TVs are bigger and better than ever. For the best picture quality, choose one with 4K resolution, also called Ultra High Definition (UHD). It has four times the number of pixels of full HD. One advantage of 4K is that the picture is so detailed, you can sit closer to it, making for an especially immersive experience (or to put it another way: if you’ve always wanted a massive TV, here’s your excuse).
The latest feature to look out for is HDR: high dynamic range. It uses a brighter display capability to make it possible to show bright and dark areas, both with lots of detail at the same time. All the TVs here have 4K and HDR.
HDR and 4K shows and movies are limited – there are some on BT TV, Netflix and Amazon, plus an impressive amount on Sky Q, the latest system from the satellite broadcaster. Earlier this summer, Sky Q increased the range of 4K content exponentially, including plenty of sport. Plus, you can rent 4K movies on Sky Q, while Amazon makes you buy it. HDR content is still pretty rare, though on the up. All the screens here can upscale – that is, make high-definition programming look almost as good as true 4K.
1. Sony KD-65ZD9BU TV: £3,999, John Lewis
This is UHD picture quality at its astonishing best. As well as building in HDR, with image processing specifically designed to make the most of this new technology, it has a new Sony speciality called Backlight Master Drive. Where most LCD screens have one separate backlight (or at most a few), resulting in a grey overlay on dark scenes, this has lots – more than 600, in fact. Each is individually controlled so that contrast levels are jaw-dropping, with deep blacks and bright, vivid colours. If there’s a flaw on this screen it’s the Android TV operating system which isn’t as slick as some, but it’s worth putting up with for a picture like this. Oh, and if 65 inches isn’t big enough for you, it’s also available in 75-inch and 100-inch versions (although you'll of course be paying more for those).
2. Panasonic Viera 65DX902B: £2,399, John Lewis
This is an impressive 65-inch TV with a stunning picture: colours are rich and gleaming. Like the Sony above, it uses local dimming, where individual parts of the screen can be lit differently as needed (though not as many individual light clusters as Sony’s). A special honeycomb design behind the screen stops light leaking out where it shouldn’t. Panasonic’s smart TVs use an interface designed by Firefox, which is versatile and easy.
3. Samsung UE55KS7000: £899, PC World
Samsung calls its top-of-the-range models SUHD, with its best-quality picture and plenty of features. Among the tech is something called quantum dots, extraordinarily tiny particles which emit different colour light depending on their size. This means a TV can achieve achingly vivid colours, and a wider range of them. They also make brighter TVs (useful for HDR) a possibility. The results on this 55-inch model are impressive and deliver a great picture at a price lower than many rivals. The TV design is snazzy, too.
4. Philips 43PUS6501: £399, Argos
Philips has long championed its special backlight system called Ambilight, where colours matching the dominant on-screen shades are projected on the wall behind the telly. It sounds weird but try it and you'll soon find TV a bit less impressive without it. It’s as though your TV is bigger than it is and makes for an immersive experience. This 43-inch model is very impressive, especially for the price (though the slightly plasticky build reflects this). There’s a lot of TV for your money here, though the picture quality doesn’t quite match the best in this round-up.
5. Hisense 65M5500: £799, John Lewis
This 65-inch TV comes in at a remarkable price. But then, this is Hisense, a Chinese brand that thrives on low prices. The design is good (a black alternative to the silvery frame here is available) and the interface simple and effective. Picture quality is strong, though not perfect. When you choose a big name like Sony, Panasonic et al, you are paying for top-flight image processing – and while this doesn't quite compete, it's a strong contender for a good price.
6. Samsung UE65KS9500: £3,299, Currys
Samsung has pioneered the curved TV, insisting the gently concave shape is designed to match the curve of your eyeball, which in turn removes distortion from the picture. Image quality on this 65-inch model, especially with HDR-capable content, has plenty of rich detail. Like the Sony above, this screen uses a direct backlight system with local dimming so the black parts of the image are really dark and full of contrast. It also uses quantum dot tech for superbly realistic colours and the brightness HDR needs. Excellent.
7. LG OLED55B6V: £1,779, Amazon
LG’s premium range of TVs uses OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode), while other TVs here are regular LED LCD screens. Each OLED pixel is individually controlled, each one able to produce its own light, so this is the ultimate in local dimming. There’s no backlight here as with LCD, meaning contrast is unbeatable. This 55-inch TV looks amazing, especially in lower-light living rooms (OLED isn’t as bright as LCD). LG’s TV operating system is superb: accessible, simple and rich. Note that currently LG OLED screens come with a year’s subscription to Sky Q.
8. Sony KD-65XD9305BU: £1,899, John Lewis
Until the Sony Best Buy above arrived, this TV had one of the best pictures the company had produced. It’s a 65-inch screen that’s remarkably slim (under 4cm from front to back) and the bezel round the picture is pretty tiny, too. Sony’s industrial design is usually strong and this TV certainly looks good even when it’s turned off. And when it’s on, the picture quality is tremendous.
9. Panasonic TX-58DX802B: £1,289, Currys
This 58-inch TV has a strikingly different design to most others. Not everyone will like it, but its easel-style frame is certainly a statement. Sound is the best on test here because the screen comes with a separate sound bar which sits just underneath, and delivers plenty of bass. Picture quality is especially strong, thanks to great 4K and HDR capabilities delivering realistic colours and deep black shades. This is a great all-rounder, assuming you like the design.
10. Samsung UE43KS7500: £749, Richer Sounds
If you like the look of a curved TV, but want something a little smaller, this 43-inch model is super-slim and attractive. Some earlier curved models suffered from extraneous reflections if you didn’t sit dead centre, but this model has thankfully overcome that issue. As well as 4K and HDR, this TV uses Quantum Dot to look good even in bright environments. Overall, this TV offers extremely good picture quality for a smaller-sized 4K TV. Good value, too.
The Verdict: 4K TVs
It’s still true that for the best picture it’s worth sticking with a big name like Sony, Panasonic or Samsung as these brands invest heavily in image processing which can really improve the result. The best all-rounder is the Panasonic 65DX902B which matches outstanding picture with a relatively reasonable price. But the ultimate picture quality, especially for brighter rooms where OLED performs less well, is Sony’s KD-65ZD9BU. If you have a darker living room, LG’s OLED55B6V is hard to beat, and has dropped in price heavily since launch.
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