Best 4K TV for 2021: LG, Vizio, Sony and TCL compared

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Nowadays, just about every television set with a screen size that’s at least 32 inches is available in 4K resolution for prices that are basically equivalent to older, lower-resolution 1080p TVs, so 4K is no longer an expensive step-up feature only available with a high-end TV. 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 $230 for the 43-inch model. The 65-inch version has dropped to under $500.

Here’s the thing: 4K resolution on a screen doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get 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 and HDR performance. They have 4K resolution, too, but that’s basically table stakes these days.


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The list below represents the best 4K televisions (which are, let’s face it, the best TVs, full stop) 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 picture quality, design, smart TV functionality, connectivity and more. Here are my latest recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind:

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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’s also a solid choice for gamers 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.

Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.

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What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect off-angle viewing and excellent uniformity. If you can afford it, this is the TV to get.

Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.

Read our LG OLEDCX series review.

Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture and better smart TV system, so it’s a superior TV overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive. If you can’t afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good runner-up.

Read our Vizio M7-Series Quantum (2020) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you value Sony’s brand, the X900H is an excellent choice, with image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series and a price that’s not that much more expensive. And its suite of connections is actually better than the TCL’s. In winter 2020 it will get full 4K/120Hz HDMI input capability to maximize the potential of the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, and right now it’s the cheapest TV that works with ATSC 3.0 antenna broadcasts.

Read our Sony XBR-X900H series review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for viewing content with live TV streaming apps Netflix, and it’s an even better experience when it is baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series Ultra HD TV can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price. 

Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 50-inch size.)

Read our TCL S425 series (Roku TV) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

TCL’s 8-Series also features mini-LED and the result is superb contrast, brightness and high dynamic range that beats the less expensive 6-Series in my side-by-side comparison. The overall image quality doesn’t quite hit OLED levels, but it comes pretty close and costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.

Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.

Read our TCL 8-Series (2019 Roku TV) 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. 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


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