If you’re on the hunt for the best new TV then you are looking for a trifecta of features: a Smart TV that can play 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. In this article I rank the top 25 4K HDR Smart TVs and give more in-depth information on 5 of those TVs that I consider standouts. You can scroll all the way down to the end of the article to get to the list or you can read through some useful information I put together to help you pick the best new TV.
If you’re really lazy, here’s a link to the OLED TV that snagged the number 1 spot.
While this article mostly mentions premium cutting-edge TVs, if you’re looking for a great deal (in other words if you want a cheap 4K HDR TV) I have made sure to include some options for you.
Obviously if you’re a lover of movies or TV shows a newer, better TV can make those experiences even more enjoyable. Personally my home entertainment setup has already gotten to the point where I’d much rather watch a movie in the comfort of my living room than go to a crowded, dirty and expensive movie theater. In fact, the last time I went to the theater the screen almost seemed blurry in comparison to my Samsung Smart TV (making the movie nearly unwatchable). For better or worse that’s how spoiled I guess I’ve become.
Sports fans and video gamers will also love the way their favorite games look on a brighter, faster, more colorful and more realistic screen. Competitive gamers looking for advantages in the multiplayer arena will benefit from lower input lag times found on the best new TVs and football, basketball, baseball and soccer fans will love how crisp the movement of players, balls and camera pans appear with faster, less-blurry refresh rates.
Finally, if you’re wanting to use a TV as a computer monitor for your PC or Mac then a Smart TV with 4K HDR capabilities is going to provide the best possible viewing experience.
Other than the 3 main features I’ve mentioned (Smarts, 4K and HDR), which I’ll be talking about more in-depth shortly, there are some other considerations to take into account before you make your purchase. Generally speaking, the average consumer should really enjoy any of the TVs I’ve listed here in terms of picture quality, but there are some nuances that can effect overall satisfaction which you might want to keep in mind:
- Price: Expect to pay anywhere from $450 on the very low-end and $5,000 on the high-end depending on screen size, features and brand name. Once you select the brand and features you want, the screen size will be the biggest determining factor in final cost. At the time of writing you can definitely find an excellent, full-featured 4K HDR TV with a 60″ screen for under $2,000.
- Screen size: My research shows that the most searched for TV size is 60″ and I’m not surprised. As a general rule the bigger your screen is the more details you will be able to notice (especially when it comes to appreciating the extra details that a 4K TV is capable of showing). That said, I’ve been using a 48″ Samsung model and I love it.
- Refresh rate: Movies and TV shows are made up of still images (or frames) and the faster your TV can refresh what it shows the smoother the picture will look. 120Hz to 240Hz is generally the “actual” refresh rate range you’ll be shopping for. Some manufacturers claim higher regresh rates (and add monikers like “active” or “effective” to their marketing) so don’t be fooled by gimmicks. Poor refresh rates can cause “judder” which can be unpleasant and disappointing.
- Colors: A large part of how realistic and/or enjoyable your TV viewing experience will be comes down to colors (or lack thereof). You’ll see words like vibrant and rich tossed around to describe color output on the top TVs and there is definitely a difference between brands. Currently LG and Samsung TVs tend to have the best color performance.
- Blacks: How black the dark spots on your TV can get actually makes a big difference in overall picture quality and contrast. Some TVs are actually capable of completely turning off dark areas of the screen so that no light shines through — that is currently the deepest possible black a TV screen is capable of producing. Others feature local dimming. In either case, the darker certain areas of the screen can get the more that surrounding colors will appear to pop.
- Brightness: How bright your TV can get can make a big difference in picture quality. Some TVs these days get so bright that you almost want to squint! TVs that don’t get bright enough can appear more dull.
- Contrast: How much of a difference is there between whites and blacks, brights and darks? This matters — especially when it comes to HDR. Whereas non-HDR content can sometimes clip bright areas to white or dark areas to black, HDR TVs (with the appropriate content) can show more detail in those same areas.
- Remote: A remote is still the primary way you will interact with your TV so getting a TV with a remote you like is an obvious way to make the overall ownership experience better and more satisfying. And don’t think all remotes are the same. Beyond buttons (how many, where placed) and ergonomics (how easy it is to use and hold), many remotes now feature voice control or touch screens. Vizio has even started shipping it’s top-tier TVs with phablets rather than traditional remotes. You’ll also want to think about whether you want a universal remote (that can control things like your home theater setup, gaming accessories like an Xbox or Playstation, streaming TV boxes like an Apple TV or Roku, etc.) or one that is simpler and more dedicated.
- Interface: Smart TVs may indeed be more intelligent but what’s the point if the best features are hard to access? Just because a TV has a great picture doesn’t mean you’ll love using it. I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the user interface and menu system (and especially the settings) along with how easy the remote makes accessing these features before making an expensive purchase (that’s all too easy to regret).
- Ads: Some TV makers have resorted to stashing ads (think recommended content) on TV menu screens (which can’t be removed, unfortunately). This is a sad reality and something you really should look into if you think it would bother you.
- Apps: A big part of what makes a Smart TV “smart” is the app selection and it’s ability to pull in content and entertainment from the Internet. Apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Pandora are almost a given on any Smart TV, but if an app like Amazon Video, Spotify or HBO Go is important to you then double check that your TV supports it (or be prepared to buy a streaming TV box — like the Apple TV or a Roku — separately).
- Reflections: Some TV screens are more reflective than others and there’s nothing more disappearing worse than seeing your couch or carpet or fireplace reflected in the dark areas of the screen for the first time when you weren’t expecting it. Do your research!
- Looks: Finally looks matter. How thing a TV is, how it will look sitting on a TV console or hanging on the wall, how much of a bezel there is, what the stand looks like… these are all things that might impact your overall happiness once the TV actually lives in your home.
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
I’ve mentioned 3 must-have features your new TV should have a few times already in this article, but I’ll repeat them again here: smart features, support for 4K resolution and HDR. I’m going to be giving special attention to these 3 features and I’m going to start with HDR because, in my opinion, it has the biggest impact on picture quality (put differently it feels like the biggest upgrade).
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it lets you see a broader range of color. And while it can be hard to see the difference (on some TVs) between 1080p and 4K content, the difference that HDR makes is pretty noticeable. I’ve been doing some in-depth testing to see how HDR works and I’ve come away very impressed. Impressively, areas of sunlight and shadows which you might not have been able to see before will reveal new details with HDR (which has a bigger impact than you might think).
My first taste of HDR entertainment came via my home setup: a Samsung KS8000 TV hooked up to an Xbox One S (the first HDR-capable console system to launch). The Xbox One S works as an Ultra-HD Blu-Ray player and can, of course, also play HDR games. You can read my review of HDR gaming on this setup (which includes the best settings for HDR gaming for that particular TV) or watch my HDR video test comparing the DVD, Blu-Ray and Ultra-HD versions of The Revenant (with a split screen view to show the difference) if you want to know more.
There are two different HDR formats vying for dominance at the moment: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Unfortunately, not all HDR TVs support both formats — though some do (conveniently). While Dolby Vision is technically superior, I’ve experienced HDR10 and it certainly isn’t disappointing. Just like we had to wait for large tech companies to fight it out over the whole Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD thing, we’re going to have to wait and see what happens here as well.
4K resolution, which is 4 times more detailed than 1080p HD, has really been overhyped. Don’t get me wrong: you can notice a difference and you really can see more details… but you have to look pretty close. As I mentioned earlier, it can sometimes be tricky to tell the difference between 1080p and 4K — even if placed side-by-side — on certain setups (particularly on smaller screens). But if you get up close or watch 4K content on a very large screen the effect can be pretty cool.
TV news anchors famously hated 4K when it debuted because it supposedly showed more wrinkles on their skin. And that’s actually pretty true in my experience — there have been some closeups where I’ve seen mini-wrinkles in-between normal wrinkles on my 4K HDR TV (no joke).
Top TVs these days include 4K upscaling which is awesome. It’s a great way to breathe new life into older content, but don’t expect any miracles. 4K upscaling does work pretty good, but it doesn’t produce 4K-caliber results in most older content. For instance, if you’re watching an old TV show from the 80s or early 90s, just expect it to look a bit better than it would otherwise — but don’t expect it to be crystal clear.
Finally, many people are now carrying around 4K cameras everywhere they go on their smartphones. The iPhone 7 Plus (click the link for my review), for instance, shoots incredible 4K content. So if you’d like to view your favorite memories on the big screen in the best possible quality, upgrading to a 4K TV makes a lot of sense.
What makes a Smart TV smart (or maybe I should spell it smarttv like how we spell smartphones… nah)? The short answer is the Internet, usually via apps.
TVs with apps aren’t exactly new anymore; actually, connected TVs are simply the standard now. And that’s a really good thing for people interested in watching 4K and HDR content.
Of course you could always hook up an external streaming device like the Roku Ultra or the Chromecast Ultra (unfortunately the current iteration of the otherwise excellent Apple TV doesn’t include 4K support yet) to pipe in content, but I’ve found that life can be slightly more convenient when everything is integrated into your TV.
The Smart TV that is currently sitting in my living room (which I love) — the Samsung KS8000 — has Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Go and many other streaming apps built right in. When I turn on my TV the main menu/interface pops up briefly across the bottom of the screen which will let me launch a favorite app like Netflix in no time — no hunting or searching required.
Of course TVs that make use of voice interaction (voice search, primarily) need the Internet to parse and understand what the user is saying in order to show the intended content or take appropriate action.
There are a few other fringe benefits to owning a Smart TV, but really, outside of apps, the features mostly seem to be a bit gimmicky. Some TVs offer “extra” content pulled in from the Internet based on what you happen to be watching at the time… but normally it’s not even contextually relevant. Just because TVs look amazing these days doesn’t mean there isn’t some room to improve the overall experience!
5 Standout Smart Televisions
While there are many (many) great TVs listed here, I want to spend some time talking about 5 special TVs that I think most people looking for the best 4K HDR model will want to consider. Namely the best options from leading TV brands LG, Samsung, Vizio and Sony. I also want to talk about a cheaper 4K HDR TV from Hisense for anyone looking for a great TV deal.
LG TV: LG B6 OLED TV
While I truly enjoy TVs made by several top manufacturers I feel more than confident declaring LG the current king of TV picture quality (and I think that is a pretty universal view among qualified technology reviewers). And the LG B6 OLED TV serves as the company’s flagship TV. LG’s OLED technology is truly second to none. When the company claims their OLED TVs have deeper blacks and better contrast they aren’t kidding.
I’ve written about LG’s Perfect Black technology fairly frequently in the past and the subject still excites my inner nerd even today. The pixels on this TV are individually controllable which means they can be completely turned off. So where other TVs dim pixels the B6 actually doesn’t produce any lights in the darkest, blackest areas.
I love also appreciate that this TV supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR formats.
Samsung TV: Samsung KS9500
I’ve mentioned owning a Samsung KS8000 several times in this article as it was the TV that introduced me to HDR video. My TVs bigger brother, the KS9500, takes everything I love about the KS8000 to another level. If LG makes the nicest TVs on the market, at the moment, the Samsung is so close to matching the quality that it’s a near photo finish.
If there’s one area where Samsung SUHD TVs outperform the competition it’s in the brightness department. I also really love how thin Samsung’s KS series TVs are: from the side these TVs almost disappear and the front bezel is almost non-existent (the Vizio seems quite chunky by contrast). Finally, the KS9500 isn’t capable of turning off pixels for the purest possible black like the LG B6 but the blacks are so rich that most people likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (but I will admit that the Samsung TVs have screens that are a bit too reflective for my liking).
Samsung has decided to support HDR10 — which means it will work with the popular new Xbox One S (plus the input lag is really low making this one of the best gaming TVs on the market).
Vizio TV: Vizio P Series
I really admire Vizio for setting out to change the game as demonstrated by the Vizio P Series. This is a company that isn’t afraid to take risks — like ditching the traditional remote control for a phablet! This is the kind of bold thinking I’ve come to expect from one of the greatest tech companies of all time, Apple, who is notorious for pushing industries forward by letting go of outdated technology (as demonstrated most recently by the removal of the headphone jack from the latest iPhones).
Aside from the redefined remote experience, the P Series offers Dolby Vision HDR support, 384 Active Pixel Zones and Pixel Tuning. Vizio’s Pixel Tuning technology isn’t quite on par with LG’s Perfect Black in terms of the effect it will have on your picture quality but it does allow for individual pixels to be adjusted for better sharpness and accuracy.
Sony TV: Sony X930D
Sony’s X930D is the closest thing to a work of art as a TV can get and it’s going to not only display content that looks amazing but it’s also going to look amazing itself — especially when hung on your wall. It’s so thin it’s almost ridiculous.
This is Sony’s best 4K HDR TV and even though it ranks 9th on our top 25 list below (behind several LG and Samsung models and the Vizio P Series) I don’t think anyone who insists on buying Sony (I see you PlayStation owners) will be disappointed even in the slightest. If you are looking for an awesome gaming TV, want a clean aesthetic, are looking for a TV that is nearly flush when mounted on a wall or prefer an Android-powered TV experience this is a superb option.
Hisense TV: Hisense H8C
The Hisense H8 isn’t the prettiest TV (though it’s not ugly) nor can it claim category leading picture quality but it definitely offers a compelling entry-level 4K HDR TV experience for under $600!
One thing many reviewers seem to be surprised by with this set, though, is the quality and power of the built-in speakers which actually don’t sound too shabby (if you’re on a budget I’m assuming you might not be hooking up an external home theater sound system). It’s thicker and heavier than leading 4K HDR sets and it lacks some of the whiz-bang features you’ll find on higher-end TVs but if you’re just after the very basics, the H8 might just be all you need.
The 25 Best Smart TV’s with 4K HDR
I’ve prioritized HDR in this list because I think it makes the biggest difference in picture quality and overall wow factor. As this list ages (it was created in 2016) I think it will continue to be a useful and relevant guide — simply look for the newest models from the companies listed here.
- LG B6 – OLED TV with excellent HDR and contrast, amazing colors. Pretty good brightness.
- Samsung KS9500 – Performs just under LG’s OLED TVs; better peak brightness, bad local dimming.
- Vizio P Series – Comes very close in quality to the best LG OLED TVs.
- LG C6 – This OLED TV featured excellent HDR and contrast with amazing colors.
- LG E6 – This OLED TV featured excellent HDR and contrast with amazing colors.
- Samsung KS9000 -Performs just under LG’s OLED TVs; better peak brightness, bad local dimming.
- Samsung KS8500 -Performs just under LG’s OLED TVs; better peak brightness, bad local dimming.
- Samsung KS8000 -Performs just under LG’s OLED TVs; better peak brightness, bad local dimming.
- Sony X930D – Solid performer all around — slightly lower local dimming scores.
- Samsung JS9500 – Comes pretty close in quality to the Samsung KS series, but just under.
- LG UH8500 – Slightly lower scores on peak brightness and contrast; bad local dimming.
- Samsung JS8500 – Peak brightness starts to decline by this model vs the KS series.
- LG UH9500 – Curiously, performs a bit lower than the UH8500, but just barely.
- LG EG9600 – Curiously, performs a bit lower than the UH8500, but just barely.
- Samsung JS9000 – Lacks the category-leading peak brightness performance of the KS series.
- Sony X850D – Comparatively mediocre peak brightness and contrast results.
- Sony X800D – Comparatively mediocre peak brightness and contrast results.
- Sony X850C – Comparatively mediocre peak brightness and contrast results.
- Vizio M Series 2016 – Performs worse in the color and brightness departments than the P Series.
- LG UH7700 – Decent HDR performance but suffers from poorer color, blacks and brightness.
- Sony X900C – Comparatively mediocre peak brightness and contrast results.
- Samsung KU7000 – Admirable performance from all categories except peak brightness.
- Hisense H8C – Very bad local dimming, mediocre color and brightness.
- Samsung JS7000 – Bad contrast and black uniformity, mediocre brightness.
- Samsung JU7100 – Bad local dimming, mediocre color and brightness.