If it’s been nearly a decade since you last shopped for a television, you may find the current jargon (like smart LED, Ultra HD, 4K, 8K, OLED, QLED, HDR, 120Hz and HDMI 2.1) to be just a tad overwhelming. As someone who’s reviewed TVs since the days of rear projection and plasma, I try to keep it simple by concentrating on one concept: the best picture quality for the money.
The list below represents the best TVs I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab, where I compare their smart TV features and the viewing experience side by side to see which ones are most worth buying. Here are my latest recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind.
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OLED TVs are the picture quality kings, but they’re not cheap. The TVs’ OLED displays use organic light-emitting diode technology to deliver a contrast ratio, viewing angle, and a wide color gamut that no LCD TV (or QLED TV) can match. All of LG’s 2019 OLED models include the latest version of the HDMI standard: 2.1. That means their HDMI port can handle 4K at 120fps, as well as two gamer-friendly extras: variable refresh rate and automatic low latency mode (aka auto game mode). As the least expensive OLED TV, the B9 is our favorite premium TV overall for high-end shoppers. It fell just a bit short of the C9 in image quality in our tests, but the differences are minuscule — and since it’s less expensive than the C9, it’s a better value.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Read our LG OLEDB9P series review.
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No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to improved color, and its well-implemented full-array local dimming helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
Sizes: 55-, 65-inch.
Read our TCL 6-Series (2019 Roku TV) review.
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What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests the C9 is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, barely beating the B9 (above), although the B9 is a superior value — almost as good and much less expensive. But if that “barely” matters to you, the C9 might be worth the extra cash.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Read our LG OLEDC9P series review.
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Can’t afford an OLED TV? Still willing to pay extra — but not that much extra — for good color and outstanding image quality? The Vizio PX is our pick for you, with superb light output no OLED can match, top-notch local dimming and all the high-contrast, high dynamic range joy that comes with it. Its closest competitor is the TCL below — but this Vizio is the superior value.
Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.
Read our Vizio P-Series Quantum X review.
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Roku is our favorite platform for a live TV streaming service like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
Read our TCL S425 series (Roku TV) review.
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Best picture quality in a non-OLED
Speaking of top-of-the-line, this TCL features Mini-LED, a technology that isn’t found on any other TV currently available. The result is superb contrast, brightness and high dynamic range that outdoes the Vizio PX by a nose, although it doesn’t quite hit OLED levels. We still consider the PX a better OLED alternative, however, because its picture quality is almost as good and it costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.
Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.
Read our TCL 8-Series (2019 Roku TV) review.
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Samsung’s QLED TV is basically a fancy, smart LCD TV — don’t confuse it with OLEDs. The Q70R has an excellent picture and plenty of Samsung TV design and features goodies for a price that’s relatively affordable, albeit not exactly “budget.” If you’re not interested in a TCL or Vizio and don’t want to splurge for an OLED, the Q70 is an excellent choice.
Sizes: 49-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 82-inch.
Read our Samsung Q70 series (2019) review.
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Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money; no TV offers this much picture for this little cash. In my comparisons, the TCL won slightly in a couple of important areas, in particular HDR brightness and contrast and black levels. I’d also recommend the TCL to streaming-centric viewers because of its superior Roku smart HDTV system. It’s great for watching Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, and more. And its color accuracy — with quantum dot colors — is superb. All of that said, the Vizio is still an excellent choice and sometimes available for less than the TCL — just make sure you’re getting the M8, not the M7.
Sizes: 55-, 65-inch.
Read our Vizio M-Series Quantum M8 series (2019) review.
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For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make the most sense. The picture is “good enough” and the built-in smarts are superb — just enough to watch the final season of “The Office” or “Friends” content. And the price is perfect for a kids’ room or secondary room where you don’t need a massive screen.
Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 40-inch size.)
Read our TCL S325 series (Roku TV) review.
Other stuff to know about buying a new TV
I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.
Prices for 2019 TVs started hitting their lowest points around late November (for Black Friday) and will continue to go on sale through the spring.In spring 2020 new TV models will arrive, but since TVs are generally a mature technology, they won’t be worth waiting for if you want a TV now.In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.If you don’t like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a media streamer. They’re cheap and easy to use, and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.
Looking for even more info? Here’s everything to know about buying a new TV in 2020.
LG B9 OLED TV review: This is the high-end 2019 TV to…
Originally published last year. Updated periodically with new recommendations.