Some people will tell you that the brand of TV you buy doesn’t matter. And in a way it doesn’t.
It’s quite possible to buy an excellent television set from any number of brands - the technology of flatscreen TVs having developed enough that there are few sets out there that are objectively bad.
What there are, however, are sets that have different sets of features, newer or older smart platforms, and various methods of producing the image on the screen that can have advantages and disadvantages. Once, when flatscreen TVs were young and the bulky CRT was still king, you only had a choice between LCD or plasma flatscreens. Today, with CRTs consigned to history, that choice has expanded out to LED, OLED, Quantum Dot, LCD and more, with plasma having fallen by the wayside for being too heavy, expensive, and susceptible to screen burn despite the excellent picture quality it produced.
At the moment, OLED TVs are considered to provide the best picture quality, the individual cells’ ability to self-light also providing a plasma-like ability to switch off completely, meaning they can produce deep blacks and detailed shadows where an LCD screen that requires a backlight would only show a very dark grey.
Advances in LCD tech, such as local dimming or mini-LED backlights, have improved the rival tech’s abilities in this area, and LCD has its own benefits, such as energy efficiency and lightness. And while 4K TVs have become the standard, some 8K models, with four times the number of pixels, are starting to come through at the top end. Actual 8K content to play on these is rare, however, so in many cases you’re better off saving your money and sticking with 4K.
A TV’s smart platform also singles it out in today’s marketplace. Some teles use Android (rebranding as Google TV), the same system you’ll find in some of the best mobile phones, but adapted for a much larger screen and lack of mobility. All TVs now come with a network connection, usually both wired and wireless, to use alongside their digital terrestrial and satellite tuners. The built-in speakers, however, are often not the best, as they’re forced to make compromises by the super-thin TV designs. To remedy this situation, you might like to look at some of the best soundbars.
So with that in mind, here are some of the best TV brands to consider.
While LG is the undisputed ruler of OLED - it makes many panels for other brands’ OLED TVs - it also makes sets using other technologies, such as LCD. The South Korean company has a range of designs, ranging from budget-friendly models to the strikingly expensive, and will sell you an extremely large TV as well, with its 8K Z1 coming in at 88 inches across the diagonal.
LG’s TVs use WebOS, an easy-to-use operating system that allows the set to run streaming apps and interact with accessories such as USB drives and its Magic Remote, which allows you to direct a pointer on the screen - if you’ve ever used a Nintendo Wii, you’ll be right at home with it. LG’s processing chips are also starting to introduce AI elements, managing brightness and sound levels intelligently.
Models to watch out for include the C2, a 4K OLED model with a strong reputation for both picture quality and value and available up to 83 inches. If that’s a bit prosaic for you, try the LG Objet Collection: these OLED TVs come with easel-like stands and are available in sizes up to 65in. Elsewhere, the Z range is available up to 8K resolution, and the top-end Z2 model costs £25,000, and who knows what the recently announced OLED R, a TV that rolls up into its base, will cost. A more reasonable price, however, can be found with LG’s LCD sets, where a 50in 4K model can be found for less than £500.
Buy now, LG
This Japanese firm has been making excellent TVs since the CRT days, and is legendary in the audio/video world. These days it doesn’t have as many of its own proprietary technologies as it used to, using (some) LG panels and Google’s smart platform, but it does make its own video processing chips. The latest Cognitive Processor XR, introduced in 2021, manages the vision and sound levels to better fit them to the way humans naturally experience the world.
Sony’s excellent processing is available on many of its 2022 TVs, from the top-end OLED models to more moderately priced LED screens: check out the XJ09 for a 50in model that won’t break the bank. With Google TV on board, you won’t be short of something to watch - or listen to, as Sony TVs have the reputation of having some of the best built-in audio around.
Alternatively, you can spend big money with Sony, and surprisingly the most expensive set isn’t even an OLED model, but the Mini LED-based 8K Z9K, which costs almost £10,000 in its 85in trim.
Buy now, Sony
A real heavyweight in the TV world, Samsung has its own Quantum Dot technology, using tiny crystals to make the LEDs that light up the TV’s pixels. This gives you the dense blacks and excellent colour response associated with OLED sets, without that tech’s one drawback, a slight tendency toward image retention.
Debates rage as to which is better - the answer is that it comes down to your own eyes and what you’re happy with - but with a 55in 4K set like the Samsung QN85B available for £1,199 at the time of writing, there’s a lot to be happy about. As with other brands, it’s perfectly possible to spend a great deal of money on a Samsung, but if you simply must have the biggest TV, the 85in 8K QLED QN800A is worth a look, being half the price of similar models at £2,499.
Samsung TVs run on an operating system based on Tizen, an open-source, Linux-based system, but you’ll find it just as responsive and tailored to TV use as any other smart platform. Some Samsung TVs also come with clever features such as the One Connect box, which connects to the TV by a single cable and can be placed out of sight, all your other media players and game consoles then plugging into the box rather than creating a mess of HDMI leads. The firm also has time for more unusual pursuits, with the Sero model being vertically, rather than horizontally, aligned, and the Frame acting as a picture frame when switched off, displaying either art pieces from an online store, or your own photographs.
Buy now, Samsung
A Chinese company that bought out 95 per cent of Toshiba’s TV business and has manufactured sets under the Sharp name too, Hisense is a top brand in the world of budget-friendly TVs.
The company makes sets using different technologies and operating systems, though it announced this year that all of its new TVs would be using Google TV. Its panels are a mixture of Mini-LED, Quantum Dot, and even OLED - there really isn’t a ‘typical’ Hisense TV. Many of its larger screens use ULED, a variant of LED tech that uses local dimming of the backlight to create darker hues rather than turning off the pixels themselves. It’s an improvement over a standard LCD TV, where the backlight is on all the time and blocked out by the closure of the pixels, and often incorporates Quantum Dot technology for punchy colours.
Hisense is a versatile brand that sells projectors alongside its TV sets for even larger screen sizes. Being able to get a 65in ULED QD 4K TV for the same price you’d pay for a much smaller set elsewhere makes Hisense sets a great place to start if you’re determined to get the most TV for your money.
Buy now, Hisense
TVs from the Dutch company use many of the same technologies and even panels as other brands’ do, but have two things that make them stand out.
The first is Ambilight, a system of lights placed behind the TV panel that project onto the wall behind the set. These are then used by clever processors within the TV to project colours that match what’s being displayed on the screen. It’s an example of bias lighting, and the effect is a curious one, making the image on the screen appear to have higher contrast than it actually does, but reducing the contrast between the bright screen and its background, thereby reducing eyestrain.
It draws you into what you’re watching, and has become more intelligent over the years, now intelligently mimicking the colours and movements it detects on the screen. It’s starting to be built into items such as speakers too, spreading the effect across your living room.
Philips’ second benefit is in its audio - a partnership with Bowers & Wilkins seeing soundbars from the high-end speaker manufacturer built into Philips’ premium TVs. Pick up an OLED model such as the OLED+ 936, available in sizes up to 65in, and you’ll get a fantastic picture and top quality sound, all backed by that Ambilight glow.
Buy now, Philips
Cello Electronics is a British-made budget brand that makes compact 12-volt battery-powered TVs for motorhomes and caravans. It also makes a range of Google TV-powered smart TVs up to 65in across, and they’re competitively priced.
You won’t find any OLED or Quantum Dot panels in the Cello range, but with LED backlights, all the smart TV apps you can think of, and Google TV benefits such as voice control via Google Assistant and a built-in Chromecast for mirroring mobile devices, the 4K Cello ZG0256 is available for around £500, which is a steal.
For that sort of money you shouldn’t be expecting the same sort of picture or sound quality you’d get from a much more expensive Sony or Samsung, but the amount of TV you get for your money is unsurpassed.
Buy now, Cello
Once a serious leader in the field, and maker of some of the finest plasma TVs, Panasonic sets are no longer sold in the United States or Australia. This is a shame, as its OLED models are superb, and even its mid-range offerings have some features that makes them worth looking at.
Many of its TVs support the full range of HDR systems. For those uninitiated, high dynamic range is a way of tapping into the increased contrast and colour response modern TV panels are capable of for a brighter, more colourful picture. Many manufacturers support one, or a few, such as Dolby Vision, HLG or HDR10+, but Panasonic supports all three. This doesn’t mean there’s content you can only watch on Panasonic TVs, but it’s nice to know all your bases are covered.
Panasonic’s speakers are excellent too, and top-end sets such as the JZ2000 have speakers that fire from the sides of the set rather than the bottom, allowing them to be larger, and therefore louder. Other models, such as the cheaper LED-based HX800, keep the picture smarts but forgo the larger speakers, keeping the ability to pass digital audio information to external speaker systems if you’ve got one.
Buy now, Panasonic
Among the best TV brands available today, you might think that getting the best TV is simply a case of spending your way to the top. This isn’t quite true, although some screen technologies are noticeably better than others, and new sets are constantly being released that better the previous generation in terms of brightness and colour response. A TV bought today will give a noticeably better picture than one from five years ago at the same price-point, both in terms of its brightness and the vibrancy of the colours.
The best TV brands are defined by the way they combine technologies in their products to create something appealing. Not everybody sees things the same way, so while it’s the fidelity and sharpness of the moving image that might attract a sports fan, a cinema lover may better appreciate the enormous surround sound and immersive colours of an HDR picture with a full Dolby Atmos audio stream. Whichever you choose, there’s rarely been a better time to pick up a new TV. They’re huge, they’re top quality, and they’re becoming more affordable.