If you're looking to buy a TV this year you're faced with quite simply the most complicated and diverse TV market there's ever been.
You've got to take into consideration different panel technologies (direct LED, edge LED, and OLED); different resolutions (HD and UHD); whether or not you want high dynamic range and if you do what level of HDR performance you want; whether you want a curved screen or a flat screen… honestly, there's pretty much nothing the TV brands aren't trying in order to win over your hearts and wallets.
To some extent you need to work out for yourself which features matter to you and which don't, based on your viewing habits and personal tastes. Think in particular about what screen size you can manage, whether your room is usually bright or dark, and what sort of sources you're likely to be using.
What we certainly can do to make your life easier, though, is look across the whole broad church of 2016 TVs from our perspective of, you know, having actually tested most of them to pick out our six favorites (so far), taking in as wide a range of features and prices as we can.
1. Sony XBR-Z9D Series
Sony’s 2016 flagship TV sets new standards in picture quality
65-inch: Sony XBR-65Z9D | 75-inch: Sony XBR-75Z9D | 100-inch: Sony XBR-100Z9D
From the moment we laid eyes on the the XBR-65Z9D we’ve been desperate to get our hands on one. It is, hands down, the holy grail of television for 2016: a TV able to combine the extreme, high dynamic range-friendly brightness of LCD technology with a backlight arrangement capable of getting LCD closer than ever before to the stunning light control you get with OLED technology.
This backlight arrangement comprises more than 600 LEDs that sit behind the 65Z9D’s screen that are capable of outputting their own light levels independently of their neighbors. This should enable the TV to produce more of the extremes of light and shade associated with new high dynamic range (HDR) technology while suffering less than other LCD TVs with distracting clouds, stripes or halos of unwanted, extraneous light.
As if this wasn’t already attraction enough, the 65Z9D also sports Sony’s new ‘X1 Extreme’ video processing system and the latest version of Sony’s reliable Triluminos wide color technology for unlocking the extended color spectrums associated with HDR sources.
2. Samsung KS9500 Series
These spectacularly bright TVs do a sensational job of revealing the full majesty of the latest HDR content
55-inch: Samsung UN55KS9500 | 65-inch: Samsung UN65KS9500 | 78-inch: Samsung UN75KS9500
Samsung was the first brand to introduce a TV capable of showing high dynamic range pictures in 2015, and it builds on that achievement this year by delivering in the KS9500 series the brightnest TV the world has seen to date. This means it's uniquely qualified to unlock the full potential of HDR, delivering incredibly life-like, dynamic and dramatic pictures that also contain more detail and colour information in bright areas than we've ever seen before. The set even carries the best attempt yet at turning standard dynamic range pictures into HDR. The use of direct LED lighting with local dimming (meaning clusters of the lights behind the screen can have their brightness adjusted independently of each other) also means the KS9500 is able to deliver some gorgeously deep black colours alongside that ground-breaking brightness. You occasionally see clouds of extra light around very bright objects and some settings cause striping in HDR colours. There's no 3D support either. But with some seriously powerful sound joining the mostly barnstorming pictures these are simply the most cutting-edge TV of 2016.
3. LG OLEDE6 Series
LG's latest OLED TV combines stunning contrast with an amazing ultra-thin design and exceptional sound
The OLEDE6's incredibly slim 'picture on glass' design technique creates simply the most gorgeous TVs ever made. They're certainly not just a pretty face, though. Especially since the way each OLED pixel produces its own light and colour independent of its neighbours means the OLEDE6 series delivers levels of contrast and light control just not possible with LCD. Unprecedentedly deep black colours sit right alongside even the brightest HDR whites without a hint of light 'bleed' - something just not possible with current LCD technologies. This works wonders for high-contrast HDR sources, as well as making today's standard dynamic range sources look better than on any other TV. A sound bar attached to the bottom of the screen, meanwhile, produces sound quality that wouldn't be out of place on an external audio system. The OLEDE6's lose some detail in very bright HDR areas, and occasionally suffer fleeting colour noise. They're not cheap, either. But none of that stops them being utterly brilliant.
4. Samsung JS8500 Series
The Samsung JS8500 series combines great value with sharp UHD pictures and a slick smart TV system
48-inch: Samsung UN48JS8500 | 55-inch: Samsung UN55JS8500 | 60-inch: Samsung UN65JS8500
It's hard to find a better value on the market than last year's JS8500 series. Their combination of an ultra bright panel and Quantum Dot color reproduction enables it to deliver levels of dynamism, color vibrancy and punch with UHD sources. The sets are attractive too, featuring slim bezels, gorgeous brushed metallic frames and minimalist T-shaped stand whose curved column reaches under and behind the TV, where it attaches.. It's also nice to find the airy design kept relatively free of cable spaghetti by an external box that passes on picture and sound via a single cable.
The JS8500s make it easy to find your favorite content via a new, improved version of Samsung's Tizen smart interface, too. Bright objects can cause some backlight striping and blocking when they appear against dark backgrounds and, if you're a fan of 3D, the JS8500 offers active shutter 3D (though weirdly no 3D specs are included). The bottom line, though, the UE48JS8500's superb colour, awesome 4K detail and sublime depth make this one special TV and remains a good value way to sample Samsung's impressive SUHD TVs.
5. LG OLEDB6 Series
If you like the idea of OLED technology but can't afford LG's previously mentioned OLEDE6 series...
LG's taken an unusual approach with its 2016 OLED TV range, choosing to base the differences across the series in the range more on design than picture quality concerns. So it is that while the entry level OLEDB6 series isn't quite as ultra-slim and unfeasibly gorgeous as the premium 'picture on glass' OLEDE6 models, they do deliver broadly similar picture quality. Which is handy when you're talking about the sort of beautifully high contrast, colour-rich, HDR-capable, 4K pictures LG's OLED TVs are providing this year.
The OLEDB6 pictures lack some of the refinement of the more expensive OLEDE6 screens, and there's slightly more potential for noise in dark areas. There's also no support for 3D unlike LG's other 2016 OLED ranges, and audio is noticeably thinner than that of the sound bar-equipped OLEDE6s. All that will likely matter about the OLEDB6 series for many AV fans, though, is that they represent the cheapest way to get your hands on LG's latest and greatest OLED generation.
6. Sony XBR-X940D Series
If your tastes are more home cinema than mere TV, this spectacular 75-inch Sony beast could prove hard to resist
75-inch: Sony XBR-75X940D
If you're into movies and you've got plenty of space in your living room, Sony's 75X940D is our favorite 'giant TV' of 2016 to date. Its mammoth 75-inch screen gives you deliciously detailed, colorful, high contrast, clear and natural pictures with high and standard dynamic sources alike, and its enormity also does a great job of underlining the benefits of having a native 4K pixel count to work with. Its pictures aren't the brightest around, and some high-contrast HDR content causes light 'blooming' around bright objects.
Android TV's interface isn't the most helpful around either, and the low-profile buttons on the remote control are tortuous to use. For the vast majority of the time, though, the size and overall quality of the 75X940D's pictures creates a stunningly immersive experience that could well make the idea going out to watch films a thing of the past.