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2019 TV buying advice: Get a 2018 TV now or wait for a new model?

Now that the Super Bowl sales are over and new 2019 TVs are starting to appear, we tackle the age-old dilemma.

002-lg-oledb8p

I'm guessing LG's 2019 OLED TVs, coming soon, won't perform significantly better than the 2018 versions seen here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The last big TV sale event of the season, the Super Bowl, is now behind us, and ahead lie a bunch of brand-new 2019 models to tempt shoppers. Late winter and early spring are when most of the new TVs hit store shelves and online, and some are even available now.

If you want a new TV now, perhaps one thought is "I shouldn't buy an obsolete 2018 TV now when new ones are just around the corner." Allow me to add a complexifier or two.

  • A 2018 TV bought today is not obsolete. TVs are a mature technology and most will do everything you need for years to come.
  • The improvements on many 2019 TVs will be minor compared to 2018 models available now.
  • For most of this year, you'll pay more for a 2019 TV than you will for the roughly equivalent 2018 model.
  • The earliest you can expect 2019 TV prices to fall to 2018 levels is mid-November 2019.

If you're OK waiting until November and Black Friday season to buy your 2019 TV, then by all means do so. You'll probably get the best deal on a new TV. 

But if you want a new TV now and missed your opportunity to snag something in the last few months on-sale, you face a conundrum. Will the 2019 version coming soon be a better choice than 2018 version you can buy now?

I can't actually answer that question for sure until I review the new TVs and compare them directly to the older ones. But in my years of doing just that as a TV reviewer at CNET, I'm willing to take some educated guesses now.

Now playing: Watch this: The best TVs at CES 2019
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2018 vs. 2019 TVs compared: Buy now or wait

Here are all of the TVs CNET reviewed in 2018 (with overall ratings) and all of their nearest 2019 successors. I've noted the major improvements, based on TV manufacturer information available now, for both image quality and features. Finally, I guess whether the 2019 TV's picture quality will be any better than its predecessor.

2019 TV comparisons

2018 TV series 2018 CNET rating 2019 TV series Picture quality improvements Best new feature Katz's guess: Significantly better picture?
LG OLEDB8P 8.7 LG OLEDB9 None Built-in Alexa No
LG OLEDC8P 8.6 LG OLEDC9 Processing Built-in Alexa No
Samsung Q8 8.1 Samsung Q80R Viewing angles, processing iTunes app, AirPlay 2 Yes
Samsung Q9 7.7 Samsung Q90R Viewing angles, processing iTunes app, AirPlay 2 Yes
Sony X900F 8.0 Sony X950G Processing Far-field mic for hands-free voice No
Vizio E-Series 7.5 Vizio V-Series Brighter AirPlay 2, HomeKit No
Vizio M-Series 8.2 Vizio M-Series Quantum Quantum dots, more dimming zones AirPlay 2, HomeKit Yes
Vizio P-Series 8.1 Vizio P-Series Quantum Quantum dots, more dimming zones AirPlay 2, HomeKit No
Vizio P-Series Quantum 8.3 Vizio P-Series Quantum X Brighter, more dimming zones, 75-inch size available AirPlay 2, HomeKit Yes
TCL 5 6.9 TBD TBD Far-field mic for hands-free voice No idea
TCL 6 8.7 TBD Quantum dots, more dimming zones Far-field mic for hands-free voice Yes
TCL S405/S305 7.0 TCL S425/S325 None None No

Armed with the information from the chart above, you can get some idea of what the TVs of 2019 will bring to the table compared to their predecessors, and hopefully make a more informed decision. And if you're looking for more info on 2019 TVs, here the latest I have on 2019 TVs from LGSamsungSonyVizioTCL and Hisense.

Some stuff to keep in mind:

  • Again, these are just guesses based on manufacturer info and my past experience testing TVs. I haven't seen any of the 2019 TVs in person beyond brief glances at CES, let alone subjected any to a full CNET review with measurements, side-by-side comparisons and the whole bit.
  • I say "significantly better" because even those TVs that get a "No" could show slight improvements. For example, improved processing on the C8 last year did produce a somewhat better picture than the B8 in my tests, but it was so minor that I still chose the less-expensive B8 as CNET's Editors' Choice for high-end TVs.
  • Just because I'm guessing a 2019 TV will have a better picture doesn't mean the 2018 version isn't worth buying. I'm guessing the successor to the TCL 6 series (whatever they end up calling it) will be a better performer for example, but the 6 series is still an excellent choice and remains CNET's Editors' Choice for now.
  • Speaking of TCL, it's the only maker on the chart above that hasn't specified model numbers for most of its 2019 TVs. Hence the "TBD" and "No idea."
  • Unless you're rich, no 2019 8K TV is worth waiting for.
  • Unless you're a hardcore gamer or a Dolby Atmos user who needs eARC, no 2019 4K TV with HDMI 2.1 features is worth waiting for.
  • A handful of new 2019 TVs lack immediate predecessors I reviewed, yet could still be excellent choices for some buyers this year. They include the Samsung Q70R (the cheapest Samsung with full-array local dimming, or FALD), the Hisense R8 (an inexpensive Roku TV with FALD) and of course LG's rollable OLED.

The bottom line? All of this advice will evolve as I review new 2019 TVs, the 2018 models start selling out and the 2019 TVs fall in price. As always, waiting until later in the year will help you make a more informed decision. But if you can't wait, here are the best TVs to buy right now.