Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2016.
In late 2012, the first 4K TVs from LG and Sony went on sale in the US. Both were 84 inches and exceeded $20,000. So while desirable — 4K TVs have four times as many pixels as standard HD TVs (3840 x 2160 versus 1920 x 1080) and can produce a much more clear and beautiful picture — people basically had to choose between a “sweet as” TV (that’s Kiwi slang) or sending their child to college. Thankfully, that’s changed. In 2016, every major TV manufacturer makes at least one 4K TV, and they come in myriad display sizes and price points. If you don’t want to break four digits on a 4K TV, you no longer have to.
Vizio SmartCast P-Series
Just released in March 2016, the Vizio SmartCast P-Series comes with an ultra HD display, which is decked out with Dolby Vision’s high dynamic range that create colors as rich and lifelike as the theater. The P-Series is also shifting the way people watch smart TVs: instead of scrolling through apps, as you would with Roku, the P-Series comes with a 6-inch Android tablet/remote and utilizes Google Cast. Basically, everything you used to do on the TV with Chromecast is now done on this new tablet. And you can watch TV, movies, or streaming apps like Netflix on the tablet alone, without using the TV.
Vizio M-Series 4K Ultra HD TV
Vizio’s M-Series of 4K HDR TVs (updated for 2016) are beautiful and powerful, and they don’t have the hefty price tags commonly attached to Sony and Samsung 4K TVs. They also come with a 6-inch HD display tablet. With it, you can change channels, stream apps like Netflix and HBO GO and adjust settings like brightness and contrast. And you can use the tablet to do non-TV-related tasks, like checking Facebook or playing games.
The M-Series is a GP100 winner, named as one of our Best Tech Products of 2016.
LG UH7700 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Available in three sizes, LG’s UH7700 sets come with Dolby Vision, an elevated HDR — so colors are richer, deeper and brighter. It also comes with webOS 3.0 software, making navigation between apps simple enough for even your parents. They also have the 4K standard 120Hz refresh rate to decrease motion blur.
Sony X830C 4K Ultra HD TV
The secret to Sony’s 4K success is the brand’s processing chip, the 4K Processor X1. It upscales everything — TV broadcasts, Blu-rays, DVDs — to 4K quality. The clarity and color of the picture are at the top end of the industry.
Screen Size: 43 in
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Refresh Rate: 120Hz
Other Size Options: 49 in for $794+
Sony X850D 4K Ultra HD Smart TV
New for 2016, this 4K retains Sony’s coveted X1 processing chip and also adds a display with Triluminos technology, which makes reds, green and blues deeper than ever. The X850D also comes with Sony’s refresh rate technology (Motionflow XR 960), ideal for minimizing blur while watching fast-paced sporting events and Tom Cruise movies.
Samsung KU6300 4K Ultra HD Smart TV
This 2016 Samsung is a straight-up solid investment. It comes with full 4K resolution, a high refresh rate (perfect for watching sports) and, with Samsung’s UHD Dimming, the picture’s contrast is as clear as any other TV you’ll find (especially in this price range).
NEW: Sharp N7000U 4K Smart TV
Sharp was recently bought by Hisense, the Chinese manufacturer, and 2016 was the first year that that partnership produced TVs. The N7000U is an affordable entry point into 4K TVs and features Sharp’s proprietary Revelation Upscaler technology, so you can upscale normal HD channels for the TV’s higher-resolution screen.