4K resolution is no longer a pricey step-up feature. Most TVs with a screen size of at least 43 inches are available in 4K resolution, and prices for 4K TVs are now basically equivalent to older, lower-resolution 1080p TVs. If you’re shopping for a 50-inch screen or bigger, it’s hard to find any model that isn’t 4K.
The best 4K TV screen may be more affordable than you think. The popular TCL 4-Series, which I like a lot as an entry-level option, starts at a budget TV price of around $300 for the 43-inch model.
With those kinds of prices, as you might expect, 4K resolution on a screen doesn’t necessarily mean great picture quality. All those millions of pixels — 8,294,440 to be exact — don’t have much of an impact on how good the image looks. The best-performing TVs in our reviews and the best TVs for the money excel in other areas of picture quality, such as contrast, dynamic range, HDR performance and peak brightness. If you’re looking for a gaming TV, you’ll also want to consider factors like input lag. These TVs have 4K resolution, too, but that’s basically table stakes these days.
The list below represents the best 4K televisions (which are, let’s face it, the best TVs, period) I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab, where I compare them side by side to see which ones are most worth buying. I considered factors like design, picture quality, smart TV functionality, connectivity and more (basically, everything you need to watch your favorite TV shows and make the most of your streaming apps or Fire TV stick). Here are my latest recommendations, 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: 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- Although most of these TVs are 2021 models, a few came out in 2020. For the 2020 TVs on this list I’ve included a “2021 outlook” section with everything I know about the new models, but in general the 2020 TVs are similar (and often a better bargain) compared to 2021 models.
- This best TV list is updated periodically.
Read more: Do this to your TV now: 9 crucial settings to improve the picture
No 4K TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for as little cash. The TCL 6 Series has an excellent image 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’s also a solid choice for gamers with a 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.
2021 outlook: This TV came out in 2020 but will stay on sale throughout 2021 and remains my top choice so far. TCL also sells an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra money, as well as a Google-powered version I have yet to review (although according to TCL its image quality is the same as this Roku version).
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.
What’s that you say? You just want the best TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my tests the LG G1 OLED TV and the cheaper C1 below were the best TVs I’ve ever reviewed, with unbeatable contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. The main advantage of the G1 is slimmer, more wall-friendly design compared to the C1, so if you value that style and can afford it, this is the TV to get.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Read our LG OLEDG1 series review.
Currently available for hundreds less than the G1 above, and with picture quality that’s basically just as good, the C1 is a better choice overall for people who want a really nice OLED TV but don’t have money to burn. The only real advantage to the G1 is that slim styling, but the C1 is pretty slim itself and comes in a wider array of sizes.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, 83-inch.
Read our LG C1 series OLED TV review.
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 TV 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.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.
Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.
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.
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. (The prices shown below are for the 55-inch size.)
Read our Vizio V-series (2021) review.
With excellent picture quality, anchored by full-array local dimming and plenty of brightness to make HDR 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.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch.
Read our Sony X90J series (2021) review.
Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone and one of the most popular is the Q60A series. Its sleek 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. (The prices shown below are for the 50-inch size.)
Read our Samsung Q60A series (2021) review.
Other stuff to know about buying a new 4K TV
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 media streamer (like a Fire TV stick or Roku box). They’re cheap and easy to use, and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
- Most built-in speakers sound terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a soundbar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.
Looking for even more info? Here’s everything to know about buying a new TV in 2021.