The best TV for 2020: LG OLED, Samsung and TCL QLED, Sony and Vizio compared
If you’re looking for the best TV to buy right now, it’s probably been a long time since you bought your last one. You may be new to all of the current TV jargon: HDR, Ultra HD 4K, 8K, OLED, QLED, 120Hz and HDMI 2.1. I’ve reviewed TVs for nearly 20 years, since the days of plasma and rear projection. My focus is on finding the best picture quality for the money, whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line OLED TV or something a little less flashy.
The list below represents the best TVs I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab (for 2020, that’s my basement), where I compare their picture quality, smart TV, design and features side by side to see which ones are most worth buying. I look at things like contrast ratio, local dimming, viewing angle and uniformity, gaming input lag and refresh rate, as well as how well the television supports streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. Here are my recommendations, with the following notes to keep in mind:
- Unless noted otherwise, all of the prices you’ll see are for 65-inch models.
- Looking for a specific screen size? Check out: 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- The end of the year, starting around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is usually the best time to get a good deal.
- If you’re worried that next year’s TV will have some great feature you’ll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, you should get one.
- This list is updated periodically.
Read more: Best TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X, Series S: LG CX OLED, Sony X900H, TCL 6-Series and more
No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It’s also a solid choice for gamers with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch.
What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect off-angle viewing and excellent uniformity. If you can afford it, this LG OLED TV is the TV to get.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch.
Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture and better smart HDTV system so it’s a superior TV overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive. If you can’t afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good runner-up.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-inch.
If you value Sony’s brand X900H is an excellent choice, with image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series and a price that’s not that much more expensive. And its suite of connections is actually better than the TCL’s. In winter 2020 it will get full 4K/120Hz HDMI input capability to maximize the potential of the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, and right now it’s the cheapest TV that works with ATSC 3.0 antenna broadcasts.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch.
Roku is our favorite platform for a live TV streaming service like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
TCL’s 8-Series also features mini-LED and the result is superb contrast, brightness and high dynamic range that beats the less expensive 6-Series in my side-by-side comparison. The overall image quality doesn’t quite hit OLED TV levels, but it comes pretty close and costs a lot less, especially in the 75-inch size.
Sizes: 65-, 75-inch.
Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone and our favorite for 2020 is the Q80T series. Its sleek design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultra-thin LG CX OLED is even sleeker — and it also offers excellent image quality, next-gen gaming connectivity and a great smart TV system. The TVs above are superior values but if you want a Samsung anyway, this is a great choice for gaming or watching TV shows, movies, YouTube TV and more.
For sizes smaller than 55 inches, and for people who value smarts over image quality, these non-4K Roku TVs make the most sense. The picture is “good enough” and the built-in smarts are superb — just enough to watch the final season of “The Office” or “Friends” content. And the price is perfect for a kids’ room or secondary room where you don’t need a massive screen.
Sizes: 28-, 32-, 40-, 43-, 49-inch. (The price shown below is for the 40-inch size.)
Other stuff to know about buying a new TV
I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.
- In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
- If you don’t like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a media streamer. They’re cheap and easy to use, and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
- The sound quality of most built-in speakers is terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a sound bar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.