4K or Ultra HD (UHD) TV earns its name from its horizontal resolution of nearly 4,000 pixels, which is roughly four times the resolution of Full HD or 1080p. Though 4K TVs have been around for years, it’s not until recently that they really became affordable. The average 4K TV price was $1,048 in 2015, and last year it fell to $861.
To make finding the right 4K TV easy, we researched pricing, built-in tech, customer reviews, and more to create a list of recommendations. Here’s what we found.
Our best 4K TV picks
SAMSUNG UN55KU6600 55” 4K/UHD TV
This Samsung TV includes HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability, smart functionality (internet connectivity to access Netflix, YouTube, etc.), and, of course, Ultra HD resolution. This 4K TV’s screen is also curved, which helps you get the best-looking picture from almost any angle in the room.
The downside to the UN55KU6600 is its 120 MR refresh rate, which is equal to 60 Hz. (The higher the refresh rate, the less likely it is that fast-moving images will blur—e.g., live sports.) Still, it’s an excellent 4K TV for the price and it’s our pick for overall winner.
LG 43” UH6100 4K/UHD LED SMART TV
If you’re looking for a 4K TV under 50 inches, LG’s 43” UH6100 4K TV is a great choice, and it’s currently a best seller on Amazon. The LG has a 4/5 star rating from more than 100 Amazon customers, and it’s available for less than $500. The LG 4K TV includes smart functionality, HDR compatibility, and a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
Also, if you worry about black levels, LG’s UH6100 uses a “true black panel,” which improves the contrast ratio for deeper blacks and better color display. All that for less than $500 makes LG’s 43” 4K TV worth checking out.
Honorable mentions: If price is no concern, you could go with LG’s beautiful OLED TVs. The 55-inch LG OLED is more than $3,000, but it uses OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display technology instead of LED, which means it doesn’t require backlighting. OLED picture quality and color range are fantastic, but then so is the price—and not in the good way.
The underdogs of 4K TV
Samsung and LG are the two biggest sellers of 4K TV, but there are plenty of lesser-known 4K TV competitors. We call these sellers the underdogs of 4K TV—companies with little to no brand name recognition that nevertheless sell a good 4K TV.
VIZIO 50” D50U-D1 4K ULTRA HD SMART LED TV
VIZIO’s 50-inch 4K TV has a 4/5 star rating on Amazon from more than 100 customers, and the price is down to $500. This 4K TV is HDR compatible and has smart functionality. It also has a refresh rate of 120 Hz, so watching live sports should never be a problem.
Hisense 43” H7C2 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Hisense’s 43” 4K TV has a price tag under $350 and a solid 4/5 stars from Amazon customers. Despite the low price, the H7C2 includes HDR and smart functionality.
It does have a lower refresh rate (60 Hz), but for everything else you get at this price, it’s worth a look.
Honorable mentions: Though we mention Sceptre in the next section, its 4K TVs are competitively priced. The 49” Sceptre 4K TV is less than $350 and the 65” Sceptre 4K TV is just $799. Also, we didn’t add a TV from TCL on the list, but we’ve heard plenty of good things about their Roku-enabled smart 4K TVs.
The best 4K TVs for the money
Sceptre is another brand that belongs in the underdog category, but we highlight them here because their 55-inch 4K TV is the best bang-for-your-buck TV.
Sceptre 55” U558CV-UMR 4K Ultra HD 120 Hz TV
Sceptre TVs are inexpensive, and its 55-inch TV is no exception: it’s currently available for less than $600. (A member of Reviews.org picked it up for a jaw-dropping $365 on Black Friday.)
The TV boasts a 120 Hz refresh rate, but it’s not HDR compatible. The TV doesn’t have smart functionality either, but that can be remedied with a streaming media device (Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.). For the size of the screen and the low price, the 55-inch Sceptre is quite the deal.
What to know before buying a 4K TV
All about the 4K resolution
The biggest selling point for 4K/UHD TV is the resolution. There are more than 8 million pixels in a 4K TV, compared to roughly 2 million pixels of Full HD or 1080p. But what is the difference in resolution between 4K, 1080p, 720p, and 480p?
You’ll notice 1080p, 720p, and 480p are named for the number of vertical pixels, while 4K gets its name for having almost 4,000 horizontal pixels (also, “4K” is a lot catchier than “3.84K”).
Because 4K has almost four times the resolution of 1080p, the higher resolution delivers a clearer and more precise picture, even when the image is close.
So the more pixels the better, right? Well, not exactly. Unlike TV technology, the human eye doesn’t change every 3–5 years. Depending on the size of the screen and the distance from the TV, you might not even be able to see 4K.
Wait, what!?! Yes, your ability to see 4K depends on distance from the TV and the size of the screen. For example, if you have a 50-inch 4K TV and you sit more than 6.5 feet away, you won’t see 4K; you will see resolution equal to 1080p. If you sit more than 10 feet away from that same TV, you will see 720p resolution.
You’ll want to think about where you sit with your new 4K TV and the screen size that will work for you. Check the chart for the ideal distance you’ll want to sit from the TV to experience 4K resolution.
Go smart or go dumb with 4K TV
“Smart TV” is just marketing lingo for a TV that lets you connect to the internet without additional hardware. With a smart TV, you can access anything from streaming media (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but don’t get hung up on whether or not a 4K TV has smart functionality.
It’s not as big a selling point as you’d think. The biggest reason smart TVs aren’t so special is there are plenty of affordable streaming media devices to choose from.
The biggest reason smart TVs aren’t so special is there are plenty of affordable streaming media devices to choose from.
Amazon’s 4K-compatible Fire TV—which, despite the name, is a streaming media device, not a TV—is only $89. Other popular 4K-compatible streaming media devices like the Chromecast Ultra and the Roku 4 are just $69 and $89.
Because streaming media devices are backed by the likes of Google and Amazon, they’ll have much better hardware and software support than a little-to-no-name brand’s smart TV software. If you want to go with a “dumb” TV (no internet connectivity) and save some dollars, by all means do so without worrying. Even if a TV does have smart functionality, plenty of people still opt for purchasing a streaming media device.
So why not save money if you can? If there’s a great deal on a 4K TV and it happens to have smart functionality, all the better, but don’t let it influence your decision too much.
What is high dynamic range (HDR)?
High dynamic range (HDR) is a recent feature available in select 4K TVs. HDR creates a higher level of contrast (blacker blacks, whiter whites) and a wide color gamut (WCG). You can think of HDR as if the TV has more colors to use, much like a painter having more colors to create a more realistic painting. The Samsung and LG 4K TVs we selected both have HDR, and we think it’s worth paying for.
What is wide color gamut (WCG)?
Both wide color gamut (WCG) and HDR play a role in increasing the range and depth of color you see onscreen. This graphic compares colors in WCG, HDTV (1080p), and SDTV (480p). WCG and HDR are already being marketed as next steps in 4K TV technology, and for good reason: they create a beautiful image.
The selling point of 4K TV has always been the resolution—the more pixels the better. But you can think of WCG and HDR as producing smarter (or better) pixels, which deliver more depth and realism with the same resolution.
What is refresh rate?
Refresh rate is the number of times an image is displayed (or “refreshed”) in a second. It’s measured as a unit of frequency (Hz), so 60 Hz means the image is refreshed 60 times every second. Most 4K TVs these days are either 60 Hz or 120 Hz. In general, the higher refresh rate (120 Hz) will provide a smoother image and reduce motion blur; however, almost every 4K TV brand markets its own kind of refresh rate technology (Trumotion, Motionflow, Clearscan, etc.). Be sure to check the technical specs of a 4K TV for the actual refresh rate and not the branded/marketed refresh rate.
Where can I watch 4K movies and other content?
The best 4K content you can find right now comes from streaming media providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
Q: Is your internet fast enough to watch 4K?
Here are the internet speeds streaming media providers say you’ll need to watch their 4K movies and shows.
- Netflix: 25 Mbps
- Amazon Prime Video: 15 Mbps
- Hulu: 13 Mbps
If you’re not sure how much internet speed you’re getting, you can check at Google’s M-Lab. You can also see who we picked (coming soon!) as the best ISP for streaming 4K and find out how much internet data it takes to watch an hour of 4K.
Also, if you plan on downloading 4K movies, keep in mind the average 4K movie is about 100 GB in size.
Netflix’s original programming (Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Luke Cage, House of Cards, etc.) is available in 4K. Original programming from Amazon (Transparent, Man in the High Castle, Bosch, etc.) and Hulu (11.22.63, Difficult People, Casual, etc.) is also available in 4K.
Besides original programming, the selection of 4K shows and movies from streaming media providers has been pretty limited. However, 4K shows and movies are becoming more widely available, and it’s not just because of streaming media providers: digital storefronts such as iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play are also quickly adding 4K content.
Q: Where can I watch 4K shows and movies?
Here’s a list of services that stream 4K content:
What do you want to know before you buy?
Do you have more questions before buying a 4K TV? We want to hear more from you and what you think of 4K TV. Is it just a matter of price and screen size? Did you get a 4K TV this past Black Friday? (Some of us did.) Are you interested in using your 4K TV as a computer monitor? Are you interested in getting a 4K TV for live sports? Let us know what you think and tell us the questions you have.
FAQ about 4K TV
How much does a 4K TV cost? It depends. For this article we reviewed 4K TVs in the $300–$1,000 range. High-end 4K TVs with OLED technology can cost as much as $4,000, while no-name brand 4K TVs with a screen size less than 36 inches can be as little as $200–$300.
Is 4K the same as Blu-ray? No. The physical format for 4K is Ultra HD Blu-ray, which is a different format than Blu-ray.
What is smart TV? It’s basically a TV with internet connectivity. Most smart TVs allow you to connect to web apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, etc.
Are 4K and UHD the same thing? Yes.
How fast does my internet need to be to stream 4K? We checked various streaming media providers, and Netflix had the highest internet speed requirement at 25 Mbps.
How much internet data does watching 4K use? According to Netflix, watching 4K/UHD can use about 7 GB per hour.
Is 4K just a fad? Nope. 4K TV is in huge demand, and 4K technology is used in other consumer electronics, such as cameras, computers, and more.
Is 4K that much better than 1080p? Technically, 4K has almost four times as many pixels as 1080p (roughly 8 million compared to 2 million), so 4K resolution is four times better than 1080p.