used to be an expensive step-up feature that was only available with a high-end TV. But nowadays, just about every television set with a screen size that's 32 inches or bigger is available in 4K for prices that are basically equivalent to older, lower-resolution 1080p TVs. And 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 could be cheaper than you'd think. The popular, which I like a lot as an entry-level option, starts at a budget TV price of $230 for the 43-inch model. The 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 extra 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 excel in other areas of picture quality, such as , dynamic range and . They 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, 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, of course, considered factors like picture quality, whether the device was a smart TV, if the picture changed depending on the viewing angle and how the TV interacted with a streaming device. 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: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and
- 2020 has and many new TVs are shipping late. A few of the TVs on this list are still 2019 models, but I expect to review soon.
- On the other hand, since , the new models may not include major upgrades over the 2019 versions. Most buyers will still be perfectly happy with a 2019 TV, especially since they're generally cheaper.
- This list was originally published last year and is updated periodically.
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.
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, barely beating the 2019 B9 -- which like other 2019 OLED TVs is mostly sold out these days.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch. Read our LG OLEDCX series review.
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.
Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, no TV offers this much picture for this little cash. In my comparisons, the TCL won slightly in a couple of important areas, in particular HDR brightness and contrast and black levels. I'd also recommend the TCL to streaming-centric viewers because of its superior Roku smart HDTV system. It's great for watching Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and more. And finally this is a 2019 model, so you might want to wait a bit for my upcoming reviews of the 2020 version -- although this TV is often on clearance these days.
Sizes: 55-, 65-inch. Read our Vizio M-Series Quantum M8 series (2019) review.
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 43-inch size.) Read our TCL S425 series (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.
More guides for finding the perfect TV
Originally published earlier. Updated periodically with our latest recommendations.