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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. Prices for 4K TVs are basically equivalent to older, lower-resolution 1080p TVs, so 4K is no longer an expensive step-up feature. In fact, 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 $290 for the 43-inch model.

As you might expect at those prices, 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, peak brightness and HDR performance. 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.

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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 (basically, everything you need to watch your favorite TV shows and make the most of your Fire TV stick or streaming apps). 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 TVs43-inch TVs55-inch TVs65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
  • If you're worried that new 2021 TVs will have some great feature or picture quality enhancement you'll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, you should get one
  • Most of the TVs below came out in 2020. The new 2021 models just started becoming available, and I've reviewed a couple so far. For the 2020 TVs on this list I've included a "2021 outlook" section with everything I know (so far) about the new models. 

Read more: Do this to your TV now: 9 crucial settings to improve the picture

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

2021 outlook: TCL says this TV will remain on sale through most of 2021. I don't expect it to be replaced until at least the fall, and it might stick around the entire year. An 85-inch version will be released "in the coming months." TCL will also sell an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don't think it will be worth the money.

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

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What's that you say? You just want the best TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the LG G1 OLED TV is the best TV I've ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. This OLED TV beat the picture of the LG CX above, barely, and offers a slimmer, more wall-friendly design. If you can afford it, this is the TV to get.

Note that as of early June the G1 is difficult to find, and subject to long wait times, at most merchants.

Read our LG OLEDG1 series review.

 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Currently available for hundreds less than the G1 above, and with picture quality that's almost as good, the CX from 2020 is a better choice overall for people who want a really nice OLED TV but don't have money to burn. The G1 was slightly brighter in my measurements and has slightly better video processing, but it was really hard to tell the difference. The only real advantage to the G1 is that slim styling, but the CX is pretty slim itself.

Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.

2021 outlook: The new model, designated C1, is currently available for a few hundred more than the CX. I haven't reviewed it yet. It adds a new 83-inch size, some minor new features and improved processing, but I expect image quality to be largely the same as the CX.

Read our LG OLEDCX series review.

 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Looking for a high-end 4K TV with spectacular image quality, but don't want an OLED? The Samsung QN90A is your best bet. This TV uses QLED 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 comes closer than ever. It's also a bit cheaper than 2021 OLED TVs (but not cheaper than the 2020 CX) and available in a wider range of sizes.

Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.

Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.

 

Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture and better smart HDTV 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.

Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-inch.

2021 outlook: The successor to this TV is the MQ7-J series. It looks very similar on paper -- the major difference is a new voice remote and a larger selection of sizes. It ships in July, and initial list pricing is significantly higher than the 2020 version, ranging from $200 to $300 more depending on size.

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

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for a live TV streaming service 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 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 75-inch size.)

2021 outlook: The newest version of the 4 series has a "435" model number and is available in some sizes now, but TCL says image quality is the same as the 425 reviewed here. My advice, if you have a choice between the two, is to simply get the least expensive one.

Read our TCL S425 series (Roku TV) review.

 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone and our favorite for 2020 is the Q80T series. Its sleek design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list -- although the ultra-thin LG CX OLED is even sleeker -- and it also offers excellent image quality, next-gen gaming connectivity and a great smart TV system. If you want a Samsung TV and can't afford the QN90A, this (or the 2021 version) is my recommendation.

Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.

2021 outlook: The successor to this TV is the Q80A, which I haven't reviewed but expect to perform about the same, and it's currently available at a similar price.

Read our Samsung Q80T series (2020) 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

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