Top Pick for
Smart TV for the bedroom
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You don't buy a new TV every year, with most of us expecting our tellies to last a decent span of time providing us with entertainment via streaming services such as Netflix or Disney+, gaming on next-gen consoles such as the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, or even via good old free to air broadcast TV. There's no doubt that smart TV adoption is at an all-time high, and it's not hard to see why, because having one remote that gives you quick access to smart TV features is highly appealing.
The range of brands, prices and choices is vast even at recommended retail prices, and it gets even more complex when you see how much price manoeuvring happens as different models have promotions and sales. We've rounded up the best choices to meet a wide variety of situations where you may be after a new smart TV.
The latest standard in TV technology is HDMI 2.1. This is nearly three times faster than HDMI 2.0 and allows for faster framerates at higher resolutions, as well as more detailed audio. In 2020 we started to see some of the best TVs incorporate HDMI 2.1, and in 2021 it will start to become common. For the foreseeable future, HDMI 2.1 is most utilised in gaming. Both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X rely on HDMI 2.1 to deliver their advertised experiences. So if you intend to game on your TV, check it has HDMI 2.1 ports for video and eARC for audio.
We've combined our own TV reviews with an analysis of online reviews, both professional and based on consumer feedback to determine the rundown of the best smart TVs. All choices are independently made based on our combined 60+ years of reviewing experience and are not based on commercial relationships.
LG's flagship OLED TV for 2020 is the LG Signature ZX range, available in either 88- or 77-inch sizes. In other words, this is one large TV, although you'd expect that given the asking price, especially for the stratospherically pricey 88-inch model. That being said, LG has led the way for years now in picture quality thanks to its use of OLED displays, and 8K gives the signature ZX series plenty of futureproofing. The downside there is that you'll be watching a lot of upscaled 4K or Full HD content, because nobody is really streaming or selling 8K content yet, and the data needs are going to be prohibitive when they do.
Hisense's market position in Australia is pretty much all about the budget story, and it's noted by many online reviewers as offering good value for money. Where the sub-$1,000 space at RRP tends to limit you to much smaller screens, it's not too hard to shop around and score a Hisense Series 8 panel for under $1,000 at 50-inch sizes or maybe even bigger, which is a highly appealing prospect.
What you gain in screen size you do somewhat lose in terms of overall smart TV features. The Hisense Series 8 TVs run on Hisense's own VIDAA platform, and many reviewers do note that it's a little sluggish and not always up to date with some streaming services, especially Australian catch-up TV platforms, although the big players such as Netflix and YouTube are present.
8K is still very new technology when it comes to TVs, and that means that your range of actual choices is limited, and the prices are exceptionally high. It's no surprise that our pick for the best overall picture quality is also an 8K TV, because that's precisely the point of buying an 8K TV right now. Outside a few demo footage reels there's really no 8K content you can buy presently, no Australian TV network is set up for 8K broadcast and won't be for years if ever, and nobody's streaming in 8K, which is actually a kindness when you consider Australia's poor broadband speeds.
Where 8K, and 8K OLED as found in the pricey 88-inch Signature ZX, makes any degree of sense at the moment is in upscaling existing content, especially 4K HDR content if you're watching it, because even the most intelligent upscaler can only do so much with 1080p or worse video. LG's OLEDs are the basis for most of the OLED panels you'll find in any OLED TV right now, and while some reviewers do also rate Sony's OLED panels highly for picture clarity, the inclusion of webOS with its easy to use smart TV platform gives LG the edge here, albeit a fantastically expensive edge.
When you want to go large, you've got to balance your desire for a huge screen with your budget. There are bigger and much more expensive TVs than the Sony X8000H in the 75 inches and above category, but your wallet will really feel the pinch, as is still common for very large TVs. With reviewers noting the generally pleasing picture quality (although some noted contrast ratio issues) of Sony's X8000H, it's our pick for the best balance between a cheap but large TV, and one that's going to leave you living in the TV box because you can't afford the mortgage or rent any more. The inclusion of Android TV means that there are plentiful apps on offer and a somewhat easier path to incorporate new services as they emerge, although the Android TV interface isn't always as fast as competing offerings from the likes of Samsung or LG.
When you're putting a TV in your bedroom you're often looking for a smaller and more discrete panel, rather than the biggest and the boldest look. Samsung's The Frame TV – and especially its highly affordable 32" variant – benefits here because it lives up to its name. Its customisable bezels allow you to make it look exactly like a picture frame, more or less hiding it when not in use if you do place it on your wall, although it can be freestanding as well. Samsung's Tizen smart TV platform generally keeps pace with the smart app needs of most users, covering the basics like Netflix and YouTube, but also newer services such as Disney+ and Apple TV+. Reviewers also liked its streamlined remote control and easy set-up, although they did notice that peak brightness on its QLED panel wasn't superb.
Picking the best smart TV for apps and streaming pretty much comes down to app support, and here it's very much a moment-in-time equation, with industry heavyweights Samsung and LG battling it out with their Tizen and webOS interfaces respectively. You absolutely should expect the basics – services like Netflix, ABC iView, SBS on Demand, Stan and the like – but over the years the pendulum has bounced between Samsung and LG as to which would offer the most alternative streaming services and apps. LG's webOS is a little more fluid if you like the bright pink style, while Samsung's more carousel-led approach of Tizen can involve more scrolling to find specific apps or content. We've chosen these specific TVs because they're good examples of well-regarded panels at an affordable price range, typically under $2,000 at retail, that will give you the best of what those platforms can offer at an affordable price.
Hisense's core pitch is towards TV buyers who want features without the price tag. Based on specifications and the small number of available online reviews, the Hisense 65S8 should hit most of the sweet spots, with support for voice integration for broader smart home usage across both Alexa and Google Assistant. Some reviewers did note spotty availability for key apps, and that's down to the fact that it's running on Hisense's own VIDAA platform, which some noted can also be unresponsive at times.
With such a wide array of price choices – at the time of writing the cheapest model Samsung offered in Australia costs just $949 and the most expensive will hit you for $99,999 – picking the best Samsung smart TV for everyone is a tricky proposition. Online reviewers did praise Samsung's Q95T QLED TV for its generally solid HDR reproduction, support for gaming-centric features if that's your TV style and wide app support for smart TV streaming. It's not quite the belle of the ball when it comes to Samsung TVs with a slightly thicker design and backlighting that can sometimes kick in a little too aggressively according to online reports, but it's a great value set that shows what Samsung can do with smart TVs.
If LG's Signature series is our pick as best overall smart TV, why isn't it our best LG TV choice by default? It's largely a question of price, because while it's an exceptional TV based on online reviews and feedback, it's not exactly inexpensive. That's true generally for OLEDs unless you buy a prior year's model, but the LG CX OLEDs tend to strike at least a workable balance between price and features for most household budgets. OLED is still the technology to go for in terms of picture quality and with so many smart TV streaming apps upping their 4K game, that's what you'd really want in an integrated TV. On the downside, online reviews do note that the speakers on the CX OLED TVs are pretty ordinary, and there's always that lingering issue of OLED burn-in over time.
Panasonic's focus for its flagship TVs has been more on picture quality than smart TV features, and it shows even in its flagship 65GZ2000U TV. It's highly regarded by online reviewers for its OLED picture quality with an integrated Filmmaker mode to make the most of movies and an extremely wide range of HDR format supports. However, what you get in picture quality (at a premium price) is undercut in smart TV terms with a smaller range of available services; most reviewers highlight the lack of Disney+ as a key missing piece of the Panasonic smart TV puzzle.
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