5 Best TVs of 2015
LG OLED TVs dominate our Ratings this year, but Samsung and Sony push LED LCD technology to new heights
Naming the best TVs of any given year is a difficult but ultimately rewarding task, and this year is no exception. Our top picks for 2015 are especially notable for two reasons. One is that this is the first year that OLED TVs dominated our TV Ratings, which are available to subscribers. The other is that it's the first time that no plasma TVs make an appearance, since no TV manufacturer is still making them. This leads us to believe that OLED TVs will be the eventual successor to plasma sets as the top choice for those looking for the best picture quality available.
But there's another important element to this year's TV Ratings that shouldn't be overlooked: Two TV brands, Samsung and Sony, managed to overcome the inherent shortcomings of LCD TV technology to produce sets that can stand toe-to-toe with the best OLED TVs you can buy.
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For example, the difference in overall score between LG's 65EF9500 OLED UHD set and Samsung's UN65JS9500 LED LCD TV was only a fraction of a point, though the difference would have been slightly larger if not for the Samsung set's superior sound, which affects a TV's overall score. Sony's XBR-65X930C wasn't far behind in terms of picture quality, and its built-in sound system blew us away.
There was one other notable achievement: LG's 55-inch 55EG9100 OLED also made the top-5 list despite being a 1080p TV, the only regular HD set included. That's a convincing argument that extra resolution alone doesn't count for all that much when viewing a set this size from a normal viewing distance. However, the main reason this set had a higher overall score than the 55EG9550, a UHD OLED TV, was its better sound.
Not that OLED TVs are perfect. On the five OLED TVs we tested, we saw some vertical bands across the screen, which varied in intensity. They weren't really visible on regular content. On darker scenes, however, we also noticed some visible darkening on the edges of the picture, almost like a vignette effect. The degree of these issues varied, depending on the set. You can find out more about both anomalies in our First Look review of the LG 55EG9600.
You'll still pay a premium to get an OLED TV, especially when you compare them to flagship LED LCD TVs from the major brands— though OLED prices have come down significantly this year. Only LG is offering these sets, but we expect to see other companies enter the OLED TV market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. That should help drive prices down.
Enough preamble: Let's get to our top TV picks for 2015.
The 65-inch LG 65EF9500 is our top-rated TV for 2015. Unlike some other models, this set has a flat, rather than curved, screen. The TV has excellent high-definition picture quality, with benchmark-setting black levels. It also has excellent UHD performance—with support for high dynamic range (HDR)—and very good 3D. Like all OLED TVs it has a virtually unlimited viewing angle, and it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform. Yes, at $5,000 the TV is comparatively pricey—but no longer outrageously so. We also recommend the 55-inch version of this set, which costs about $3,000.
The Samsung UN65JS9500, a pricey 65-inch flagship LED LCD UHD TV in Samsung's SUHD lineup, deserves kudos for giving LG's 65EF9500 a run for its money. It's the best LCD TV we tested this year, with excellent high-definition picture quality, excellent UHD performance, and even excellent sound. It also has very good 3D, a plus if you care for that feature. The TV, which uses quantum dots for extended colors, sports a curved screen, a full-array LED backlight with local dimming, and Samsung's Tizen smart TV platform. It is also able to display high dynamic range (HDR) content.
Looking for a slightly smaller, less expensive OLED TV with a curved screen? Then the LG 55EG9100 may be the ticket. The only set on this list with 1080p, rather than 4K, resolution, it's nonetheless among the best TVs we tested this year, with excellent high-definition picture quality and a virtually unlimited viewing angle—and a price around $2000. Like all the OLED TVs we've tested, it has benchmark-setting black levels, and it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform.
Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C
A quick look at the 65-inch Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C set and you'll know you probably don't need a sound bar speaker. The oversized speakers flanking the panel have a decidedly love-it-or-leave it-look, but they deliver the best out-of-the-box sound we heard from a TV this year. (You can even add an external subwoofer if you need more sonic oomph.) Situated just below the company's flagship X940C series, this HDR-capable TV also delivers excellent high-definition picture quality and excellent UHD performance. And this year, Sony's step-up TVs embraced Google's Android TV smart TV platform.
The 55-inch LG 55EG9600 OLED UHD, which has a curved screen, has excellent high-definition picture quality, very good UHD performance, and the benchmark-setting black levels we've come to expect from OLED TVs. Like the other LG OLEDs, it comes with LG's webOS 2.0 smart TV platform. We should note that the first set we bought had some of the most noticeable OLED issues mentioned above, but they were less obvious on the second TV we purchased. Even with these shortcomings, it was among the top TVs we tested in 2015.