Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Best TVs of 2021 for Gaming, Movies, and More

bright living room with mounted TV
Johnstocker Production/Shutterstock.com

There are some great TVs on the market, but how do you separate the best from the rest? That’s where our recommendations can help. We’ve picked out favorite sets for a range of different uses and budgets.

The Best TVs of 2021

Why you should trust us: Our trusted experts use a lifetime of experience to pick the best products. Learn more about our editorial process.

Buying a TV in 2021

It’s a great time to buy a TV. While other entertainment products like games consoles and graphics cards are hard to come by and expensive, TVs continue to follow the trend of falling prices year after year. What’s more, image quality has never been better.

There are two dominant display technologies available at the moment: LED-lit LCD TVs and self-emissive OLED displays. These differing approaches to producing an image have their own sets of pros and cons, and you should be sure you understand the difference between them before you buy.

Standard LED-lit LCD TVs use a backlight to shine through the display “stack” to produce an image. To produce a black image, the backlight must be “blocked” by the thin-film substrate (TFT) layer, often resulting in washed-out blacks and a poor contrast ratio.

The newest LED-LCD TVs use dimming algorithms to produce deeper blacks by turning off the backlight in darker areas. This can result in black crush where subtle details are lost or ghosting where the LED “zones” can be seen behind the content.

By comparison, OLED is self-emissive, which means reproducing black is a simple case of turning the pixels off. This allows OLED displays to have a striking, theoretically infinite contrast ratio. This generally leads to superior image quality, especially in a dark room where blacks stand out.

While OLED technology is great in a dark environment, LED TVs are better in brightly lit rooms since these models can get brighter. OLED sets may be susceptible to permanent image retention or “burn-in,” limiting how bright they can get. They’re also more expensive than their LCD counterparts, but the price has fallen significantly over the last five years.

How you intend to use the TV will dictate whether you need gaming features like HDMI 2.1 support. Movie-lovers may prioritize motion handling and good HDR support and may benefit from features like Filmmaker Mode. We recommend reading our full guide to buying a TV and checking out reviews on websites like RTINGS before you buy.

RELATED: How to Buy a TV: What You Need to Know

Best TV Overall: LG C1

lg c1 in living room
LG

Pros

  • OLED panel means excellent image quality
  • Great gaming features like HDMI 2.1 and VRR support
  • Very low input lag, excellent panel response time
  • Support for Dolby Vision, with Dolby Atmos passthrough

Cons

  • OLED panels means brightness limited in HDR content
  • Panel is susceptible to burn-in
  • No DTS decoding or passthrough

The LG C1 is an updated version of 2020’s best-selling LG CX, though not much has changed for the 2021 model. The 4K C1 smart TV has an updated remote, a new version of LG’s webOS software, and is available in a larger 83-inch screen size. The C1 (and, by extension, the CX) delivers excellent image quality and great gaming features at a compelling price point.

The C1 is an OLED TV that produces an excellent, contrasty image with deep blacks that’s most at home in a dark room. Since OLED sets are susceptible to burn-in, the C1 isn’t suited to displaying static images like those on rolling news channels. LG included features like pixel shifting, logo luminance reduction, and a pixel refresher routine to keep the panel in good health.

The C1 has a very low input lag for all types of gaming, including 4K HDR content at 120Hz. There’s a slew of gaming features, including four HDMI 2.1 ports, support for both FreeSync Premium and G-Sync, and a new-for-2021 “Game Optimizer” menu.

Dolby Vision and HDR10 are both supported, though the C1 loses points in the HDR department due to the limitations of the OLED panel. Peak brightness can hit around 750 nits on a 2% window, but only 130 nits full-field, so while HDR content still pops, it doesn’t have quite the same punch as an LED or pricier OLED model would.

Best TV Overall

LG C1

Sitting right in the middle of LG’s OLED line-up, the C1 provides the excellent image quality associated with self-emissive displays, with plenty of extra features thrown in for good measure.

hisense u7g with futuristic image on tv
Hisense

Pros

  • 4K LED-lit display with up to 90 local dimming zones
  • Great for gaming with HDMI 2.1, FreeSync Premium, and native 120Hz panel
  • Support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+

Cons

  • More expensive than last year’s model
  • Could do with more HDMI 2.1 ports

The Hisense U7G is one of the best-value 4K TVs you can buy, considering what you get for your modest investment. It’s an LED-lit TV with up to 90 local dimming zones, which helps the VA panel reach impressively deep black levels in most types of content.

Hisense is one of the few TV manufacturers to support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, giving you the best of both worlds when it comes to dynamic HDR content. There’s also support for Dolby Atmos passthrough to a compatible receiver or soundbar.

The Hisense U7G can reach a peak brightness of around 1000 nits for impressive HDR performance. There are a ton of gaming features, including two HDMI 2.1 ports, a native 120Hz panel, and support for both HDMI Forum VRR and AMD FreeSync Premium.

Android TV ties everything together with this smart TV, offering an impressive array of apps to download for accessing your favorite streaming services and networked content. You can control the Hisense U7G with your voice thanks to a microphone on the remote, not to mention support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

The U7G is an updated version of the H8G, which is another excellent buy.

Best Budget TV

Hisense U7G

The Hisense U7G is one of 2021’s best-value TVs, available in 55, 65, and 75-inch sizes. Powered by Android TV, this 4K LED-lit LCD panel with quantum dot technology has support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, with 90 local dimming zones for better black reproduction.

$1001.23

samsung qled 8k on pink background
Sasmung

Pros

  • An incredible 8K experience if you have the content
  • Mini-LED backlighting system
  • Impressive peak brightness for immersive HDR content
  • Good for gamers with plenty of HDMI 2.1 ports, VRR support, and low input lag

Cons

  • Not enough content to justify 8K yet
  • Blooming and black crush is a problem due to local dimming
  • No Dolby Vision support
  • Poor contrast ratio compared to cheaper 4K OLEDs

We’re still not convinced it’s the right time to buy an 8K TV, but if you are going to get one, Samsung’s QN900A is a great place to start. Part of Samsung’s Neo QLED TV lineup for 2021, the QN900A uses a Mini-LED backlighting system with many more dimming zones than last year’s models.

The result is something closer to OLED, where black levels can get much deeper than a set that relies on standard LED local dimming. 4K content scales beautifully, and if you can find some 8K content, then you’re in for a treat. The whole thing is powered by Samsung’s responsive Tizen OS, which has an app for just about everything.

The QN900A has virtually invisible bezels, which gives you the illusion that the TV is floating in front of you. The low-footprint stand is a nice touch and gives the TV enough clearance for a soundbar in front. HDR brightness is excellent at around 1600 nits on a 2% window, though there’s no Dolby Vision support (just HDR10+ and HDR10).

Unfortunately, due to the underlying technology, blooming is still an issue. This is a problem in all 8K TVs currently on the market aside from LG’s OLED range, and those models will set you back $30,000 which makes them prohibitively expensive for most. The QN900A’s $7,000 price tag doesn’t look so bad by comparison, and that’s why it gets our pick.

Best 8K TV

Samsung QN900A 8K

The QN900A is an 8K TV that doesn’t cost as much as a family car. It has a Mini-LED backlighting system, edge-to-edge display, and plenty of HDMI 2.1 ports but sadly lacks Dolby Vision support.

$4497.99

Best Gaming TV: LG G1

lg g1 on marbled wall
LG

Pros

  • New OLED evo panel is more colorful, 20% brighter than other models
  • Gaming features like HDMI 2.1, G-Sync, FreeSync Premium, VRR, ALLM, ultra-low latency
  • Native 120Hz panel
  • Five year panel warranty

Cons

  • More expensive than the already excellent LG C1
  • Wallmounted gallery design not to everyone’s taste
  • Susceptible to burn-in

The LG G1 is the next generation of OLED TV from LG, featuring a new “OLED evo” panel not seen on the LG C1 (our Best TV Overall above). It also features a slightly faster processor and comes in a gallery form factor ready to be mounted on a wall or entertainment unit. Fortunately, you can buy it with LG’s GX Series Stand if you lack the mounting space.

The cheaper LG C1 is a 4K TV perfectly suited to gaming, but it uses the same panel as the previous year’s model. The G1 improves on this by featuring a next-generation OLED panel that gets around 20% brighter and features better color rendition for a more vibrant image whether you’re gaming or watching movies.

This makes the LG G1 better suited to use in a bright room, with punchier HDR highlights than the models that came before it. The G1 also features a five-year panel warranty which includes burn-in coverage, provided the TV “has been used under normal viewing conditions,” according to LG.

In terms of gaming features, it’s the same as the C1: four HDMI 2.1 ports, a native 120Hz panel, support for FreeSync Premium, G-Sync, and HDMI-VRR, and incredibly low input latency. You just get a better display with the G1.

If you want your games to look their absolute best, get the G1.

Best Gaming TV

LG G1

The LG G1 features a new OLED evo panel that is brighter and more colorful than other LG models, plus the same great gaming features seen in the C1 including FreeSync and G-Sync, a native 120Hz panel, four HDMI 2.1 ports, and ultra-low input lag.

$1996.99

Best TV for Movies: Sony A90J

sony a90j on yellow wall
Sony

Pros

  • Superior motion handling to other OLED models
  • Excellent Sony color science and image processing
  • Panel gets brighter than the LG C1
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10 support

Cons

  • More expensive than the LG C1
  • Lacks VRR support at launch
  • No HDR10+ Support
  • OLED panel is susceptible to burn-in

While LG’s OLEDs are often recommended for gamers, movie lovers tend to gravitate towards Sony’s offerings instead. The Sony A90J is the company’s 2021 flagship OLED, providing a superior movie-watching experience over comparable LG models at the expense of gaming features.

The Sony offers superior motion handling, both with motion interpolation on and off. Both Sony and LG offer interpolation on their sets, which is used to smooth motion between frames. Sony’s MotionFlow interpolation generally produces fewer visual artifacts compared to LG’s TruMotion, if that’s important to you.

Of course, all of the TVs on this list are capable displays for watching movies. Motion is just one aspect of a much wider picture, and Sony delivers in other departments too. There’s support for Dolby Vision and HDR10, with the Sony able to get brighter than the comparably-priced LG C1 in both.

While Sony has fixed the lack of HDMI 2.1 ports that plagued their 2020 models, the A90J doesn’t support VRR at present. The feature, which matches refresh rate and frame rate to help smooth out performance dips in games, is slated to be implemented in a later update, but we’d urge caution if this feature is critical to you since models from LG already have it.

Best TV for Movies

Sony A90J

With the best motion handling in the business, Sony’s OLEDs are perfect for movie lovers, and the A90J is no different. If you don’t need the gaming features of the LG C1 or G1, the A90J should be on your list.

tcl roku tv on purple background
TCL

Pros

  • An affordable Mini-LED TV
  • Powered by Roku with thousands of streaming channels built-in
  • Support for Dolby Vision and HDR10

Cons

  • No HDMI 2.1 ports for 120Hz gaming at 4K HDR
  • Blooming still a problem despite Mini-LED backlight
  • Doesn’t get as bright as other LED sets

TCL is one of the more disruptive companies in the TV space, breaking into the market with aggressively well-priced products that pack in the features. TCL was one of the first companies to bring a Mini-LED TV to market, and that technology has now trickled down into the excellent value TCL 6-Series R635.

The 6-Series is powered by Roku, so if you’re familiar with the platform then you’ll be right at home here. It’s also compatible with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The panel is a LED-lit LCD with quantum dot technology, with a native 120Hz refresh rate.

Unfortunately, TCL didn’t include any HDMI 2.1 ports, making it difficult to recommend this model for cutting-edge gaming at 4K 120Hz on consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, or for PC gamers with high-end graphics cards. The set can handle 4K 60Hz with HDR support just fine and even do 1440p at 120Hz if you’re gaming on an Xbox Series S, but otherwise, you’ll want to go with our gaming pick.

The contrast ratio is great for an LCD panel. 240 local dimming zones help to reduce black crush and blooming, but it’s still visible in some content. HDR performance is decent with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10, but peak brightness falls short of other LCD models like the Hisense U7G or Samsung QN90A.

If the 6-series interests you but you’re not big on Roku, you can always purchase a streaming device and plug it in to get Android TV or Google TV!

Best Roku TV

TCL 6-Series R635

If Roku is important to you, the TCL 6-Series provides great value for money and a ton of features including Dolby Vision support and Mini-LED backlighting. Just be aware that there’s no HDMI 2.1 support.

$800.40

samsung QLED on green background
Samsung

Pros

  • Mini-LED backlight delivers bright highlights and good dimming
  • Thin bezels and sharp styling
  • Good for gaming with VRR support and low input latency

Cons

  • No Dolby Vision support
  • Only one HDMI 2.1 port
  • Costs around the same as a comparable OLED model
  • Local dimming poor when using game mode

We’ve featured many OLED TVs, and while they generally provide better image quality than comparable LCD sets, they’re not ideal for everyone. Some people don’t want to deal with burn-in risk, others have very bright rooms, and some people love the searing brightness that only synthetic LED backlighting can currently provide. If that sounds like you, consider the Samsung QN90A.

This is Samsung’s flagship Neo QLED set for 2021, featuring a 4K Mini-LED backlighting system that delivers excellent brightness of around 1500 nits in a 2% window, or 750 nits full-field. Mini-LED means lots of dimming zones, which helps the QN90A achieve an impressive contrast ratio even in a dark room.

It’s also a great choice for gaming with a native 120Hz panel, though be aware there’s only one HDMI 2.1 port. The QN90A supports VRR with FreeSync Premium and G-Sync, and the input lag is on par with the best sets on the market. There’s no Dolby Vision support, with Samsung opting for HDR10+ and HDR10 instead.

The QN90A should be top of your list if you’re looking for a flagship TV model that doesn’t use OLED technology.

Best LED TV

Samsung QN90A

Samsung’s QN90A is one of the best LED TVs on the market. It’s brighter than OLED and lacks burn-in risk, while still delivering impressive contrast ratio even in the dark.

Read  Searching by image | Geekgirl's

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