4K is the hottest new thing in television right now. After almost a decade of Full HD dominating the TV landscape, 4K is finally here, delivering a level of detail that’s impressive even on large televisions.
4K itself has been around for a couple of years now, but what’s changed is the amount of 4K content that’s now available from major streaming players including Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube.
But in order to enjoy this new standard you’re going to need a new television, and there’s a lot of difference between a good and bad 4K TV.
While two TVs might technically be 4K, one might have additional technologies such as HDR and wide colour, and additionally in fact, HDR is proving quite a challenge for TVs to get right. So let’s try and make your buying decision at least a bit easier with our pick of the 10 best 4K TVs you can buy today.
(Editor’s note: If you’re looking to purchase a 4K Blu-ray player then be sure to check out our list of the , or alternatively check out the Xbox One S, which comes equipped with a 4K Blu-ray player of its own.)
1. Samsung KS9500 range
No TVs in 2016 delivered pictures more downright spectacular than Samsung’s KS9500s. Partly because no other commercially released TVs have ever delivered as much brightness, but also because Samsung has used a high-end backlighting system and a proprietary take on Quantum Dot color technology to ensure that the emphatic brightness is joined by excellent contrast and explosively rich but also gorgeously nuanced colors.
Push all this technology to the max with today’s highest quality sources – especially, the incredible images you can get from the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format – and you’ll witness pictures the like of which just haven’t been seen on a TV before.
The KS9500s aren’t perfect; the push for such extreme contrast from an LCD screen can sometimes cause backlight clouding around very bright objects, and the most accurate Movie preset can cause colour striping with UHD Blu-ray. There’s no 3D support either. So extraordinary are the KS9500s’ pictures at their best, though, that their flaws become seriously easy to forgive.
2. LG OLEDE6 series
For the sort of AV enthusiast who always preferred the contrast and subtlety of now defunct plasma screens to the more brightness focussed charms of LCD, OLED technology has long looked like the next big thing. And LG’s stellar OLEDE6 models do nothing to dispel this notion.
This is because it manages to combine OLED’s currently unique ability to have every single pixel in its screen produce its own light and colour independent of its neighbours with a substantial leap in brightness versus any previous OLED generation. What’s more, this HDR-friendly leap in brightness has been delivered without compromising the remarkable black level reproduction that’s OLED’s trademark.
LG will need to improve brightness still further if it wants to avoid the loss of detail in really bright HDR areas the OLEDE6 models sometimes fall prey too, but for many AV fans the E6s’ freedom from the sort of backlight flaws all LCD TVs suffer with to some extent will prove nigh-on irresistible.
3. Sony XBR-65Z9D
At $5,500 Sony’s new flagship TV is eye-wateringly expensive. It uses the hard-to-love Android TV platform and it doesn’t sound as good as I’d like a flagship TV to sound. Yet despite all this, the 65Z9D was hands down our favorite TV of 2016, for reasons that become abundantly clear as soon as you fire it up and get to ogle its groundbreaking picture quality. The simple fact is that no previous TV has managed to deliver the full spectacle of 4K HDR while suffering so little with unwanted side effects – and the results are nothing short of transformative.
4. LG OLEDB6 Series
The brilliantly simple attraction of the LG OLEDB6 4K TV range is that they bring you most of the OLED-based picture quality thrills that saw the OLEDE6 range bag a slot right near the top of this list for a much more affordable price.
The thing is, the reasons the OLEDB6 models are so much cheaper than the E6 models are down to things like design, build quality, reduced audio performance and removing 3D playback from the spec list rather than massively compromised image reproduction. So it still delivers the unbeatable black levels, lovely rich colors, extreme contrast and pixel-level light control of its step-up OLEDE6 siblings.
The OLEDE6 doesn’t solve OLED’s current issue of lost detail in very bright areas of HDR pictures, but it’s as good as it gets with the SDR content we still watch for most of the time and remains the natural successor to the plasma TVs so beloved of AV enthusiasts.
5. Sony XBR-X930D series
With the XD9305 series, Sony has joined the other big brands this year in delivering some genuine, HDR-led innovation. In the XD9305’s case this takes the form of the Slim Backlight Drive, which cleverly uses two edge-mounted LED light modules and dual light guides to essentially double how locally the XD9305 TVs can control the light in their images.
The result is a contrast performance that gets closer to what you’d normally only see from TVs with a direct LED lighting system at a fraction of the price.
Sony’s Triluminos technology also contributes some mesmerisingly good color handling, while the brand’s X1 processing system ensures that both native 4K and upscaled HD sources both looks fantastically detailed and sharp.
Occasional rather defined backlight ‘blocking’ artifacts and the clunky Android TV smart engine stop the XD9305 TVs from challenging for the top spot on this list, but at their best the XD9305’s pictures are genuinely sensational.