If the past year has made you want to seriously upgrade your TV set-up, then you're not alone. Spending more time at home has naturally led to many of us day dreaming about their next TV, whether that involves a big size increase, a jump to 4K resolution or something else.
The best TVs can turn your normal Friday night in front of Netflix into a cinema-worthy experience so, if that's been lacking for you, then we agree that it's high time you invest in something new.
But how do you choose the perfect set? Specs and features in the TV space can too often turn into incomprehensible jargon, so it's important to do your homework before handing over your hard-earned cash. If you're having trouble, then we're here to help you decipher the difference between LED and OLED, HDR and 4K, and whether a 85-inch TV can really look good in your space.
Scroll down to see how we rated some of the best sets on the market right now.
The best TVs in 2021
The LG C1 OLED TV is our pick of the best screen right now. Released in 2021, the C1 sports a gorgeous 4K panel with an a9 Gen4 processor that upscales beautifully. Its smart TV offering, webOS, is one of the most popular for streaming fans, and Alexa and Google Home are in-built.
The LG C1 Series is also available in larger sizes up to 83", but we love the 43" model as it combines affordability with the latest tech. The panel is incredibly thin, which means it looks pretty sublime mounted to the wall, and there's a Game Optimiser setting the uses NVIDIA G-SYNC and FreeSync Premium to boosts specs.
All in all this is a seriously impressive TV, and our pick of the new releases this year.
QLED technology is Samsung's answer to OLED, and produces results superior to standard LED TVs for a slightly lower cost than its OLED cousins. The Samsung Q90T range is our favourite of the current QLED TVs, and its specs for brightness, colour and more are hard to turn your nose up at.
The TV uses Quantum HDR 16X to deliver brilliant picture quality and upscale images to 4K, and it also promises to offer superior viewing angles.
Samsung TVs come with the Tizen OS, which gives you pretty much everything you're looking for in a user-friendly way, and you can also hook your set up to your smart home with built-in Google Assistant and Alexa.
What is the difference between QLED and OLED?
This TV vocabulary is being knocked-around a fair bit, which can be confusing, but it's good to know these things before committing to a buy so we'll help decipher...OLED, Organic Light Emitting Diode, means that each pixel in the screen is self-lighting, so they can switch on-and-off individually. And there is an extra white sub-pixel, delivering ultra-fine gradation and a true-to-life colour palette. QLED, Quantum-dot Light Emitting Diode, was introduced in 2017 by Samsung. This tech (in simplified terms) has a quantum dot colour filter in front of an LCD backlight which, OK doesn't too sound impressive, but more companies are starting to invest in it so not just the big screens can benefit from incredible details.
This Samsung television is without doubt the best example of an 8K screen. While it's easy to be critical about one of the first 8K TVs to market, it truly does usher in a new era of TV picture quality which could be worth investing in if you're in it for the long-run. We love it (despite the chunky price tag) and so do you because you've voted it the Best TV in the Real Homes Awards.
Enjoy enhanced colour, texture and tones on the big screen for the ultimate home cinema experience. Four times the resolution of 4K (never did we think we'd see the day!), this image quality – which is free of pixels – simply cannot be beaten. It's also designed to bring you the best sound and picture, whatever you're watching, adapting to ensure consistently high quality.
Thanks to innovative design, the Samsung Q950R guarantees a perfect picture from every angle, which is great if you're planning on hosting the movie nights this super screen deserves. And when your TV is turned off, you won't have to worry about it being too much of an eye sore. With ambient mode, you can watch your TV blend, seamlessly, into your interior scheme. Or, project your favourite photos, artworks and more.
This screen isn't brimming with all the extra fancy TV tech BUT as the cheapest QLED there's still a lot on offer. It has a full-array backlight which floods the screen so you don't have to skimp on edge-lit display. And, given the consistently low input lag with your PS4 Pro, Xbox One X (and so on) there will be very little delay.
It also has a dedicated Game Motion Plus setting which reduces judder and blur for a smooth gameplay. But, aside from being a top choice for gamers, this smart tele also has everything you need to watch your favourite shows on demand.
The picture is sill pretty clear being in 4K UHD and a QLED panel. It's also got bright HDR and AI-enhanced images which makes it a super option for all ages of the household, albeit watching or gaming.
Technically speaking it's an update to last year's Q70R model, so if you have this screen already then (to be honest) this wouldn't be a significant upgrade.
Real Homes rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Samsung's Frame TV gives you QLED features with a strong steer towards interior design. The Frame offers an outstanding viewing experience. It's bezel is styled like a picture frame which you can hang on your wall.
When it’s off, it blends with your other pictures thanks to Art Mode and displays thousands of attractive digital pictures. You can subscribe to Samsung’s Art Store (for just £3.99 per month) to access hundreds of images ranging from contemporary to classic, or you can create your own slide show using your own snaps. This year, the tech has gone one step further to suggest artwork in line with your specific tastes - very clever!
Key to this set is the No Gap Wall Mount which sits this TV absolutely flush to your wall with only enough space for the tiny Near-Invisible Cable to run discreetly down to the One Connect box which you can tuck away inside a cupboard. It’s the One Connect where you plug everything else including the TV’s power cable, your set-top-box, Blu-ray player and any external speakers.
What should I consider when looking for the best TV?
Choosing the best TV for you and the family, but not sure where to start? The single biggest decision you'll have to make (other than agreeing on budget) is between buying a conventional LCD TV (also occasionally referred to as LED TVs) and an OLED TV.
OLED TVs are more expensive, yes, but they benefit from absolutely astonishing levels of contrast thanks to the fact that they're able to turn off individual pixels to create 'perfect' black levels.
That said, they can't quite get as bright as LCD TVs meaning they can be a little harder to watch in bright living rooms. You also don't get quite as much sparkle in brighter parts of an image.
Beyond panel type your decision will come down to the strengths and weaknesses of each TV in particular, which ultimately comes down to what you want in a TV; the latest tech, the biggest screen, the smartest abilities or voice control (the list goes on). Bear in mind, however, that the thinner the screen the smaller those speakers will be so you may want to invest in the best surround sound system to give your audio a boost.
What are the most important things to look for?
When it comes to choosing the best TV to suit your needs, there is a variety of factors worth careful consideration. There are two display technologies: LED (Light Emitting Diode) or backlit LCD and OLED. Here's the main difference between them:
- OLED: renowned for their incredible picture quality, OLEDs are fast becoming the most popular option and it’s easy to see why. As individual LEDs light themselves, no backlight is required, meaning the TV itself can be even thinner. Plus, the faster refresh rate reduces motion blur, offering a sharper, more natural image with perfect inky blacks and vibrant colours.
- LCD: this option is great if you're looking for a lightweight TV on a smaller budget. Be aware, however, that because they use a backlight to illuminate pixels, colours may be less vivid and the blacks less, well, black. You might hear about QLED, too; that's Samsung's variant of LCD.
There are also two main resolutions to choose from on our screens these days: Ultra HD (UHD, also known as 4K) and HD. The main difference between these two types of resolution is in the number of pixels carried; 4K Ultra HD is 3840 x 2160 pixels and Full HD is 1920 x 1080 pixels. The higher number of pixels means better quality image, which is why 4K TVs tend to be the more popular option of the two.
What is HDR?
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is the next step up in picture quality, giving you bright spectral highlights, reflections that glint and sunlight that glares. If you're an avid sports fan, it's a real bonus. Plus, HDR content is currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. When it comes to choosing an HDR compatible TV, don’t buy a budget model – mid- to high-end models only will give you the picture quality you're seeking.
Smart TV platforms
It's highly likely the TV you're considering is network connectable, offering Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube at the minimum, as well as broadcast catch-up TV from BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5. But which smart TV platform to choose?
- WebOS: found on LG connected screens, this award winning platform has a host of clever features, including app access, photo sharing and more.
- Panasonic’s My Home Screen: recently overhauled, this offering from Panasonic allows for easy navigation, as well as access to a rang of handy apps.
- Android: used by Sony and Philips, this platform doesn't impress reviewers as much, but it does have Chromecast built-in and works with effectively with Google smart speakers.
What size TV should I buy?
Got your tape measure to hand? Good, because choosing the right size TV for your living space may be the simplest step, but it’s also vitally important. So, how do you go about choosing the right sized screen?
There’s a simple equation to use when it comes to getting a TV that will fit in your space, and allow everyone to watch from a comfortable distance:
- Tips: Divide the diagonal width (in inches) of the TV by 0.84 to get the optimum viewing distance.
So, for example, for a 65 inch TV, you would need to be sitting at least 6.5ft from it – something to bear in mind if you have a smaller living room but your heart is set on a huge screen.
That said, modern TVs are smaller/slimmer than older models, which means you can afford to go larger than your last model. Plus, if you replace an HD TV with a UHD one of the same size, but don’t change your viewing distance, you won’t see an improvement in resolution. Either buy a larger UHD TV than your old HD one, or stay the same and pull your sofa nearer.
How much should I spend on a new TV?
While we can’t put an exact number on the cost of a new TV – this figure is affected by a variety of variables – what we will say is not all TVs were created equal and you do tend to get what you pay for.
As our cheap TV sales guide show, you can get a decent TV from £300 and an even better screen if you have a budget of up to £1000. But, if you are after the best TV, you are probably going to have to go head-first through that four-figure barrier.
How long will a new TV last?
Buying a new TV is often an investment, especially if you want a model which is all singing, all dancing. Many models come with at least a one or two year guarantee as standard - if you buy through John Lewis it's five years - which will cover you for any faults which develop with the technology (not accidental damage).
Tuning in to a BBC podcast with Martin Lewis, it's explained that should your TV fail you beyond this warranty you need to ask yourself 'what is a reasonable amount of time for this television to last me?'. It's often a subjective reasoning i.e. if you've spent £2,000 on something you expect it to last for a number of years. Therefore, if your reasoning is realistic and if it is not faulty through your own doing then you have the Consumer Rights Act to fall back on as it's not fit for purpose.
- We hope this guide has gone someway in helping. Want to see our full list again? Jump back up to the top ^