4K vs. 8K, OLED vs. QLED – Which smart TV should you buy in 2019

As pixels multiply and new technologies rise, it can be tricky knowing which TV to buy. To help make the process a little easier, we decided to answer your questions and pick out the top smart TVs of 2019.

  • Is it worth buying an 8K TV? Maybe. There is relatively little 8K content available right now, but you would be future-proofed!
  • Are smart TVs worth the extra investment? They are more convenient than streaming boxes, such as Roku TV and Apple TV, but they provide essentially the same features.
  • What is the best OS for smart TVs? We like Samsung’s Tizen OS, Roku TV, and LG’s webOS.
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Which TV is right for you?

Back in the day, buying a TV was pretty straightforward. The only real decision you had to make was about screen size. But in recent years, things have become more complicated. What resolution and refresh rate do you need? Is QLED better? What do these letters even mean? To help you make good choices, we set out to demystify the world of smart TVs.

When is the best time to buy a smart TV?

The answer to this question varies depending on what you’re looking for.

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LG released new TVs this year

Folks who want cutting-edge tech should look out for new models in spring, when products unveiled at CES hit the shelves. This year, the LG Z9 and Panasonic GZ2000 turned heads on the show floor.

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You can grab a cheap TV on Black Friday

If you’re looking for the best value, Black Friday is obviously a good time to shop. That said, many of the products that are discounted will be outgoing models. This means your shiny new screen will probably be “outdated” within a few months. This may not matter to you. However, be aware that smart TVs quickly lose their appeal if the operating system isn’t actively maintained.

4K vs 8K

The difference between these two standards is actually quite straightforward. 4K represents four times HD resolution, or something near; 8K represents four times the number of pixels as 4K and 16 times the number of pixels as HD.

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Look at all those pixels

At present, 4K is the accepted pinnacle of home entertainment. That said, native 4K content (aside from games) is still surprisingly scarce. Most streaming services deliver only a few TV shows and movies at this resolution. However, investing in a reasonably-priced 4K display is a good idea. Content is catching up, and will continue to do so.

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The content is catching up

The selection of content for 8K screens is much more disappointing. This can mostly be attributed to the fact that not many people own compatible displays. Will this improve over time? Yes — but expect a painfully slow transition.

QLED vs OLED

This is where things get a little more complicated. QLED, popularized by Samsung, stands for Quantum Dot LED. These screens have a backlight, and offer better brightness as a result. Samsung’s QLED Smart 4K UHD TV offers particularly good dynamic depth.

OLED is short for Organic LED. Created by LG, this system uses individual bulbs to create a picture. As a result, there is no need for backlighting. These displays offer bold colors, genuine blacks and a wider viewing angle than QLED screens.

That said, OLED displays are usually more expensive. As just one example, you will need to fork out $2,800 for the cheapest Sony MASTER Series A9G OLED Smart TV.

Smart features

Of course, the display is only a part of what makes a good smart TV stand out. Just like any other connected device, it’s also about digital features.

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Many smart TVs use Android TV

While some manufacturers have their own operating systems, others use third-party systems. Android TV is one of the most popular, providing access to a good range of apps, although it can be buggy. WebOS from LG is slicker, but it has fewer apps to offer. Roku TV and Samsung’s Tizen are the fastest of all.

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Samsung also has a good OS

Speaking of speed, some upcoming smart TVs are likely to come with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. This could make a big difference in future, as the new standard will allow stronger connections — useful for streaming 4K and 8K content.

Cheap vs. expensive

Because display technology is improving all the time, it’s true to say that expensive screens will usually offer a better picture. The real question is, how much should you spend?

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How much should you spend?

Putting aside personal budgets, we would recommend avoiding smart TVs under $400. In most cases, you will get an underwhelming display and underpowered smart features. In this bracket, it’s probably better to get a “dumb” display and connect a Roku TV box.

At the other end of the scale, you probably don’t need to spend more than $2,000 to $3,000 on a TV. Models at higher prices may be more technically spectacular, but content always dictates the quality of your viewing experience.

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Think about what you need

What about future-proofing? Until the 4K standard is widely adopted, it’s probably not worth thinking about anything better. By the time your favorite franchise makes it into 8K, your smart TV might be obsolete.

Which smart TV?

There is no definitive answer when it comes to buying a TV. The best choice for you will be based on multiple factors, including budget and technology.

In addition, you need to think about what your TV will be used for. Love games? You might want something with a fast refresh rate and HDR support. Movie buff? You might be willing to spend more to enjoy the best possible picture quality. No matter what you decide, you should be able to find the right screen on Gadget Flow!

Do you own a smart TV? Give us a tweet-length review in the comments!

The Gadget Flow Daily Digest highlights and explores the latest in tech trends to keep you informed. Want it straight to your inbox? Subscribe now.

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Meet Mark Myerson

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he's pretty handy with a camera, and he's a self-confessed tweetaholic.

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