Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Just a few years ago, the idea of a “smart television” was something out of science fiction. Today, most TVs sold have hardware like Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports, and more importantly, apps that can stream content to your television. But which of these products are the best smart TVs to buy in 2021?
Here’s a look at our picks for the best smart televisions you can currently buy.
Buying the best smart TVs for your needs
Smart TVs come in almost all sizes, but size by itself is not the only thing you should consider before purchasing one. The smart TV OS is another consideration. Televisions made by Samsung, LG, and Vizio have their own proprietary smart operating systems. Others use a third-party OS like Android TV, Roku OS, and Amazon Fire TV.
Unless you are getting a smaller set for your kitchen, home office, or even your bathroom, you should get a TV with at least a 4K resolution screen
Cheaper TVs typically have an LED display, but if you want a better picture, you should consider getting an OLED model, which offers better color variety and deeper blacks. Also, unless you’re getting a smaller set for your kitchen, home office, or even your bathroom, you should get a TV with at least a 4K resolution screen. There are TVs with 8K resolution screens, but they also tend to be more expensive. Plus, there’s very little native 8K video to stream at the moment (although some sets do upscale 4K content to 8K).
Finally, owners of new game consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X should check to see if the smart TVs they want have a higher refresh rate, like 120Hz, along with special game modes that will improve latency.
Should I get a streaming stick or set-top box to go with my smart TV?
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Even if you have a smart TV with included streaming apps, not all of them are created equally. Samsung, LG, and Vizio have their own proprietary smart TV operating systems. However, they tend to lag behind other smart TV OSs from Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Android TV, when it comes to adding new apps and features. If you buy a new TV from Samsung, LG, or Vizio, we recommend getting a separate streaming TV stick or set-top box to plug into one of your spare HDMI ports.
If you own a smart TV with Amazon Fire TV, Roku, or Android TV installed, make sure they support the apps you want to have. For example, Roku lacks a Twitch app, which Amazon Fire TV and Android TV have. However, Roku has a Spectrum TV app, which Amazon Fire and Android TV lack. You might want to buy a separate streaming stick with a different OS as a backup.
If you’re still not sure which smart TV would be the best for you, below are our picks of the best smart TVs in 2021 across multiple categories and price points.
The best smart TVs to buy in 2021
- The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is the best 8K TV you can get overall, thanks to some impressive video and high brightness levels.
- The Sony A90J OLED is the best 4K TV, with some great and accuracy levels for viewing video content.
- The TCL 5 Series Roku TV is the best budget smart TV, offering high-quality features for a price that’s less than its competitors.
- The Vizio D-series is the best small (under 40 inches) smart TV, offering up to 1080p resolution and solid picture quality for smaller rooms and kitchens.
- The LG C1 Series OLED is the best overall OLED smart TV, with great contrast and color variety and support for Dolby Vision IQ.
- The Sony A80J is the best Android TV, using the Google TV OS, combined with a great picture and powerful processor.
- The Amazon Fire TV Omni series is the best Amazon Fire smart TV, with hands-free voice control and a slick design.
- The TCL 6 Series is the best Roku OS smart TV, with solid all-around video streaming and gaming features.
- The Samsung QN90A is the best gaming smart TV, with variable refresh rates and auto-low latency mode.
Samsung QN900A Neo QLED: The best 8K smart TV
If you really want to future-proof your television, you want one with 8K video resolution support. There’s a small but growing number of such TVs, and the best comes from Samsung. The QN900A Neo QLED comes in 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models, and uses Samsung’s proprietary technologies. That includes its Quantum Mini LEDs for its bright and accurate display, along with its Neo Quantum Processor 8K that helps to optimize the display to give it the best-looking video and images possible.
There’s very little native 8K video to stream right now, but this TV also includes AI technology that automatically upscales video to the top resolution. The design of the QN900A Neo QLED is pretty slick as well, with a thin and nearly bezel-free screen, and a stand that holds all of the ports and power behind the television. The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is perfect for your living room/home theater if you have the money.
The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is expensive but that’s the price to get a TV with an 8K resolution that will be future proof for years to come.
- 8K resolution
- Impressive display
- Powerful AI processor
- Sleek and thin design
- Very little 8K content to stream
- Samsung Tizen TV OS is good, but not perfect
Sony Bravia A90J: The best 4K smart TV
Sony has always made excellent televisions, and their current smart TVs are no exception. The Sony Bravia A90J, which comes in 55-, 65-, and 83-inch models, is definitely on the pricey side. However, you get what you pay for with this TV. It includes its own Cognitive Processor XR, which could be the most powerful chip inside a smart TV right now. It allows the Sony A90J to offer vibrant colors and deep blacks on its 4K TV.
It also includes features like AI upscaling to convert HD content to 4K, along with Sony’s X-Motion Clarity feature that smooths out video with lots of action so you can see everything. Finally, it uses the Google TV UI version of Android TV, which offers easy and quick access to your smart TV needs.
The Sony Bravia A90J combines a great display with a powerful processor for one of the best TVs you can get.
- Powerful chip inside
- Excellent display
- Google TV version of Android TV included
- Very expensive
- Not as good of a gaming TV as it should be
TCL 5 Series Roku TV: The best budget smart TV
Would you like a smart TV with great hardware and software features, but doesn’t cost thousands of dollars? TCL has been making a name for itself by offering high-end smart TVs with much lower prices than the competition. The TCL 5 Series Roku TV models, which come in 50,- 55-, 65-, and 76-inch models, are the perfect example of the balance between price and premium features.
This QLED TV uses Quantum Dot technology that offers its owners some vivid colors for viewing streaming content, along with TCL’s own AiPQ Engine processor for optimizing the content on the screen. Gamers with the newest consoles will appreciate the Auto Game Mode, which turns on when the TV senses a game is being played for smoother video and lower latency. It also uses the popular Roku OS with thousands of streaming apps to choose from.
TCL TVs don’t have a super slick design, but if you can ignore that, the Series 5 smart TVs promise to give you a high-end experience at a much lower cost.
The TCL 5 Series TVs use many of the same technologies as more expensive televisions for a far lower cost
- Excellent display for a lot less money
- Support for Auto Game Mode
- Roku OS installed
- Design is not that slick
- Other more expensive TVs have better features
Vizio D-Series: The best small smart TVs
If you want a television that fits on your kitchen countertop, in your home office, or any place that’s smaller than your bedroom or living room, you’ll want a TV that’s 40 inches or less. The Vizio D-Series is the best of these smaller TVs you can get. It comes in 24-, 32-, and 40-inch sizes and offers up to 1080p resolution, compared to other smaller TVs that max out at 720p.
Of course, the prices for these TVs will be much less than any of the other smart televisions on this list. You can get the 24-inch model for just $158, or perhaps lower. Vizio uses its own smart TV OS for its streaming apps, but we would recommend buying a cheap streaming stick from Amazon, Roku, or Google to expand your choices.
The Vizio D-Series offers high resolution televisions at small display sizes
- 1080p resolution
- Can be placed nearly anywhere
- Design is bezel heavy
- Vizio’s smart TV OS is just not good
LG C1 Series: The best OLED smart TV
LG TVs have an advantage when it comes to OLED displays. Its sister company, LG Display, makes the best of them for its parent company. The perfect example is the OLED screen in the LG C1 Series. With models in 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, and 83- inches, this TV uses self-lit pixels in its display. Each pixel is powered by its own light source, which allows the entire screen to offer amazing videos with sharp colors and contrast.
This technology also allows the display to be very thin, since it doesn’t need an additional light source. That means the design of this smart TV looks very cool. You can switch on what’s called Filmmaker Mode, which shows video from movies the way the director intended their movie to look like. Is this TV expensive? Yes! Is it worth the price for such an amazing display? We think it is.
The LG C1 series uses a great looking OLED display with some great features for gamers.
- The best display on any TV
- Very thin design
- Filmmaker Mode
- LG Smart TV OS is not the best
Sony Bravia A80J: The best Android TV
While we have seen more TV makers embrace Google’s Android TV OS of late, such as TCL and Hisense, the best smart TVs with that operating system continue to be made by Sony. That includes the Bravia A890J, which comes in 48-, 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models. While the A90J model mentioned earlier in this article has some more advanced hardware specs, the A80J is nearly as good, but at a better price point, which is why we’re including it here.
It comes with the Google TV interface. It’s easy to navigate and lets you quickly get to the content you watch (movie, TV show, live television) on the home screen without diving into different apps. You still get the Cognitive Processor XR, along with a terrific OLED screen. You also get Sony’s own Bravia Core streaming service, which offers hundreds of movies from Sony’s film library streaming in 4K at 80Mbps.
The Sony Bravia A80J is the best all around TV with the great Android TV operating system.
- Sharp display
- Google TV UI
- High-end performance
- Still a bit on the expensive side
- No models larger than 75 inches
Amazon Fire TV Omni series: The best Fire TV smart televisions
Amazon’s Fire TV OS comes installed on televisions sold by Toshiba, Pioneer, and Insignia (Best Buy’s in-house label). In 2021, Amazon finally started selling Fire TV sets under its own brand (although made by third-parties). The best of these are in the Omni series. They come in 45-, 50-, 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models. They all have a very nice design with minimal bezels for the display.
The Fire TV OS is a little hard to get used to, but the learning curve to discover the content you want to watch is thankfully one that won’t take long to master. The Omni series supports 4K resolution. Most importantly, it has hands-free Alexa voice support. In other words, you don’t need a handheld remote to send voice commands. The Omni series has built-in microphones, which is a nice touch.
The Amazon Fire TV Omni series include hands-free Alexa voice commands and premium video features
- Great design
- Hands-free voice support
- No OLED
- Fire TV OS has a bit of a learning curve
TCL 6 Series: The best Roku OS smart televisions
The Roku OS is used by a number of television manufacturers, including Hisense, Philips, and Walmart’s Onn brand. The best Roku TVs, however, are currently made by TCL. The 6-Series televisions, which come in 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models, are the best mix of high-end features and affordability.
The Roku OS itself hasn’t changed a lot in the past few years, and the reason is it’s so easy to navigate and use immediately. The TCL 6 Series include a QLED display with Mini-LED technology that offers a solid image. It also comes with features like a game mode that supports variable refresh rates for a better gaming experience.
The TCL 6-series is the best TV for people who want to have the Roku OS smart television platform.
- Roku OS is easy to use
- Affordable with high-end hardware
- Game mode included
- Design is fairly basic
- Other smart televisions do things better at a higher cost
Samsung QN90A: The best gaming smart TV
Sony and LG both make great smart TVs for next-generation console and PC gaming. However, we’re going to give the edge to the Samsung QN90A, available in 45-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models. It’s one of the first made by the company to use Mini-LED tech in its QLED 4K display, and it offers excellent visuals for gamers with the latest PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X consoles.
In fact, when you connect a console to this TV, it snaps into Game Mode. That includes a special UI called a Game Bar that will show gamers information like HDR, frame rate, and more, that the player can adjust. You can also hook up this TV to your gaming PC, and if the game you’re playing supports ultrawide monitors, the Game Mode lets you switch the screen’s aspect ratio to 21:9 or even 32:9 to simulate playing those games on your desktop monitor.
The Samsung QN90A has a bunch of features that make it the best for gaming on next-gen consoles and even on PCs.
- Excellent game specific features
- Solid display
- Great design
Picking the best smart TV accessories
While these are the best smart TVs you can buy, they can be made even better with some accessories. One of the best TV accessories to get is a soundbar, which helps improve the audio by a great amount, compared to the onboard speakers inside televisions. If you really want to go all out, you can also research buying a multi-speaker system for a true surround sound experience.
Read more: Best soundbars for your TV
We would also suggest looking into wireless headphones for people who don’t want to disturb the neighbors or their fellow house guests.
Lily Katz / Android Authority
While streaming media is how most people watch new movies and TV shows on their smart TVs, there are folks who demand physical media for the best picture and audio quality. If you want that, it’s best to buy 4K Blu-Ray movies and TV shows, and get a solid 4K Blu-Ray player.
Sarah Chaney / Android Authority
Other frequently asked questions
Q: How much do smart TVs cost?
A: As you might expect, smart TVs range in price from just over $100 to several thousand dollars. Usually, higher prices mean larger displays with more advanced display technology, along with dedicated TV processors and other high-end specs.
Q: Should I wait until prices come down to get the features I want?
A: Holiday sales at the end of the year usually are the best times to get a current smart TV. TV prices also tend to go down in late January as people want to get new televisions before the Super Bowl. We would keep an eye out during these periods for price cuts.
Q: What is this “laser TV” that I’ve read about?
A: Some TV makers use the term “laser TV” to describe what is actually a short-throw projector. It allows people to have a big screen TV experience at 100 inches or higher without setting up a standard projector in the ceiling. They also tend to be cheaper than most big-screen smart TVs. However, projectors also have limitations, such as lower image quality, and the need to install a projector screen.