4K Ultra HD is finally affordable—here are the four 4K TVs you should consider.
Buying a new TV is a major purchase that can easily become overwhelming. Manufacturers throw an awful lot of jargon into the equipment specifications, intentionally trying to distract and confuse consumers into buying the latest model. The newest features sound dazzling—but what do all those terms even mean?
Our team at CableTV.com researched the latest TV technology to determine which features are worthwhile and which ones are just gimmicks. We’ll dive into the details below, but here’s the bottom line: 4K is fantastic, affordable, and finally worth it. If you’re in the market for a new TV, you’d be foolish not to invest in a 4K model.
Regular HD? Please. That’s crazy talk. 4K is backward-compatible (more on that later) and many of the TV sets include technology like HDR, which is even more vital to picture quality than resolution. If you’re into experiencing every nuance of the Marvel Universe (and who isn’t?), your superhero TV has finally arrived at a price you can probably afford.
Our Top Four 4K Ultra HDTVs for 2017
Before we give you the lowdown on the winners and losers, we’ll cover a few considerations you should keep in mind when choosing a 4K TV. We’ll also give you recommendations on which piece of equipment to pick based on your priorities, whether they are price, advanced features, or finally being able to show off a super-sized screen to your friends.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a 4K Ultra HDTV?
We’ll attempt to untangle the twisted equipment specifications later, but first let’s quickly define 4K and clarify some other associated terminology. 4K refers to the resolution the screen is capable of displaying. And the difference between 4K Ultra HD and regular HD? Monumental. Once you get a taste for 4K, you’ll never go back.
Eight million pixels can’t be wrong, folks. And if it is, you don’t want to be right. When you get up close and personal with a TV like this, the amount of detail is straight up breathtaking.
You’ll see 4K and Ultra HD used interchangeably in many instances, but there is a slight difference. 4K refers to the cinema-standard resolution and Ultra HD is associated with the consumer derivative of that. It’s a small variation—as you can see from the numbers below—which is why TV manufacturers often use the terms interchangeably. A model identified as a 4K Ultra HDTV is one that meets both of the specifications below.
4K Resolution: 4096 x 2160
Ultra HD Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Is HDR Worth It?
HDR (High Dynamic Range) refers to how colors are displayed, not the resolution. HDR technology allows for a truer color contrast and rendition of blacks. In some cases, HDR standards are powered by Dolby Vision technology, which is considered superior to other forms of HDR, but is limited in its availability. If you want to learn more about HDR, we suggest reading up on it over at CNET. What Is HDR and Why Should You Care
Experts agree that HDR has even more potential than 4K to radically transform picture quality, but there are some caveats. There is no standard format yet, so the technology is still quite expensive and the amount of content available via HDR is extremely limited. If you can afford the hefty initial investment (we’re looking at you, Dolby Vision), we recommend HDR because it’s the future of TV. You’ll just have to have faith in the force of technology for a while until Dolby Vision and HDR-driven content comes of age. We promise it’ll be worth it someday, young Padawan.
LED or OLED?
If you can afford it, go with OLED—but that’s probably a pretty big “if.” While prices for 4K have descended from the stratosphere of most-coveted technology, OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is still soaring high. So why do we think it’s worth shelling out some extra dough?
Most affordable 4K TV models are currently using LED (Light-Emitting Diode) technology and the ones on our list are exclusively backlit. That means every one of those eight-million pixels is illuminated by LEDs that run along the back of the TV unit in long strips. This system still utilizes good old-fashioned LCD screens, but changes the way they are lit or the configuration of the LEDs, which is actually some pretty ancient technology.
In contrast, OLEDs create pixels that are individually illuminated. Every single one. The difference in color quality is so startling that you’ll be salivating after the first minute of viewing. But there’s a catch and it’s in your wallet. Super skinny OLEDs were the “it” girl of the Consumer Electronics Show, but their cost makes them unattainable for the average consumer.
4K Ultra HD is a license to overindulge when it comes to screen size. Experts recommend a sixty-inch screen for a viewing distance of a mere five feet so even small rooms can be dominated by your enormous TV without seeming ostentatious.
4K TVs are backward-compatible, and that means that they still work with your older TV equipment, DVRs, etc. You just won’t get the full resolution you paid for. To ensure you’ll be able to see the details on your brand-spanking-new 4K Ultra HDTV, utilize 4K-compatible devices like the Roku 4, Hopper 3, Genie HR54, and others.
There has been some back and forth on this, but getting a more advanced HDMI cable is also probably a good idea. TV manufacturers recommend it in order to get the full 4K experience.
The world behind your entertainment center is a nest of cords and cables, and all those components have to go somewhere. Make sure the TV you choose has the necessary ports to power connection to your home theater, DVR, external hard drives, and other devices. If you have an older DVR or dated audio equipment and don’t plan on upgrading, you may want to pay close attention to compatibility issues in the specs.
Streaming all that lovely high-resolution programming is going to take some extra data muscle, so make sure your internet speed is up to the task. Not sure how much speed your connected household requires to keep up with your new technology? Use HighSpeedInternet.com’s speed tool to find out.
OLED and HDR technology inflate the costs of 4K TVs, but they’ll continue to come down. Don’t ditch your current TV if you’re happy with it, but now is the time to invest in 4K if you’re already in the market for a new TV. Current prices will continue to fall ahead of the debut of 2017 models.
Availability of 4K HD Programming
Is There Any 4K HD Programming Available to Watch?
Why, yes there is 4K content to watch. We wouldn’t define it as plenty, but the available Ultra HD content is definitely growing. It certainly makes sense to have a 4K TV if you already have one of the streaming services or TV providers that offer it.
Where can you find a complete list of 4K Ultra HD content? Funny you should ask—we’ve got a guide for that.
Things You Can Mostly Ignore
- Refresh Rate: This term describes how fast a screen refreshes. It’s important for action-driven programming, especially sports. However, consumer agencies indicate many of these specs are inaccurately measured. Most modern TVS will be in the neighborhood of 120–240 Hz and that’ll do you just fine.
- 3D: This was a big thing a few years back, but it’s largely a gimmick and the quality was never that great. Our advice? Steer clear.
- Smart TV: Who wouldn’t want a Smart TV? But this is another “meh” feature. It usually just means your TV can interface appropriately with the internet, which is a minimum requirement these days for most technology. Your thermostat probably does it, too. We’re not impressed.
- Curved Screens: Curved screens that promise to improve viewing from any angle are another gimmick that was all the rage a few years ago. What they actually do is slightly distort the picture, as you might expect. Give these a pass.
Want a more complete explanation of the various specifications and features you’ll see on TVs? Use our general TV Buyers Guide to learn more.
Now on to the important questions, like which one of these marvels of modern technology is coming home with you?
Top Four 4K Ultra HDTVs of 2017
Screen Size: 70 inches
Screen Technology: LED (backlit)
Other Features: HDR, Smart, Energy-Star Rated
HDMI Ports: 3
Dimensions: 61.9″ W x 39″ H x 14.9” D
Weight: 68.6 pounds
While Samsung’s LED isn’t fancy, its ability to incorporate HDR technology and provide over seventy inches of incredible 4K HD Ultra resolution for under $1,500 makes it an unbelievable steal. Watch out for the low number of ports, though, and be aware that this is the cheaper version of HDR. You get what you pay for, folks.
Best Picture Quality
(4.6 / 5)
Screen Size: 65 inches
Screen Technology: OLED
Other Features: HDR, Dolby Vision, Smart
HDMI Ports: 4
Dimensions: 57.5” W x 35.2″ H x 7.9″ D
Weight: 54.7 pounds
If you’re not the type to compromise, then LG’s OLED 4K TV is for you. You’ll get some of the best picture technology available, with HDR supported by Dolby Vision and an OLED screen. What’s not to love? Well, probably that price tag—it’s more than double the other models on our list. Maybe your rainy-day fund has a few extra thousand you could use?
(4.4 / 5)
Screen Size: 75 inches
Screen Technology: LED(backlit)
Other Features: HDR, Smart
HDMI Ports: 4
Dimensions: 66.1″ W x 40.1″ H x 11.4″ D
Weight: 146 pounds
You’ll get lots of screen for your buck here, with seventy-five inches of LED 4K resolution magnificence stretching as far as the eye can see. This model also utilizes HDR, but there is a teensy problem: it’s a monster. This model weighs in at nearly three times as much as the other sets on our list. Your back (and your bank account) may never be the same again.
Best Under $1,000
(4 / 5)
Screen Size: 58 inches
Screen Technology: LED (backlit)
Other Features: Smart, UHD
HDMI Ports: 5
Dimensions: 51” W x 10.2” H x 32.6” D
Weight: 41.5 pounds
You won’t find a better bargain on a 4K TV than this one, which gets you pretty close to sixty inches without breaking a thousand bucks. It doesn’t have the picture-quality advances that come with OLED or HDR technology, but you really can’t complain for that price tag. It is, however, the thickest TV on this list by quite a margin. With that kind of depth, wall mounting is not an option. So decide if that’s a deal breaker before you fall in love with VIZIO’s trim price figure.
Want to learn more about DVRs, streaming boxes, and other HDTV equipment? Visit our equipment reviews and additional resource guides.