When it’s time to buy a new television, people typically face one of two scenarios: They’re either standing in a big box store, mouths agape as a wall of screens bathes them in a confusing wash of light; or they’ve been online and on the prowl for months, scouring specs, tracking prices, and trying to figure out which TV looks good — all without ever having actually laid eyes on them in person.
With the wide array of specs and features to consider when buying a TV, neither of these methods is ideal. To find the best fit for your big screen needs, you need to spend time literally looking at the TV from all angles. Does it work well in a bright room? Does it handle dark imagery well? Can it keep up with fast-paced sports? Do the colors bring video games to life?
We sorted through all the big screens on the market and spent dozens of hours both watching and using these TVs to ensure they are the best you can get. We separated them by price point, meaning there’s a match for every budget. But there’s consistency here, too: Each has high-def 4K capability (which it’s finally worth investing in) and none are smaller than 55 inches.
This story is updated on an ongoing basis to reflect the latest and best models available in their respective price points.
Under $500: Insignia NS55
You may not recognize the Insignia brand name, but don’t be skeptical; it’s a product line from Best Buy, one of the country’s biggest television resellers. And though they peddle everything from high-end sets to budget models, the NS50 is a particularly great value, not only for bringing home 4K for under $500, but in a 55-inch screen no less.
Before you get your hopes up about high performance or high-end finishes, temper your expectations. With edge-to-edge plastic on the rear and an unflattering stand, this isn’t a show piece intended for a stylish living room. With its 4K display, it wouldn’t look bad mounted on a wall. But otherwise it’s an ideal future-proof set for someone on a budget, or for kids to play games or stream video on.
And speaking of streaming, with Roku’s Internet video interface baked in, the NS55 is a great television for cord cutters. Providing access to an ever-growing library of apps and games, as well as more than 450,000 movies and games, Roku makes some of the best over-the-top boxes on the market. By infusing the Insignia with Roku’s tech, this TV offers a one-step solution for someone looking to get up to speed with all the best online television content. Through the Roku’s customizable menu, viewers can put their favorite online services (like MLB.TV or Amazon Prime Video) within easy reach. And the television’s remote is a Roku model, which gives you one-button access to Netflix, HBO Now, and Google Play.
In terms of hardware quality, the Insignia is a good value for what you’re paying. Its four HDMI inputs are plenty for plugging in game consoles and other boxes, while its LCD display is good enough to take advantage of the higher resolution 4K dishes out. So long as you don’t expect the flashy performance or rich colors of costlier models, you won’t be disappointed.
Buy now: $479, Best Buy
Under $1,000: TCL 65US5800
With the prices of 4K TVs dropping, it’s getting increasingly easier to get in on the latest cutting edge tech. But the challenge is finding good gear at a price point that won’t break the budget. TCL’s ultra-high definition 65US5800 not only packs solid display specs, but it does so at 65 inches and for under $1,000, making it a worthy choice for just about any living room.
The first thing you’ll notice when powering on the TCL is a fairly crisp and rich screen, glimmering with a fun boot-up design. This image is representative of what’s to come: A middle-of-the-road 120Mhz refresh rate helps keep the TCL’s LED display moving along, making this TV good for faster-moving content like video games or sports. But it’s a bit dim and the viewing angles aren’t the best, so be careful in big, well-lit rooms with this television (or invest in some blackout curtains.) The 65US5800 also offers upscaling — a surprising feature at this low price point — which means it can take your high definition cable signals and make them look better (though not quite 4K quality.)
The second thing you’ll notice after powering on the TCL is that it’s also loaded with Roku’s smart TV interface. One of the best over-the-top video streaming solutions on the market, Roku has apps and channels aplenty, and it also can let you download movies and shows without the need for an external box. Roku also is also great at updating its software, which means this television should remain a solid investment for years to come.
Buy now: $999, Walmart
Under $1,500: Sony Bravia X930D
Cutting a similar pencil-thin profile to the LG B6 — though more than half the OLED TV’s cost — the 55-inch Sony Bravia X930D is a bargain for what it delivers: top shelf visuals and a gorgeous design that cuts all the right corners, looking great powered on or off. Sure, it’s 10 inches smaller than most of the other televisions on this list, but you could buy two of these for the same price as the LG, and their image quality won’t look that different once Kylo Ren starts swinging his lightsaber all over your living room.
The X930D’s smaller build gives it an advantage: a centered stand that’s a welcome addition for people who prefer to perch their TV on an entertainment center. However, with a bulky power brick (shaving inches off its caboose), this Sony isn’t going to be easy to hang, anyway. Also, like many other higher-end televisions, the Sony’s speakers leave much to be desired; skimping on the Bravia’s body has taken a toll on of its sound output.
But those are minor quibbles once you see the X930D in action. And with great motion handling and a wider color gamut, I do mean “action.” The Sony handles motion well, making movies and video a delight. It also emits a crisp picture, which is surprising because the screen is edge lit (one of those carefully considered corners that was cut.)
Driving the Sony’s smarts is Google’s Android TV platform, one of the (roughly) 1 million initiatives that the search giant pays scant attention to from time to time. In fairness, there are few smart television platforms that are 100% fully-baked yet, and having a voice remote, a ton of apps, and access to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix is about as good as it gets right now. Overall, you could also say the same thing of the X930D when you mix the ingredients of image quality, design, size, and price.
Buy now: $1,499, Amazon
Under $2,000: Vizio P65-C1
When people made the jump from standard to high definition TVs in the mid-2000s, Vizio’s low-cost flat panels beat a path into living rooms around the world. Today, through great looking and screens like the P65, the company is poised to usher in the era of 4K television watching, too.
A big, crisp screen with a thin, silver, minimalist bezel, the P65 would look at home in any home, provided it was furnished with a wide-based entertainment center (or a wall mount). That’s because the Vizio’s base is a pair of feet spread far apart to give the big, 65-pound screen more stability.
But these supports also brace the 65-inch LCD TV for some impressive visuals. Backed by a grid of LEDs, the Vizio is plenty bright, ensuring consistent color and contrast across the screen. These “local dimming” LEDs add a bit of heft to the display’s body, but you don’t get something for nothing. The P65’s High Dynamic Range also gives added depth to content like movies, making viewers feel like they’re being sucked into sweeping landscape shots. And embracing a wider color gamut, the P65 will display hues that other sets just can’t. This might not sound like a big deal to Blue Bloods viewers, but streaming Planet Earth II will whisk you to the French Alps without leaving your loveseat.
As impressive as the P65’s display is, what’s off-screen may be what sets the P65 apart. Though the television doesn’t come with a coaxial cable input (most Vizio’s don’t — it’s a good way to cut costs), it does come equipped with Google Cast, a technology that lets you send your content from a smartphone or tablet directly to the screen. And if that’s not enough, the company even throws in a 6-inch Android tablet to boot. Already have one? Say “thank you” and accept another. While streaming content from your personal phone or tablet may be convenient, it’s great to have a spare for friends, relatives, or the babysitter to use — and not have access to your emails.
But there are some drawbacks to this set. If you’ve got a bright, airy room, you might look elsewhere, because other TVs are better at handling glare. And like other well-reviewed 4K TVs, the P65’s sound leaves something to be desired. But again, if you’re going to shell out for a television this large, Vizio is betting you’d also be interested in an external sound bar, which of course the company has a nice side business selling.
Buy now: $1,899, Best Buy
Under $2,500: Samsung KS9000
A smart new 4K TV that’s ideal for dumb old living rooms, the KS9000 packs ton of connected features behind its glass, some of them on the screen, some off. But the most striking thing about this 65-inch, flat panel is how it gets color to pop off its screen like a kaleidoscope, while keeping green (relatively) in your pocket.
Boasting “quantum dot” technology, Samsung’s ultra-high definition technology is an LCD screen with a twist. Instead of having edge or even full-array backlighting that makes the screen brighter and more vivid by shooting white light into it, the KS9000 has a layer of quantum dots that do the same thing, only much more vibrantly. The result is a display that can almost keep pace with top-notch OLEDs but doesn’t cost nearly as much. And to the eye, the KS9000 has blacks nearly as deep as the infinite darkness of the OLED, with HDR color handling that bring out the best of those quantum dots — as well as video games and movies. These formats also look great because the Samsung has an impressive 240mhz refresh rate, making it ideal for both live sports and console gaming.
But beyond the imagery, the KS9000 does some clever things in the back of the TV to tie together not only your entertainment gear, but your whole home. Pulling all the various living room peripherals together into one input port, the TV’s One Connect box works like a HDMI switcher and pairs with the unit’s operating system to know exactly what device is on screen. From there, it can change the screen settings to match your preferences — game mode when your PlayStation pops up, theater mode for your Blu-Ray player, et cetera.
This is a neat trick, but it can be frustrating for people with audio/video receivers who simply want to plug an HDMI cable into the screen. Also, because it’s anchored to a box, the television might be difficult to mount on a wall. And Samsung’s V-shaped stand, while flashy, is wobbly, connecting to the television at one point in the center of the screen.
The other, largely unheralded, connected feature of this television is its compatibility with Samsung Smartthings, which turns the TV into a connected home hub, able to communicate with all sorts of sensors and cameras. If your home revolves around your living room, this smart home solution is a great way to go, because not only is all of your gear linked into one system, but it looks great when viewed on the KS9000.
Buy now: $2,299, Best Buy
Under $3,500: LG B6 OLED 4K HDR Smart TV
If you’ve ever unboxed a big screen TV, you’ll immediately notice something is missing when you crack open the B6. After removing all the styrofoam, you’ll look down and see a bezel-less pane of glass creating the optical illusion that this 65-inch 4K television is no thicker than a pencil. It’s a trick, of course, but barely one at that. The guts of this television are tucked neatly into a bump that takes up the bottom half of its backside. Without its stand, the 65-inch B6 is just under two inches thick.
A flawless design that doesn’t compromise the B6’s image quality, this OLED display is the best you’ll find on the market today. The reason for that is its “perfect” black level that helps all the other colors pop off the screen. Even when they’re displaying a pitch black image, other televisions are still emitting light. But the B6 turns its OLED pixels off in dark scenes. The result will, at times, make you think your is television off — until a monster jumps out of the abyss and scares the daylights out of you. And with less frightening video content, the B6’s visuals are a delight unlike any other video-watching experience I’ve ever had, including at the cinema, where projectors light up the room, as well as the screen. In a dark home theater setup, it’s just you and the B6, which feels almost revolutionary. If you do have some nearby windows, fear not — the screen’s finish reduces glare, and excellent viewing angles mean you can move around to get the best seat in the house.
In addition to these eye-popping visuals, LG has bundled in an intuitive webOS operating system to drive the B6’s smart features. Pre-loaded with Netflix, Hulu, and the usual streaming services, the interface is controlled by a Nintendo-like remote control that lets users point and click at things they want. Usually the first thing I do with a new TV is dump its proprietary systems in favor of a streaming box and a universal remote. But LG’s Magic Remote — complete with voice control — is a rare keeper.
The only knock on this television is its speakers, which point directly down to the ground. They’re not bad, but once you discover that they’re misdirected, you know they could be better. But this is a design concession— if they pointed forward, the B6 would look like a television, and not a piece of the future. And besides, if you’re paying this much for a 4K TV, you’re probably planning to pair it with a receiver and some surround sound speakers anyway.
Buy now: $3,497, Amazon