If you’re looking to buy a TV this year you’re faced with quite simply the most complicated and diverse TV market there’s ever been.
You’ve got to take into consideration different panel technologies (direct LED, edge LED, and OLED); different resolutions (HD and UHD); whether or not you want high dynamic range and if you do what level of HDR performance you want; whether you want a curved screen or a flat screen… honestly, there’s pretty much nothing the TV brands aren’t trying in order to win over your hearts and wallets.
To some extent you need to work out for yourself which features matter to you and which don’t, based on your viewing habits and personal tastes. Think in particular about what screen size you can manage, whether your room is usually bright or dark, and what sort of sources you’re likely to be using.
What we certainly can do to make your life easier, though, is look across the whole broad church of 2016 TVs from our perspective of, you know, having actually tested most of them to pick out our 10 favourites, taking in as wide a range of features and prices as we can.
1. Samsung KS9500 Series
These spectacularly bright TVs do a sensational job of revealing the full majesty of the latest HDR content
65-inch: Samsung UE65KS9500 | 78-inch: Samsung UE75KS9500 | 88-inch: Samsung UE88KS9500
Incredible picture quality
Amazing HDR and sound
Curved screen not for all
Samsung was the first brand to introduce a TV capable of showing high dynamic range pictures in 2015, and it builds on that achievement this year by delivering in the KS9500 series the brightnest TV the world has seen to date. This means it’s uniquely qualified to unlock the full potential of HDR, delivering incredibly life-like, dynamic and dramatic pictures that also contain more detail and colour information in bright areas than we’ve ever seen before. The set even carries the best attempt yet at turning standard dynamic range pictures into HDR. The use of direct LED lighting with local dimming (meaning clusters of the lights behind the screen can have their brightness adjusted independently of each other) also means the KS9500 is able to deliver some gorgeously deep black colours alongside that ground-breaking brightness. You occasionally see clouds of extra light around very bright objects and some settings cause striping in HDR colours. There’s no 3D support either. But with some seriously powerful sound joining the mostly barnstorming pictures these are simply the most cutting-edge TV of 2016.
2. LG OLEDE6 Series
LG’s latest OLED TV combines stunning contrast with an amazing ultra-thin design and exceptional sound
Amazing black levels
Stunning thin design
Missing details in bright areas
The OLEDE6’s incredibly slim ‘picture on glass’ design technique creates simply the most gorgeous TVs ever made. They’re certainly not just a pretty face, though. Especially since the way each OLED pixel produces its own light and colour independent of its neighbours means the OLEDE6 series delivers levels of contrast and light control just not possible with LCD. Unprecedentedly deep black colours sit right alongside even the brightest HDR whites without a hint of light ‘bleed’ – something just not possible with current LCD technologies. This works wonders for high-contrast HDR sources, as well as making today’s standard dynamic range sources look better than on any other TV. A sound bar attached to the bottom of the screen, meanwhile, produces sound quality that wouldn’t be out of place on an external audio system. The OLEDE6’s lose some detail in very bright HDR areas, and occasionally suffer fleeting colour noise. They’re not cheap, either. But none of that stops them being utterly brilliant.
3. Panasonic DX802 Series
Despite being aggressively priced, the DX802 TVs combine a gorgeous design with excellent picture and sound quality
Awesome soundbar included
Not as bright as some HDR rivals
Native contrast isn’t the best
Considering the Panasonic DX802 TVs sit just one rung below Panasonic’s flagship TVs for 2016 (the DX902 sets that feature later in this guide), they’re strikingly aggressively priced. Especially when you consider that their feature list includes an awesome-sounding 12-speaker external sound bar audio system, native UHD screens, support for high dynamic range playback, and a brilliantly simple smart TV system.
The DX802s also enjoy a unique design that finds their screens hanging within two easel-style silver legs, between which you also rest the external sound bar speaker (though you can remove the screen from the legs and wall mount it if you prefer). The DX802s’ edge LED lighting sometimes means you can see bands and blocks of unwanted light around bright objects. Otherwise, though, provided you use the TVs’ adaptive backlight feature on its highest setting, the DX802s produce lovely, refined pictures with HDR and especially SDR content that exude Panasonic’s self-proclaimed obsession with making pictures look like their creators intended them to look. Especially since the way each OLED pixel produces its own light and colour independent of its neighbours means the OLEDE6 series delivers levels of contrast and light control just not possible with LCD.
Unprecedentedly deep black colours sit right alongside even the brightest HDR whites without a hint of light ‘bleed’ – something just not possible with current LCD technologies. This works wonders for high-contrast HDR sources, as well as making today’s standard dynamic range sources look better than on any other TV. A sound bar attached to the bottom of the screen, meanwhile, produces sound quality that wouldn’t be out of place on an external audio system. The OLEDE6’s lose some detail in very bright HDR areas, and occasionally suffer fleeting colour noise. They’re not cheap, either. But none of that stops them being utterly brilliant.
4. Samsung KS7000 Series
The Samsung KS7000 series combines great value with ultra-bright HDR pictures and a slick smart TV system
Great all round picture quality
Some backlight clouding issues
Needs a large table to put it on
Samsung’s desire to bring quality HDR to a wider audience is epitomised by the KS7000s. Their combination of an ultra bright panel and Quantum Dot colour reproduction enables it to deliver levels of dynamism, colour vibrancy and punch with HDR sources that have to be seen to believed considering the range starts at just £1200. The sets are attractive too, featuring slim, metallic frames and minimalist desktop ‘feet’. It’s also nice to find the airy design kept relatively free of cable spaghetti by an external box that passes on picture and sound via a single cable.
The KS7000s make it easy to find favourite content via a new, improved version of Samsung’s Tizen smart interface, too. Bright HDR objects can cause some backlight striping and blocking when they appear against dark backgrounds, and 3D fans will have to look elsewhere as Samsung has abandoned the feature for 2016. The bottom line, though, is that no other TV in its price range delivers HDR as successfully.
5. Sony W805/809C Series
This outstanding full HD range of TVs proves that you don’t have to have a 4K resolution to deliver gorgeous picture quality
Exceptional picture quality
Space saving design
No 4K/UHD support
Android TV interface is cumbersome
It’s getting increasingly difficult to find a big-screen TV that doesn’t carry a UHD resolution. Yet there are still plenty of people who have no interest in forking out for UHD sources, and so would rather get a high quality HD TV for the same money as a relatively low-quality 4K TV. Cue the Sony W805/809C series, which deliver probably the finest picture quality the HD world has ever seen while costing precious little by today’s TV standards.
So good are these TVs, in fact, that they have actually been continued over from 2015 due to a combination of popular demand and critical acclaim. Ideally the Android interface would be sleeker and more customisable (though it does carry a huge amount of apps), and you might want to add an external sound system at some point to replace the rather flimsy built-in speakers. The W805C/W809C TVs’ fabulous pictures, though, really are gorgeous enough to overwhelm any flaws elsewhere.
6. Panasonic DX902 Series
This stunning TV will take your breath away, it’s that good
Bright, contrast-rich pictures
Clever and effective local dimming
Friendly smart TV system
Backlight bleed with extreme HDR
In a bid to deliver levels of light control beyond the typical capabilities of LCD TVs, the Panasonic DX902 series employs a new honeycomb panel designed to limit how far unwanted light around bright objects can spread.
Coupled with an exceptionally bright panel, brilliant black levels for an LCD screen and ultra-rich but also beautifully controlled colours (thanks to Panasonic’s pro-grade 3D Look Up Table colour system), the new honeycomb approach really does work wonders for the most part on the latest high dynamic range pictures, giving them an intensity second only to that of Samsung’s KS9500 models. And Panasonic’s models are around £800 cheaper. The only catch with the honeycomb design is that in limiting the extent of light bleed in the picture it does sometimes make what light bleed there is look more pronounced. Fast motion occasionally looks slightly soft too. None of which alters the fact, however, that for their money the DX902s are really in a class of their own.
7. LG OLEDB6 Series
If you like the idea of OLED technology but can’t afford LG’s previously mentioned OLEDE6 series…
Gorgeous picture quality
Spectacularly thin design
LG’s webOS smart system
Detail clipping in bright areas
Occasional brief colour noise
LG’s taken an unusual approach with its 2016 OLED TV range, choosing to base the differences across the series in the range more on design than picture quality concerns. So it is that while the entry level OLEDB6 series isn’t quite as ultra-slim and unfeasibly gorgeous as the premium ‘picture on glass’ OLEDE6 models, they do deliver broadly similar picture quality. Which is handy when you’re talking about the sort of beautifully high contrast, colour-rich, HDR-capable, 4K pictures LG’s OLED TVs are providing this year.
The OLEDB6 pictures lack some of the refinement of the more expensive OLEDE6 screens, and there’s slightly more potential for noise in dark areas. There’s also no support for 3D unlike LG’s other 2016 OLED ranges, and audio is noticeably thinner than that of the sound bar-equipped OLEDE6s. All that will likely matter about the OLEDB6 series for many AV fans, though, is that they represent the cheapest way to get your hands on LG’s latest and greatest OLED generation.
8. Sony XD9405 Series
If your tastes are more home cinema than mere TV, this spectacular 75-inch Sony beast could prove hard to resist
75-inch: Sony KD-75XD9405
Home cinema awesomeness
Lovely picture quality
Apps galore, including YouView
Android TV’s interface is clunky
Some HDR backlight blooming
If you’re into movies and you’ve got plenty of space in your living room, Sony’s 75XD9405 is our favourite ‘giant TV’ of 2016 to date. Its mammoth 75-inch screen gives you deliciously detailed, colourful, high contrast, clear and natural pictures with high and standard dynamic sources alike, and its enormity also does a great job of underlining the benefits of having a native 4K pixel count to work with. Its pictures aren’t the brightest around, and some high-contrast HDR content causes light ‘blooming’ around bright objects.
Android TV’s interface isn’t the most helpful around either, and the low-profile buttons on the remote control are tortuous to use. For the vast majority of the time, though, the size and overall quality of the 75XD9405’s pictures creates a stunningly immersive experience that could well make the idea going out to watch films a thing of the past.
9. Samsung K5600 Series
Samsung’s best HD TVs for 2016 combine high-contrast, colourful pictures with aggressive prices and a crisp design
Strong HD picture quality
No HDR, 3D or 4K support
Fairly basic audio
While all four models in the K5600 range are worthy HD contenders, we’re particularly fond of the 32-inch and 40-inch models, since they bring a level of quality to the small-screen/second room TV markets that’s rarely found these days. Their pictures, for instance, enjoy much more contrast, brightness and colour vibrancy than the vast majority of other small-screen TVs these days, and they also offer more smart features – including Netflix, Amazon and all the ‘big four’ UK catch up TV services – than you’d usually expect to find.
You can view content on your smartphones and tablets via integrated sreen mirroring, and there’s even an optional extra SmartThings hub available that introduces features like the TV turning on as soon as you enter the room, and being able to adjust connected lights and speakers. Even the K5600 design is a cut above the flimsy plasticky finishes associated with most non-4K TVs now.
10. Panasonic DX600 Series
Fancy a 4K TV but don’t have much space or money to spare? Then say hello to the Panasonic TX-40DX600
Cheap for a 4K TV
Nice 4K picture quality
Friendly, customisable smart TV
Sound is pretty average
40-inches is too small for 4K
Limited viewing angle
Please note that we’re only recommending the 40-inch DX600. The two larger DX600s use different kinds of panel which struggle to deliver useful amounts of contrast. The 40DX600, though, is a really appealing model for its sub-£500 price. Its native 4K screen produces sharp, clean pictures that benefit from an unusually assured contrast performance for such an affordable 4K model. Colours look bold, punchy but also surprisingly subtle.
Panasonic’s Firefox smart system is also exceptionally well presented and easy to use too, and comes backed up by Freeview Play to let you access on-demand content from the main UK broadcasters via a TV listings screen that scrolls back through time as well as forwards. All in all, while the relatively small 40-inch screen doesn’t sell the TV’s native 4K resolution all that well and you can’t watch it from much of an angle before colour and contrast start to lose their intensity, the 40DX600 gives you an awful lot of bang for precious little buck.