Buying a new TV can be an arduous process. UHD or HD? What in the world is 4K? Edge lit? What does the “O” in OLED stand for, exactly? What does 10-bit refer to? What the heck does High Dynamic Range mean? How can a TV be smart? Even if you know the answers to these questions, finding the best smart TV can be confusing and frustrating.
Gone are the days of only having to worry about screen size. With multiple picture technologies, different resolutions and a revolving door of smart platforms, there is a dizzying amount of choice facing the consumer. While figuring out which TV is best for you really boils down to personal taste and viewing habits, HowtoWatch is going to try and make your life a little bit easier. By factoring in picture quality, smart functionality and affordability, we have narrowed down the staggering number of televisions on the market and chosen our favorites. Read on to see our picks for the best Smart TVs of 2018.
Best Smart TV Interface: TCL 55US5800 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV
TCL may not be a household name, but the Chinese brand is certainly shaking things up in the American television space. Offering solidly built panels at a fraction of the cost; TCL is an attractive choice for budget minded consumers. This year’s 55US5800 smart TV offers some impressive features for such a low price tag.
For a mere $500, this TCL boasts a massive 55 inch 4K Ultra High Definition panel with a full array LED backlighting. The image quality isn’t as good as some of its competitors, but the price and screen real estate makes up for it. We could stop there but the icing on the cake is the inclusion of Roku TV. There is a reason why we consistently name Roku as our favorite media streaming device. Its interface is intuitive, the response is snappy and it has a wide range of content available. Roku TV is simply one of the best Smart TV interfaces, and it has all of your favorite streaming apps, from Sling TV to PlayStation Vue to Hulu and more.
Best Cheap Smart TV: Vizio E60u-d3 60-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smartcast
While the Vizio brand is generally known as a cheap smart TV option, Vizio has gradually established itself as a brand that offers the best bang for your buck. While some of their choices are bound to turn some people off (case in point, the M-Series lack of a traditional remote), they have consistently delivered quality TVs with incredible value.
Vizio’s E-series TVs are fairly basic by today’s standards. It eschews the traditional “smart” function of many modern TVs, instead offering something they call “SmartCast”. This is essentially a Google Chromecast built-in to the TV. So if you want to watch Netflix, you’ll have to cue it up on a phone or tablet and “cast” it to the TV.
This is bound to irritate some, but what it lack in flash it makes up for in image quality. The E-series has models with 4K Ultra High Definition and 1080p, and both have fantastic pictures for the money. This is largely due to something called local dimming, which allows the LED backlighting dim parts of the screen that are displaying black. This can have a significant impact on image quality, and is not something that is typically found on 4K smart TVs in this price range. For all its shortcomings, the Vizio E-Series still boasts fantastic value for money.
Best Smart TV Picture Quality (OLED): LG OLEDB6P
OLED TVs are the future of television. They outperform any modern LED panel and trump the old Plasmas in color reproduction and contrast. OLED stands for “organic light emitting diode” and OLED displays pump electricity through certain materials to make them glow a specific color. Because of this more direct way of TV panel illumination, each individual pixel can shut itself off to create an absolute black, something no other TV can do. This results in a jaw dropping image with incredible contrast. In addition, OLED TVs are incredibly thin and extremely energy efficient.
So why aren’t all TVs OLED TVs? The answer is simple. The technology commands a hefty price tag. Even though they’ve come down in price significantly since they were first introduced, OLED smart TVs are still much more expensive than their LED counterparts. The LG OLEDB6P is one of the more affordable OLED smart TVs on the market; however you have to live without extraneous features like 3D (which isn’t that big of a loss).
LG smart TVs utilize the WebOS smart platform, and while it is easy to set up (and Bean Bird is pretty cute) it pales in comparison to Roku TV and Android TV. That being said, OLED TVs have the best picture of any TV available right now. If that’s enough to justify the price for you, then snap one of these up.
Best Smart TV Picture Quality (non-OLED): Sony XBR-X930D
We’ve already established that nothing currently on the market can beast the picture quality of an OLED smart TV, but not everyone has the deep pockets necessary to buy one. Luckily, Sony has delivered a 4K UHD smart TV that boasts an impressive picture in one incredibly thin package.
The Sony XBR-X930D series of smart TVs feature HDR and local dimming, ensuring colors are accurate and contrast is excellent. The frame is almost as thin as an OLED smart TV, and the almost non-existent bezel makes an appealing aesthetic for those who prefer minimalistic styling. Sony smart TVs have adopted Android as their smart interface of choice, which is an improvement over their own in-house layout of old. Android TV incorporates the Google Play Store as its app marketplace, so if you have an Android phone or Gmail account, you’ll feel right at home. While there aren’t as many apps available compared to Roku TV, there is still a nice selection, including all of your major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Best Smart TV for Bright Rooms: Samsung KS8000
Samsung has been manufacturing some of the most popular smart TVs for years. Part of the reason for their success has to be attributed to the fact that their panels are very bright. Walk into any retail setting and a lot of the time Samsung panels will appear brighter than any other manufacturer’s TV. This doesn’t necessarily equate to a better picture, but it certainly looks impressive, at least at first glance.
Though it may be brighter, the picture quality of the Samsung KS8000 isn’t quite as good as other smart TVs in its price range. The brightness of the panel does combat ambient lighting very well, which means that the colors won’t be washed out in brighter rooms. Samsung smart TVs also have the Tizen smart TV interface, which is sleek and intuitive. The remote control for this TV can also be used to control various other devices like your sound bar and cable box, however compatibility is somewhat limited, so don’t expect “universal remote” capabilities. With a minimalist design, the Samsung KS8000 is an attractive smart TV and an excellent option for environments where light is a concern.
Do you own any of these TVs? What’s your favorite TV of 2018? Let us know in the comments!