What are the best 4K TVs of 2017?
The best 4K TV for someone wanting a new flat panel in the VIZIO SmartCast 4K E-series 50 Class. It has Chromecast built in and a contrast ratio usually seen on television that cost more than twice as much.
The Sony XBR X930D also delivers superb image quality for someone who can spend a little more. The X930D streams with a baked-in Android TV interface.
But neither can compare in picture quality and performance to the LG E6 OLED.
There are good reasons too.
The sheet-glass panel uses a completely different kind of way that it illuminates the 8 million pixels that makes up its screen. And, it costs quite a bit more.
You might not want a 4K TV if you just need another set for a kid’s room, garage or spare bedroom. An inexpensive Roku TV made by Insignia or DCL deliver a great picture with 1080p. And you won’t need to buy a separate media streamer. 4k TVs have been very slowly emerging into mainstream America for two reasons. Prices for 4K TV sets have been dropping. Content shot in 4K is becoming more common on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
But 2017 will likely be the year that you will be hearing about 4K TVs a lot more. Our review will help you easily navigate some of the latest specs, and quickly choose what to get.
What is 4k Ultra HD TV?
4K television is just one name among many associated with Ultra-high-definition television. It’s the format you want if you’re in the market for buying a new television for your living room.
4K UHD has about 8 million pixels – about four times more than a 1080p screen displays. 4K UHD has a resolution of 3840 pixels x 2160 lines.
You may also hear some other acronyms related to picture quality that may sound a little confusing at first.
OLED, HDR, HDCP 2.2… Sounds like a real blast, right?
All of these features are important, and are actually easy to understand. We’ll explain what they are, and whether you want them in your 4k TV.
4k picture quality and features
When you walk into a store like Best Buy or Costco, you’ll notice the dazzling picture quality coming from the 4k TVs. The lush, realistic colors are even more pronounced while you’re standing in front of one of those massive 65-inch sets.
What makes that such a great picture?
Contrast ratio. We’re talking about the very brightest and darkest colors a 4k TVs can possibly show. A common contrast ratio is 5000:1. You’ll get a pretty nice picture. Nothing will have that washed out look. A 4K TV is dramatically better.
Let me give you a quick example to illustrate what I mean.
If we were watching a fireworks display going off at night on our 1080p TV, we’d see bright Dandelion-shaped explosions above. And ideally, the dark field below would be deepest shades of dark our eyes could perceive.
Watch that same fireworks display on some of the best 4K TV sets around, that picture might stop you cold and make you say, “Sweet Christmas.”
The picture looks “real” to you. It’s like you could reach into the TV and touch something you see.
What gives a 4K picture that realistic look?
The best 4k TVs that you will see in 2017 will have two important features to achieve the realistic looking picture.
We’re talking about wide color gamut (WCG) and high dynamic range (HDR).
These features are now being mentioned more by content providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others. There is a competition underway among these content providers. They want you to know that they got the goods – the very best 4k kind of goods. So it’s beneficial to learn a little bit about these acronyms that are popping up alongside 4k programming now.
Here’s a quick primer before we talk about specific 4k TVs.
Just like the name suggests, wide color gamut is showing you a lot more colors than the 1080p TV sets that you’re used to. When you hear about the picture quality for Ultra Blu-Ray, we’re like talking about WCG and colors that the human eye can see that has never been on a TV before. So get ready. There hasn’t been much content released in this format, but you can expect to hear a lot more about WCG in 2017 and beyond.
Anyone shopping for a 4K TV has probably run across the term HDR, short for high dynamic range. When a picture looks more “real” like the one we’ve been discussing, we’re talking about two things. Contrast ratio is part of it, and the other is color accuracy. There are two high dynamic range formats, Dolby Vision and HDR10. Without getting into the minute details, most manufacturers of 4K TVs are creating sets with HDR10 format.
This is a small, but important detail that can be easily overlooked. You definitely want to make sure your 4K TV supports this latest standard of HDMI. These kinds of ports use the latest copy-protection technology. Some older models of 4K TVs do not have HDCP 2.2. Without this feature, a 4k TV or other HDMI connected device won’t be able to transmit Ultra HD images.
This latest version of the HDMI standard supports higher-resolution images and faster frame rates. HDMI 2.0a uses the same ports and cables, so you don’t need to worry about the cords being compatible with other devices in your home. HDMI 2.0a is needed for Ultra HD Blu-Ray and certain HDR content.
You may be familiar with LCD (liquid crystal displays). Most TVs being sold these days have an LCD screen. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is essentially the next generation in screens. There’s an infinite contrast ratio on OLED screens because pixels are illuminated individually. They don’t require backlight. A number of things built into OLED screens contribute to an overall higher quality picture.
LCD vs OLED
LCD remains the most common type of display with 4k TVs. Most LCD TVs have an edge-lighting system to keep sets looking slim and stylish. This doesn’t always lead to the best picture quality. The reasoning behind putting aesthetic over picture quality has always been something of a mystery to me. Why would you sacrifice picture quality because the outside of your TV looks better? A lot of people might disagree with me here. In the end, you will always want that more realistic looking picture. There are some LCDs that do such a great job with edge lighting you might not care much about the difference in the picture when comparing it to an OLED screen.
Best 4k TVs of 2017
In 2017, Panasonic is expected to come out with their own OLED that promises to be remarkably thin. Sony is also developing its Z9 line of televisions to rival OLED sets. But, as you might expect, they are expected to cost roughly twice as much as OLED sets. Below are the best 4K TVs of 2017, giving you the best bang for your buck.
OUR TOP CHOICE
4 HDMI ports / webOS 3.0 / HRD10 + Dolby Vision
LG E6 OLED TV is by far the most exciting 4k TV on the market. But it’s also among the most expensive. Most people won’t want to pay thousands for a new 4K TV.
Home theater enthusiasts or technophiles will be the most excited, and perhaps surprised, by the appearance and performance of the E6. It also fits the bill for people who are as concerned with the style and design of their television.
A picture-on-glass design literally makes the set look like a sheet of glass capped at the bottom with a soundbar.
In terms of picture quality, the biggest difference with this OLED set is that it offers an infinite contrast ratio. Each of the 8 million pixels has its own independent light source.
So you’re not going to find a more realistic looking picture due its vast spectrum of colors. The OLED screen and its contrast will not only be very noticeable for someone in front of the set. The E6 also delivers spectacular resolution if you are sitting at an angle or in a well lit room.
Unlike many HDR capable televisions, the LG E6 OLED supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the latter of which is seen as a superior format. You can find Dolby Vision content on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Vudu while using the LG E6 OLED. The E6 is available in 55” and 65” inch sets.
The Sony XBR X930D operates with Android TV and has a patented feature called Slim Backlight Drive to deliver a crisp image. It has support for HDR10 and a wide color gamut. The remote is large and has voice search. Available in 55” and 65” models, the edge backlighting produces bright HDR highlights. But when you go to adjust the volume, the screen lights up a little, giving the bottom of the screen a washed out look. That’s not great, but not a deal breaker either. The X930D still has fewer bright spots and halos than many 4k TVs on the market.
The frame of the X930D is made of plastic and has a small, but efficient pedestal that makes it easy to fit on a table or TV stand.
The X930D has a power brick that reminds me of the one on my Xbox 360. It’s big. The size is likely a way for Sony to keep the TV itself looking slim. The remote control is not backlit, which would be nice to have with a 4k TV of this caliber.
Budget 4K TVs
The VIZIO SmartCast 4K E-series 50 Class has the best contrast ratio for a 4K TV in its price point. Vizio uses full-array local dimming and a vertical alignment display, which is a kind of LCD that uses liquid crystals, to achieve a much higher contrast ratio and better overall image.
These are features usually found in much higher priced 4K TV sets. The SmartCast E-series also has HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compatibility.
Insignia 4K Roku TV has an edge-light design, but impressive color accuracy for a set with a lower price point. The Insignia 4K Roku TV does not have HDR. But it does have the ability to upscale the picture. The remote has a voice search capability. People who want a newer TV for streaming without spending too much will like this set.
The baked-in Roku menu has a 4K Spotlight feature which aggregates content from across multiple apps and platforms.