Best TV Buying Guide: Settle in for TechRadar’s round-up of the best TV sets you can get your hands on in 2018.
Picking a new TV isn’t easy. Whether you’re using it to watch blockbuster movies in 4K, or just tune into the news each night, you’re likely to clock in a lot of hours over a TV’s lifespan – and the last thing you want is to invest in something that doesn’t suit your needs.
With so many features to consider, with new TV technologies being introduced all the time, making a decision is getting harder all the time. A brand new top-of-the-line TV can offer such a wide range of different technologies and features that it can be hard to know what you’re looking for. And with all the major manufacturers in a yearly arms race to outdo rivals, keeping up with the latest developments can feel impossible.
You could get the TV that promises to pack in every new technology out there, but it’s not all essential. Sky Q may support HDR10, but it doesn’t bother with the more advanced Dolby Vision. Neither does the 4K Xbox One X.
Or if you’re a Sky Q and Xbox One X user, you probably won’t want to bother forking out the extra money for a TV that supports Dolby Vision.
- Confused about high dynamic range? Don’t miss our guide to HDR
But if you’re feeling flummoxed, our guide to the best TVs available will help you separate the cheap panels from the best 4K screens. We’ll help you find an awesome flatscreen without wasting hours of research comparing spec sheets – that’s our job.
If you’re looking for a buying guide that deals with TVs that only support the new Ultra HD resolution, check out our page on the best 4K TVs. Or if getting a flatscreen on the cheap is your main concern, check out the best 4K TV deals.
But, if you’re looking for the best-of-the-best TV out there today without limits or stipulations, this is the place for you.
“So, should I buy a TV now or wait it out?”
We hear this question a lot. Like most technology, TVs are getting incrementally better all the time – which means, yes, if you wait a year there will probably be a bigger, flashier TV out there for less money.
The majority of TV manufacturers now support these next generation of features, but you’ll have to check the small print in a few cases.
So long as your next TV purchase supports these technologies (looking for an Ultra HD Premium certification is a good way to go), we reckon you won’t be kicking yourself in six month’s time when the next batch of sets arrive
OK, but let’s say you do want to know what’s coming next for TVs. If that’s the case we’d be remiss if we didn’t let you know about the new HDMI 2.1 standard, which as well as allowing support for 8K at 60 frames per second and 4K at 120 will also allow for a range of new gaming features to be supported over HDMI.
It’s cool technology for sure, but unless you’re seriously into your gaming then we reckon you’re safe making a purchase now.
For more, watch our TV buying guide video below:
1. Samsung QLED Q9FN (2018)
The best TV ever? Could be!
Spectacular HDR picture quality
Powerful, well-rounded sound
Good smart system
Limited viewing angles
After an underwhelming debut, Samsung’s QLED technology really needed to bounce back in style in 2018. It didn’t surprise us in the least, then, to discover Samsung threw the kitchen sink in with its new Q9FN QLED Series of TVs.
As well as being even brighter and more colourful than last year’s equivalent model, Samsung’s 2018 flagship screens use a completely different lighting system to combat its predecessor’s contrast problems: Full Array Local Dimming rather than edge-lit LED lighting. The FALD panel works in tandem with Samsung QLED Quantum Dots to produce a picture that’s brighter and more colourful than near any we’ve seen come from the South Korean manufacturer.
Do those features alone make Samsung Q9FN the best TV on the market? No, but throw in technology like HDR10+ and Q HDR EliteMax – what Samsung bills as its maximum High Dynamic Range experience that’s exclusive to the Q9FN – and there’s very little doubt in our mind that this is Samsung’s best TV ever
Read the full review: Samsung Q9FN QLED TV
2. LG C8 OLED Series (2018)
Stunning pictures at an affordable price puts OLED back on top
55-inch: LG OLED55C8 | 65-inch: LG OLED65C8
Stunning contrast-rich pictures
Gorgeous ultra-thin design
Excellent operating system
Lacks brightness vs LCD
Weaker speakers compared to higher end LG OLEDs
At the top of our list for 2018 is the LG C8 OLED – available in both 55 and 65-inch iterations. It’s here because it combines an impressive picture, an extensive set of features, an attractive design and its unrivaled smart platform, to deliver one of the best TVs we have seen to date. It’s not as bright as an LCD TV but those deep blacks make a huge difference to the dynamic range of the image. It’s also capable of vibrant and gorgeous colours, not to mention an astounding level of detail with native 4K content.
There are other OLEDs worth considering this year (see: Sony’s A1 and AF8 OLED or LG’s own E8 and W8 OLED models) but we think the OLED C7 offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any TV under the sun in the year 2018.
Read the full review: LG OLED C8 (OLED55C8, OLED65C8)
3. Sony XBR-ZD9 Series (2016)
Sony’s 2016 flagship TV set new standards in picture quality
65-inch: Sony XBR-65ZD9 | 75-inch: Sony XBR-75ZD9 | 100-inch: Sony XBR-100ZD9
Stunning HDR picture quality
Android TV feels sluggish
Pretty average audio
From the moment we laid eyes on the the XBR-65Z9D we’ve been desperate to get our hands on one. It’s a TV able to combine the extreme, high dynamic range-friendly brightness of LCD technology with a backlight arrangement capable of getting LCD closer than ever before to the stunning light control you get with OLED technology.
This backlight arrangement comprises more than 600 LEDs that sit behind the 65Z9D’s screen that are capable of outputting their own light levels independently of their neighbors. This should enable the TV to produce more of the extremes of light and shade associated with new high dynamic range (HDR) technology while suffering less than other LCD TVs with distracting clouds, stripes or halos of unwanted, extraneous light.
As if this wasn’t already attraction enough, the 65Z9D also sports Sony’s new ‘X1 Extreme’ video processing system and the latest version of Sony’s reliable Triluminos wide colour technology for unlocking the extended colour spectrums associated with HDR sources, even if you’re ‘only’ feeding it SDR content.
It’s LCD panel can’t quite pull off the same black level of our top choice, the LG C7, but the ZD9 shows off the best LCD is capable of in 2018.
4. Panasonic FZ952/FZ950 OLED (2018)
This polished Panasonic 4K Pro HDR OLED is picture-perfect
55-inch: Panasonic TX-55FZ952B | 65-inch: Panasonic TX-65FZ952B
Superb 4K image quality
Effective HDR performance
Elegant smart platform
No Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos support
The FZ952 is a luscious OLED that puts performance first. Its colour handling is class-leading, and its HDR talents are a match for any of its rivals. In fact, it just might offer the best picture performance that we’ve seen on a 4K OLED to date.
The FZ952 isn’t the complete package, lacking as it does Dolby Vision and Atmos compatibility, but it wins more arguments than it loses. We suspect you’ll appreciate the easy sophistication of its smart platform, the quality of that low-lag game mode, and the sheer musicality of the Technics soundbar.
5. Sony Bravia A1 OLED (2017)
Sony’s brand-new TV for 2017 is returning to OLED
65-inch: Sony Bravia 65A1E | 55-inch: Sony Bravia 55A1E
Gorgeous picture quality
Startling, monolithic design
Innovative and excellent sound
It’s not very bright
If LG’s OLED isn’t your thing, spend some time checking out Sony’s version.
The 55A1 – and the A1 OLED series overall – are crowd pleasers in just about every way. Their ‘picture only’ design has been beautifully realized, managing to be simultaneously subtle and dramatic.
Their vibrating screen delivers a far more powerful and effective sound performance than I’d thought possible, too. The real stars of the show here, though, are the A1’s exquisitely detailed, contrast-rich and colourful pictures.
These prove emphatically what we’ve long suspected: More brands using OLED technology can only lead to good things.
Only it’s exceptionally high price tag prevents it from toppling LG’s budget panels.
6. LG E8 OLED Series (2018)
A tiny processor makes a huge difference to the OLED range
55-inch: LG OLED55E8 | 65-inch: LG OLED65E8
Awesome picture quality
Opulent and beautiful design
Excellent operating system
Occasional picture noise
Lacks brightness vs LCD
Having potentially pushed the hardware capabilities of its current OLED screen technology as far as they can go, LG has for 2018 turned its attention to the software that drives these screens – and this shift in focus has yielded surprisingly impressive results, improving and even removing many of the residual niggles associated with 2017’s already in truth outstanding OLED sets.
The OLED65E8 loses a bit of ground sonically from its predecessor, and there’s some stiff competition this year from Samsung’s new Q9FN flagship LCD TV, but all the growing legions of OLED fans will probably need to hear is that the OLED65E8 is comfortably the best OLED TV LG has ever made.
Read the full review: LG E8 OLED (55OLEDE8, 65OLEDE8)
7. Sony Bravia XF90 Series (2018)
This is the HDR flatscreen we’ve all been waiting for
Direct LED with local dimming
Excellent motion handling
Unfussy but elegant design
HDR is a bit dim
OK, so if you can’t afford Sony’s new A1 OLED or the fantastic-but-pricey ZD9, check out the all-new XF90 series from Sony. With superb 4K image clarity, powerful SDR-to-HDR remastering, and a smooth direct LED backlight, Sony is offering something very different with the XF90. We loved the consistency of its images, motion being handled superbly for football fans, the eye-popping vibrancy of its wide colour gamut panel and its easy-to-watch HDR – you get spectral highlights without accompanying eye fatigue.
Given this set’s high-but-fair price point, any niggles we have are negligible. The XF90 is highly recommended and deserved our Recommended award.
Read the full review: Sony Bravia XF90 (KDL-65XF9005) review
8. LG OLEDB7 Series (2017)
LG’s entry level OLEDs continue to impress
Excellent all-round image quality
Complete HDR support
Great smart platform
No Dolby Atmos passthrough
Mediocre onboard audio
We’ve already recommended a couple of different OLED sets on this list, and the B7 is the most affordable of the bunch.
But rather than compromising on that glorious panel to hit a more wallet-friendly price point, LG has instead compromised on sound.
This puts the LG B7 in a slightly weird situation audio-wise. It technically supports Dolby Atmos, but played through its mediocre downward-firing speakers the technology lacks most of what makes it impressive.
Thankfully you’re of course able to plug in an external sound system, and we’d advise you to do.
If that’s something you’re prepared to do then you’ll find the B7 has every bit the talent of its more expensive siblings at a fraction of the cost.
Read the full review: LG OLED B7
9. Philips 9002 Series (2017)
Ambilight is a great partner for OLED
Ambilight works a treat
Excellent all-round picture quality
Android TV can annoy
Slightly weak sound
Complicated to use
It’s an open secret within the TV industry that every OLED TV uses panels produced by LG Display, meaning that whether you’re buying a Sony, a Philips, or a LG, the OLED panel at the heart of each set is the same hardware.
However, Philips has a bit of a trick up its sleeve thanks to its Ambilight technology, which projects colours onto the wall behind it that mirror those shown on the TV itself.
The result is that the company’s flagship OLED series, the 9002, is a really stunning piece of tech, and its P5 picture processing engine is great at getting the most out of its OLED panel.
You’ll be paying a slight price premium over LG’s more budget sets, but Ambilight could be exactly what you need to justify that premium.
Read the full review: Philips OLED 9002
10. Samsung Q8DN QLED TV (2018)
Samsung’s 2018 QLED TVs continue to impress
Extremely bright HDR pictures
Good smart TV system
Limited viewing angle
Some mild backlight blooming
Although it’s clearly a step down from Samsung’s all-conquering Q9FN, the Q8DN is still a fantastic TV. Phenomenally bright, colourful and ultra sharp – it has all the right stuff for getting huge impact from today’s cutting edge picture sources.
Worth calling attention to, this is a fantastic TV for HDR content as its direct lighting system manages to produce a whopping 2,100 measured nits of light from a 10% white HDR window. This sort of brightness is unparalleled for the TV’s price point, and ensures that it delivers the upper extremes of HDR’s extended brightness range with spectacular effectiveness and punch.
So why isn’t it higher on our list? If you watch the TV from an angle, colour saturations reduce, and backlight blooming becomes much more noticeable. Second, Samsung’s Auto motion processing system is a bit over aggressive, causing too many distracting side effects for comfort. Happily the image isn’t too juddery if you prefer – as we did – to generally leave the motion processing off.
Also, by Samsung’s usually high standards, the Q8DN is something of a plain Jane. It’s deeper than most TVs round the back, it sits on two fairly basic feet rather than a swanky, centrally mounted stand, and all of its connections appear on the TV rather than on a separate connections box.
These are minor issues, obviously, and the picture quality is still top notch for an LED-LCD screen. But they do keep the Q8DN in the #10 spot on our list.
Read the full review: Samsung Q8DN QLED TV
Continue on to page two to read about what to look for when buying a TV!
- Want better audio? Check out our guide to the best soundbars available.
- Once you’ve decided on a panel, make sure you read our guide on to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.