Thursday, March 12, 2020

Best TV 2020: 10 big-screen TVs worth buying in Australia this year

There's never a bad time to buy one of the best TVs of 2020. So far, we've seen massive discounts on last year's top models, and in the coming months we expect to see a slew of new TVs from Sony, LG, Samsung, Hisense and TCL. Before long, those same tellies will start progressively cheaper as we lead into the second half of the year. 

Speaking of, Samsung has just announced its crop of 2020 QLED TVs that include newer versions of the Q90, Q80, Q70 and Q60, and LG should have its 2020 OLEDs out in the next month or two.

If you can't wait a few more months until new models arrive, however, there are plenty of amazing TVs from 2019 that are still well-worth buying – often at significantly reduced prices. 

Below you'll find a list of 10 TVs that we can wholeheartedly recommend to Aussies. That includes sets from the likes of TCL, which offer great performance at a really good price, and high-end options like QLED TVs from Samsung and OLEDs from LG.

We're expecting a number of new television sets to hit the market in the coming months, but with 2020 only having just begun, we're still recommending the best TVs from the previous year until their replacements officially come around.

Best TV at a glance:

  1. Samsung Q90R QLED TV
  2. LG C9 OLED Series
  3. Sony Bravia A8G OLED
  4. Samsung Q900R QLED TV
  5. Sony A9G Master Series OLED
  6. LG B9 OLED Series
  7. Samsung Q70R QLED TV
  8. Sony Bravia X9500G Series
  9. TCL X7 Series UHD QLED
  10. LG SK85 Super UHD

Best TV 2020

Image credit: Samsung

Last year, the Samsung Q9FN was the TV to beat. It won plaudits galore for its features and image quality, not to mention its excellent, improved smart platform that came with Bixby support and Samsung SmartThings.  

However it wasn’t perfect and there were legitimate complaints about viewing angles and an over-aggressive local dimming system that crushed detail just above black. 

Samsung has clearly taken these criticisms to heart, and directly addressed them in the Q90. The new model has a visibly superior viewing angle that holds its own against an OLED TV, and the local dimming delivers deep blacks without losing shadow detail. To that end, the new Ultra Black Elite filter is nothing short of a revelation, rejecting ambient light in a way that just staggers belief.  

The Q90 is able to deliver images that can directly compete with an OLED, with natural colors, bright highlights, deep blacks, and well defined shadows. It can also surpass any OLED when it comes to HDR, with images that are often breathtaking in their detail and dynamic range.

In fact our only real criticism would be that, unlike some of the competition, the Q90 doesn’t support Dolby Vision. However in all other respects the Samsung Q90 is an absolutely stellar TV that takes QLED to another level.

Read the full review: Samsung Q90R QLED TV

LG C9 OLED Series (2019)

LG C9 OLED Series (2019)

The LG C9 is a truly exceptional 4K OLED TV that takes what was so impressive about last year’s C8 OLED and builds on it. The major difference is the inclusion of the 2nd generation Alpha9 processor, which uses AI enhancements to deliver stellar SDR and HDR images, and helps make the upscaling and processing second-to-none with incredible levels of detail and image fidelity.

As is the case with all OLED TVs the panel brightness pales when compared to an LCD TV, but brightness isn’t everything. The absolute blacks and pixel level of precision afforded by the self-emissive technology ensures that HDR looks stunning. There’s support for Dolby Vision as well, and only the absence of HDR10+ disappoints.

There are other OLEDs worth considering this year (see: LG's own E9 Series) but we think the OLED C9 offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any TV under the sun – true in 2019, and still true in 2020.

Read the full review: LG C9 OLED (OLED55C9, OLED65C9, OLED77C9)

If there's one thing that the A8G OLED proves, it's that Sony remains the king of upscaling. In our review, we found that the Sony Brave A8G OLED was able to take old DVD HD/SDR footage and making it look modern, producing natural visuals and incredibly fluid motion. 

Admittedly, we're not too crazy about Sony’s Acoustic Audio Surface tech, or the IR blaster remote that comes with the telly, but there's no denying that delivers the goods when it comes to its most important aspect: picture quality.

That being said, Sony's AG8 is still on the expensive side, especially compared to the LG B9 and C9 OLED. Both TVs cost much less and offer much of the same picture quality at a more attainable price point, however, it's our opinion that Sony's incredible upscaling tech does justify the increased cost.

Read the full review: Sony Bravia A8G OLED

Samsung Q900R QLED TV

With most people - *cough* content providers - only just getting to grips with 4K resolution, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Samsung had gone nuts by introducing the world’s first true 8K TV. And yet, while it's easy to be critical about the Samsung Q900R, it truly does usher in a new era of TV picture quality. 

Its native 8K pictures are incredible, looking just like the real world - only better. But even more crucially given the dearth of true 8K content for the foreseeable future, the Q900R makes all today’s lower resolution sources look better than they do anywhere else, too.  

Whether 8K delivers the same impact on smaller screens remains to be seen, but if you have a big enough room and budget, the Q900R is a vision of the future that’s actually spectacularly worth buying today. 

Read the full  review (UK version): Samsung Q950R 8K QLED TV

Sony Bravia A9G OLED (2019)

A direct replacement for last year's Sony A9F/AF9 OLED, the Sony A9G/AG9 Master Series OLED is the new flagship of Sony’s TV fleet. It embraces a characteristically minimalist design that disguises a host of cutting-edge features like Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, plus Netflix Calibrated Mode (of interest to many), and IMAX Enhanced certification (of interest to few).

This is a screen that looks premium, and has a spec on the right side of righteous. The Android platform is easy to live with, that vibrating sound system entertaining and picture quality top notch. Offering Dolby Vision is a welcome refinement, but the caveat is a lack of support for HDR10+. That said, it does a fabulous job up-scaling HD/SDR so it's easy to overlook the lack of at least one HDR format. 

It's undoubtedly expensive but, all things considered, this glass is class.

Read the full review: Sony A9G Master Series OLED

LG B9 OLED Series (2019)

LG B9 OLED Series (2019)

The LG B9 OLED absolutely delivers on its promise – to give shoppers a cheaper way into a world of OLED, with the sharp contrast and vivid colors that involves.

Inevitably there are some corners cut to get there, and you’re not getting the excellent experience of the C9 or E9 – while the delayed launch of the budget B9 model, and continuing price cuts to more premium sets, means this year’s B Series isn’t quite the deal it would have been a few months ago.

If the B9 is all your budget allows for, it’s a solid purchase, though scrimping and saving for the LG C9 OLED – and keeping an eye out for it in sales – may be a better decision in the long run.

Samsung Q70R QLED TV (2019)

Samsung Q70R QLED TV (2019)

Samsung’s flagship Q90R QLED TV blew us away recently with its wider viewing angles, deeper blacks, and superior HDR images - sadly, however, not everyone can afford the flagship model. So what can Samsung offer for those wanting to experience QLED picture quality on a budget? 

Despite sitting lower down in the QLED line-up, the Q70R includes the same comprehensive smart platform, extensive connections, and cutting-edge features found further up the range. This isn’t the flashiest-looking TV that Samsung has ever made, but if your funds are limited the Q70 is a cracking QLED all-rounder that’s worth checking out. 

Read the full review: Samsung Q70R QLED TV

Best TV

Sony Bravia X950G Series (2019)

OK, so you don't want (or can't afford) Sony's new A9G OLED or the fantastic-but-pricey Z9G. So what should you buy? Check out the X9500G series. With superb 4K image clarity, powerful SDR-to-HDR remastering, and a smooth direct LED backlight, Sony is offering something very different with the X9500G. 

Right out of the box, the best way to describe the image quality of the X9500G is… well, natural. It’s not flashy. It’s not overly bright. Colors aren’t oversaturated. It’s just a really natural picture with subdued colors and great black levels perfect for HD/SDR content. That said, if you’re the kind of person that wants a bit more pop to your images all you need to do is turn on Live Color in the picture settings. This mode works on HD/SDR content to add a bit more color saturation to the image and helps to make the image ‘pop’ in a way that really grabs your attention.

It’s a shame that poor sound quality ruined such a great 4K/HDR TV, however, taken by itself, the Sony X9500G is an immaculate screen with a ton of potential.

Read the full review: Sony BRAVIA X950G (XBR-65X950G) 

TCL X7 Series QLED


The first thing you'll notice about the TCL X7 series is its beautiful display panel. It is remarkable in that physically one could almost mistake it for an OLED panel. It has a similar pane-of-glass look which is very modern in its styling.

If you're after a TV with plenty of smarts, TCL has you covered, as the X7 Series runs on Android 8.0 ‘Oreo’. as this is an Android TV, it does implement Google Assistant voice control. It's also compatible with Amazon Alexa, albeit with a bit of hoop-jumping involving TCL Alexa skills. 

In terms of raw power, the X7 It is fitted with a 1.1GHz, 64-bit quad-core CPU with 2.5GB of processing RAM. Occasionally, this resulted in some minor judder and artefacting with 1080i/50 and 576i/50 content, but this shouldn't prove too much of an issue.

This telly offers Ultra HD (4K) resolution and HDR picture support (although not Dolby Vision), and thanks to the inclusion of 16 local dimming zones, the X7 is able to produce some wonderfully deep black levels. It's also a QLED TV, which uses quantum dots to deliver improved colour precision – an impressive feat given its price point.

LG SK85 Super UHD


Traditional thinking would suggest that your new telly must be of the OLED or QLED variety. However, we're here to tell you that there are still some very good standard LED televisions available that offer terrific 4K HDR picture quality and modern AI-based features. 

LG's LG SK85 Super UHD is one such telly. Though it still sports an edge-lit backlighting system, it's still able to produce relative good black levels. It also boasts fantastic colour accuracy (thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Vision support) and exceptionally fluid motion, which is of the utmost importance when considering a new TV purchase. 

Additionally, the LG SK85 boasts the company's ThinQ AI platform, allowing you to speak directly to your television in order to issue commands or ask questions, such as what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.

Read the full review: LG SK85 Super UHD 

Continue on to page two to read about what to look for when buying a TV! 

What TV technology is best? Which is the best LCD TV? Which screen size is best for your living room? What's the difference between LCD and LED TVs?

The answers aren't always obvious. In fact, buying a new TV can be stressful even for the tech-savvy - there are so many brands, so many features, so many screen sizes, colors, technologies and flavors to choose from.

So which one is right for you, your family and your living space? In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a new TV.

What types of TV are there out there?

There are a lot of different screen types out there, all working in different ways to produce the same results. Each technology has its own unique strengths and weaknesses so here are some basics to consider:

LCD TV: CCFL
A few years back, all LCD TVs were backlit by always-on, CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) lamps. This ageing technology has been superseded by the superior LED method on more expensive sets, but is still standard on some cheaper models.

LED TV: Direct LED
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast. LED TVs are also more power efficient and capable of a wider colour gamut than CCFL sets. Because of the extreme cost of mounting these arrays of LEDs, cheaper TVs usually use Edge-Lit LED screens over Direct or Full-Array LED screens.

LED TV: Edge LED
With these TVs, LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays and offers superior contrast levels to CCFL, but can't achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets. However, they do come in far cheaper which is why most LED TVs out there now use this technology.

OLED TV
The backlighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) sets is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique produces far better colours and higher contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. This is the holy grail display technology and LG, Sony, Philips and Panasonic have all adopted it in their flagship sets.

Quantum Dot

Quantum Dot
Quantum Dot is Samsung's big play in the LED TV space. With it, the brand claims that it's able to produce more colorful pictures than LG and Sony while offering even brighter panels. LG's Super UHD TVs all use a variation of Quantum Dot called Nano Cell, and Hisense makes a number of Quantum Dot TVs for the US and China.

Plasma TV
Plasma has almost entirely been phased out at this point, but PDP (plasma display panel) TVs use glass panels containing millions of tiny cells filled with a mixture of inert gases. Electricity excites the gases, causing them to illuminate the pixels across the screen. Plasma, while arguably superior to LCD in terms of contrast and colour accuracy, is only viable on large (42in+) screens and has been dropped by all but a handful of manufacturers. You'll be lucky to find one on the shelves these days.

Curved TV
Some manufacturers are now making TVs that have slightly curved screens. But unlike old CRT TVs, the curve is inwards rather than outwards. The idea is that this makes every pixel equidistant from your eyes, delivering a more satisfying picture. However, there are drawbacks for this type of screen - the main one being that if you sit far enough to one side – more than 40 degrees or so – the curve clearly starts to affect the image's geometry, foreshortening content near to you and compressing the image's centre.

What resolution tech should I go for?

HD
HD TVs come in two resolutions. Sets with the HD ready are required to be able to display a minimum 720p picture, and generally has a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Meanwhile, Full HD TVs have a higher resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It's highly advisable that you don't go for anything less than full HD in this day and age, and really you should be looking almost exclusively at 4K sets.

Ultra HD and 4K
The resolution of Ultra HD is exactly four times higher than full HD - 3840 x 2160. It means a far more detailed picture, with content requiring a lot more bandwidth and storage space. 4K TVs tend to be good at upscaling HD video to Ultra HD but there are currently a few options for watching native 4K content, but terrestrial broadcasters in the US have yet to adopt it as the new standard. Read more about 4K.

HDR
The next big thing in TVs, HDR produces astounding levels of visual fidelity and can be found in some of the latest Ultra HD TVs. HDR is a technology and a standard. Content needs to be mastered in HDR and you need an HDR TV to see it. What HDR offers however, is worth the extra steps to get it - you'll see increased contrast and more realistic colors, enhancing the image to a more cinematic level.

What else should I consider?

Buying a flatscreen television is a major investment and one that you can't afford to take lightly. Just popping into the closest store and grabbing the first plasma or LCD you see won't get you the best deal, the screen that suits your needs, or the gear you require to make the most of your new purchase.

Size matters

People tend to pick the size of their flat TV based on the amount of space they have for it, this isn't necessarily wise. Flat TVs take up much less space than you might think, so your new TV may end up a foot or two further away from your viewing position, making the picture appear smaller.

Also, with hi-def, you can have a bigger screen and the same viewing distance without worrying about seeing blemishes inherent to the source. A 4K TV's lack of noise means that the ideal distance to sit from the screen is three to four times the height of the TV.

how to calculate the best tv size for you

How to calculate the right size HD TV:

The trick here is to ensure that your TV is big enough to fill your line of vision, but small enough to be sharp and clear. Remember, if you intend to only watch standard-definition sources, the bigger the screen gets, the worse the image will look.

The ideal screen size can be calculated by multiplying the distance that you intend to sit away from it by 0.535 and then rounding this up to the nearest size.

So, if you sit 80in away from your TV, the ideal size is 42-inch (80 x 0.535= 42.8).

What features should I look out for?

Features are too numerous to go into here, but here are some things you should consider.

Photo viewing: If you have a digital camera, a TV that has a slot for memory cards or a USB socket for a card reader will let you view your photos onscreen.

Here are some of the things we look for when we review a screen, so you should, too...

Contrast: Bright whites shouldn't have any signs of green, pink or blue in them, while blacks should look solid and not washed out, grey, green or blue.

Colours: Look at how bright and solid they are; how noiseless their edges are; how 'dotty' richly saturated areas are and how natural skin looks, especially in dim scenes.

Fine detail: How much texture does the screen give? Does a tree look like a green lump, or can you see the individual leaves

Edges: Check for ghosting, bright halos and jaggedness, especially around curves.

Motion: Check moving objects and quick camera pans for smearing or blurring, trailing, jerkiness and fizzing dotty noise.

Image artefacts: Look for blockiness, colour bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it's added by the TV picture processing or a weak TV tuner. Tinker with a TV's picture settings before making a final decision. Factory settings are rarely good for everyday viewing.

Sony Ultra HD

What about sound?

To provide the best audio to complement the pictures, your TV should be hooked up to a surround sound system, but this isn't always an option. So, here's what we listen for when testing a TV's speakers:

Bass: Deep, rounded rumbles that don't cause the set to rattle or speakers to distort, cramp or overwhelm the rest of the sound; but that expand when needed.

Vocals: Voices should sound open, rich and clear, not boxed in, nasal or thin.

Trebles: Treble effects should sound clean, rounded and smooth in loud scenes and shouldn't dominate the soundstage.

Soundstage width/depth: A good TV should throw the sound away from the TV, to the sides, forward and back, to give an extra dimension to what's on screen, without losing any coherence.

How many HDMI sockets do I need?

For a living room TV you should be looking for a minimum of 3 HDMI inputs. If you want to attach a set-top box as well as games consoles etc, those HDMI ports will fill up fast.

Do I want to hang my TV on the wall?

First off, you'll need to consult a construction expert to check that the wall in question is strong enough to support a flatscreen. Then find out if the set you want is designed to be wall-mounted and, if so, ask if the relevant bracket is included in the basic package or as an optional extra.

Will I be connecting it to a home cinema?

If the answer is no, you might want to think more carefully about your set's audio performance. Look for a screen that can go as loud as you'll need without distortion or cabinet rattle. Consider how dialogue sounds and how much low-end rumble the bass is capable of.

Conversely, it's pointless paying out more cash for exceptional built-in speakers if you already have a decent home cinema system.

Happy shopping!

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