Finding a new TV is not an easy task with so much jargon and techy standards to get your head round like 4K, Ultra HD, HDR and so on. Don’t worry though becuase our smart TV guide is here to take you through everything you need to know to pick the right set.
There are various things to consider, especially when you can spend under £300 or over £2,000 on TVs that on the whole look like they offer the same thing.
Do you need OLED screen? Should you go with Philips to enjoy Amblight? Should you buy a TV with Roku or Fire TV software built-in? All questions you’ll need to consider before hitting buy.
‘Best’ is subjective as it depends what is most important to you, so we’ve reviewed and ranked a range of different TVs covering budget and premium prices and various features from various manufacturers including Sony, Sony, Samsung, Philips and Hisense.
Remember that we can only test one size (typically 55in if we can) but specs can vary slightly between models. Also check out the latest TV Deals.
Best 4K Smart TVs
1. Samsung Q80T – Best Overall
If you want a high-end TV but don’t want to empty your savings account then the Q80T offers a well-rounded balance.
This QLED model from Samsung’s 2020 line-up almost has everything that the Q90T has but at a price that more people will be able to stomach. That set might have more dimming zones and even brighter HDR but that is an unnecessary luxury for most.
The Q80T is a stylish set with stellar performance that’ll bring your living room to life without fail.
Read our full Samsung Q80T review
2. Sony AG9 – Best Picture
If you’re looking for a premium Ultra HD TV then the Sony AG9 is a real standout with class-leading picture quality. This really is a stunning TV with amazing colour, contrast and localised brightness and this is despite the lack of HDR10+.
The design, as you would expect, is sleek and luxurious and having Android TV and Chromecast built-in add extra value even if loading the Android interface cuts off what you were watching. The sound is also impressive and Sony knows it since you can use the TV as an audio input.
The only issue is whether you can afford this set, even at the cheapest 55in size when there are several cheaper options out there to choose from so you’ll need to consider whether you’ll appreciate the difference.
Read our full Sony KD-55AG9 review
3. JVC Fire TV Edition – Best Budget
This collaboration between JVC and Amazon delivers the latter’s Fire TV operating system direct into a TV, saving you from the need for a separate streaming stick.
Specs are strong for the low price – though watch for the jump in display quality from the 40in model to the 49in and 55in variants – and even the audio’s alright, but the software is what this TV is really about.
With built-in Alexa support, voice search, and easy access to a load of apps this has plenty to offer, making it one of the better budget buys.
Read our full JVC Fire TV Edition review
4. Hisense Roku TV – Best for Streaming
This collaboration between Hisense and Roku has resulted in one of the best budget TVs you can buy so we’re glad it’s finally made it to the UK.
For under £500 – potentially half that price depending on the size – you get a lot of TV for your money. Design and build are never going to be anything special but it’s also far from ugly.
The main thing here is that you get an excellent combination of picture quality and Roku’s user-friendly interface packed with features and streaming services. This is budget done properly.
Read our full Hisense Roku TV (B7120UK) review
5. Hisense A7500F – Best Value
Over the years Hisense had become the go-to brand for affordable TVs with nice design and decent specs.
That’s still true of the A7500F which provides you with a large 4K screen complete with Dolby Vision HDR, all inside a pretty sleek uni-body chassis.
There’s plenty of detail on offer here as well as a wide colour gamut and excellent gaming performance, too. We also like the fuss-free Vidaa smart operating system.
It’s not perfect though as the contrast isn’t great, there’s no local dimming and viewing angles aren’t so good either.
Read our full Hisense A7500F review
6. Philips OLED754 – Best Immersive Experience
If you want a high-quality OLED TV without spending thousands then this model from Philips is easily a front runner in the category.
The OLED754 offers a premium-esque Ultra HD experience for a lot less than rivals, featuring sleek design outstanding picture quality and Philips’ unique Ambilight.
The downsides here are slightly sluggish navigation at times along with a stripped back operating system.
Read our full Philips 55OLED754 review
7. Samsung TU8500
If you can’t afford a flagship TV but want a big brand with decent specs then Samsung’s 2020 mid-range offers a nice balance of price and quality.
This set might not have the best HDR performance but the dual LED backlighting system gives picture quality more punch and 4K content looks sharp. The TU8500 is also a great choice for gaming thanks to its low input lag.
It also looks nice with slim bezels but more importantly has an excellent Tizen smart operating system with plenty of benefits including a vast array of streaming services and Samsung’s clever Ambient mode.
Read our full Samsung TU8500 review
8. Panasonic GX800
Panasonic has produced a cracking 4K HDR set for affordable prices.
This TV offers excellent value for money with better picture quality than you might expect. It’s edge-lit but able to provide a vibrant and detailed image with support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ standards.
We also like the easy to use operating system and inclusion of Freeview Play. More HDMI ports would be good but that’s a small caveat making this a strong rival to the Hisense Roku TV.
Read our full Panasonic GX800 review
9. Hisense U8B
If you’d like a large 4K HDR-capable TV but need to control the budget, then the Hisense U8B was made for you.
It’s well-engineered, reasonably specified, with an effective interface and decent sound output.
Videophiles will pick holes in the local backlighting and Dolby Atmos implementation, but it’s harder to argue against the price.
Read our full Hisense U8B review
10. Toshiba U29
The Toshiba U29 should be considered remarkable value. Any 4K HDR at these prices will turn heads, but the fact that this one performs well warrants a thumbs up.
While not a top-flight picture performer, we reckon it’s ideal for second room duties or if you simply can’t afford anything more expensive.
Read our full Toshiba U29 review
4K Smart TV buying guide
4K TVs have a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, which is exactly four times more than Full HD. You should look for a model that has several inputs – not just one – that can handle incoming 4K content sources. These can be Ultra HD Blu-ray players, games consoles and media streamers such as the Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV 4K.
The key specification to look out for is HDMI version 2 input with HDCP 2.2 support. The latter is a version of copy protection used by all external 4K sources, so the more inputs that support it the better. If you buy a budget TV, it most likely will only have one HDCP 2.2-compliant input.
This means you can only connect one 4K device to the TV, which is not ideal. The prices of 4K UHD TVs have fallen dramatically, so most cost the same as HD models did a couple of years ago.
While the extra resolution that 4K offers is best appreciated on a large screen (50in or more), that hasn’t stopped smaller panels appearing. While there’s no reason not to buy a 4K TV at 40 inches, and the performance can be excellent, don’t expect to see overt picture improvements if you’re sitting the typical 8-10 feet away.
All the TVs tested here have 4K resolutions. These UHD (Ultra HD) sets are the ones to buy now. Only go for a Full HD (1920×1080 pixels) set if you can’t afford a 4K model or you’re buying something under 40in.
4K content is becoming more widely available with broadcasters gearing up to show a lot of sport and drama in 4K. 4K is also available over your broadband connection as long as it’s quick enough.
Around 15Mb/s should provide you with a source of 4K video from Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and Sky Q. Alternatively you can buy a 4K Blu-ray player and 4K UHD Blu-ray discs.
BT also broadcasts sport in 4K (football, rugby, Moto GP, squash, to name but four) via its Infinity broadband. Because this streams at 2160/50p a much faster broadband connection is required. BT will generally refuse to offer a 4K set-top box to those Infinity customers on less than a 45Mb/s connection.
4K? What about 8K!
Just as 4K is starting to become mainstream, manufacturers are now beginning to shout about 8K. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a 4K TV.
8K broadcasts are a long way off, and there is almost no 8K content to watch. But just like 4K TVs, 8K models will upscale video so it looks sharper. But the same rules apply about screen size: you need a very, very large screen to notice the extra detail. That’s why Samsung’s smallest 8K TV has a 65in screen.
Unlike previous leaps in TV quality (black and white to colour, SD to HD), both 4K and 8K started off without proper, agreed standards. This is another reason why 4K is a more sensible purchase now: modern sets have the necessary H.265 support to decode broadcasts, but some early models didn’t.
We think it’s too early to be jumping on the 8K bandwagon.
A new generation of HDR (High Dynamic Range) UHD TVs arrived in 2017 which offer higher peak whites and better colour depth than what came before. However, to appreciate these capabilities you need to feed your HDR 4K TV with HDR content, and there aren’t masses around although it’s on the rise.
You’ll find UHD Blu-rays such as Planet Earth II, and some content on Amazon and Netflix, but the rest is likely console games rather than TV shows and films. HDR comes in different standards including HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision.
Put simply, it isn’t a deal-breaker if your chosen model doesn’t support it or doesn’t do a very good job of displaying it. You’ll see even budget models claiming to support HDR, but in reality, there’s no perceptible difference, so read reviews rather than going only on specifications.
The Google Assistant, Bixby and Siri are assistants that originated in smartphones but are gradually finding their way into TVs. With a voice-activated assistant onboard, you’ll be able to adjust the volume and change the channel on the TV, but also control anything else within its scope, such as smart lights and heating. It’s certainly a nice feature to have, but it’s not a deal-breaker if it’s missing.
If you can’t install your TV yourself, note that Amazon now offers services including wall-mounting from around £100. What you can do yourself is to tweak the settings using our guide on how to get the best picture from your TV.
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