These days, just about every TV comes with built-in smart features. But, like picture quality and other performance aspects, smart features vary greatly depending on the brand you buy. Currently, Roku makes our favorite smart TV platform thanks to its blend of intuitive features, impressive search, and a seemingly infinite array of available apps. As such, the Roku-powered TCL 8-Series(available at Best Buy for $1,499.99) takes the trophy for the best smart TV we tested, offering the best combination of overall performance and a killer smart platform.
There are TVs that eclipse the 8-Series for picture quality—like LG's OLEDs, for example—but none come with Roku. If you're looking for something more affordable, TCL's 6-Series is our pick for Best Value, offering the same Roku platform and its own claim to picture-quality fame at its price. Each smart platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, though, so it's worth checking out each TV on our list to see which best fits your needs. If performance matters to you more than smart features, take a look at our list of the Best TVs of 2020
These are the best smart TVs we tested, ranked in order:
Vizio P-Series Quantum X
Vizio P Series Quantum
Vizio M Series Quantum
Vizio V Series
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The TCL 8-Series is the best-performing Roku TV we've ever tested, offering a potent mix of incredible picture quality and a brilliantly simple (and powerful) user interface.
This quantum-dot-powered TV is available in two sizes: 65” and 75”. It aced nearly all of our performance tests and wowed us in action, demonstrating quantum dots’ ability to produce bright pictures with extra-vivid color.
One of the reasons the 8-Series is such a stellar performer is the inclusion of TCL’s “mini-LED” technology, which allows for tight contrast control second only to OLED TVs. The TV’s excellent motion handling also makes it a versatile pick—sports fans and gamers will appreciate the TV's 120 Hz native refresh rate.
The only real hang-ups are the 8-Series’ chunky design and its limited viewing angles (the latter of which isn’t as big of an issue as it is on the TCL 6-Series, but still might deter some folks). Otherwise, though, this TV is the perfect marriage of performance and smarts that should make anyone fall for it.
The TCL 6-Series, available in 55- and 65-inch models, is a budget-friendly smart TV that brings the benefits of quantum dot technology (namely better brightness and color production) to a price bracket that most folks can actually afford. Its great performance combined with its built-in Roku platform make for a sensational bargain.
We were quite impressed with the TCL 6-Series’ contrast; the TV’s relatively deep black levels look all the better thanks to its ability to get very bright, particularly when reproducing HDR content. Thanks to the 6-Series' quantum dots, colors tend to be more vivid than they typically are on standard LED TVs.
That said, you can’t really offer a QLED TV in this price bracket without some concessions. The 6-Series’ motion handling isn’t as good as higher-end QLED TV’s whose panels feature a native refresh rate of 120 Hz. Additionally, the 6-Series’ viewing angles are quite limited.
Still, this TV is jam-packed with value, especially if you’re hoping to land a smart TV that’s bright enough to accommodate a room that gets a lot of natural or artificial light.
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 six-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 days. 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. The lab in our 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 tristimulus 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 on 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 Blu-ray 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 You Should Know About TVs
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.
What Is A Smart TV?
When you're buying a new TV, it might be called a few different things: a smart TV, a Roku TV, an Android TV, and so on. While the design/user interface will vary from brand to brand, the basic idea of all smart TVs is the same: they connect to the internet to serve up streaming video content.
With the TV online, you'll be able to do a bunch of things, but the primary function of most smart TVs is to give you access to apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others. An Android TV, for example, will give you access to Google Play's selection of made-for-TV apps, while a Roku TV gives you a baked-in version of the Roku streaming device.
The specifics of what you can do online vary from platform to platform. In some cases, certain apps—like Spotify or HBO Now—might not be available on the platform of the TV you're buying, so be sure to do your research.
What Is The Best Smart Platform?
Our current favorite external streaming device is the Roku Ultra. Since the built-in Roku software on Roku TVs is essentially the same experience as using an external Roku device, buying a Roku smart TVs is essentially like buying a TV with a Roku box built right in.
There are pros and cons to every smart platform, but out of all of them, we like Roku the best. Navigation is quick, the user interface is clean and easy to understand, and the library of apps that can be downloaded is vast. Additionally, Roku's mobile app integration provides additional customization options, supports voice recognition, and in general, rounds out the entire Roku experience.
What Other TV Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is as 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 a LED TV 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.
Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are used in LED/LCD TVs only. These are microscopic nanocrystals 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 Smart TVs We Tested
LG C9 Series
When judged purely on performance, the LG C9 (available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch sizes) is the best TV you can buy right now. Its OLED panel delivers outstanding picture quality, 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range and Dolby Vision specifications, and more. Because LG's webOS smart platform is not quite as versatile or user-friendly as Roku, the C9 just narrowly missed the #1 spot in our smart TV ranking.
That doesn't mean the C9 delivers a sub-par smart platform experience, however. In fact, webOS is a great software suite that will satisfy TV experts and neophytes alike. Thanks in part to the C9's powerful processing chip, webOS's clean, well-organized menus zip along with grace. Jumping from HDMI inputs to preloaded streaming apps is a breeze whether you're using the point-and-click feature of LG's motion-guided "Magic Remote" or simply clicking away on the remote's directional pad.
Being an OLED TV, the C9 is—dare we say—picture-perfect. If you haven't heard, OLED panels are pound-for-pound the best-performing panels you can buy. Each pixel turns "on" and "off" independently, meaning when OLED TVs display black, they display actual black, even if some parts of the screen are displaying images. 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 among the most affordable one in the lineup, but still has all the same awesome OLED picture quality. Plus, it's stuffed full of great features and a geeky array of calibration options for the AV nerds out there.
The C8 is essentially the 2018 version of the LG C9. The LG C8 will be harder to find, but the price has also dropped considerably. The picture quality and HDR/Dolby Vision performance are still excellent, and you also get key extras like the aforementioned LG webOS platform and the Magic Remote. Our only complaint about the C8 in 2018 was its price, and now that it's cheaper, it's a pretty great choice.
Available in 55-, 65-, or 77-inch sizes, the 2018 C8 series may not be quite as fancy as the 2019 C9 series, but it still exhibits the perfect black levels, excellent contrast, and vivid color production that we expect from OLED TVs. It's also an excellent choice if you're interested in newer formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos.
Samsung's high-end TV offerings tend to be very good TVs, and the Samsung Q90R is a shining example. This top-tier QLED smart TV (available in 65-, 75-, and 82-inch models) is an impressive, versatile smart TV for cinephiles, sports fans, gamers, and everyone in between.
Being a Samsung-engineered quantum dot TV, you can expect sizzling brightness—we measured peak brightness levels that eclipsed 1,000 nits—and rich, finely-tuned colors. Plus, since the Q90R features a native refresh rate of 120 Hz and a suite of motion enhancements, its motion handling is superb.
That said, because this a top-tier TV with a posh design, the Q90R’s price point might make some folks consider more approachable alternatives. Additionally, while Tizen offers a decent smart experience, it's not on par with LG's webOS or Roku.
Still, if you're looking for a blazing bright, colorful display with a responsive smart platform, the Q90R is a great choice.
The Samsung Q80R isn’t quite as good as the Q90R, but the difference in cost might make it an appealing alternative for shoppers who don’t want to splash out completely on their next smart TV. It comes with the same Tizen smart platform that ships with the higher-end Q90R.
Being a QLED TV, the Samsung Q80R delivers searingly bright highlights and vivid, well-saturated colors. The panel features a native 120 Hz refresh rate, which means its motion handling is terrific, too.
The only downside here is the Q80R’s price tag, which is too high to compete with some of the more affordable quantum dot TVs like the 2019 TCL 6-Series. To be fair, the Q80R is a better performer than the TCL 6-Series, but given the Q80R’s price tag, you might be tempted to just spring for the 6-series or, on the other end, Samsung's top-shelf Q90R.
The Sony X950G isn't a perfect smart TV, but given the price, you're getting some awesome specs and features. Its Android-based smart platform (Android Oreo 8.0 with Google Assistant) offers a vast library of apps, but it's not as easy to pick up and use as some of its competitors' software, in part because of the user interface.
That said, if you're not concerned about its smart platform's modest learning curve or its display's demonstrably narrow viewing angles, 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.
While you can check out our full review of the Sony X950G for more information, the thing to know about the X950G is that it's a good all-rounder. Performance isn't the X950G's only selling point: at this price, you're getting the Android smart TV platform and a slick, modern design, too. It's not the best value nor the best performer on the list, but it straddles the line between a huge price tag and outright cheapness, giving you a posh-feeling smart TV without such staggering prices.
Available in 65- and 75-inch sizes only, the Vizio P Series Quantum X is among the best TVs that Vizio has ever produced. 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.
Unfortunately, while Vizio's SmartCast smart platform keeps improving, it's among our least favorites among major brands. SmartCast is simple enough to use, but because it doesn't offer the ability to download and add apps, you're basically stuck with the apps that come out of the box, unless Vizio officially adds them via future software updates. SmartCast does include Chromecast functionality, but it's cold comfort given the lack of an app library.
Having said all that, the P Series Quantum X is a fantastic TV with the picture to prove it. Given its ability to get incredibly bright, it's a particularly good option for folks who long for the performance of an OLED but remain skeptical about their relatively limited peak brightness. SmartCast is the only major downside, and we recommend pairing the PQX with an external streaming device to supplement the platform's shortcomings.
The 2019 Vizio P Series Quantum is a fantastic QLED TV that makes a strong case for itself in the all-important category of premium-but-not-too-premium TVs.
Available in two sizes (65 inches and 75 inches), the P Series Quantum features quantum dots, a native 120 Hz refresh rate, full-array local dimming (with 200-240 LED zones, depending on the panel size) and a performance report card that’s chock-full of good grades. It's a great choice for shoppers who want a premium TV but who might not want to commit to the price of an OLED TV or a better-performing QLED TV.
Like the P Series Quantum X, you're locking yourself into the rigidness of Vizio's SmartCast software here, so we recommend you fall back on an external streaming option if you yearn for a well-rounded app diet.
In terms of value, few TVs top the Vizio M Series Quantum, which offers a taste of quantum dot performance for a price most people can justify. Unfortunately, like the P Series Quantum and the P Series Quantum X, the M Series Quantum runs SmartCast, so you're stuck with the apps that Vizio offers.
The M Series Quantum doesn’t get quite as bright as TVs in higher price brackets, but that doesn’t mean its contrast is anything to scoff at; the TV’s brightness and deep black levels come together nicely on the full-array panel. Colors pop, too, on account of the M Series’ quantum dots.
In addition to its disappointing smart platform, another noteworthy caveat is the M Series Quantum’s native refresh rate of 60 Hz, which might be a deal-breaker for folks who’d rather pay a little extra for a TV with smoother motion performance.
Starting at 43 inches and running the gamut up to 70 inches, it's available in a wider variety of sizes than its closest competitor, the 2019 TCL 6-Series, but the 6-Series offers a much better smart platform experience.
For budget TV shoppers, the 2019 TCL 4-Series is a killer budget option. Available in six screen sizes, you're getting 4K resolution, HDR10 compatibility, and the Roku smart platform for an incredibly approachable price.
In fact, the TCL 4-Series is one of the most affordable 4K TVs we've seen to date. Although its performance isn't remarkable, the 4-Series gets the job done. Plus, being a Roku TV, you can expect to enjoy a smooth, easy-to-use smart platform.
The Vizio V Series comes in a wide variety of sizes and options, and a handful of them feature slightly different hardware in the form of LED zones with local dimming.
The 55-inch Vizio V Series that we tested (V556-G1) features 10 local dimming LED zones, which means its contrast is better than the V Series models that don’t feature local dimming, though not significantly.
The V Series is a great pick for folks who just need to upgrade to a 4K/HDR TV but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on bells and whistles. The performance in a vacuum isn’t much to write home about, but given the V Series’ price point, it is something to celebrate. It’s not the type of HDR TV that will demonstrate the superiority of HDR content, but it doesn’t really need to be.
The only downside? You guessed it: Vizio SmartCast.
The V Series isn’t the best smart TV on the block, nor is it the best budget-friendly smart TV on the block, but most folks will be happy to own one—especially if you're upgrading to 4K for the first time.
Very, very affordable
Performs quite well for the cost
Vizio's smart platform is a drag
Doesn't get as bright as the Vizio M Series Quantum
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.