The best all-around TVs in 2021 for every budget – Great for movies, sports, and games
Buying a new TV in 2021 is both a curse and a blessing as you have so much choice. Numerous options mean that you might get a headache trying to figure out the best decision. You see, a new TV is still a considerable investment that you plan to utilize for an extended period. That’s why it’s crucial to make the right pick, and it 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. 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″||2 x HDMI 2.1||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Samsung Q80T||[email protected]||65″||4 x HDMI 2.0|
2 x USB 2.0
1 x USB 3.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|TCL 6-series||[email protected]||65″||1 x HDMI 2.1|
3 x HDMI 2.0
2 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense H8G||[email protected]||55″||4 x HDMI 2.0|
1 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|LG C1||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Sony A80J||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Samsung Q80T||SEE ON AMAZON|
|TCL 6-series||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense H8G||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 best 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 now supports HDR, you won’t enjoy 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 whole OLED LG series has always been a favorite of mine, and last year’s LG CX was brilliant, despite only a slight improvement over the 2019’s 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, which is 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, keep in mind that 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.
Tons of options for gamers with impressive display quality
The OLED technology is still superior, as it displays perfect black levels and has 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. Besides, the only reason you should skip this model is if you need a TV in a room with lots of daylight. 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 really not a deal-breaker. This is still enough for the terrific HDR performance, and especially for the movies supporting Dolby Vision. Of course, LG keeps ignoring the HDR10+ standard as promoted by the big rival, Samsung. Upscaling performance is still important in 2021, and LG C1 uses the fourth generation of Alpha 9 chipset. Advances over CX aren’t tremendous, but they are visible, especially with SD content.
LG C1 is not 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), and there are presets for various genres, including FPS, RPG, and tactical games.
While the LG CX owners shouldn’t upgrade to C1, everyone else must consider this beautiful device. Whatever you love movies, gaming, or search for 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 new king of home cinema is also a gamer
Perfect for movies
The best picture quality on the test
Predefined picture settings are excellent
HDMI 2.1 compatible
VRR and ALLM currently not enabled
No Dolby Vision at [email protected]
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 is 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 very thin 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.
While 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 choice for movie nights
It’s hard to be disappointed in the OLED screen picture quality, but 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 at Dolby Vision to that. 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 that the update is coming, keep that in mind. It looks like 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. While A90J is brighter, the price of admission is too steep.
The best midrange TV packed with features
Available in many sizes
Performs well in bright rooms
Excellent gaming support
Only a single HDMI 2.1
Even though there’s no doubt that OLED screens are the best you can get, that doesn’t mean that other types of panels are obsolete. As a strong proponent of QLED TVs, Samsung makes its presence known with Q80T. While it’s not the best model the company offers, Q80T shines in the midrange category. The device is not as attractive as OLED TVs on our test, as its build quality is slightly lower. At the same time, the design is minimalistic but still traditional.
Q80T offers 49″, 50″, 55″, 65″, 75″, and 85″ inch models, so there’s plenty to choose from. However, I have a few important tips. The 55″ and 65″ models offer the best price, as they are a lot cheaper than LG C1 and Sony A8H. The second thing is, you should skip 49″ and 50″ models as they lack HDMI 2.1. If you are a gamer who owns or plans to buy a current-gen console, don’t even think about them!
Samsung Q80T has four HDMI inputs, and one of them is HDMI 2.1. Obviously, that’s the one you want to use for your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S consoles. Finally, you have two standard USB 2.0 ports, digital optical out, tuner, and ethernet.
Deep blacks and terrific gaming support
Unless you are coming from an OLED screen, you’ll love what Q80T has to offer regarding picture quality. Native contrast and black levels are superb for QLED, and in a bright room, you’ll enjoy it more than LG CX or Sony A8H. Of course, every LED/QLED is weakest during the movie night, as they usually struggle with blacks. However, what you might experience here is only a slight blooming, while even the subtitles aren’t causing any problems.
HDR performance can match and beat the best OLED screens for less money, but that’s what I’ve expected. Things are even better if the content supports HDR10+, but that’s still a rarity. Samsung is ignoring Dolby Vision for now, despite looking like it’s losing this battle. The Q80T automatically applies upscaling and uses machine learning to improve it over time. The results are above average, as I haven’t noticed artifacts.
Some of the best reasons to own a Q80T are its features, as it supports practically everything but Dolby Vision. The gamers will be delighted, as because of HDMI 2.1, you can expect VRR, FreeSync, and G-Sync support. Combine that with Ultra Viewing Angle technology, and you’ll get an excellent TV for local multiplayer. Finally, the input lag is only 10.1 ms, equaling C1 in Boost mode.
Samsung Q80T is a great mid-range TV and a decent alternative for OLED screens, even beating their input lag or bright room performance. Plus, you’ll be saving a lot of money.
Best TV under $1000 is also the brightest on the test
Somehow, many people think spending less than $1000 on a TV is not a good idea. But, even though you’ll have to forget about 8K and OLED screens for the price, you don’t need to sacrifice almost anything else. While there are more than a few tremendous under a thousand bucks TVs, it doesn’t get better than TCL 6-Series. This model is not particularly thin, and you’ll need a lot of space for its wide legs. However, bezels are small, and the build quality is impressive.
TCL 6-Series is available as 55″, 65″, and 75″ models and they are all the same when it comes to quality and features. That’s a pretty decent choice, as these are currently the most popular sizes. Of course, only the 75″ version is above our $1000 limit.
As for the inputs, TCL 6-Series has four HDMI 2.0 and only a single USB 2.0. However, don’t let that fool you. Despite lacking HDMI 2.1, this is still a 120Hz TV with advanced gaming features I’ll mention later. Other inputs include digital optical audio out, analog audio out 3.5mm, composite via the adapter, tuner, and ethernet.
Mini-LED and the best contrast in the class
This model has visibly improved picture quality over the previous generation and beats more expensive rivals, including the Sony X900H. TCL 6-Series uses a mini-LED technology and benefits from it in a few ways. This is the brightest TV on the test, meaning that the picture looks impressive even during daylight.
This also helps with HDR performance, as the colors pop up, and local dimming helps with black levels. While this model doesn’t support HDR10+, I’m happy to report that Dolby Vision is present, and it works very well. However, keep in mind that many supported titles are barely using even the standard HDR, despite claiming otherwise. As for the upscaling, AiPQ is doing a great job, as long as the source HD material has a decent bitrate.
As I mentioned, this device has some extra features for gamers, the most important being the support for VRR. Also, while 4K gaming is limited at 60 fps, you can enjoy [email protected] for some ultra-smooth performance. Keep in mind that PS5 doesn’t support this mode, but that should change. At 18.4 ms input response, it’s not among the fastest models, but that’s more than enough unless you are a professional gamer. Thanks to ALLM, the gaming mode activates automatically, and the device also has a PC mode.
If you need a bright display with excellent HDR and decent gaming performance for a limited budget, TCL 6-Series can’t be the wrong choice. Still, keep in mind that it’s available only in North America.
The best in the $500 class for moviegoers and gamers
Low input lag
An excellent choice for movie nights
Limited viewing angles
No HDMI 2.1
Not so long ago, paying $500 for a TV meant that you’ll get a basic device that’s not anywhere near a comprehensive solution for your living room. Hisense H8G is one of the models that changes this perception as it offers some surprising features. It sure looks good, and it helps that its feet are metal, with cable management that wasn’t present in the previous generation. Finally, the device is thinner than three inches, which is very helpful if you want to wall-mount it.
H8G comes in four sizes, including 50″, 55″, 65″ and 75″ inch models. However, know that 50″ and 55″ versions lack optical audio. Nevertheless, these are the models that fit into our $500 limit. This TV comes with four HDMI 2.0 and two USB 2.0 inputs, which is usual for the class. It also has digital optical audio out, analog audio out 3.5mm, composite in, tuner and ethernet.
HDR10+ AND Dolby Vision working in harmony
H8G will impress you once you see it in action, mostly thanks to its relatively bright screen (700 nits) and a high contrast ratio. Local dimming produces deep blacks, so even when watching a movie in a dark room, you’ll love what you see. However, in bright environments, the situation is a bit different. You likely won’t be shocked to know that the viewing angles are limited, so don’t plan crowded movie nights or game sessions. Alternatively, draw straws to determine who will get the center positions.
While HDR is impressive, a lot of daylight will harm the color richness. One of the best surprises is that the H8G is the only model on our test that supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. As both formats still have limited presence (to put it politely), this is even more meaningful. Upscaling is slightly above average and is turned on automatically.
While this is a fantastic budget solution for the movie-loving crowd, H8G is nearly as good as a gaming device. That might sound weird, as this is an HDMI 2.0 device, which, unlike TCL 6-Series, doesn’t even support 120Hz in any mode. While this also means that VRR is also unavailable, the gaming mode shows an 11.5 ms input lag, beating even the LG CX series. However, make sure it’s enabled as without it, lag skyrockets to 65 ms. I suggest you also allow MotionRate 240 and see if you like it or not. Of course, in no way it’s a substitution for 120 fps gaming.
While not shining in bright rooms, Hisense H8G is an excellent choice for moviegoers, thanks to solid blacks, vivid colors, and advanced HDR options. It will also work well with PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, despite not supporting VRR.
The best TV in 2021 – Frequently asked questions
Why are there no 8K TVs on this list?
Because this is the list of the best 4K TVs! Joking aside, buying an 8K TV at this moment doesn’t make much sense. There are no 8KBlu-rays and streaming services don’t offer the 8K content. Moreover, while YouTube offers some 8K videos, keep in mind that they are highly compressed. Finally, while PS5 and Xbox Series X support 8K, there are no 8K games on the horizon. Despite this, there’s no doubt that 8K will make 4K obsolete one day, but that won’t happen anytime soon.
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, and you
don’t need more than that. 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 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 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 most 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 has 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 test 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 more widely supported, and Dolby Vision is currently winning. However, even Dolby Vision has minimal support, so don’t consider it 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 his 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 will have to 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.
While Samsung Q80T is not the best model that the company offers, it’s a great value and is much more affordable than OLEDs. Despite using QLED technology, the picture quality is excellent. Black levels are deep, colors are vibrant, and it performs well in bright spaces. Finally, HDMI 2.1 compatibility makes it gaming-ready.
TCL has proven its relevance as their 6-Series beats anything else under $1000. For the money, you’ll get a very bright 65-inch screen with excellent color reproduction and terrific HDR performance. Despite the absence of HDMI 2.1 support, you can still play the latest games in [email protected] and employ VRR.
Hisense H8G is the best you can get for around $500 if you don’t need more than a 55″ TV. Despite limited viewing angles, watching movies on this device is an excellent experience, thanks to local dimming and HDR performance. While it lacks advanced gaming features, H8G has a very low input lag.
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 that will 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.
Samsung Q80T will save you close to $1000 while still providing an attractive display that is better suited for bright rooms. HDMI 2.1 helps it be a viable gaming platform.
If you don’t plan to spend over $1000 on a TV, TCL 6-Series won’t disappoint you. You will still get a 65″ screen that shines thanks to its vibrant colors and gaming performance. Finally, Hisense H8G is the best TV for around $500 and is a real all-arounder. The viewing angle is not the best, but long movie nights and gaming sessions are delightful on it.