In the first in a series of home cinema hardware round-ups, a look at some terrific televisions and some recommended sets to buy too.
Buying a new TV is an exciting thing, and now is a really good time to buy one. Features such as HDR and Wi-Fi connections are well bedded in, and manufacturers are concentrating on lowering the prices of mature technology instead of trying to get us to upgrade to the very latest new thing.
There’s still a bit of that about – although you’re only going to want a high-end 8K television set if you’re made of money – but the breathtaking level of detail and colour available from a good 4K HDR TV in 2020 really does blow away anything released in the last five years. Now is a good time to buy a new TV, especially as we’re all watching a lot more movies at home these days.
Luckily, 4K material has exploded, with all the main streaming services offering it with HDR, and 4K Blu-ray players cheaper than ever – and with new games consoles on the horizon that will act as all-in-one entertainment hubs, a TV upgrade could be the final purchase that really ties your home cinema room together.
Here are five sets worth checking out. Let us know in the comments if these round-ups are of use, and if there are any other areas you want us to cover.
Please note: the links go to online stores. These online stores, if you buy via the links, benefit this website. But we want you to know that upfront. Other retailers are available.
More details and purchase info
Available in sizes up to 77″ (though 65 seems like a good compromise), LG’s flagship OLED TV for 2020 is an absolute bargain when you consider that other sets in its quality bracket go for about twice as much. OLED was already a great screen technology thanks to its ability to evenly display contrast, even when light and dark areas are right next to one another, but LG’s new generation processing pushes this even farther, keeping skintones realistic and detail really pop – even in an imperfectly lit room, thanks to Dolby Vision IQ.
We’ve seen higher peak brightness on other TVs, but 800nits is normal for OLEDs and thanks to the clever software you’ll never notice the difference. LG’s WebOS smart TV software is a straightforward row of icons that take you to different sources, and LG’s ‘magic remote’ means you can point it at items on-screen rather than having to scroll through endless menus.
With four HDMI 2.1 ports and all the other connectivity you could need, the only thing LG has left out is HDR10+ (Amazon’s system of choice) support, which is a shame, but the Dolby Vision-powered pictures it produces (from Netflix among others) are vivid and full of colourful detail. There’s very little to complain about unless you go nit-picking, so we suggest you just enjoy the experience instead.
More details and purchase info
Part of a pair of near-identical TVs – the Q90 lacks the Samsung Q95’s neat external connection box, preferring to put the ports on the TV itself – the big draw here is the fantastic QLED panel with a maximum brightness of over 2000nits. That number is huge, and the pictures you’ll get from this set – available up to 85in – are a world away from those you’re used to seeing from budget sets, as you’d expect from Samsung’s 2020 4K flagship.
There’s a full array backlight and localised dimming behind that brightness level, along with some power-delivery cleverness that sends current to different areas of the screen in an ‘intelligent’ manner, or at least it tries to keep up with what’s being displayed on the screen. Sound is treated in the same manner, at least if you’re using the built-in speakers rather than, say, one of the best soundbars you can buy, as thanks to speakers built into the top of the casing as well as the bottom the TV can make sounds come more realistically from the right areas of the screen.
The breakout box is attached by a thin cable, and contains four HDMI ports and three USBs, plus Freeview HD in if that’s your kind of thing. The set’s anti-reflection coating and black metal stand means it’s an imposing presence in any room until it’s switched on, when it becomes a window to a whole new world.
Scraping in under £900 for the 58in model, Panasonic’s 2020 edge-lit LCD 4K set is remarkable value, supporting every HDR format and providing wonderful picture quality in the right conditions.
That caveat about the conditions comes because the brightness level isn’t as high as seen on other brands’ latest offerings, at around 450 to 500nits. Panasonic really knows what it’s doing in terms of settings and calibration, however, as the rich and accurate output from what might be (wrongly) sneered at as an inferior screen speaks for itself.
The exterior design is an exercise in slim minimalism, with just a thin bezel and maker’s name, and Panasonic’s smart platform – My Home Screen – follows the lead, being easily customisable so that the services you use most are right under your pointer when the menu pops up. The only exception to this is if you’re a heavy Disney+ user: the TV doesn’t have an app for it, so you’ll be reliant on an external HDMI stick or Chromecast to get your Frozen jollies.
Philips Ambilight – where the TV generates its own lightshow over the wall behind it to blend into your peripheral vision – is a bit divisive. Some love it, others would rather watch a 14in black and white portable. This is a top-quality OLED set available up to 65in, but the 55in limbos under the £1,000 mark, making it an attractive proposition. You can always turn the Ambilight off.
What this isn’t is Philips’ most modern processing engine – it’s a generation behind as a result of the cost-cutting that makes this such a bargain. That barely matters, however, when the pictures that OLED panel pumps out are so pleasing. There’s rudimentary onboard sound too, and the remote is a little sparse, but you’re paying for the panel here, and a separate set of speakers should be on everyone’s list anyway.
There’s support for all kinds of HDR, four HDMI 2.0 ports, and a couple of USBs, plus a peak brightness of 700nits that puts us firmly in mid-range territory. Everything about this set, apart from that sparkling OLED panel, is just barely good enough. You may want to lavish it with audio upgrades, and maybe pick up a streaming stick to replace the basics on-board smart OS, but from a picture point of view you’ll need to spend a lot more money to beat this gem.
Sixty-five inches of 4K real estate for less than £800? It is possible, and it looks like this. Samsung’s Crystal LED TVs are the level below its QLED offerings. Crystal LED isn’t quite as bright as it utilises older panel technology, and comes in cheaper as a result. Not that you’re missing much, however.
This set has the same Tizen OS as its more expensive cousins, sports three HDMI ports and two USBs, plus all the usual networking to pipe 4K pictures to your TV over the internet. A clever dual-LED system in the backlight mixes LEDs of differing colour temperatures to keep the contrast ratio up and bring out a decent picture. You’re only looking at about 300nits of brightness, and Dolby Vision (Netflix’s HDR method) support is missing.
Outside, the speakers are crying out for a soundbar, and the exterior design is conservative. It’s big, however, has a good stable of smart apps, and won’t break the bank. Sometimes, things like this matter.
Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:
Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.
Become a Patron here.