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Best TV 2018: Which TV should I buy?

Best TV 2018: Which TV should I buy?
If you're after a new TV and you want the best there is, you've come to the right place. Below we list the very best TVs - including 4K and HDR models - available to buy in the UK right now. 

We've tested and rated specific models, but other sizes are available in all ranges, so if one is slightly out of your price range or you just don't want such a large one, then our ratings also apply to those too.

Alll of the TVs tested here have 4K resolutions. These UHD (Ultra HD) sets are the ones to buy now. Only go for a so-called Full-HD (1920x1080 pixels) set if you really can't afford a 4K model. 4K content is becoming more widely available with broadcasters gearing up to show a lot of sport and drama in 4K. 4K is also available over your internet connection (as long as it's quick enough - around 15Mb/s or so) via Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube and Sky Q. Alternatively you can buy a 4K Blu-ray player and buy movie discs.

BT also offers pay TV subscribers UHD sport (football, rugby, Moto GP, squash, to name but four) via its Infinity broadband delivered Sports channel. Because this streams at 2160/50p a much faster broadband connection is required. BT will generally refuse to offer a 4K set-top box to those Infinity customers on less than a 45Mb/s connection.

Your TV buying guide
The latest generation of 4K televisions combine 3840x2160-pixel resolution - that’s four times more than Full HD - with the latest HDMI inputs able to handle incoming 4K content sources, such as Ultra HD Blu-ray and media streamers such as the Nvidia Shield and Amazon Fire 4K TV box.

The key specification to look out for when it comes connectivity is a HDMI version 2 input with HDCP 2.2 support. The latter is a new level of copy protection is being used by all external 4K sources, so the more inputs that support it the better. If you buy a budget 4K telly, it most likely will only have one HDCP 2.2 compliant input. This could prove to be a bit of an Albatross when the content floodgates finally begin to open (have faith!).

The prices of 4K UHD TVs has fallen dramatically. Most are typically priced where HD models where just a few years ago. Manufacturers have switched all their larger sets to 4K resolution – so you’ll probably end up with one even if it’s not that important to you.

While the extra resolution that 4K offers is best appreciated on a large screen (55in plus), that hasn’t stopped smaller panels appearing. While there’s no reason not to buy a 4K TV at 40 inches, and the performance can be excellent, don’t expect to see overt picture improvements from typical viewing distances.

If you want to see how a TV will look in your room, Argos' latest app update includes an AR viewing option that's similar to the one in Ikea's app for furniture. It's available for iOS and Android but of course includes only models which Argos sells.

The general rule when buying a 4K set is go larger than your HD screen and view at the same distance, or sit closer. Or do both. 4K scales really large without revealing the pixels themselves, so it’s comfortable to view up close, though fast-moving scenes might make you feel nauseous.

It’s worth remembering though that the 4K UHD specification is an ever-evolving beast. Unlike previous leaps in TV quality (black and white to colour, SD to HD), it’s not intended to launch full formed. Hence a rolling calendar of phased updates which will continue past 2020, maxing out with 8K resolutions screens. A new generation of HDR (High Dynamic Range) UHD TVs arrived in 2017 which offer higher peak whites and better colour depth than what we have now. However, to appreciate these capabilities you need to feed your HDR 4K TV with HDR content, and there isn't masses around.

You'll find UHD Blu-rays such as Planet Earth II, and some content on Amazon and Netflix, but the rest is likely console games rather than TV shows and films.

The Google Assistant, Bixby and Siri are assistants that originated in smartphones but are gradually finding their way into TVs. With a voice-activated assistant onboard, you'll be able to adjust the volume and change the channel on the TV, but also control anything else within its scope, such as smart lights and heating. It's certainly a nice feature to have, but it's not a deal-breaker if it's missing.

If you can't install your TV yourself, note that Amazon now offers services including wall-mounting from around £100.

How we test TVs
All TVs are put through their paces with a variety of Full-HD and native 4K content. To further help assess motion resolution, colour performance, black levels and greyscale, we employ a variety of industry-grade test patterns.

All TVs are viewed with real-world content, with a selection of favoured Blu-rays, including Kill Bill Vol 2 (Uma Thurman’s burial is a dastardly test of dynamic contrast) and Planet Earth II in glorious HDR 4K. All 4K TVs will 'upscale' HD content to a lesser or greater degree (it won't simply appear as a small box in the middle - it is 'stretched' to cover all 8 million pixels). It’s a task some do better than others.

3D is fast being phased out, but those that support is are tested with help from Disney’s Tangled and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Finally, file-playback tests comprised accessing a collection of audio and video clips, comprising various codecs and wrappers, from both USB and a DLNA-capable NAS running Plex.

Best TVs 2018

Samsung QE55Q7FN
  • RRP: US$1899
Samsung is betting big on QLED, and while it might intentionally sound (and look) like OLED, it's traditional LCD technology on steroids. The bottom line is that the Q7FN is a very impressive TV, and not just from an image quality perspective.

Yes, it has excellent HDR performance and colours to die for, but it's also packed with handy features from the near-invisible cable which manages somehow to deliver video and audio to the TV as well as power. That alone should make it your first choice if you need to wall-mount your TV.

There's also simple setup via the SmartThings app, an ambient mode that puts interesting content on the screen when you're not actually watching TV and a great learning remote that can control all your existing set-top boxes.

With a good selection of apps and streaming services, plus Samsung's Bixby assistant on tap, it's a great all-rounder that's cheaper than equivalent OLED TVs.

Read our full Samsung Q7FN review.

  • RRP: £2,499
This impressively specified 55-inch UHD TV was actually the cheapest model in LG’s 2017 OLED range. It cost £2,499 when it launched, but you can now pick it up for £1,399 - that's a hefty discount.

Everything about the B7 remains reassuringly premium. The slim silver bezel and crescent stand are suitably ritzy, while an all-white rear adds a designer flourish to the rear. The screen is wafer-thin, but extends to 48.6mm to accommodate electronics.

Connections include four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 enabled. There’s also three USB inputs, one of which is v3.0. Smart connectivity is via LG’s excellent webOS, accessed via the cursor-based Magic remote. Freeview Play makes Catch-up viewing a cinch. 

Another thing we’re not short of here is HDR variants.  Netflix streams with both HDR and Dolby Vision, as well as Dolby Atmos audio when available. There's also Amazon with UHD HDR and YouTube in 4K. Technicolor HDR support is promised, although we’re not sure why.

Image quality is outstanding. OLED’s trademark black level performance is complemented by superb shadow detail, and wide colour. Peak brightness is just over 750 cd/m2, lending real punch to HDR content.

Motion handling is reasonable. For sports coverage, opt for the Clear Trumotion setting. For other content, select User (de-judder 0/de-blur on 8). 

Inevitably, audio is less impressive, although there is a Dolby Atmos decoder onboard. To take advantage of this, partner the TV with a sound solution that’s also Atmos compatible.

Sony ZD9 Series
The 65-inch Sony ZD9 may come with a steep price tag, but it’s also the best implementation of HDR on an LED TV we’ve seen this year. Key to its success is Sony’s unique full array Backlight Master Drive, which comprises an unspecified number of precision calibrated LED lights controlled by a proprietary lighting algorithm. These allow the ZD9’s backlight to work with uncanny precision. The set has no problem delivering the kind of spectral highlights that really make HDR shine!

Design is also striking. The bezel of the ZD9 is trimmed in a rose gold, while connections are hidden behind pop off panels. There are four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 ready, plus, digital optical audio output and Ethernet/Wi-Fi. Active 3D is also supported.

The ZD9 runs the Android TV OS. This can be inelegant at times, but there’s no shortage of streaming services. These include Netflix, Amazon Video (both 4K capable) and YouTube, plus a full complement of Catch-Up TV, courtesy of a YouView TV guide overlay.

Picture quality is outstanding. In addition to that Backlight Master Drive, the set employs a new X1Extreme HDR image processor which does a remarkable job with all sources, even when they’re not 4K resolution.

If the set does has an Achilles heel it’s audio. A small carp (which incidentally is what it sounds like), given the general excellence of this superb set.  And you'll probably use a soundbar anyway.

Panasonic TX-55EZ952
It may not be Panasonic’s UHD hero screen, but the THX-certified 55-inch EZ952 OLED remains this year’s best Panasonic TV Buy. 

With its ‘Pro 4K’ processing and deftly tuned cinematic presets, this 55-incher offers sumptuous image quality that really makes the most of 4K content. Indeed, it seems to pull more detail and nuance from 4K material than any screen in its class.

Images are both supremely sharp, but naturalistically detailed. It’s near black performance is also exemplary, and colour rendering excellent. Panasonic’s 4K Hexa Chroma Drive Pro image engine claims to cover almost 100 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour space.

The design is unfussy. The panel itself is just 4mm thin, swelling only to accommodate electronics. Connections include four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, plus three USBs, including a v3.0 variant, and a minijack adaptor for AV. There’s also an SD card reader.

Panasonic’s My Home Screen 2.0 is derived from the Firefox TV OS, and is highly customisable, while Freeview Play offers easy access to all the main catch-up TV services. Netflix streams in 4K with HDR, Amazon Video and YouTube also offer 4K support. 

To be honest, this isn’t the brightest premium HDR screen we’ve seen (we measured its peak output at less than 600 cd/m2), but the overall balance is expertly judged. It’s a very comfortable implementation of HDR. A Brightness Enhancer improves HDR image quality in rooms with high ambient light.  

Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation motion smoother is overly aggressive though. Engage IFC Mid or Max, and motion artifacts become all too apparent.  

The least noteworthy aspect of the EZ952 is its audio. While there’s no shortage of welly, it’s hardly a match for set’s picture prowess.

Again, like the LG B7, this is another TV that was considerably more costly when it launched: you can now pick it up for £1598 from Currys PC World.

Hisense U7A
  • RRP: £599
Let’s not beat around the bush: this budget 4K 55-incher is ridiculously well specified. It adds HDR compatibility to 2160p resolution, throws in a Freeview Play tuner and comes with a well-stocked, contemporary smart portal. It even has the temerity to look svelte, with its thin bezel and fashionable stand. 

Hisense’s Vidaa U smart portal isn’t half bad either. It comprises a scrolling list of service and apps. Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube can all stream content on 4K, while the set’s provision of Freeview Play ensures that you have key catch-up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and Demand 5, ready to hand.  

Connections include four HDMI inputs (but only two support 4K at 60Hz), two USBs, plus composite AV. The remote control has plenty of handy short-cut buttons to YouTube, Netflix and picture mode settings.

Image quality is solid, thanks to a full fist of 4K detail and vibrant colour palette. HDR support is decent, although peak whites aren't quite up to the dazzling level we've seen from last year's 50-inch model. 

Neverthless, this translates to real zing, be it from 4K Blu-ray or the on-board streaming services.

The set’s audio performance isn't bad at all. It won't replace a decent sound bar, but it's fine for soap operas. The digital audio output can be switched between PCM and Dolby Digital, and there's an option for adjusting the delay to compensate for any lip sync issues.

Ultimately, at this low price it's a tempting TV for just about everyone.

Philips 6703 

This mid-range 4K HDR set offers something you won't find from any other TV manufacturer: Ambilight. So in addition to very respectable image quality, the 6703 benefits from LEDs around the top and sides at the back of the TV.

The LEDs copy the colours of the image on screen, effectively extending it into the room. Once you've owned a Philips TV with Ambilight, it's hard to go back.

There are some niggles, such as only three HDMI inputs and only one of those supports HDCP 2.2. It's also a shame that, despite having LED backlighting there's no local dimming. There is 'micro dimming' but this isn't the same thing.

Ultimately, though, you won't be disappointed by the 6703's image quality at this price. If you want noticeably better black levels and wider viewing angles prepare to pay a heck of a lot more on an OLED TV.

Read our full Philips 6703 review.

Toshiba 49U7763DB
In terms of design, this tidy Toshiba is a clear winner. The thin-bezeled 49-inch screen sits on a reassuringly heavy flat chrome stand. Look closer, and you’ll spot a forward facing micro-speaker array, disguising by a cloth grille. It’s very classy. 

Rear connections comprise four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 compatible, three USBs (one of which is a fast blue v3.0), composite and component inputs, VGA and SCART.

The Smart portal has Netflix and YouTube, both of which can stream in 4K, but it’s a bit dated. Freeview Play ensures all main catch-up services are available.

There’s no support for HDR, but average picture brightness is quite high for this class of screen. We measured a full white field at just over 230 cd/m2. The set uses a wide colour gamut panel too, and presents hues without oversaturation.

To maximise sparkle, use the Dynamic mode (not a recommendation we give often). The Toshiba looks filmic with all HD sources. Native 4K is crisp, but resolution benefits aren’t so obvious on a such a relatively small screen.

Watch out for the Energy Saving mode, which is on by default. This should be turned off, as it diminishes image brightness. 

Audio performance is surprisingly entertaining for such a slim set, a benefit of those forward facing drivers. This isn’t a TV for gamers though. In Game mode we measured input lag at a high 59.4ms.

However, at just £379 from John Lewis, it's cheap as chips.

Philips 43PUS6262
This cheap 43-inch 4K TV has an obvious edge over rival budget models: it sports Ambilight. It may basic, two-sided Ambilight, but it still provides brilliant room lighting and can be used in conjunction with a Philips Hue system.

The bijou set has other niceties too. Not only is it HDR compatible, there’s Freeview Play with copious Catch-Up TV, plus Netflix, YouView and Amazon 4K streaming. 

In terms of design, the set looks fine, but the finish is plasticky. Connections include three HDMI inputs all of which are HDCP 2.2 compliant. There’s also component AV and two USB ports.  

This Philips has a reasonably sharp UHD picture, but it’s not overly bright, so best manage your HDR expectations. We measured peak HDR luminance with a 5 per cent window at 358 cd/m2. The HDR Movie mode is very dull indeed. Ultimately, the screen is at its best with SDR sources, be it Freeview HD or Sky Q 4K.

Motion handling is pernickety. When watching films, select Off or Movies from the Motion Style menu. Use Sports for...well, you know. 

Audio quality is unremarkable, so plan to add a soundbar at some point. 

Cello 55 Platinum P55ANSMT-4K
There’s nothing insubstantial about Cello’s 55-inch 4K LCD TV. It’s unashamedly bulky (88mm deep) and distinguished by an integrated soundbar which makes a design feature of its tweeters and woofers. It’s this soundbar that gives the set an edge over rival budget screens. It’s not hi-fi, but it has undeniable weight and clarity. This isn’t a TV designed to sit quietly in a corner.

Rear side connections comprise three HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, plus a trio of USBs and composite AV. Unusually, there’s also a micro SD card reader. The tuner is standard Freeview HD offering. 

The smart platform is an early iteration of the Android TV OS, v4.4, and proves a bit of a horror to use. If you want streaming services, buy an HDMI dongle or use a Blu-ray player. The UI is also a simple affair. Picture modes comprise Standard, Dynamic, Theatre and Personal, but there’s no option to fine tune images.  

When it comes to 4K resolution, this set puts it all on screen. But there’s no HDR support. Indeed, it’s not particularly bright. We measured a full white field at just 175.473 cd/m2. As a consequence, it’s best not used in a room with high ambient light. Opt for a darker viewing room though and you’ll be fine. Blacklight uniformity is good, and colour fidelity strong. There’s a limit to just how black it can go though. 

We noted a 5 per cent overscan as standard. The only way to combat this is to swap HDMI Video mode to HDMI PC Mode. The screen doesn’t have any interpolation modes to retain motion detail, but the image actually looks quite filmic. There’s another benefit to this paucity of processing. This Cello’s gaming performance is great. We measured a low 30.3ms in HDMI video mode, dropping to 26.5ms in HDMI PC mode.

Sony KD-65A1
With its Acoustic Surface audio technology and stunning design, Sony’s 65-inch A1 OLED flatscreen debut literally stands apart from the rest.

The ‘one-slate’ design is minimal, yet inventive. The set doesn’t use a conventional pedestal. Instead, the OLED panel leans back on an angled support, braced for rigidity. The impression is that the A1 is lightly resting on its bezel, quite a feat for something that tips the scales at 30kg. 

Acoustic Surface Technology allows the panel itself to radiate sound. Attached to the rear of the panel are a pair of sonic actuators. These vibrate to create stereo. They handle the mid-range and up, leaving deeper bass to a conventional woofer built into the stand. The total audio output is 50W – 2x20 for the stereo pair, and 10W feeding the sub. 

Connections comprise four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, alongside a trio of USBs.

Tuner is Freeview HD, but there’s a YouView app running on top. The set uses the Android smart platform and has Chromecast built-in. Apps include Netflix and YouTube in 4K. 

Picture quality is fabulous. This wide colour OLED couples huge dynamics with vibrant colour. Sony’s 4K HDR X1 Extreme image engine is largely responsible. Super bit-mapping technology takes an 8-bit or 10-bit signal and upconverts it to a 14-bit equivalent gradation. The result is clean, band-free images.

Meanwhile object-based HDR remastering does a brilliant job selectively boosting peak highlights, yet maintaining detail, in regular SDR content.   

The A1 supports HDR and Dolby Vision. It’s also bright for an OLED, measuring just shy of 800 cd/m2. 

Motion handling is a mixed bag. Motionflow XR Smooth and Clear settings suffer from artefacts around moving objects. For sports, use the Custom setting (Smoothness 3, Clearness Low). 

Overall, we consider the A1 a sensational TV. Picture quality is top notch, and Sony’s Acoustic Surface wizardry is as effective (if not better) than any mid-range sound bar.



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