TVs today are beyond impressive: they offer exquisite clarity, smart design, and incredible sound quality. That being said, there are a few differentiating features that take a TV from being great to next-level, but those features aren't always easy to understand. That's where the Good Housekeeping Institute's roundup of best television brands comes in. When deciding on our list, we looked at a variety of criteria to assess the brand's overall picture and audio quality, viewing angle, ease of interface, and more. We also factored in feedback from our test panel to evaluate what's most important to consumers.
Before you dive into our picks, remember these tips below when picking out your television.
How to buy the best TV for you:
- Resolution: This is the number of pixels on the screen. More pixels mean more details. Anything above 4K is aptly referred to as Ultra HD. With Ultra HD sets, you also get High Dynamic Range (HDR), which allows for better contrast with a wider array of colors. That's why you shouldn't buy a TV with less than 4K resolution.
- Screen size: There used to be more concerned about size as it related to viewing distance, but you can sit twice as close to a 4K UHD TV thanks to better resolution, so pick the largest size that will fit in your space (and budget).
- Smart TVs: Today, most TVs are smart, meaning they are WiFi connected and have built-in apps like Netflix and YouTube. Many TV brands offer their own unique platform, while some work with third parties like Roku to develop the interface. When shopping, if you like the TV but not the smart interface, you can always augment it with a relatively inexpensive media box.
- OLED vs. LED vs. LCD: TVs typically come in three varieties: OLED, LED, or LCD. OLED allows for smooth and colorful images with great contrast. In an OLED, each individual pixel self-illuminates, so you can control images at a pixel level. LED and backlit LCDs on the other hand can be cheaper, but require an external source of light which increases the components (meaning there's a higher chance of the TV breaking down or needing repair). There's also something called a QLED, which is just an LED with a brighter screen. OLED TVs are our top choice, but they don't come cheap. If you cannot get an OLED, your next best bet would be an LED TV, followed by an LCD.
- General buying tips: Avoid buying a TV with less than a 120 HZ refresh rate to make sure your image stays sharp. Also, check that the TV has enough HDMI ports for your needs – likely four! And plan to buy a good quality sound bar up front as TV sound quality hasn't kept up with picture.
And now, based upon our last 10 years of testing in this category and researching the current assortment of TVs available by varied manufacturers, this is our selection of the best television brands:
LG TVs feature an impressive OLED lineup with many different sizes and included features. In general, these TVs have a fast response time with low input lag for easy use. The smart interface runs on WebOS, which is similar to Samsung as the apps run along the bottom of the screen. For such high-quality OLED TVs, the price is quite steep, starting at $1,300. However, the LG OLED picture quality cannot be beat, especially when watching in the dark.
Building on the success of the OLED lineup, LG will soon use “OLED evo” technology which will allow for better brightness, more clarity, and better audio. The smart interface is getting an update and there will be a new smart remote that will feature built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to allow for better searching.
For a TV that looks like a piece of art, Samsung has the best TV designs on the market. Not only will they look great on display, but they also have high-quality images. Samsung is known for their QLED TVs that have good upscaling technology, making lower resolution content look like native 4K images. Samsung offers regular updates to their high-end technology, keeping everything running smoothly on an ongoing basis. If you have other Samsung smart home products, their TVs can easily integrate with these products for a seamless experience. Samsung Smart TVs have apps in a row on the bottom of the Smart Hub for easy access to all the popular streaming apps. This style has the option to purchase with a sound bar for the ultimate audio experience.
Samsung is similarly upping the ante on its QLED technology with the introduction of its “neo QLED” tech. Using quantum miniLEDs will allow for a more precise and immersive viewing experience. Design-wise the new sets will be nearly bezel-less, and have new smart features like Smart Trainer built-in for tracking and analyzing workouts in real time.
GH Lab Pick: Samsung 2021 Neo QLED 8K (available soon)
This up-and coming-brand, Vizio, is known for offering premium televisions at a great value. Their newest, high end models such as the M Series offer even better picture quality. For built-in access to your favorite streaming services, Vizio uses SmartCast to get Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube on your TV. Vizio’s larger TVs cost dramatically less than other higher end models, but will not have as sharp image or deluxe features.
TCL is the most affordable brand in our round-up with many TVs available under $500, including models for just $165. TCL offers Roku TVs that provide a great, familiar smart TV interface for simple access to top streaming platforms. Note that TCL TVs won’t have the advanced features and picture quality of higher-end models.
This year, TCL will be expanding to include next gen mini-LEDs in its sets for better backlighting (“OD Zero”). We’re also already big fans of the 6 Series at the Institute, and love that in 2021 they will be upgraded to 8K LEDs for four times the resolution.
GH Lab Pick: TCL 6-Series 8K Roku TVs (R648 available soon)
Sony offers many styles of TVs, but our pros recommend both their 4K and OLED TVs, as they have a good quality design. The picture has good color accuracy and motion handling in our evaluations. Sony also offers good upscaling technology to display low resolution content clearer. The smart interface runs on Android TV with built-in support for Google Assistant and Chromecast.
This year, Sony’s sets will allow for even better brightness and better resolution with “cognitive” processing, which algorithmically enhances different portions into focus. Also new for the year, all Sony 2021 TVs will run on Google TV operating system.
GH Lab Pick: Master Series A90J (available soon)