Before we jump into the list of best TVs of 2021, we’d like to take a moment to share what we see as the biggest problem with TV today: it’s not actually good enough to watch. That’s right, we’re talking about your current TV, not the cloud-delivered 4K shows and movies you’re probably watching right now. The problem? It’s old, and it’s not keeping up. Despite this, we’re still at a point where, if we’re lucky, we might see a new TV from a major company before 2021.
We’ve been keeping a close eye on the state of tech and everything else since the year 2020, and have noticed a new trend emerge: 3D TVs. This isn’t your grandmother’s 3D TV, either; the same tech that makes 3D movies and videos look so cool is now being used to bring 3D to the living room. The problem is, 3D TVs are very expensive, and that price keeps going up as the technology becomes more expensive. This, of course, is a major setback for consumers. BUT THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE. After years of development, we’ve finally reached the point where 3D TVs are cheap—and even better, there are now 3D TVs that do not require glasses!
TV technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, and the size, technology and quality that used to be financially prohibitive for many of us can now be purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars.
If you make a wise choice, this investment will last a long time. A TV that is only a few years old does not need to be replaced, as breakthroughs in TVs are much slower than other technologies such as smart speakers, headphones or mobile phones.
To help you choose, we’ve spent the last few months testing the latest TVs from 43 to 85. After hours of researching our favorite shows and movies, comparing aspect ratios and screen quality, and testing the intelligence of each model, we concluded that all three of these TVs came out on top.
Best general television
TCL’s 6-series monitors cost just under €1,000 and, thanks to QLED and mini-LED backlighting, offer excellent picture quality and immersive viewing. Roku’s built-in interface is easy to use and provides instant access to thousands of streaming services.
The best TV for a low price
The Vizio V-Series Economy TV, which starts at $229.99, is a versatile TV with good but not spectacular picture quality, fast processing and access to lots of streaming content, and easy integration with mobile and smart devices.
For nearly $3,000, the Sony A90J offers the best image quality we’ve ever tested, with superior detail and hyper-accurate colors. It’s one of the brightest OLED TVs we’ve seen, it supports all the standards video enthusiasts need, and it makes it easy to access everything through the Google TV interface.
TCL’s Series 6 TVs have gotten more expensive since our last review (prices start at $899.99 for a 55-inch TV), but thanks to the excellent user interface and compelling picture offered by the QLED and mini-LED technologies, they remain our overall recommendation, even for a little more money.
It all starts with a smart interface, as TCL has integrated the brain of the Roku streaming set-top box into the Series 6. It’s the same three-panel grille with a frame on the side that serves as a power access point. Get instant access to thousands of streaming services, including HBO Max, Peacock, Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, Hulu and Apple TV+.
Since the Roku operating system is the interface to the TV itself, the inputs are in the first few cells of the grid. This allows you to quickly switch between built-in streaming content and external sources; think Apple TV 4K and PlayStation 5 (if you have one). The included remote has a simple D-panel with arrows, which makes navigation pretty easy. However, as you add services and install new applications, the interface can become quite cluttered. You should organize or categorize them as you wish; this will make it easier to find the content. The Series 6 disconnects the Wi-Fi connection more often than other TVs, especially after a long period of inactivity.
Whatever content you’re watching, TCL Series 6 makes it look great. It outperforms Series 5 in color accuracy and holds up better at different viewing angles. Like Samsung’s Neo QLED and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021, the Series 6 TVs feature mini-LED. This means that there are more LEDs behind the panel, allowing the TV to illuminate more specific details when creating images. The result is a vivid image with vibrant colors and high contrast.
In one of the last episodes of WandaVision, you could see different shades of red and purple on Wijen’s face. Other TVs we’ve tested in this price range weren’t able to display this level of detail with HDR – and more importantly, the TCL didn’t distort color values. We did not see the colors bleed into other parts of the scene, whether it was the background, foreground, or moving characters and objects. We attribute this to the mini-LED technology that allows the 6 Series to accurately create individual picture areas. Even in dark scenes with bright flashes, we didn’t notice any glare. There is a bit of white around the edges of the screen, but we expect this to be the case with any non-OLED panel.
The real problem with a 4K TV is scaling the content you watch every day, since most of that content won’t be in 4K to begin with. In our tests, using 6-Series AI to enhance content simply delivered better results, including sharpening objects, improving brightness and adding vibrancy. Whether it’s streaming Netflix content or playing YouTube videos in 720p, the Series 6 got it right.
Streaming content from mobile devices has become easy as it supports various ecosystems. With Google Cast, you can easily stream content from YouTube or an Android device. For members of the Apple ecosystem: AirPlay 2 support allows streaming from any Apple device. And the Series 6 is easy to add to the Home app on your iOS or macOS device, as it supports HomeKit (Apple’s smart home ecosystem).
We only have two complaints about the 6 series: Sound and price. The Series 6 TV is far from the thinnest or lightest, but TCL didn’t use much of that space for sound. We noticed a few moments of ambiguity in the mix and a lack of clarity at higher volumes. Dense soundtracks from movies were often muddy, and even simple background tracks from TV shows had little depth or separation. For the best 6 Series experience, you need a soundbar.
The 6-series offers a much better image than the 5-series and gets rid of the dilemma of the narrow viewing angle that was the biggest drawback of that model. And even with a new, higher MSRP of $949.99, the Series 6 is still cheaper than comparable devices from Sony and Samsung. We also note that the original price of the Series 6 was $749.99, and that most big sales are bringing the Series 6 closer to that price.
The TCL 6-Series does a lot of things right for its price and, most importantly, it doesn’t compromise on the viewing experience. The QLED and mini-LED make for exciting moments and don’t overdo it with the content, and the TV has fairly thin bezels all around. Plus, the Roku’s built-in interface gives you instant access to all the content you want, right out of the box.
When it comes to budget TVs, compromise is usually the order of the day. But with Vizio’s 2021 V-Series, those compromises are minimal. It offers a solid picture with better-than-expected scaling, but not the world’s best HDR – a trade-off we can live with for the starting price of $229.99.
If you are not picky or if you are working with a high-end panel, you will hardly notice any problems. Vizio’s current V-series monitors offer a good picture, but they don’t draw you in like OLEDs do. We could see some details, the colors were correct and the contrast was good. The backlighting is much more detailed than on last year’s model and offers less stray light. You won’t see a subtle glow on the black areas closest to the energy explosion, but there will be a deeper point of contrast.
The difference in detail between the V series and our best examples is most apparent in the lower resolution of the core content – think old Simpsons episodes. In these cases, the V-series’ processor struggles and colors distort (by comparison, the Sony A90J’s extra processing power makes these images much brighter). We noticed that the yellow was a little too bright and there was an extra graininess that was not present in the original content. But these scale problems were minimal, and more modern material like Mandalorian, Brooklyn 9-9, 90 Day Groom and Below Deck were shown in good quality.
In general, the image quality does not reach the level of more expensive models. It seems less accurate, and we’ve noticed that the climactic scene in the big movie seems less exciting. For example, when there is an energy flash around Captain Marvel, the image is not as bright and saturated as on the A90J or even the TCL 6 series.
To be honest, Vizio’s SmartCast interface seemed mediocre to us. It is organized as a grid system with several rows and many slideshows. One small surprise was the processor in the 2021 V-Series, which proved to be significantly faster and more agile than in the 2020 model. We’ve found that we can access the content we want to watch much faster, whether it’s a rerun of The Office on Peacock, a new season of Selena and the Chef on HBO Max or WandaVision on Disney+. SmartCast’s speed is now on par with Android TV, but still slightly slower than Roku’s Smart interface.
Vizio takes a Swiss approach to integrating TVs into smart ecosystems. Like the Sony A90J with Google TV, it works with all major platforms, including Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, Google Cast, and can also integrate with Amazon Alexa. This means you can turn your TV on and off by voice, control it in the right smart home apps and easily stream content to your TV.
Still, Vizio makes impressive progress year after year. If you’re not looking for the cream of the crop in terms of panel or performance, the V Series is a good option, with fast processing and good, if not spectacular, image quality. You have access to all major smart drives and an interface that supports multiple services. It is a balanced choice among the many cheap TVs.
With a price tag of nearly $3,000, it’s safe to say that the Sony A90J has a luxurious price tag. But for that price, you get OLEDs with the best picture quality we’ve ever tested. Not only is the A90J better than our previous luxury TV, the A8H, but so is every other TV on this list.
While OLEDs are generally better than LEDs or QLEDs, the Sony A90J is the brightest OLED screen we’ve ever tested. It offers superior detail and hyper-accurate colours.
The redesigned OLED panel, available in 55-inch, 65-inch and a huge 75-inch variant, is brighter than ever and its new heat sink allows the panel to heat up more, creating a brighter picture while preserving the panel, Sony said. The result is a more intense visual experience. This allows the A90J to perform well even in a room that is not optimal for viewing. We watched TV during the day in a bright room where the sunlight came in from the left and we could still clearly see the images on the TV screen.
In addition to the panel, the A90J’s performance depends on Sony’s XR cognitive processor, which the company says analyzes content in the same way the human eye does.
In the final battle of Avengers: Endgame, especially the shot where we see Captain America grab Mjolnir, we saw more detail and bright colors in this area on the A90J than on the A8H. Overall, the A90J’s colors were just more accurate than the other kits we tested.
The A90J supports a range of standards, including HDR, HDR+ and Dolby Vision, and the TV can detect them automatically. Dolby Vision or HDR mode is enabled when viewing supported content. If you want bright colors when viewing standard content, choose Vivid or Director mode.
The screen extends to the edges of the device with minimal bezels. The included stand gives you two height options: you can flush the bottom edge with the tabletop or raise it to make room for the soundbar, which we recommend for any modern TV. While the A90Js are impressively thin, they don’t leave much room in the chassis for sound. Sony’s solution is to use the screen itself as part of the audio system, as we saw with the A8H and the LG CX: a set of actuators vibrates the entire screen and uses the entire surface as a speaker. It’s a balanced mix with better clarity than TCL’s 6-series, which has traditional speakers. But while the A90J is an improvement over other TVs, it won’t fill a room on its own and we still recommend pairing it with a soundbar or surround sound system.
The smart interface is Google TV, which we’ve enjoyed using on the Chromecast so far. It’s not as user-friendly as the Roku (which is still our favorite built-in option), but it does allow you to control most functions with your voice and it offers a lot of search options for content. All the major players in the streaming industry are present: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock and HBO Max, among others. And if you use YouTube TV, you’ll feel right at home. Like previous Sony TVs, the A90J supports HomeKit, AirPlay and Amazon Alexa.
The A90J is all about image quality, and if you’re willing to spend $2,798 for a 55-inch or larger screen, you can be sure you won’t be disappointed. Offering the best picture we’ve ever tested, the A90J will make your movie nights a 5-star experience.
After studying reviews, purchases and our own experiences, we tested 10 TVs. And while they differ in size and capabilities, we’ve tried to create test categories that allow for a fair comparison.
We’ve tried to highlight the key technologies in the TVs we’ve tested and how they affect (or don’t affect) the viewing experience. Our test panel consisted of a mix of OLED, QLED and LED panels. QLED and LED panels are similar in that they use an illuminated panel that allows light to pass through filters of pixels to create an image. OLED is completely different because the image is transmitted by individual pixels.
We reviewed each TV based on picture and sound quality, with an emphasis on picture quality. We also liked the smart user interface, installation process, design, connectivity, remote control and warranty.
We took the TVs through the installation process and tested all the features and options, such as… B. Image modes, availability of certain services (such as casting assistance), and ease of navigation on the user interface.
With televisions, the difference in sound and vision can be very subtle. During our extensive testing, we looked at the same programs on different devices to make a comparison and identify those slight differences.
We looked at the nuances of each remote and evaluated the ergonomics and design; a clunky remote isn’t as good as a sleek, organized remote.
Learn more about our test categories.
- Packaging: We unpacked the TV and took it and its parts completely out of the packaging. We noticed how easily and quickly we could eliminate polystyrene, cardboard and plastic. More importantly, we looked at how easy the TV was to take out of the box.
- Installation and instructions : As we set up the TV, we wrote down any complaints we had about the process. This includes the assembly of hardware, such as. for example a TV cabinet, and the configuration of software such as B. TV Samsung Tizen or Roku. Instructions that required fewer steps or were visually easy to interpret received higher ratings.
- Hardware design : We have examined and tested the materials the TV is made of. We have chosen to strike a balance between lightweight materials, which facilitate installation, and high-quality plastics and metals.
- He’s fading: We measured the ratio between the frame around the screen and the screen itself. The screen, which takes up most of the front of the TV, was obviously preferred.
- Access to jacks and buttons : We tested how easy it is to connect the cables and access the ports after installing the TV. We also noted the location of the keys and the ease with which we could reach them. (Buttons that required a yoga pose to reach were poorly noted).
- General: We tested every port, every wireless feature, and every remote connection for functionality and latency. We also saw the presence of HDMI ports with ARC, eARC or 2.1 support.
- Brightness: We compared the visual clarity that any TV can provide. For programs like Springsteen on Broadway, we paid particular attention to reflections and shiny objects, like the glitter on Springsteen’s guitar.
- Contrast: We observed the edges between different objects and people during broadcasts on each TV and viewed these edges in dark and bright lighting conditions. Clear and visually noticeable edges are preferred.
- Vibration: We compared the color intensity of each TV. During the different programs, we illuminated the different lights and colored surfaces to contrast these shades between the TV sets.
- Supports standards (Dolby Vision/HDR/CG) : We noted whether each of these standards is available on each TV, and compared the quality of each mode on different TVs.
- General: To assess overall picture quality, we tested each TV with a wide range of content, including Hamilton, Star Wars: Skywalker Rising, Frozen II, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Space Force, The Bold Type, Below Deck, 90 Day Fiance, CNN, CNN International, The Love Guru, the Austin Powers movies, James Bond and Iron Man, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Stars of the West, Springsteen on Broadway and many others.
Message: The built-in speakers in most 2021 TVs are usually inadequate. If you want high-quality sound, given many relatively affordable options, we recommend adding an external soundbar or home theater to one of the TVs we tested.
- Soundstage: We have determined the extent to which each television set can produce a 3D sound experience. For example, if the instrument is at the end of the stage during a performance, a TV with a good sound picture will accurately reflect the position of the sound.
- Low: We listened to the clarity and depth of sounds in the lower range, such as. B. Bass, drums, deeper instrumental compositions and vocals. We looked for artifacts, such as B. the creaking or buzzing sounds that may accompany them.
- Middle: We listened to the clarity of sounds in the mid-frequency range, such as. B. Voice, medium guitar and ambient sound.
- Up here: We paid attention to the clarity and pitch of sounds in the higher range, such as. B. high guitars, voices and stringed instruments. We noted all the usual artifacts, such as. B. Poor volume balance or squeaking when notes are too high.
- Ease of use: We checked that the menu is easy to navigate. For example, the number of actions required to get from point A to point B, the visual accessibility of key menus, the ease with which we could type and the speed with which we could return to the main menu.
- Available services: We compared the number of services, from streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix to music players like Spotify and Pandora, that are available on any TV.
- Help with the casting: We checked whether it was possible to cast or mirror activity from a mobile device or application to a TV screen.
- Ergonomics : We felt whether the remote control was comfortable in the hand and whether it slipped easily. Remote controls are generally easier to hold and work better.
- Design: We looked at the topographic organization of buttons and shortcuts (for example, the button that specifically opens Hulu). We preferred remotes that were uncluttered and didn’t cram too many unnecessary functions into a small space.
- Warranty: We checked the TV’s warranty period.
LG CX 55 ($1,696.99; amazon.com)
Last year, in the race for the best luxury choice, LG’s OLED TV was tied with the Sony A8H. In the end, overall impression and appearance pulled the scales in Sony’s favor. The CX 55 is a great OLED TV and more affordable if you need a smaller size. It offers deep blacks and vivid content, but last year we found that the A8H offered a more realistic display. However, for 2021, the Sony A90J is our luxury choice with accurate image reproduction.
The 55-inch Samsung Q80T (from $899.99, originally $1,099.99; samsung.com)
Unlike the Samsung Q800T 8K below, the Samsung Q80T is at the top of the QLED 4K family. The picture quality convinced us thanks to the generous backlighting and the Quantum processor. The sound quality was also surprisingly good.
In terms of image quality, it sits at the top end of the range and offers more detail than the TCL 5 series, but at a slightly higher price. The Q80T also supports fewer services. Those looking for a luxury panel are better off with the Sony A8H, while those looking for a more affordable TV will settle for the TCL 5 series.
The 65-inch Samsung Q800T ($3,199.99, originally $3,499.99; samsung.com)
Samsung Q800T 8K QLED
Samsung’s Q800T costs $3,499 (it often sells for $3,199) and is an impressive TV. You get a tremendous amount of detail and sharpness: Blacks are deep, colors vivid and accurate, and the system can scale content up to 8K. Samsung’s processor works in real time to bring content to life. Question? There isn’t enough 8K content yet to justify the cost.
Samsung Sero ($1,499, originally $1,999; samsung.com)
If we had to choose a unique design, the Samsung Sero would win the prize. We got our first – and preview – look at this motorized TV at CES 2020. This is the most unique TV we have ever tested. The TV screen switches from a vertical to a horizontal view at the touch of a button. This TV is a 43-inch QLED, which isn’t as bright as our luxury choice, but…
So why this design? It integrates with your phone and is aimed at millennials. You can transfer and mirror your Android phone’s screen on Sero. If you flip the phone, the TV screen flips. To be honest, live, he’s pretty cool. He is ideal for watching TikToks and is truly the center of attention wherever he is.
We’re still waiting for the promised iOS support, but the Samsung Sero should be considered a lifestyle item or conversation piece, not a TV for everyone.
Sony X90J 50-inch (from $1,098; amazon.com)
The Sony X90J camera was almost the first choice thanks to its hyper-accurate colors that sparkle and shine with vivid colors in standard and HDR modes. In terms of general use, however, it was just a little better than the TCL 6 series. Considering that the 55-inch X90J costs nearly $1,500 compared to the $899 Series 6, we think the TCL is a better buy.
Sony X950H 65-inch ($1,698; amazon.com).
We were impressed with the 65-inch version of the Sony X950H. It’s essentially a 4K LED TV with support for a number of standards, including HDR, based on the same X1 Ultimate processor as the A8H. This means it can perform real-time optimization and scaling like a champion. The X950H is an excellent panel with a bright picture that doesn’t stray far from reality, with surprisingly deep blacks for an LED display. It’s simple: Considering the $1,698 price tag, you get more value for your money with the $499 Series 6 from TCL, and you only have to sacrifice a little bit of image quality.
65-inch TCL 8-Series ($1,499, originally $1,999; bestbuy.com)
With a price tag of around $2,000, we were expecting a lot from TCL’s 8 series. It offers a pleasant visual experience and meets many technical requirements: QLED, Mini LED, Dolby Vision and HDR. But it wasn’t impressive enough in this price range, and it couldn’t compete with the OLED models. For a quarter of the price, the 6 Series is a better choice.
Toshiba Fire TV Edition 43-inch ($209.99, originally $279.99; bestbuy.com)
With a price tag of $279.99, the 43-inch Toshiba Fire TV Edition is very affordable. But the picture on its 1080p HD panel leaves something to be desired. It failed to achieve the same clarity or ambiance as TCL’s V-series or 6-series. The Fire TV ecosystem gives you access to a wide range of services, and the Alexa controls are very easy, but as far as budget TVs go, the Vizio line is the best choice.
Vizio OLED (from $1,299.99; bestbuy.com)
We had high hopes for Vizio’s first OLED TV – mostly because of its promise of affordability. And they have succeeded in implementing the basic principles of OLED here: deep blacks and vivid colors. The panel offers deep blacks, vivid colors and solid brightness. Our biggest complaint is the brightness of the screen, which is lower than that of the Sony A8H. It’s just not as bright as the more expensive OLEDs, and it doesn’t match the content as well. Yet the minimalist design, which does not distract the viewer’s attention, guarantees an intense experience. The sound quality is decent, but it’s best to pair it with a soundbar.
The 75-inch Vizio P-Series Quantum X ($1,649.99, originally $1,899.99; bhphotovideo.com)
As we mentioned in our in-depth review, we were very impressed with Vizio’s P-series. For $1,899.99, you get a larger screen size compared to OLED, but it’s also a different panel technology, and it’s a 2019 model. It still offers deep contrast, color accuracy and high brightness, but the Sony A8H, LG CX and even the Samsung Q800T managed to beat the P-series monitors in our test for the title of best overall monitor and in the luxury category.
Read the rest of the CNN Underscored practice test:
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best TVs for 2021?
The best TVs for 2021 are OLED TVs.
What is the best smart TV 2021?
The best smart TV in 2021 is the LG OLED65E8PUA.
What is the best 4K TV 2021?
The best 4K TV 2021 is the LG OLED65E8PUA.
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