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Consumer Reports' top 10 TVs of 2014

These sets should please even the most finicky TV enthusiast

Published: December 22, 2014 03:10 PM

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The LG 55EC9300 55-inch OLED heads our list of the top 10 TVs of 2014.

If you missed out on the Black Friday promotions but still want a new TV, you're in luck. Dozens of top-performing sets in our TV Ratings should serve as excellent primary TVs. Even better, many of these sets will start to get discounted during the holidays, then around Super Bowl promotions, and finally toward the end of February and early March when retailers start clearing inventories to make way for 2015 models.

Most of the TVs in this list of the top 10 TVs of 2014 aren't cheap. (Stay tuned for our Top 10 big-screen TV bargains later this week.) But any of these sets is worthy of your consideration.

1. LG L55EC9300 55-inch OLED TV, $3,500

It's true that we had a few issues with this set, (read "LG's OLED TV Isn't the Best TV We've Ever Tested," but the fact is, both our TV project leader, Claudio Ciacci, and I would pick this OLED TV over every other model we tested this year. Yes, it has 1080p resolution when the industry is quickly moving to UHD, but extra detail isn't always evident, especially at normal viewing distances. When we brought colleagues into our TV test labs, almost every single person reacted immediately to this TV's deep black levels and contrast when we showed scenes from the movie Gravity. The picture isn't perfect—there was a slight color shift toward red, a bit of a grayscale drop-off as the set gets to the deepest blacks, and there was some softness that appeared to be caused by active noise reduction we couldn't turn off—but overall we felt this TV gave us a glimpse of the future of television. We can't wait for the first UHD OLEDs to arrive in 2015.

2. Samsung 60PF8500 60-inch plasma TV, $3,000

The era of plasma TV is over, though there are still a few sets from LG and Samsung to be had. But now that those of us who love plasma's top-notch picture quality are done weeping, we're rushing out to buy one of the last remaining sets. Once Panasonic exited the plasma business, Samsung's F8500-series models were the best plasma TVs you could buy, and they were also probably the brightest plasma TVs we ever tested. This 1080p model is pricey and might be hard to find, but it's probably the best TV around that doesn't have the letters O-L-E-D in its description.

3. Samsung UN60HU8500 60-inch UHD LED LCD TV, $2,680

This 60-inch Ultra HD TV, another Samsung, shows how close LED-backlit LCD TVs are getting to plasma sets in several areas, including black levels and motion blur, and its UHD screen betters them in terms of picture detail. It's an all-around great set that has excellent picture quality, very good sound, and a lot of features.

Find the best flat-panel TV for your needs and budget with our TV buying guide and Ratings.

Yes, the speakers are obvious. But Sony's XBR-X900B-series sets sound wonderful.

4. Sony XBR-65X900B 65-inch UHD TV, $3,800

Many of the sets in this Top 10 list can deliver a superb picture. Only one—this one—delivers excellent sound. Not everyone is going to like the look of the set—its large speakers are proudly exposed on side panels that flank the screen—but you can't argue with the results. The TV matches its great sound with excellent picture quality and Sony's smart TV service.

5. LG 65UB9500 65-inch UHD TV, $2,500

This UHD TV from LG fires on all cylinders, with excellent high-definition picture quality and excellent 3D performance. The set also has a wider-than-average viewing angle for an LCD set and very good sound.

6. Samsung UN65HU8550 65-inch UHD TV, $3,000

This TV is in many ways similar to the HU8500-series set mentioned above, though that model's sound has slightly deeper bass. But both have excellent picture quality and very good sound, and they do a great job at reducing motion blur. They both also come with Samsung's smart TV platform.

7. Sony KDL-70W830B 70-inch LED LCD TV, $2,500

First, start off with a really big 70-inch screen. Then add in excellent high-definition picture quality and very good sound, plus a ton of features, and you'll have one of the better 1080p TVs this year. Just note that if 3D is your thing, you should look elsewhere—this set's 3D performance is poor, among the worst we've seen.

8. Samsung UN55HU9000 55-inch UHD TV, $3,000

Like its 65-inch sibling, which we also tested, this 55-inch flagship UHD TV boasts a curved screen that gives it a unique look. Our opinion is that the curve is more an aesthetic statement than a performance-related one, but this TV isn't just a pretty face—in addition to its unique look it provides excellent picture quality and very good 3D performance, plus it does an excellent job of reducing motion blur during fast-moving scenes. Befitting its flagship status, it's loaded with features.

9. Sony XBR-65X950B 65-inch UHD TV, $7,000

This 65-inch 3D-capable Sony Ultra HD—in its pricey flagship UHD series for 2014—is among the best UHD TVs we've tested, with excellent high-definition picture quality and excellent motion-blur reduction. It doesn't have the great sound found in the 900B-series set described above, but its viewing angle is better, about average for an LCD TV. The TV has lots of features, including Sony's smart TV platform, and it's ready for Sony's 4K download service.

10. Vizio P652ui-B2 65-inch UHD TV, $2,200

This 65-inch set from Vizio, well priced for a UHD TV, delivers excellent high-definition picture quality and a lot of features, including a full-array LED backlight with local dimming and the company's VIA Plus smart TV platform with access to streaming movies and TV shows from several services. Its five HDMI inputs are one more than most sets this size.

So those are our top 10 TVs of 2014. As we mentioned earlier, we expect to see prices for many of these sets continue to fall, especially around the Super Bowl, and then about a month later when the first 2015 sets start to arrive—assuming these sets are still available. And remember to keep checking back for all our CES updates, as we'll be following all the news about TVs and other products during the show.

—James K. Willcox

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