Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 12:12
Looking for a new TV? Start here. David Katzmaier Aug. 4, 2021 11:00 a.m. PT
- Best TV for the money TCL 6-Series Jump to details $1,200 at Amazon
- Best TV, money no object LG OLEDG1P series Jump to details $2,800 at Best Buy
- Best high-end TV for the money LG OLEDCXP series Jump to details $1,997 at Amazon
- Best OLED alternative Samsung QN90A series Jump to details $2,100 at Samsung
- Best budget TV TCL 4-Series Jump to details $350 at Best Buy
- Best TV for the money runner-up Vizio M-Series Quantum Jump to details $700 at Best Buy
- Best budget TV runner-up Vizio V-series Jump to details $492 at Walmart
- Best midpriced alternative to TCL, Vizio Sony X90J series Jump to details $1,348 at Crutchfield
- Best design, features in a midpriced TV Samsung Q60A series Jump to details $598 at Crutchfield
- Best smaller budget smart TV TCL 3-Series Jump to details $199 at Amazon
After more than a year of COVID-related restrictions, many people are looking to make the most of their home entertainment space. This may entail upgrading your couch, rearranging your living room or tricking out your binge-watching setup for ultimate enjoyment -- perhaps investing in a soundbar or upgrading to a bigger and better TV in order to better enjoy your favorite shows or perhaps a much anticipated Netflix original.
If you're looking to enhance your TV-viewing experience, we're here to help you pick the best TV for your needs. There are a lot of TVs on the market, but generally speaking the best TV is the one that will fit your space and budget. An OLED television will give you the best picture quality, but it's expensive and might not be available in the size you want. That's where this list comes in. I've gathered the best TVs I've reviewed at different prices, sizes and technologies -- models with HDR, Ultra HD 4K, QLED, 120Hz, HDMI 2.1 and more -- based on my years of experience and side-by-side comparisons in CNET's test lab (for the foreseeable future, that's my basement). My focus is on finding the best picture quality for the money, regardless of brand.
In my comparisons I look at things like contrast ratio, local dimming, brightness, color and uniformity, gaming input lag and refresh rate, as well as the number of HDMI ports. All of these TVs have great picture quality and while 4K resolution is nice, 4K TVs with Ultra HD are not necessary for an excellent viewing experience. The other critical factor is how well the television supports your streaming service app (or apps) of choice, like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV and Disney Plus. This doesn't necessarily mean a TV with smart features, but we do want to be sure that it works well with streaming devices (including gaming systems) that allow you to easily access your streaming service of choice. Here are my recommendations for the best TV to watch your favorite TV shows, movies and more, with the following notes to keep in mind:
- Unless noted otherwise, all of the prices you'll see are for 65-inch models.
- Looking for a specific screen size? Check out: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- Some of the TVs below came out in 2020. New 2021 models are now available and we've reviewed a handful so far. For the 2020 TVs on this list I've included a "2021 outlook" section with everything I know (so far) about the new models.
- If you're worried that new 2021 TVs will have some great feature or picture quality enhancement you'll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, you should get one.
- This best TV list is updated periodically.
Read more: Do this to your TV now: 9 crucial settings to improve the picture
Best TV for the money
TCL 6-SeriesDavid Katzmaier/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Nov 2020
No TV I've ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, 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 also has gaming features that make it a solid choice for a gaming TV, with a new 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.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch.
2021 outlook: TCL says this HDR TV will remain on sale through most of 2021. I don't expect it to be replaced until at least the fall, and it might stick around the entire year. An 85-inch version will be released "in the coming months." TCL will also sell an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don't think it will be worth the money.
Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.
$1,200 at Amazon $1,300 at Best Buy $1,300 at Walmart
Best TV, money no object
LG OLEDG1P seriesSarah Tew/CNET
What's that you say? You just want the best TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the LG G1 OLED TV is the best TV I've ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. This OLED TV beats the picture of the LG CX above, barely, and offers a slimmer, more wall-friendly design. If you can afford it, this is the TV to get.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Read the LG G1 series (2021) review.
$2,800 at Best Buy
Best high-end TV for the money
LG OLEDCXP seriesDavid Katzmaier/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Nov 2020
Currently available for hundreds less than the G1 above, and with picture quality that's almost as good, the CX from 2020 is a better choice overall for people who want a really nice OLED TV but don't have money to burn. The G1 was slightly brighter in my measurements and has slightly better video processing, but it was really hard to tell the difference. The only real advantage to the G1 is that slim styling, but the CX is pretty slim itself.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
2021 outlook: The new model, designated C1, is currently available for a few hundred more than the CX. I haven't reviewed it yet. It adds a new 83-inch size, some minor new features and improved processing but I expect image quality to be largely the same as the CX.
Read our LG OLEDCX series review.
$1,997 at Amazon $2,000 at Best Buy $1,997 at Walmart
Best OLED alternative
Samsung QN90A seriesDavid Katzmaier/CNET
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 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. It's also a bit cheaper than 2021 OLED TVs (but not cheaper than the 2020 CX) and available in a wider range of sizes.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.
Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.
$2,100 at Samsung $2,098 at Crutchfield $2,098 at Amazon
Best budget TV
TCL 4-SeriesSarah Tew/CNET
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.
$350 at Best Buy $301 at Walmart $350 at eBay
Best TV for the money runner-up
Vizio M-Series Quantum
Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the best TV for the money we've reviewed. The TCL has a better picture and better smart HDTV system so it's a superior TV overall, but it's also more expensive. If you can't afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good choice.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-inch.
2021 outlook: The successor to this TV is the MQ7-J series. It looks very similar on paper -- the major difference is a new voice remote and a larger selection of sizes. It ships in July and initial list pricing is significantly higher than the 2020 version, ranging from $200 to $300 more depending on size.
Read our Vizio M7-Series Quantum (2020) review.
$700 at Best Buy
Best budget TV runner-up
Vizio V-seriesGeoffrey Morrison/CNET
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
Read the Vizio V-Series (2021) review.
$492 at Walmart $500 at Target
Best midpriced alternative to TCL, Vizio
Sony X90J seriesDavid Katzmaier/CNET
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. 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... sometime) and built-in NextGen TV tuner. If you want an "S" brand, this is one of the best values we've tested.
Read our Sony X90J series (2021) review.
$1,348 at Crutchfield $1,298 at Amazon $1,350 at Best Buy
Best design, features in a midpriced TV
Samsung Q60A seriesDavid Katzmaier/CNET
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, and the Sony X90J has a better picture, 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.
Read our Samsung Q60A series (2021) review.
$598 at Crutchfield $578 at Amazon $580 at Best Buy
Best smaller budget smart TV
TCL 3-SeriesSarah Tew/CNET
For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make a lot of sense. The picture is "good enough" and the built-in smarts are superb -- just enough to watch the final season of "The Office" or "Friends" content. And the price is perfect for a kids' room or secondary room where you don't need a massive screen.
Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 40-inch size.)
2021 outlook: The newest version of the 3-Series has a "335" model number and is available in a 32-inch size now, but TCL says image quality is the same as the 325 reviewed here. My advice is to simply get the least expensive one.
Read our TCL S325 series (Roku TV) review.
$199 at Amazon $252 at Walmart $240 at eBay
Other stuff to know about buying a new TV in 2021
I'm pretty sure you'd be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you're looking for a bit more information. Here's a quick and dirty list.
- In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
- If you don't like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a streaming device from Roku, Amazon, Google or Apple. They're generally cheap and easy to use for streaming service options -- and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best streaming devices here.
- The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it's worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars here.
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More home entertainment recommendations
- Buying a new TV in 2021
- Best TV antennas for cord cutters, starting at just $10
- Dolby Atmos: Why it's cool, how it works and how to get it
- Best Sonos speakers starting at $100
- QLED vs. OLED: Which TV tech should you buy?
- HDR formats like Dolby Vision, HDR10, Technicolor and HLG explained
- Best TVs for gaming with low input lag
- Best 75-inch TVs for 2021
- Best Blu-ray players of 2021
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