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Best TVs: 2021 Holiday Buying Guide

Before you buy a 2021 4K TV this year, take a much deeper dive into what’s available and worth buying.

Hisense U6G 4K TV

The Holiday Shopping Season is seen by many as the best time to buy a new TV. There are “deals” galore as retailers and online retailers push their Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other seasonal promotions. However, things are a little tougher this year as the worldwide chip shortage and supply chain interruptions have put a squeeze on TV supply and prices. 

Despite uncertainties, that is not an excuse to buy a TV just based just on an ad or manufacturer hype. 

Key things to remember before reaching for your wallet include:

  • Do Research Before You Buy
  • Read Ads Carefully
  • Know Price Guarantee Policies
  • Know Product Exchange and Return policies.

TV Tech Overview 

There are two basic types of TVs, LCD, and OLED.

Categories of LCD TVs include:

  • LED TVs: LCD TVs that use LED backlighting.
  • miniLED TVs: LCD TVs that also use LED backlighting, but the LED light bulbs are much smaller. This provides more precise control of the light passing through the pixels.
  • QLED or Neo QLED TV: LCD TVs with LED or miniLED backlights plus a layer of Quantum Dots to improve color. 
  • Nanocell TV: LCD TV with LED backlights and an extra Nanocell layer to improve color and limit light leakage. This approach is exclusive to LG. 
  • QNED mini-LED TV: A variation of LG Nanocell TVs which add a Quantum Dot layer between the backlight and Nanocell layers in combination with an LCD panel to display images.  

OLED TV: This type of TV is different than the LCD-based TVs listed above. This type of TV uses Organic LEDs that are self-emitting (no blacklight required), producing both light and color. OLED TVs are the only TVs that can display absolute black. 

For more fleshed-out details on what you need to know before making a TV purchase and TV tech, check out our companion article: Buying a New TV? – Cutting Through the Hype

Keeping in mind any unforeseen availability issues, check out our selection of 4K UHD TVs in a wide range of prices and screen sizes that offer practical features and performance. 

NOTE: Average prices are used as a reference, when you click on the links, prices could be slightly lower or higher. Also, watch for any TV/Soundbar and/or TV/Extra Warranty bundles.

Hisense U6G Series 4K UHD ULED TV

Best Budget-Priced 4K UHD TV

Hisense U6G Quantum ULED 4K TV

The Hisense U6G is an example of a TV that delivers good performance and practical features despite its budget status. Hisense describes the U6G as a ULED TV. This means that is an LCD TV but incorporates a suite of Hisense in-house technologies that provide improved color through the use of Quantum Dots, full-array local dimming, and 60Hz refresh rate with additional motion processing. All support excellent viewing quality for TV shows and movies.

The U6G also supports most HDR formats (Dolby Vision/HDR10/HDR10+/HLG) supported by an impressive 600 nits of peak brightness. 

The U6G incorporates the Android TV platform and also includes Chromecast Built-in features and which provides access to thousands of streaming apps via the Google Play Store. In addition, a voice-enabled remote is included and Google Assistant is built-in for hand’s free voice control. Alexa can also be used in combination with an Amazon Echo or other compatible Alexa-enabled Amazon devices. 

However, since the U6G is a budget-priced TV, there are some things that are not included, such as HDMI ver 2.1 connections.

This means that if you are a serious gamer, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) is not included and although the U6G includes HDMI-ARC, it doesn’t include eARC. The TV will not provide access to Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Atmos

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The Hisense U6G series TVs are available in the following screen sizes and prices

Vizio MQ7 Series Quantum 4K UHD TV

Feature Packed with Aggressive Pricing

Vizio MQ7 Series Quantum 4K UHD TV

Vizio has the reputation of packing in a lot of features for a reasonable price and that continues with their MQ7 Series TVs. 

Each TV in the MQ7 series carries a “Quantum” designation which means that they are LCD TVs with a full array LED backlight layer and a Quantum Dot layer to enhance color quality.

Core MQ7 series features include:

  • Google Chromecast Built-in
  • Vizio Voice Control System with additional “Works with Google Assistant” and ” Works with Alexa” support.
  • HDR (HDR10, 10+, Dolby Vision, HLG)
  • HDMI 2.1 support with HDMI-eARC, (VRR) Variable Refresh Rate, and AMD FreeSync support for better gaming. 

The Vizio MQ7 series TVs are available in the following screen sizes and prices

TCL Series 6 4K UHD TV

Your Choice of Roku or Google TV Built-in

TCL Series 6 4K Mini-LED QLED UHD TV

TCL has emerged as a major force in the U.S. TV market and so far, its momentum isn’t slowing down. Their Series 6 TVs are extremely popular featuring advanced capabilities with reasonable pricing. 

One significant feature that TCL included when it entered the U.S. TV market was to incorporate the Roku streaming platform into most of its TVs, bringing access to over 5,000 channels of streaming content without viewers having to connect an external streaming stick or box into the TV.  

The TCL Series 6 are all LCD TVs, with the Series 6 incorporating two advancements, mini-LED backlighting supported control zones (number dependent on screen size) for more price control of dark and bright objects and a Quantum Dot layer that helps to optimize color performance. 

Other TCL Series 6 features include:  

  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG. 
  • AiPQ (Artificial Intelligence Picture Quality): Algorithms that fine-tune HDR, upscaling, and contrast in real-time for a more consistent-looking image.
  • HDMI 2.1 connections with support for HDMI ARC/eARC. This means that Dolby Atmos pass-through to compatible external audio systems is accommodated.
  • Voice Control compatibility with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
  • Apple Airplay support for sharing of music, photos, and video from compatible iOS devices. 

6-Series series Roku TVs are available in the following screen sizes and Prices:

Optional TCL Wireless Soundbar for Roku TV: You may see this as part of a TCL Roku TV Bundle, but currently it’s cheaper to buy separately for $179.99 at Amazon.

NOTE: Roku is currently in a dispute with Google over streaming rights to YouTube apps. This may result in loss of access to those apps for new accounts on Roku devices after December 9, 2021. 

For those that don’t wish to have a TV with Roku built-in TCL provides 6-Series TVs that incorporate Google TV (Android + Chromecast Built-in) instead. Other than Google TV, the rest of the features of these sets are identical.

6-Series Google TVs are available in the following screen sizes and prices

LG C1 4K UHD OLED TV

Best TV for Gamers and Movie Viewers

LG C1 4K UHD OLED TV

LG has always been at the forefront of OLED TV technology which uses self-lit pixels that can be individually controlled (no blacklight required). 

One of the benefits of self-lit pixels is the ability for the TV to display absolute black, which no LCD-based TV can. This also means that OLED TVs display almost unlimited contrast and excellent color. LG also provides screen burn-in mitigation settings. On the downside, OLED TVs are not as bright as some high-end LCD-based TVs so they are best used in a room that can be light-controlled. 

Although the LG C1 is in the mid-range of LG’s OLED TV lineup you are not getting short-changed on features and performance, and you can save a little money over LG’s higher-end OLED TVs.

Some of the advanced features of the LG C1 series include:

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  • WebOS streaming platform with access to popular streaming apps and free LG Channels feature. A full web browser is also included.
  • Native Refresh Rate: 120Hz   
  • AI Video Scaling/Processing for optimum video quality whether the source is 4K or a lower resolution.
  • HDR: HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision with adding Dolby Vision IQ processing to optimize HDR performance. 
  • Onboard Dolby Atmos decoding
  • Voice Control: Works with Google Assistant and Alexa  
  • WISA Ready: This is a unique audio feature that allows LG C1 Series TVs to work with WiSA-certified wireless external speaker systems via a plug-in USB transmitter dongle. 
  • Bluetooth ver 5.0 including Bluetooth surround is supported.
  • HDMI 2.1 connectivity with ARC/eARC support as well as the gaming support listed in the next category.

NOTE: The LG C1 Series offers a 48-inch screen size which is perfect for serious gamers (pricing details all available screen sizes below).

Samsung QN90A 4K UHD Neo QLED TV

Best TV For Bright Room Viewing

Samsung QN90A 4K UHD Neo QLED TV

When shopping for TV bargains, the TVs with the lowest prices aren’t always the best deal. A high-end TV might sometimes be the best choice.

The QN90A is Samsung’s top-of-the-line 4K UHD TV. This set is labeled as a Neo QLED TV. This is Samsung’s brand trademark name for its LCD-based TVs that incorporate mini-LED backlighting in combination with a Quantum Dot panel behind the LCD display panel.  

Another capability of the Samsung QN90A is that it is one of the brightest TVs available, almost twice as bright as the LG C1 OLED TV and without losing color saturation. However, since it is still an LCD-based TV, even with a mini-LED backlight, bright objects may exhibit some haloing when displayed in a dark scene, such as stars in space or against a night sky. On the other hand, because of its high brightness HDR content looks great. 

The QN90A is a great TV for daylight viewing or gameplay in a brightly lit room. This set also does a good job of minimizing unwanted glare.

With respect to gaming, the Q90A features VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) as well as support for G-Sync. 

Just as most of the TVs on this list, the QN90A supports HDMI 2.1 (however, with only one HDMI input), and is HDMI-ARC/eARC compatible. 

The QN90A also includes Samsung’s own TIZEN smart TV platform that provides access to most popular apps and Samsung has recently announced that it will be offering hi-res music streaming from Qobuz (best to have an external audio system connected for best listening results)

For control, the QN90A comes with its own remote, as well as access to the Samsung Smartthings App. The TV also works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung Bixby.

The Samsung Q90A series TVs are available in the following screen sizes and prices:

SONY Bravia XR A90J 4K UHD OLED TV

When Price Doesn’t Matter

SONY Bravia XR A90J 4K UHD OLED TV

If you want the best of the best, the Sony A90J might be the choice for you. The Sony A90J is very well regarded, especially since it was declared the “King of 4K TV” at the recently conducted Value Electronics 2021 TV Shootout where it went up against both the Samsung QN90A and other top contenders from LG, and Hisense.

What is ironic is that the Sony A90J uses the same OLED panel as its LG competitor, but where Sony excels is the implementation of superior video processing technology (Cognitive Processor XR, Triluminos Pro, XR OLED Contrast Pro). Although not a bright as the Samsung QN90A, it is the brightest of the OLED TVs currently available. 

While most TV makers don’t put a lot of effort into delivering good audio, the Sony A90J incorporates a unique audio system labeled Acoustic Surface Audio+ that actually uses the TV screen as part of the speaker system. Actuators placed behind the OLED screen panel vibrate the panel to produce sound. As a witness on several occasions, the panel vibrations are not detectable by the human eye and have no effect on picture quality. 

Some other key features of the Sony A90J include:

Google TV™ Smart OS (Android + Chromecast built-in).

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BRAVIA CORE: This is a streaming service offered only to owners of select Sony Bravia XR TVs. The content is grabbed from the extensive Sony Pictures film library and is accessible via credits given to each TV owner. The number of credits varies by Bravia XR TV model. Check out more details:  

Control Options: Provided remote and built-in Google Assistant. 

ATSC 3.0 /NextGen TV Tuner Built-in: TV broadcasters are slowly implementing a new digital TV transmission system that provides added capabilities for TV viewers over the current system. This includes 4K UHD resolution and immersive surround sound audio support. When such transmissions become active in your area, the Sony AJ90 is ready.

The Sony AJ90 OLED TV is expensive, but if you are looking for a high-end set, with current in-stock uncertainties, especially during the holidays, this is one to seriously consider.

The Sony A90J series TVs are available in the following screen sizes and prices

Related reading: View all 2021 Holiday Buying Guides

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