The 4 best cheap TVs in 2021 – all under $500

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Flagship TV models are expensive, but there are many affordable smart TVs with solid performance.
  • The Hisense U6G is our top pick thanks to its fantastic balance between price and picture quality.
  • For more TV recommendations, check out our guides to the best 4K TVs and best OLED TVs.

TV pricing has come down a lot in recent years. Gone are the days when buying a 4K TV meant having to spend thousands of dollars.

Now, you can get a nice 4K TV with decent high dynamic range (HDR) support and plenty of smart TV apps for only a few hundred bucks. You can even find big-screen options in sizes as large as 65 inches without totally breaking the bank.

Of course, there are always trade-offs to keep in mind when buying a TV on a budget. A true home theater experience still comes at a premium, but choosing an entry-level TV doesn’t mean you have to settle for poor image quality, a small screen, or a dumb display without the latest streaming services.

I’ve been covering the consumer electronics industry for nine years, and during that time I’ve reviewed numerous TV models at various price points. Through research and testing, we’ve selected the best display models you can buy on a budget.

Here are the best cheap TVs you can buy:

The best cheap 4K TV overall

Hisense U6G 4K TV
Hisense’s U6G delivers impressive picture for the price.

The Hisense U6G Android TV uses local dimming and quantum dots to deliver some of the best picture quality you can get on a budget.

Pros: 4K with every major HDR format, local dimming, quantum dots, Google Assistant voice remote, solid brightness capabilities for the price

Cons: No HDMI 2.1 ports, 50-inch model has less dimming zones than larger versions

Buying a TV on a budget typically means you have to miss out on some advanced features found on more expensive sets. The Hisense U6G totally dispels that notion, and the 50-inch model is an especially great value at under $500. 

The U6G is the 2021 successor to the Hisense H8G. It carries over everything we loved about that model while keeping a similar low price. Meanwhile, our previous pick for best cheap 4K TV overall, the 55-inch TCL 5 Series, has actually gone up in price this year. The TCL is still a fantastic set but, for the money, the Hisense now edges it out. 

One of the most important image features you should look for in a new 4K TV is high dynamic range (HDR). HDR enables enhanced contrast and wider colors for a more realistic picture. The U6G offers some of the best HDR specs in its price range. It also supports every major HDR format so all your bases are covered.

It’s a little disappointing that the TV lacks Google’s newest smart TV system, Google TV, but the older Android TV OS is still a solid performer with easy access to tons of  services. Google Assistant is also supported via the included remote for reliable voice control.

I reviewed the 2020 version of this TV last year and this new model is expected to perform even better. Buyers who want more advanced features, like HDMI 2.1 for next-gen gaming, will have to pay more for the step-up U7G or U8G, but at this price, the U6G is a bargain.

The best cheap 4K TV for wide viewing angles

LG UP7000 4K TV
The UP7000 is a great fit for people who sit off to the side of their TV.

The LG 55-inch UP7000 offers better viewing angles than most budget TVs, enabling solid picture no matter where you sit.

Pros: Wide viewing angles, affordable price for a 55-inch model

Cons: Black levels and contrast aren’t great, doesn’t include a voice remote

Though many of the 4K TVs recommended on this guide offer solid picture performance, they all suffer from one pesky drawback: mediocre viewing angles. 

This means that colors and contrast wash out when you sit off to the side. Though that’s not a problem for people who can plop down on a couch right in front of their TV, it can be an issue for buyers who have to position their seats in other parts of the room.

If viewing angles are your main priority, then the 55-inch UP7000 from LG is one of your best options on a budget. This 2021 model is the successor to our previous pick, the UN7000. 

The UP7000 uses a special type of panel that’s designed to offer improved off-axis picture. This lets you sit off to the side of you display without the TV’s colors and contrast dramatically degrading. Picture quality will still shift a bit, but not as badly as it would on a typical LED TV. 

On the downside, TVs with panels like this tend to have worse black levels and contrast than other displays. This particular model also lacks local dimming or wide color support. So, while great for viewing angles, the UP7000 doesn’t have particularly good home theater performance in a dark room.

Like most LG TVs, this one offers access to many popular streaming services. HBO Max, however, is missing. Unfortunately, the UP7000 also lacks a voice remote, but you can use the TV with a separate Alexa or Google Assistant device. 

The UP7000 is also available in a few larger and smaller screen sizes, but we think the 55-inch model offers the best value. Also, keep in mind that only the 75-, 65-, 55-, and 43-inch models use panels with wide viewing angles, according to Rtings.

The best cheap 4K TV with a big screen

Hisense A6G 4K TV
The A6G 4K TV is an affordable 60-inch display.

The Hisense A6G is one of the most affordable 60-inch 4K TVs on the market, offering a big-picture experience for a budget-friendly price. 

Pros: Big display for an affordable price, HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, voice remote included

Cons: Image quality is only average, lacks local dimming or quantum dots

Flagship big-screen 4K TVs can cost a couple thousand dollars, but that doesn’t mean that budget buyers always have to settle for smaller screen sizes. In fact, there are several worthwhile big-screen models out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. 

Our previous pick for this category, the Vizio 65-inch V-Series, remains an impressive TV for the money, but stock is now hard to come by and its price has increased a bit since its initial launch. With that in mind, we’re recommending the more affordable Hisense 60-inch A6G in its place.

The 60-inch A6G is bigger than most TVs in its price range, and boasts a 4K screen with entry-level HDR and Dolby Vision capabilities. That should net you solid picture quality for casual viewing, but the display lacks local dimming and wide color support so you won’t get the most out of HDR videos.

Android TV is integrated for easy access to most major streaming services. A voice remote is also included with built-in support for Google Assistant.

Budget buyers who favor home theater performance over size will be better off going with the smaller Hisense 50-inch U6G for a similar price, but if you want a 60-inch 4K TV in this price range, the A6G offers good value for the money.

The best cheap 1080p TV

TCL 40 in tv
TCL’s 3 Series has very basic picture performance, but its low cost is appealing.

It doesn’t have 4K resolution or other advanced features, but the TCL 40-inch 3 Series HDTV is one of the most affordable 40-inch Roku TVs you can buy.

Pros: Very affordable, Roku TV platform with easy access to streaming apps

Cons: Not 4K, no HDR or wide color support, no voice remote, smaller screen size

The TCL 3-Series is about as basic as a smart TV can get. It’s the smallest display on this list, it features a 1080p resolution screen instead of 4K, and it lacks HDR support — but when it comes to overall value for the money, the TV is still a worthy option for budget buyers. 

This 40-inch smart TV uses a modest Full HD panel. While you won’t be able to watch 4K HDR streams from Netflix, the reality is, most  live TV content is still presented in SDR high definition. With that in mind, this 1080p screen is fine for casual viewing needs. 

Overall image performance isn’t as good as the more expensive TVs on this list, but at a screen size of 40 inches, it would actually be hard to see major benefits from an upgrade to 4K. The lack of local dimming is a bit more of an issue, but contrast and black levels are decent considering the low price.

While the included remote doesn’t feature voice control, you can pair the TV with a separate Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device.

This definitely isn’t a TV geared toward buyers looking for advanced picture quality. Instead, the TCL 3 Series is meant to appeal to people who just want a reliable 40-inch smart TV with easy access to their favorite apps. Thanks to the simple yet effective Roku platform, the 3-Series does just that.

Check out our other TV buying guides

The best OLED TVs LG CX

The best 4K TVs


The best OLED TVs


 

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The best 4K TVs in 2021 for sharp, colorful images and reliable streaming

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • 4K TVs are available at many price points and performance levels.
  • The best 4K TVs balance picture and smart features for stunning images and reliable streaming.
  • With its sharp OLED panel and next-gen gaming support, LG’s CX is our pick for best 4K TV overall.

4K Ultra HD (UHD) TVs have become the norm for any buyer looking to purchase a new display in 2021. However, while all 4K TVs offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, picture quality and smart connectivity can vary wildly between different models.

Some 4K TVs include advanced high dynamic range (HDR) for enhanced contrast and colors. Certain LCD models are able to achieve higher brightness than others, which makes them a better fit for rooms with a lot of ambient light. Other displays use OLED panels for perfect black levels that make their images pop when watching movies in a dark home theater.

Of course, picture quality is far from the only factor you should consider when buying a new display. Smart TV functionality, app selection, voice assistant support, and overall design can all make or break a 4K TV purchase. After all, what’s the point of a pretty picture if you can’t easily navigate through the TV’s menus to actually watch something?

With those factors in mind, we’ve selected the best 4K TVs on the market based on hands-on testing with a variety of models. Our picks represent a range of price points, but each of the displays we’ve selected is good enough to offer capable HDR playback and streaming app support. Since 65 inches is the standard flagship size for manufacturers, all of our selections fall into that category. That said, many of the models listed below are also available in smaller and larger sizes.

Here are the best 4K TVs you can buy:

The best 4K TV overall

LG 2020 OLED CX 4K TV

The LG CX OLED presents the best balance between picture performance, smart connectivity, design, and value of any 4K TV you can buy. 

Pros: OLED panel with infinite contrast, HDMI 2.1 ports, voice remote, several sizes to choose from

Cons: Can’t get as bright as an LCD TV, HBO Max app is missing, a little pricey

When it comes to balancing stunning picture performance and reliable smart features, the CX is the best 4K TV you can buy. Though LG released a 2021 successor to the CX, called the C1, the CX remains a better value since it costs less and offers very similar specs. 

Unlike LCD TVs, including those branded as LED and QLED, the CX provides pixel-level contrast thanks to its OLED panel. This enables perfect black levels and precise highlights, which makes this an ideal TV for people who love to watch movies in a dark room. 4K HDR Blu-ray discs and streaming titles are especially stunning on this set, fully showing off what high dynamic range is all about.

Peak brightness is also solid for an OLED panel, with a max of around 700 to 800 nits. That should be more than enough for most living rooms, but buyers who watch TV with a ton of sunlight creeping into the room may need to opt for a brighter LCD model. 

The CX is also a great fit for video games, including next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The panel offers low input lag and supports Variable Refresh Rate, Nvidia G-Sync, and 120Hz high frame rate. Gaming performance is so strong we actually think the 48-inch model is a perfect alternative to a traditional monitor.

When it comes to smart TV features, the TV uses LG’s webOS and ThinQ platforms for robust streaming app support and voice control. The magic remote also features a unique pointer function which allows you to navigate through menus with a virtual cursor you aim at the screen.

The best budget 4K TV

Vizio P Series Quantum 2021

With performance that rivals more expensive sets from the competition, the affordable Vizio P-Series Quantum is the best 4K TV in its price range.

Pros: Full-array local dimming with 200 zones, quantum dot color technology, 120Hz panel, HDMI 2.1 ports, competitive pricing

Cons: On-screen app selection is limited, no voice remote, viewing angles are mediocre, some software glitches 

The Vizio P-Series Quantum manages to pack in a lot of the same features you’d find on pricier TVs, but for less. There are some trade-offs, but if you want solid 4K HDR and streaming performance without breaking the bank, the P-Series Quantum is one of the best options out there.

While you won’t get OLED-quality contrast, the P-Series Quantum’s LCD panel does feature full-array local dimming. This tech enables the TV to dim and brighten in specific zones across the screen. As a result, the display can produce better black levels and more precise highlights than LCDs without dimming. Max brightness can hit 1,100 nits, which is fantastic for a display in this price range. HDR support is extensive as well, and the TV’s quantum dot technology enables a full spectrum of colors. 

HDMI 2.1 ports and a 120Hz panel make the P-Series Quantum a good choice for gamers. That said, I did encounter some HDMI glitches early on, but these signal problems have been mostly corrected through firmware updates. The display is compatible with separate Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices as well, but the TV’s included remote does not feature a microphone for integrated voice control.  

On the downside, like a lot of LCD TVs, viewing angles aren’t great. This means colors and contrast get washed out when you sit off to the side. And, while improvements have been made, Vizio’s SmartCast OS is still a bit lacking compared to other platforms. You can cast plenty of apps to the display from a mobile device, but the on-screen selection is currently limited. 

The best QLED 4K TV

Samsung Q90T 4K TV

Samsung’s Q90T offers some of the best overall picture of any 4K TV model. 

Pros: Bright screen with HDR10+ support, full-array local dimming, quantum dot color, wider viewing angles than typical LCDs, voice remote, HDMI 2.1

Cons: Lacks Dolby Vision support, contrast can’t quite match an OLED   

Though brands like Vizio, TCL, and Hisense have done a great job bringing quantum dot color technology to their value-priced TV models, Samsung’s Q90T QLED TV remains a good buy for enthusiasts thanks to some key performance and style perks.     

The TV features full-array local dimming for deep blacks and impressive HDR contrast thanks to its bright panel. The display can hit a peak of around 1,400 nits when in Filmmaker Mode (the most accurate). This allows the brightest highlights to really shine in ways they can’t on TVs with lower specs.  

Samsung’s display also makes use of a special filter combined with unique light output techniques to enable wider viewing angles than most competing QLED sets. As a result, the Q90T has some of the best viewing angles I’ve seen on a TV of this type. Buyers who can’t sit right in front of the display shouldn’t worry too much about distorted colors. 

Voice control is enabled via the included remote and you can choose between Samsung’s Bixby, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. Samsung’s Smart Hub platform, powered by the Tizen OS, provides responsive navigation with on-screen support for a big selection of apps.

One HDMI 2.1 port is included as well, enabling next-gen gaming features when hooked up to a PS5, Xbox Series X, or compatible PC. 

It should be noted, however, that Samsung recently released the 2021 successor to the Q90T, dubbed the QN90A Neo QLED 4K TV. The new model uses mini LED technology which could improve contrast and black level performance. That said, it costs quite a bit more than the Q90T. We’ll be testing the 2021 model soon for consideration in our guide.

The best high-end 4K TV

Sony A80J OLED 4K TV on a TV stand.

Sony’s A80J is the premium TV champ when it comes to image accuracy, but it’s a bit pricey.

Pros: OLED panel with infinite contrast, advanced processing for superior image accuracy, acoustic surface audio technology, HDMI 2.1

Cons: Can’t get as bright as LCD TVs, no VRR support yet (coming in future firmware)

Sony’s brand-new A80J OLED (2021) serves as the successor to its highly rated A8H (2020). Though most people will be satisfied with the older model, both TVs are currently available for the same price and the A80J features a few key upgrades that help it clinch this spot.

Most notably, the new 2021 model adds HDMI 2.1 ports, enabling next-gen gaming features like 4K/120Hz. It also uses Sony’s new image tech which relies on cognitive processing to cross-analyze picture elements at the same time rather than individually. It’s hard to say how big of an improvement this upgrade makes without a side-by-side comparison with the A8H, but the A80J certainly looks stunning in person.

During annual TV competitions, Sony’s OLEDs consistently come the closest to matching the look of professional broadcast monitors and we expect the A80J to be no different. This means, when calibrated, the A80J has the potential to present movies closer to how directors intend for them to look than most competing displays.

Unlike traditional TVs, the A80J also features a unique audio system with acoustic surface technology. Instead of typical speakers, this process uses actuators behind the panel to create sound from the screen itself. This allows dialogue to sound as if it’s truly coming from the mouths of people on screen. 

The A80J is also one of the first TVs to launch with the new Google TV platform rather than the older Android TV system. The new interface has a stylish look and emphasizes content rather than apps. It works well, but I’ve run into a few glitches here and there that forced me to reboot the display. Google TV has a lot of potential but some kinks still need to be worked out via firmware updates. 

The best deals on 4K TVs from this guide

Every week we see discounts on dozens of TVs, however, it can be difficult to know what you’re buying. There are hundreds of options floating around and some retailers offer different models, which makes it hard to compare. As you might expect, the best time to buy a TV is during events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. If you can hold out for one of these sales, you might be able to snag one of our TV picks for over $100 less. 

Below, we’ve gathered the best deals we found on the sets we actually recommend, so you’ll be absolutely sure that you’ll get a great value.

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

What to look for in a 4K TV

The best OLED TVs LG CX

There are some key specifications that you should look for when choosing which TV is the best fit for your needs.

HDR support

If you’re buying a new display with image performance as a top priority, you’ll want to make note of a TV’s high-dynamic-range (HDR) capabilities. Even more so than resolution, HDR has become the defining factor for picture quality in modern TVs. This feature allows a TV to offer enhanced contrast and colors when playing specially graded HDR shows and movies on many streaming apps and 4K Blu-ray discs.

There are a few competing HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is the default and it’s supported on all HDR TVs. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ offer more advanced capabilities, but Dolby Vision content is more common than HDR10+. 

OLED vs. LCD

Brightness capabilities (measured in nits), black levels, contrast ratio, color gamut, and viewing angles are all major factors that help contribute to a TV’s overall picture performance. Panel type then plays a large role in determining how well a display can handle all of these elements. 

There are currently two main types of 4K TV panels: OLED and LCD (the latter is often branded as QLED or LED). Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. OLEDs excel at black levels, contrast, and viewing angles. LCDs excel at brightness, which can make them better for rooms that let in a lot of light. LCD models also tend to be less expensive than OLED models and they present no risk for burn-in

HDMI 2.1 ports

HDMI 2.1 support is another feature that buyers should keep in mind. The latest HDMI spec enables next-gen gaming features like 4K/120Hz and VRR, which could be important for people who plan to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X.  

Smart TV features

Smart TV connectivity is essential as well, and each manufacturer either uses their own specific operating system or a third-party system like Roku TV, Google TV, or Fire TV. All of these platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to app selection and performance, but most will get the job done just fine for basic streaming needs. 

If you’re unhappy with your TV’s built-in system, we recommend buying a separate streaming stick or box. These devices typically offer the best streaming app support, and entry-level models with 4K playback are frequently on sale from Roku for as little as $30.

Check out our other TV buying guides

VIZIO M Series Quantum

The best cheap TVs

Though flagship TVs can get pricey, there are plenty of budget-friendly displays out there with solid performance. There are even models with genuine HDR support for surprisingly affordable prices. 


The best OLED TVs

OLED TVs offer some key performance benefits compared to traditional LCD displays, including better black levels and uniformity. While all OLED TVs tend to be very similar when it comes to picture quality, certain models feature premium design upgrades that make them a bit more expensive.

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The new $179 Apple TV 4K adds a refreshed Siri remote and improved processing power

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Apple TV 4K 2021
  • Apple announced a new Apple TV 4K during its Spring Loaded event
  • The fifth-generation Apple TV starts at $179 and will be available for preorder on April 30.
  • Apple also announced a new iMac and a new accessory called AirTags.

Apple just announced a new version of Apple TV 4K, the company’s signature set-top streaming box. The new Apple TV will start $179, the same price as the current model, and will be available for preorder on April 30.

Apple TV 4K will begin replacing the current model in stores in the second half of May. Apple introduced the new product during its Spring Loaded event on April 20, alongside a new iMac and new accessory called AirTag.

Apple last updated the Apple TV in 2017, and the new model will still be capable of 4K playback in Dolby Vision and HDR10 for enhanced colors and contrast. Apple TV’s new A12 bionic processor will support high frame rate content and improve overall performance for the same price as the 2017 Apple TV 4K.

The new Siri remote for Apple TV is cased with 100% recycled aluminum and features a touch-enabled directional pad and jog wheel for easy control. The Siri voice control button is now on the right side, in a similar position to the iPhone. A new color balance feature will let you use your iPhone’s sensors to calibrate Apple TV’s display settings to best match your TV and room lighting.

In addition to the new 4K model, the Apple TV HD will also be available with the new Siri remote. The Apple TV HD costs $149, the same price as the current model. The new Siri remote will be sold separately for $59 and works with older versions of Apple TV too.

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LG’s 48-inch OLED TV is a high-end home theater display and gaming monitor in one stunning package

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LG CX Gaming
  • LG’s CX is our top OLED TV pick thanks to its gorgeous display and forward-looking features.
  • The 48-inch model makes the most of OLED tech and can serve as a living room TV or gaming monitor.
  • A new 2021 C1 OLED is set for release this year, but we think the CX will remain a better value.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky48-inch CX OLED 4K TV (small)

The LG CX is our pick for the best OLED TV you can buy, combining the sharp, vivid colors and infinite contrast ratio of OLED display technology with LG’s fastest TV processor.

The 48-inch review unit we received is the smallest OLED TV on the market, with prices starting at $1,500 and dipping to $1,200 during sales. LG’s CX is also available in 55-, 65-, and 77-inch models, with base retail pricing going up to $5,000 ($3,500 on sale) for the largest size.

While the LG CX OLED is significantly more expensive than many 4K LED TVs of the same size, the difference in picture quality is immediately noticeable due to the OLED panel’s self-illuminating pixels. Because each pixel on an OLED display can be lit individually, black portions of the screen will remain pitch black during dark scenes, avoiding the cloudy grey “halo” effect that occurs on a back-lit LED TV. The infinite contrast ratio also helps enhance high dynamic range (HDR) formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which have become the new standard for streaming shows and video games.

Along with being our top rated OLED TV, the LG CX has also built a reputation as an impressive gaming monitor. LG’s CX boasts a native 120Hz refresh rate and HDMI 2.1 ports, allowing PCs and next-gen consoles, like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, to run at a faster frame rate. This leads to smoother looking gameplay when compared to older TV models that are limited to 60Hz. Of course, with sizes starting at 48 inches, the LG CX demands much more space than a typical monitor.

After spending more than two months using the LG CX for everyday viewing, I can feel confident saying that this OLED TV is the best pick for most households, whether you’re looking for a family TV, a home theater display, or a personal gaming setup. So long as you can afford the premium price tag, the LG CX OLED will leave you thoroughly impressed.

LG CX OLED TV specifications

LG CX Inputs
A view of the LG CX’s rear and side ports.

LG 48-nch CX OLED 4K TV Specifications
Screen 48-inch OLED panel
Dimensions with stand 42.2 x 25.6 x 9.9 inches
Weight with stand 41.7 pounds (32.8 pounds without stand)
Resolution 4K Ultra HD 3,840 x 2,160 
Refresh rate 120Hz with support for VRR, Nvidia G-sync, and AMD FreeSync
HDR Formats HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, HGiG
Ports 4x HDMI 2.1 ports, 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x AV input
Audio 2.2ch speakers, 40W with 20W woofer
Connectivity Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay2, Bluetooth 5.0
Smart TV platform LG webOS
Remote LG magic remote with voice controls
Digital Assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible

Setup and design

LG CX OLED side view
The LG CX OLED panel is razor thin.

While the 48-inch LG CX is small enough for one person to carry, you’ll definitely want a second set of hands to gently unpack the 33-pound screen and get it mounted on the stand’s wide base. The base is easily secured with the included screws, or you can opt for a VESA wall mount.

The razor thin bezel around the outside of the OLED screen gives the LG CX a distinct look that’s more comparable to a sleek smartphone display than a boxed in TV screen. This helps the OLED screen’s striking blacks stick out even more when watching letterbox films, since the black bars create a distinct border pushing against the edges of the screen.

Though slim, the width of the base gives the LG CX a sturdier foundation than some of LG’s cheaper LED models, which use small plastic feet on the left and right of the screen. The rear of the LG CX base also contains a cable management compartment, making it easier to hide whatever wires you need to run to the TV.

Most of the LG CX’s inputs are accessible from the left of the TV, set a few inches behind the display. That includes three HDMI ports and two USB ports; while the remaining ports are located in the TV’s rear. A single button located under the screen provides power and a quick menu of on-screen controls.

Picture performance

LG CX picture quality

LG has been manufacturing industry-leading OLED displays for several years, and the LG CX has relatively flawless image quality. Along with a top-notch display, the LG CX has the latest hardware to maximize quality from 4K devices and licensed technology, like Dolby Vision and Nvidia G-Sync, to further enhance picture performance.

The TV has four HDMI 2.1 ports, which can transfer data at a much higher rate than the more commonly used HDMI 2.0 ports. This helps 4K streaming devices display the highest possible picture quality, and allows elevated refresh rates with video game consoles and PCs.

LG’s CX OLED display requires little to no calibration once setup, though that might depend on your taste. The standard picture mode is slightly brightened and features some post-processing, as is common with most consumer TVs, but the cinema mode will remove those effects for a neutral picture that should match the source more closely. LG’s CX will detect when HDR content is being displayed and switch to HDR specific presets, though you’ll still find the crucial standard, cinema, and game modes.

The peak brightness of the 48-inch LG CX tops out at about 600 nits, while the larger models can reach up to 700, according to CNET. That brightness level is actually lower than some LED TVs, but the OLED display’s infinite blacks provide greater contrast and a more satisfying experience when viewing in HDR videos as a result. 

I used films like “The Lord of the Rings” and the notoriously dark “The Long Night” episode of “Game of Thrones” to test the LG CX’s contrast and overall picture quality, with and without HDR. The results are wildly impressive on both fronts – shadowy scenes that were difficult to parse on my older LG LED TV can be seen in fine detail, but the sharp lighting keeps dark caverns and castles from looking washed out. Similarly, bright scenes retain their fine details without extra portions of the screen taking on a glow from an LED backlight.

The LG CX does a commendable job of upscaling lower resolution signals too, smoothing out the inconsistent picture quality coming from my 1080i cable box and the jagged edges of my 480p Nintendo Wii at 60Hz.

When using a PlayStation or Xbox console the TV will automatically switch to “Instant Game Response” mode, which disables most post-processing, maximizes brightness, and reduces input delay so your controls are as responsive as possible. If you primarily use the LG CX for gaming, you’ll want to activate HGiG for your console’s HDMI port to get the most accurate HDR picture quality.

I used fast-paced, visually intense video games like “Tetris Effect” and “Dragon Ball FighterZ” to help me test the CX for issues like artifacting and ghosting, but the screen remained amazingly responsive whether I was playing at 60Hz on Wii and Switch, or 120 Hz with my PC and PS5.

Gaming features

LG CX Desktop

The LG CX is amazingly responsive for a TV, registering similar input delay to many high-end gaming monitors, and at a higher native resolution.

Many of the newest features supported by the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, like variable refresh rate and gaming at 120 frames per second, are only available with HDMI 2.1 compatible TVs like the LG CX.

For example, the PS5’s RGB color display requires too much bandwidth to use at 4K resolution with an HDMI 2.0 port, so it defaults to YUV422, a slightly degraded format, instead. Similarly, playing at 4K resolution and 120Hz refresh rate requires an HDMI 2.1 port, or you’ll be limited to 1440p and 120Hz on HDMI 2.0.

While a few TVs have adopted a single HDMI 2.1 port, the LG CX has four, so you can have multiple high bandwidth 4K devices.

The LG CX also has access to variable refresh rate, and licensed technology from the leading computer graphics hardware companies, Nvidia and AMD. Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync help the display’s refresh rate match the speed of a video game as it’s being played. This helps alleviate issues like screen tearing and smooths animation, and it’s especially helpful for PC gamers.

I was able to set up my RTX 2060 PC with the LG CX using G-Sync and HDR with no problems. Both my  Xbox Series S and Xbox One X were able to take advantage of the AMD FreeSync compatibility to activate variable refresh rate.

Smart TV features

LG CX Smart TV Features

LG’s webOS smart TV service is one of the best in the business, making features like streaming apps, screen sharing, and voice control easily accessible. The LG CX’s a9 processor makes navigating the interface quick and simple too, rarely showing any stutter between tasks when compared to cheaper webOS TVs. 

The home screen and options interface allow for customization, so you can order your most used menu items and apps, remove the ones you don’t need, and rename all of your inputs. WebOS also accessed my local TV listings during setup, immediately providing much faster navigation and schedule information than my set-top cable box.

WebOS supports most popular streaming apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, Peacock, Apple TV Plus, and even music apps like Spotify and Pandora. Apps that support 4K HDR and Dolby Vision should use those formats automatically when downloaded from LG’s content store. With that said, some features won’t always work, like Dolby Atmos through Disney Plus, since companies sometimes limit support depending on the platform being used. 

HBO Max is noticeably missing from webOS, though you can use another mobile device to cast the HBO Max app to the LG CX for screen sharing. The CX supports both Android casting and Apple’s AirPlay 2, so most mobile devices can screen share with the TV. You can use a USB drive to sideload your saved movies, music, and photos too, or stream them directly from a shared media folder on another PC in your network.

There’s a large selection of games and other entertainment apps to choose from in the LG content store, though few of the offerings seem worth the time. The CX also has access to LG Channels, a set of more than 100 free streaming “IP channels.” These are channels dedicated to a certain subject rather than operating as traditional broadcast or cable TV stations, but it’s a free service that only requires an internet connection.

The CX is compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa for voice commands; webOS voice searches will be answered by Google Assistant. I found LG’s Alexa skill rather cumbersome due to the specific phrases needed and the speed required to process commands; it was often faster to just grab the remote, unless I was already well out of range of the TV.

The LG magic remote

LG Magic Remote

To be honest I underestimated the impact the magic remote would have on my time with the LG CX, but the mouse-style control feels like a significant game changer thanks in large part to the TV’s quick processing.

LG’s Magic Remote Control brings a motion-controlled cursor, a scroll wheel, and voice control to the table, and is easily integrated with most set-top boxes and video game consoles thanks to webOS. The LG CX configured the magic remote to work seamlessly with my Amazon Fire Stick, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles with no setup required, though there is a universal remote setup process for more specific devices. 

The remote’s voice control is easy to operate when prompted and generally accurate, whether it’s being used within specific apps or webOS.

Should you worry about burn-in on an OLED TV?

OLED display technology has been known to suffer from an issue called burn-in. Burn-in happens when a static image is left on the display for so long that the screen’s pixels begin to age at different rates. This can create a faint “ghost” image that remains on screen while viewing. With this issue in mind, OLED manufacturers have created TV features to prevent burn-in.

The LG CX has three features to address burn-in and image retention. You can use “clear panel noise” to reset the TV’s pixels to their original color; you can activate screen shift, which adjusts the pixels at regular intervals to prevent a static image from getting stuck; or you can use logo luminance adjustment, which will reduce the brightness of static logos, like sports scoreboards or news tickers.

Websites like Rtings have conducted long-term tests with OLED burn-in if you’re curious, and generally, while burn-in can occur, these tests show that most buyers won’t have to worry about it.

I haven’t noticed any image retention or burn-in issues after more than two months with the LG CX, whether using it as a TV or a PC monitor. I primarily used the LG CX for gaming on PC, but spending two full days using it as my primary work monitor didn’t produce any adverse effects either.

Should you buy it?

If you’re in the market for a new TV and can afford to spend more than $1,000, the LG CX OLED is a great choice. Beyond the best-in-class display, the OLED’s speedy processing and features should satisfy all of your entertainment demands for years to come.

The 48-inch model may be a bit small for some living rooms, so be sure to measure your usual viewing distance to select the optimal size; LG also offers 55-, 65-, and 77-inch models. In fact, the 55-inch model is cheaper than the 48-inch version right now, so you actually pay a premium for the added convenience of a more compact size.

LG’s CX is also ideal for gamers trying to make the most of next-gen hardware like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Nvidia 3000 series graphics cards. It’s more expensive than most premium gaming monitors, but the OLED’s flawless support of HDR color and the increased refresh rates of HDMI 2.1 help the LG CX outperform just about every monitor on the market, and its smart TV features bring additional value.

What are your alternatives?

The 48-inch LG CX is one of the most affordable OLED TVs on the market, and also the smallest, so it’s got solid value for buyers who want a high-end TV under 50 inches. In fact, it’s the only OLED TV currently available at that screen size.

However, if you’re open to a larger 55-inch TV, you can consider the LG BX OLED, which has lower peak brightness than the CX and a smaller stand, but is around $200 cheaper.

Vizio’s 55-inch OLED is also a worthwhile contender for buyers on a budget. It’s $300 cheaper than the 48-inch LG CX, but our review found that it has some issues with glitches and HDMI 2.1 compatibility. Most of these issues have been corrected by a firmware update, however.

The Sony A8H OLED may have even better picture accuracy than the LG CX based on our reviewer’s experience, but fans of games and high quality HDR formats may be disappointed by its total lack of HDMI 2.1 ports.

It’s also worth noting that LG will be releasing its new C1 48-inch OLED later this year, but pricing hasn’t been announced. The 2021 model is the successor to the CX, and it offers improved processing. Outside of processing, however, the C1 TV’s specifications are nearly identical to the CX, so the CX remains our top recommendation. 

The bottom line

LG CX Assassin's Creed
LG CX features like variable refresh rate and HGiG will make games like “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” look even better.

LG’s CX OLED is an amazing TV that reflects the best in OLED display technology, user interface, and forward-looking hardware. The precise picture quality of the OLED screen and experience-enhancing features, like variable refresh rate, make the LG CX one of the best TVs and gaming monitors you can buy. The 48-inch version is a perfect starting point for people interested in picking up their first OLED screen.

If you’re looking for a larger screen there are a few more options to consider, but you certainly can’t go wrong picking up the LG CX in any size.

Pros: Infinite contrast ratio, four HDMI 2.1 ports, ideal features for gaming, Google Assistant and Alexa support, magic remote, 120Hz native refresh rate

Cons: Peak brightness is lower than LED competitors, no HBO Max app

48-inch CX OLED 4K TV (button)

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