Sony Bravia X93L mini-LED
Sony luxury without the Sony tax
- Excellent motion resolution
- Stellar color accuracy
- Bright, punchy HDR performance
- Solid black levels
- Some backlight blooming/halo
- Poor off-angle performance
Depending on how nerdy you are in the TV space, you may or may not notice that Sony's 2023 X93L mini-LED TV looks exactly the same as last year's flagship mini-LED, the X95K. Well, actually, apart from what Sony says is some software improvements, it is exactly the same. And that's not a bad thing, because the X95K was (and still is) an excellently bright, colorful, and contrast-capable TV backed by Sony's powerful Cognitive Processor XR. So what's the fuss, then? Sony's TVs tend to go for a premium (don't get us started on the "Sony tax"), so the big takeaway here is that the X93L is a great way for you to get in on all the premium performance of the X95K and save your wallet in the process.
For a comparison, the 65-inch X95K was $2,800 at launch. The 65-inch X93L was $2,200 at launch. Boom, you just saved $600 for a sweet TV. But let's talk specs, shall we? In our review, Caleb Denison's assessment of the X93L's picture performance out of the box was "excellent," with how brightness tests revealing an impressive peak of 1,800 nits. Color and contrast are killer, too, and the TV supports HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. There are also some presets for movie lovers in the form of an IMAX Enhanced mode and a Netflix calibrated mode, too.
Denison praised the X93L's "stellar motion processing and low-resolution content upscaling, excellent tone-mapping, and color accuracy," all calling-cards of Sony. And all that new software stuff we mentioned includes a new Eco Dashboard for managing eco settings, some additional black level adjustments for seeing darker scenes better, and a new gaming dashboard that lets you toggle VRR on and off between 60Hz and 120Hz, which gamers will rejoice over.
One of the only downfalls Denison could find with the X93L is the inclusion of only two HDMI 2.1 inputs, whereas most new TVs have four. Available in 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models, Sony's new mini-LED ranges on price from $2,200 to $4,400.
Samsung S95B OLED
A solid runner-up
- High overall brightness
- Excellent color brightness
- Superior contrast
- Perfect blacks/uniformity
- Great for gaming
- First-gen technology
- Size limits
If there's been any TV that can stand up against the LG G3 (our top pick), it's the Samsung S95B. In fact, it may actually be better than the G2 for some specific viewing situations. And while we've had some brief hands-on time with its 2023 version, the S95C, until we give it a full review the S95B will hold firm right where it is.
For starters, the S95B is a QD-OLED set (although Samsung is just referring to it as OLED), which means that it essentially combines a traditional OLED panel with the powerful luminosity of the brand's tried and true "quantum-dot" QLED backlighting. It's the perfect combination of brightness, color, and contrast, even if you're doing most of your TV watching in a bright room.
The S95B also features four HDMI 2.1 inputs, eARC capabilities, VRR support up to 4K/120Hz, and the ability to decode a number of HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG. But to note, it's a Samsung TV, so it doesn't support Dolby Vision (but it does support Dolby Atmos sound).
Built on Samsung's own Tizen operating system, the TV supports pretty much any streaming app you'd want to use, from Disney+ to Hulu to Netflix to Amazon Prime Video and then some. You can even choose a voice assistant you prefer, between Google Assistant, Alexa, or Bixby. The S95B is also great for gamers, with support for Samsung Gaming Hub.
The Samsung S95B still remains one of the brightest OLED TVs on the market, reaching nearly 1,200 nits, making it a perfect addition to a room with a lot of windows and bright light coming in. This is one of the features of Samsung's QD-OLED that makes it stand out from other OLEDs: its ability to deliver both the inky blacks of OLED and the higher brightness levels of QLED.
The first-gen QD-OLED experience from the Samsung S95B has been incredible, making it one of the best TVs you can buy.
LG G2 Evo Gallery OLED
The best overall TV
- Class-leading brightness
- Outstanding color accuracy
- Perfect black levels
- Top choice for gamers
- Top-notch design
- Disappointing stand-mount option
While 2023's version of this fantastic TV, the LG G3 OLED Evo, has usurped the G2 from the top spot on our list, let us be perfectly clear: it's still one of the best TVs you can buy, and you can probably get it for a great price now that the new kid's in town.
Whether you're a film fanatic, sports buff, or heavy-duty gamer, the LG G2 is the TV to buy if you want a TV that can do it all.
Available in four sizes (55-, 65-, 75-, and 83-inches), the G2 OLED is part of LG's Gallery Series, with the "Gallery" moniker referring to the fact that this TV is designed to look like a wall-mounted painting. In fact, LG is so determined to get the G2 on your sheetrock that you won't even find a pedestal or set of feet in the box ().
OLED's calling card is its ability to display perfect black levels. The G2's are inky and deep, colors are rich and abundant, and thanks to the Evo panel, this TV gets nice and bright, too. On top of four HDMI 2.1 inputs, AMD FreeSync, NVIDIA G-Sync, and variable refresh rate (VRR) support for all your next-gen gaming needs, along with support for HDR10, Dolby Vision IQ, and HLG formats, the G2 is also loaded with the best version of LG's WebOS system to date. Simply put: your Netflix and Hulu streaming has never looked and felt so good.
Sure, OLED TVs don't always deliver the brightest picture, and if your TV gets a lot of use during daylight hours, something like the Samsung S95B may be a better overall fit. But we're betting that for most viewers, the brilliance and clarity delivered by the LG G2 will be plenty.
Sony Bravia XR A95K
The best-performing TV
- Next-level color purity
- High color brightness
- Wide color gamut
- Perfect black levels
- Great sound
Before the above-mentioned Samsung S95B, the QD-OLED red carpet was officially rolled out with Sony's Bravia XR A95K Series. Available in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, the A95K Series is, no questions asked, the very best-performing TV that money can buy.
In our hands-on review of the A95K, we were simply blown away by every measurable spec you can house under a picture quality umbrella — from peak white and color brightness to overall color volume, contrast, motion capabilities, and depth.
Because this is a QD-OLED TV, color-emitting quantum dots work in unison with the TV's self-emissive OLED screen, resulting in extremely pure and lifelike imagery with deep contrast, but also with the brightness-induced knockout punch of a traditional QLED TV. And because OLED panels use those self-emissive pixels that can be turned on and off individually, this means that when a movie or TV show calls for a dark screen, you'll be getting the best-looking blackness a TV can produce.
Our own senior editor at large, Caleb Denison, put the A95K through its paces for his review (which you should definitely read), testing the A95K's capabilities with HDR, SDR, and 4K Blu-ray content, all with astonishing results.
The A95K is also an excellent TV for gaming, and while you won't find the integrated gaming hub controls of Samsung and LG TVs, the A95K still delivers 4K/120Hz, on top of VRR support and an Auto Gaming Mode.
The A95K also runs on Google TV for all things smart, delivering a seamless and user-friendly experience for all things Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. Yes, it's expensive, but this is the ultimate case of "you get what you pay for," as the Sony A95K can handle anything you throw at it (save for the remote) with style and jaw-dropping performance.
LG C2 Evo OLED
Another great LG OLED
- Slick new design
- Improved peak brightness
- Excellent black levels
- Solid color accuracy and gamut
- Great for gamers
- Some peak brightness artifacts
- Complex smart TV system
When LG rolled out its new OLED Evo panels on a handful of 2021 models, we were beyond impressed with what the new hardware meant for TV-watching, especially certain types of movies. With promises of OLED-flavored contrast linking hands with the type of brightness only seen on the most powerful QLED sets, the Evo engineering delivered an all-immersive, at-home cinema experience that looks fantastic in even the most brightly-lit rooms.
2022 brought us the much-loved LG C2 OLED Evo. While not considered a flagship set, the C2 builds upon a number of the amazing picture features and other add-ons that we loved about its predecessor, the LG C1.
Available in sizes from 55 inches up to 83 inches, the 65-inch C2 is the perfect middle-ground size for most homes. And in terms of design and tech, LG really notched things up last. The C2 features a totally reworked WRGB screen with chart-topping peak brightness marks, four HDMI 2.1 inputs for all our next-gen entertainment sources, and an improved Alpha 9 Gen 5 processor that delivers breathtaking colors, adaptive brightness control, and incredible upscaling.
Gamers will appreciate the inclusion of Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, with both technologies banding together to create the ideal TV for high-bandwidth, action-oriented gameplay from today's leading consoles and PCs.
While the sound isn't something we'd sing the praises of, LG made good on its promise of a revamped and reimagined C series TV, and we couldn't recommend themore.
Hisense U8H QLED
The best for bright rooms
- Intensely bright
- Class-leading black levels
- Impressive HDR imaging
- Vibrant, accurate Color
- Surprisingly Good Sound
- Quirky user interface
- Some bugs
Hisense is one of those TV brands that never ceases to amaze us. On par with names like TCL and Vizio, Hisense produces some excellent TVs with features and performance akin to much higher-priced offerings from the likes of Samsung and LG, but at a cost that most consumers can stomach. And when it comes to the most arrestingly bright TV that you can buy today, there's nothing better than the mini-LED powered Hisense U8H.
The next generation of the 2021 U8G Series, the U8H actually requires a bit of tweaking out of the box, at least in our opinion. But once you've adjusted and disabled a couple of picture settings, you're going to get one of the most vibrant images on the market, regardless of what source you're watching. In our hands-on review of the U8H, we clocked peak nit levels that only the best models from Samsung, Sony, and LG have come even remotely close to.
And thanks to a very active backlighting system, the U8H is capable of delivering some of the best contrast levels we've ever seen on a QLED set, with minimal light blooming present in dark scenes. That's on top of two HDMI 2.1 inputs, a 120Hz refresh rate, and powerful HDR support.
While we had a couple of issues with the user interface which were fixed with a software update, if you're looking for a bright set with impressive colors and contrast, and at a crazy-good price, the Hisense 65-inch U8H is an incredible option.
TCL 6-Series 8K TV
The best 8K TV within reach
- Excellent picture quality
- Surprisingly good sound
- Improved Roku TV remote
- Easy setup
- Excellent for gaming
- Poor off-axis performance
8K is still very much an emerging corner of the entertainment world, so much so that — with the exception of some 8K videos on YouTube — there isn't much actual 8K content readily available right now. That hasn't stopped TV manufacturers from rolling out 8K displays, and theis one of the best ways to get a big, 75-inch picture in full 8K resolution.
The 8K TCL 6-Series TV has incredible brightness, contrast, and black levels, thanks to its impressive 240 contrast control zones that are used for local dimming of the mini-LED backlight system. These performance gains are the key to the TV's awesome HDR and SDR picture quality, which is so good, it compares favorably to OLED TVs, which are still the leaders in this area — although QD-OLED is making some significant ground.
Driven by Roku's tried and tested OS, you get a huge choice of streaming apps, a dead-simple interface, and integration with a wide variety of ecosystems like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. But TCL also includes an improved Roku remote with voice capabilities. Apple device owners can take advantage of Apple AirPlay for streaming local videos, music, and photos from their gadgets to the 6-Series.
Surprisingly for a TV, the 6-Series R648 has an awesome built-in sound system, complete with its own subwoofer, midrange drivers, and dedicated tweeters. You may still prefer to use a soundbar, but you certainly don't need to. Speaking of sound, Dolby Atmos is supported, and if you connect the TV to a soundbar or an AV receiver via the HDMI eARC port, you'll be able to enjoy Atmos via those external devices too.
Gamers will be thrilled with theadvanced gaming features like VRR, auto low-latency mode (ALLM), auto game mode, and THX Certified Game Mode, for the ultimate in gaming performance.
TCL 6-Series 4K TV (R655)
Great QLED at an affordable price
- Punchy HDR brightness and color
- Minimal backlight blooming
- Good motion resolution
- Great viewing angles
- Intuitive Roku interface
- Requires adjustment for best picture
- Struggles to clean up low-quality content
Digital Trend's master of all things TV, Caleb Denison, began his review of the latest 2022 model of TCL's esteemed 6-Series (R655) by saying, "Another year, another outstanding TCL 6-Series TV. This is getting predictable." And, indeed, it is. If you haven't been keeping an eye on TCL's meteoric rise through the TV-brand ranks, their 6-Series QLED has become a go-to because it's picture quality is remarkably close to that of bank-breaking higher-end sets but for a price that's way easier to swallow.
Available in 55- to 85-inch models that range from $700 to $2,000 and in either Roku or Google TV varietals (our focus is on the 55-inch Roku here), the TCL 6-Series is the brightest of its lineup yet at a blistering peak brightness of just under 1,500 nits in our test. The 6-Series is a 4K UHD mini-LED TV that has QLEDtech under the hood, which means it delivers deep, inky blacks and truly stunning color with minimal blooming (where light from pixels can bleed into other pixels). In our review, Denison praised it for the color settings being good to go for most people, out of the box, but suggested that with a little adventurous tweaking the TV can really blow you away. All the HDR bells and whistles are here, too, including Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG for dynamic contrast to all your compatible movies and shows.
Gamers will also benefit from the 6-Series's AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and speedy 144Hz variable refresh rate (VRR) for smooth, responsive, and stutter-free gaming.
Like most TVs now, the TCL 6-Series (R655) can be controlled by voice with support for Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, and you can even use Apple AirPlay to cast music, video, and photos. In short, the TCL 6-Series is a high-performance TV at a price most can afford.
The answer to that depends on many factors, including your stylistic preferences, the size of the room, and how far away you'll be sitting. Take a look at our guide to choosing the perfect TV size for you.
If you want to enjoy your TV from a variety of viewing positions, you'll need a TV with wide viewing angles. Of the two main LCD panel types (IPS and VA), IPS panels offer the greatest viewing angles. However, this can sometimes come at the cost of worse contrast. OLED TVs offer both excellent contrast and viewing angles, compared to their QLED counterparts, which are best watched from the center position.
QLED stands for quantum dot LED TV, and it uses a layer of tiny particles to enhance an LED TV's color accuracy without diminishing brightness. QLED TVs still don't deliver the perfect blacks of OLED TVs, but the newest ones come very, very close. Because QLED TVs often have powerful backlights that use hundred (or in the case of mini-LED, thousands) of LEDs, they can get brighter than the brightest OLED TVs.
You may want to check out our article that covers QLED vs. OLED TV: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode, and these TVs are notable for their ability to produce perfect blacks and what is sometimes referred to as "infinite" contrast. These TVs achieve this through their ability to completely shut down the light they emit on a pixel-by-pixel basis, something QLED TVs can't do because they rely on a separate backlight to create brightness. You can block a lot of the light produced by a backlight, but not 100%.
That depends on the TV, but as a general rule of thumb, the better (and more expensive) the TV, the better the upscaling.
Almost all new TVs are 4K, so there are plenty of fantastic options to choose from at the lower end of the pricing scale. Don't expect a standard LED TV to rival an OLED or QLED, though — set your expectations accordingly. We recommend looking for a quantum dot LED TV (QLED) model, as these will offer the best picture quality at lower prices.
Yes, so long as your computer has an HDMI output. Adapters can be used for other output types but frequently do not pass along audio.
Most modern TVs can be paired with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant through either an Amazon Echo, Fire TV, or Google Home device. Some televisions even have them built-in, eliminating the need for a smart speaker.
Right now, there are no TVs that have Siri built-in. Those that support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, however, can be controlled using Siri on an iOS device, such as an iPad, iPhone, HomePod, or HomePod Mini, as well as a Mac.
OLED TVs are the only type of 4K TVs that have the potential to suffer from burn-in, though it's incredibly uncommon. Unless you like to leave the same news channel playing for eight hours a day, seven days a week for weeks on end, you probably don't need to worry about it.
At Digital Trends, we aim for our product reviews to provide readers with insight into both a product's technical performance and its usability. To that end, we go beyond specs and measurements by placing emphasis on the user experience. For televisions, that means taking a close look at all the little touch points that, taken together, make the difference between a TV you can live with and a TV you’ll love. Here’s how we test TVs to provide readers with valuable, real-world insight before making that important purchasing decision.
The bulk of our testing takes place in a completely dark room. This allows us to adjust picture settings and test a TV without concern for ambient light and the effects it has when reflected off a TV’s screen. Later, we’ll move the TV to a room made bright by lots of exposure to natural sunlight through multiple windows. This gives us the opportunity to see how well the TV will perform in a real-world scenario, as many TVs are placed in common rooms where light is not so easily controlled.
Deboxing and placement
As we pull a TV from its box, we take note of how well it is packaged for transit. This is an important consideration for those who may order their TV online and need to know that their product will arrive in tip-top shape. We also pay attention to how easy it is (or isn’t) to remove the TV from its packaging and attach it to its stand. Once the TV is in place, we take a look at the TV’s stability – nothing’s worse than a TV that wobbles every time you get up for popcorn or that’s one bump away from taking a dive to the floor.
Build quality and visual appeal
We take a look at several factors involved with the TV’s build quality and visual appeal. We check the back panel to see if it is strong or flimsy, get a feel for the material that the bezel is made of and gauge the strength of the display panel. We look at the build quality of the base and judge how well it aesthetically matches up with the TV. We then take a step back and examine how reflective the display panel is in bright conditions and consider the display’s overall visual appeal as we imagine how it will integrate with various types of home decor. If a display’s bezel is littered with marketing stickers, we expect them to be easy to remove.
Setup and first impressions
Making connections to a TV is generally a straightforward procedure. If it is not, we’ll certainly mention it. Since many of today’s TVs offer access to several online media services, we take this time to enter our account information and passwords. Those TVs that make the data entry process easier get bonus points since the status quo is for the process to be a pain in the neck. We’ll also check to make sure our LAN connection is functioning and that the TV has successfully connected to our network and the Internet.
With data entry out of the way, we begin to feed the TV with 1080p content that we are very familiar with. We generally use the same six or seven scenes that we’ve seen countless times on a myriad of televisions over the past few years. We’ll cycle through the TV’s different picture pre-sets and note our impressions of the images we see from the TV straight out of the box. This information will be compared with the results we get after we calibrate the TV.
We primarily use the Spears and Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray disc to calibrate the TVs we test. This particular disc offers an excellent combination of test patterns for calibration and video sequences for gauging the TVs performance against benchmark standards. Occasionally, we will break out other test discs to cross-examine our settings.
To start with, we disable all image-correction processors implemented by the manufacturer in order to level the playing field. We may later fold these processors back in. If we note that any particular image processor provides significant improvement to the image, we’ll be sure to mention it in our review.
Digital Trends uses the same calibration tools and benchmarks available to consumers; you won’t find us using lab equipment to take lofty measurements such as how close a set’s color temperature gets to 6,500 Kelvin. Why? While this sort of information can be very valuable to some, we feel our readers are more interested in knowing how easily the display can be calibrated using commonly available tools and resources.
Once we have calibrated the television, we look at how much adjustment to the TV’s default settings were needed in order to reach desired standards of performance. It is based on this user-oriented standard and our experience calibrating similarly classed televisions that we score some of the more objective points of a TVs performance.
With the TV calibrated, we re-visit the same video clips we used prior to calibration and further scrutinize the image by making subjective observations of factors such as motion blur, motion judder, visible artifacts, uniformity of brightness, black levels and color saturation. Once the display is moved to our “bright room”, we look at how reflective the screen is and see how the TV’s black levels and contrast hold up under the more challenging light conditions. We’ll often make adjustments to the TV’s settings to reveal how well the set maintains its color when backlight, brightness and contrast levels must be adjusted. If the TV has a sensor system designed to make automatic adjustments based on ambient light levels, we’ll test it at this time and draw subjective comparisons to similar systems we’ve tested in the past.
If the TV is 3D capable, we’ll test its 3D performance and rank it according to other active or passive 3D systems we’ve tested previously. We may look at 2D to 3D conversion, but tend not to weigh it heavily in our scoring since we consider this to be a novelty feature.
All the built in features and functionality in the world don’t amount to much if it is difficult to get at them. Today’s TV’s pack far more than simple picture adjustments into their user menu. As the list of functions grows, the need for a well-organized menu system with a speedy response becomes increasingly crucial. Our TV testing takes menu navigation into consideration as part of a larger ease-of-use evaluation. We expect the the menus and options to be clear, intuitive and quick to respond to user input.
Internet and network media access
Many TVs offer access to the same streaming music and video services, but the design of the apps for them makes all the difference in whether we use them or not. We test apps for services like Netflix, YouTube and Pandora and compare them to the apps installed in competing televisions, as well as those found in other Internet media sources, such as Blu-ray disc players and game consoles. We expect content to be easy to access and easily searchable.
We also test the network media interface provided in DLNA certified televisions. The promise of access to pictures, video and music on a home network is appealing, but, again, only practical if the content is easy to access and quick to load.
The remote control is a critical component in a TV’s ease of use. We check to see if the remote sits comfortably in the hand, and whether or not it is backlit. We expect buttons to be well laid out and a big enough to press without unintentionally pressing others. We like to see that frequently used functions are represented and that “hot-keys” are made available for some of the media apps. Off-axis function is also tested, as not everyone sits directly in front of their TV.
While we usually recommend that a display be paired with some sort of external audio system such as a soundbar or home theater system, we understand that not everyone has plans for this and, even if they do, that the TV’s speakers will probably be used for everyday watching. This is why we provide information on at TV’s built-in audio performance. We’ve found that many manufacturers treat a TV’s built-in audio as an afterthought, and if the TV is going to sound terrible without external audio, you need to know it before you buy.
Once our testing is complete, we take into consideration a television’s overall performance, its price point, and the competition it faces with similarly priced and featured TVs. Over the past few years, we’ve seen performance increase as price decreases, thus redefining the notion of value in high-definition televisions. We also factor in the changing curve in technology as once-exclusive and expensive features like local dimming make their way down to mid-level and sometimes even entry-level models. This changing landscape puts pressure on models that demand a premium price, so scoring for premium models will tend to be tougher.
We want readers to walk away from our TV reviews with a solid idea of what it would be like to own any particular TV model, and whether the TV in question might be a good fit in their homes based on our published observations.
As always, we value reader feedback and will take comments,, requests and questions into consideration as we refine our testing processes to reflect the needs of our readers.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most common terms associated with today’s TV technology.
4K Ultra HD
This refers to a display resolution that is four times that of 1080p HD. A 4K Ultra HD TV’s pixel resolution is a 3,840 x 2,160 grid in a 16:9 aspect ratio, resulting in nearly 8.3 million pixels. This increase in density adds striking detail and realism to an image and allows larger screens to be viewed from closer distances without individual pixels becoming visible.
High dynamic range (HDR)
High dynamic range is probably most familiar to people through the HDR mode on their digital cameras. It’s designed to deliver a picture that has greater details in the shadows and highlights, plus a wider range of colors. HDR in televisions pursues the same goal. The color palette is wider, blacks are deeper, and whites are brighter.
Presently, there are two major HDR formats: HDR10 and Dolby Vision, with a third — HDR10+ — beginning to show up on new models, particularly those from Samsung. The first is the HDR standard, but Dolby Vision offers a premium experience. Consider a TV that supports both. HLG (hybrid log gamma) is another recent addition to the HDR collection, which supports over-the-air (OTA) broadcast content with HDR.
Full-array local dimming (FALD)
This refers to an LED TV’s backlighting system. A FALD display contains an array of LEDs spread out in a grid behind an LCD panel, rather than just at the edges of the TV. This LED array is broken up into zones that can be dimmed when necessary to achieve better black levels. Another benefit is more uniform brightness across the screen.
Wide color gamut (WCG)
These are the expanded color reproduction abilities of a 4K Ultra HD TV, which are closer than ever to what we see in a digital cinema. By approaching (or sometimes exceeding) the Digital Cinema Initiative’s (DCI) P3 color specification, a 4K UHD TV can produce billions of more colors than a 1080p HD TV.
A layer of film loaded with tiny nanocrystal semiconductors is placed in a TV’s display panel to help produce a more accurate array of colors. Quantum dots work by producing a purer form of white light from a TV’s backlighting system, which helps the TV’s color filter perform more accurately.
An alternative to Quantum Dots, phosphor-coated LEDs have a chemical coating to alter the light’s output. When used in a TV, this results in a purer backlight that’s more easily manipulated by a TV’s color filter, resulting in a wide color gamut and increased color accuracy.
The latest version of the HDMI spec. It offers new enhancements for video games like variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low-latency mode (ALLM) and the ability to pass 4K signals to the TV at up to 120Hz, for ultra-smooth motion. HDMI 2.1 is a requirement for 8K video sources like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. For most non-gamers, HDMI 2.1 is a nice way to future-proof yourself but it's nowhere near a necessity yet.
The latest version of the High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection technology, which provides copy prevention specifically of 4K Ultra HD and 8K content. Any source device that requires HDCP 2.3 will require a TV with an HDCP 2.3-compliant HDMI port for a compatible connection.
Stands for “High-Efficiency Video Coding.” A compression technology developed to make large 4K UHD video files smaller and, therefore, easier to stream over broadband Internet connections. HEVC is said to double the data compression ratio over H.264, the predominant encoding technology used today for 1080p videos while retaining the same video quality. A smart TV or streaming set-top box must be able to decode HEVC to playback 4K Ultra HD video from sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
An alternative to HEVC developed by Google and used predominantly for encoding 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos. For a smart TV or streaming set-top box to play 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos, it must be able to decode VP9 videos.
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