What’s The Best Smart TV Right Now?

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SMART TV

A TV is no longer ‘just a screen’. Smart TVs think along with you!

Smart TVs are no longer unique. Your friend has one, your neighbor has one, and now even your grandmother might have one. You have to look far to find a new TV that doesn’t come with some kind of smart features or built-in functions. 

The 5 best smart TVs at a glance

  1. LG OLED65CX6LA – For the most beautiful image and the smoothest experience, choose this model from LG.
  2. Philips The One (50PUS7304) – Looking for where price meets quality? Then choose The One from Philips.
  3. Samsung QE65Q9FN – This is the best QLED TV to date, powered by quantum dot technology for high color volume and intense screen brightness
  4. LG 43UK6300 – This is the best mid -range smart TV, which is especially suitable for people with a slightly more modest accommodation.
  5. Samsung UE32T5300 – For those on a more modest budget , this model from Samsung has been marketed with the entire Tizen suite.

What is a smart TV?

The best smart TV of 2021

The answer lies mainly in his  internet connection . Almost all smart TVs – also known as smart TVs – are equipped with both an Ethernet port and built-in WiFi. However, some older models may require an adapter to use WiFi and connect anywhere in your home.

This internet connection is mainly used to stream television shows and movies from various apps and services, such as Netflix, HBO and YouTube (among others). Occasionally there are free programs available (like the NPO app), but for the most part you need to subscribe to these services to access their content.

In general, WiFi should be fast enough for most purposes, but if you plan on streaming games or 4K content, you may want to use a wired connection instead.

Many smart TVs also have built-in web browsers – although these are often poorly designed and frustrating to navigate – and some even have cameras for use with video conferencing apps. However, such a smart TV is not very smart if its functions cannot be updated over time. That’s what the app stores in the operating systems are for.

There are plenty of other elements that make a smart TV ‘smart’, but I’ll get to that later.

The best smart TVs, detailed.

1 LG OLED65CX6LA

The best smart TV of 2021

  • Size : 65 inch
  • Sharpness : 4K UHD
  • Screen type : OLED
  • Refresh rate : 120 Hz
  • Operating system : WebOS
  • Energy label : A

The CX series retains the well-known sleek and minimalist appearance of OLED TVs, and also has the angled stand that directs the sound towards the listener. The connections remain extensive and now LG is even adding HDMI 2.1 .

The latest version of HDMI can not only handle a staggering 48 Gbps, but also supports higher frame rates up to 120 Hz, dynamic metadata for HDR, eARC (so you control your connected speakers with the TV’s remote control), and variable refresh rates.

Despite how thin the TV is, it offers more than enough inputs and outputs to start with. You get four HDMI 2.1 ports that each display a 4K image  at 120 Hz, as mentioned. You also get 3 USB ports, an Ethernet port and an optical audio output.

All in all, this makes the pricing as competitive as the specs are impressive.

Like the rest of LG’s OLED and Nano Cell line, the C9 features the latest version of the  Magic Remote , which retains its fantastic ergonomic design. You can also operate this TV with your smartphone via the app for  iOS  or  Android . With the app you set up the TV and adjust the settings as most smart TV apps allow you.

LG’s  ThinQ open AI platform  also includes Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. You can access Google by pressing the microphone button on the remote and then control your C9 with your voice, or by using your smartphone or a  smart assistant -compatible  WiFi speaker  .

Unchangeable is the  4K resolution  of the beautiful, wafer-thin  OLED panel. As mentioned, HDMI 2.1 can handle a refresh rate of 120 Hz, which is perfect for watching lively scenes undisturbed.

The image quality is therefore top notch. The LG CX delivers all the benefits you would expect from an OLED TV: incredible dark blacks and superior contrast ratios . It is also extremely accurate, producing colors that are both natural and perfectly saturated.

The default default picture mode is sure to please many, with its bright powerful images and colors that pop. However, the  3rd generation Alpha9 processor  brings deep learning AI algorithms  that have a significant impact on the image. This processing accesses a database made up of millions of content samples and uses it to analyze and then optimize the image depending on the type and quality of the content.

This processing really works, with precise upscaling of lower resolution images and exceptional noise reduction and image enhancement. The results are truly breathtaking: a look at  hyperspace  in Star Wars makes you think you’re actually jumping through the galaxy.

In addition to a beautiful image, the LG CZ features the latest iteration of  webOS . While this innovative platform is largely unchanged, a few tweaks have been made. 

For starters, there’s now a second tier on the  launch bar  that’s very reminiscent of Tizen’s. It’s kind of ironic that LG takes inspiration from Samsung, but the second tier is a handy feature that allows for faster access to content, as well as adding an  AI Preview  that makes recommendations based on your viewing habits.

There’s also a new intelligent editing feature that lists your apps based on how often you use them. In addition, you will find a new Home Dashboard that  brings all connected mobile, input and home  IoT devices together into a single hub. This allows you to monitor and control just about every connected device in your smart home via this one hub.

2 Philips The One (50PUS7304)

The best smart TV of 2021

  • Size : 50 inch
  • Sharpness : 4K UHD Screen
  • type : LED-LCD
  • Refresh rate : 100 Hz
  • Operating system : Android
  • Energy label : A

The One has a 4K resolution, HDR , the latest  Android Pie operating system and plenty of apps. It supports almost all video formats, Atmos 3D sound and of course 3-sided  Ambilight.

The video processor for this model is the powerful P5 chip  from Philips, which you could previously find in their OLED models. It almost overflows with advanced image processing power.

In a collection of fairly dark and meaningless screens, this Philips seems like a relief in terms of design. It stands out with a silver-grey finish and a glossy chrome base that gives the TV an exclusive look. The build quality is clearly above average for this price range.

You also get access to various connectivity options, including integrated WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, 4 HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, a headphone jack and more.

The first thing you notice is the impressive  image sharpness , which brings out the details of both the HD and the aforementioned 4K resolution sources. The Philips display also has noticeably better contrast and detail than the similarly priced challengers from LG and Sony, as well as even more nuanced and bright colors.

Philips has traditionally had a tendency to mess with a bit of exaggerated color reproduction, but with The One I can’t say that I see this again. A wide color spectrum and a wide viewing angle ensure that the TV maintains good uniformity both from the front and from the side. The Philips screen also displays motion in an impressively smooth and seamless way.

The One, like many of its competitors, has a so – called  IPS-based LCD display , with both the strengths and weaknesses that come with it. The black level and depth of the image are therefore not equal to the best LCD or OLED screens when watching TV in a darkened room. However, the image quality is excellent when viewing in a lit room.

Most TV entertainment nowadays takes place on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Videoland and Amazon Prime, and here Philips takes advantage of the advanced, dynamic HDR formats. The Final Table  in Dolby Vision quality looks beautiful, full of nuances and details that the competition does not display so successfully.

A TV can never display a better image than it receives via the input and by getting the maximum quality from this source material, you get a lot of ‘extra’ image quality that is difficult to imitate by adding. Unfortunately, the  refresh rate is limited to 50 Hz , which you may know by now can result in suboptimal motion rendering when scenes move very fast.

Philips The One comes with the  latest version of Android OS  (10), which comes with some minor improvements. My first impression is that Android has finally become “TV-friendly” and can compete with the dedicated platforms from LG (WebOS) and Samsung (Tizen).

Philips has also upgraded the  remote control : there are shortcuts for Netflix and Rakuten and a built-in microphone for Google Assistant voice control.

Philips offers the best format support in the test: With full compatibility with both  HDR10+  and  Dolby Vision  , The One can deliver optimal results with streaming services that support it (leading Amazon Prime Video and Netflix), and with select UHD Bluray titles .

Philips also scores clearly above average when it comes to sound. The  sound reproduction is crisp , clear and with a slightly fuller frequency register than many of its competitors. It also supports Dolby Atmos 3D sound . Although the built-in speakers are regular stereo, so don’t expect a really high sound register, but it does achieve a kind of virtual surround effect.

At the same time, it is an advantage that the TV can send Atmos signals to a compatible soundbar via the HDMI (ARC) output .

3 Samsung QE65Q9FN

  • Best smart TV with QLED screen
  • Size : 65 inch
  • Sharpness : 4K UHD Screen
  • type : QLED
  • Refresh rate : 100 Hz
  • Operating system : Tizen
  • Energy label : B

The Q9FN is a highly versatile performer that really shows what the next generation of imaging processes is all about. The result is an impressive dynamic range to match the 4K Ultra HD resolution  on a  65-inch QLED panel , plus the freedom to view it in as little or as much light as you want.

This TV is proof that there is still plenty to do with the LCD screen (of which QLED is a Samsung-specific form). It is therefore a worrisome roadblock on the apparent warpath of OLED screens. ⚔️

The next thing you should know about the Samsung Q9FN is that it is a backlight model  .

There are many benefits to a well lit system, but it does add to the thickness of the TV. This model is about 3 centimeters at its thickest, tapering to about 2 centimeters towards the edges.

That’s a long way from the popular ‘wallpaper’ OLED TVs, but I don’t mind. Most TVs already have deep tripods that take up the same amount of space. I’d rather the picture quality be good than have a thinner TV at the expense of picture quality.

The price you pay for a relatively thin LCD TV and a thin cable is that the separate  One Connect box  – where all connections are located – is no longer as compact as before. It is roughly the same size as two stacks of four Bluray boxes side by side. Yet it is still easy enough to hide it in the TV cabinet.

Unfortunately, no  extra connections have been  added since the previous generation: it’s still four HDMI connections and three USB ports, plus the usual Ethernet, antenna and figure-eight power supply.

However, mobile integration  is a nice addition. This avoids having to enter your WiFi password on your TV. Download the  Samsung Smart Things app  on your  Android  or  iOS  device and set up Tizen – the operating system – and the apps there. Once installed, the app even serves as a second remote, in case you lose the physical version or find it too clunky.

Now for the most important thing: the image quality.  In one word: bravo ! Usually in TV land you choose a preference for light performance (LED LCDs) or low light performance (OLEDs). Sure, there are LCDs that provide good shadow detail, or OLEDs that provide great highlights, but there’s just no TV that excels at both extremes. Until now, anyway.

What this means is that the viewing conditions can be as dark or as bright as you want. If you want to close the curtains and turn off the lights for a good cinema experience, fine. If your house is more like a showroom and you have a window facing the TV, no problem. You will find as much color volume in a few TVs as with the Q9FN: the  color saturation increases  as the image becomes lighter.

The only point of frustration is that the  contrast was a little too aggressive  at times, leaving too intense black areas where you might normally see some detail. This is easily remedied by increasing the brightness to 1 or 2, while keeping  Local Dimming  at High (for High Dynamic Range, or HDR) and Standard (for Standard Dynamic Range, or SDR).

As for the performance on black areas of the image? Let’s get this straight first: it’s  no better than OLED . You just can’t replicate the lighting precision of backlit OLED.

That said, Samsung has come so close that I couldn’t tell the difference between this LCD panel and an OLED panel from across the room. It wasn’t until I was within six feet of the screen that I could tell that the Samsung Q9FN is an LCD.

Another small drawback is that the  viewing angle is not always optimal 

4 LG 43UK6300

  • Best mid-range smart TV
  • Size : 43 inch
  • Sharpness : 4K UHD Screen
  • type : LED-LCD
  • Refresh rate : 50 Hz
  • Operating system : WebOS
  • Energy rating : A

The LG UK6300 is a 43 inch smart TV from one of the best TV makers in the industry. Although compact, the  LED LCD  TV has  4K resolution , excellent HDR support , solid audio and a full smart TV experience – all for under €450.

The 43 inch size is small enough for one person to set it up and move it around. It’s also worth noting that this is about as small as you can go with a 4K display.

At this size, the optimal viewing distance is only a few meters, so it is very suitable for a smaller room, such as a bedroom.

The LG 43UK6300 also has two input panels   on the back: one facing left and one facing back. The left panel has two HDMI ports (one with ARC support) and a single USB input.

The rear-facing panel includes component and composite video inputs, a second USB port, a third HDMI connection and an RF coaxial connection for antenna and cable, and an Ethernet port for wired networks. Wireless connectivity, of course, includes 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth.

The LG 43UK6300 offers the right display functions for an affordable 4K set. When viewing a scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, the colors all seemed  bright and pure , whether it was Spider-Man’s red-and-blue suit, or the blue skies and green lawns of the National Mall near the Washington Monument.

The  detail is also excellent : fine textures on canvas and small details on props were easy to distinguish. HDR is therefore supported in both  HDR10 and HLG formats . When viewing a scene from Arrival, this caused a brightly lit entrance to a dark tunnel to pop against the black backgrounds of the set. The contrast is more than okay with this TV.

While reviewing the test screens one color at a time, I soon noticed  shadows in the corners  of the screen. These were so noticeable that you’ll probably notice this in brightly lit scenes of TV shows or movies.

The  viewing angles are also somewhat limited  and instead of simply changing the colours, this leads to a serious darkening of the screen. One or two people can comfortably watch the TV, but a third would have trouble seeing what’s on the screen.

5 Samsung UE32T5300

  • Best budget smart TV
  • Size : 32 inch
  • Sharpness : Full HD (1080p) Screen
  • type : LED-LCD
  • Refresh rate : 50 Hz
  • Operating system : Tizen
  • Energy label : A

In a category usually defined by what you don’t get, the N5300 stands out for a full smart TV experience and a well-designed remote. This N5300 in particular has a 32 inch, 1080p Full HD LED-LCD panel. That makes it fairly small – which can make the difference in both the positive and negative sense. I’ll leave that to you!

Besides the fact that it runs just like our #1 on  Tizen  – and therefore has a wealth of available apps – the Apple TV app is also   integrated. Great for those people who like to continue working within and with the Apple ecosystem.

Furthermore, the design of the T5300 is solid. The TV is made of a combination of plastic and metal. The build quality is fine with no obvious issues: the tripod is plastic and supports the TV well, while the back of the TV is made of sturdy metal.

The TV does look a bit chunky from the side   and will stick out a bit when mounted on the wall. Yet it is thinner than many other models in this price segment.

As for  connectivity : the right side of the T5300 houses two HDMI ports, including one with ARC support, a single USB port and a coaxial jack for antenna input. On the back of the TV you will find connections for composite video and RCA audio, an optical port for digital surround sound and a wired Ethernet connection.

With just two HDMI ports, you can run into trouble if you have multiple sources to plug into, such as a Bluray player, satellite box, and game console. If you think you need more than two HDMI ports, consider purchasing an  HDMI switch  that will save you the hassle of manually swapping HDMI cables to switch between devices.

The  1080p display  is reasonably sharp and bright for a  Full-HD panel . The set features Samsung’s  PurColor LCD  display technology and a  50 Hz  refresh rate. Obviously you won’t get support for HDR on a 1080p TV, as HDR is generally only offered on 4K sets.

The  low refresh rate  is clearly visible during fast-moving action scenes. Fast-moving objects look a bit chaotic: an ax thrown in the middle of a battle scene falters as it flies through the air, and a speeding bike lacks the smoothness you’d see with a higher refresh rate.

The display also suffers from  inconsistent backlighting, with shadows in the corners of the screen and additional subtle shadows over parts of the center of the screen. The edge-lit panel also sometimes has problems displaying bright lights against a dark background: it sometimes shows fairly heavy circles of light around bright objects.

Viewing angles are sometimes an issue , with a pronounced color shift showing only 20 degrees off center. That means you might be able to watch a movie with one person sitting next to you on the couch, but a third person would have to do with unpleasant color changes. That does not matter for a single person or a couple; but a large family could suffer from this.

However, colors are very vivid,  sometimes a bit oversaturated, so that they take on unnaturally bright hues. This is the case whether we are watching 1080p content from Bluray discs or zapping through paid satellite TV channels.

However, on public TV channels, the colors look  quite vibrant and accurate  . Sesame Street looks great with colorful Muppets and good detail for a 1080p display. Cookie Monster’s fur appears to be the correct shade of blue, while the human co-stars have accurate skin tones.

The sound quality of the T5300 is, as expected, not too good. Since the built-in speakers on premium sets struggle to deliver great sound, I wasn’t expecting much from a model like the T5300 priced under $400. So let me put it differently: for a TV of this price, the  sound is very adequate , but don’t expect miracles.

When testing the T5300’s speakers, they manage to get good highs at lower volumes, but at the expense of lower tones. Higher volumes only lead to distorted tones and a lot of buzz in the cabinet.

The T5300 includes Samsung’s Tizen operating system, which allows you to stream services such as Netflix and use supporting apps such as YouTube and Spotify. In contrast to the display and audio, Samsung has  no compromises on smart TV functions .

The T5300 comes with the same functionality as Samsung’s more expensive sets. The  Connect Hub also  gives you a central point to connect all your different smart home devices.

Buying guide

Smart TV specifications can seem confusing, but I’m happy to help you with this. Below are the most important factors to consider when making your purchase.

Budget

Let’s quote the clearest criterion first: your budget. Based on this, you can already filter a lot of candidates from your list of possibilities. Then you can look at the following points below. 

The size

The size of your ideal TV depends on both the space you have in your home and your budget. Not sure how much space you have in your house? Then grab a tape measure or download an app with which you can measure the dimensions of your house and measure the room in which you want to place the TV.

Picture – with the size of the TV you have in mind – in how much space the screen will take up. Is it still not working? Then just cut out a piece of cardboard and place it provisionally where you want to put your TV. Also keep in mind how far away from TV you want to sit!

The resolution

Like a laptop or smartphone, the resolution of a television refers to  the number of dots or pixels  that make up the screen. The more pixels, the sharper the image, although the screen size also affects the sharpness as the same number of pixels on a larger screen will look a lot more blurry.

Today, a large part of the larger screens have a resolution of 4K. Some television companies may use the term Ultra HD instead, but it’s essentially the same resolution. However, if you’re getting a small TV – under 40 inches – it’s not worth investing in a 4K resolution as this precision is just not noticeable at this size.

However, for anything larger than 40 inches, 4K is the current gold standard. 8K is already on the horizon , but unless you buy a really gigantic television, you won’t really notice those extra pixels.

Display technology

Today’s television screens rely on two competing technologies: the well-known  LED-LCD and the more expensive OLED . It can be difficult to determine which one is best, especially as manufacturers add their own customizations and proprietary technologies to each product.

In addition, as both technologies continue to evolve, they enhance their strengths and minimize their relative weaknesses. However, here’s a (very) general summary of the differences:

LED LCD

Both types of screens use  LED lights  for illumination, but in different ways. With LED LCD screens, white light-emitting diodes or LED pixels are used as backlight to form an image through an LCD screen or LCD filter.

The LED lights usually cover the entire screen, but cheaper sets sometimes limit them to just the edges of the screen. This can lead to sub-optimal exposure of certain scenes.

LED LCD screens are also generally  sharper than OLED  screens and also offer more natural light control in scenes. Incidentally,  Samsung ‘s  QLED technology is also a form of LED-LCD technology!

OLED

In contrast, organic light-emitting diodes or OLED screens override the backlight and instead illuminate  individual pixels  one at a time using an electrical current. As a result, the screen responds faster to changing input.

In addition, because a black pixel is completely turned off rather than dimmed, OLED screens tend to offer  better contrast  than LED LCD screens. However, they are more expensive to produce, which usually leads to more expensive television sets.

Operating system

Now that you know what your content looks like, it’s time to figure out what that content will be. That means you have to think about the platform that powers your smart TV. Manufacturers such as Samsung, LG and Philips use their own in-house smart TV software.

Actually, the platform shouldn’t play a big role in your decision though. All smart TV platforms offer similar features, including access to major apps like Netflix, Disney+ and YouTube. Although there may be minor differences from platform to platform, these differences are usually minor.

Image enhancing functionalities

When you’re done with this, check to see if the sets on your list of possible TVs include some of these picture-enhancing features:

  • For example, some screens have a  High Dynamic Range , or  HDR . This brings out the details in the darkest and brightest parts of the image and improves the color gamut. Check if your coveted TV supports it. While you may find competing HDR standards like HDR10 vs Dolby Vision, each HDR standard can deliver a better looking image in its own way.
  • You should also consider the refresh rate ie  refresh rate : This is literally the number of times the image is refreshed every second. For example, a rate of 60 Hz means that the image is refreshed 60 times per second. More refreshes provide a sharper image and less motion blur when watching action and sports images with fast movements.
  • Most smart TVs also adopt smart (but optional) technology to reduce motion blur. You can find these kinds of effects under a name like  motion interpolation  or  frame interpolation . Whether this looks good is a matter of taste: it can reduce blur so much that everything takes on a razor-sharp, cheap shine known as the  soap opera effect .

Reviews

Read reviews about the TVs you’re interested in! While it’s helpful to know what all the specs we’ve mentioned actually mean, you can still find a high-spec TV with poor picture quality – or one with a lower-quality TV that exceeds expectations.

In other words, specs can help narrow your choices, but they don’t necessarily tell you if one particular TV is better than another.

Conclusion

At least you now have plenty to think about! Feel free to read the buying guide again and view the top 5 again.

Do you have any valuable additions to the article yourself? Let us know below! Thank you for reading!

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