OLED TVs are prized among TV fans for two main reasons: They exhibit beautiful color, and when it comes to ultra-inky blacks, there’s simply nothing better. Until a few years ago, LG Electronics was the only company selling OLED TVs, but in 2021, there’s more choice than ever, with models from LG, Sony, and Vizio in a variety of sizes, prices, and features.
We believe the LG G1 OLED TV is the best OLED TV you can buy. It has a dizzying array of leading-edge features, and it sports the brightest OLED panel ever made for a non-professional-grade TV. Not everyone will be willing to pay the G1’s fairly steep price or value all of its features, though, so we’ve pulled together four more OLED TVs that are bound to satisfy most people, if not most budgets.
The best OLED TVs at a glance
The best OLED TV: LG G1 Gallery Series
Why you should buy it: Thanks to LG’s OLED Evo panel, the G1 has one of the most vivid pictures of any OLED TV.
Who it’s for: Those who want top-notch picture quality and gaming features and don’t feel the need to splurge on an 8K OLED.
Why we picked the LG G1 Gallery Series:
Our review of the new LG G1 Gallery Series OLED TV says it all: “The LG G1 Gallery Series produces the cleanest, most enticing imagery I’ve seen from a TV yet.” A big part of that is LG’s new OLED Evo panel, an exclusive feature of the G1. The Evo panel uses a combination of improved OLED material and better picture-processing algorithms to generate a brighter overall image than any other LG OLED TV.
But picture quality is just one small aspect of the G1’s mastery of the OLED market. Consider its design: OLED TVs are already ultra-thin, but on a lot of models, that thinness isn’t evenly distributed. The G1 is thin enough to make it ideal for wall-mounting. In fact, LG takes the notion of the G1’s gallery design so seriously that it only ships with a wall mount. Legs are available if you want them, but they cost extra.
You’ll find scads of connections around the back of the G1, including four HDMI 2.1 ports, each of which is compatible with 4K at 120Hz and one that supports HDMI eARC. There are three USB ports for accessing external media on a hard drive or simply for providing power to a streaming stick or a string of LED bias lights. You also get Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth 5.0, an optical output, and a built-in ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV) OTA receiver, which means you’ll be terrestrial TV future-proofed for years to come.
Support for video and audio is almost endless, with Dolby Vision, Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10, and HLG flavors of high-dynamic range all on tap. Dolby Atmos is here, too, and while the built-in 4.2 channel speaker system won’t blow you away, it is super clear and even gets a bit of low-end bass boost from LG’s artificial intelligence (A.I.).
The G1 shares the same gaming features as the LG C1 below, which reads like a gamer’s fantasy wishlist, including 4K gaming at 120Hz, variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low-latency mode (ALLM), HGiG profiles for clarity when playing HDR games, and a new Game Optimizer, which pulls together all gaming-related settings in one control panel. Better yet, the G1 is compatible with both Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync Premium — the two primary VRR technologies from the console and PC gaming world — to reduce or eliminate screen tearing.
Finally, you need only speak out loud for the G1 to respond to your wishes. In addition to LG’s own ThinQ voice A.I., you get hands-free voice access to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Frankly, there’s just too much to the LG G1 Gallery Series to discuss here, but if you check out our full review, we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s the OLED TV to beat.
Read our in-depth LG G1 Gallery Series OLED TV review
The best OLED TV for gaming: LG C1 Series
Why you should buy it: Unrivalled gaming features are just the tip of the iceberg for this awesome OLED TV.
Who it’s for: Those who want an OLED TV that combines great picture quality with leading-edge gaming tech — without spending more for a fancy design.
Why we picked the LG C1 Series OLED TV:
There’s no doubt that the Gallery Series is drop-dead gorgeous and has the brightest image you’ll find in an OLED TV, but if you want to save some money while keeping all of the features that matter to a gamer, the LG C1 Series is the way to go.
Granted, it doesn’t have the OLED Evo panel, but virtually every other feature from the G1 has been kept intact, including all of the gaming-centric ones, such as 4K gaming at 120Hz, variable refresh rate (VRR), auto low-latency mode (ALLM), HGiG profiles, the Game Optimizer (see above), and Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync Premium technologies.
When you take these into consideration — along with the OLED TV’s native response time of a millisecond and an input lag as low as 9.6 ms — you’ve got what might be the best gaming display on the planet.
When you’re not gaming, the C1 Series is also an exceptional TV for movies, TV shows, and sports. Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG are all supported, and LG’s Alpha 9 Gen 4 A.I. Processor does a fantastic job of upscaling all kinds of non-4K content to near-4K quality, with almost no loss of sharpness.
LG’s revamped WebOS UI is a joy to use and a much-needed improvement over previous versions, while Apple AirPlay 2, Apple HomeKit, and the Apple TV app will make Apple users very happy indeed.
The best OLED TV for cinephiles: Sony Master Series A90J
Why you should buy it: With an ultra-bright OLED panel and Sony’s legendary picture processing, the A90J is a cineaste’s dream come true.
Who it’s for: Those who want the ultimate in picture quality and have the means to drop $4,000 on a 65-inch OLED TV.
Why we picked the Sony Master Series A90J:
As incredible as LG’s G1 Gallery Series is, Sony has somehow managed to turn in an even better performance — at least when it comes to picture and sound — with its Master Series Bravia XR A90J OLED TV.
We shouldn’t actually say “somehow,” because our reviewer has been over this TV with a fine-toothed comb and knows exactly why: Sony is using its own advanced heat-sink technology along with an OLED panel from LG and some of the best picture processing available to create an OLED TV that gets brighter than any other we’ve tested.
How bright? Try 1,300 nits in its Vivid mode. But this kind of power without control would just be painful, which is why the A90J is such an impressive TV. Sony’s latest image controller, the Cognitive Processor XR, attempts to deliver images that match the way our brains perceive the world for a greater sense of realism. This approach is very effective, and with some judicious tweaking of the A90J’s Custom mode, you end up with an image that is simply the best you can get from an OLED TV — or, really, any TV short of Sony’s own $30,000 professional mastering monitor.
Now, if you want to game using the A90J, all of that picture goodness applies just as much to your favorite titles — they’ll look stunning. But without VRR (it’s coming, but not until later in 2021) and without support for Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s FreeSync Premium, the LG C1 is still a better choice for gamers (not to mention a whole lot more affordable).
As we mentioned above, sound is another strong point for the A90J. Sony once again uses its Acoustic Surface Audio+ to turn the OLED panel into one big speaker, but it has added some awesome new tricks via its XR Sound suite. XR Sound Position means that sounds match their on-screen locations, while XR Surround virtualizes audio into a full 3D presentation, complete with perceptible height and width.
If you use an A/V receiver and want to ditch your center channel speaker, you can plug that speaker cable into the A90J’s center channel terminals, whereupon the TV will use all of its audio might to fill in for the deleted speaker.
There are far too many other features to get into here, like the excellent Google TV interface, Sony’s innovative three-way stand, or the sleek aluminum voice remote, but our full review should more than answer the question of whether or not the Bravia XR A90J‘s high price is worth it. Hint: It is.
Read our in-depth Sony Bravia XR A90J 4K OLED HDR TV review
The best budget OLED TV: Vizio OLED55-H1 OLED TV
Why you should buy it: It’s the best price you’ll find on a gorgeous 4K HDR OLED TV.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the image quality of an OLED TV but isn’t prepared to pay the premiums commanded by other brands.
Why we picked the Vizio OLED55-H1 OLED TV:
OLED TVs are notoriously expensive for the same size of screen as LED or QLED TVs, so anything that brings the price down is already a win in our books. The Vizio OLED TV (available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes) does just that and manages to do so with hardly any compromises.
As you would expect from an OLED TV, blacks are as inky as they get, and colors are remarkably accurate even with the factory settings. It takes some tweaking of the image settings to get the brightness up to where it should be — especially when viewing HDR material — but once that’s done, things look pretty stellar. That’s going to help you make the most of the fact that this TV supports more flavors of HDR than any other on this list: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG.
It’s worth pointing out that Vizio’s picture processing, while very good, is not quite up to the same standards you’ll see on the LG G1, C1, or Sony A90J, but that’s part of the reason you’re not paying the price premium these brands demand. You’ll notice this most when watching non-4K compressed content, like streaming from Hulu or YouTube. These sources don’t look as sharp or as detailed as native 4K content, but we’re really just nitpicking — it’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch.
Thanks to full support of HDMI 2.1, gaming is also really fun on the Vizio OLED TV. It has the key features gamers need, like VRR, ALLM, and 4K HDR gaming at 12oHz, but it doesn’t go as far as the LG C1 in areas like Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync. Nonetheless, our testing with a PlayStation 5 proved the Vizio OLED was more than enough TV to have a blast while gaming.
Sound, like on most TVs, is nothing special — adequate for dialog-heavy content like the news or watching sitcoms, but if you want a really great sound experience, a soundbar or home theater receiver is a must.
As with all of Vizio’s newest TVs, its SmartCast user interface is all you need for streaming most services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Apple TV+. Speaking of Apple, AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are built into the Vizio OLED TV, as is Chromecast. It’s also compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa if you have a smart speaker that uses one of these voice assistants.
Read our in-depth Vizio OLED TV review
The biggest OLED TV/best 8K OLED TV: LG ZX
Why you should buy it: It’s the biggest and highest-resolution OLED TV you buy.
Who it’s for: Those with massive living rooms and even bigger wallets.
Why we picked the LG Z9:
What does it take for a TV to score a perfect 10 here at Digital Trends? The answer is a monstrous, 88-inch, 8K resolution HDR OLED TV, like the LG ZX.
Yes, it’s extraordinary in every way, but especially when it comes to its price. At almost $30,000, it’s simply too expensive to recommend to the vast majority of TV buyers, but if you have the means, it’s one helluva great TV.
Let’s start with the size. At 88 inches, the ZX isn’t just the biggest OLED TV; it’s one of the biggest TVs, period. Sony makes a version of its Z9G LED TV that measures 98 inches, but it’s a whopping $60,000. And eventually, you’ll be able to buy one of Samsung’s microLED TVs at 110 inches, but we have no idea what that crazy beast will cost — or whether it will be an 8K model. All of this means the LG ZX is the biggest TV bang for your buck without going to a laser TV or projector.
But the ZX is also brimming with every conceivable feature you could ask for, from the full support of HDMI 2.1 to a comprehensive suite of HDR formats (8K HDR10 Pro, 8K HLG Pro, 4K Dolby Vision, and 4K Technicolor HDR). It also sports the C1 and G1’s compatibility with HGiG, Nvidia G-Sync, and AMD FreeSync. Playing games on this massive screen is an experience no gamer will want to miss.
LG throws in all of its usual excellent extras, like Apple AirPlay and HomeKit, Bluetooth 5.0, and hands-free voice recognition with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. It also comes with an ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV) tuner, so you’ll be ready when this new format becomes the norm for over-the-air TV.
You will likely want to match the ZX with an equally potent sound system, but its integrated speaker system is not too shabby either. An 80-watt 4.2 configuration is on tap, with a 40-watt subwoofer that should be sufficient to deliver a very respectable sound experience, especially considering the support for Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD.
Are there any downsides to the ZX (other than its price)? We can think of only one: It can’t be wall-mounted. The ZX comes with its own very attractive base, but the whole package weighs 229 pounds — not exactly nimble.
The LG ZX sits at the pinnacle of what’s currently possible with an OLED TV. We haven’t had a chance to review the ZX, but its predecessor, the virtually-identical Z9, got a full test.
Research and buying tips
What is an OLED TV?
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode, and its signature characteristic is that each pixel on the screen of an OLED TV emits its own light and color. With no backlight, OLED TVs are incredibly thin, but they also exhibit perfect blacks and incredible contrast because when a pixel is turned off, there’s no light coming from that location at all.
OLED vs. QLED: Which is better?
Be sure to check out our QLED versus OLED explainer. In general, OLED TVs produce a higher-quality image than QLED TVs, but there are caveats. QLED TVs get brighter, and so they’re the better choice for brightly-lit rooms. They also tend to be less expensive for the same size of screen than OLEDs. OLED TVs have a superior viewing angle, and their response times and refresh rates make them better for gaming, but burn-in remains a risk, which prompts many to opt for QLED instead.
Is OLED better than 4K?
Trick question! OLED is a description of a kind of TV display, whereas 4K refers to a TV’s native resolution. Like LED and QLED TVs, you can buy 4K and even 8K OLED TVs — the choice is yours.
What should I look for in an OLED TV?
Just about all OLED TVs will look incredible, but there are some features that cater to different buyers. If you’re a gamer, make sure your OLED TV supports HDMI 2.1 at the least, and in an ideal world, it should have Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, too. If you’re a cinephile or video maven, find a model with the best picture processing. Right now, that probably means a Sony OLED TV. Otherwise, go for the largest screen size you can afford.
Is OLED the best TV technology?
We think OLED TVs produce the best overall image quality, but in the not-so-distant future, it’s possible that microLED or mini-LED-based QLED TVs could steal the OLED TV’s crown.
Do OLED TVs have HDR?
Yes, all OLED TVs are compatible with at least HDR10 — the most common HDR format — while most offer support for HLG and Dolby Vision, too.
Do OLED TVs have problems with burn-in?
For the vast majority of buyers, burn-in will not be a problem, but it can happen. When it occurs, it’s usually because someone has set their OLED TV to show a TV channel or a video game that has on-screen graphics that don’t move much or at all and left it there for many hours each day, for many days in a row. TV network logos, certain background color panels, or user-interface elements can all cause permanent image retention. If this sounds like something you’ll want to do with your TV, OLED may not be the best choice.
Who makes the best OLED TV?
Right now, all OLED TV panels are produced by LG Display, and we believe that LG Electronics makes the best overall OLED TV: The G1 Gallery Series. That said, Sony’s image processing is slightly better, so if image perfection is your main yardstick, a Sony OLED TV is a great way to go.
When will OLED prices drop?
Technically speaking, they’re dropping right now. When Vizio introduced its 55-inch OLED TV at $1,300, it instantly became the most affordable OLED to date. We expect these prices to continue to fall as more companies invest in OLED TVs and as more display technology alternatives (like microLED, QD-OLED, and QNED) arrive on the scene.
Is an OLED TV worth it?
Yes. OLED TVs are definitely expensive when compared to some other options, but their black levels, contrast, and color make for an awesome viewing experience. Source