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Best smart TVs: the ultimate entertainment screens

Philips OLED806
(Image credit: Philips )

Hunting for the best smart TVs can feel like a massive undertaking. Suddenly every technical description feels like a test. Do you want LED or OLED? Should you care about VRR and ALLM? What’s the difference between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1? And why does everything vary in price so dramatically? 

Well, we’re here to help you wade through these murky acronym-filled waters. Choosing the best smart TV shouldn’t require constantly having to Google what something is. So, if you’re looking for a very quick answer to those questions:

  • OLED is a much more expensive screen technology with richer colors and inkier blacks than LED
  • VRR and ALLM mean ‘variable refresh rate’ and ‘auto low latency mode’ and are really only for people with new generation consoles
  • The difference between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 involves refresh rate and is important for gamers.

In this guide to the best smart TVs, we’ve picked the best screens in a number of categories. Whether you’re looking for a budget model with as big a screen as possible or luxury, money-no-object OLED, we’ve got you covered. 

Samsung AU7100

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung AU7100

The best all-round smart TV on a budget

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 43, 50, 55, 58, 65, and 75-inch
Operating system: Tizen
Reasons to buy
+Great 4K imagery+Good contrast+Brilliant operating system
Reasons to avoid
-No Dolby Vision-Not ultra bright 

The Samsung AU7100 is one of the most generously feature-rich budget TVs on the market today. It comes in an almost intimidating range of sizes so you’ll find the right model for you at a surprisingly low price, the build quality is excellent with an almost bezel-free design, and (the bit that really counts) the 4K imagery is thoroughly impressive for the price point. 

There’s no Dolby Vision support here but HDR10+ is on board so you can enjoy even richer colors on Amazon Prime Video content. The Tizen operating system is intuitive and features all of the big-name streaming services and you’ll get an even richer experience if you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. All you have to do is gently tap your phone to your TV to share content and continue watching on the big screen.

TCL Roku

(Image credit: Roku)

2. TCL RP620K Roku TV

The best budget smart streaming TV

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 43, 50, 55 and 65-inch
Operating system: Roku
Reasons to buy
+Dolby Vision+Intuitive streaming platform+Works with Alexa/Google Assistant 
Reasons to avoid
-Brightness can feel low-You’ll need a wide stand 

As you can tell by the prices in this guide, it would be very easy to blow the budget on one of the best smart TVs. Thankfully, the TCL RP620K means you don’t need to overextend yourself just to mainline Netflix content with crisp Dolby Vision.
The Roku TV platform is excellent, with a strong focus on making it as easy as possible to access all of your favorite streaming services and it means there's no need to buy an external streaming stick. Especially generous is the presence of AirPlay for streaming content from your Apple devices. It’s not quite as bright as the competition — in a literal, not smart sense — but it more than makes up for it in functionality, especially if you’re looking for the biggest screen possible.   

Sky Glass TV

(Image credit: Sky )

3. Sky Glass streaming TV

The best smart TV on a subscription

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 43, 55 and 65-inch (five colours)
Operating system: Sky
Reasons to buy
+Affordable monthly cost+Intuitive and easy to use+Dolby Vision
Reasons to avoid
-Needs reliable broadband-Individual subscription costs add up 

The roof access required for physical Sky satellite dish installation in the UK has often meant insurmountable hurdles for those looking for Sky TV. 

Sky Glass changes all that and throws a high-quality television into the mix too. For a subscription price starting at £39 a month (Sky Glass plus Sky Ultimate TV) — or an impressively low outright payment — you get access to Sky content and a QLED screen in a choice of colors. All you need is a broadband connection. Sky Glass, itself, is a TV from TP Vision and, while the image quality is good with bright colors, it’s the experience that shines —with ultra-fast loading and intuitive controls. Everything feels accessible with just a couple of clicks — unlike so many other smart devices. Just remember that the subscription costs will add up.  

Philips OLED806

(Image credit: Philips )

4. Philips OLED806

Best for OLED visuals and room decor

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 48, 55, 65, and 77-inch
Operating system: Android TV
Reasons to buy
+Ambilight is brilliant+Strong visuals+HDMI 2.1 for gamers 
Reasons to avoid
-You’ll want a soundbar

Stepping up to OLED picture quality is a true game-changer for your home entertainment, especially when you combo it up with Philips’ absolutely worth it Ambilight tech. LED lights on the back of the slim set perfectly extend what’s on-screen, making every movie and TV episode suddenly take over the room. And that’s not all you get for the price. If you’ve managed to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X, two of the four HDMI ports on the Philips OLED806 are of the HDMI 2.1 standard. This means variable refresh rate (VRR) and auto low latency mode (ALLM) as well as 4K gaming at 120fps, all of which means superior new-gen console performance. Add in excellent image fidelity and this is a strong OLED performer that doesn’t require a re-mortgage.

LG C1

(Image credit: LG)

5. LG C1

The best smart TV for gamers

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 48, 55, 65, and 77-inch
Operating system: LG WebOS 6.0
Reasons to buy
+HDMI 2.1 functionality +Game optimiser +Great picture quality 
Reasons to avoid
-No HDR10+

LG is now famous for its OLED TVs for very good reason. While they are still expensive, the OLED range offers vibrant colors, great picture quality and upscaling, and the LG C1’s four HDMI 2.1 ports mean that it’s hungry to make the most of new-gen consoles. Plus, a new Game Optimiser mode with LG’s 2021 processor technology means that PS5 and Xbox Series X owners have less lag than ever before. 

The C1 is also a great all-rounder. Even if you don’t have a console, Blu-Rays and TV shows shine on the OLED panel with sharp fidelity. Motion handling is especially deft here too, meaning that visuals feel more natural and realistic. It’s an expensive smart TV but absolutely worth the investment.

Sony A90J

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony A90J

The best money-no-object smart TV

Specifications
Screen sizes available: 55, 65, and 83-inch
Operating system: Android TV
Reasons to buy
+Truly exceptional visual fidelity +Perfect upscaling +Beautiful design +No need for soundbar 
Reasons to avoid
-Missing some UK TV apps

If you’re willing to spend well into the thousands for one of the best smart TVs, the Sony A90J ticks nearly every box. There are a few missing TV apps, but that seems like a small quibble when the OLED visuals look so perfect, the upscaling of HD content is miles better than the competition and there are two HDMI 2.1 ports for full support of the new-gen console experience. Even better is the fact that there’s no need for an accompanying soundbar as the A90J uses what Sony calls Acoustic Surface Audio+ which means that the entire screen is a forward-facing speaker. There’s also full voice functionality with Google Assistant and Alexa, as well as AirPlay 2 and even a built-in Chromecast so you can always just stream channels from any of your devices. 

How to choose the best smart TV for you 

When it comes to choosing the best smart TV for you, there are a few key elements to think about. The biggest element (literally) is the size of screen you’re looking for. If this is going to be your main living room TV, think about where it’s going to go and the screen size you’re comfortable with. Whereas ten years ago we were happily watching 32-inch TVs, now we’ve got desktop PC monitors that size and the majority of smart TVs start at 43-inches. 

Once you’ve decided on the space that’s going to be taken up by your new TV, it's time to think about your budget — as the best smart TVs range massively in price. A cheap TV will give you more screen for less, while one of the bigger manufacturers might be more expensive but also more feature-rich — with tech like Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Choosing the best smart TV is all about balance. 

And then there’s the tech that makes it smart. When you’re choosing the best smart TV, you want to make sure it has all of the streaming services and functionality you want. Whether Disney+ is a must or you want to stream content from your iPad or iPhone with AirPlay, you need to check the small print to make sure your chosen TV has everything you need. There are always streaming sticks out there to upgrade the smart experience but if you don’t want to have to buy anything else, it’s important to make a checklist of what you need. 

One final add-on is choosing to get one of the best soundbars. These days TV design means that audio is often neglected in favor of design. This means that while you don’t have to buy a soundbar on day one, you might want to invest in the future to create your ultimate home entertainment set-up.  

Louise Blain

 Louise is a writer and broadcaster working across entertainment, technology, and gaming. She presents BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. Louise can often be found watching horror, drinking coffee and beating you at The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth.