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The Best 4K TVs Under $1,000

If you don’t want to break four digits on a 4K TV, you no longer have to.

tech roundup
TCL

The first 4K TVs from LG and Sony went on sale in the U.S in late 2012. Both were 84 inches and exceeded $20,000. So while desirable — 4K TVs have four times as many pixels as standard HD TVs and can produce a much clearer and beautiful picture — people basically had to choose between buying a top-notch TV and sending their child to college. Thankfully, that’s changed. Every major TV manufacturer makes at least one 4K TV, and they all come in myriad display sizes and price points. And if you don’t want to break four digits on a 4K TV, you no longer have to.

All the best 4K TVs — we’re talking the crème de la crème — have OLED displays (although Samsung’s QLED displays come a close second). That’s because OLED technology allows the displays to produce darker blacks and more vivid colors than any LED TV display. The problem is, even though prices of OLED TVs are coming down, they’re still expensive; you’re still not going to find a 4K OLED TV under $1,000.

Still, there are excellent 4K TVs within your price range. We’re talking under $1,000 for a 4K TV that’s at least 55-inches. TCL and Vizio are the two main brands to look for in. They make a variety of 4K TVs, pretty much all of them support the newest HDR technologies and have smart streaming features. And as far as picture quality, they’ll deliver a night-and-day difference to any HD display.

Key Specs to Know

Resolution: The best way to think of your TV is as a big grid, made up of columns and rows of pixels. The more pixels in that grid, the better the overall resolution of the TV. 4K TVs have a grid of 3840 x 2160 pixels, while an HD TV has a grid of 1920 x 1080 pixels. That means 4K TVs have four times as many pixels, and thus four times the detail as HD TVs.

Dimming Zones: The most affordable 4K TVs all have LED backlighting. Whereas OLED TVs can individually light up and dim each pixel, LED TVs can only light up and dim clusters of pixels. This is OLED TVs are able to achieve better contrast and more vivid colors. However, different LED 4K TVs have different amounts of “dimming zones.” The more dimming zones, the more clusters of pixels the TV is able to control. Thus, the more dimming zones, the better the 4K TV’s image quality.

Refresh Rate: This is the number of times per second, or frequency (measured in Hertz), that the screen refreshes itself. TVs with higher refresh rates are better at reducing motion blur and have a better overall image quality. If you’re looking for a 4K TV with all have refresh rates of 120Hz.

HDR: You want a 4K TV with HDR, or high dynamic range, and most the best ones on this list fit that bill. HDR is a technology that gets more out of the TV’s pixels. It helps create deeper blacks and more vivid colors, giving the TV better a contrast ratio and producing a more realistic picture. Ultimately HDR relies on HDR-compatible content, but more and more shows, movies and video games are taking advantage of it. The two most popular HDR formats are: Dolby Vision and HDR10.

Smart TV: Pretty much all new 4K TVs have some kind of smart TV platform built in. Whether that’s Roku, Smartcast or WebOS, it doesn’t matter so much because they all work with most of the popular smart apps, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Go. There’s also the option to get a dongle — Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick — and use whichever platform you like.

The Picks

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1 Vizio P-Series Quantum (2021)
Vizio

Size: 65" — 85"
Price:
$899 — $4,799

The P-Series Quantum is Vizio's top-of-the-line non-OLED 4K TV and, quite frankly, it's one of the best and most premium options on this list. It's an LED TV that's built with quantum dot display technology (same as most of Samsung's higher-end QLED TVs), helping it with contrast and achieve more vibrant colors than other standard LED displays. It also has a number of gaming features — HDMI 2.1 ports, 120Hz display and support for variable refresh rate (VRR) — making it an excellent choice for those with the newest Xbox or Playstation consoles.

(Note: This is not the Vizio P-Series Quantum "X," which is a higher-end and more expensive version of the P-Series Quantum; it's brighter and available in even larger sizes.)

2 Vizio M7 Series Quantum (2021)
Vizio

Size: 50" — 75"
Price:
$570 — $1,200

The M-Series Quantum is Vizio’s mid-range line of 4K TVs. The 2021 models have been upgraded with faster processors and some new features (like they come with a new voice remote.) The displays are integrated with quantum dot technology, so they’re able to deliver a brighter and more vivid picture. They also support all the same HDR technologies, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision, as Vizio’s higher-end P-Series Quantum, but the M-Series is significantly more affordable. (The main difference compared to Vizio’s P-Series is that the M-Series Quantum has significantly less dimming zones and overall brightness, so it’s not able to produce quite the same level of picture quality.) Maybe the biggest difference from other TVs on this list is that the M-Series Quantum works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and supports AirPlay 2 and HomeKit as well.

3 TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED (2021)
TCL

Size: 55" — 75"
Price:
$750 — $1,300

The TCL 6-Series continues to be one of the best budget 4K TVs. It's integrated with Mini LED backlight technology — it adds thousands of miniature LED lights, giving the TV better control of its dimming zones and delivering a brighter, more colorful and more high-contrast picture — which is pretty unheard of in a sub-$1,000 TV. Compared to its predecessor, the new 6-Series has two HDMI 2.1 ports (for gamers) and is available with a Google TV smart operating system (instead of Roku).

4 TCL 5-Series QLED (2021)
TCL

Size: 50" — 75"
Price:
$500 — $999

The TCL 5-Series is essentially a more budget friendly version of the company's 6-Series. The two lines of TVs have a similar design and smart features, but the big difference is in picture quality. The 5-Series doesn't pack the same Mini LED technology and thus can't achieve quite the contrast and vivid colors as the 6-Series, nor is it as good for gaming as it supports 60Hz refresh rate rather than 120Hz. Of course, if your not gaming on a new-age console or just want a dependable and really affordable 4K TV, then the 5-Series is a great pick.

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