If you’re looking for the best TV to buy right now, it’s probably been a long time since you bought your last one. That means you may be new to all of the current smart TV jargon: Ultra HD, smart LED,, , , , , and . I’ve reviewed TVs for , since the days of and , so I know to keep it simple. My focus is on finding the best picture quality for the money, whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line OLED TV or something a little less flashy.
The list below represents the best TVs I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab, where I compare their smart TV features and the viewing experience side by side to see which ones are most worth buying. I look at things like contrast ratio, local dimming, viewing angle and uniformity, gaming input lag and refresh rate, as well as how well the television supports streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. Here are my recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind.
- Unless noted otherwise, all of the prices you’ll see are for 65-inch models.
- Looking for a specific screen size? Check out: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- 2020 has and many new TVs are shipping late. A few of the TVs on this list are still 2019 models but I expect to review soon.
- On the other hand, since , the new models may not include major upgrades over the 2019 versions. Most buyers will still be perfectly happy with a 2019 TV, especially since they’re generally cheaper.
- This list was originally published last year and is updated periodically.
No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It’s also a solid choice for gamers with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch.
Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.
What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, barely beating the 2019 B9 — which like other 2019 OLED TVs is mostly sold out these days.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Read our LG OLEDCX series review.
TCL’s 8-Series also features mini-LED and the result is superb contrast, brightness and high dynamic range that beats the less expensive 6-Series in my side-by-side comparison. The overall image quality doesn’t quite hit OLED levels, but it comes pretty close and costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.
Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.
Read our TCL 8-Series (2019 Roku TV) review.
So maybe you want to go with a more well-known name, like Sony or Samsung, but you still don’t want to break the bank. The X900H is an excellent choice, with image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series and a price that’s not THAT much more expensive — and hundreds less than the equivalent Samsung. Meanwhile gamers will appreciate it next-generation connectivity, which outdoes the TCL and other like-priced sets — just in time for the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch. (The price shown below is for the 65-inch size.)
Read our Sony XBR-X900H review.
Roku is our favorite platform for a live TV streaming service like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
Read our TCL S425 series (Roku TV) review.
Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture in a couple of important areas, in particular HDR brightness and contrast. I’d also recommend the TCL to streaming-centric viewers because of its superior Roku smart HDTV system. It’s great for watching Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and more. And finally this is a 2019 model, so you might want to wait a bit for my upcoming reviews of the 2020 version.
Sizes: 55-, 65-inch.
Read our Vizio M-Series Quantum M8 series (2019) review.
For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make the most sense. The picture is “good enough” and the built-in smarts are superb — just enough to watch the final season of “The Office” or “Friends” content. And the price is perfect for a kids’ room or secondary room where you don’t need a massive screen.
Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 40-inch size.)
Read our TCL S325 series (Roku TV) review.
Other stuff to know about buying a new TV
I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.
- In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
- If you don’t like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a media streamer. They’re cheap and easy to use, and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
- The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.
Looking for even more info?