Published On: December 18, 2021

HTR Editor's Choice TVs: End of Year Edition


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Published On: December 18, 2021

HTR Editor's Choice TVs: End of Year Edition

The end of the year is here and we look at the three of the best 4K HDR TVs of 2021. Was this the year of "peak 4K"?

2021 sure went quickly, and 2022 is right around the corner. As is traditional around this time of year, it’s fun to reflect upon some of the best audio and AV gear of the past year. Here are some of the best we've seen here at Home Theater Review.

Some of these products, especially those that are on a yearly update cycle, such as TVs, are soon to be replaced. CES 2022 is right around the corner. However, that does not make 2021s top choice TVs obsolete, certainly not yet. Because January might be the month of new news, but most of what's shown won’t ship until later in 2022.

Meanwhile, some of the best TV tech of 2021 is now available at discounted prices as compared to when it was released. Savvy shoppers, who understand how incremental some yearly upgrades can be will take full advantage of the closeout prices sure to come—what's better than Black Friday sales? clearance pricing! The trick is to hop prudently, and patiently, in order to pick up top-performing technology at discount prices you only see when a products' replacement is imminent.

Editor's Choice TVs: Samsung QN90A QLED, LG C1 OLED, Sony A90J OLED

2021 saw TV makers focus strongly on gaming capabilities, with even 4K sets gaining HDMI 2.1 so they may offer 120 Hz 4K, VRR (variable refresh rate), and ALLM (auto low-latency mode) along with lossless 3D immersive sound through eARC. Meanwhile, the 8K ecosystem saw some expansion, although more so on the hardware side than content.

For the year 2021, our retrospective Editor's Choice TVs are three 4K models that offered something extra in terms of performance and/or value: The Samsung QN90A, LG's C-Series OLED, Sony's A90J OLED. These TVs are, collectively, among the "best of the best" within their categories, but each model has its standout capabilities.

The models listed are 83" or 85" but these TVs are available in smaller screen sizes as well.

Excellent Value

Samsung - 85" Class QN90A Neo QLED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV

The Samsung QN90A QLED is a 4K HDR TV that is notable for demonstrating exactly how far you can push LED-lit LCD technology. It's no slouch in a home theater setting, although that's where OLEDs do their best work. What sets this Samsung apart is how bright it gets, and the effectiveness of its anti-glare coating. These dual factors make it a more compelling TV for brighter environments while preserving that ability to "wow" viewers when the lights are out.

The other thing about the QN90A is it offers flagship 4K-class performance in a comparatively affordable 85" option, it's the current street price is around $3800 and it can be found for less. It is also available in a 98" screen size for $14999.99, that's large enough to provide a home theater-like viewing experience anywhere you put it! Moreover, there are screen size options all the way down to 43", so whatever size suits you, there's a QN90A that fits.

Extreme Performance

LG - 83" Class C1 Series OLED 4K UHD Smart webOS TV

LG deserves credit for taking OLED and making it what it is today: The top TV tech for the video quality-obsessed. With the C1, LG offers screen sizes from 48" to 83" at very approachable prices, including a 65" option at $1800 and an 83" model that's only $5000.

These TVs love it when the lights are out so they can show off the near-infinite contrast that's achievable with pure blacks. An OLED makes outer space look pitch black, which is striking because (with few exceptions) even commercial cinemas cannot achieve that.

LG ensured that these OLEDs are very gamer-friendly so you get support for 4K/120 Hz, Dolby Vision, VRR, ALLM, basically "the works" so if you have a powerful PC or a next-generation console, you'll be able to push them to the maximum.

Best Design

Sony 83" Class BRAVIA XR OLED 4K Ultra HD Smart Google TV

Why two OLEDs on the list? Because while the LG C1 and Sony Bravia A90J are very similar due to sharing the same panel technology, LG and Sony both know how to make an incredible TV, and Sony does a few things differently that make the A90J compelling for different reasons than the LG C1. While the LG seeks to be broadly appealing, with gamer-specific features, aggressive pricing, and a broad range of screen sizes, the A90J focus on 55", 65" and 83" sizes, and is a premium offering that some consider the very best TV of 2021, at least for picture quality purists.

This Sony model does not come cheap, the 83" is $8000, so more than double an 85" QN90A. And the 65" is $3800, the exact price of the 85" Samsung. But, you get an OLED that's brighter than OLEDs from the past, along with some specific Sony touches, including a novel audio technology that turns the screen itself into a speaker, and it can even be connected to an AVR and used as a center channel. But, it should be noted that while an A90J OLED will recognize if a PlayStation 5 is connected and turn on optimal settings, the LG and Samsung are still the more gamer-oriented TVs. This Sony is for the cinephiles out there.


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