The best OLED TVs regularly feature near the top of our list of the best TVs overall, and deservedly so. The unique tech of OLED 4K TVs gives them mind-blowing levels of contrast and precision, meaning they're often the choice of hardcore cinephiles. But as with all TVs, there's a confusing string of letters for their specs you have to decipher when choosing between them, so our guide is here to provide the easy explanations and recommendations you need to make your choice.
OLED TVs have historically come in a narrower range of sizes and budgets than most TVs – until last year, you were generally looking at best 55-inch TVs and best 65-inch TVs, with 77-inch models available for a steep price. But 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs arrived in 2020, and 83-inch models are coming in 2021 (with 77-inch models dropping in price, mercifully), so there's a much better range of sizes these days.
At the same time, the cost is creeping down as well – you don't see many OLED TVs in our list of the best TVs under $1000, but there was one regularly available for under $999 in 2020, and it looks like there will be more in 2021.
One thing we're not really covering here is 8K OLED TVs. They do exist, but there is currently only one model (from LG) and it comes in 77-inch and 88-inch sizes, and the cost is, shall we say, luxurious. We talk about it in our list of the best 8K TVs, but in this guide, we're sticking with 4K options.
What is the best OLED TV?
The best OLED TV overall is the LG CX, available in 48-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch versions. The CX is packed with forward-thinking technology that will keep it relevant for years, and has LG's best display and processing tech, despite being its second-cheapest model.
Sony’s XBR-65A8H is right up there with the LG CX, and is arguably better if what you want is the best screen to watch movies on. It has impressive motion smoothing and upscaling to make whatever you throw its way look its best, and has better built-in speakers – but it's also more expensive.
If you want an OLED but have a limited budget, Vizio’s new OLED is intriguing — it delivers all the best of OLED technology but at really low prices.
The best OLED TVs: ranked
LG's CX range of TVs is its best mixture of affordability and image quality. The panel and processing tech is exactly the same as the LG OLED65GX further down this list, but with a less fancy design and weaker speakers, for much less money. For most people, this will be the 2021 OLED to buy, because the balance is perfect.
The image quality is the best of any OLED TV. The CX offers a precision of detail in its dark areas that is unparalleled, and that helps its contrast to look just about as impressive as OLED has ever managed. And with even better upscaling of HD footage to 4K, you really feel like everything in the scene is getting the best possible treatment.
We've recommended the 48-inch version here, mostly because it's the first 4K OLED TV on the market smaller than 55 inches, so it's in a class of one if you want the cinematic majesty of OLED but don't have space for anything bigger.
But our recommendation applies equally to the other sizes in the range, which stretches from the small one right up to 77 inches (which is surprisingly reasonably priced).
Another reason this is the TV to watch (in more ways than one) in 2021 is that it's unbeatable for gaming. It supports every whizz-bang feature of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, including 4K at 120 frames per second, ALLM for low latency, VRR for smoother visuals at all times, HGIG for optimized HDR performance in games, and Nvidia G-Sync for PC gaming… Oh, and it has a native response time in Gaming mode that's among the best we've ever tested. This is perfect for getting ready for next-gen.
Read our full LG CX review
The Sony A8H is a direct competitor to the LG CX on price and manages to separate itself nicely as an alternative that should especially excite hardcore movie fans.
The natural yet powerful images are a dream for cinematic movies and TV shows – the TV is capable of handling subtle tone changes and contrast with skill matching the absolute best of the best, which means you're seeing things closer to what the directors really intended to capture, especially with HDR.
That's paired with Sony's processing, which is unmatched when it comes to making motion look clear and smooth without changing how movies are 'meant' to look, but also boosting things like sports considerably. It's also an awesome upscaler, not only of HD to 4K but also of SDR video to HDR – it gives things a convincingly wider color range and depth, but doesn't feel artificial in any way.
The only image nit we can pick is actually about nits (which is a measure of brightness, the TV isn't infested, don't worry). It's less bright than the LG CX (or B9 below, for that matter) at its peak. This doesn't affect the quality of the HDR – we still think it's the best for that – but a lower brightness (and a somewhat reflective panel) means that if you have it in a bright room (particularly one that's sunlit), it will be harder to view.
It's not only the picture that's great: it even manages really good sound, thanks to Sony's genius technology that turns the front panel itself into a speaker. This gives it the clarity and drive that most thin TVs (and especially LG's CX and C9) lack – you won’t feel the need to add a soundbar immediately.
Smart TV functions are handled by Android TV, which is good for app support, though not very slick. And gamers should think about looking elsewhere: it doesn't support the 4K/120fps or variable refresh rate features of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, sadly.
Read our full Sony A8/A8H review
The 55-inch LG BX is living proof that you can buy an excellent OLED TV without having to sell a kidney. No OLED TV is cheap, but this is one of the lowest-priced, yet doesn't skimp on quality.
It uses a slightly less advanced processor than the LG CX, but still does a remarkably good job of upscaling everything to glorious 4K while still squeezing enough out of the picture quality to deliver some very credible dark details to go with those typical OLED inky blacks.
The colors are just as gorgeous as you’ll find on the more expensive LG OLEDs – they’re rich and saturated but still natural and realistic – and, while there’s a notch or two more picture quality to be had with those upper models (the CX is a little brighter, and a little more poised for detail in really dark areas), the BX has it nailed for bang-for-buck value.
That includes next-gen gaming features, including support for 4K at 120Hz, and Variable Refresh Rates. This makes it an excellent option for PS5 and Xbox Series X if you want a fairly big screen for a middle-of-the-road price.
Like most of the TVs on this list, the sound is a bit weedy compared to the picture. You’d be best advised to buy one of the best soundbars to go with this set, but the same is true of all top TVs apart from those more expensive models which already have soundbars built-in.
The BX is, of course, HDR-enabled with support for Dolby Vision as well as HDR10 and HLG – though not HDR10+, the competitor to Dolby Atmos. It’s also worth noting that LG’s webOS user interface is one of the best you’ll find on any OLED TV at present. It’s a little overcomplicated, but very much feature-complete and fitted with most of the video and music apps you’ll need, including Apple TV+, Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu and more – though no HBO Max currently.
This TV from LG's 2020 range is its more premium model, known as the 'Gallery' model. It's just 0.8 inches thick, and is designed for wall mounting – and looking fantastic while doing it, especially with its thin bezels around the display. It actually doesn't even come with a standard stand (though you can pay extra for one).
The screen and processing are actually the same as on the LG CX TV, which is cheaper, with a less fancy design and weaker speakers, but identical in terms of other features as well as image quality.
The processing is where the main improvements are with the new range. LG's newest AI-based system is seriously impressive, adding sharpness and detail to videos without looking unnatural in any way – the realism is astounding.
The authenticity of the images is absolutely best-in-class, and the way it handles HDR images is just amazing – everything looks utterly real.
It's also packed with future-proofed gaming features ready for PS5 and Xbox Series X. The GX comes in 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch models.
The only reason this isn't higher in the list is that, for most people, it's pricier than is really necessary to get a similar level of image quality.
Read our full LG GX review
Sony’s OLED TVs are painfully expensive, but they bring a whole range of unique picture quality features you can't find elsewhere, as well as ingenious audio technology.
Motion processing is a key differentiator and, if you can’t stand a juddery picture during sports or action scenes, then Sony’s Motionflow is the only way to go. This class-leading technology manages to smooth out fast action without making it look like a home movie – it looks clearer, but still the way it was always meant to. On a big panel size like this, that can be a considerable benefit.
The other big win is Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ innovation, which turns the panel itself into a speaker. So, instead of stuffing little drivers around the back, the audio comes right at the viewer. It’s all done by using actuators that vibrate the screen, which is pretty impressive technology.
Sadly, HDMI 2.1 technology such as 4K 120Hz isn't supported here, but if your focus is movies and TV, it's top-tier stuff. And it's now available in a 48-inch model as well as larger sizes.
Vizio released its first OLED TV this fall, and it’s one to watch. The budget TV maker brings its value-oriented approach to the high-end screen technology of OLED and delivers a very good TV for a very good price. The 65-inch costs about $2,000 while the 55-inch is just $1,300. It has everything you look for in an OLED TV, including great contrast and color, thanks to supporting both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. It also comes ready for next-gen gaming consoles with a low lag time, along with 120Hz refresh rate and support for variable refresh rate. It even has a unique stand that helps it stand out from the crowd.
What we don’t know is how Vizio’s version of OLED will stand the test of time, as we do with the established LG and Sony sets. And Vizio’s SmartCast operating system, while better than it was, still lags behind LG’s webOS and Sony’s Android TV, especially when it comes to apps that you have access to.
Best OLED TV Buying advice: Why get an OLED TV?
OLED is an 'emissive' technology, meaning that the pixels emit their own light – this is different than LCD/LED screens, which are 'transmissive', meaning that they require a backlight shining through the pixels at all times to actually create the light you see. For that reason, it’s very hard to get really deep blacks on an LCD TV – because there’s always light behind it.
What's the difference between OLED and QLED? We explain in our OLED vs QLED feature.
For OLEDs, getting really deep blacks is not a problem. They allow for truly inky dark blacks and a whole palette of rich and unspoiled colors on top. What’s more, without that extra layer of backlighting behind the pixels, OLED panels are incredibly thin so you can mount them closer to the wall than most TVs, or just marvel at their wafer-like beauty on a stand.
OLED TV pixels are also able to respond incredibly quickly to changes, so they can be great for things with fast action, such as sports or video games – our pick for the best gaming TV is an OLED set, and some of the sets here support all the fancy new features offered by the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
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Best OLED TVs: what to look for
LG is the only company that makes OLED panels for TVs, and there’s very little difference in the OLED displays it makes and sells to all the other TV manufacturers year after year. In fact, one of the criticisms of OLED is that it appears to have reached a peak of innovation and that the technology is struggling to develop any further.
For the time being, though, that doesn’t really matter because, while the panel tech is the same, each manufacturer improves the processors that tells it what to do, and adds other flourishes on top. Each year when the nay-sayers claim that OLED is finished, somehow the likes of LG, Sony and now Vizio manage to squeeze out even more performance.
As such, it’s the new processing and audio technologies that are the features to look out for, while you can assume there’ll be small improvements to dark details, at least for now.
OLED TVs with integrated soundbars offer an experience that doesn’t require any additional boxes for audio. Their sound is miles ahead of sets that have speaker arrays stuck around the back of the TV.
Upscaling and contrast enhancements are also well worth noting, particularly since a lot of streaming content will be HD and at a bitrate where the image quality won't be as strong as from a Blu-ray, say – and, if you can get an OLED with good motion processing tech too, then that can be a big bonus at the 65-inch size.
HDR support is worth thinking about, and while it's preferable for a set to support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ (the two forms of higher-end HDR), there’s no need to reject one just because it doesn't include both.