At first we were limited to standard definition televisions. Then high-definition, or ‘HD’ came along, and wowed us all with a crispness that we could have previously only experienced at the cinema.
4K, or Ultra HD, televisions have been around for a few years now, but more recently they have seen a couple of developments that make them seriously worth considering.
First is the fact that 4K content is now actually available. There’s nowhere near the amount of content as there is in regular HD, but with backing from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime there’s a decent amount of Ultra HD content to enjoy.
The only catch is that just because a TV has a 4K resolution and, perhaps, HDR and wide colour technologies does not automatically mean that it’s a brilliant TV. In fact, HDR in particular is proving quite a challenge for TVs to get right. So let’s try and make your buying decision at least a bit easier with our pick of the best 10 4K TVs you can buy today.
(Editor’s note: If you’re looking to purchase a 4K Blu-ray player then be sure to check out our list of the , or alternatively check out the , which comes equipped with a 4K Blu-ray player of its own.)
No TVs in 2016 deliver pictures more downright spectacular than Samsung’s KS9500s. Partly because no other commercially released TVs have ever delivered as much brightness, but also because Samsung has used a high-end backlighting system and a proprietary take on Quantum Dot color technology to ensure that the emphatic brightness is joined by excellent contrast and explosively rich but also gorgeously nuanced colors.
Push all this technology to the max with today’s highest quality sources – especially, the incredible images you can get from the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format – and you’ll witness pictures the like of which just haven’t been seen on a TV before.
The KS9500s aren’t perfect; the push for such extreme contrast from an LCD screen can sometimes cause backlight clouding around very bright objects, and the most accurate Movie preset can cause colour striping with UHD Blu-ray. There’s no 3D support either. So extraordinary are the KS9500s’ pictures at their best, though, that their flaws become seriously easy to forgive.
For the sort of AV enthusiast who always preferred the contrast and subtlety of now defunct plasma screens to the more brightness focussed charms of LCD, OLED technology has long looked like the next big thing. And LG’s stellar OLEDE6 models do nothing to dispel this notion.
This is because it manages to combine OLED’s currently unique ability to have every single pixel in its screen produce its own light and colour independent of its neighbours with a substantial leap in brightness versus any previous OLED generation. What’s more, this HDR-friendly leap in brightness has been delivered without compromising the remarkable black level reproduction that’s OLED’s trademark.
LG will need to improve brightness still further if it wants to avoid the loss of detail in really bright HDR areas the OLEDE6 models sometimes fall prey too, but for many AV fans the E6s’ freedom from the sort of backlight flaws all LCD TVs suffer with to some extent will prove nigh-on irresistible.
The 75XD9405′s huge 75-inch screen serves up a spectacular demonstration of the advantages of having four times as many pixels as you get with an HD TV, adding a sense of scale to 4K’s enhanced precision that leaves pictures looking so lifelike it’s almost scary. Not that size is by any means the only thing the 75XD9405 has going for it, mind you.
Sony’s Triluminos wide color spectrum technology and a strong contrast performance from its direct (behind the screen) LED lighting system also play their part, delivering both standard and high dynamic range pictures in a balanced and nuanced way that combines with the screen acreage to provide a massively immersive experience.
The 75XD9405 isn’t as bright as some rivals and extreme-contrast HDR shots occasionally cause backlight clouding, but if your tastes are more home cinema than TV, the 75XD9405 is currently uniquely qualified for the job.
The brilliantly simple attraction of the LG OLEDB6 4K TV range is that they bring you most of the OLED-based picture quality thrills that saw the OLEDE6 range bag a slot right near the top of this list for a much more affordable price.
The thing is, the reasons the OLEDB6 models are so much cheaper than the E6 models are down to things like design, build quality, reduced audio performance and removing 3D playback from the spec list rather than massively compromised image reproduction. So it still delivers the unbeatable black levels, lovely rich colors, extreme contrast and pixel-level light control of its step-up OLEDE6 siblings.
The OLEDE6 doesn’t solve OLED’s current issue of lost detail in very bright areas of HDR pictures, but it’s as good as it gets with the SDR content we still watch for most of the time and remains the natural successor to the plasma TVs so beloved of AV enthusiasts.
With the XD9305 series, Sony has joined the other big brands this year in delivering some genuine, HDR-led innovation. In the XD9305′s case this takes the form of the Slim Backlight Drive, which cleverly uses two edge-mounted LED light modules and dual light guides to essentially double how locally the XD9305 TVs can control the light in their images.
The result is a contrast performance that gets closer to what you’d normally only see from TVs with a direct LED lighting system at a fraction of the price.
Sony’s Triluminos technology also contributes some mesmerisingly good color handling, while the brand’s X1 processing system ensures that both native 4K and upscaled HD sources both looks fantastically detailed and sharp.
Occasional rather defined backlight ‘blocking’ artifacts and the clunky Android TV smart engine stop the XD9305 TVs from challenging for the top spot on this list, but at their best the XD9305′s pictures are genuinely sensational.