Best TV 2020: the 8 best flatscreen televisions from the past year

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The best TVs of 2020 are truly a sight to behold. Offering the best picture processing, connectivity, smart platforms, format support, build and design, these are the sets that were unrivalled throughout the past year – or, rivalled only by each other.

There are a huge number of televisions entering the market each year, all of them vying for your attention, and your cash. That's why we've brought together our pick of the best TVs for 2020, for a range of panel technologies like QLED and OLED, and the best affordable models among the truly high-range displays out there.

We realise 2020 is still getting underway, and there will no doubt be sets in the near future replacing some of the models on this list – still largely from 2019 – so make sure you check back in the coming weeks to see what else knocks this big-hitting televisions from their perch. CES 2020 will certainly have surprises for us, too.

The most important thing to remember is that all of these sets were elevated by their impressive performance, but that not all of them may be the best TV for your own home. Making sure you're buying a set with the right sizing for your home, and capabilities for your needs, is the next step after landing on this guide.

If you're feeling confused, our guide to the best TVs available will help you separate bargain-buy panels from the best 4K screens, and which sets are worth connecting to that 4K Blu-ray player you've been eyeing up. We'll help you find an awesome flatscreen without wasting hours of research comparing spec sheets.

You can also check out our best 4K TVs guide, or just the cheapest 4K TV prices for a truly bargain deal. But, if you're looking for the best-of-the-best TV out there today without limits or stipulations, this is the place for you. 

"So, should I buy a TV now or wait it out?"

This is a question we're asked a lot. Like most technology, TVs are getting incrementally better all the time – which means, yes, if you wait a year there will probably be a bigger, flashier TV out there for less money. 

But, that said, there has recently been a huge flurry of progress as manufacturers have rushed to embrace new display standards including Ultra HD, Wide Colour Gamut and HDR

The majority of smart TV manufacturers now support these next generation of features, but you'll have to check the small print in a few cases. 

So long as your next TV purchase supports these technologies (looking for an Ultra HD Premium certification is a good way to go), we reckon you won't be kicking yourself in six months' time when the next batch of sets arrive.

If you do want to future-proof against the next wave of hardware specifications, though, the new HDMI 2.1 standard is going to prove crucial for serious gaming setups: allowing support for 8K resolution at 60 frames per second, 4K at 120, alongside a range of new gaming features that will be supported over HDMI. But unless you're seriously into your gaming then we reckon you're safe making a purchase now.

  • Want better audio? Check out our guide to the best soundbars available.
  • Once you've decided on a panel, make sure you read our guide on how to set up your TV to make sure you're getting the most out of it.

The best TVs of 2020

Replacing the LG C8 model from last year, the LG C9 OLED is a stunning evolution of the TV-maker's OLED technology

Combining a stunning display with an immense amount of features and formats – with LG's brilliant webOS smart platform – this is undoubtedly one of the best 4K TVs ever made. There aren't huge differences with last year's model, but the addition of the 2nd Gen a9 processor means the picture processing is truly top-notch.

While it's not as bright as an LCD TV, those deep blacks make a huge difference to the dynamic range of the image. It’s also capable of vibrant and gorgeous colours, not to mention an astounding level of detail with native 4K content.

There are more expensive LG models in the range: notable the W9 and E9 OLEDs, though you're mainly paying for the fancier form factor and bigger audio output. For an OLED TV this year – or any TV, really – that performs for the price, you should really be considering the C9.

Read the full review: LG C9 OLED (OLED55C9, OLED65C9, OLED77C9)

The 8K television we've been waiting for? With only so much 4K content out there, you'd be forgiven for thinking Samsung may have jumped the gun slightly on this one. But this is still the world's first true 8K TV, and while it's easy to be critical about the Samsung Q900R, it truly does usher in a new era of TV picture quality. 

The native 8K pictures are incredible, looking just like the real world – only better. But even more crucially given the dearth of true 8K content for the foreseeable future, the 85Q900R makes all today’s lower resolution sources look better than they do anywhere else, too. 

Whether 8K delivers the same impact on smaller screens remains to be seen, but if you have a big enough room and budget, the Q900R is a vision of the future that’s spectacularly worth buying. In the UAE, the 75-inch with the model QA75Q900RBKXZN goes for AED 24,999 and the 82-inch with the model QA82Q900RBKXZN that retails for AED 31,999. 

Read our full review: Samsung Q900R 8K QLED TV

Samsung KS9500

It looks like someone on Samsung’s TV design team has been watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 65-inch Q9 is a ringer for that film’s mysterious black monolith thanks to the way both its front and back sides are completely flat and feature ultra-robust, polished finishes. Ultra HD HDR playback is what the Q9F was created to do and, given Samsung’s potent HDR track record, it's no surprise to find that it does it supremely well. Even though the Q9F has 4K HDR optimisation in its DNA, it’s capable of looking seriously good with high definition standard dynamic range content too.

SONY kd-75xd9405 DEALS

The X930E Series builds on last year's X930D series in a few important ways, the first of which is by including one of Sony’s new X1 Extreme chipsets. These are around 40% more powerful than the original X1 chips, and introduce separate databases to help the TV analyze noise and upscale sub-4K sources to the screen’s native 4K resolution. Add in an apparently much-improved sound system and Sony’s Triluminos technology for delivering today’s wider color ranges and the X930E series seems to tick all the right boxes. 

Unfortunately, though, even an improved version of Sony’s Slim Backlight Drive can’t completely hide the fact that with current edge LED technology there’s always a backlight-based price to pay for all that HDR-sating brightness. 

Last year the Samsung Q9FN won plaudits galore for its features and image quality. But it's now been replaced on our list of the best 4K TVs by the Q90 QLED TV. The Q9FN wasn't perfect and there were legitimate complaints about viewing angles and an over-aggressive local dimming system that crushed detail just above black.

Samsung has clearly taken these criticisms to heart, and directly addressed them in the Q90. The new model has a visibly superior viewing angle that holds its own against an OLED TV, and the local dimming delivers deep blacks without losing shadow detail. To that end, the new Ultra Black Elite filter is nothing short of a revelation, rejecting ambient light in a way that just staggers belief. 

It's not too much of a leap to say that the Samsung Q90 is the most impressive QLED we have reviewed to date, incorporating comprehensive features and cutting-edge picture innovations. As a result, this TV can deliver a performance that is capable of competing with and often surpassing even the best OLEDs.

Read the full review: Samsung Q90 QLED TV review

If LG's OLED isn't your thing, spend some time checking out Sony's version.

The 55A1 – and the A1 OLED series overall – are crowd pleasers in just about every way. Their ‘picture only’ design has been beautifully realized, managing to be simultaneously subtle and dramatic. 

Their vibrating screen delivers a far more powerful and effective sound performance than I’d thought possible, too. The real stars of the show here, though, are the A1’s exquisitely detailed, contrast-rich and colourful pictures. 

These prove emphatically what we’ve long suspected: More brands using OLED technology can only lead to good things. 

Only it's exceptionally high price tag prevents it from toppling LG's budget panels.

The TH-65FZ1000M is a luscious OLED that puts performance first. Its colour handling is class-leading, and its HDR talents are a match for any of its rivals. In fact, it just might offer the best picture performance that we’ve seen on a 4K OLED to date. 

The TH-65FZ1000M isn’t the complete package, lacking as it does Dolby Vision and Atmos compatibility, but it wins more arguments than it loses. We suspect you’ll appreciate the easy sophistication of its smart platform, the quality of that low-lag game mode, and the sheer musicality of the Technics soundbar. 

Continue on to page two to read about what to look for when buying a TV! 

What TV technology is best? Which is the best LCD TV? Which screen size is best for your living room? What’s the difference between LCD and LED TVs?

The answers aren’t always obvious. In fact, buying a new TV can be stressful even for the tech-savvy – there are so many brands, so many features, so many screen sizes, colors, technologies and flavors to choose from.

So which one is right for you, your family and your living space? In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a new TV.

What types of TV are there out there?

There are a lot of different screen types out there, all working in different ways to produce the same results. Each technology has its own unique strengths and weaknesses so here are some basics to consider:

LCD TV: CCFL
Until recently, all LCD TVs were backlit by always-on, CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) lamps. This ageing technology has been superseded by the superior LED method on more expensive sets, but is still standard on some cheaper models.

LED TV: Direct LED
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast. LED TVs are also more power efficient and capable of a wider colour gamut than CCFL sets. Because of the extreme cost of mounting these arrays of LEDs, Direct LED TVs have largely been out muscled by Edge LED…

LED TV: Edge LED
With these TVs, LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays and offers superior contrast levels to CCFL, but can’t achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets. However, they do come in far cheaper which is why most LED TVs out there now use this technology.

OLED TV
The backlighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) sets is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique produces far better colours and higher contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. This is the holy grail display technology and only in 2014 did a bigscreen OLED TV go on sale. So it’s new, it’s expensive and the top brands are still struggling to get their heads around it. To date, only LG has been able to release full sized OLED TVs.

Quantum Dot

Quantum Dot
As yet we’re not quite at the stage where we’re going to get self-emitting quantum dot LEDs, but they’re a-coming. What we do have though is Samsung producing its Nanocrystal filter based on quantum dot technology to produce a seriously improved colour palette and contrast levels that get mighty close to the pinnacle of OLED.

Plasma TV
PDP (plasma display panel) TVs use glass panels containing millions of tiny cells filled with a mixture of inert gases. Electricity excites the gases, causing them to illuminate the pixels across the screen. Plasma, while arguably superior to LCD in terms of contrast and colour accuracy, is only viable on large (42in+) screens and has been dropped by all but a handful of manufacturers. You’ll be lucky to find one on the shelves these days.

Curved TV
Some manufacturers are now making TVs that have slightly curved screens. But unlike old CRT TVs, the curve is inwards rather than outwards. The idea is that this makes every pixel equidistant from your eyes, delivering a more satisfying picture. However, there are drawbacks for this type of screen – the main one being that if you sit far enough to one side – more than 40 degrees or so – the curve clearly starts to affect the image’s geometry, foreshortening content near to you and compressing the image’s centre.

What resolution tech should I go for?

HD
HD TVs come in two resolutions. Sets with the HD ready are required to be able to display a minimum 720p picture, and generally has a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Meanwhile, Full HD TVs have a higher resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s highly advisable that you don’t go for anything less than full HD in this day and age.

Ultra HD and 4K
The resolution of Ultra HD is exactly four times higher than full HD – 3840 x 2160. It means a far more detailed picture, with content requiring a lot more bandwidth and storage space. 4K TVs tend to be good at upscaling HD video to Ultra HD but there are currently very few options for watching native 4K content. Read more about 4K.

HDR
Potentially the next big thing in TVs, HDR produces astounding levels of visual fidelity and can be found in some of the latest Ultra HD TVs. Arguably the shift to HDR video could make a more dramatic difference to your viewing experience than moving from HD to 4K. Like still HDR images, the moving version expands the range of both the light and dark ends of spectrum, providing more detail for both. HDR needs new filming methods though – at the moment there is no way to backfill HDR into existing video. It also needs new TV tech too, with Samsung the only ones to create specific screens, though LG and Sony are going be able to update some of their existing stock to be compatible.

What else should I consider?

Buying a flatscreen television is a major investment and one that you can’t afford to take lightly. Just popping into the closest store and grabbing the first plasma or LCD you see won’t get you the best deal, the screen that suits your needs, or the gear you require to make the most of your new purchase.

Size matters

People tend to pick the size of their flat TV based on the amount of space they have for it, this isn’t necessarily wise. Flat TVs take up much less space than you might think, so your new TV may end up a foot or two further away from your viewing position, making the picture appear smaller.

Also, with hi-def, you can have a bigger screen and the same viewing distance without worrying about seeing blemishes inherent to the source. HDTV’s lack of noise means that the ideal distance to sit from the screen is three to four times the height of the TV.

how to calculate the best tv size for you

How to calculate the right size HD TV:

The trick here is to ensure that your TV is big enough to fill your line of vision, but small enough to be sharp and clear. Remember, if you intend to only watch standard-definition sources, the bigger the screen gets, the worse the image will look.

The ideal screen size can be calculated by multiplying the distance that you intend to sit away from it by 0.535 and then rounding this up to the nearest size.

So, if you sit 80in away from your TV, the ideal size is 42-inch (80 x 0.535= 42.8).

What features should I look out for?

Features are too numerous to go into here, but here are some things you should consider.

Photo viewing: If you have a digital camera, a TV that has a slot for memory cards or a USB socket for a card reader will let you view your photos onscreen.

Here are some of the things we look for when we review a screen, so you should, too…

Contrast: Bright whites shouldn’t have any signs of green, pink or blue in them, while blacks should look solid and not washed out, grey, green or blue.

Colours: Look at how bright and solid they are; how noiseless their edges are; how ‘dotty’ richly saturated areas are and how natural skin looks, especially in dim scenes.

Fine detail: How much texture does the screen give? Does a tree look like a green lump, or can you see the individual leaves

Edges: Check for ghosting, bright halos and jaggedness, especially around curves.

Motion: Check moving objects and quick camera pans for smearing or blurring, trailing, jerkiness and fizzing dotty noise.

Image artefacts: Look for blockiness, colour bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it’s added by the TV picture processing or a weak TV tuner. Tinker with a TV’s picture settings before making a final decision. Factory settings are rarely good for everyday viewing.

Sony Ultra HD

What about sound?

To provide the best audio to complement the pictures, your TV should be hooked up to a surround sound system, but this isn’t always an option. So, here’s what we listen for when testing a TV’s speakers:

Bass: Deep, rounded rumbles that don’t cause the set to rattle or speakers to distort, cramp or overwhelm the rest of the sound; but that expand when needed.

Vocals: Voices should sound open, rich and clear, not boxed in, nasal or thin.

Trebles: Treble effects should sound clean, rounded and smooth in loud scenes and shouldn’t dominate the soundstage.

Soundstage width/depth: A good TV should throw the sound away from the TV, to the sides, forward and back, to give an extra dimension to what’s on screen, without losing any coherence.

Questions to ask before you buy

Taking the time to consider these questions will make choosing the best TV easier…

HD or 4K?

4K TVs are stunning and even though there is currently little native 4K content to enjoy, the good ones are able to upscale HD to 4K very well. That being said, unless you’re buying a very large TV – we’re talking 65-inches plus – full HD should be adequate.

What size do I need?

This is dictated by the dimensions of the room where the TV is going and the amount of cash you’re prepared to spend. As a general rule of thumb, work out how far from the set you’ll be sitting (in inches), multiply that distance by 0.535 and then round up the result to the nearest screen size. Bear in mind that a decent smaller telly is often a more sensible investment than a larger, less accomplished one. And if you’re going to buy a 4K TV, you can sit much closer because of the higher resolution.

How many HDMI sockets do I need?

For a living room TV you should be looking for a minimum of 3 HDMI inputs. If you want to attach a set-top box as well as games consoles etc, those HDMI ports will fill up fast.

Can I connect my older, analogue kit?

Most new sets carry no more than two composite connections, while S-video is fast approaching obsolescence. Check that your new TV can hook up to older digiboxes, VCRs or DVD decks that you might want to plug into it.

Do I want to hang my TV on the wall?

First off, you’ll need to consult a construction expert to check that the wall in question is strong enough to support a flatscreen. Then find out if the set you want is designed to be wall-mounted and, if so, ask if the relevant bracket is included in the basic package or as an optional extra.

Will I be connecting it to a home cinema?

If the answer is no, you might want to think more carefully about your set’s audio performance. Look for a screen that can go as loud as you’ll need without distortion or cabinet rattle. Consider how dialogue sounds and how much low-end rumble the bass is capable of.

Conversely, it’s pointless paying out more cash for exceptional built-in speakers if you already have a decent home cinema system.

Happy shopping!


Source: TechRadar

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