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If you’re looking to buy a big, expensive new TV, there are really two types to choose from right now. You’ve probably heard of OLED TVs, with their pure blacks, but what about QLED TVs? In a sense, QLED is the more conservative display technology, as it’s an evolution of existing LED tech. While it doesn’t always reach the qualitative heights of an OLED, the best QLED TVs deliver an incredibly bright and vibrant picture for movies, TV, gaming, and more, often at a more affordable price. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, let us explain everything you need to know about the best QLED TVs, including our picks for the ones to get right now.

How we picked the best QLED TVs

As Popular Science’s Reviews Editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about and staring at screens. I’m also a 10-year veteran of technology and games journalism, having written for PCMag, LaptopMag, IGN, Gamespot, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and others. More specifically, I covered the integration of 4K and HDR technologies into gaming. Even when I’m not writing specifically about TVs, I am thinking about them.

To pick the best QLED TVs, I drew on a combination of hands-on experience with QLED TV, as well as research on the technology and commentary on its strengths and weaknesses. Using that information, as well as critical reviews and analysis, we selected a set of TVs we think will deliver the best array of options for a wide range of TV buyers. That said, there’s a new slate of TVs on the horizon following announcements from every major TV manufacturer at CES 2022, so we expect this list will shift substantially over the course of the year as we get to spend meaningful time with the next generation of TVs. What that means is, keep an eye on this space!

What is a QLED TV?

QLED stands for “Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes.” (Please do not ask me why the Q stands for two words.) Invented by Samsung, QLED is a display backlight technology that augments a conventionally backlit Liquid Crystal Display with a “transmissive” layer of tiny dots that enhance the screen’s color, brightness, and contrast. (Transmissive displays, like LCD, have multiple layers of different materials in front of the backlight to control how much and what kind of illumination gets transmitted through it.) Samsung’s QLED TVs also feature a Quantum processor that adjusts and maintains brightness and color accuracy moment-to-moment.

As a hybrid of LCD display and LED backlighting technology, QLED manages to overcome common issues with color accuracy, including a faded “blooming” effect around bright spots on your picture. In less technical terms, QLED TVs offer a sharper, brighter picture than conventional LCD or LED sets.

Importantly, there are new display technologies that are frequently associated with QLED because it’s a new, high-end TV display design, but they are not part of the QLED screen stack. Most notably, many high-end QLED TVs feature Mini-LED backlighting, a separate display technology that enables “local dimming,” or the ability for your TV to enhance or reduce its brightness in specific areas to enhance its contrast. We’ve described Mini-LED as an alternative to QLED and OLED TVs in the past, and technically it is, but companies frequently combine the two and market the tag-team as a high-end QLED TV. As we’ve seen with Samsung’s Neo QLED and LG’s QNED TV lines, QLED displays with Mini-LED backlighting tend to be the best of the best, at least for now.

Who makes QLED TVs?

As I mentioned before, the QLED design, integrating the Quantum Dot layer into an LCD screen, is a Samsung invention. Whenever you see a QLED TV, the actual display panel was made by Samsung. Because Samsung makes the displays, it is the biggest proponent of the technology and makes more QLED TVs than any other company. But Samsung is not the only company that offers QLED TVs. TCL, Hisense, LG, and Vizio all produce their own QLED models.

QLED vs OLED

If you’re shopping for a TV right now, chances are there are three options in front of you: LED, QLED, and OLED. If you’re looking at a high-end TV, you’re really just choosing between QLED and OLED. OLED stands for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode.” Contrary to the name, however, it is not a variation on LED TV technology like QLED. OLED TVs can independently control the brightness of every point on the screen, giving it the ability to make colors more vibrant and achieve a “perfect” black tone by turning lights off completely. For this reason, you’ll never see light bleeding through dark areas and washing them out. 

While OLED has become the preferred choice among critics for high-end TVs, QLED conveys a couple of distinct advantages, while generating an incredibly high-quality picture when it’s done right. First, QLEDs tend to get much brighter than OLED panels, making them better for rooms with lots of windows and outside light. Second, because QLED is a riff on LCD and LED technology, not a brand new thing, it tends to be less expensive. There are mid-range QLED TVs, but OLEDs only come in varying shades of expensive. (You may not notice that looking at our picks, though.) 

What to look for when picking the best QLED TVs

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a wider range of picture quality and price among QLED TVs than there are among the best OLED TVs or the best TVs for gaming. The Quantum Dot conveys some benefits, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Ultimately, you judge the best QLED TVs the same way you would any other: by the quality of their picture. Is it bright enough? Are the colors vibrant, sharp, and accurate? Does it have the features you want for gaming or support for high-end audio gear?

The best way to judge TVs for yourself is, of course, to go into a store and see with your own eyes. We can tell you what makes for the best viewing experience on paper, though, in case COVID, supply chain issues, or life gets in the way.

Size

Most people assume that a bigger TV is always better because they’re more expensive. Technically, that isn’t correct. The size of your TV should correspond to the size of the room when you plan to place it and how far away you will sit from your TV when you use it. If you sit too close to your TV, it may hurt your eyes over time. If you sit too far away, you may have trouble seeing the fine details of the image. There are a number of sites that offer screen size calculators to help you figure out how your TV will fit your space. Here are a few common sizes and distances:

  • 42 inches – 5.9 feet
  • 50 inches – 7 feet
  • 55 inches – 7.7 feet
  • 65 inches – 9.1 feet
  • 75 inches – 10.5 feet

Does it have Mini-LED backlighting?

Frequently, the big difference between the very high-end QLED TVs and their budget-to-mid-range versions is the addition of Mini-LED backlighting, which greatly enhances the TV’s brightness and enables local dimming, or the ability to change the brightness of different parts of the screen, similar to an OLED TV. Its presence doesn’t automatically guarantee a stunning picture: Some TVs have more precise backlight control than others and a wider range of brightness. Still, even on its worst day, local dimming makes colors pop, making dark colors look darker and bright colors look brighter. 

It also maximizes High-Dynamic Range, a complementary feature that adjusts brightness to make especially dark and/or bright light conditions look more realistic. A brighter TV is one of the main advantages of a QLED TV, especially at the top of the line, so looking for the highest possible NIT count, a unit of measuring brightness, and local dimming are important factors for telling the difference between QLED TVs at similar price points.

Resolution

There isn’t a whole lot to say about TV resolution in 2022. Almost all new TVs support 4K resolution, or 3840 x 2160 pixels. And, frankly, you wouldn’t want to buy anything else at this juncture. There’s no reason to buy one of the few remaining 1080p TVs when even budget models from major manufacturers support 4K. While 8K TV exists, there’s little to no native 8K content yet. Though there will be some difference in picture quality thanks to digital upscaling, an 8K TV is more of a statement piece than anything else. (That said, there are still enough of them out there that I will recommend an 8K QLED, just in case.)

Color accuracy and Wide Color Gamut

Okay, we’ve gotten to the nerdy part. When you look at a wall of TVs in a store and you can just tell that some look better than others, but can’t really figure out why, it’s often a combination of better brightness, which we’ve discussed at length, and color accuracy. Color accuracy, in short, is your TV’s ability to accurately produce colors more representative of real life (or how they would look if that lightsaber was real instead of digitally generated). Measuring color accuracy requires special equipment, which is why it’s primarily discussed on forums and in reviews, but you can tell very clearly that it’s especially good when you look at an image of a flower and think, “That’s the reddest red I’ve ever seen.” You can also tell when it’s incredibly bad because you won’t be able to tell if the same flower is red or pink, orange, or purple. This is the No. 1 reason to go to a store and see a TV in person before you buy it. The specs related to color accuracy require a lot of technical know-how to use effectively, but your eyeballs won’t lie to you.

That said, there is one color-related feature worth looking for as you peruse different TVs, QLED or otherwise. Wide Color Gamut is often described as a complement to High-Dynamic Range and it does exactly what it sounds like it would: It allows your TV to show a wider array of colors, allowing for more accurate reproductions of specific shades. It may allow you, as an example, to see the difference between seafoam green and teal, rather than just a generic pastel blue-green. It also allows for more “bit depth,” which affects color saturation: Sometimes a color should look supernaturally deep, and other times it should look faded. With Wide Color Gamut, the TV can get closer to both of those things.

Viewing angles

Another general TV feature that’s surprisingly important, but can feel hard to quantify or convey by description, it’s important to judge how a TV looks when you don’t sit directly in front of it. All TVs are designed for that perfect front-and-center viewing experience, but what happens when you have friends over and someone’s sitting way off to the side? All TVs have some spots where the picture starts to look distorted, but some are better than others. Some companies, including Sony and Samsung, tout “wide viewing angle” TV modes that can improve things somewhat, but bad viewing angles cannot really be undone. 

Gaming features

The newest and rarest features on the premium TV are related to refresh rate, or the number of times your TV can redraw its picture every second. In video games, there’s a direct correlation between your TV’s maximum refresh rate and your game’s top frame rate. Most games on consoles run between 30 and 60 frames per second, and most TVs top out at 60Hz, so frame rate hasn’t been a technical concern for TV manufacturers until recently. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are capable of running some games at 120fps, so players who want the best of the best will look for TVs capable of a 120Hz frame rate. To achieve that high bar, you’ll also need HDMI 2.1 ports (and the appropriate HDMI cables) that have the bandwidth to support that level of fidelity. 

Lastly, some TVs also support variable refresh rate technology, which syncs the target frame rate of your game or computer with the frame rate of the screen for more efficient processing and fewer display-related glitches. There are two variable refresh rate standards, AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync: The Xbox consoles support FreeSync, and PC players may want one or the other based on their hardware. The PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch don’t currently support variable refresh rates.

The best QLED TVs: Reviews & Recommendations

The best QLED TVs offer a great all-around picture that’s as bright and vibrant as anything you can find on the market right now. Since QLED is Samsung tech, you will notice that the list features a larger-than-average number of Samsung TVs. Despite that, there’s a good amount of variety among the manufacturers in the mix–as much variety as one can expect in a list of TVs with the same display type, anyways.

Best QLED TV overall: Samsung QN90A NEO QLED

Why it made the cut: Samsung makes QLED panels, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its newest flagship design showcases the tech better than any other TV.

Specs

  • Sizes: 50, 55, 65, 75, and 85 inches
  • Backlight: Mini LED
  • HDR: HDR10
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 3, HDMI 2.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 2, Ethernet, RF (cable) Input, Optical, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gaming Features: 120 Hz frame rate, FreeSync/G-Sync support

Pros

  • Incredible picture
  • Mini-LED
  • Lots of sizes
  • 120Hz and FreeSync support

Cons

The QLED panel is Samsung technology, so it makes perfect sense that Samsung’s flagship QLED design would create the best, most well-rounded TV using one. The Samsung Q90A is, in every sense of the word, a top-of-the-line TV. The Mini-LED-lit panel produces an ultra-bright vibrant picture with strong color reproduction and has all the features you should hope for in a high-end TV, including Wide Color Gamut and a high refresh rate for gaming. 

In typical Samsung fashion, it also features a wide variety of special features, including Q-Symphony, a surround sound feature that reduces audio lag with compatible soundbars, and Ultra Viewing Angle mode, which adjusts processing to reduce the impact of sitting off to the side. Whether or not you buy into the hype behind the buzzwords, the Q90A is a well-rounded TV with a killer look.

Best 4K QLED TV: Hisense U8G

Why it made the cut: The Hisense U8G has more flaws than the Samsung Q90A but it’s comparable … and substantially less expensive.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55 and 65 inches
  • Backlight: LED
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI 2.0 x 2, USB 3.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 1, Ethernet, RF (cable) Input, Composite Video, Composite Audio, Optical, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gaming Features: 120 Hz frame rate, FreeSync and G-Sync

Pros

  • Comparatively affordable
  • Very bright
  • 120Hz frame rate

Cons

  • No Mini-LED
  • Poor viewing angles

The Hisense U8G punches well above its weight. For a mid-range set, the U8G checks most of the boxes for a great QLED TV. Despite the fact that it does not feature a Mini-LED backlight, the U8G gets extremely bright and features local dimming, maximizing the QLED’s color-amplifying picture quality. It’s also a strong gaming option, with support for 120Hz frame rate and two HDMI 2.1 ports.

Like other Hisense TVs, the U8G frequently gets dinged by reviewers for poor viewing angles, particularly since it lacks the wide viewing angle modes offered by Samsung and others. Even with that caveat, though, it provides elite QLED performance and undercuts Samsung’s prices quite a bit.

Best QLED TV for gaming: TCL 6-Series Google TV (R646)

Why it made the cut: The TCL 6-Series is a fine QLED TV with Mini-LED, which makes it bright, and it has very good gaming features.

Specs

  • Sizes: 55, 65, and 75 inches
  • Backlight: Mini-LED
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI 2.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Ethernet, composite audio output, RF (cable) Input, Optical, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gaming Features: 120 Hz frame rate

Pros

  • Mini-LED
  • Comparatively affordable
  • Multiple HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • Supports ambiguous variable refresh rate standard rather than FreeSync
  • Google TV model has better features than Roku model, which may be confusing for buyers

TCL has gained absurd levels of popularity in recent years. The company’s relatively affordable smart TVs, particularly its line of Roku TVs with the same operating system as the ubiquitous streaming devices, offer an incredible value for anyone looking to get more for less. If you aren’t too hung up on Roku support, however, TCL’s Best Buy-exclusive 6-Series Google TV offers a couple of extra hardware upgrades that make it a best-in-class gaming TV, including two HDMI 2.1 ports and overall picture quality improvements, including strong contrast that rivals our top pick. We’ve heard the TCL 6-Series doesn’t get quite as bright as some of the other TVs on our list, but the gulf is not so broad that it impacts HDR performance in a meaningful way.

Best QLED TV HDR: Hisense U9DG

Why it made the cut: Hisense’s flagship uses a unique “dual-cell” display that combines two LCD panels to amplify contrast for better local dimming and HDR.

Specs

  • Sizes: 75 inches
  • Backlight: LED
  • HDR: HDR10
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 4, USB 2.0 x 3, Ethernet, RF (cable) Input, Optical, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gaming Features: 120 Hz refresh rate, FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility

Pros

  • Dual-Cell LCD screen
  • Incredible contrast
  • 120Hz refresh rate with variable refresh rate
  • Doesn’t have viewing angle issues found in less expensive Hisense models

Cons

  • Only available in 75-inch size

As a relative newcomer in the TV world, Hisense needs to find a feature or a gimmick that makes it stand out from trusted QLED brands like Samsung and TCL. With its flagship TV, the U9DG, the company may have found its thing. It has a unique “dual-layer” LCD panel, which crams two layers of LCD screen into a single TV for more finite control over the light shining through. One LCD panel is a typical 4K display. The second enhances the screen’s brightness and local dimming capabilities, allowing for tremendous contrast. The only downside? It just comes in one size, a hulking 75 inches, so you need to have a big room (and bank account) to bring it home.

Best budget QLED TV: Vizio M7 Quantum

Why it made the cut: The M7 Quantum brings QLED color to a wider audience.

Specs

  • Sizes: 50, 55, 58, 65, 70, and 75 inches
  • Backlight: LED
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.0 x 4, USB 2.0 x 1, Ethernet, RF (cable) Input, Optical, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Gaming Features: FreeSync compatible

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • FreeSync support
  • Lots of sizes

Cons

  • Low brightness
  • 60Hz refresh rate

There’s a much wider range of QLED TVs than there are of OLEDs, 8K TVs, and other specific niche varieties of TV. The Vizio M7 Quantum signifies that range: At less than $700 for a 65-inch TV, it is substantially cheaper than even the mid-range TVs on this list, like the TCL 6-Series. It also, frankly, comes with some caveats. QLEDs get a lot of credit for their brightness, but the M7 Quantum doesn’t reach the high NIT count that our other picks do. It is also the only TV on this list that doesn’t support a higher 120Hz refresh rate, making it a compromise choice for gamers. It does, however, offer the enhanced color range that QLED provides, which makes it an appealing prospect if you’re shopping for a smaller, more affordable QLED TV. If you’re primarily streaming movies and TV shows instead of sports and video games, you may not even notice some of the more substantial drawbacks.

Best 8K QLED TV: Samsung QN900A NEO QLED 8K

Why it made the cut: You don’t need an 8K TV right now, but Samsung’s QN900A is the best QLED pick for futureproofing.

Specs

  • Sizes: 65, 75, and 85 inches
  • Backlight: Mini-LED
  • HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
  • Wide Color Gamut: Yes
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1 x 2, HDMI 2.0 x 2, USB 3.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 1, Ethernet, composite video, composite audio output, RF (cable) Input, Optical
  • Gaming Features: 120 Hz refresh rate, FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility

Pros

  • 8K resolution
  • Very bright
  • Four HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons

  • You don’t need an 8K TV
  • Extremely expensive

As we discussed before, you really don’t need an 8K TV right now. Even if you have $5,000 or more on hand to buy one, you won’t be able to put it to good use very often, seeing as there’s very little TV, film, or gaming content available in 8K right now. That said, if you want an 8K QLED TV, the Samsung QN900A is the way to go. It delivers a very bright picture thanks to its Mini-LED backlighting and has a ton of great gaming features. (If you get the chance to use this TV to play 8K content in the foreseeable future, there’s a good chance you’ll get it through a PS5 or Xbox Series X.)

FAQs

Q: Is QLED worth the extra money?

This is an interesting question. While there aren’t many “budget” QLED TVs, there are plenty of solid mid-range QLED TVs, so you don’t technically have to spend “extra” money on QLED unless you’re targeting a TV under $500. In theory, the answer should be “yes.” QLED enhances brightness and color reproduction, leading to a substantially improved picture over a standard LED-backed LCD TV.

That said, when I see this question I can’t help but wonder if we’re actually talking about spending extra on a QLED TV, or spending extra on a high-end QLED TV with Mini-LED backlighting, since the two technologies are often conflated. Without knowing more, I would say yes: By and large, Mini-LED generally enhances local dimming and contrast, which are crucial to conjuring a sharper, crisper-looking picture and maximizing HDR.

Q: How long do QLED TVs last?

QLED is still a relatively new technology, so it’s hard to say how long they typically last. According to Samsung, QLED should last seven to 10 years of “typical use” before you start to see any kind of tangible picture degradation, which typically manifests as a loss in brightness. Samsung doesn’t define what “typical use” means, but we’re going to take an educated guess and say that we’re talking about a few hours per day.

Q: Can QLED TVS get burn-In?

Burn-in is a form of visual degradation that occurs on some TVs over time. When you leave a static image on your screen for a long time, a faded silhouette of the image may linger even after the image has changed. The Achilles Heel of OLED TVs is a relatively high chance of burn-in over time.

According to Samsung, QLED TVs cannot generate burn-in. (This is abnormal; most TVs are at least capable of generating a “ghost image” or screen burn-in late in their life cycle.) We haven’t independently verified this, so I won’t say that it’s true, but there’s enough evidence out there to suggest that QLEDs are more resistant to burn-in than OLEDs, which potentially makes them more durable, long-term.

Final thoughts on the best QLED TVs

Looking forward, at least in the short term, I expect that QLED will be the technology that disseminates to more budget-friendly TV models, rather than OLED. Since OLED is an entirely different type of screen technology, rather than an evolution of LED-backed LCD TVs, it stands to reason that it will scale down to cheaper TVs faster. In that sense, QLED is the TV of the moment, whereas OLEDs are the TV of the future. 

That’s all really just semantics and speculation, though. Don’t sweat it too much: There’s a whole world of technical screen quality analysis out there if you really want to dive in and figure out what TV has the best picture. It’s a serious investment of time and effort, though, so I think you’re better off taking what we’ve talked about, going to the store, and picking the TV that looks right to you, armed with a little know-how. Because, if you’re like me, all the specs fall away as soon as the opening credits start rolling.



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