Welcome to our latest annual Editor's Choice Awards for the best TV products.
The Editor's Choice Awards celebrate the best products of the year. They are the items we think stand head and shoulders above the rest. The criteria for being eligible are simple. It must be a product that has been reviewed by AVForums in the last 12 months and it must currently be available as part of the official product range from a manufacturer and not discontinued before the end of 2021.
It's been another year of new TVs from all of the major manufacturers with small incremental changes across most of their products and technologies. We saw a general adoption of the LG EVO panel across the high-end models from Sony, LG and Philips, with Panasonic continuing with their version of the higher brightness and heat sink approach to the OLED panels. Plus, Samsung continues to dominate the LED LCD TV space with excellent entry point screens, all the way up to their 8K flagship. As always, we have our winners listed below...
Best Value Gaming TV - Samsung AU9000
The Samsung AU9000 is not an enthusiast’s TV for critical movie viewing in a dark room, and it never pretends to be. It is a good quality, everyday, living room workhorse with a decent image for bright room viewing that gets fairly accurate out of the box.
The main features of the AU9000 certainly centre around its gaming prowess to attract users looking for a more cost-effective solution instead of an OLED or Neo-QLED model, with some of the HDMI 2.1 features being available through its three HDMI 2.0b ports. We get the Motion Xcelerator Turbo gaming mode which is Samsung’s unique dynamic refresh technology for displaying VRR and 120Hz, plus we get a new Game Bar display showing you what the game you are playing is using in terms of refresh and graphics. You can also set this to display 32:9 PC style super-wide games. Gaming input lag is also an impressive 10.9ms in 4K/60.
Best Advanced Gaming TV - LG C1
The LG C1, like previous C models, is the sweet spot in the 2021 OLED TV range from LG and offers a few small upgrades over last year’s CX. It is a real all rounder with an excellent Smart TV system with all the major apps, all major HDR formats are also supported, minus HDR10+ and it also has decent sound quality from its built-in speaker system. It also has four HDMI 2.1 (40Gbps) inputs which is more than any other OLED manufacturer in 2021.
It’s this connectivity that also makes it an ideal choice for the serious gamer. LG has partnered with NVIDIA and AMD to make LG OLED TVs the only G-SYNC and AMD FreeSync™ Premium certified TVs available to date. There is also a new Game Optimiser set up menu and there are four HDMI 2.1 (40 Gbps) inputs with support for 4K/120, HFR (High Frame Rate), VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and eARC. We also have HGiG (HDR Gaming Interest Group) settings available for HDR gaming. The actual picture quality and performance also meets expectations to give us the most advanced gaming TV of 2021.
Best TV Sound - Sony A90J (Acoustic Surface Audio+)
The Sony A90J is one of the best SDR and HDR performers for 2021 with accurate image quality following calibration and some of the most impactful HDR thanks to the new XR OLED Contrast Pro technology. Added to this is the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology that turns the screen into the speaker by using two actuators to vibrate the screen surface and backed up with some woofers built-into the chassis.
The effect of this approach is the sound of what is happening onscreen, being produced on that very screen, not to the bottom or from the sides, but the actual centre of the picture. This adds so much to the effect of watching content where voices are positioned correctly to the person speaking, just like it is done in the cinema with the speakers behind the screen. For this approach alone we feel that Sony still have the best built-in sound quality vs. the reams of OLEDs with downward firing speakers as standard.
Best Luxury TV Sound - Philips OLED+936 by Bowers & Wilkins
The OLED+936 is positioned as a luxury high-end OLED TV with the added sound quality of a Bowers & Wilkins speaker bar and a design that includes decent materials and excellent build quality. Unlike the traditional soundbar fixed to the bottom of the OLED panel, the OLED+936 uses the Bowers & Wilkins speaker bar as its stand, and with the speaker separate from the screen chassis, improves the sound quality with better decoupling.
The 3.1.2 system has had new drivers, mountings and assemblies when compared to last year’s OLED+935, with the Atmos elevation speakers being slightly repositioned and improved as well. For a TV system, it is a definite step up on the usual speaker setup and, in comparison to the Panasonic JZ2000, I personally preferred the sound quality and signature of the Bowers and Wilkins speaker bar on the OLED+936. I would recommend a demo if you can get one to see which suits you if the speaker system performance is important to you. A nice touch that is included with the OLED+936 is a subwoofer pre-out as part of the connections, so you can reinforce the bass performance by adding a powered subwoofer.
Best Smart TV System - LG WebOS
The old stalwart keeps on going and continues to impress us, even when changes have been introduced, which at first, seem annoying when coming from previous versions. LG WebOS offers everything you need from a Smart TV system and it does so with a new graphical interface for 2021 with a more organised layout to the tiles and selections available.
We have come to take for granted the speed, flexibility and stability of the system, married to the full return of Freeview Play and UK catch-up services in 2021. Plus, it also beats out Samsung Tizen by the fact that it uses the almost de facto standards of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos on the latest Apps from Netflix, Apple TV+ and Disney+ which marries incredibly well with the strong performance in the 2021 LG OLED TVs. Additionally, the menu system has also seen a refresh at the same time, which makes WebOS feel new and revitalised for the year ahead. It’s a great smart TV system that has been the front runner for quite some time. Well done LG.
Best TV Picture Processing - Philips P5 AI+ Processor
Last year’s winner manages to once again prove it is the best picture processor and turns up on the 2021 Philips OLED TV line, adding even more thanks to the new Emission Layer panel boasting a 20% brightness increase on the OLED+936 panel. It helps achieve excellent 50Hz broadcast motion, something which many processors designed for the worldwide 60Hz market fall down on, as well as helping image quality achieve reference accuracy results after calibration. Plus, the upscaling is also very good from the P5 processor with no obvious over the top edge enhancement and clean lines and edges.
If you are also a fan of contrast enhancing, edge enhancement and sharpening, mixed with image brightness manipulation and colour saturation, then the non-accurate image settings may appeal to you as well. While enthusiasts will turn away and always seek images that get close to the creator's intent (and most Philips TVs still aim to do that with the introduction of Filmmaker Mode), the P5 is powerful enough to spice up vivid and standard modes for those looking for image pop and over the top saturation and brightness. It does this by turning it up to eleven in a balanced and more nuanced way, compared to other manufacturers' settings, something Philips has spent time perfecting so they look good on the TV stands in your local retailer. There is no doubt the P5 is a powerful and impressive picture processor and while it does things we don’t always agree on from an image accuracy point of view, it can also be completely accurate to the standards when it needs to be. A worthy winner yet again.
Best HDR TV - Panasonic JZ2000
While the JZ1500 and JZ2000 use the same panel and measure the same, we can only pick one TV per award, so for this one we’ll go with the JZ2000, but everything can equally apply to the JZ1500 too. While OLED may not have the big numbers for absolute peak brightness in over the top LED LCD vivid and standard picture modes, it has the absolute contrast performance to absolutely nail HDR in the more accurate Filmmaker and Calibrated modes, where 1000 nits mastering is common place.
The custom professional OLED Panel used by the JZ2000 (and JZ1500) is still the cream of the crop of the new heat sink and heat dissipating LG display panels when it comes to absolute peak brightness and HDR performance. Black levels are superb on the JZ2000 with just above black detail retrieval being the party piece here. Nobody gets close to the Panasonic for shadow detail and it is this edge, along with the extra peak and full screen brightness that adds amazing dynamic range to the image. The JZ2000 edges the competition for the ultimate cinematic HDR image, in my opinion, having tested all the contenders in great detail this year. Well done Panasonic.
Best TV Design - LG G1
The G in the model name stands for ‘Gallery Series’ and, just like the GX, the G1 is designed to be wall-mounted and comes with a wall bracket in the box that is designed to make the panel flush with your wall.
Unlike normal OLED TV chassis designs that have a very thin top section that then opens up to a much larger bottom where the speakers and electronics are situated, the G1 has a flat rear end and a constant panel thickness of 19.9mm. You can use stand feet with the G1 for desktop placement. It is this design, married to the new EVO panel which makes the LG G1 stand out, and that wall mounted flush look screams class and elegance. Yes, design is subjective, but in my opinion the G1 is the best looking TV this year.
Best Living Room TV - Sony A90J
An AV living room TV should offer bright accurate images for SDR and HDR, look great out of the box, have excellent sound quality and a killer design. The Sony A90J could fit both the living room and home cinema role, but with such fine margins in performance this year, it was pipped at the line for the home cinema role. However, its panel brightness, for not only HDR, but also SDR, and its cinematic flair, give it the edge for living room TV of the year.
The design is superb with adjustable feet to allow either flush table mount or a higher perch for a soundbar below, plus it looks gorgeous with a minimalist design with no visible speakers or speaker bar. The reason for this is the fact that the screen is the speaker, using the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology which provides excellent sound quality for the daily living room TV tasks. Picture quality is also bright and accurate, not only in HDR but also with SDR, giving images enough pop in daylight conditions within the custom mode preset, so accuracy is maintained. Plus, the ABL circuit this year is more relaxed allowing brighter full screen images for both SDR and HDR. Motion is also superb for broadcast and movie viewing and, as such, the Sony BRAVIA A90J Master Series TV is our 2021 AV Living Room TV of choice.
Best Home Cinema TV - Panasonic JZ1500
So, which TV kept the Sony A90J from also picking up home cinema TV of the year? Well, that would be the Panasonic JZ1500. This year, Panasonic has maintained its superb image accuracy and bright HDR performance thanks to the Custom Professional Panel which is now available in the JZ1500 and not just the flagship model.
Panasonic has listened to the AVForums audience and AV enthusiasts who have demanded the Custom Pro Panel be made available without the full-on Dolby Atmos sound system found on the JZ2000. The JZ1500 offers all of the picture quality from the JZ2000 but without the sound system, making it the perfect home cinema TV choice for those who already have an external, high quality home cinema AV receiver and speaker setup. It’s the closest thing to a reference monitor for 2021 and the image quality really is excellent. It’s our Home Cinema TV of the Year, well done Panasonic.
Best 8K TV - Samsung QN900
The Samsung QN900A is the company's flagship Neo QLED TV for 2021, which means it includes every design feature and technology the Korean giant has to offer. The QN900 uses an 8K panel with a newly developed Quantum Mini-LED backlight for a slimmer design and more dimmable zones. It also uses quantum dot filters for an increased colour volume, the latest AI-enhanced Neo Quantum Processor, and supports high dynamic range, including HDR10+ Adaptive.
It also has a host of fantastic features that includes an intuitive and comprehensive smart platform, surprisingly good sound thanks to Object Tracking Sound Pro, and plenty of excellent gaming features such as a useful Game Bar, [email protected], VRR, ALLM and an input lag of just 9.7ms. The use of an 8K panel and AI-enhanced picture processing results in incredibly detailed images, even when upscaling lower resolution content. The new smaller LEDs not only allow for the slimmer panel, but also an increased number of dimming zones and an impressive HDR performance. These smaller LEDs also eliminate the banding seen last year, while the screen uniformity is good and the dirty screen effect minimal. While it might be very expensive, the QN900 certainly gave us a peek at what 8K could do in 2021.
Best Luxury TV - Philips OLED+936
The Philips OLED+936 is a nice incremental improvement on last year’s OLED+935 model, with some added features and subtle tweaks to the sound and image performance. Philips is certainly on a roll at the moment and is producing some very nice TVs that are certainly capable of competing with the very best on the market.
The build quality is sublime with excellent use of materials and a European style design, with the Bowers & Wilkins speaker bar also acting as a sculpted stand holding the panel. Everything feels expensive with the OLED+936 and that also translates to a high level of performance for sound and vision. The USP for the Philips is the four-sided Ambilight which finishes off the luxury feel with a superb bias light effect. The OLED+936 is an excellent OLED TV with a great design and finish, making it our favourite Luxury TV of 2021.
Best TV of 2021 - LG C1
While there is no such thing as the perfect TV, the LG C1 is certainly one of the best all rounders out there. It offers excellent design and materials, a solid build quality and a decent remote which has been redesigned for 2021. It also has the latest WebOS 6.0 OS and Smart TV system which is class leading.
Added to this is support for all major HDR formats, although there is no HDR10+ support, but that is not a deal breaker given the lack of content. The only other thing missing is DTS audio support, otherwise it’s a full house on features, image quality, the most advanced gaming features including four HDMI 2.1 ports and the best smart TV system. Plus, all of this comes in size ranging from 48-inch and at very reasonable price points, making it not only a best buy, but our choice for Best TV of 2021.
Best TV Manufacturer of 2021 - LG Electronics
When it comes to OLED TV and its success with consumers worldwide, there's one manufacturer's name that will forever be linked with the TV technology and that’s LG Electronics. No other company has invested so heavily in the technology to bring it down in price and make it viable for a mass market.
Added to that, LG has also made some excellent OLED TVs which offer some of the best features and image quality on the market. Plus, its success has also led to others joining the OLED fold and using LG Display panels to introduce competition into the market. But, it’s LG who has consistently produced the goods year in and year out. So, it is with great pleasure that we honour LG Electronics with our first ever Annual TV Manufacturer of the Year Award, well done!.