Welcome to Spring, that time when we remind ourselves of the great TV models from last year that are still for sale, while at the same time looking forward to all of the new 8K TVs that are headed our way.
Let’s start with a quick rundown of the 8K TVs we’re most excited to get our hands on (and hopefully that will be soon) and then we’ll talk about the models you can actually buy today.
The most exciting 8K TVs of 2021
- Officially speaking, LG’s ZX 8K OLED (see below) will carry over from 2020 as the company’s flagship 8K OLED for the U.S. market. However, in other markets, LG will start selling the Z1 OLED. With the latest-generation 8K OLED panel and Alpha 9-based picture processing, and a giant array of the latest tech specs such as HDMI 2.1, VRR, ALLM, HGiG, Dolby Vision IQ, eARC, Nvidia G-Sync, AMD FreeSync, and much more. This TV will almost certainly provide the best picture quality of 2021 for those who can afford it. There’s a slim possibility the Z1 might actually make it stateside in the second half of the year. If that happens, we’ll be sure to let you know.
- Samsung’s Neo QLED 8K lineup will come closer than ever to OLED-level picture quality thanks to the introduction of Mini-LED backlighting. But with its clever OneConnect breakout box that can hideaway, or be attached to an integrated center stand, it’s a shoo-in for the best design in a TV.
- TCL’s 6-Series Roku TVs were already upgraded with Mini-LED backlighting in 2020 (see below) but this year, we’ll get TCL’s first 8K models, which we can pretty much guarantee will be the best value going for 8K if that’s what you want in your next TV.
- Sony’s Z9J Bravia XR Master Series 8K TVs will be the ultimate showcase for Sony’s legendary picture and audio processing, using the company’s new XR technologies. They’ll offer 120 frames per second at 4K resolution for ultra-smooth gaming, and a sound system that can generate a virtual Dolby Atmos experience without any additional speakers or soundbars.
Right now, the LG Z9 8K OLED is the best 8K TV you can buy — its OLED panel delivers an unmatched level of pure black and perfect contrast, but it’s not the only 8K kid on the block. Here’s our guide to the 8K TVs you should have on your shortlist.
The best 8K TVs for 2021 at a glance:
The best 8K TV: LG ZX 8K OLED
Why you should buy it: OLED is still the leader when it comes to picture quality, and this is the only 8K OLED TV you can buy, which pretty much makes it a no-brainer as long as you have deep pockets.
Who it’s for: Those who want the very best 8K TV on the planet and have the means to pay the sky-high price.
Why we chose the LG ZX OLED TV:
If you’ve been following our TV coverage over the past few years, you know we’re simply gaga about OLED. When it comes to picture quality, viewing angles, and black levels, it’s simply the best type of TV display you can buy. Last year, we got a chance to review the $30,000, 88-inch 2019 LG Z9, which is very similar to the LG ZX. We declared it the “future of TV” and gave it a rare perfect 10 out of 10 score. So it makes sense that LG’s 8K ZX OLED TV series, which follows in the Z9’s footsteps will be the best 8K TV you can buy in 2020.
Because true 8K content is going to be hard to come by for the next year or two until the studio and streaming worlds catch up, an 8K TV must do an excellent job of upscaling 4K or Full HD content. Otherwise, you’re just wasting all of those pixels. The Z9 featured LG’s second-gen Alpha 9 8K upscaling, and when we did A/B comparisons between 4K and native 8K versions of the same content on our Z9 review TV, the visible differences were minimal. The ZX gets LG’s third-gen Alpha 9 8K upscaling, which we expect will be even better.
You may be wondering about Sony. After all, Sony’s A9G 4K OLED actually managed to eclipse LG’s C9 4K OLED despite having the same OLED panel made by LG Display. You can bet that when Sony creates its first 8K OLED TV, it will be a force to be reckoned with. But that won’t happen in 2020, as Sony’s only 8K models use the company’s LED-backlit panels. As such, it’s unlikely they’ll be a match for LG’s 8K OLED TVs.
Design-wise, the 88-inch version of the ZX series (which is also available as a 77-inch model) is also a stunner physically, with a polished aluminum stand that turns the TV into a sculpture worthy of a modern art display. The one downside: The stand and the display are integrated to the point where wall-mounting the panel portion separately is impossible.
Unfortunately, LG wasn’t able to bring the price of the 88-inch LG Z9 8K OLED down from 2019 (it’s still a heart-attack-inducing $30,000) but it is making a 77-inch model available for the slightly less frightening figure of $20,000. Though who’s kidding who? If you can afford a $20K TV, what’s another 10 grand?
The 8K TV with the best design: Samsung Q950TS
Samsung’s Q950TS 8K TV is 99% image, 1% border. Samsung
Why you should buy it: It will probably have the best picture quality of any non-OLED 8K TV and it has a drool-worthy design.
Who it’s for: Those who want an exceptional 85-inch 8K TV that can also be wall-mounted.
Why we chose the Samsung Q950TS:
While we haven’t had a chance to formally review Samsung’s gorgeous new Q950TS 8K QLED TV, we did get to see it in the flesh at CES 2020. It left an impression that’s still with us. Saying that a TV has a truly edge-to-edge display is one thing. Seeing it for yourself is quite another, which is why (for now) you’ll have to take our word for it: The Q950TS and its “Infinity Screen” must be seen to be appreciated.
Then there’s the Q950TS’s thickness or lack thereof. At just 15mm (or just over half an inch) thick, it’s almost as thin as an OLED panel and shockingly thin for a QLED TV when you consider it still incorporates Samsung’s 32x full-array LED backlighting, something OLED panels don’t require. Hanging such a TV on your wall will be more like hanging a thin picture frame, but without the frame.
While not really what we’d call affordable, the 85-inch Q950TS costs $13,000 — considerably less than even the 77-inch LG ZX — and you can buy one right now. We still don’t know the pricing on its other sizes (65-inch, 75-inch) or when they’ll go on sale. Unlike the LG ZX, which is almost unchanged from the 2019 Z9, the Q950TS is an all-new model, making it difficult to predict its performance.
That said, we’re very familiar with Samsung’s 8K QLED efforts to date. Assuming the Q950TS is Samsung’s flagship, it will offer a noticeable step up from its previous range-topping Q900 (a reasonable assumption we think) and should be a gorgeous TV all around. It gets Samsung’s Adaptive Picture technology, which lets the TV adjust picture settings automatically as room lighting conditions change, something you’ll also find on TVs equipped with Dolby Vision IQ.
Beyond the picture quality of the Samsung Q950TS, we’re very curious to test Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound+, a feature Samsung says adds realism by letting you hear on-screen objects as they move about. Samsung has a history of staying away from Dolby Labs’ technologies, so we expect this is simply Samsung’s version of Dolby Atmos, in the same way that its support for HDR10+ is an alternative to Dolby Vision.
The best price on an 8K TV: Samsung Q800T 65-inch
Why you should buy it: It packs all of the benefits of an 8K TV at a price that makes it accessible for more people.
Who it’s for: Those who want an 8K TV but don’t want a huge screen — or a huge price.
Why we chose the Samsung Q800T 65-inch:
If you love the idea of an 8K TV but find yourself getting queasy over 8K prices, Samsung’s Q800T 65-inch model might just be the 8K TV you’ve been waiting for. At $3,500, it still costs a good bit more than even the most expensive 4K TVs at this screen size, but it sets a new low benchmark for 8K prici