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 the best brands for smart TVs the U.S. See also our recommendations for the best smart TVs and the best 4k TVs.
Note: Since new TVs tend to launch at very high prices, it's unlikely that these newer models will become reasonable choices until the latter half of the year. Because of this, the 2018 models remain as picks in our recommendations.
Samsung 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 to 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 only incorporate 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 Samsung Q900R, the first 8k TV on the market, driving TV 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 Samsung Q9FN is the company's flagship, with great picture quality and impressive colors. In the mid-range category, the Samsung 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 Samsung 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 one of the first TV manufacturers that produced OLED TVs that can deliver true blacks, greatly enhancing picture quality. Apart from OLEDs, LG produces a large number of LCD TVs mainly using IPS panels, which are known to have wider viewing angles than VA panels at the expense of contrast ratio. The TVs at the lower end of LG's lineup are not expensive, but their performance isn't as good as the competition and they are not regularly recommended by us.
On a side-by-side comparison to other brands, LG TVs have excellent low input lag and wider viewing angles due to the IPS panel used, as explained before. These features make them a good choice for use as a monitor, since they are very responsive and minimize the possibility that you'll experience uniformity issues at the edges even when you sit up close. Unfortunately, the wide viewing angles come at the expense of lower native contrast ratio, which is more noticeable in a dark room where blacks tend to look more like gray. LG TVs run LG's WebOS, one of the best TV operating systems available. Its smart TV platform is fast, easy to use, and gives you access to one of the largest app collections, sure to suit any taste. LGs ship with one of the most advanced remotes that allow you to quickly navigate through the menus without any issues.
Although LG is famous for their top-tier OLED TVs, they have a very versatile TV lineup that spans all budgets. Most of their budget TVs are IPS with wide viewing angles, but they don't look as good in a dark room. The LG TVs that deliver the absolute best quality are the 2018 OLED TVs, the LG C8 and LG E8. They have an outstanding picture quality, with excellent motion handling and low input lag for gamers. The E8 has a more premium look and a dedicated soundbar. In the mid-range category, the LG SK9000 is a very good 4k LED IPS LCD TV with wide viewing angles, excellent low input lag, but, unfortunately, just decent dark room performance. The best budget TV from LG is the LG UK6300. It uses a less accurate RGBW pixel structure that may bother some people, but has decent overall performance and an outstanding low input lag.
Sony has been one of the biggest TV manufacturers since 1960, when they came out with their first transistor TV. Sony has always been at the edge of technology delivering products that span the entire market. In 2018, they consolidated their product lines and made it simpler for consumers to choose a TV. Sony has a product for every need, from the very basic 4k entry-level TV to the most technologically advanced OLED TVs for TV enthusiasts.
When compared to other manufacturers, Sony puts a higher priority in quality and picture accuracy. Every TV in their lineup, from the most budget one to the most premium one, is well-built. Sonys have good motion handling and can upscale lower resolution content very well. The newest Sony TVs run Android TV 8.0 which, apart from giving you access to the Google Play Store with a multitude of apps, is also much faster than its predecessor, solving one of Sony's greatest flaws: OS responsiveness.
Sony 2018 lineup only contained 4k TVs, and very few models were available in sizes smaller than 55", showing the trend the company wants to take. Sony's lineup has a TV to cover everyone's needs. The very best is the Sony A9F OLED that delivers an outstanding picture quality and an excellent HDR experience, as close as you can get to the creators' intent. If, however, you don't want to be exposed to the risk of burn-in that all OLEDs have, you can choose the Sony Z9F which is Sony's best LED/LCD TV, delivering excellent performance in almost any usage. The Sony X900F, a great TV, is Sony's top mid-range model that will keep most people happy with its performance. Finally, at the lower end of Sony's lineup, we find the entry-level Sony X750F, an IPS TV with wide viewing angles and decent picture quality.
Vizio is a US-based TV brand and one of the youngest members of the North American TV market. Their lineup is not as rich compared to other brands, and their TVs have historically been more budget-oriented. In 2018, however, Vizio released the Vizio P Series 2018 and the Vizio P Series Quantum, which outperformed many of the more expensive models from other brands in our tests. The Vizio P Series Quantum is still one of the best LED/LCD TVs we've tested so far.
Vizio TVs typically have a less versatile operating system, and their smart interface isn't as advanced as most of the competition. Even though the latest models have a more polished look, they still put their focus on casting. They have a limited number of apps, and you can not add any more, but you can easily stream content to the TV from your mobile device or tablet. Upscaling lower resolution content has been a weakness of Vizio TVs when compared to other brands, but this should not be an issue for most people. Their competitive price, great dark room performance, and low input lag for gaming have made Vizio a major player in the TV market.
The 2018 Vizio lineup included models ranging from budget TVs like the Vizio D Series 4k 2018 up to the highest performing TV that Vizio has released up to now, the Vizio P Series Quantum. The P Series Quantum is a remarkable TV that is only available in 65". The PQ65-F1 delivers a remarkable overall performance. It's one of the brightest TVs on the market, and it has great picture quality and an excellent dark room performance. It has impressive motion handling, and it's very responsive thanks to its low input lag. Vizio's mid-range TV, the Vizio P Series 2018, is almost as good as the P Series Quantum and is among our best picks in the mid-range category. It delivers great dark room performance, has excellent motion handling, and has outstanding gaming performance. Finally, Vizio's best budget model, the Vizio E Series 2018, delivers excellent dark room performance, has a low input lag, and is more suitable for a dim room as it can't get too bright.
TCL is another young player in the TV industry. They are one of the few remaining TV manufacturers that make everything themselves. In recent years, TCL has been releasing only a few models per year in North America and its models were only available in the US. It's only been a few months that they have entered the Canadian TV market. The models available to Canadians are the same as the ones in the US, and any minor differences are due to content licensing.
Compared to the competition TCL offers the cheapest TVs. They usually release only a few models per year compared to other brands, but their models stay on the market for longer. TCL TVs have been recognized for the Roku TV smart interface that is installed on all its models. Although it's not the fastest nor the fanciest of interfaces, the Roku TV smart interface is easy to use and gives you access to a very large collection of apps and streaming channels. The TCLs usually have a high native contrast ratio and will do well in a dark room. They can't get as bright as the competition and the viewing angles are usually slightly worse.
The TCL models span a wide range of sizes from 28" to 75" and are usually targeting the less expensive market segments. The TCL 6 Series (TCL R617/615/613) is the best of the brand that we've reviewed so far. It is a great TV that gets very bright, has very good picture quality, has deep blacks in a dark room, good motion handling, and very low input lag to please gamers. Unfortunately, the viewing angles are bad, but this is expected on a VA panel TV. The TCL 5 Series (TCL S517/515) is the only other TCL we've tested this year. Just like the 6 Series, it is a 4k TV but the TCL S517 can't get as bright and does not support local dimming to deliver the same good dark room performance. It has a low input lag and a wide color gamut, which is rare for a TV in this price range. Given its price, it is a good choice for gamers.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best TV brands for smart TVs 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.