The latest generation of television technology is upon us, and it is called 4K. A 4K television offers the highest resolution of any TV on the market today, providing about eight million more pixels than an average flat screen HD TV. Those extra pixels mean vastly superior color fidelity, especially for shades of yellow and other colors that have traditionally been displayed as a combination of the fundamental red, blue, or green (RGB) television pixel.
4K TVs also stand out by providing smoother and more nuanced viewing that can allow you to pick up subtle contrasts and depth in a televised image. Although there are currently very few television stations dedicating airtime to 4K-specific programming, 4K automatically enhances the clarity of almost any standard HD picture when paired with an HDMI cable. Plus, 4K-focused programming is already appearing online. That means even the earliest adopters will benefit from it, especially if you are a gamer.
When looking to purchase a 4K TV, it’s usually a good idea to stick to the major manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, and LG. Smaller brands are wading into the new 4K market at their peril and might provide inferior products that aren’t well-positioned to take advantage of future iterations of 4K technology that are already on the drawing board. Plus, you’re likely to get better prices in the popular 40-to-70 inch category by sticking to larger brands.
As you compare your 4K options, remember that a larger display is an even more important part of the 4K experience than it was during your upgrade from CRT to HD flat screens. The real key to 4K’s charm is that you can get very close to the image without ever being able to see individual pixels or perceiving a “breakdown” of the image. A larger display will allow you to sit further back and retain this level of clarity. If your display is smaller, it’s recommended to sit closer to your 4K than you normally would, which may entail rearranging your furniture to optimize viewing.
Let’s consider five of the best 4K TVs:
Best 4K Ultra HD to Buy
Although Seiki is a relatively small competitor in the crowded consumer electronics space, it has broken from the pack to deliver an ultra-high definition 4K TV that combines great picture quality with an affordable price. Thanks to its high refresh rate and outstanding response time, the Seiki 39-Inch “SE39UY04-1” 4K UHD TV ideal for fast-paced footage such as sports and action films.
Buyers who want to find a 4K TV that’s perfect for console gaming and streaming will also enjoy it. Its technical specs enhance the smoothness of gameplay for popular multi-player games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, and the built-in stereo audio means you won’t have to invest in a separate set of speakers to enjoy immersive listening.
Best 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD
The Samsung 55-Inch “UN55HU6840” 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV has a slightly lower native refresh rate than the Seiki, but its huge viewing area combined with edge-lit LED backlighting means you’ll get clear, crisp picture even in sub-optimal viewing conditions. Night scenes look positively beautiful, and unlike some other recent TVs, you don’t need to get this 4K TV professionally calibrated to experience amazing visuals.
While it can sometimes be time-consuming to decide on LED vs. plasma and emerging technologies, the 55-inch Samsung incorporates a top-quality LED panel that justifies the investment all on its own. Plus, the built-in Wi-Fi offers blazing fast connections that will allow you to access a whole world of dynamic content quickly, all without in-depth technical know-how.
Best 4K Ultra HD in the Market
Offering a top native refresh rate and direct LED backlighting, LG Electronics 40-Inch “40UB8000” 4K Ultra HD 60Hz Smart LED TV entry easily competes with Samsung and edges out its competitor with a noticeably wider viewing angle. On-board streaming makes it easy to enjoy one of the widest varieties of 4K and HD content on the market today, including the latest movies.
This TV is a little bit more future-proof than some of the others out there thanks to its early adoption of HEVC compression. HEVC compression is not yet widely used, but it allows for faster streaming with high visual fidelity. LG’s lead in this area is part of the reason why it can “upscale” ordinary HD content to a virtually picture-perfect 4K experience.
Top Rated 4K TV
Featuring a 240Hz effective refresh rate, the VIZIO 50-Inch “P502ui B1” 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV is a strong contender for anyone who wants the perfect first-time 4K TV. Although most modern 4K TVs have fair backlighting, the VIZIO stands head and shoulders over the rest thanks to its dynamic lighting adjustment across 64 independent backlight zones. That means better “pure blacks” and higher contrast overall.
The P502ui B1’s onboard Wi-Fi is faster and more stable than the wireless in many other smart TV brands, and the TV’s software is updated on a regular basis to make it faster and easier to use. A specialized “Gaming Mode” reduces input lag to just under 20 milliseconds, giving just about any gamer the chance to experience play at the level that competitive professionals expect.
Best 4K TV for the Money
Clocking in at a 120Hz refresh rate, the major selling points of the Sony 55-Inch “XBR55X800B” 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV model include its long product life, Energy Star-certified reduced electricity consumption, and native support for some of the most popular streaming services. Users who have a Sony 4K Ultra HD Media Player will get even more mileage out of this thanks to Sony’s Unlimited 4K Service.
One of the best reasons to consider a Sony 4K is the great level of personalized support that you will get for everything related to your TV. The XBR55X800B excels at fluid tracking of complex scenes, and a rich “true black” that’s nearly impossible to achieve even on traditional HD displays. To get the best picture quality, be sure to use a next-gen HDMI cable!