Our Picks for the Best TVs of 2018
The envelope please...
Remember the huge leap forward from flip-phones to iPhones in 2007? Well, it’s the same all over again, but this time with TVs… and the new ones are game-changers.
Two big differences: 1) Unlike smart phones, TVs have come down in price, and drastically so, making today’s amazing new TV technology affordable for all, and 2) Of the many TV manufacturers out there, three clearly rise above: LG, Sony, and Samsung. (“The Big Three.”)
Each brand offers models that excel in certain areas (e.g. “this one’s best in a bright room” or “this one sounds best right out of the box”), but bottom line? Though it’s pretty hard to buy anything short of a wonderful TV from one of the Big Three, you can still hone your choice based on your own personal taste, your particular room, and what you like to watch. And that’s what this is all about: our experts picking the best of the best – by category.
(Psssst… before diving in, you can get up to speed with our new “2018 TV Buying Guide.” It’s very consumer friendly and offers a fair lay of the land.)
Brand & model: Samsung NU8000
Sizes available: 49” • 55” • 65” • 82”
Price range: MSRP starting at $997.99
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR 10+ • Edge-Lit LED • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • Bluetooth Headset Support • 4 HDMI Ports • 2 USB Ports
Our caseAs of this writing, you can buy a brand new 2018 Samsung 49-inch 4K/HDR LED TV for less than a grand. Even better: the 82-inch version of the same thing is currently going for less than four grand. And to understand just how big an 82-inch TV really is, go grab a tape measure, pull out 82 inches, and place it diagonally against your wall. (WOW, right? Especially at this price point.)
What else?Download Samsung’s “SmartThings” app, and you can use your TV as a hub to monitor all your connected devices. Check the baby, see what’s in the fridge, get notified when the wash is done, even summon Samsung’s robot POWERbot® Robot Vacuum to clean up.
All Samsung NU8000 TVs come with “Bixby,” Samsung’s intelligent voice assistant, so you can talk to your TV or your remote and tell Bixby what you want to watch.
2. The Most Beautiful TV. (Even when it’s off.)
Sizes available: 43” •55” • 65” (and a 32" model coming later this year)
Price range: MSRP starting at $1,599
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR • LED • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • Bluetooth • 4 HDMI Ports • 3 USB Ports • No gap wall mount • Custom floorstanding easel optional • Select from 100 different fine art choices in 10 categories • Frame options available
Samsung’s Frame TV doesn’t just resemble real framed artwork, it’s virtually indistinguishable from real framed artwork. To do it, the Frame TV uses sensors to detect ambient light, and then automatically adjusts the display to reflect what real art would look like under the same conditions. The result is persuasive – so much so that textures appear tactile, fooling even seasoned artists from across the room. Bottom line: this isn’t a gimmick – this is next level stuff.
You can choose one of three layout options: Shadow Box, Modern or No Matte. From there, select any fine art you’d like to display, or your own art or photos if you prefer. Samsung even offers an art easel as an optional way to display your TV, as well as additional frame colors (dark walnut, beige wood, or white) if you want to swap out the charcoal gray frame it comes with. The end effect is totally convincing.
As for the Frame TV’s technical prowess, you get over 1 billion colors, 4K UHD resolution, and a deeper High Dynamic Range (HDR) picture than most other TVs at this price point. Plus, it comes with a quad-core processor for apps, games, web browsing, mobile-to-TV mirroring, and voice control.
For more info (like where do the wires go?), check out our review: The Samsung Frame TV: Part Art, Part Television.
Samsung’s No Gap Wall Mount (which ships with the TV) sits almost flush to the wall, hugging it just like a frame. (Our installation experts say customers love this.) Even with the wall mount, the TV does allow for slight tilting (downward, top to bottom, and 6° left or right) for optimal viewing. Meaning: you can center your Renoir during parties, and then tilt the Knicks game towards your favorite chair when everyone’s gone.
LED Samsung TVs come with a separate media box, so all of you DIYers out there can easily mount The Frame to the wall. Your TV, sound bar, etc., all plug into the media box, leaving you with a clean setup.
What’s coming in this year?
A 32” model (perfect for the kitchen or bathroom), more art options, and a slideshow feature.
3. The Best Bang For Your Buck TV.
Brand and model: LG OLED C8
Sizes available: 55” • 65" •77"
Price range: MSRP starting at $2,996.99
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR • OLED • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • Bluetooth • 4 HDMI Ports • 3 USB Ports • Slim wall mount
There’s no debating the best picture technology: it’s OLED. (See our TV Buying Guide re: LED vs. OLED.) The only drawback: Although OLEDs deliver the best picture possible, they are pricier. The good news: LG offers the world an OLED 4K UHD / HDR Smart TV with its C8 series, which replaces last year’s C7 model. (And in case you missed it, Consumer Reports rated the C7 “among the best TVs we’ve tested so far in 2017… with an excellent high-definition picture, excellent UHD performance, and excellent sound.” The C7 also shared the #2 spot with Sony's A1E, which costs $800 more.)
So what’s different about the C8? In addition to the favorite standouts everyone loved about the C7 (perfect black, active High Dynamic Range, and Dolby Vision) here are some callouts, in a nutshell:
Better picture quality (higher contrast, clarity, and color), thanks to LG’s new A9 processor
4K cinema and Dolby Atmos support
Updated Smart features. The C8 (along with other LG OLED TVs) now feature artificial intelligence built-in. With just a hit of a button on the remote, you can use voice commands to go from watching Game of Thrones to Jessica Jones, adjust the volume, and control smart home devices.
OLED TVs look great from any angle, and this one from LG also lets you zoom in on scenes via the remote.
4. The Best TV for Sunny / Bright Rooms. (A tie.)
Sizes available: 49” • 55” • 65” • 75” • 85”
Price range: MSRP starting at $1098
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • Bluetooth • 4 HDMI Ports • 2 USB Ports • 1 Ethernet Port • HDCP2.2
The biggest reason we chose the 900F for “best in a bright room": Sony’s local dimming improvements and upscaling technology. (Upscaling is how 4K TVs make less-than-4K and/or standard-def shows and movies look even better, or more like actual 4K.) When we turned upscaling on, everything got significantly brighter, sharper and more vivid, making it an ideal choice for Florida rooms, sunny rooms, operating rooms – any bright room really.
- All Sony 900F TVs come with Google’s Voice Assistant built-in, as well as the Android Smart TV app.
- Back in “Best Budget TV,” we mentioned Samsung’s huge 82-inch model. But Sony tops that right here, with an 85-inch model in their new 900F series. (Just sayin.’)
- The 900F has unusually big feet. Some may find them a bit much, but if you're not mounting the TV on the wall, the feet do leave room for a nice sound bar. (And make it look like the TV is walking towards you, or asking for a hug.)
The world’s biggest TV manufacturer, Samsung, isn’t one to rest on laurels. Case in point: The company’s QLED TVs, already a major hit among consumers and a strong contender for “best” in several categories, got even better last year with Samsung’s new Q series. (QLED, not to be confused with OLED, means “Quantum Dots LED, a Samsung innovation that delivers a deeper HDR High Dynamic Range picture than pretty much every other TV in the same price range.) The Q9FN is Samsung's flagship model, featuring over a billion shades of color and better black levels on an anti-glare screen.
The story here: accurate, true-to-life color no matter how bright the room. Jack-up the brightness control in, say, a sunny southern-facing room… and colors don’t wash-out like they do on lesser TVs. Instead, colors remain vibrant and still pop. Just like real life.
- The Q9FN has Samsung's voice assistant technology, Bixby, built-in, so you can change channels and search for shows simply by talking to it.
- Had we included a “fit & finish” category, Samsung would have taken that, too. The Q9FN is beautifully understated, thin (1.8 inches) with four bezel-less sides and a novel approach to the stand that makes the TV seem to hover in mid-air. What’s more, the Q9's cabling methodology is as clean and discreet as it comes, and includes an external connection box that’s easily hidden away.
- The critics can't stop raving about the Q9FN — Tech Radar says, "Samsung has hit on a winning, forward-thinking formula that delivers the best 4K high dynamic range pictures we've seen to date."
5. The Coolest / So-Thin-It’s-Hard-To-Believe TV.
Brand & Model: LG OLED W8
Sizes available: 65” • 77"
Price range: Call for pricing (available in-store only)
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR • OLED • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • 4 HDMI Ports • 3 USB Ports • Magnet flush-to-the-wall mounting system
Give it to the marketing folks, they got it right with the name “Wallpaper TV.” With its freaky thin profile (think sticker, or wall decal), The Wallpaper TV is an optical illusion come to life, literally appearing to be part of the wall when attached with its 4 small magnets. Bottom line: If you want stunning — something equally at home in a modern art exhibit — you cannot do better than The Wallpaper TV.
Add to its amazing design, the Wallpaper TV is a full-on 4K HDR OLED TV, which at 65 inches = a breathtaking picture, and no sacrificing function for form. The W8 model (which builds upon last year's W7) features LG's latest A9 processor, which means even better picture quality than ever before. So if you’re the type who hates the look of any TV, oh happy day – this is the one you want.
Where do the wires go? And the controls, and the inputs, and outputs? And where do speakers go? Read about LG’s ingenious workaround right here in our LG Wallpaper TV review.
6. The Best Sounding TV (Out of the box).
Brand & model: Sony OLED XBR A1E
Sizes available: 55”, • 65” • 77”
Price range: MSRP starting at $2,799
Quick overview: 4K Ultra HD / HDR • OLED • Smart TV • Wi-Fi • Bluetooth • 4 HDMI Ports • 3 USB Ports • Acoustic Surface Technology
Any time Sony adds that “XBR” prefix to one of their TVs, heads turn and the industry takes note, us included. (Maybe XBR = Xtra Big-Time Remarkable?) And though the XBR A1E wins our “best-sounding-out-of-the-box” award, we should note: Many respected tech reviewers put the XBR-A1E at the very top of their “best picture” list as well.
The XBR-A1E is part of Sony’s Bravia line, just like our winner for “best TV in a sunny room,” and it comes with all the same bells and whistles, plus a few more, including the biggest bell of all: OLED. And you can read all about 4K X-Reality™ PRO, Sony’s ingenious picture processing tech, or how Sony takes HDR to new levels, in our Sony A1E review, but this award is for sound, so let’s talk sound.
Truth is, the speakers that came in our 1990s boxy tube sets and consoles were better because they were bigger. You can’t really fit a decent speaker inside what’s essentially a pane of glass – an incredibly slim OLED TV. But Sony did just that, by turning the entire picture screen into an acoustic surface, so the entire screen – whether 55, 65 or 77 inches – IS the speaker. And surprise: it packs a punch, it sounds awesome. Does it replace real theater surround sound? No. Is it better than a high-end sound bar? Not quite. But if you’re really pressed for space and have no room for extra gear or speakers, boom, the Sony XBR-A1E wins.
We gave ourselves one rule: we wouldn’t say any one TV is “the” best TV of all. But if pressed and asked “which TV would we take home for ourselves?,” it might just be this one for the great OLED picture and sound. No, the Sony A1E can’t morph into a gorgeous framed painting or photo like Samsung’s Frame TV, and no, it can’t match LG’s knock-your-socks-off, coolest design Wallpaper TV, but in every other respect… Sony’s A1E rocks.
What’s coming this year?
How do you outdo greatness? Sony is trying to figure that out, too. Although the A1E remains a Sony flagship TV, they released an alternative model this year: the Bravia A8F (available in 55" and 65"). All of the technology will be exactly the same, but will come in at a lower price point — the only differences: a new stand and mounting arrangement, meaning it will take up less depth when placed on top of a TV cabinet and rest closer to the wall when mounted.
One more thing...
Once you pick out your TV, a last word of advice: buy it from a trusted dealer, and the more experience / longer the track record, the better. A good dealer will take care of you in the event anything happens.
Speaking of trusted dealers…
World Wide Stereo is home to some 90+ industry-leading audio/video professionals who love what they do, and talking about it,too. We opened our doors in 1979, gained a small yet diehard following, won a slew of national awards for everything from killer car audio installations to customer service, grew the business online… and today we enjoy a faithful following of like-minded TV-watching, music-listening, gear-loving defenders of fun for the whole family. Our only rule: no one leaves unhappy. We’re brutally honest when it come to this stuff. Want to know if something is as good as advertised? Even if you're shopping somewhere else? Call us or stop by one of our showrooms — we’ll give it to you straight. We love what we do, and we love sharing that love.
With us, you get our guarantee, which includes perks like free shipping, 60-day returns, and support even years after the sale — always. Hence our rule: "no one leaves unhappy." Ever.