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Published Jun 16, 2022 1:00 PM

Owning a 4K Ultra High Definition TV used to be a luxury. In 2022, 4K is the standard resolution for most new TVs of every size and price. At 4K UHD, or 3840 x 2160 pixels, your TV uses four times as many pixels as a 1080p TV. That’s a big difference. Add the right set of technical bells and whistles, and you can significantly upgrade your home theater experience, whether you’re streaming Netflix, watching a 4K Blu-Ray, or playing video games. If you’re ready to upgrade from your 1080p model, we’ve rounded up the best 4K TVs available for every occasion.

How we chose the best 4K TVs

I’ve been reviewing technology for over a decade and have written several TV guides for Popular Science, including the best 55-inch TVs, best 65-inch TVs, and best 75-inch TVs. PopSci’s Gear team has evaluated the TV market from every possible angle. Our recommendations are the fruit of hands-on testing and in-depth research into specs and technology. We also check professional reviews and user impressions to see which TVs are earning fans and which ones fail to live up to their hype.

Things to consider when choosing the best 4K TVs

When searching for the best 4K TVs, we focused on finding models that balance display quality, color accuracy, port selection, gaming features, and price. Together, these elements help us tell the difference between a good TV and a great one.

QLED vs. OLED

There are two luxury display technologies that play central roles in lighting up the best 4K TVs right now. On a technical level, OLED and QLED take different approaches, but both enhance the brightness and contrast of your TV, improving its picture quality over older models.

Organic Light-Emitting Diode displays, or OLED for short, are currently considered the cream of the crop among high-end 4K TVs. Though it shares three letters with “LED” TVs you’re more familiar with, OLED is actually an entirely new display technology. In OLED TVs, each pixel generates its own light, allowing these sets to turn individual pixels on and off. This gives viewers more life-like blacks, rather than the darkest possible gray. You also won’t see any light bleeding out into on-screen shadows, as they do on older LCD TVs.

Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diode displays, commonly known as QLED, are a next-generation upgrade of the conventional LED TV. QLED TVs feature a transmissive layer of “quantum dots” in the screen panel that enhances a TV’s color, brightness, and contrast. High-end QLED TVs pair that with a backlighting feature called “local dimming,” which allows your TV to enhance or reduce its brightness in specific areas to improve contrast, not unlike OLED displays.

If money is no object, OLED displays offer sharper contrast and “true” blacks that QLED can’t replicate. On the other hand, OLED TVs feature comparatively low brightness, which may be a liability in a living room with a lot of natural light. SInce QLED panels are based on LED technology, you can find them in a wider variety of price points than OLED. That said, there’s a big difference between an affordable QLED TV with moderately enhanced colors and a top-of-the-line QLED model with local dimming and other enhancements.

As always, the best way to find your preference is to go to a showroom and see the difference for yourself. Short of that, we recommend letting price and logistical considerations guide you to one type of TV or the other.

High dynamic range (HDR)

High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a display technology that allows your TV automatically its brightness to create more contrast between well-lit and darkened on-screen elements. In situations with challenging lighting, it enhances the overall image with greater detail and color depth. Let’s say you’re looking into a dark room from the outside: HDR can simultaneously display detail in the bright space outside and inside the dimly lit room. TVs with HDR are also capable of displaying more vibrant, varied colors. In addition to enabling more precise contrast, bright colors will look more full and vibrant.

There are a few different standards of HDR, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is the most widely adopted and is an open, free standard supported by everything from 4K TVs and Blu-ray players. Dolby Vision offers a few advantages over HDR, including “dynamic” metadata, which allows your TV to adjust its brightness on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis. HDR10 uses “static” metadata, which means it sets brightness levels once for the content you’re consuming. HDR10+ also uses dynamic metadata similar to Dolby Vision.

Generally, today’s top TVs feature support for a few different HDR standards, but for the best possible HDR experience, you’ll want Dolby Vision or HDR+.

Refresh rate

Refresh rate, measured in Hz (Hertz), refers to the frequency your TV refreshes what’s on the screen every second. Refresh rate has been a core feature on computer monitors for some time but has only become a serious consideration for TVs in the last two years. If you’re buying a high-end TV for gaming and own either a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, you should hold out for one that supports a higher refresh rate.

Prior to 2020, all TVs supported the same 60Hz refresh rate. Most TVs still do and that’s perfectly fine for watching streaming services, cable, movies, and playing most consoles. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X, though, you have the ability to play some games at up to 120 frames per second, unlocking smoother animations. Likewise, some live sports broadcasts will benefit from a higher refresh rate.

HDMI 2.1

In order to enable 4K at 120fps, your TV will need to support HDMI 2.1, the newest version of the standard TV connection for plugging everything from cable boxes to game consoles to streaming devices.

HDMI 2.1 can transfer data at up to 48Gbps, theoretically allowing you to watch 10K video at 120Hz on the right TV. For now, you only need it to watch or play in 4K at 120Hz on the small number of games that support those specs on PS5 and Xbox Series X

There are other reasons you’ll want it, though. HDMI 2.1 supports many other features that can enhance your viewing and gaming experiences, including Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), a feature that enables Game Mode on your TV (if that feature is available) and typically reduces input lag. It also opens the door for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) over HDMI, which can stabilize volatile frame rates in games.

Unfortunately, TVs equipped with HDMI 2.1 don’t always support every feature introduced by the latest standard. Making matters worse, manufacturers aren’t always transparent about the HDMI 2.1 features supported by the TV they make. You’ll have to pay close attention to what the manufacturer says when making your purchase.

The best 4K TVs: Reviews & Recommendations

Now that you know what to look for when picking out the best 4K TV for you, you can go out and take your pick. Of course, if you need help getting started, our list features the cream of the crop. For most people, one of these five models will be the best 4K TV.

Best 4K TV: LG C1

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The LG C1 features an impressive 4K panel, four HDMI 2.1 ports, and support for G-Sync and FreeSync.

Specs

  • Sizes: 48”, 55”, 65”, 77”, 83”
  • Display: OLED
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 4, USB 2.0 x 3, Ethernet, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Sharp, vibrant picture
  • 4K/120Hz support
  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • OLED panel could be brighter

The LG C1 is a frequent MVP among our many TV recommendation roundups and a frequent favorite among tech critics across the industry. Its OLED display offers a tack-sharp picture, excellent color accuracy, and impressive contrast. It also includes several features that make it particularly good for gaming, including support for G-Sync and FreeSync, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and four HDMI 2.1 ports. If you own a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you’ll get a high-fidelity picture while enjoying games in 4K at 120Hz (for the titles that support it).

Our recommendation here comes with a caveat: Earlier this year, LG released its follow-up to the LG C1—the logically named LG C2 evo. The C2 enhances the C1 with smaller bezels and higher peak brightness. Despite that, we currently recommend the C1 over the C2; While the C2 is a better TV than the C1, its enhancements are relatively small. Meanwhile, you can currently get an “old” C1 for hundreds of dollars less than the shiny, new model. Eventually, the C1 will become harder to find. For now, though, it is the superior value.

Best for gaming: Sony Bravia XR A90J

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Sony Bravia A90J offers one of the most spectacular OLED displays on the market.

Specs

  • Size: 55”, 65”, 83”
  • Display: OLED
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI 2.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 3, Ethernet, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Gorgeous picture
  • Ample ports and features for gaming
  • Built-in Chromecast and AirPlay

Cons

  • Expensive

The Sony Bravia XR A90J features a fantastic 4K picture that produces perfect blacks, as well as a very relatively bright HDR experience for an OLED. It also supports a wide color gamut, high contrast ratio, and a fast response time, all of which ensure every game, movie, and TV show looks flawless. It also features variable refresh rate support, a gaming staple, and special PS5-exclusive features, like the ability to automatically switch in and out of HDR mode when you start playing a game or other HDR-compatible content on the console. If we’re being honest, the A90J is pretty close to fitting in our “overall” and “best OLED” categories, but we feel it’s best suited for gaming.

Best OLED: LG G1

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: With a brighter display and sleeker design than our top pick, the LG G1 shows what you can get if you’re willing to pay any price.

Specs

  • Size: 55”, 65”, 77”
  • Display: OLED 4K
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 4, USB 2.0 x 3, Ethernet, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports
  • 4K 120Hz
  • Beautiful, minimal design

Cons

  • Lacks a TV stand

Technically, the LG G1 is an even better version of our top pick, the LG C1. It features LG’s “Evo” OLED panel, which promises superior brightness compared to a traditional OLED screen. It also comes with a stand, where the C1 does not. These small changes build on everything we love about the C1, including a full set of HDMI 2.1 ports, support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and G-Sync and FreeSync. The G1 is the C1, only slightly better. Of course, you have to pay more than a little to get slightly better, so the C1 gets top honors and G1 gets an honorary “better than best” recommendation.

On top of that, LG launched a new version of the G1 in 2022—the LG G2 evo. The G2 features HDMI 2.1 ports with expanded bandwidth, among other minor upgrades. As with the LG C1 and C2, we currently feel that most people are better off going for the G1 over the G2 evo right now. 

Best QLED: Samsung QN90A Neo

Samsung

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Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Samsung QN90A delivers the best picture quality you can get on a QLED TV.

Specs

  • Size: 43”, 50”, 55”, 65”, 75”, 85”, 98”
  • Display: QLED
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, HDR10+
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1, HDMI 2.0 x 3, USB 2.0 x 2, Ethernet, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Amazing 4K picture
  • Impressive brightness
  • Ultra viewing angle

Cons

  • Only one HDMI 2.1 port
  • No Dolby Vision

The Samsung QN90A Neo is the perfect showcase for the company’s QLED technology, providing users with an excellent 4K image that’s sharp and vibrant. It features Mini-LED backlighting with local dimming, allowing the TV to get very bright and produce deeper blacks than other QLED models. It also provides various other features, including HDMI 2.1, HDR10 and HDR10+, and variable refresh rate support. Our only gripe? It only has one HDMI 2.1 port, which will make things annoying for players with both a PS5 and Series X.

Samsung has released the QN90B this year, the QN90A’s successor, introducing changes to the software and some minor hardware tweaks that help improve the brightness accuracy. While the QN90B is an improvement, we’ve decided to recommend the comparatively affordable QN90A until it becomes hard to find.

Best budget: TCL 6-Series Google TV (R646)

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: TCL’s 6-Series offers an excellent 4K picture and supports some of the latest technologies for less than our other picks.

Specs

  • Size: 55”, 65”, 75”
  • Display: QLED
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 3, USB 2.0 x 2, Ethernet, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Mini-LED QLED 4K display
  • Three HDMI 2.1 ports
  • 4K/120Hz
  • Affordable

Cons

  • TCL makes three “6-Series” TVs, which can get confusing

If you are shopping on a budget, the TCL 6-Series with Google TV makes it very easy to cut some small technical corners and get a great 4K TV at a lower price than our other picks. It features a vibrant, color-accurate QLED 4K display and excellent brightness that can easily combat the sunniest living rooms. TCL also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, so you can enjoy the latest season of Stranger Things on Netflix the way it was meant to be seen. The R646 also features two HDMI 2.1 ports, so you’ll be able to play games in 4K at 120Hz, with features like variable refresh rate available. At this price point, the TCL R646 is unbeatable, offering an impressive 4K picture and a brightness that provides the kind of “wow factor” that matches more expensive alternatives.

FAQs

Q: How much does a 4K TV cost?

Since buying a new TV almost always means buying a 4K TV, prices range from a few hundred dollars for a budget 40-inch TV to upwards of $4,000 for a top-of-the-line 70- to 80-inch OLED. Beyond size, brand name, display technology, and other factors may impact the price from model to model. We’ve broken down the top TVs by size, display technology, and more, so check with our other, more specific guides if you’d like more help narrowing down your options.

Q: What size 4K TV should I choose?

Ideally, you should pick the size of your display based on the size and layout of the room where you’re going to put it. According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, you want to place your TV far enough away so that it fills up at least 30 degrees of your horizontal field of view.  For a 55-inch 4K TV, which is ideal for bedrooms and dorm rooms, you should sit about 7.5 feet away. That is the target, but it’s totally fine to get a little closer or further away, depending on your room and what size TV you can afford.

For more help figuring out where to put your TV, check out our handy guide.

Q: Should I get an 8K TV?

Short answer? No, not yet.

While manufacturers are pushing the technological envelope with giant 8K TVs, there is currently little to no 8K content available right now. An 8K TV can upscale 4K content, making it look sharper, but we wouldn’t recommend buying an 8K TV just for that. Realistically, there will be better, more powerful, and more affordable 8K TVs on the market by the time it makes sense for even a niche home theater fan to buy an 8K TV.

Final thoughts on the best 4K TVs

You can’t go wrong with our recommendations if you want to upgrade to a 4K TV. You’ll get top-notch picture quality, ample port selection, and support for next-generation technology, including HDMI 2.1 and the latest HDR standards. The good news is there has never been a better time to jump on the bandwagon with more ways to enjoy 4K content, thanks to streaming services and next-generation consoles. The LG C1 is, pound-for-pound, the best 4K TV available, hitting all the essential benchmarks while offering an incredible OLED image. Once you see the higher resolution yourself, you’ll wonder what took you so long to upgrade. 

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