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The best smart TVs for watching movies and streaming shows

Our experts reveal the top picks from LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and more.

family watching tv avengers
Jason Treuen
Jason Treuen
Last updated: 30 April 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping us home more, there's never been a better time for a movie marathon or a serious Netflix session. 

Best of all, camping on the couch all day is no longer considered lazy. No, with the nation's health at stake, staying in and vegging out is now a courageous act of community service. Not all heroes wear capes, but in these troubled times, they can reach for the remote, and who are we to resist the call?

Choosing the right TV for movie and shows 

Whether you're inspired by self-isolation or just the upcoming EOFY sales, there's a lot to consider when shopping for a new telly and it can get confusing fast.  

Factors like picture clarity, screen refresh rate, processor speed and colour quality all play a starring role in determining if a movie shines on screen, or looks embarrassingly B-grade. Additionally, it's not just the specs of a TV's components that matter, but the quality and internal build of them too – and that's much harder to assess at first glimpse.

It's showtime! The best TVs revealed 

Luckily, CHOICE's in-house experts spend all year watching movies (it's a tough job) to find the best models for your home cinema experience. And spoiler alert, it's not always the most expensive one. 

Usually our scores for movies feed into each TV's overall CHOICE Expert Score, but as a special iso treat, we're revealing them below. So if you're big on Blu-ray, a Disney+ die-hard or love chilling with Netflix, these are the top picks for flicks and streaming shows.

Of course, movies are just one criteria for a great TV. Become a CHOICE member to see our full reviews, which include individual scores for HD, SD and UHD viewing, plus ratings for smart TV features, user interface, remote and more.

Best large TVs for movies

(over 64 inches / 160cm)

Brand / model Movie score Price*
1. LG OLED65C9PTA 88% $3995
2. Sony KD-65X9500G 87% $2495
3. Samsung UA65RU8000 83% $1595
3. LG 65SM8600PTA 83% $1495
3. Samsung UA65RU7100 83% $1495
* the retail price CHOICE paid.

Best medium TVs for movies

(48–63 inches / 121–160cm)

Brand / model Movie score Price
1. LG OLED55C9PTA 92% $2495
2. Panasonic TH-55GZ1000U 85% $1995
2. LG 50UM7600PTA 85% $695
2. Sony KD55A8G 85% $2795
2. Sony KD49X8000G 85% $895

Best small TVs for movies

(26–47 inches / 65–120cm)

Brand / model Movie score Price
1. LG 43UM7600PTA 85% $595
2. Sony KD43X8000G 82% $895
3. TCL 43P8M 70% $545

A movie lover's guide to buying a TV

1. Know your source

Before buying a new box, it's important you know the video resolution of the movies you'll mostly be watching. They could be standard definition (720 x 576 pixels), high definition (1920 x 1080) or ultra high definition, aka 4K (3860 x 2160). TVs perform differently at different resolutions.

If you're watching an old SD DVD on a 4K TV, it may attempt to upscale the video to display at the higher resolution. How well it bridges this 'gap' depends heavily on the quality of the unit and its internal processors. This can vary notably between models and definitions, which is why we score separately for SD and HD sources in our full reviews.

2. OLED or LCD – which is better?

According to our experts, OLED is definitely the showstopper here, particularly if you can control the ambient light in your TV room. But OLED TVs are usually more expensive, so it will depend on your budget.

What's the difference? Well, LCD (liquid-crystal display) TVs require a light source behind their screen panel, meaning they can go very dark grey but never full black. By comparison, OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens have lights integrated within each diode and they can simply turn off when required, giving you true blacks.

3. What size TV do you need?

Bigger is always better, right? Well, not always with TVs, because it also depends on your room size and how close you watch. If you sit too close to a massive screen, you may be able to see the pixels – and that's not pretty.

As listed in our TV buying guide there are three important factors you need to consider for the best viewing experience:

  1. Your TV's screen resolution (HD or 4K)
  2. The size of your room
  3. How far you sit from the screen
What-size-TV-should-I-buy

High definition TV viewing distance guide.

What-size-TV-should-I-buy-4K-distance

UHD/4K TV viewing distance guide.

4. Testing a TV instore

Retailers usually play animated movies on instore TVs because they look amazing. Live-action films are a different ball game, so switch to one of these to truly test a model's mettle. If that's not possible, take your own Blu-ray to test.

Assess key specs like picture clarity (are faces sharp?), motion, and colour balance (do skin tones look right?). Cycle through picture modes and note nasties like judder (lack of smooth panning), motion blur (trailing elements behind fast-moving objects) and odd saturation.

Store TVs are often muted too, so turn the volume up if you can and study the sound. Is it rich or tinny? How do voices sound? If it's ordinary, you might need to buy an accompanying soundbar – check out our soundbar reviews.

5. Suss out the screen angle

Got a big family or lots of housemates? Then you'll want to test the screen angle and ensure they'll all be able to see well.

As you move sideways from the centre of the screen, most TVs will lose some colour and contrast. Stand in the middle at your normal viewing distance and then take a few steps sideways. If the picture degrades too much, keep moving till you find a screen that does a better job. 

Image credit: Avengers: Endgame.

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