2015 Gift Guide: Five Stunning TVs That Will Make Great Gifts
Buying an HDTV is often like a buying a car, where you find yourself overwhelmed with choices and confronted by salespeople and/or friends and family trying to steer you this way and that. But if you go in with a game plan based strictly on your needs, you can’t go wrong with one of these stellar TVs below.
In 2013, Smart TVs were a take-it-or-leave-it option and 4K Ultra HDTVs were a luxury. In 2014, 4K Ultra HDTVs were a take-it-or-leave-it option and OLED HDTVs were a luxury.
This year, it’s not a bad idea to buy a 4K Ultra HD Smart TV because the prices on them have continued to drop as TV prices in general have dropped. But OLED is still a luxury. (If you’re a sucker for PQ—that’s “picture quality” for you non-TV geeks—you owe it to yourself to at least ogle one in the store.)
One thing that hasn’t changed in recent years: HDTVs are a confusing alphabet soup of technologies. So here’s our semi-serious cheat sheet for 2015:
In: 4K (UHD), Smart, Curved, OLED, HDR
Out: 1080p, Dumb, Flat, Plasma, 3D
(Seriously, though, flat and 1080p are still good. But…)
If you’re fan of TVs, the holiday season is a fantastic time to upgrade your TV and buy one for somebody who needs a new set (or, let’s be honest, yourself). Let’s check out our picks for the best HDTVs of 2015:
Buy This for the Bargain Hunter (Ben’s Bargains Fan)
Vizio M43-C1 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV (2015)
Vizio hit it out of the ballpark with this year’s M-Series. You get the future standard of TV—Ultra HD—at a starting list price of $599. We’ve already seen the 43-inch model (M43-C1) for as low as $510 with a $150 gift card from Dell. So, yeah, this model should be the darling of Black Friday. We could be looking at a 4K TV for $450 on Black Friday. Awesome.
And, yes, Vizio is known as a budget brand, but the M-Series delivers solid build quality and way above average picture quality. You will see plenty of Sony and Samsung converts to Vizio just because of this TV.
There are 9 (count ’em, 9) display sizes in the M-Series: 43-inch, 49-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch, 60-inch, 65-inch, 70-inch, 75-inch and 80-inch. (The battle between the 49-inch and 50-inch is intense.)
Random spec geekout: 3840 x 2160 resolution (4K UHD). Full Array LED Backlight (local dimming). 60Hz native refresh rate (120Hz native for 60-inch and above). 5 HDMI inputs (one HDCP 2.2). Six-core processor.
MSRP: $599 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $510 (with $150 Gift Card)
- Pros: Ultra HD on the cheap. Picture quality is amazing for LED (deep blacks). Build quality is solid. Low input lag (good for gamers).
- Cons: 60Hz native refresh rate. Viewing angle not awesome. Smart TV platform (VIA) is a little dated.
Buy This for the Diehard Sony Fan
Sony XBR-65X930C 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED HDTV (2015)
The Sony XBR X930C HDTV has a unique, almost throwback, design with two big front-facing speakers on either end. As a result, it’s got the best sound of just about any HDTV. It’s also wedge shaped, with the thinner end on top. Plus, the width of the TV stand is adjustable. If you love Sony for its design choices, this would be your pick.
It also seems in recent years, that fans have been disappointed by some Sony HDTVs in terms of picture quality. The X930C will disappoint only the snootiest OLED owners. Plus, it’s compatible with the next evolution in TV technology, HDR (aka High Dynamic Range—the future!). In short, HDR is the icing on the cake.
There is also a 75-inch size in the X930C series.
Random spec geekout: 3840 x 2160 resolution (4K UHD). HDR compatible (via firmware). Octa-core processor. Local dimming. Active 3D (2 x glasses included). 4 x HDMI inputs. Android Smart TV platform.
$4,500 ($3,000-$3,500 avg. street price) | Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
- Pros: Outstanding picture quality. HDR compatible. Upscaling engine is excellent. Great sound.
- Cons: Your love of Sony will cost you a pretty penny.
Buy This for the Popular Guy/Gal
Samsung UN48JS8500 48-Inch 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED HDTV (2015)
No “best of” HDTV list would be complete without a Samsung. They have been the leader of the pack for years now. The JS8500 series is a prime example of Samsung’s supremacy. It hits all the high marks in picture quality with great color, good 3D and minimal motion blur, which is ideal for sports. Plus, it supports HDR (High Dynamic Range), an image-enhancing technology that you will hear more about in the months to come. (It’s the future!)
55-inch and 65-inch versions are available in the JS8500 series. (By the way, if you want curved, you can jump to the JS9000 series.)
Random spec geekout: 3840 x 2160 resolution (4K UHD). HDR compatible. Local dimming. Active 3D (one pair of glasses). 4 x HDMI inputs. Tizen OS (Smart TV platform). Smart Remote Control.
MSRP: $3600 ($1500 avg. street price) | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1198
- Pros: Fantastic picture quality, among the best. Good upscaling of standard HD. Good 3D (if you care). Reasonable price.
- Cons: Not the best choice for gamers.
Buy This for the Parent or Grandparent
TCL Roku TV 40FS3800 40-Inch 1080p Roku Smart LED HDTV (2015)
Last year, the TCL Roku TV was for the “Eclectic Risk-Taker.” This year, Smart TVs are squarely in the mainstream, and thus quite suitable for the “Parent or Grandparent.” For those of you who pooh-pooh the Smart TV as not necessary or redundant with set-top boxes, that’s why we’ve chosen a Roku-branded version. Roku has proven over the years to be the best streaming platform around.
Last year, Roku first teamed up with this Chinese TV maker to produce a line of Smart HDTVs with Roku built in. It’s been such a success, Roku-branded sets are now available from other TV manufacturers like Sharp, Insignia, Haier and Hisense.
We’re still not going to try to sell you that TCL is on par with Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or even Vizio. But plenty of people are happy with these TVs and they are cheap.
There’s also a 32-inch model (332S3800) and 50-inch model (50FS3800) in the series.
Random spec geekout: 1920 x 1080 resolution. Full-Array LED backlight. 60Hz native refresh rate. 3 x HDMI inputs. Roku remote.
MSRP: $420 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $248
- Pros: Roku’s streaming platform, which is the best. Excellent price.
- Cons: TCL is not a household name. Picture quality not on par with top brands.
Buy This for the One Who Has It All
LG 55EG9600 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED HDTV (2015)
Last year, we featured the non-4K version of the LG OLED HDTV in this slot. With the addition of 4K, it deserves to be here again. The whole line of LG OLED TVs are unquestionably the best on the market… as long as you have oodles of cash to spare. They’ve won rave reviews from all quarters, but when you see them in person, then you realize the hype is real.
Adding to the sheer beauty is the startlingly thin body with curves to match (yes, we’re still talking about a TV).
Also available in a 65” variety for more eye-popping awesomeness.
Random spec geekout: OLED panel which can refresh images as fast as 0.1 microseconds and gives absolute black. WebOS 2.0 Smart TV. 3 x HDMI inputs. 0.18 inches at its thinnest point. Quad-core processor. Curved panel. 3840 x 2160 resolution (4K UHD).
$4,000 ($3,000 Oct. 2015 price reduction) | Lowest Price on Ben’s: N/A
- Pros: Ridiculously good picture quality and amazingly thin.
- Cons: Ridiculously expensive. Not (yet) HDR compatible.