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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. 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.
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 2019
This telly ticks all the boxes, and then ticks some more for good measure.
If 4k picture quality and pitch-perfect sound is what you’re looking for, this offering from Panasonic is your next TV. The GZ2000 combines the best performing OLED panel with genuine cinema-style sound, creating a really theatrical viewing experience.
Picture performance is a cut above, thanks to its Pro Edition OLED panel, while it also has a versatile smart TV portal and classy cosmetic design.
Panasonic has been able to make this display shine with HDR content in a way we’ve never seen OLED shine before. Contrast is superb and there’s a richness to its colours which is delicious.
It doesn’t just look good with native 4k material either. Panasonic’s HCX Pro Intelligent processor does an extraordinary job improving regular HD too, important as that may be what you watch most.
The CZ2000 also has a Dolby Atmos sound system, tuned by Hi-Fi sister company Technics, for immersive sound. On the back of the panel are up-firing speakers improve the audio even further. The result is best described as 3D for your ears.
Usability is great. Panasonic’s My Home Screen smart platform makes it easy to dip into your favourite streaming services. You also get a Freeview Play tuner that simplifies Catch-up TV, thanks to a seven-day roll-back programme guide.
The GZ2000 could be the latest addition to your smart-home family, as it’s compatible with with Google Assistant and has Amazon Alexa voice control.
This is certainly the more luxurious option when it comes to price. Although if you’re set on the best TV of 2019, the GZ2000 will make everything you watch look and sound better.
Ideal Home’s rating: 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
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
Sitting at the higher-end of the Samsung QLED range, the Q80R is noted for surprisingly good image dynamics.
This is thanks to a full array backlight, which is a spread of tiny LED bulbs that make the set a tad deeper than its thinner rivals.
For gamers, what makes this panel super-exciting is low input lag; vital if you’re a keen Fortnite player.
The Q8oR also comes with a guarantee of zero screen burn, which for non-gamers means when an after-image is visible even when the picture changes. Samsung is so confident that its QLED sets are immune from screen burn that it offers a ten year panel guarantee.
The set’s HDR performance is also outstanding, just the thing to make HDR games on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X look their very best.
With a Bixby Intelligent Assistant driving this telly forward, you can search for content using your voice. This set also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Frustratingly, this telly lacks Freeview Play, but there is a good selection of Catch-up TV and streaming services on board.
While the Q80R does a workmanlike job with its downward firing speakers, a soundbar upgrade will enhance that sense of deep game immersion.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.