If you’re shopping for a TV, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options available to you. From resolution to display type to screen size, all of the variables are enough to make your head spin (and to convince you just to opt for one of the tried-and-true best big-screen TVs). But sometimes, you know exactly what you want, and that something is an ultra high-resolution TV on a budget. Until recently, it seemed impossible to find a 4K TV for under $1,000. But it’s 2016, and now that all of the major TV manufacturers are making ultra high-definition TVs, your chances of scoring a television that offers a sharper picture without breaking the bank is better than ever.
While there isn’t a huge amount of content available in 4K just yet — and some tech fans, like the New York Times’s Brian X. Chen, recommend waiting another year or two before investing in a 4K television — a 4K TV, also called an Ultra HD television, offers a better picture than the current 1080p high-definition resolution found on most televisions. A 4K TV has two times the vertical resolution and two times the horizontal resolution of current HD TVs. And while there’s not a lot of 4K content available yet, there will be more of it for you to enjoy on that brand-new TV in the very near future, as content providers make more movies and TV shows in the higher resolution.
If you’re starting to search for a new TV, chances are pretty good that you’re familiar with Consumer Reports, and realize that the publication is one of the best sources to trust when you’re researching the practically endless array of TVs you can choose among. We trust Consumer Reports, too, so we’ve taken a look at the 4K TVs that earned the highest ratings from Consumer Reports’ testers, all while sticking to a $1,000 budget.
It’s important to note that 4K TVs are relatively new, and looking for one that costs $1,000 or less is going to exclude the TVs that get the highest ratings from Consumer Reports’ researchers. But if getting a 4K TV and sticking to your budget are equally important to you, then there are some options that are absolutely worth considering. Read on to take a look at the winners.
1. Samsung UN40JU7100
The 40-inch UN40JU7100 from Samsung offers what Consumer Reports characterizes as “excellent high-definition picture quality and UHD performance,” with great color accuracy, contrast, and brightness. The TV has an LED backlight with local dimming, a 120GHz refresh rate that does a great job of reducing motion blur, Samsung’s Tizen smart TV platform, a smart remote control with a built-in microphone for voice commands, a moderate viewing angle, and good sound quality.
This Samsung 4K TV delivers full 4K picture detail and excellent HD to UHD upconversion. Consumer Reports notes that native 4K content was presented in full detail with excellent image fidelity. The TV also supports streaming of 4K content via Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, and images are “clean and finely detailed with no visible over-sharpening or other gratuitous processing.” The TV’s USB port also enables users to play 4K videos stored on a flash drive or to display high-resolution photos in full 4K detail. With regular HD content, Consumer Reports found the TV’s upconversion processing to be “generally excellent.” All four of the TV’s HDMI inputs comply with the latest HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 specifications, which enables compatibility with devices like 4K Blu Ray players.
2. LG 49UF6700
According to Consumer Reports, the 49-inch 49UF6700 from LG offers excellent high-definition picture quality, but its ultra high-definition performance is only “good.” That’s primarily because it’s one of the few 4K TVs Consumer Reports tested that isn’t also a smart TV. That matters because it can’t access 4K streaming content, which is currently the “primary vehicle” for 4K movies and TV shows. However, the TV does deliver full 4K picture detail, and offers very good HD to UHD upconversion.
All native 4K content tested on the TV was presented in full detail with excellent image quality when played via the TV’s HDMI input. Because this model has no Internet capability, viewing 4K content from Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube will require a separate 4K-capable media player. The TV’s USB port doesn’t support the playback of 4K files encoded with HEVC, MP4, or VP9 formats, and high resolution photos are downscaled to 1080p resolution. The TV’s upconversion processing for regular HD content is very good, and the TV’s two HDMI inputs comply with the latest specifications for copy protection and 4K video playback at 60Hz, which ensures compatibility with 4K playback devices.
3. LG 43UF7600
The 43-inch 43UF7600 from LG is part of the company’s range of entry-level 4K televisions. It offers excellent HD picture quality and very good UHD performance, but it lacks the wider-than-average viewing angle that’s seen on many other LG LCD models. This TV claims a 120Hz refresh rate, but Consumer Reports testers found that it behaved more like a standard 60Hz set, with noticeable blurring on some scenes. But on the plus side, the TV integrates LG’s webOS 2.0 smart TV platform, and is a Netflix Recommended TV, with features that make using Netflix easier.
This LG model delivers full but slightly compromised 4K picture detail, plus very good HD to UHD upconversion. All native 4K content was displayed with fine detail, but images revealed some oversharpening, caused by the TV’s “Super Resolution” feature whose effect was evident even though it was turned off. The TV supports 4K video streaming via Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, and images are clean and finely detailed without oversharpening. All three of the TV’s HDMI inputs comply with the latest HDCP 2.2 copy protection specification, but only two are HDMI 2.0 compatible and able to support playback of 4K video at 60Hz.
4. Samsung UN50JU6500
The 50-inch UN50JU6500 from Samsung offers what Consumer Reports characterizes as excellent HD and UHD picture quality and good sound quality. While Samsung claims the model offers a 120Hz “Motion Rate,” it performs like a 60Hz set that “doesn’t do an especially great job at reducing motion blur.” The blurring effect may not bother most people, though Consumer Reports notes that keen-eyed viewers may detect the loss of texture and detail on scenes with movement, especially in high-quality video like Blu-ray movies. But the TV does come equipped with Samsung’s new Tizen smart TV platform, has four HDMI inputs, and comes with a smart remote control with a built-in microphone for voice commands.
This Samsung 4K TV offers full 4K picture detail and excellent HD to UHD upconversion, and displays native 4K content with “excellent image fidelity.” It supports video streaming of 4K content via Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, which it completes with no visible over-sharpening or other gratuitous processing. The TV’s USB port enables 4K video playback via a flash drive and display of high-resolution photos in full 4K detail. All four of the TV’s HDMI inputs comply with the latest specifications to enable compatibility with 4K BluRay players.
5. Samsung UN50JU650D
The 50-inch UN50JU650D from Samsung offers excellent HD picture quality and excellent UHD performance, though its viewing angle is fairly narrow. The TV claims a 120Hz “Motion Rate” enabled by the Auto Motion Plus feature, but Consumer Reports researchers turned the feature off because when activated, the display dimmed and the image flickered. As such, the TV has only fair motion performance; it also has good but not excellent sound quality. The television features Samsung’s Tizen smart TV platform, has four HDMI inputs and three USB slots, and a remote with an “Extra” button that calls up program information, including actor profiles and Twitter feeds.
While this Samsung TV model offers a below-average viewing angle for LCD sets, it does offer full 4K picture quality and excellent upconversion. The TV supports video streaming of 4K content from Netflix, YouTube, and other sources, and all four of the TV’s HDMI inputs support the HDMI 2.0 specification for 4K video playback at 60Hz. However, only one complies with HCDP 2.2 copy protection, which is a requirement for compatibility with emerging playback devices.
6. Samsung UN40JU6500
The 40-inch UN40JU6500 from Samsung, which is among the smallest 4K TVs that Consumer Reports has tested, delivers excellent HD and UHD picture quality, good sound quality, and an easy-to-use interface. However, the TV’s viewing angle is fairly limited, and while the TV claims to have a 120Hz “Motion Rate,” its LED Clear Motion feature is effective but introduced significant dimming as well as image flicker, resulting in motion-blur performance that’s only fair, with significant blurring on motion tests. The model has good sound quality, which is about average among the TVs that Consumer Reports tested.
This model offers excellent HD picture quality, full 4K picture detail, and very good HD to UHD upconversion. Users can stream 4K content via Netflix and YouTube, which results in images that are clean and finely detailed without visible oversharpening or other gratuitous processing. All four of the HDMI inputs comply with the latest specifications to support playback of 4K video at 60Hz, though the Sony 4K player used in Consumer Reports’ testing sometimes had problems detecting the inputs as HDMI 2.2 compatible.
7. Vizio M55-C2
The 55-inch M55-C2 from Vizio offers excellent high-definition quality, but only good 4K performance. While Consumer Reports notes that a firmware update addressed an issue with motion smoothing being activated, there’s still some loss of UHD detail, and the set can’t display 4K-quality photos stored on a USB drive. But the group reports that despite those limitations, the TV still “delivers a lot for the money,” with a full-array LED backlight that can be locally dimmed, the Vizio Internet Apps Plus smart TV platform, and five HDMI inputs.
This Vizio model delivers good UHD picture quality, and good HD to UHD upconversion. Native 4K content played via the HDMI input showed very good detail that fell just short of better performers. There was some reduction of fine detail, likely due to noise reduction processing. This model enables users to stream 4K content via Netflix and YouTube, and while image detail was generally fine, the texture was compromised. Testers were unable to play 4K videos stored on a flash drive, and high-resolution photos were downscaled to 1080p. With regular HD content, the upconversion processing was very good, with the edges along diagonals showing very slight jaggies.
8. Sony Bravia XBR-49X830C
The 49-inch Bravia XBR-49X830C from Sony, which uses the Android TV smart TV platform, offers good HD picture quality and very good UHD performance. This model’s 4K performance isn’t quite as good as that offered by more expensive Sony sets, primarily due to this TV’s HD to UHD upconversion process and some slight softening of image detail on streaming 4K video. However, Consumer Reports notes that since its testing, Sony has updated its firmware, which should remedy the loss of fine detail with 4K streaming.
This television offers a wider-than-average viewing angle for an LCD set, and does a good job of reducing motion blur. Because the TV uses Google’s Android TV platform, it offers access to Google Cast for streaming from mobile devices, access to Google Play apps, and access to several streaming services. It also supports voice search when using a compatible Android device, and it’s a Netflix Recommended TV with features that make using Netflix easier. It has four HDMI inputs and an output for adding a subwoofer (and can connect to a wireless subwoofer). All four HDMI inputs comply with the latest HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 specifications.
9. LG 49UF6400
The 49-inch 49UF6400 from LG delivers what Consumer Reports calls good high-definition picture quality and excellent ultra-HD performance. It also offers a wider-than-average viewing angle for an LCD set, though it does show noticeable blurring on some images. The TV offers two HDMI inputs and comes with a standard remote control, though LG’s Magic Remote is available as an option.
This model is Internet-enabled and can access online content, with an Ethernet jack for a wired connection and WiFi capability, which enables you to connect it to your home network wirelessly. The TV is also DLNA certified, which means that you can view digital photos stored on a compatible computer, smartphone, or mobile device that’s also connected to your home network.
10. Samsung UN48JU6400
The 48-inch UN48JU6400 from Samsung is one of the company’s lower-priced 4K models. It offers excellent HD and UHD picture quality, though its viewing angle is fairly narrow. The TV’s LED Clear Motion feature does a fair job of reducing motion blur, but Consumer Reports testers turned it off because it noticeably dims the display and introduces some image flicker. The TV integrates Samsung’s Tizen smart TV platform, which offers access to a number of streaming services. It also has three HDMI inputs and comes with a smart remote control with a built-in microphone.
This television offers full 4K picture detail on native 4K content and excellent HD to UHD upconversion. The model supports video streaming of 4K content, and testers were able to play 4K video via the TV’s USB port, as well. High-resolution photos were also displayed in full 4K detail. All four of the TV’s HDMI inputs comply with the latest HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 specifications. The TV offers advanced Internet capability, with a library of apps, a full web browser, and access to streaming services including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube, HBO Go, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, Milk Music, PlayStation Now, and GameFly Streaming.