Shopping for a new TV can be challenging; with so many different models out there, it can be hard to even know where to start. To further complicate things, new brands have dramatically increased in popularity in recent years, and some of these new brands have started releasing models that match or even outperform far more expensive models from the established brands.
From smart features to design, each brand has its own way of doing things. So how do they stack up? Read on to find out our take on 5 of the biggest TV brands in the U.S. See also our recommendations for the best smart TVs.
The South Korean tech giant is well known in the TV industry. Their TVs range from the smallest 720p budget TVs to the largest 4k ones, and recently an 8k premium TV even hit the market. Most of their models have great picture quality and very good smart features since Samsung puts a lot of research to bring further improvements in this area. The Tizen OS, Samsung's smart platform, is one of the best in the market. Samsung includes new features and innovative designs in their models that make them stand out. A recent addition is the 'Ambient Mode' that transforms your TV into a work of art.
New models usually incorporate only small changes from the previous year, but this does not mean they are slow in adapting and trying out new technologies. The QLED TVs that deliver outstanding colors unmatched by any other brand until recently, were first introduced into the market in 2017. In 2018, they released the Q900R, the first 8k TV on the market, driving TVs enthusiasts' adrenaline to new peaks. They are also the first TV manufacturer that offered support to nascent technologies like FreeSync VRR, low latency motion interpolation, and auto game mode in their high-end TV lineup. At the same time, they like to make their existing customers happy by offering updates to their existing fleet. Recently, they updated the firmware of many of their 2018 models to include support for those nascent technologies.
If you are a fan of large screens or just want as small secondary TV, Samsung has something for every room size and every wallet. The Q9FN is the company's flagship, with great picture quality and impressive colors. In the mid-range category, the NU8000 is one of the most popular TVs on the market. It is packed with gaming features, has very good picture quality, and spans across a variety of sizes. In the budget category, Samsung offers the NU7100 in sizes ranging from 40" to an impressive 75". The NU7100, despite the budget price, still delivers decent overall picture quality and runs the same smart platform found on the more expensive models.
LG is well known in the TV industry for being one of the first TV manufacturers to embrace OLED technology, and they also make a wide assortment of LCD TVs, most of them IPS. Most of their lower-end TVs are inexpensive, but unfortunately, many of them aren't as good as the similarly priced offerings from their competition, so they are rarely recommended by us.
Compared to other brands, LG TVs typically have the best viewing angles, and they typically have excellent low input lag, making them great for gaming. Unfortunately, as most of their lower-tier TVs use IPS panels, they have poor contrast and don't look as good in a dark room. On the other hand, LG has one of the best TV operating systems out there. It is fast and easy to use, and even the remote is one of the most advanced, making it very easy to navigate menus, so you can quickly get to enjoying your content instead of navigating countless menus.
LG is best known for their top-tier OLED TVs, but they also make decent budget models. Like Samsung, there is an LG TV for every budget, but unfortunately, since most lower-end LG TVs are IPS, they don't look as good in a dark room. The best LG TV is the 2018 LG C8 4k OLED. The C8 delivers outstanding picture quality, with excellent motion handling and low input lag for gamers. In the mid-range, the LG SK9000 is a very good 4k LED LCD TV with wide viewing angles, excellent low input lag, and bright highlights, but unfortunately, it doesn't look as good in a dark room. Finally, the LG UK6300 is their best budget TV. It delivers decent overall performance with outstanding low input lag, but uses a less accurate RGBW pixel structure that may bother some people.
Sony has been a powerhouse in the TV industry since the 1960s with their first transistor TV. Since then, TV technology has evolved, and Sony has evolved with it. In 2018, Sony consolidated their product lines, releasing fewer models and simplifying the process of choosing a TV for consumers. Covering everything from entry-level 4k TVs to the most advanced OLED TVs, Sony has something for just about everyone.
Compared to the competition, Sony puts a greater focus on quality and picture accuracy. Even their budget models are well built, and they have a consistent design language across the entire brand. Sony TVs typically have good motion handling and great upscaling. Unfortunately, although their smart operating system is arguably one of the most versatile, it is also one of the slowest. Most 2018 Sony TVs run the Android 7.0 Operating System, and although it has a huge selection of apps, it can be slow.
Sony in 2018 only offers 4k TVs, and they have very few models available smaller than 55". That being said, whether you want the most advanced OLED TV, or a simple IPS TV for a wide seating area, Sony has something for everyone. Sony's best TV is the A9F OLED, which, like the LG C8, delivers outstanding picture quality and excellent gaming performance. If you don't like the possibility of burn-in, the Z9F is Sony's best LED/LCD TV. Both of these models are part of Sony's recently released MASTER Series, and they truly deliver outstanding performance that is about as close as you can get to the creator's intent. If you want something cheaper, the X900F is Sony's best mid-range TV. It is a great TV with very good dark room performance. Sony doesn't really have any TVs that would traditionally be considered budget, but their entry-level X750F is a decent IPS TV with great viewing angles.
A relative newcomer in the North American TV market, Vizio is one of the last U.S.-based TV brands. They have relatively few models compared with other brands, and historically they have been more budget-oriented. 2018 has been a game-changing year for Vizio, with the Vizio P Series and P Series Quantum outperforming many of the competition's more expensive models. The P Series Quantum is, in fact, one of the best LED/LCD TVs we've ever tested.
Vizio TVs typically aren't as advanced as most of the competition. While recent models have a polished and modern smart interface, they use a simpler operating system, with a limited selection of apps and they offer no way to add new ones. Instead, Vizio TVs stream content from your existing mobile device. Vizio TVs also typically have worse upscaling than the competition, although this shouldn't be an issue for most people. On the other hand, Vizio TVs are typically competitively priced, and they usually have great dark room performance and low input lag for gaming.
This year, Vizio has released new models ranging from small budget TVs to the most advanced big screen TVs. All of the TVs we reviewed were 4k, but they still have a few 1080p budget models as well. The best Vizio TV we've reviewed so far is the Vizio P Series Quantum. Although it is only available in 65", it is an outstanding LED/LCD TV that delivers great picture quality, with excellent motion handling and low input lag for gaming, and it is one of the brightest TVs on the market. Their best mid-range TV is the standard P Series. Available in a variety of sizes, the P Series is almost as good as the Quantum, with a great local dimming feature and excellent motion handling. The best budget Vizio TV is the E Series 2018. Like the other Vizio TVs, the E Series has excellent dark room performance and low input lag, but it can't get very bright, so it is best enjoyed in a dim room.
TCL is one of the newer players in the TV industry, just like Vizio. They are unique because they are one of the very few remaining TV manufacturers that make everything themselves. During the past years, TCL released only a few new models each year in North America, and up until recently all the models we've reviewed were only available in the U.S. In the last few months TCL has entered the Canadian market, making all of the models we've reviewed this year available to Canadians with minor differences due to content licenses.
TCL offers the cheapest TVs when compared to the competition. They do not release as many models as other manufacturers each year, but they tend to keep their TV models available in the market for longer. All TCL TVs use the Roku TV smart platform as their smart interface which is great. The Roku TV isn't the fanciest of interfaces, but it is easy to use, fast, and offers an outstanding variety of streaming channels and apps that you can download. In terms of performance, the TCLs can't get as bright as some of its competitors and their viewing angles are below average.
TCL targets the budget to mid-range market segments and its model sizes range from 28 to 65 inch. The best TCL TV we've reviewed so far is the TCL 6 Series (R617/615/613). It has a very good performance in almost any usage. The R617 has great dark room performance and can get very bright to overcome bright room glare. The TCL 5 Series (S517/515) is the only other TCL we've reviewed this year. It is a 4k TV with decent overall performance and a low input lag, great for gamers. It also has a wide color gamut and a high native contrast ratio that help improve picture quality. The 5 Series holds the distinction of being one of the cheapest TVs ever with a wide color gamut.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best TV brands and the best TVs available to buy for most people in each price range, from the 5 biggest TV brands in the U.S.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our TV reviews. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no TV is perfect, most TVs are great enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.