Those in the market for a new television face a tough choice. It’s not a gadget that you upgrade often, so you want something future-proof. With that in mind, what do you get?
While we still think smart TVs are mostly useless, it’s a bare minimum now. No matter which decent TV you get, it will come with a smart operating system to watch movies on Netflix or YouTube videos.
What you need to look for in a future-proof TV is 4K resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range). In fact, it should ideally support both the popular standards of HDR: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
With that in mind, what are some of the cheapest and the best budget 4K HDR smart TV you can buy today?
Note: We used a 55-inch size for all TVs so that the prices could be easily compared. For the right size for you, check our guide on how to pick the right TV size for your living room.
Cheapest With HDR10: TCL 55S405
The S405 is the cheapest HDR TV we would suggest right now. For less than 500 bucks, you’ll get a TV that meets all the requirements except support for Dolby Vision. Unfortunately, you will only get HDR10 in this, but that’s not a bad compromise.
TCL also uses Roku for its smart operating system. That means you don’t need to buy a Roku streaming device separately. It comes with a standard remote control though, not the nice Roku one.
Obviously, there’s a reason the 55S405 is so cheap. Multiple complaints bring up overly dark picture quality, even on HDR. And the speakers aren’t too powerful, so you might need to get a soundbar. FakeSpot adjusts the TCL’s rating down to 3.5/5 stars, which means it’s solid, but not amazing — which is what you’d expect for this price point.
Best and Cheap: TCL 55P607
Without breaking the bank, the TCL 55P607 gets you everything you could want from a future-proof TV, and more. It supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and has full-array LED backlighting for excellent picture quality.
The Roku operating system also comes with the Roku remote control. That means you get voice-activated search, as well as the coolest feature: headphones. You can plug in a pair of headphones into the remote to not disturb anyone else around you.
This is the best TV for most people, according to The Wirecutter. CNET calls it the best value TV of 2017. Every reviewer is nuts about this one, so who are we to argue?
The only negative we could find is the F-rating from FakeSpot due to a high number of low-quality reviews and possible use of paid reviewers.
For Gamers: Sony XBR55X900E
Among the current generation consoles, the new PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X support 4K HDR gaming. And the next generation of consoles definitely will support it too. If you won’t upgrade your TV before 2021, get something that supports HDR gaming well.
With an input lag of 34ms in HDR gaming, the Sony X900E is all you’ll need to enjoy your favorite games at their best. It pushes out two solid alternatives: the LG SJ8500 and the Samsung MU8000. The Sony television has better blacks and handles motion better than the LG. And it renders colors more accurately than the Samsung.
The one big problem with the Sony X900E is that it doesn’t support Dolby Vision. Now, that shouldn’t be a problem with gaming anyway. But if you also plan to watch HDR movies at their best possible quality, you’ll want this feature. We should also mention that it scores a C from FakeSpot.
So if you want Dolby Vision, the LG SJ8500 and the Samsung MU8000 are your choices. LG partnered with Harman Kardon to install powerful 20+20W speakers for rich sound. Samsung made a new clean slot for input wires, making your home entertainment setup clutter-free.
Cheapest OLED: LG OLED55B7A
For the best picture quality today, you need an OLED television. And that means spending quite a lot of money. At present, your cheapest option is the LG B7 model.
OLED screens don’t need backlighting. Each pixel individually lights up and switches off, giving you deeper black levels than anything on LCDs or LEDs.
Purists should know that there’s a sound problem here. Sure, this TV also has 20+20W speakers for loud audio. But it encodes to Dolby Digital, not Dolby Atmos. So if you’re watching anything through Dolby Vision, make sure you are using an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player that can handle it for the TV. However, its F rating from FakeSpot on five reviews might turn you off it.
Also, get the older LG B6 if you find it. It’s pretty much the same TV with no noticeable losses, and costs about $300 to $500 less depending on where you look.
You Can Go Cheaper Too…
Remember, these are still TVs that support 4K and HDR. You can still buy cheap smart TVs for a much lower price. But the question to ask, as always, is how long you plan to keep that TV.
And no matter which model you get, make sure you calibrate it for best home viewing. TVs don’t come attuned to your needs out of the box. A little bit of tuning will make them look far better than you ever thought possible.
Which 4K HDR TV are you planning to buy? Or do you think HDR is not worth it just yet?