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4K resolution used to be an expensive step-up feature that was only available with high-end TVs. But nowadays, just about every television set with a screen that is 40 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 TV that's 50 inches or bigger, it's hard to find any model that isn't 4K.

Finding the best 4K TV screen for your viewing needs is even cheaper than you may think. The popular TCL 4-Series, which I like a lot as an entry-level option, starts at $230 for the 43-inch size and the 65-inch version has dropped to under $500.

Here's the thing: 4K resolution on a screen doesn't necessarily mean great picture quality. All those extra pixels -- 8,294,440 to be exact -- don't have much of an impact on how good the picture looks. Instead, the best-performing TVs in our reviews, and the best TVs for the money, excel in other areas of picture quality, like contrast and HDR performance. Of course they have 4K resolution too, but that's basically table stakes these days.

Read more: Best HDMI cables for your new 4K and HDR TV in 2020

The list below represents the best 4K TVs (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. Here are my latest recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind.

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OLED TVs are the picture quality kings, but they're not cheap. The TVs' OLED displays use organic light-emitting diode technology to deliver a contrast ratio, viewing angles, and a wide color gamut that no LCD TV (or QLED TV) can match. All of LG's 2019 OLED models include the latest version of the HDMI standard: 2.1. That means their HDMI ports can handle 4K at 120fps, as well as two gamer-friendly extras: variable refresh rate and automatic low latency mode (aka auto game mode). As the least expensive OLED TV, the B9 is our favorite overall for high-end shoppers. It fell just a bit short of the C9 in image quality in our tests, but the differences are minuscule -- and since it's less expensive than the C9, it's a better value.

Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch. Read our LG OLEDB9P series review.

Read more: How to buy a TV

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No TV I've ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to improved color, and its well-implemented full-array local dimming helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. As if that's not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.

Sizes: 55-, 65-inch. Read our TCL 6-Series (2019 Roku TV) review.

Read more: Best 65-inch TVs for 2020

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What's that you say? You just want the best, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests the C9 is the best TV I've ever reviewed, barely beating the B9 (above), although the B9 is a superior value -- almost as good and much less expensive. But if that "barely" matters to you, the C9 might be worth the extra cash.

Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch. Read our LG OLEDC9P series review.

Read more: Best TVs for gaming with low input lag

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Can't afford an OLED TV? Still willing to pay extra -- but not that much extra -- for good color and outstanding image quality? The Vizio PX is our pick for you, with superb light output no OLED can match, top-notch local dimming and all the high-contrast, high dynamic range joy that comes with it. Its closest competitor is the TCL below -- but this Vizio is the superior value.

Sizes: 65-, 75-inch. Read our Vizio P-Series Quantum X review.

Read more: Best 75-inch TVs for 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for live TV streaming apps like Netflix, 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 43-inch size.) Read our TCL S425 series (Roku TV) review.

Read moreHDR formats like Dolby Vision, HDR10, Technicolor and HLG explained

Sarah Tew/CNET

Speaking of top-of-the-line, this TCL features Mini-LED, a technology that isn't found on any other TV currently available. The result is superb contrast and brightness that outdoes the Vizio PX by a nose, although it doesn't quite hit OLED levels. We still consider the PX a better OLED alternative, however, because its picture quality is almost as good and it costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.

Sizes: 65-, 75-inch. Read our TCL 8-Series (2019 Roku TV) review.

Read more: How Samsung QLED and LG OLED, the two best TV technologies, compare in 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's QLED TVs are basically fancy LCDs -- don't confuse them with OLEDs. The Q70R has an excellent picture and plenty of Samsung design and features goodies for a price that's relatively affordable, albeit not exactly "budget." If you're not interested in a TCL or Vizio and don't want to splurge for an OLED, the Q70 is an excellent choice.

Sizes: 49-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 82-inch. Read our Samsung Q70 series (2019) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. All of that said, the Vizio is still an excellent choice and sometimes available for less than the TCL -- just make sure you're getting the M8, not the M7. 

Sizes: 55-, 65-inch. Read our Vizio M-Series Quantum M8 series (2019) 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.

  • Prices for 2019 TVs hit their lowest points around late November (for Black Friday) but now the Super Bowl sales mean many of those deals are back.
  • In spring 2020 new TV models will arrive, but since TVs are generally a mature technology, they won't be worth waiting for if you want a TV now.
  • 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 2020

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Originally published earlier. Updated periodically with our latest recommendations.