The best 4K TVs

The new ultra-high definition format is here to stay, but that no longer means having to shell out a fortune...

TODO alt text

It seems like only yesterday that we were readying ourselves for the digital switchover, and the day before yesterday that we all overhauled our chunky CRT sets for flat screen plasma TVs. Understandably then, with all the new developments and numerous acronyms popping up in the world of television right now, buying a TV is more confusing than ever

But really, 4K isn’t a gimmick. It is, literally, four times the detail of the regular HD most of us are watching right now. So let’s get down to the big question: is it worth getting a 4K TV?

Well, in short, yes. Offering picture of unprecedented depth and clarity on a home television set, you’ll notice the upgrade instantly in the sharper images and brighter colours. There’s also no sacrifice in quality depending on where you sit, so if you have a smaller living room and don’t have the luxury of calculating your optimum seating position, it won’t matter. It’s also, crucially, future-proof technology. With more channels currently experimenting with 4K content, and Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime already offering films and television programmes in Ultra-HD, the format is only set to get bigger. Much bigger.

So how do you go about finding the best 4K TVs on the market? We’ve already rounded up our pick of highly-rated models from across the shops, but there are a few things you can look out for to ensure you pick up the best one to suit your needs.

While TV names are largely as inscrutable as hieroglyphs to the majority of us, they can be important to unscramble. ‘OLED’, for example, is pretty important. Standing for ‘Organic Light Emitting Diode’, it essentially means there’s no backlight, and as each pixel lights individually according to need, it offers exceptionally intense blacks. It also means the screen of an OLED TV can be extraordinarily thin, a far cry from the deep widescreen TVs of the early 2000s.

Then, there’s the size. While it might seem awfully convenient that the best UHD TVs tend to be found in 40 inches or wider, there’s a very good and very simple reason for this: to do justice to the ultra-HD format, it simply has to be that big. 

1. Sony Bravia KD65A1

A brave new world of home entertainment

Specifications
Best for: Exceptional image quality
Screen size: 65”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: OLED
Reasons to buy
+ Unusual design + Great sound 
Reasons to avoid
- Incredibly expensive 

The first thing you notice is how gorgeous it is. Unlike most TVs, this is actually made up of two parts: the flat, slender screen, and a smaller back panel that acts like the stand on a picture frame, and without the need for feet, the frameless design looks supremely elegant. Its reviewers also raved about how it sounds and looks - but of course! It’s vibrant, with deep blacks and saturated colours, and the sound is really excellent for a flat-screen. While it’s certainly at the higher end of the price scale, for a meeting of quality design and technical acumen, this is it. 

2. Samsung QE65Q9FAMT

Samsung’s flagship TV impresses all round

Specifications
Best for: Bright rooms
Screen size: 65”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: QLED
Reasons to buy
+ Performs well in bright rooms + Impressive looks 
Reasons to avoid
- QLED is basically still just LED 

The Q9F (for short) has just one slender connection cable thanks to a clever external connection box, giving it a clean, unfussy look when wall-mounted, and while it isn’t the skinniest TV on the market, that actually works to its favour, giving it an imposing futuristic look that makes an impressive focal point. Most crucially, that QLED screen not only gives a spectacular picture, it means it’s better than most TVs in bright rooms, so if you frequently find yourself switching off lights or drawing curtains to banish annoying reflections, this might be the one.  

3. LG OLED65E7V

Warm whites, deep blacks, and a whole spectrum of possibilities

Specifications
Best for: Contrast
Screen size: 65”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: OLED
Reasons to buy
+ Great handling of contrast  + Good to go out of the box 
Reasons to avoid
- May want to avoid Eco Mode for best performance 

While Samsung’s QLEDs are phenomenally good when it comes to colour volume, OLED originator LG’s screens seem to be pretty much peerless when it comes to deep, dark blacks and whites that are nuanced and bright, but never blown out. It might seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference when you’re absorbed by that cinematic scene in your favourite box-set. It’s also good to go out of the box, although the more technically-minded among you might enjoy fiddling with the display settings, most will find this TV’s Standard mode perfectly good, with reviewers finding that it rendered most content way that was richly detailed but not unnatural-looking. 

4. Philips 55POS9002

Completely gorgeous Ambilight makes for an immersive experience

Specifications
Best for: Brilliant colours
Screen size: 55”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: OLED
Reasons to buy
+ Ambilight is gloriously cinematic + Defined picture with vibrant colours 
Reasons to avoid
- Not the best looking as a unit

The Philips 55POS9002 might be a great mid-range 4K TV all round, but there’s one thing in particular that makes it stand out to reviewers time and time again, and that’s Philips’ own Ambilight innovation. Using integrated LEDs on the TV’s back panel, it replicates the colours of what’s happening on screen, and projects it onto the wall for a gorgeous ambient effect that also makes the screen look bigger than it is. That’s not all though: the colours are incredibly vibrant, the picture is crisp and defined, and the whole effect is almost three dimensional. As a package, it might not look quite as stunning as Samsung’s Q9F, but as soon as it’s turned on, it won’t matter. 

5. Panasonic 65EX700B

As a less pricey intro to 4K technology, this does it all

Specifications
Best for: Clarity
Screen size: 65”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: LED
Reasons to buy
+ Really great all-rounder + Simple setup 
Reasons to avoid
- Some users experienced intermittent beeping 

While you might not be blown away by this TV’s high-tech features as you might with a couple of our OLED picks, it offers something really quite valuable: it’s a great all-rounder. Reviewers have consistently found nothing to fault it, claiming that the picture met Panasonic’s promise of “glorious richness and outstanding contrast, depth and clarity”; that the setup was simple, pairing easily with media players and boxes; and that the sound was top-notch for a model of this price, although to get a really cinematic experience, some recommended adding a soundbar into the equation. Easy to install, great picture, and plays nicely with others: what’s not to like? 

6. Sony Bravia KD55XE9305

A richly detailed and robust-sounding TV

Specifications
Best for: Cinema-goers
Screen size: 55”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: LED edge-lit
Reasons to buy
+ Detailed, realistic picture + Punchy sound 
Reasons to avoid
- Could do with a little more black detail 

At just over half the price of our first pick from the Sony Bravia range, it’s understandable that the lower-end KD55XE9305 might not go as heavy on the avant-garde design features as the brand’s flagship TV, but for the price, what it offers is still certifiably stunning. Solid sound, clear images, and cinematic colours handled with impressive subtlety are all on the table, according to happy reviewers, and while it’s been noted that there could be a little more black detail, the depth is overall astonishingly good. Offering enticingly realistic scenes and robust sound courtesy of front-facing three-way speakers – a smart alternative to the usual down-firing options – this is one for those who want to replicate that cinema experience in the comfort of their own home. 

7. Samsung UE49MU7000

This TV might be on the smaller side, but it goes big where it counts

Specifications
Best for: Affordable
Screen size: 49”
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Screen Type: LED
Reasons to buy
+ Great 4K TV under £1,000 + Sleek external connection box 
Reasons to avoid
- A lot smaller than the others on our list 

Buying into 4K tech needn’t be an exercise in clearing out your bank account, as this supremely affordable Samsung TV proves. It misses out on the QLED technology of the ultra-bright Q9F, our number two choice, but for a TV under £1,000, it’s still packed with some surprisingly premium features. It has the separate connection box in common with its high-end cousin, making for a streamlined look whether wall-mounted or sat, and its slim but sturdy build and sleek frame belie the budget price. The setup is said to be equally simple, and reviewers loved the interface, uncluttered ‘smart’ remote and, most crucially, the sound and picture quality. It won’t have the more expensive models beaten on crispness and colours, but it’s universally agreed that it does a darn good job on all fronts, especially for the comparatively low price. 

Check out more of our expert buying guides: