The Best Black Friday 4K Television Deals
One of the best times of the year to purchase a new TV is fast approaching so I've put together a short-list of the best mid-to-high end 4K TVs for 2018. The specific focus here are TVs that will offer a bare minimum of great picture quality, effective HDR performance and decent gaming features. The picks here all manage that with ease and range in price from around £700 to £1800 for a 55" panel. One area I've ignored is audio quality because, well, I'm sure most of you know what to expect from TVs on that front.
Disclaimer: Other than staring slack jawed at these TVs in my local Currys I've got zero personal experience with any of them. I've done my research though and I'm sure you'll see an almost identical shortlist in a number of places. For further detail I suggest rtings.com for specs and stats (use the US model numbers where applicable) and HDTV Test on YouTube for reviews and comparisons.
Also included here is a price guide that shows the lowest prices the 55" and 65" models have been (typically using codes or retailer cashback schemes) which should prove useful to see if those Black Friday deals are actually any good.
Model no: UExxNU8000
Screen sizes: 49, 55, 65, 75 and 82 inches
This LCD display from Samsung may not have their prominent QLED branding but it offers almost identical performance to the lowest-end Q6FN at a much lower price. It also boasts the same future-proof gaming features as its bigger, more expensive QLED brothers, such as VRR (Variable Refresh Rate, or Freesync in the PC space) and Auto Game Mode (neither of which are found on any other brands this year). What you get here is a VA panel that offers good picture quality across the board, decent contrast and effective HDR performance. You also get excellent input lag (as is common across all Samsung 2018 TVs) at around 18ms and 4 full bandwidth HDMI inputs. Like all VA panel displays however the viewing angle is very poor.
*The 55 inch and above sizes all boast a native 120hz panel which offers improved motion and even 1080p 120hz input for PC use. The 49 inch is a 60hz panel only.
Here are the current prices:
The 55" has been as low as £769 whereas the 65" has been as low as £989 with a discount code.
Model no: KDxxXF9005 (X900F in the USA)
Screen sizes: 49, 55 and 65 inches
Another VA panel LCD display (so once again expect poor viewing angles), Sony's XF9005 series offers Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) which greatly improves contrast with much deeper blacks. This improves the overall picture quality while the XF9005 also offers improved motion handling and is a more capable HDR display than the Samsung. Where it lags behind is, well, input lag. At 4K you're looking at around 25ms which is still very good but for 1080p inputs (Nintendo Switch, base Xbox One* and PS4) you're looking at 40ms which is disappointing but by no means terrible. Another minor negative here is that only 2 of the 4 HDMI inputs are full bandwidth - sadly this is a common feature on Sony TVs with only the top-end AF9 and ZF9 offering the full bandwidth on all 4 inputs (thus limiting how many 4K HDR devices you can hook up directly to the TV at once).
*Xbox One S can be set to 4K output to avoid this.
Here are the current prices:
The lowest prices recorded (and still available) are via TPS where you get £200 cashback making the 55" £995 and the 65" £1545.
LG B8 and LG C8 OLED
B8 Model no: OLEDxxB8SLC ('Crescent' stand with 20w 2.0 speaker system) / OLEDxxB8PLA ('Alpine' stand with 40w, 2.2 speaker system)
C8 Model no: OLEDxxC8PLA
Screen sizes: B8 -- 55 and 65 inch / C8 -- 55, 65 and 77 inch
Enter the OLED with its perfect blacks, excellent viewing angles and wafer thin design. LG's entry-level models are very similar, both offering excellent picture quality and HDR performance, great motion handling and low input lag of around 21ms. The C8 - and indeed its bigger, more expensive brothers the E8, G8 and W8 - use the newer Alpha 9 processor whereas the B8 uses the Alpha 7, a modified version of the chipset found in the excellent 2017 OLED range from LG. The difference? Not much really. The C8 has a slightly higher peak brightness, while there's also the suggestion that panel quality is generally better on the C8 but this is unsubstantiated. Like the Samsung TVs you also get 4 full bandwidth HDMI 2.0 inputs. The only downside comes in the form of potential screen burn - a risk that's apparently minimal but one that's certainly there and has to be considered.
Here are the current prices for the B8:
Lowest recorded prices are £1199 for the 55" and £2065 for the 65" though both were very limited availability.
Here are the current C8 prices:
Other than a short lived £1529 price for the 55" the C8 hasn't been discounted beyond £1699 for the 55" and £2399 for the 65" (current prices at time of posting).
OLED Alternatives - Sony, Panasonic and Philips are the other main contenders in the OLED market but you also have Toshiba at the low-end and Loewe at the luxury end. All use LG Display panels but each have their own unique picture processing and designs. Speaking very generally Sony are considered to offer better scaling and motion handling making them ideal for low quality inputs (SD TV, low bandwidth Sky/Cable channels etc) whereas Panasonic target colour accuracy in the movie space making them the top choice for movie use. LG takes the win for best HDR along with Dolby Vision support but overall differences are considered to be marginal with the LG TVs offering the best value all round and also considered the best for gaming use thanks to higher peak brightness. Info on the Philips and Toshiba sets is limited to I can't speak for those.
Model no: QExxQ9FN
Screen sizes: 55, 65 and 75 inches
It's generally accepted that Samsung damaged their QLED branding last year with a range of TVs that were terrible value for money, if not quite flat out terrible. The 2018 4K Flagship Q9FN is Samsung making amends, an LCD display that offers good black levels thanks to its FALD backlight and a stunning peak brightness level for excellent HDR performance. Where OLEDs are considered the very best displays for dark room viewing, the Q9FN is one of the very best LCD displays for bright room viewing. Brightness levels aren't the only factor here either, with the Q9FN offering what is probably the best anti-reflection coating on the market for LCD displays. Elsewhere you get the same future-proof gaming features as the NU8000 and 4 full bandwidth HDMI 2.0 inputs. Design wise you get the unique 'One Connect' input box which features all of the inputs and even supplies power to the TV via a single thin wire, ideal for those who want to conceal the clutter.
Here are the current prices:
The lowest recorded prices using discount codes are £1679 for the 55" and £2160 for the 65".
QLED alternative - The (minor) step-down from the Q9FN is the Q8DN which offers very similar performance overall with just slightly weaker local dimming. It also lacks the 'One Connect' input box so all cables go directly in to the back of the TV. The bizarre downside here is that Samsung released it much later than the Q9FN, and the RRP is very close to the Q9FN, so the price difference is very small at most retailers, with some even pricing it above the Q9FN! Beyond these two top-end QLEDs the other models (Q8FN, Q7FN, Q6FN) are all edge-lit which means thinner designs but much worse local dimming meaning they'll struggle to offer good blacks.
Here are the current prices for the Q8DN.
The lowest on the 55" is £1650 and the 65" is £2399 - so as already mentioned, practically the same as the Q9FN.
The TV you choose is ultimately down to you and what you want it for. For myself OLED is undoubtedly the king and it has been for the last couple of years now. No matter which model you choose from the major manufacturers it offers the best picture quality and viewing angles on the market along with excellent HDR performance. The only good reasons I can see for choosing a similarly priced LCD over an OLED are a) burn in concerns and b) daytime / bright light viewing conditions.
A word on Dolby Vision - of the TVs covered only the LG OLEDs fully support Dolby Vision. Samsung does not (and will not) support it while the Sony XF9005 was firmware updated to offer Dolby Vision support but it's a little complicated as to how well it works (if at all) through external devices. If you just want DV via the built-in apps you're all set.