HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is the latest tech upgrade for the best TVs on the market. Unlike 3D TVs or curved screens, however, HDR is an entirely new benchmark for picture quality–and a feature that’s very much worth the investment. HDR TVs are generally brighter, more detailed, and more richly colorful than standard, non-HDR 4K TVs, and they support various HDR formats (like HDR10 and Dolby Vision) offered on ultra-HD Blu-rays and streaming platforms.
Right now, the LG C9(available at Walmart for $2,496.99) is our pick for the overall best HDR TV money can buy. And while the best HDR TVs are certainly pricy, it's also a very mainstream, affordable feature that you can find in a wide array of price ranges. We've reviewed and tested every TV on this list, and can stand by their quality and value.
Here are the HDR TV rankings as of June 21, 2019:
LG C9 (2019)
LG C8 (2018)
LG C7 (2017)
LG E8 (2018)
Sony A9F (2018)
Vizio P-Series Quantum X (2019)
Vizio P-Series Quantum (2018)
Vizio P-Series (2018)
TCL 6 Series (2018)
Sony X950G (2019)
Samsung Q7FN (2018)
Samsung Q8FN (2018)
Vizio M-Series (2017)
Vizio E-Series (2018)
Hisense 100L8D Laser TV
Samsung NU8000 (2018)
Vizio Reference Series (2016)
Sony X800E (2017)
TCL 5 Series (2018)
TCL 4 Series (2019)
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LG's C9 series of OLED 4K/HDR smart TVs is the best TV of 2019. For the last few years, LG has released a suite of super-premium OLED TVs, and starting with the C7 OLEDs in 2017 they've been our favorite TVs every year for very good reason.
If you haven't heard, OLED panels are kind of the bee's knees. Each pixel turns "on" and "off" automatically, meaning when OLED TVs display black, they display actual black. Likewise, when they display a color, it emits from the pixel directly, giving it a more pure and unfiltered appearance than traditional LED/LCD TVs. LG's been the leader in OLED TV production for several years, and the 2019 C9 is the latest "C" OLED—it's almost the most affordable one in the lineup, but still has all the same awesome OLED picture quality.
The C9 series (which is available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes) delivers a justifiable price tag alongside all the same excellent OLED picture quality, 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range and Dolby Vision specifications, LG's friendly "webOS" smart platform, and more. It's stuffed full of great features and a geeky array of calibration options for the AV nerds out there. Check out our full review of the LG C9 series for more information.
Reviewed has been testing TVs since some of its current employees were in middle school. While many proud TV testers have come and gone through Reviewed's labs, the current Home Theater team consists of Michael Desjardin and Lee Neikirk. Michael is a senior staff writer and a five-year veteran of the Reviewed tech team. A film enthusiast and TV expert, he takes picture quality seriously, but also understands that not every TV is a good fit for everyone. As Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, Lee doesn't do as much testing these day. However, he designed the company's current TV testing methodology after receiving calibration certification from the Imaging Science Foundation.
It'd be an understatement to say that we're serious about TV testing. Our lab at Reviewed's Cambridge location is outfitted with much of the same equipment you'd find at a factory that manufactures and calibrates television. On the hardware side, we've got things like a Konica Minolta CS-200 tristimulous color meter, an LS-100 luminance meter, a Leo Bodnar input lag tester, a Quantum Data 780A signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use CalMan Ultimate, the industry standard in taking display measurements and calibrating screens to specifications.
Our testing process is equally complicated, and has been honed over many years to gather data that is marginal enough to satisfy curious video engineers, but also relevant to the average person's viewing experience. We measure things like peak brightness, black level, hue and saturation for primary and secondary digital colors, the accuracy of the TV's electro-optical transfer function—you get the idea, it's complicated. Weighting for our performance tests is based off of how the human eye prioritizes vision, which means we put "brightness" data (monochromatic eye based on light sensitivity) higher than colorimetry, which is also scaled by the eye's sensitivity, and so on.
Outside of the strictly technical tests, we also spend a lot of time just watching and using each TV, getting a feel for the at-home experience of doing things like dialing up streaming video service, connecting a DVD player and watching movies, using the smart features, and checking out the TV's ports, remote, and on-set buttons—anything and everything that might be relevant.
What Makes A TV Good?
While everyone has different eyes, generally, our vision all functions the same way: we prioritize dynamic information and bright, compelling colors over subtler hues and resolution (sharpness). Generally, a TV can be considered a good TV when we forget that we're watching a TV. We don't see pixels creating mixes of red, green, and blue to simulate colors; we see the real world, lit and colored as it is, in fluid motion.
In simpler terms, this means a TV that can get very bright and dark without obscuring details; produces accurate colors (compared to various color standards designated by the International Telecommunication Union); possesses proper bit-mapping and the right codecs and decoders for video processing; and can properly play the various types of content thrown at it without judder, blurring, and so on.
Note that specs alone (pixel count, measured brightness) aren't automatic indicators of quality, much like intense speed is not automatically an indicator of a good car.
HDR10 vs. Dolby Vision: What’s The Difference?
While HDR content is available in a handful of formats right now, the basic idea behind each is the same: deliver content to your TV that's much less compressed than ever before, enabling a wider color palette and higher dynamic range, all in 4K resolution. As it stands, the major players in HDR this year are still HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and they so-far seem to be co-existing without trouble.
The HDR format known as "HDR10" is the most wide-spread and easy-to-implement HDR format. It's an open-source format that any manufacturer can implement into a television without paying a licensing fee, and allows the TV to interpret and display HDR10 content.
Currently, all HDR Blu-ray discs are technically HDR10 discs. You can also get HDR10 content on apps like Netflix and Amazon Instant. Where HDR10 differs from another format, like Dolby Vision, is in terms of how the content is mastered before the TV receives and displays it. For example, HDR10 has easier to hit color standards than Dolby Vision.
The other major HDR format, Dolby Vision, is a proprietary format that's mastered at much higher standards than HDR10. In a way, this makes it a higher-quality format than HDR10—but there are also no displays that can match Dolby Vision's high standards, so it's easy to argue about diminishing returns.
Because it's a closed, proprietary system and is essentially more expensive to adopt, Dolby Vision is not as widespread as HDR10. A huge majority of the TVs on the market billed as "HDR" are HDR10-compatible TVs. If a TV has Dolby Vision, it will usually say so. Currently, you can get Dolby Vision content on apps like Netflix and VUDU.
If you want the most HDR content right now, your best bet is to find a TV that is both HDR10 and Dolby Vision-compatible. Failing that, HDR10 is the more widely adopted standard of the moment, but Dolby Vision could prove to be the higher-quality standard down the line if you're planning on keeping your next TV for more than a few years.
What Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is more rife with subterfuge and tomfoolery than TVs. While knowing the specs of the TV you're shopping for is only half the battle, it's the bigger half. Here are the key bits of jargon you'll want to know while browsing:
LED/LCD: This refers to Light Emitting Diode and Liquid Crystal Display. LEDs are the backlights used in LCD TVs, also sometimes called LED TVs for this reason. The LED backlight shines through a layer of a semi-solid substance called "liquid crystal," so named for its ability to morph in reaction to tiny electrical volts and allow light to pass through.
OLED: This means Organic Light Emitting Diode. This is an altogether different panel technology than LED/LCD, albeit on the surface they work similarly. Rather than an LED backlight element shining through an LCD panel element, OLED TVs essentially combine the backlight and crystal array, using sub-pixel strata that produce light and color individually.
4K/UHD: Usually 4K refers to resolution—specifically, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is the current standard/mainstream resolution for most TVs. UHD means Ultra High Definition, and actually refers to a suite of picture improvements like 4K resolution, Wide Color Gamut, and High Dynamic Range.
High Dynamic Range: Like "UHD," High Dynamic Range (or HDR) refers to both a type of TV and a type of content that expands on the typical range of brightness (luminance) and color that a TV will produce. HDR TVs are newer and usually a bit more expensive, but can have four times the brightness and 30% more color production than non-HDR TVs, at least. Current HDR formats are HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
60 Hz/120 Hz: These numbers refer to what is called a "refresh rate," with Hz (hertz) meaning "times per second." So if a TV's refresh rate is 60 Hz, this means it re-scans and updates for picture information 60 times per second; with 120 Hz, it's 120 times per second. Currently, TVs only come in 60 or 120 Hz. A higher refresh rate is always better, but not always necessary.
Smart TV: The term "smart TV" has evolved a lot over the years, but all it really means is that the TV connects to the internet. Most smart TVs these days are just a way to watch streaming services like Amazon Prime Video on your TV. Some smart TVs have browsers, calendars, or even Roku or Android functions. All smart TVs have ethernet or WiFi built in.
Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are used in LED/LCD TVs only. These are microscopic nano-crystals that produce intensely colored light when struck with light. Quantum dots can be used to vastly improve the red and green saturation of a TV, and are one way that LED/LCD TVs can match the color spectrum of OLED.
Local Dimming: OLED panels look great because each pixel can operate independently. LED/LCD TVs can imitate this functioning via a process called local dimming, where localized clusters of LEDs dim or boost depending on whether the screen needs to be darker or brighter, sometimes vastly improving their performance and worth.
What Is a TV Series?
You may notice the TVs listed in this roundup don't follow the traditional naming convention you might see in a store or online. That's because rather than nominating a single size of TV (such as the LG OLED65C8PUA, aka the 65-inch LG C8 series OLED), we nominate the entire range of sizes within a "series."
Typically these TVs are identical in performance but differ in price and size. We do this in order to offer you more flexibility in your decision, but also because it's the most accurate representation available.
Other TVs We Tested
LG C8 Series (2018)
This is essentially the 2018 version of our Best Overall C9—except it's the C8. This is still a 4K/HDR OLED TV; in fact, other than very specific differences (which you can read more about in the full review), the C8 and the C9 are almost identical.
The C8 will be harder to find, but the price has also dropped considerably. The picture quality and HDR/Dolby Vision performance is still excellent, and you still get key extras like the LG webOS platform, the Magic Remote, and a swanky if unusual design. Our only complaint about the C8 last year was how expensive it is, and now that it's cheaper, it's a pretty good choice.
Just note that it's not quite on the level of the newer 2019 C9 series. The C8 is available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes.
While it might be a bit hard to track down, you can technically still find LG's 2017 C7 OLED (yes, this is still the same "C" line as the 2018 C8 and 2019 C9) for sale, though it's not a heck of a lot cheaper than the 2018 model.
This is another excellent TV, though we'd probably go with the C8 or the C9 unless you can find the C7 at a serious discount (which is very possible, especially somewhere like eBay). Check out the full review for more information.
This one is still 4K and HDR capable, though it's not quite as bright as the C8 and C9 models. Colors are still very impressive, and overall the C7 still looks better than a large majority of TVs in 2019—that's saying something.
Yet another excellent LG OLED, the 2018 E8 didn't win out over the C8 because it required you to pay more for a few frills that—while nice—were not something we found to be totally essential. However, beyond those differences, the E8 is still an excellent TV, providing OLED's usual inky blacks, crisp highlights, rich colors, and flawless viewing angles.
You can read more detail about what makes the E8 different (read: pricier) than the 2018 C8 in the full review, but what it boils down to is different design and better audio (for the E8).
Still, the E8 sometimes gets massively discounted sometimes, and for being only a year old it's still a hugely powerful, impressive TV with more features than most people could even keep track of.
In order to go toe-to-toe with its direct OLED competitors (as well as budget-friendly, big-screen non-OLED HDR sets), Sony's A9F Master Series needs to set itself apart from the pack. And, for the most part, it succeeds—the A9F is a visually striking, top-tier television with the HDR chops to nip at LG's heels.
What it doesn't do, however, is justify its price point for anyone outside of a very slim niche. You can read more about everything the A9F OLED offers in our full review, but it's worth knowing that performance quality isn't what kept it from the top of this list. Instead, it's a combination of the high price point and some more particular aesthetics-based flaws.
That said, this is still an amazing TV, and you're getting ultra-premium from top to bottom. We just don't think it performs so beyond the LG C9 for the price that it's worth paying more for. But if you've got the dough, it bats at some premium fences in a way that outshines some of LG's OLED offerings.
Available in 65- and 75-inch sizes only, this is allegedly the best TV that Vizio has ever produced, something we agree with after testing and something that definitely earns it a place on the list of the best TVs you can buy. Outfitted with full-array local dimming, quantum dots, and a sleek, understated design, the P-Series Quantum X looks better than any LED/LCD TV has a right to.
From its searing highlights to its brilliant hues, the P-Series Quantum X is a top-shelf TV with the picture to prove it. Given its ability to get really freakin' bright, it's a particularly good option for folks who long for the performance of an OLED but remain skeptical about an OLED's relatively limited peak brightness.
This is the 2018 prequel to the P-Series Quantum X—the TV that first combined the sizzling bright colors of quantum dot with Vizio's repeatedly impressive P-Series TV. As is stands, this was the best TV that Vizio had ever made last year, and it's only replaced by the Quantum X this year.
You can still get the non-quantum dot equipped Vizio P-Series from last year, too. It's not quite as swanky and impressive as the Quantum, but it's still an excellent LED/LCD TV and is quite a bit more affordable—the 55-inch is often online for less than $1,000.
TCL first blew our minds in 2017 with an unexpectedly amazing LED/LCD TV, called (confusingly) the P Series. The 2018 6 Series was the update to that, and it continued the tradition of offering premium-feeling fixtures like 4K resolution, HDR, a built-in Roku smart platform, and much better picture quality than you'll usually find in this price range.
One of the Sony's best 2019 models, the X950G isn't perfect, but for what you're paying you're getting a lot of really awesome specs and features.
If you're not concerned about its demonstrably narrow viewing angles and slightly disappointing color production, you're looking at a great TV that holds up well in brightly lit rooms. For the most part, the X950G performs as well as it should, given its price tag.
One of the entry-level "QLED" TVs from last year, the Q7FN is a very solid TV. It isn't the most impressive nor the most valuable on the list, but it splits the difference well, offering a sleek design, quantum dot HDR performance, and 4K resolution at a fairly friendly price tag.
A step up from the Q7FN, the Q8FN costs a bit more—and was available in a curved variant, the Q8C. It's another "QLED" model, meaning it gives you 4K resolution, quantum dots, HDR support, and Samsung's signature attention to design.
Last year's E-Series was a very affordable, hard hitting budget buy, and you can still get it in 2019. You're getting 4K, HDR, smart features, and a wide range of sizes, from a 43-inch model all the way up to a 70-inch model.
This is one of the strangest TVs on the list, because it's not a TV at all, despite being called a Laser TV. This 100-inch monster from Hisense is actually a projector, coming with a short-throw unit and a large projector screen for a cool $7,000.
This Samsung from last year was one of the more affordable options, and you can still find it in 2019. Not only that, but it's more affordable than ever.
The NU8000 delivers a wide range of 4K/HDR smart TVs with pretty solid performance benchmarks and good designs. They're not on the level of Samsung's QLED models, but they're good choices if you want to save some dough.
The 2016 Reference Series was Vizio's first foray into the premium TV space, and it spawned the company's current successes with the P-Series and P-Series Quantum TVs from 2018 and 2019. You can still buy the original 65-inch Reference Series, and for a lot less than a few years ago.
Pound for pound this is still a great TV. It comes with an entire surround system and delivers a tone of dimming zones and excellent industrial design. It's just not very future facing, though it's still equipped for HDR and Dolby Vision (in fact, this was the Dolby Vision TV back in the day). Check out the full review for more information.
This Sony TV from a couple of years ago can still be found kicking around, and it's still a pretty good choice. Available in three smaller sizes (from 43 to 55 inches), you're getting specs like 4K resolution, the Android TV platform, and an IPS panel—pretty rare these days.
Last year's 5 Series was like a step down from the vaunted 6 Series: not as fancy, but still a very solid value. This series includes four very affordable 4K/HDR smart Roku TVs that start around $300, which is a great option.
This year's 4 Series is a huge value/budget option. Available in six screen sizes starting at less than $300, you're getting 4K resolution, HDR10 compatibility, the Roku remote, and 60 Hz refresh rates. Not bad specs for those price points.
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.