TVs are undergoing a revolution. It’s not just the way we consume our telly that’s evolving (hands up fellow members of the binge-watching brigade!), it’s all change on the hardware and software front, too.
For the latest expert advice on the gadgets to get, read our buying guide reviews
Why do I need a new TV?
Slim and stylish, with better picture quality than ever, today’s flatscreens make Noughties TVs look like something from the dark ages.
And with new services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and smart-device connectivity delivering awe-inspiring shows, your viewing pleasure demands a new set to watch them on.
But buying a new telly can be a daunting prospect. There’s a forest of acronyms to break-down, like OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) HCX (Hollywood Cinema eXperience) and LED (Light-Emitting Diode). While price-wise, models range from the affordable to the eye-popping expensive.
A key reason to upgrade is design – a key consideration if you don’t want a big black box that ruins your living room‘s aesthetic. The latest TVs embrace a minimalist aesthetic that’s easy to accommodate, while wafer thin bezels (tech speak for ‘the space around the screens’) are in. Smart TVs connect to the web, so you’ll never miss your daily dose of Phillip and Holly.
You can also stream must-see shows, so you don’t need a clunky digital box to store them on. For late-night bedroom viewing, that’s ideal.
How we test our TVs
All our chosen TVs have been rated not just on technical performance, but how they perform in the real world.
We’ve peered at pixels and scrutinised backlights. We’ve also taken the selfless task of sitting down and watching our favourite shows on regular TV and other sources, like Netflix and YouTube.
We ate an obscene amount of popcorn watching the latest 4k HDR (High Dynamic Range) movies from a UHD (Ultra High Definition) Blu-ray player, and we rated screens on general usability.
We also ask, do they have Freeview Play? Is their smart larder well stocked? Are they more confusing than flat-pack furniture? That kind of thing….
Best TVs 2020
1. Panasonic TX-58HX800 LED 4K TV – best TV overall
With designer good looks, this talented mid-ranger is the perfect option if you want a polished LED flatscreen for home cinema, sports and gaming.
Picture quality has literally been fine-tuned in Hollywood (by Stefan Sonnenfeld), and the set boasts universal dynamic HDR support, which basically means it’ll automatically maximise image quality on a scene by scene basis when you’re watching 4k HDR programmes.
It’s also a great gaming TV, even giving the Samsung Q80T a run for its money when it comes to low input lag.
The TX-58HX800 is fashionably minimalist too. Just as we saw on last year’s Panasonic GX800 models, the LCD panel appears to sit on top of, rather than within, the bezel. It’s a cool design embellishment.
But it’s in the picture department that the HX800 really shines. Arguably the most cinematic of all the LED LCD TVs available right now, there’s lushness to its colours, and a sense of image depth, that hints of OLED. But it’s brighter, and more contrasty when viewed in daylight.
Also available in 65-, 50- and 40-inch screen sizes, we were really impressed by this 58-incher. For many the size will be a good compromise, if 65-inches just seems a tad too big for comfort.
Intuitive and versatile, Panasonic’s own My Home Screen platform, remains one of the easiest smart TV platforms out there to use. There’s no shortage of catch-up TV, thanks to Freeview Play, and there’s also Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Unfortunately, Disney+ is AWOL. Let’s hope Panasonic gets it on the platform sooner rather than later.
The set will also work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smart home products.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Philips 55OLED754 OLED TV – best value OLED TV
Typically, you can expect to pay more for an OLED TV than an LED LCD model. Unlike LED LCD models, OLED screens have the ability to deliver a perfect deep black, with realistic shadow detail, image clarity and colour vibrancy. Picture enthusiasts love them.
But Philips didn’t get the price memo, and is selling this 55-inch OLED754 model for less than £1,000. If you’re after a premium performer at a great price, snap it up.
One reason why the TV undercuts others in the Philips OLED range is that it uses last year’s P5 graphics engine. Not that you’ll notice. Philips knows how to make images really pop, and the OLED754 exhibits superb definition, dynamics and colour.
Design is a winner too. The bezel is fashionably thin and there’s a nice brushed metal effect on the rear panel. You might scratch your head when it comes to adding a soundbar in front of the screen though, as the panel sits virtually flush with its stand.
Connected smarts are top notch. Freeview Play covers all the usual Catch-Up TV needs, with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV and YouTube also catered for. The set looks particularly fabulous with 4k HDR from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – images are wonderfully cinematic!
And of course, the TV comes equipped with Philips secret weapon, Ambilight. A ring of LED lights cast colours onto the wall behind, creating spectacular mood lighting.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
3. Samsung QE65Q80T QLED 4K TV – best gaming TV
The Samsung Q80T is packed with some of Samsung’s sharpest TV technology, but avoids the painful price tags found higher up its QLED range.
It’s actually the cheapest 2020 QLED TV to offer a full array backlight, which means you get punchy HDR (High Dynamic range) images with excellent contrast. We auditioned the 65-inch screen size, which is big on impact, but it’s also available in 49-, 55-, 75- and 85-inch guises, so there’s a model to suit most rooms.
Smart connectivity is impressive. The Q80T doesn’t just offer catch-up and streaming TV services (Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Rakuten TV, Disney+, BT TV and YouTube, amongst others), it also has Samsung’s signature Ambient Mode, which turns the screen into a photo gallery when left in standby.
The Q80T is also a fabulous choice for gamers, with class leading low image lag (just 8.7ms), so you’ll never be slow on the draw when the competition heats up in Fortnite. QLED technology is also guaranteed screen burn free (that thing where static images can sometimes get burnt into the panel itself), which comes as welcome comfort if you’re planning console marathons.
The TV also sounds surprisingly good. In addition to downward firing stereo drivers and woofers, the set boasts additional speakers positioned top left and right rear, which work with Samsung’s OTS (Object Tracking Sound) technology to create a more involving, immersive audio experience.
We reckon there’s no better 4k HDR TV for joystick jockeys right now.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
4. LG 65-inch OLED65GX – best hang-on-the-wall TV
LG calls its GX OLED TVs the Gallery range, because they’re designed to be hung on a wall like paintings, rather than sat on furniture. The cabinet has a uniform depth, unusual for OLEDs, which enables them to sit virtually flush on to wall.
We auditioned the 65-inch model, but it’s also available in 55- and 77-inch sizes. All are a uniform 20mm deep, with a picture bezel just 5mm thick. Interior designers will them.
The set may look fancy, but it lacks some basic niceties. Rather disappointingly, there’s no Freeview Play tuner from LG on its OLED range this year, so you might plan on getting your catch-up TV thrills elsewhere.
On the plus side, picture quality is first class. As we’d expect from OLED, images enjoy superb contrast, with inky blacks and crisp definition. A new Alpha 9 Gen 3 image processor with AI Picture Pro processing technology really adds extra detail and dynamics.
Compatible with Dolby Vision, the GX is a perfect partner for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
With Dolby Vision, we recommend watching using the Dolby Vision Cinema Home preset as this rather cleverly employs the TV’s AI Brightness Control function to ensure images always look their best, regardless of any ambient light. Good news if you fancy a film matinee during the afternoon.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy now: LG 65-inch OLED65GX, £3,199, Currys
5. Toshiba 58-inch U2963 LED 4k TV – best second room TV
If you’re seeking a big 4K TV at an irresistibly small price, then this budget offering from Toshiba takes some beating.
Let’s not kid ourselves, when it comes to design this telly most definitely looks better on than off (it’s quite chunky at 74mm), but if you’re after a bargain priced big screen for box set binging or games play, then we’re prepared to forgive any fashion faux pas.
One upside of its girth is that there’s a decent pair of speakers onboard, so the U29 goes loud and sounds fulsome.
Also available in 43- and 65-inch screen sizes, the U29 is handy for catch-up, thanks to a smart platform overflowing with streaming TV services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Brit Box, Rakuten.TV and YouTube.
If you’re an Amazon Alexa user you can also voice control volume and channel selection.
Picture quality is fine for the price. The U29 offers extremely sharp images, with vibrant colour and a good level of overall brightness. Dolby Vision HDR technology is on hand to make the most of your favourite 4k Netflix shows.
All things considered, this is an astonishingly high value screen. Indeed, the only reason not to buy the U29 is probably the high brightness LED power button, which glares at you from below the screen. We would have liked an option to dim that down.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Few TV brands offer as good value for money as Philips. This immersive 50-inch 4k model is a budget belter.
Its silver bezel and white back panel looks fresh and fashionable. Rear-placed LEDs cast coloured light onto surrounding walls, which can either mimic onscreen hues or simply maintain a constant colour. Smart connectivity is kept simple, but there’s still much to like about its Saphi Smart operating system. All main streaming apps are provided, and there’s a good collection of catch-up TV too.
Image quality on this LED LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TV set is above average given the price point. Fine detail is high and colours rich.
We wouldn’t expect really naturalistic HDR at this price point, but there’s certainly plenty of visual pop. Though Phillips do offer built-in Ambilight mood lighting, which will compliment the decor of your living area by projecting the colours you see on the TV onto the walls behind to give a more immersive effect.
One sticking point is its audio. You don’t hear five-star sounds, so you’ll want to invest in a soundbar at some point.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Panasonic has crammed leading-edge telly tech into its 4k GX800, while not skimping on design flourishes either.
The thin edge-lit panel actually sits on top of, rather than inside, the surrounding bezel, which is a subtle, but welcome design twist.
If you want a powerful, yet easy to use smart system, you’ve also come to the right place. The GX800 uses Panasonic’s versatile My Home Screen platform, accessed via just three onscreen buttons. More buttons can be added if you want to provide short-cuts to favourite streaming services or specific channels.
Picture quality has a hint of glitz and glamour. Hollywood colourists have helped fine-tune its HCX image processor, and the result is a very filmic 4k picture.
The set may not have the brightness of larger, higher-priced models, but they’re perfectly balanced. Our advice is to watch 4k HDR movies on the Dynamic picture preset. Normally this mode is shunned by enthusiasts, but here it works well.
For football and tennis watchers, The GX’s motion handling is noteworthy, making this a solid choice for sports fans. Overall, we rate this an outstanding small-screen buy.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Hisense isn’t just making a name for itself with kitchen appliances it’s also muscling onto the TV scene. With well specified models that don’t cost the earth, this 55-inch 4k HDR telly is Hisense’s latest crowd pleaser.
The heavy silver bezel makes it look a tad more imposing than rivals, but don’t let that put you off.
The U8B boasts plenty of streaming apps, including RakutenTV, Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video. Hisense’s Vidaa U smart platform is basic, so it won’t befuddle technophobes.
It’s images on 4k, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are deliciously crisp, although we’re not convinced its everyday HD offering is a match for some of the more established (and more expensive) rivals.
HDR brightness reflects the mid-range price ticket, but compatibility with Dolby Vision means it’ll always work to give you the best contrast and colour.
We don’t recommend this TV for gamers though. You may experience some delay, so your joystick twiddling thumbs will be at a disadvantage in key moments.
Still, when it comes to sheer bang for buck, this Hisense is a very sensible option.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Sony’s Master Series AG9 presents a whopping 65-inch panel, but neatly designed so it won’t take over your living room.
Not only is this 4k OLED panel artfully stylish, it sounds great too, thanks to an innovative Acoustic Surface Audio+ sound system. Noises emanate from the panel itself, rather than conventional forward-facing speakers.
The AG9’s picture performance completely won us over with its ability to deliver naturalistic highlights, with plenty of shadow detail.
Usability is good, if not immediately intuitive. This Sony uses the Android TV smart operating system, and has Chromecast built-in, so you can stream from your Google phone.
Despite supporting Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, the AG9 lacks Freeview Play, but compensates with a YouView app which offers all the key catch-up channels.
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
If you’re seeking an TV that offers exceptional picture quality but doesn’t push the price envelope, then LG’s 55-inch E9 should be at the top of your list.
The design of the E9 is particularly cool. Not only is it impressively thin, beneath the speaker bar there’s a transparent Perspex lip which gives the illusion that the panel is floating on air.
Charged with keeping images crisp is LG’s second generation Alpha 9 intelligent picture processor. This delivers excellent contrast, great for watching films brimming with colour.
There’s also rather clever Deep Learning AI picture management, which allows the panel to better display shadow detail by reacting to viewing light levels and adjusting the picture accordingly.
LG has won numerous awards for its webOS smart platform, and it’s easy to see why. The Launcher bar, which runs across the bottom of the screen, provides a neat, fast way to launch your favourite streaming services. So there’s plenty to choose from, including Now TV and Netflix.
Like many of its rivals, the E9 also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The icing on the cake is a powerful integrated soundbar, which keeps dialogue muffle-free.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: LG OLED55E9 OLED 4K TV, £1,999, John Lewis & Partners
Buying a TV – everything you need to know
Is it worth getting a 4K TV? (And is 4K really better than 1080p?)
In a nutshell: definitely,
With a 4k screen, it really does look better than regular HD models. That’s because a 4k UHD TV uses 4 times as many pixels as a 1080p HD model. Think chunky knit versus fine Merino wool.
There’s no 4k TV on regular terrestrial TV, but you will find it from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, as well as from premium pay TV suppliers like Sky, Virgin Media and BT. 4k is also available on UHD Blu-rays (you’ll need a UHD Blu-ray player to spin them).
But there’s a catch. To appreciate this resolution it makes sense to buy a screen larger than the one you’re replacing, or move your sofa nearer.
Helpfully, thinner panels and better design have seen TV’s take up less space. In the room occupied by a 2010 43-inch telly, you’ll now probably fit a svelte 2019 55-inch model.
Most all new 4k TVs will also be HDR compatible. This translates to brighter highlights, so the sun shines hotter, lights glow more realistically in the dark, fireworks dazzle.
What are the key features I should look for in a smart TV?
All our featured screens connect to the internet over Wi-Fi, which means they have access to streaming services and catch-up TV.
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are all standard attractions, but the number of secondary services varies. If there’s a specific streaming provider you want, check your shortlisted sets offer it.
For the best in catch-up TV look for a model with a Freeview Play tuner. This guarantees all the main-channel catch-up players are on board (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5).
Increasingly, smart TVs will also work with voice control systems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant: “Alexa, play Great British Bake Off!”
Is QLED better than OLED? And what’s the deal with LED?
OLED, QLED, LED LCD? TV manufacturers use a variety of panel technologies, each with their own pros and cons.
The vast majority of TVs available are LCD lit by an LED backlight (hence LED LCD). They’re bright and affordable, but can have a limited black level performance. Consequently, in a fully dark room, blacks tend to turn grey.
OLED models are only available in larger screen sizes (55-inches plus) and command a price premium. OLED is widely regarded as the best TV technology currently available.
Self-emissive, OLED doesn’t require a backlight. As every pixel is controllable, the technology can deliver pure, accurate blacks. Nirvana, if you’re a film fan.
A Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode (QLED), as favoured primarily by Samsung, may sound like OLED, but it’s actually an LCD variant. QLED helps improve colour vibrancy and brightness. As with standard LCD panels, they require a backlight.
QLED screens are TVs with brighter viewing environments, offering an unbeatable light and colour combination.
What will the sound quality of my TV be like?
Probably poor. One inevitable consequence of ever thinner TVs is weak audio. There’s typically not enough room in the cabinet to accommodate decent loudspeakers. The result is thin sound with limited volume.
The solution is to partner your thin screen with a separate soundbar (prices range from £100 to £1000+), which will add volume, width and clarity.
A soundbar turns on and off automatically, effectively replacing the speakers in the set itself. Alternatively, you can had over sonic duties to an AV receiver. This creates a full-blown home cinema system with speakers front and back.
There are exceptions to this rule of sound though, and we’ve picked several TVs here. Our Best Overall TV winner, the Panasonic GZ2000, has a very convincing Dolby Atmos sound system on board that offers wide, high cinematic sound.
Sony also has an inspired solution in its Acoustic Surface Audio+ system, which uses vibrating acoustic transducers attached to the panel itself to create forward facing sound waves.