Best TV Buying Guide: Settle in for TechRadar's round-up of the best TV sets you can get your hands on in 2018.
Picking a TV is no simple task. If you're a movie buff, this screen may end up as your best friend not just for the coming months, but years – while we replace our phones on a fairly regular basis, the best TV screens should sit prettily in our living rooms for a good long while. They're pricey purchases, and we expect to get our money's worth. With the 2018 World Cup ready to take over screens this summer, football fans may be particularly keen to upgrade.
And with so many features to consider, with new TV technologies being introduced all the time, making a decision is getting harder all the time. A brand new top-of-the-line TV can offer such a wide range of different technologies and features that it can be hard to know what you're looking for. With the major manufacturers in a yearly arms race to outdo rivals, keeping up with all the latest developments isn't always easy.
- Confused about high dynamic range? Don't miss our guide to HDR
Feeling flummoxed? Don't worry, TechRadar is here to be your guide. Our guide to the best TVs available will help you separate the cheap panels from the best 4K screens. We'll help you find an awesome flatscreen without wasting hours of research comparing spec sheets.
If you're looking for a buying guide that deals with TVs that only support the new Ultra HD resolution, check out our guide to the best 4K TVs. If getting a flatscreen on the cheap is your main concern, check out the best 4K TV deals.
But, if you're looking for the best-of-the-best TV out there today without limits or stipulations, this is the place for you.
"So, should I buy a TV now or wait it out?"
We hear this question a lot. Like most technology, TVs are getting incrementally better all the time, but recently there has been a huge flurry of progress as manufacturers have rushed to embrace new display standards including Ultra HD and HDR.
Thankfully, things seem to have settled down a little in this department, and the majority of TV manufacturers now support these next generation of features, including newer versions of HDR such as Hybrid Log Gamma.
So long as your next TV purchase supports these technologies (looking for an Ultra HD Premium certification is a good way to go), we reckon you won't be kicking yourself in six month's time when the next batch of sets arrive
That said, we'd be remiss if we didn't let you know about the cool technologies that are just around the corner in TV tech. Chief amongst them is support for the new HDMI 2.1 standard, which as well as allowing support for 8K at 60 frames per second and 4K at 120 will also allow for FreeSync to be supported over HDMI.
It's cool technology for sure, but unless you're seriously into your gaming then we reckon you're safe making a purchase now.
- Want better audio? Check out our guide to the best soundbars available.
- Once you've decided on a panel, make sure you read our guide on to make sure you're getting the most out of it.
1. Sony XBR-Z9D Series (2016)
Sony’s 2016 flagship TV set 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 2017: 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. LG Signature Series W7 OLED (2017)
LG's W7 OLED melds into the wall
65-inch: LG 65W7OLED | 77-inch: LG 77W7OLED
The LG W7 OLED is truly something special. Not only is it one of the thinnest TVs to ever grace our vision (it’s 2.75mm thin), but it’s also one of the most gorgeous. When fed the right kind of content – in this case, 4K HDR10 or Dolby Vision video – it truly shines. A super-slim design alone wouldn’t have been enough to warrant the extra cost to upgrade to LG’s latest panel. But the thin frame on top of a Dolby Atmos soundbar on top of four types of HDR support on top of the magnetic mounting system on top of the new webOS 3.5 operating system surely did the trick. This incredibly gorgeous TV isn’t without its faults (see: motion handling, its sticker price and soundbar issues), but in terms of sheer picture performance there’s nothing else like it right now.
3. Samsung QLED Q9F (2017)
Getting the hots for metal Quantum Dots
It looks like someone on Samsung’s TV design team has been watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 65-inch Q9 is a ringer for that film’s mysterious black monolith thanks to the way both its front and back sides are completely flat and feature ultra-robust, polished finishes. Ultra HD HDR playback is what the Q9F was created to do and, given Samsung’s potent HDR track record, it's no surprise to find that it does it supremely well. Even though the Q9F has 4K HDR optimisation in its DNA, it’s capable of looking seriously good with high definition standard dynamic range content too.
4. Sony XBR-X930E Series (2017)
Sony turns to the bright side using its Slim Backlight Drive
The X930E Series builds on last year's X930D series in a few important ways, the first of which is by including one of Sony’s new X1 Extreme chipsets. These are around 40% more powerful than the original X1 chips, and introduce separate databases to help the TV analyze noise and upscale sub-4K sources to the screen’s native 4K resolution. Add in an apparently much-improved sound system and Sony’s Triluminos technology for delivering today’s wider color ranges and the X930E series seems to tick all the right boxes.
Unfortunately, though, even an improved version of Sony’s Slim Backlight Drive can’t completely hide the fact that with current edge LED technology there’s always a backlight-based price to pay for all that HDR-sating brightness.
5. Samsung KS9800 Series (2016)
Samsung's 2016 flagship UHD/HDR TV raised the bar
When it came out, the KS9800 produced the most dramatic demonstration of what new high dynamic range technology was capable of. Its brightness in particular was unprecedented, which helped it deliver a much fuller sense of HDR's expanded light range and color capabilities than we'd ever seen.
The screen features that helped it excel with HDR also made the UN65KS9800 gorgeous to behold with standard dynamic range sources, and it even sounds fantastic despite having no visible speakers. That said, it was expensive.
But instead of going straight for Samsung's flagship from last year, consider LG's E6 or G6 OLED TVs as well. The OLED screens deliver superior black levels, avoid backlight bleed issues and excel with standard dynamic range content, but the UN65KS9800 delivers more punch, dynamism and detail with HDR.
6. Sony Bravia A1 OLED
Sony's brand-new TV for 2017 is returning to OLED
65-inch: Sony Bravia 65A1E | 55-inch: Sony Bravia 55A1E
If LG's OLED isn't your thing, spend some time checking out Sony's version.
The 55A1 – and the A1 OLED series overall – are crowd pleasers in just about every way. Their ‘picture only’ design has been beautifully realized, managing to be simultaneously subtle and dramatic.
Their vibrating screen delivers a far more powerful and effective sound performance than I’d thought possible, too. The real stars of the show here, though, are the A1’s exquisitely detailed, contrast-rich and colourful pictures.
These prove emphatically what we’ve long suspected: More brands using OLED technology can only lead to good things.
Only it's exceptionally high price tag prevents it from toppling LG's budget panels.
7. Panasonic TH-65FZ1000M OLED TV
This polished Panasonic 4K Pro HDR OLED is picture-perfect
65-inch: Panasonic TH-65FZ1000M
The TH-65FZ1000M is a luscious OLED that puts performance first. Its colour handling is class-leading, and its HDR talents are a match for any of its rivals. In fact, it just might offer the best picture performance that we’ve seen on a 4K OLED to date.
The TH-65FZ1000M isn’t the complete package, lacking as it does Dolby Vision and Atmos compatibility, but it wins more arguments than it loses. We suspect you’ll appreciate the easy sophistication of its smart platform, the quality of that low-lag game mode, and the sheer musicality of the Technics soundbar.
Continue on to page two to read about what to look for when buying a TV!
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