The Ultimate Guide to the New 4K TVs of 2016 from Samsung to LG, Sony and Vizio
Stephan Jukic – May 10, 2016
2016 has been a boom year for new 4K TV models and we love the selections we’ve seen from different brands but this alone isn’t what makes the new models of this year so particularly special. After all, each year sees the unveiling of numerous new 4K offerings from the major manufacturers and this has been the case since these TVs first started seriously being made in 2013.
No, what makes 2016 particularly unique is that for the first time ever, we’ve seen the introduction of a truly display changing new technology to most of these new TVs and this technology, called high dynamic range, is not just a minor detail but something that rivals or even exceeds 4K resolution itself as a new and dramatically superior system for displaying the best in home entertainment content. This is just one of the major changes to 4K television offerings that has arrived in 2016. Other new developments, like the HDR-related technology of Wide Color Gamut and new television design trends are also important developments for 2016, and we’ll cover them all below, starting with HDR because it’s the most important 4K TV feature of 2016. Following our intro to the key technologies of 2016 4K TVs, we’ll cover the major premium models and explain how they stand for each of the key technologies below.
The Technologies and features of 2016 4K TVs
High dynamic range
First of all, if you’d like to know a great deal more about high dynamic range itself, we’ll spare the space in this article and refer you to our comprehensive guide to HDR and all of its major standards for 2016, which you can read through here.
In any case, HDR is the core new technology of all premium 2016 4K TVs and it’s what makes the 4K ultra HD televisions of 2016 with HDR into displays of a truly superior quality from those of 2014 and even from most TVs released in 2015, when HDR was still poorly developed and haphazardly applied.
Yes, the 2015 and 2014 4K models came out with new technologies like quantum dot color, OLED technology and a few other interesting and often powerful quirks but none of these technologies really match HDR, as it’s applied to either LCD display or OLED display in terms of sheer visual impact.
This is mainly because HDR technology causes visual effects that enhance realism, detail and vibrancy in a way which is immediately visible even in smaller displays with the technology. Unlike 4K resolution, which is hard to distinguish from Full HD on small to mid-sized TVs from any normal viewing distance, if both kinds of television are put side by side, HDR is notable right off the bat when put next to standard dynamic range display in any screen size.
In essence, what HDR offers is a broader range of contrast levels between the brightest luminance and darkest black levels possible in a 4K TV while also allowing for both of these ends to be taken to further ranges. Additionally, as we explain in the HDR guide we link to above, the technology also brings with it color enhancements in the form of what is called Wide Color Gamut, or 10-bit and even more advanced 12-bit color coverage.
HDR has been available in many premium 4K TVs since at least 2015 but in 2016, it has become much more standardized and in many ways superior to its previous versions. Nonetheless, this technology is still lacking further, more robust development and still has much more potential, as we’ll see shortly when we cover the TVs that have it.
Before we move on further here, one key piece of information about HDR in the 4K TVs of 2016 that should be kept in mind is the specific dynamic range they can or should offer. For the most commonly used HDR standard of this year, Ultra HD Premium, this range is specifically set at 1000 nits of peak brightness and 0.05 nits of highest max black level in LCD 4K TVs. For 2016 OLED HDR TVs, the range has been set at 540 nits of peak brightness and 0.0005 nits of deepest black level. These are the two key specs of optimum HDR to-date.
Wide Color Gamut
The second major pillar of modern 4K TV display that’s now found in many if not most of the premium 4K TVs of 2016 is Wide Color Gamut. This is a technology for the display of content in a color gamut that matches the standards set for professional digital cinema and is represented by the color coverage found under what is commonly called the DCI-P3 color spectrum, which is itself part of an even bigger color coverage called Rec.2020. This is in contrast to the much smaller REC 709 color space coverage of most 2014 4K TVs and the vast majority of non-4K televisions.
For TV makers and for the main HDR standards of today, DCI-P3 is however what is used to set acceptable HDR Wide Color Gamut standards and all existing 4K full HDR TVs -from Sony’s XBR-D models for 2016, to Samsung’s SUHD 2016 TVs to Vizio’s P-Series 2016 models and of course LG’s 2016 and late 2015 OLED TVs- offer at least 85% or more coverage of the DCI-P3 color space. TVs which conform to Ultra HD Premium or Dolby Vision from the UHD Alliance must conform to at least 93% or more coverage of the DCI-P3 color space. With this wider color space coverage, there is also the 10-bit color we mentioned above. Most 4K TVs from 2014 and 2015 to a lesser extent offered only REC-709 color space coverage and 8-bit color.
However, the difference between 8 bits and 10 bits is enormous, with 8-bit color allowing for a total of only 16.8 million color mixes and only 257 possibly values for any one of the primary digital display colors –Red Green and Blue (RGB). While this sounds enormous, 10-bit color allows for just over 1 billion different colors and 1024 different values for any of the RGB colors. In other words, a 4K TV with 10-bit color offers a much more refined, smoother gradation between color variations, and the effect in 4K TV display can be spectacular to behold, especially as far as realism and vibrancy are concerned.
Smart TV changes
The major 4K TV brands on the market all come with one type of smart TV platform or another and this is one of the key technologies found in these 4K TVs. Smart platforms are a 4K TVs user interface system for accessing content apps, browsing the web, watching movies and shows, accessing content from other sources like media players and conventional cable TV and connecting ones 4K TV to other external media devices in the home or beyond.
The main 4K TVs of 2016 all come with their own smart TV platforms and while some of the major brands have only modestly refined their 4K TV smart OS systems for this new year, others, like Vizio in particular, have completely revamped theirs. We’ll cover this as well since smart OS functionality is another important part of a quality home entertainment experience.
Physically, all 4K TVs share a small number of essential characteristics: They tend towards thin displays, narrow or minimal edge bezels, mounting flexibility for stands of walls through VESA mounts and in some brands, curved displays have become a major feature of entire 4K TV lines.
Between 2015 and 2016, many of these above characteristics haven’t changed much or have changed only marginally. Yes, the majority of 2016’s 4K TV s from major brands look different than they did in 2016 but only a couple of brands like Samsung and Sony have seriously redesigned their TVs for an almost completely different new look. LG in particular has unveiled the majority of its 2016 OLED 4K TVs in a form factor that’s completely unlike anything we’ve seen in any 4K TV yet made, while Samsung’s 2016 KU-Series 4K TVs and SUHD models on the other hand look remarkably similar to how they did in 2015.
One feature we’re glad to see fading away from popularity with major 4K TV models is curved display. As we explained in detail in our Curved vs. flat screen post, we carefully examined curved display and consider it to be a gimmick which offers no real “immersion” value or any other practical benefit to any 4K TV it appears in and in 2016, LG has almost completely abandoned this display style in its OLED models, while Samsung sticks to it while nonetheless offering a flat version of every one of their curved TVs. Curved seems to be going away and this is probably a good thing.
The 4K TVs of 2016:
Now, without further ado, let’s get down to analyzing the major brands and models of 2016 on a Brand-by-brand basis.
Samsung has delivered some of the best new 4K TVs we’ve seen for 2016 in the form of its SUHD models most of all. While the company also released several new non-SUHD televisions in the form of the KU7500, KU7000, KU6300 and KU6500 for 2016, these are only marginally superior to the 2015 JU-Series non-SUHD TVs.
Thus, for this year, the real impressive results in Samsung’s latest lineup have without a doubt been the five new 8-Series and 9-Series SUHD TVs. In our view, these are the best overall major North American brand LCD 4K TVs of this year. They consist of the KS8000, KS8500, KS9000, KS9500 and KS9800. The 8000 and 8500 are identical except that the 8500 comes with a curved display and the same applies for the 9000 and 9500, with the 9500 offering curved display. The KS9800 is the only full-array LED-lit model in Samsung’s 2016 lineup and is the company’s flagship 4K TV.
Why? Because the 2016 SUHD Samsung models nail all of the key specs for top-shelf display quality and the latest in color and high dynamic range technology in this year. All of them, from the cheapest to the flagship full-array LED lit KS9800, offer full Ultra HD Premium HDR standards certification for Wide Color Gamut, DCI-P3 coverage of 92% or more, peak brightness of more than 1000 nits and black levels of 0.05 nits or darker.
In fact, the KS8000 and all of the even pricier SUHD TVs in both the 8-Series and 9-Series go above and beyond top-shelf HDR standards for peak brightness and black levels, since they deliver not just 1000 nits and 0.05 nits respectively but can actually manage brightness levels of more than 1400 nits and black levels of 0.019 nits. In simple terms, Samsung really took the prizes home this year with the SUHD lineup.
Furthermore, the Tizen smart TV platform is still excellent. It hasn’t been enhanced too much from 2015 but then it didn’t really need much enhancement to begin with. In addition to this, while Samsung is still sticking to curved display in several of its SUHD TV models and KU-Series non-SUHD TVs, it also offers equivalent flat screen versions for nearly every single model type.
The price range for Samsung’s 2016 4K TVs is quite large. Among the SUHD models, the cheapest of the bunch, the 55 inch KS8000, sells for $1,697.99, while the 78 inch flagship KS9800 sells for a whopping $9,997.99.
As for the KU-Series 4K TVs, the cheapest and smallest 40 inch KU6300 model sells for just $599.99 and the largest 78 inch KU7500 model retails for $5,999.99.
For 2016, Sony has been rather conservative in its releases of new 4K televisions, with only four new models having come out so far as direct successors to select premium 4K TVs from last year. These are the X850D, X900D and X930/940D 4K HDR TVs, which replace the exact same series from last year’s C-Series TVs. (X850C,X900C, X930/940C).
Unlike Samsung’s 2016 SUHD TVs, the Sony Bravia XBR-D-Series models did not choose to go with the Ultra HD Premium certification of the UHD Alliance and instead come stamped with Sony’s own “4K HDR” label for HDR quality. However, the measure of this quality seems to be a bit iffy as we’ve seen in our reviews of several of this year’s models. This is because the X850D and X900D at least don’t quite match the peak brightness requirements of 1000 nits or more for maximum display brightness.
On the other hand, the 2016 Sony TVs do offer full 10-bit color, Wide Color Gamut and deliver some very decent contrast ratios, though all but the flagship X940D TV fail to achieve these key specs to the same level of quality we’ve seen in the 2016 Samsung SUHD TVs, or even Vizio’s flagship line, the 2016 P-Series TVs (more on these shortly).
The major exception here is the X940D flagship 4K TV from Sony. It’s essentially the X930D TV but with full-array LED backlighting and only one display size of 75 inches. This is the only full-array model from the brand and offers specs that are powerful enough for qualification in any high dynamic range standard.
However, the bottom line for Sony in 2016 is that all of its 4K TVs do feature HDR with high quality specs. The dynamic range may not be quite as broad as what we’ve seen from Samsung or Vizio but it’s there across the board and it still looks great (and looks spectacular in the X940D flagship 4K TV).
As it has always done to-date, Sony delivers full flat screened 4K TVs with no pointless curved designs available, but the company has revamped the overall appearance of their four 2016 TVs quite dramatically from how they looked in 2015. These newest models offer a leaner, more minimalist form factor and the X930/X940D TVs lack the giant side-mounted speakers of their 2015 counterparts. This means a reduction in audio quality from the absolutely unbeatable built-in sound we saw in the 2015 versions of these TVs but the lack of speakers also comes with the benefit of much leaner, lighter body design.
As for Sony’s Android TV platform, we still consider it to be the third best smart TV interface of 2016, just as it was the third best in 2015 but it is now getting some sharp competition from Vizio’s new smart platform. Sony hasn’t changed Android TV much for this year.
Sony’s 2016 XBR-D Series 4K TVs sell for varied prices, with the cheapest of the bunch, the 55 inch X850D going for $1,398.00 and the top-shelf 75 inch X930D selling for $6,498.00.
Vizio is possibly the king of 4K LCD TVs for 2016. We don’t say this because of the absolute quality of these 4K TV models, since the Samsung SUHD TVs are superior in terms of most specs, especially those for HDR. However, while Vizio is a bit behind Samsung in absolute LCD 4K HDR TV quality, it largely makes up for this in the sheer number of different models and size ranges it has delivered for this year. Furthermore, in terms of value for dollars spent, nobody can yet beat Vizio’s 4K TVs. Additionally, there is the cool fact that the flagship P-Series TVs from this brand actually offer superior overall specs to those of most of Sony’s 2016 HDR TVs, despite being cheaper.
For 2016, we’ve seen the emergence of four distinct 4K TV lines. These are the flagship P-Series line of HDR 4K TVs, the second-tier but still great 2016 M-Series 4K HDR TVs, the E-Series budget 4K TVs and the D-Series 2016 budget 4K TVs.
While we offer far greater detail in our reviews of all these 4K TVs as we complete them in the coming days, what we can say right now is that even the lowest-priced D-Series 4K televisions offer some genuinely god display quality, contrast and smart TV technology, with only their 8-bit color, peak brightness, motion control specs and a few other things like being a major weakness. Now this is the D-Series, Vizio’s cheapest 2016 4K TVs. When it comes to the M and P-Series 4K TVs which are the higher end of the line, things improve considerably.
The P-Series 2016 4K HDR TVs in particular offer the second best LCD TV contrast specs we’ve seen in 2016 so far and deliver superior peak brightness to even some of Sony’s 2016 HDR 4K TVs like the X850D. This is impressive for such reasonably priced televisions.
Furthermore, Vizio’s P-Series and M-Series (to a slightly lesser degree) deliver excellent upscaling engines, great motion control, superb black levels, 10-bit color and some great display uniformity.
What we also appreciate about the M-Series and P-Series in particular is that all of these 4K TVs offer full-array LED backlighting, a feature that’s normally found only in the flagship 4K TV models of competitors like Sony and Samsung or LG.
Finally, Vizio’s 4K smart technology has always classically been lackluster in comparison to Sony’s Android TV, Samsung’s Tizen smart platform and LG’s superb WebOS 3.0 platform. Previously called Internet Apps Plus in 2014 and 2015 Vizio TVs, the brand’s smart OS offered few interactivity controls, lacked web browsing capability and offered no support for VP9 4K content compression encoding.
All of these things have radically changed in 2016 because Vizio has now also massively revamped their smart TV platform in a nearly revolutionary new way. Instead of the old TV-based smart platform of 2014 and 2015, the new 2016 smart OS comes as a downloadable app which can be installed to nearly any compatible smartphone or tablet. In the M-Series and P-Series TVs, the app comes preinstalled on an included 6 inch Android tablet with a Full HD display and in the cheaper D and E-Series TVs, it can be installed to your own mobile device from the web. This new app-based smart TV platform, called SmartCast, operates as the control center of a Vizio TV, allowing for control of content, web browsing and other functions on the TV screen through the included technology of Google Cast.
In basic terms, while this first edition of the SmartCast app isn’t without its glitches that Vizio needs to smooth out, it’s remarkably cool and unique, with the added benefit that you never really need to lose your TV remote, since the app itself is both smart platform and remote control all rolled into one and downloadable to multiple devices.
As for their prices, Vizio’s 4K TVs for 2016 have some of the diverse range for just about any budget there is. The cheapest and priciest models of each Vizio Series are priced as follows, with prices changing by a couple hundred dollars or less at different sizes in between the two extremes for each series:
P-Series 4K HDR TVs: (all above 50 inches offer 120Hz native refresh and 50 inch model offers 60Hz native refresh)
Cheapest: 50 inch P50-C1 at $999
Priciest: 75 inch P75-C1 at $3,799
M-Series 4K HDR TVs: (all from 55 inches and smaller offer 60Hz native refresh rate and 60 inches or above 120Hz native refresh)
Cheapest: M50-D1 50 inches at $849
Priciest: M80-D3 80 inches at $3,999.
E-Series 4K TVs: (65 inch or larger models offer 120Hz refresh, smaller models come with 60Hz native refresh)
Cheapest: E43U-D2 43 inches at $469
Priciest: E70U-D3 at 70 inches at $1,699
D-Series 4K TVs:
Cheapest: 40 inch D-Series model at $350
Priciest: 70 inch D-Series model at $1,300.
LG is an odd company when it comes to 4K TV quality. We’ve referred to this on numerous occasions on this site and what we speak of is the brand’s odd tendency to focus enormous attention on making its OLED 4K TVs into some of the most spectacular television models on sale across the board for each year while also investing in what we still think is the best smart TV platform of the year for the third year in a row. At the same time however, LG delivers 4K LCD TVs that for 2014, 2015 and even in 2016 have underperformed in nearly all major metrics of display quality against the LCD 4K TVs of every other major North American brand. It’s as if LG puts so much effort into making their exquisite OLED UHD TVs the best they can be that they badly neglect the numerous more economical 4K LCD models they sell.
This at least seemed to be the case for 2015 in particular, a year in which all of LG’s LCD 4K UHD models underperformed against their Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and even Vizio counterparts despite being priced relatively highly in many cases. Their particular performance failures revolved around contrast and black level, with some of the worst specs in these areas for last year. On the other hand, their main saving grace was the superb WebOS smart TV platform (either version 1.0 or 2.0) that
Now in 2016, LG follows the same trend it did in 2015 and 2014 but to a fortunately lesser degree. The company’s 2016 OLED TVs are downright stunning in their optimal display specs and offer full HDR certification with the best main standards of Dolby Vision and Ultra HD Premium (HDR10). On the other hand, their LCD 4K TVs, which all also include HDR specs, offer what we still consider to be sub-par performance in some ways, at least for the lower-priced LCD models. Contrast and black uniformity are once again sub-par but the WebOS 3.0 smart platformis more impressive than ever and the HDR color in the LCD models is as impressive as what we’ve seen from Sony’s 4K TVs, though Vizio and Samsung deliver better HDR-level Wide Color Gamut results.
LG’s 2016 OLED models break down into four series. These are the flagship G6 TVs, which come in 65 and 77 inch size ranges; the E6 second-tier OLED models, which come in 55 and 65 inch sizes; the Mid-range (for OLED) C6 models in the 55 and 65 inch size ranges and finally, the nearly identical B6 OLED TVs. The C6 and B6 models are essentially the same with the exception that the C6 TVs offer curved display (they are the only LG OLED models to do so in 2016) and the G6 and E6 models are also nearly identical with minor difference like thicker display panels and superior sound in the flagship G6 being the case.
For the 2016 OLED flagship TVs, LG has improved the display quality to unprecedented levels and as far as we’re concerned from our own review of the top-shelf G6 65 inch OLED model, there is no better 4K TV in existence today as far as general display quality is concerned. Only in peak brightness do any LCD models beat the G6 and the other OLED TVs of this year but these televisions compensate even for that with their virtually perfect pitch black quality.
Furthermore, all of the OLED LG TVs of 2016 come with full Dolby Vision and Ultra HD Premium HDR certification for OLED technology while also offering the other exquisite specs of this display technology which make it so much more powerful than LCD/LED TV display in most regards.
For LG’s LCD 4K TVs, the entire 2016 lineup consists of 8 models. These are called the UH-Series and they range in price and size considerably, with several different ranges to choose from: The UH7700, UH8500 and UH9500 flagship LCD 4K models in different sizes being available.
The LCD offerings of LG for this year also offer HDR technology but without the sort of contrast and peak brightness or black levels that match the high quality we’ve seen in Vizio, Sony and Samsung HDR 2016 TVs in particular. Their color quality on the other hand is superb and they offer some excellent motion interpolation and upscaling features as well as the always great WebOS 3.0 smart TV platform.
In terms of prices, LG’s 2016 TVs can vary widely in cost depending on which models and types you buy. The OLED models are still very expensive as they’ve always been and the LCD UH-Series models vary from being relatively affordable to highly expensive. The price range between cheapest models and priciest models breaks down as follows:
LG G6 OLED flagship 4K TV:
Cheapest: 65 inch OLED65G6P at $7,999.99
Priciest: 77 inch OLED77G6P at $24,999
LG E6 OLED
Cheapest: OLED55E6P at $3,999.99
Priciest: OLED65E6P at $6,999.99
LG C6 and B6 OLED models
For these TVs we don’t yet have concretely confirmed prices but from what we know they will be priced at $3,000+ for the 55 inch models in each class and $5,000 or so for the 65 inch models of both the C6 and B6.
The above brands are the major North American models of 2016 4K Television. This is why we focus primarily on them. However, there are still many 4K TVs from Hisense, Panasonic, Sharp and TCL selling in select locations and online retailers. The Hisense 2016 ULED 4K TVs in particular are worth looking at due to their high-caliber specs and high dynamic range display features. We will be updating this post shortly with more information on these TVs as they become available.
What’s the best 4K TV out there?
We’ve divided our rating of the best individual 4K TVs by display type since it’s rather difficult and unfair to weight OLED models against LCD models on a general basis. OLED display is undoubtedly better on the whole but LCD deserves its own fair hearing as well.
LCD 4K UHD
For LCD 4K TVs released among the major North American brands in 2016, the single best model we’ve seen to date is without a doubt the Samsung KS9800 SUHD 4K TV. The entire 2016 SUHD lineup is superb for all major display specs and some of the best peak brightness and LCD TV contrast we’ve seen to-date but the full-array LED-lit KS9800 beats the other models like the edge-lit KS9500, KS9000 and KS8500 TVs by a wide margin with the quality of its contrast, black levels and stunning peak brightness. Color in this TV is comparable to that of its edge-lit cousins. This model is however extremely expensive, with a retail price of $9,997.99 for the one single 75 inch size range available.
A close runner-up to the KS98000 monster TV is Sony’s full-array LED-lit X940D 75 inch HDR 4K TV, which also offers some superb Ultra HD Premium-level specs and sells for a more “modest” $6,498.00 from Amazon.com.
Those of you who want a more budget oriented option in superb 4K TV display with full HDR qualification can also go for Samsung’s KS8000 SUHD TV, which sells for just $1,697.99 for the 55 inch model and offers some stunning motion control, HDR, color and content viewing quality. Another even cheaper but also excellent option is Vizio’s P-Series 4K TVs. They are remarkably affordable, available in several sizes and also deliver top-quality contrast, color performance, motion control specs and high dynamic range quality. The excellent 65 inch model sells for just $1,999.
OLED 4K UHD
For OLED 4K TV options in 2016, the LG G6 and E6 models are without a doubt the best TVs on sale today. They outperform their LCD counterparts above in all specs except peak brightness but when it comes to the quality of their overall picture characteristics, they are truly unbeatable, with perfect blacks, millions of individual dimming zones (due to the nature of OLED technology) and superb color performance that matches 98 to 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. No other 2016 4K TVs match this last spec, not even LG’s own C6 and B6 OLED models, though they come very close.
The G6 and E6 TVs are however extremely expensive, with the 65 inch models of each selling for $7,999 and $3,999 respectively.
Story by 4k.com