Perfect choices for movies, sports, and games
Buying a new TV in 2021 is both a curse and a blessing as you have so much choice. That’s why it’s crucial to make the right pick, although that can be a nightmare if you don’t understand the terms such as HDR, Dolby Vision, VRR, AALC, and others. My mission is to save you time and help you make the best decision while not sounding too technical. That’s why I picked these five TVs, which all offer outstanding performance for the price.
|LG C1||[email protected]||65″||4 x HDMI 2.1 |
3 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Sony A80J||[email protected]||65″||2xHDMI 2.1|
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|Hisense U8G||[email protected]||65″||2xHDMI 2.1 |
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|Samsung QN900A||[email protected]||65″||4xHDMI 2.1|
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|Hisense U6G||[email protected]||55″||4 x HDMI 2.0|
2 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|LG C1||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Sony A80J||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense U8G||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Samsung QN900A||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense U6G||SEE ON AMAZON|
What are the quintessential characteristics of the best TV in 2021?
Even when a TV is praised as the best available, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Let’s imagine that the price is not an issue so that you can afford even the best OLED screens. However, if the highest-rated TV doesn’t offer the size option you want, then it would clearly be the wrong choice. Even though all the TVs I’ll recommend are excellent, that doesn’t mean they perform the same when watching your favorite football team, enjoying movies, or playing games.
Still, there are some universal rules when buying a TV in 2021. First, 4K/60Hz is a minimum, and you need a device with at least three HDMI 2.0 inputs. Also, while every UHD TV supports HDR, you won’t notice it if the screen isn’t bright enough. Finally, don’t disregard upscaling performance, input lag, or color reproduction. So, here are my current favorites in 2021, although I will update the list as the new models arrive.
The best TV overall bring terrific picture quality and the ultimate gaming performance
Four HDMI 2.1 inputs
Low input lag
Supports both G-Sync and FreeSync
Brightness hasn’t improved over CX
Not meant for very bright rooms
The 2020’s LG CX was brilliant, despite only slightly improving over C9. The same trend continues with the 2021 LG C1, which manages to outshine its predecessor, especially if you are into gaming. Despite looking almost identical, this doesn’t make it any less gorgeous. As expected from OLED, the device is impressively slim, with barely noticeable bezels. While the stand is solid and modern looking, be aware that you’ll need a big table, as it’s very wide.
Like CX, C1 is available in 48, 55, 65, and 77 inches sizes, but there’s also a new 83-inch version. However, this one is also quite expensive and has limited availability. Apart from the measurement, all models are identical, including the 48-inch variant, an excellent substitute for a PC monitor. Keep in mind that this one is already on the same price level as the 48-inch CX.
As for the inputs, LG C1 is pretty much perfect, with four HDMI 2.1. In 2021, 99% percent of us still don’t need more than two of these, but it’s nice to be future-proof. That said, C1 supports 40Gbps bandwidth instead of maximum 48Gbps. However, full bandwidth is only needed for non-existent 12-bit color supporting sets. Other inputs include 3x USB 2.0, digital optical audio out, analog audio out 3.5 mm, tuner, and ethernet.
Impressive display quality and terrific gaming performance
The OLED technology is still superior, as it displays perfect black levels with infinite contrast. This is because the pixels can be turned off, unlike on LED panels where blacks are only different shades of grey. In a moderately lit or dark room, LG C1 shines the most. The only reason you should skip this model is if you need a TV in a space with lots of daylight. This is because OLED technology still can’t offer excellent brightness levels like LED/QLED, and surprisingly, C1 doesn’t improve over CX. That privilege is tied to the new and much more expensive LG G1 series.
Nevertheless, brightness is among the best for OLEDs, so it’s not a deal-breaker. This is still enough for the terrific HDR performance, especially for the movies supporting Dolby Vision. Of course, LG keeps ignoring the HDR10+ standard promoted by their big rival, Samsung. Upscaling performance is still important in 2021, and LG C1 uses the fourth generation of the excellent Alpha 9 chipset. Advances over CX aren’t tremendous, but they are visible, especially with SD content.
LG C1 isn’t advertised as a gaming TV, but with so many HDMI 2.1 ports, VRR, G-Sync, and FreeSync, it’s fully compatible with PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or the latest PC technology. The new Boost option brings the lag down to 10 ms from an already respectable 13 ms. Finally, we have presets for various genres, including FPS, RPG, and tactical games.
While the LG CX owners shouldn’t upgrade to C1, everyone else must consider it. Whatever you love movies, gaming, or need a TV that does everything brilliantly, LG C1 is the best you can get. While the G1 series offers slightly better brightness, the improvements are not worthy of the price.
The best LG C1 alternative is the new king of home cinema
Sony A8H is a fantastic TV, providing a terrific picture quality. While that made it the ultimate choice for watching movies, it failed as a gaming TV. This is because it didn’t support HDMI 2.1, which was unusual for a $2000 device. Luckily, A80J improves on that, and some other aspects, for a similar price. As you can expect, the TV is skinny and shares the elegant design with the more expensive A90J. I also love that the stand can be set up in three ways, with one perfect for a soundbar.
Although Sony A8H is available only in 55″ and 65″ inch versions, A80J also adds a 77″ variant. However, the 65″ version remains the best buy, unless it’s small for your room.
As I mentioned, the most significant advantage of A80J over A8H is the HDMI 2.1 support. The TV has two of these inputs, with two regular HDMI 2.0. Other inputs include three USBs, digital and optical audio out, tuner, ethernet, and IR. Composite support is also there, but only via an adapter, sold separately.
The supreme display for movie nights
It’s hard to be disappointed in the OLED screen picture quality, but the A80J is the best on the test, beating LG C1. Like its predecessor, this device offers superior gradient handling and better color volume. As the factory settings are pretty much perfect, you won’t have to pay a fee for additional calibration. The brightness remained almost the same as on the previous generation, keeping it on par with C1. However, LED displays still perform much better in bright environments. If you want more from OLED, the only choices are AJ90 and LG G1.
If you enjoy watching movies, then Sony A80J is what you need, plain and simple. I already mentioned the perfect out-of-the-box calibration and color reproduction, but there’s also Dolby Vision support. As usual, HDR10+ is nowhere to be seen, which currently doesn’t matter much. Sony has the best upscaling technology, and the A80J only proves the point. Even 720p satellite content looks great, considering how compressed it is. Standard blu-ray content is impressive, and BFI (Black Frame Insertion) immensely improves dark scenes.
Such terrific upscaling is excellent news if you have non-4K consoles, but A80J shines the most if you have PS5, Xbox Series X, or a modern gaming PC. Two HDMI 2.1 inputs are more than enough, enabling [email protected] gaming. However, it’s disappointing that the TV doesn’t support VRR nor ALLM. While Sony promises the update is coming, the company struggles with the technology, as even the PS5 doesn’t support it. At 16.9 ms, the input lag is not the best on the market, but it’s still very impressive. Just know that you’ll have to enable game mode manually on the Xbox consoles.
Thanks to HDMI 2.1, Sony A80J is a much better choice than A8H. While none of the other improvements are revolutionary, this TV is worth the price difference. Even though A90J is brighter, the price of admission is too steep.
The best LED TV now costs under $1000!
Very attractive price
Supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
It comes in only two sizes
Limited viewing angles
Hisense already established its presence in the budget and mid-range categories, but it still couldn’t reach the top among LED TV sets. Yet, with U8G, they finally have the product to match anything from Sony or Samsung. Additionally, Hisense does it for a much lower price! Despite this, the device looks like a premium model, even though its body is mostly plastic. However, the metal stand is solid, giving the TV all the stability it needs.
As Hisense U8G replaces H9G, maybe it’s no surprise that it also comes in just two sizes – 55″ and 65″. I recommend the bigger version as it has 360 local dimming zones compared to only 132 of the smaller model. Also, the 65″ device is still very affordable and is a better value.
This model has four HDMI inputs, with two of them supporting the 2.1 specs. This will, of course, become increasingly important if you own PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Series X. The rest of the inputs are pretty standard, although composite is present via the included adapter. There’s also a tuner, ethernet, and digital and analog audio out.
Excellent contrast and low input lag
Hisense sticks to VA panels, which naturally have high contrast and excellent colors. At 800 nits, U8G can’t compete with the best models from Samsung and Sony, but all of them are much more expensive. More importantly, this TV is still great to watch during daylight, as it handles reflections exceptionally well. The black levels are terrific, and the high number of local dimming zones helps things further. There’s only slight blooming around the subtitles, although you may even fail to notice it. Again, as the VA panels have pretty narrow viewing angles, you’ll need to position yourself near the central position.
The U8G gets very bright in the HDR mode, to the point that it may even be too much sometimes! Occasionally, this makes the picture slightly washed out, so Hisense will hopefully address it in a firmware update. Yet, these problems aren’t noticeable when using Dolby Vision and HDR10+ compatible content, as the TV supports both. The upscaling engine isn’t the greatest, as 720p content does look a bit soft.
While the 15.2 ms lag doesn’t make it one of the fastest TVs for gaming, you won’t have any problems even in racing or sports games. U8G is one of the rare sub-$1000 TVs with two HDMI 2.1 ports, and it supports VRR, FreeSync, and G-Sync. This makes it a strong choice for PS5, Xbox Series X, but also PC gaming.
The best 8K TV
Yes, 8K TVs certainly aren’t affordable, but their prices are coming down fast. While they won’t become mainstream in a couple more years, there are already plenty of choices. Some manufacturers are already selling 65″ models for below $2000, but Samsung is the king of 8K, and their QN900A has the best LED technology available. This extremely thin device has barely visible bezels, and the build quality is flawless.
This TV comes in three sizes, going from 65 to 85 inches. The price difference between each size is about $1000, but there’s no distinction between them apart from the size. Of course, with the 65″ model, you’ll have to sit pretty close to spot the fine 8K details.
As this is a premium device, I expected four HDMI 2.1 inputs. This makes the QN900A future-proof, as it’s fully compatible with the current console generation. HDMI 2.1 isn’t enough for [email protected], but no sane person should complain about that. The rest of the inputs are three USBs (2.0), tuner, ethernet, and digital optical out. There’s also a handy cable management box.
Wide viewing angles and everything that gamers need
While 8K sets generally aren’t as bright as the best 4K models, QN900A goes up to 1500 nits, which is still impressive. This device uses a VA panel, and while the native contrast isn’t the best, the excellent local dimming makes the blacks deep. To fight the narrow viewing angles of the screen technology, Samsung implemented the Ultra Viewing Angle layer, which helps a lot. However, I suggest color calibration, as the default values aren’t the best.
The QN900A is one of the best HDR showcases, as it shines in supported games or videos. The picture can get a bit too bright, although firmware updates partially corrected this issue. As this is Samsung, it supports HDR10+ and ignores Dolby Vision. This certainly won’t change unless Dolby Vision becomes dominant in the next few years. On the other hand, the upscaling is excellent, so even your old DVDs will look much better than you might expect.
In 2021 we finally got the first 8K console video game, although we doubt that it will make people throw away their 4K sets. As mentioned, QN900A is excellent at upscaling 4K but is also incredibly fast. At 9.5 ms input lag, it’s fully set for competitive online gaming. Four HDMI 2.1 ports will ensure you can connect all your compatible devices, including both current-gen consoles. HDMI 2.1 also brings VRR support, which includes FreeSync and G-SYNC. I also love the Game Bar menu, as it shows the essential info and the settings. Overall, this is the best gaming TV on the test.
While the Samsung QN900A isn’t cheap, it’s considerably better priced than any other 8K TV. It’s also the best Samsung TV overall, with unmatched upscaling, top gaming performance, and lots of brightness. Plus, the viewing angles are excellent, despite the VA panel. Even if it’s above your budget, note this model and check it out during sales.
The best under $500 TV offers something for the whole family
Only a few years ago, buying a $500 TV meant that you’d have to accept serious compromises. However, the situation changed radically in the last few years. This means that the best budget TVs can proudly sit in the living room, serving your every need. The Hisense U6G comes with thin bezels rivaling many expensive models, and its wide legs offer decent stability. There’s plenty of space in between, so you can use it for a soundbar.
This TV comes in five different sizes, but the 55-inch model is the best you can do in the sub-$500 category. Every model is the same feature-wise, so you can go for a 50-inch version if you want to save more.
With four HDMI 2.0 inputs, U6G allows you to connect every device, including multiple gaming consoles. There are also two USBs, ethernet, tuner, digital and analog audio out, and even composite in for older devices.
Ready for fast action and advanced HDR standards
U6G reaches 600 nits peak brightness which is expected for this class. Yet, the VA panel guarantees impressive colors and contrast, especially when there’s not a lot of daylight. Local dimming also helps make the blacks solid. Of course, the VA panel limits the viewing angles, so make sure not to sit too much on the side.
The average brightness means that we can’t expect miracles from the HDR. Yet, it still makes a significant difference in supported games and movies. Hisense is very cool for not choosing sides, so unlike Samsung or LG models, it supports Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Both formats still have minimal support, but it’s good to be future-proof. While I expected decent HD upscaling, U6G also handles DVD content very well, and even the standard SDTV.
Although you can use U6G as your primary or secondary TV, it’s also a very attractive device for gamers. A 10.8 ms input lag will let you enjoy the fastest racing games or shooters, and unlike earlier budget models from Hisense, this one supports ALLM. This means it will automatically shift to gaming mode when needed. Of course, VRR and HDMI 2.1 are absent, but the next-gen consoles still have very limited use for these technologies. Heck, PS5 still doesn’t support VRR.
With U6G, you’ll get more than you’re paying for, and only limited viewing angles and average brightness will remind you that this is a budget TV. Still, advanced HDR options, excellent colors, and contrast make it a desirable purchase. Finally, its gaming capabilities are unmatched in this class!
The best TV in 2021 – Frequently asked questions
How many HDMI and USB inputs do I need?
Almost every TV on the market has three or four HDMI ports. Even
three ports should be enough for most users unless you have two consoles and a Blu-ray player. However, before buying a TV, you should also check where HDMI ports are located. That’s especially important if you want to wall-mount your TV, as in that case, one or more HDMIs may become inaccessible.
As for the USB inputs, all models include at least two, which should be enough. While it’s nice to have a TV with USB 3.0 support, you’ll be OK with 2.0, which is still far more prevalent.
Do I need an HDMI 2.1 compatible TV?
You don’t unless you are a gamer. Watching sports, movies, or regular TV channels is the same on HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1. Furthermore, that won’t change for a very long time! On the other side, HDMI 2.1 enables [email protected] gaming on the latest consoles. More importantly, HDMI 2.1 almost always integrates VRR or Variable Refresh Rate, preventing frame drops during gameplay. VRR is present in some HDMI 2.0 devices, but in HDMI 2.1, it’s guaranteed!
Do I need to buy more expensive HDMI cables?
The short answer is no. That’s because of how the technology works, so either you have a perfect picture, or you don’t have it at all. More expensive cables won’t make the picture brighter, sharper and will certainly not make colors more vivid. However, if you see something resembling snow artifacts, this means that the cable is broken, and you should return it. Nevertheless, I would still skip the cheapest HDMI cables as their build quality usually affects their life span. I highly recommend well-protected cables if you need to connect the devices 15 feet or more away from each other.
How long is the lifespan of today’s TVs?
The lifespan of TV depends on many factors, but the crucial is the display technology it uses. For example, now long-gone Plasma TVs had a declared lifespan of at least 100,000 hours, and modern LEDs are slightly below that. OLED screens are the worst, as for a long time, their lifespan was only about 30,000 hours. Still, if you would watch TV every day for three hours, this means that it would lose half of its brightness in 27 years! Moreover, LG claims that they have drastically improved the OLED lifespan, which is now close to 100,000 hours. In practice, whatever you do, expect your TV to serve you well for at least a decade, and probably much more.
Do I need to pay for an extended warranty?
As we concluded, the current generation of TVs have a long lifespan, so paying for the extended warranty isn’t necessary. Manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, which is long enough to notice any problem. Also, when buying a TV, check the store’s return policy.
What happened to 3D TV? Are they still available?
If you want to confuse your local TV seller, ask them if they have any 3D displays. Expect to cause a bit of confusion, as all TV manufacturers dropped the support in 2017, citing the lack of interest. The age of 3D gaming pretty much died with PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, while 3D Blu-ray movies are also facing extinction, even though new releases are still coming in 2021.
Which one is better, Dolby Vision or HDR10+?
Both standards are doing the same, enhancing the standard HDR. Besides, they are also nearly identical performance-wise. Still, the better standard is the one that’s widely supported, and in this case, Dolby Vision is currently winning. However, even Dolby Vision has minimal support, so don’t take it as a significant factor when buying a new TV.
What is the best size for a TV?
That really depends on your needs and the size of the room. With a 4K TV, you need to watch it from a relatively short distance to see all the details. Unless you are in a tiny apartment, I recommend a 55″ or even better, 65″ screen. These sizes are the most popular, widely available, and are the best buy options. One more thing – I don’t know anyone saying that their TV is too big. Go for the largest version you can afford!
What to avoid when buying a TV?
When buying a TV for general use, you should primarily care about the picture quality. The lack of HDMI 2.1 ports shouldn’t be something to worry about unless you’re a passionate gamer. You’ll notice that I haven’t talked much about the audio on these TVs because there’s not much to say. Even the best model, LG C1, is not shining in this department, so I advise buying a decent soundbar. Some TVs depend on firmware updates to enable all their features, and sometimes you’ll have to wait months for delivery. Just ask the owners of Sony X900H, which caused a lot of confusion.
Buying guide for the best TV in 2021
What is the best 4K TV you can buy in 2021?
The top deciding factors when purchasing a 4K TV in 2021 are your needs and your resources. Those two things are usually not compatible, but in 2021 you can find an excellent TV for any budget. Some compromises are necessary as we go below $1000, but maybe you don’t need these extra features anyway.
Having said that, LG C1 is the best 4K TV you can find. It has excellent picture quality thanks to its OLED screen, and it includes four HDMI 2.1 inputs. This is a terrific device for any purpose and will work great with the latest gaming consoles or gaming laptops. While it’s not cheap, it’s worth every penny.
However, if picture quality is your priority, A80J is a better choice. The color accuracy makes it the favorite for movie nights, and the upscaling engine is unmatched. Also, you still have two HDMI 2.1 ports for gaming sessions, although it currently lacks VRR support.
The Hisense U8G is currently the best 4K LED TV which is incredible as it costs less than $1000 for a 65″ model. This device provides excellent picture quality, with deep blacks and impressive contrast. Since it supports HDMI 2.1 and VRR, gamers will love it too.
The 8K TVs are still a rare sight, but the Samsung QN900A made them more visible. This device has the best LED technology, and it’s still not extremely expensive. Despite using the VA panel, viewing angles are very good, while the black levels and contrast are close to OLEDs. Finally, it has every gaming feature you might need.
Hisense U6G proves that a $500 TV still deserves a place in your living room. This model is an incredible value, providing realistic colors and extra deep blacks thanks to its dimming zones. The U6G is an excellent choice for watching movies, and the minimum input lag makes it a good choice for gaming.
What is the best TV in 2021?
If you can afford it, LG C1 is the best solution. Nothing beats OLED, but this model also has tons of other qualities to make the whole family happy.
If gaming is not your priority, Sony A80J is even better, as it offers slightly improved picture quality, making it the ultimate choice for watching movies.
At only $1000, Hisense U8G is unbeatable among LED TV sets. The picture quality and HDMI 2.1 support make it excel in gaming and watching movies.
The Samsung QN900A is not nearly as affordable, but it beats other 8K TVs for a lower price. Expect the best of QLED technology, which puts it so close to OLEDs. Plus, it’s the best gaming TV on the test.
At only $500, Hisense U6G easily triumphs in the budget category. Expected excellent picture quality, fast gaming performance, and advanced HDR support.