Hulu provides HDR assist for choose authentic motion pictures and exhibits

Hulu has quietly added support for HDR — but only for “select Hulu Originals” so far.
“Hulu with HDR,” as its dubbed in the Hulu support pages, means that you’ll be able to watch some shows or movies in the various standards of High Dynamic Range. Hulu is supporting all the big ones — Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+.
Content that’s available in HDR will be identifed on the details page, alongside other specs like 4K resolution or 5.1 audio.
The Hulu original Nine Perfect Strangers is available in 4K resolution and in High Dynamic Range.
Why is that important? As the name implies, modern televisions and ancillary hardware like Roku and Fire TV streaming sticks can utilize HDR to show a higher range of colors. That means the dark stuff will look that much darker in comparison, and the bright, flashy stuff will stand out that much more.
HDR requires everything to work in sync. You’ll need a television capable of displaying HDR content. If you’re using a device like a Roku or Fire TV streaming stick, it’ll have to support HDR, too, as will the show or movie you’re watching.
One thing to keep in mind is that like higher resolutions, streaming video in HDR also requires additional bandwidth. So if you’re on a metered service or are otherwise hamstrung, you might want to ratchet things back in the settings.
The good news is that most major hardware appears to be supported by Hulu. It specifically lists “HDR-compatible models” from Roku, though not whether they’re talking about Roku players or Roku TVs. Also supported are Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Cube devices (so long as they’re HDR-compatible and are running at least Fire OS 7), Apple TV 4K (Gen 5 or later), Vizio televisions, and Chromecast Ultra.
Notably missing from that list are TVs from the likes of Sony, Samsung, or LG.

Editors’ Recommendations

QLED vs. OLED TV: What’s the distinction and why does it matter?

When shopping for a new TV, one is bound to be inundated by flashy terminology. That’s everything from HDR and UHD to refresh rate, color balance, smart features, and lighting tech. Specifically, QLED vs. OLED displays.
TV brands like Samsung are big in the QLED arena, featuring all-new 2021 sets like the Neo QLED 4K and 8K models. You’ll also find brands like Sony and TCL producing QLED sets. When it comes to OLEDs TVs, LG leads the charge with this technology. Look for LG’s A1, G1, and Z1 model designations to ensure you’re netting yourself an OLED display.
Let’s take an in-depth look at these two competing TV technologies. We’ll discuss where they come from, how they’re different from each other, and what each one does well (and not so well). We’ll also share which one we think most people will be happiest with. Spoiler: It’s the OLED TV, but there are caveats you need to be aware of.
Once you’ve settled on which TV tech is right for you, check out some of the best QLED TV deals and best OLED sales available now.
What is QLED?

QLED stands for Quantum Light-Emitting Diode. In non-geek-speak, that means a QLED TV is just like a regular LED TV, except it uses tiny nanoparticles called quantum dots to super-charge its brightness and color. The technology was introduced by Sony in 2013, but shortly after that, Samsung began selling its QLED TVs and established a licensing partnership with other manufacturers, which is why you’ll also now find QLED TVs from Sony, Vizio, Hisense, and TCL.
How do quantum dots work? Check out our deep dive into the technology for all of the details.
As cool as quantum dots are, a QLED TV still produces light more or less the same way as a regular LED TV: By using a backlight made up of hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of LEDs, which sits behind a traditional LCD panel. It’s these LEDs that give LED (and QLED) its name.
Curiously, it’s this use of QLED as a marketing term that started a war between LG and Samsung in 2019. In a complaint to South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC), LG claimed that Samsung’s so-called QLED TVs aren’t real QLED TVs at all. That’s because, according to LG, a true QLED TV would use quantum-dot LEDs that emit their own light, and not the quantum-dot-film-over-an-LED-backlight that Samsung uses.
In a retaliatory move, Samsung told the FTC it was unhappy with all of the ads LG had been running, which attacked Samsung’s QLED TVs.
The FTC ultimately took Samsung’s side, but with a stipulation: It must make it clear in future advertisements that its QLED TVs use a backlight. Details, details.
The LCD panel — essentially millions of tiny shutters that open and close too quickly to see — in conjunction with the color filters, creates the picture you see by letting just the right amount of light and color escape and reach your eyes. It’s a clever system, but it relies on a combination of dimming the LED backlights and using the shutters to block the remaining light to produce accurate on-screen blacks, and it doesn’t always succeed. We’ll discuss this more below.
What is OLED?
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. Somewhat surprisingly, the “Light Emitting-Diode” part of that name has nothing to do with an LED backlight as it does with QLED and LED TVs. Instead, it refers to the fact that every single individual pixel in an OLED set is also a teeny, tiny LED light — but one that is incredibly thin and can produce both light and color in a single element. In other words, OLED TVs don’t need a backlight because each OLED pixel produces its own light. If you want to impress your friends, you can use the industry terms for these kinds of displays: “emissive” or “self-emissive.”
There are several advantages to this design, but most would agree that when it comes to OLED TVs, the biggest advantage is the superb black level that can be achieved. Unlike a QLED or LED TV that must dim its backlight and block what remains for dark scenes, an OLED TV simply turns off the pixel. When the pixel is off, it emits no light and no color, making it as dark as when the TV itself is turned off. With no separate backlight, it’s also a lot easier to make an OLED screen flexible, which is why OLED pioneer LG has developed several OLED TVs that roll up (or down) to disappear entirely.
Only one company makes OLED TV panels: LG Display. It sells those panels to its sister company, LG Electronics, which uses them to build some of the very best TVs you can buy. But LG Display also sells OLED panels to companies like Sony, Philips, and Panasonic, which is why you’ll see OLED televisions from these companies, too. Even though the panels themselves are essentially identical, the image processing that Sony, LG, and others do is proprietary, so you’ll still see significant differences in picture quality from one OLED TV to another.
What about mini-LED?
In late 2019, TCL started selling the 8-Series, the very first QLED TVs powered by a mini-LED backlighting system. Mini-LEDs are tiny when compared to regular LEDs. This means that a QLED TV that could normally accommodate hundreds of LEDs can now accommodate tens of thousands of mini-LEDs. The result? Way more control over backlighting, leading to black levels that come far closer to OLED than any non-OLED display has ever achieved.
Mini-LED is still in its infancy, but as TCL and other companies continue to improve it, the technology could greatly improve QLED picture quality with pricing that should be considerably less than OLED.
And let’s not forget about micro-LED. Conceptually similar to mini-LED tech, micro-LEDs are even smaller than their mini brethren. Samsung made big waves at CES 2020 with the announcement of The Wall, a nearly bezel-free micro-LED display available in multiple gargantuan sizes. At CES 2021, Samsung’s The Wall lineup received an even slimmer redesign (24.9 mm thick) and a multitude of new sizes ranging from 32 to 75 inches.
QLED vs. OLED
Now that you know what all those letters stand for, and what they mean in terms of display technology, let’s compare QLED to OLED in the categories that matter most when buying a TV: brightness, contrast, viewing angles, and other notable performance considerations, like response time and lifespan — all important factors when you’re shelling out up to $6,000 for a top-of-the-line flatscreen.
Black levels and contrast
Contrast is the difference between the darkest part of an image and the brightest part. If a TV can deliver a truly black dark portion, it doesn’t have to make the bright parts quite as bright to achieve good levels of contrast. That’s why, when it comes to black levels, OLED reigns as the undisputed champion — because of its ability to go completely black when it needs to.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

QLED TVs by contrast (ahem) are forced to dim their LED backlights and block the remaining light, something that is very hard to do perfectly. It can trigger something called “light bleed,” as the light spills onto what’s supposed to be a black section of the screen.
But is it noticeable? Definitely. If you’re watching an intense action movie and two characters are running through a parking lot at night, for example, you may notice a slight glow on parts of the scene that are supposed to be pitch black, or in the letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the screen while watching a movie that uses a wider-than-16:9 aspect ratio.
As we highlighted earlier, mini-LED backlights are one way QLED TV makers are trying to improve this situation. It has real potential, but we’re not quite ready to declare it an OLED killer.
For now, OLED comes out on top. If a pixel isn’t getting electricity, it doesn’t produce any light and therefore stays totally black.
Winner: OLED
Brightness
QLED TVs have a considerable advantage when it comes to brightness. Because they use separate backlights (instead of relying on each pixel to create its own light) these LED backlights can be made incredibly, achingly bright. Add a quantum dot’s ability to maximize that light by producing brighter hues in the color spectrum without losing saturation and you’ve got a display that is more than bright enough to be seen clearly in even the most brightly lit rooms.

OLED panels can’t compete on a pure brightness basis. Their light-emitting individual pixels simply can’t produce the same amount of light. In a darkened room, this isn’t a problem. In fact, we’d argue it’s preferable because OLED can achieve the same contrast with less brightness, making dark-room viewing a less retina-searing experience. But in well-lit environments, or where lots of daylight streams in through windows, QLED TVs are more visible — especially if you’re playing HDR content under these conditions.
OLED panels have become brighter over the years, but they still can’t match QLED TVs.
Winner: QLED
Color space
OLED once blew all the competition out of the water in this section, but the use of quantum dots in QLED TVs have allowed it to inch forward in terms of color accuracy, color brightness, and color volume, according to Samsung, which claims that a wider range of better-saturated colors at extreme brightness levels is an advantage.
While there’s no denying the fact that these quantum dot TVs deliver fantastic colors, we have yet to witness better-saturated colors at high brightness levels deliver a real advantage in normal viewing situations — so we’re going to declare it a draw for now. We’ll need to see some tangible evidence to declare QLED a winner.
Winner: Draw
Response time, input lag, and refresh rate

Response time refers to the time it takes for a pixel to switch from one state to another. The faster the response time, the crisper the image, especially during fast-action scenes. Though there is likely a speed of response time beyond which the human eye is incapable of telling a difference, we know from standardized measurements that OLED TVs are way faster — orders of magnitude faster than QLED TVs.
Typical QLED response times vary between two and eight milliseconds, which sounds pretty good until you realize that OLED’s response time is about 0.1 millisecond. Yup, it’s no contest.
Input lag, on the other hand, refers to the delay between taking an action (like pressing a button on a game controller) and seeing the result of that action onscreen. As such, input lag is really only a concern for gamers — it doesn’t have a noticeable effect on passive viewing of content at all.
Moreover, the amount of input lag you experience has little to do with one display technology over another, but more to do with how much image processing is happening on your TV behind the scenes. Both QLED and OLED TVs can achieve very low levels of input lag if you turn off all extra video processing or simply use the TV’s Game Mode, which effectively does the same thing.
Refresh rate is another category that will inherently matter more to gamers than casual viewers. The refresh rate is the number of times per second the TV updates what it’s showing onscreen. It’s closely related to frame rate, which is the number of times per second your TV show, movie, or video game sends a new update to the TV.
As long as these two rates are close multiples of each other, e.g. a frame rate of 30 FPS and a refresh rate of double that (60 Hz), you’ll never notice a problem. And since regular TV content like movies and TV shows are always delivered at consistent frame rates, this is hardly ever a concern.
But some games running on consoles or PCs will change their frame rate from one scene to another. To keep everything looking as it should, TVs need a feature called VRR, or Variable Refresh Rate. This lets your TV alter its native refresh rate to match these changes in frame rate. If your TV doesn’t support VRR, it can cause some unwanted side-effects like screen-tearing when used with the kinds of games that require VRR.
You can find VRR models in both OLED and QLED TVs. Currently, you can find VRR TVs from Samsung, Sony, and LG. If you’re a PC gamer who wants a big-screen gaming experience, VRR support is a key feature to seek.
Given OLED’s unbeatable superiority in response time and refresh rate, it owns this category.
Winner: OLED
Viewing angle
With QLED screens, the best viewing angle is dead center, and the picture quality diminishes in brightness, color, and contrast the further you move side to side, or up and down. While the severity differs between models, it’s always noticeable — despite TV makers’ best efforts to eliminate the issue.
Rich Shibley
OLED screens, by comparison, can be viewed with no luminance degradation even at drastic viewing angles — up to 84 degrees. Some QLED TVs have improved in terms of viewing angle, with anti-reflective layers helping, but OLED maintains a clear advantage. So if you like to arrange family screenings for your favorite movies, and want to make sure there isn’t a bad seat in the house, an OLED TV is best for you.
Winner: OLED
Size
OLEDs have come a long way. When the tech was still nascent, OLED screens maxed out at 55 inches. Today, screen sizes as large as 88 inches are possible, but only at great expense — the $30,000 price puts it out of reach for almost everyone. QLED technology is easier and less expensive to produce at larger sizes. Samsung’s 85-inch Q900TS 8K QLED TV is only $7,000, while its largest consumer model currently measures 98 inches.
Winner: QLED

Lifespan
LG says you would have to watch its OLED TVs five hours per day for 54 years before they fell to 50% brightness. Whether that’s true remains to be seen, as OLED TVs have only been out in the wild since 2013. QLED is even newer, but its source of backlighting — the LED — has a long and proven track record. For that reason and that reason only, we’ll award this category to QLED.
Winner (for now): QLED
Screen burn-in
An example of screen burn-in on an OLED TV. Note that the visible zebra pattern, known as moire, is caused by taking a photo of a TV screen and is not part of the burn-in. Ian O’Shaughnessy
Both QLED and OLED TVs can occasionally exhibit something called image retention. This is when a TV temporarily continues to display part of an image after the original image has disappeared. It usually presents itself as a kind of shadow — that is when it presents itself at all.
When image retention does occur, it’s usually the result of having the same visual element onscreen for long periods of time. Network logos in the corner of the screen have been known to cause it, as can video games that present the same interface elements throughout gameplay.
Image retention typically goes away on its own once you switch to some other kind of content that doesn’t show the problematic on-screen elements.
Because of their self-emissive nature, OLED TVs are also susceptible to the much rarer permanent version of image retention, which is known as “burn-in.” Burn-in is caused when one or more OLED pixels have their normal brightness permanently diminished to a lower state. The only fix for this is to lower all of the rest of the pixels to the same state, but that’s hardly a good solution.
For an absolute guarantee that you won’t experience burn-in, your best bet is QLED TV.

LG, as the biggest maker of OLED TVs, acknowledges the potential for image retention within its user manuals for its OLED TVs but says that under normal viewing conditions it shouldn’t happen.
So what constitutes “normal” viewing conditions? Well, for one thing, keeping your TV on the same channel for 10 hours a day, two months in a row, is apparently not normal. One of our readers did this by watching MSNBC on his LG C8 OLED TV, which created what he claims is a burn-in shadow of a portion of the MSNBC peacock logo and a portion of the “Live” graphic that often accompanies it in the bottom right corner of the screen.
Should this scare you away from buying an OLED TV? Absolutely not. But if you’re picking a TV for use as a commercial display in a store, or perhaps in a waiting room, or if you think you’ll use it to play the same video game exclusively for months at a time, it’s definitely something to be aware of.
For an absolute guarantee that you won’t experience burn-in, your best bet is QLED TV.
Winner: QLED
Power consumption
As you’re now very much aware, OLED panels don’t require a super-bright backlight. Those backlights consume a fair amount of power, which means OLED TVs are inherently more energy-efficient. They also emit less heat than QLED TVs.
Winner: OLED
Eye comfort

In today’s viewing age, it’s possible to spend hours staring at TV screens with few breaks in between. Eye fatigue is a real symptom of the act, and it’s usually caused by excessive blue light production. LCD-based sets tend to show more intense blue light than anything, and this is true even in scenes that don’t feature gobs of the shade. Go too far, and your irritable eyes could eventually lead to sleeplessness, which itself can contribute to a whole range of health problems. That’s why some OLED makers — most notably LG — are now seeking Ocular Guard certification for their panels.
Created by German safety testing firm TÜV Rheinland and previously marketed under the less-exciting “Eye Comfort Display” moniker, Ocular Guard certification tests a range of elements in TV panels to determine whether they’re too harsh on the eyes.
In theory, OLED TVs should offer better overall eye comfort than QLED and any other LCD-based screen, because OLED produces significantly less blue light than LED-backlit QLED TVs. It’s nothing a special pair of glasses can’t handle, but if you want to ensure you have the safest viewing experience possible that doesn’t require purchasing new glasses, OLED is your champ.
Winner: OLED
Price
Once upon a time, this category would be handily won by QLED TVs, but OLED TVs have come down in cost, and since we’re talking all-premium here, comparable QLED TVs cost about the same (or more, depending on the size). 2021 is already shaping up to be a big year for TVs, especially for the U.S. market. Samsung, Sony, and LG all have new premium TVs hitting shelves, featuring brighter OLED displays, improved image processing, and aesthetic redesigns for Samsung’s The Wall TV.
If you’re shopping around and see QLED TVs for cheap — and some of them are incredibly affordable — keep in mind that, unlike OLED TV, there is a big range in picture quality with QLED TVs because there are far more variables in their design, picture processing, and build. Only the very top-of-the-line QLED TVs are equivalent to OLED in picture quality.
Winner: QLED
The verdict
Both of these technologies are impressive in their own ways, but we’re here to pick a winner, and for the moment, it’s OLED. With better performance in the categories that most people will notice while watching TV shows and movies, it’s the best picture quality you can buy.
QLED comes out on top on paper, delivering a higher brightness, longer lifespan, larger screen sizes, and lower price tags. OLED, on the other hand, has a better viewing angle, deeper black levels, uses less power, and might be better for your health. Both are fantastic, though, so choosing between them is subjective. QLED is the better all-rounder, but OLED technology excels when you can control your room’s lighting.
The fact is, you can’t go wrong with either technology. That is, of course, until the next generation of display technology comes along. Mini-LED technology, for example, is looking like a promising way for QLED TVs to deliver better black levels.
Related

Samsung also is working on embedding quantum dot tech into OLED panels to create a new kind of TV: QD-OLED, which might create a TV with the best of both worlds. But since that’s likely a few years away still, we’ll have to wait and see. What we do know is that the company is serious, as it doubled down on its plans with an $11 billion investment. We’ll be watching developments closely to see how this technology evolves.

Editors’ Recommendations

Bowers & Wilkins’ dear flagship audio system get an costly replace

If you’re a fan of the kind of pristine audio quality that only the best loudspeakers can provide, get ready to liquidate some savings. Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) has just released its first update to its flagship 800 Series Diamond speakers since 2015. Along with a new internal design, new materials, and an intriguing new driver suspension invention comes a much loftier set of prices. The range-topping 801 D4 commands $35,000 per pair, a $5,000 (or about 17%) increase over the British audio company’s current top model, the 800 D3. Similar increases apply to the entire new lineup of seven models, which will be available from B&W retailers starting September 1.
From left: Bower & Wilkins’ 801 D4, 802 D4, 803 D4, 804 D4, 805 D4, HTM81 D4, HTM82 D4 Bowers & Wilkins
The D4 lineup consists of five sets of stereo speakers and two three-way center channel speakers:

801 D4, $35,000 per pair
802 D4, $26,000 per pair
803 D4, $20,000 per pair
804 D4, $12,500 per pair
805 D4, $8,000 per pair
HTM81 D4, $7,500
HTM82 D4, $5,500

To justify the new higher prices, B&W is touting “hundreds of detail improvements,” plus several new technologies developed specifically for this new series, most of which are aimed at further reducing unwanted vibration and resonance by increasing the stiffness of components. Liberal use of aluminum throughout the new speakers is the main way engineers achieved rigidity. It’s now integrated into the top section of the stereo speaker models, an area that used to be made from wood.
The aluminum-reinforced matrix assembly from an 801 D4 speaker. Bowers & Wilkins
You’ll also find new applications of aluminum in the internal structure of the 805 D4 and 804 D4. These models get a stiff aluminum plate on the inside face of their cabinets and a central aluminum spine to which B&W has mounted the crossover units.
To further reduce energy transfer between components, decoupling techniques have been employed throughout the lineup. In all three-way models, midrange drive units (which consist of drive units and motor systems) are isolated on spring-mounted decoupling mounts. The all-aluminum turbine heads on the 801, 802, and 803 are now decoupled from the iconic solid-body tweeters that sit atop, further reducing vibrations.

1.
B&W Biomimetic Suspension
2.
Fabric spider

And inside the midrange and mid-bass drivers, B&W has used a totally new suspension system that replaces traditional fabric spiders with something the company calls “composite Biomimetic Suspension.” It looks a little like the cockpit windows from the Millennium Falcon, with an outer and inner ring connected by a series of six suspension arms. B&W claims this new invention greatly reduces unwanted air pressure (and thus sound) that a conventional fabric spider can generate. Doing so removes unpredictable, nonlinear effects and results in “unprecedented midrange transparency and realism,” according to the company.
Rounding out the changes are new visible materials like Connolly leather, which covers the profile of the aluminum tops, solid plywood in place of MDF in some models, and a new Satin Walnut finish, which joins the existing Gloss Black, White, and Satin Rosenut options.

Editors’ Recommendations

LG A1 OLED 4K HDR TV Evaluation: Much less OLED for much less cash

LG A1 OLED 4K HDR TV
MSRP $1,800.00

“The LG A1 isn’t a gamechanger, but it’s still an OLED TV.”

Perfect Black levels

Great color

Low input lag

Lower brightness

Sluggish interface

Sight unseen, we gave the LG A1 OLED our Top Tech of CES 2021 award in January. At the time, we wrote: “LG promises the A series will be much more affordable to a wider audience, and while LG won’t talk numbers yet, we’re confident we’ll reach the kind of prices the average family can afford.”
Perhaps our confidence was misplaced.
It turns out that the LG A1 OLED — at the time that I write this seven months later — is just two or three hundred bucks less than the step-up LG C1 OLED I raved about earlier this year, presuming you are looking at 55- or 65-inch models. That’s not the kind of breakthrough pricing I was hoping for when I pitched the A1 OLED to my colleagues over a Zoom call toward the end of what was the world’s biggest virtual tech show. Sure, $300 bucks is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not a huge premium to ask for when you’re already looking at spending close to $1,800 on a 65-inch TV.

TV prices usually go down toward the end of the calendar year, and perhaps drop even further when the next year’s models come out in the spring, but for now, the prospect of an OLED TV under $1,000 remains elusive.
So, for this review, I think it’s important to learn what you get and what you don’t get with LG’s A1 OLED and, perhaps most importantly, whether the small amount of savings comes with a few sacrifices in design and performance.

Design
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Despite a few shortcomings, the A1 OLED is still an OLED TV, and I was quickly reminded of that as I unboxed the TV. It has the same stunningly thin profile you’ll find on the C1 OLED, with a screen that is thinner than any smartphone on the market. Sure, there’s a bump-out on the lower third of the TV where all the electronics are housed, but even mounted to the wall, you still get the “wow” factor from the impossibly thin screen — even if it doesn’t roll up.
The screen isn’t the only part that’s similar to the LG C1 OLED. The entire chassis appears to be the same as the LG C1, with one exception: The A1 OLED has only three HDMI ports while the C1 has four.
The similarities end at the included stand, though. The LG A1 comes with two feet that must be screwed into the base of the TV while the LG C1 comes with a heavy, centralized pedestal-style stand. Still, since the LG A1 shares the same chassis with the C1, anyone who wanted to use the centralized stand found on the C1, CX, or even C9 OLED TVs could if they wanted to — the mounting holes are there. A quick trip to eBay will yield results for LG C-series stands on sale. Just be prepared to pay up for one since shipping is so steep due to the stand’s hefty weight.

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Once set up on a stand or mounted on the wall, the TV looks very smart, with its extremely thin profile, bezel-free design, and a hefty amount of anti-glare coating to reduce “mirror effect” from the screen.
The A1 OLED comes with LG’s redesigned “Magic Motion” remote, which is replete with buttons and also allows Nintendo Wii-style motion control of the TV.
LG A1 OLED 4K HDR details

Screen Size
Model Number
 MSRP

48-inch

OLED48A1PUA

$1,200

55-inch
OLED55A1PUA
$1,300

65-inch
OLED65A1PUA
$1,800

77-inch
OLED77A1PUA
$3,000

Features and specs
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
The LG A1 OLED uses a 60Hz panel as opposed to the 120Hz panel found on the slightly more expensive C1 model. Generally, display panels with higher refresh rates will offer smoother and more natural motion, especially in fast-moving sports and movie scenes.
The A1 is powered by LG’s A7 Gen4 processor, not the newest, fanciest A9 Gen4 processor found in all of LG’s other OLED TV series. We’ll get deeper into what that means in the performance section.
As previously mentioned, the A1 has three HDMI inputs as opposed to four, and none of them are HDMI 2.1-compliant. The TV does support eARC for uncompressed audio passthrough to other devices, but it doesn’t support other popular features associated with HDMI 2.1 such as variable refresh rate for gaming — that means no G-Sync or Freesync support as well. The A1 does offer LG’s Game Optimizer setting, though, so it isn’t without gaming-friendly features entirely. We’ll get more into gaming performance in the next section.
The TV offers HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR support, so it is an HDR TV, but as testing measurements using a SpectraCal VideoForge Pro and C6 meter with CalMan software revealed, the LG A1 OLED doesn’t get as bright as the LG C1 OLED or, as it turns out, Vizio’s OLED TV.
Performance
User interface
The LG A1 runs LG’s WebOS smart TV system, which recently got a face-lift and is slightly easier on the eyes and simpler to navigate than it was just a year ago. However, I’ve found WebOS to feel increasingly cluttered the more I use it, and its implementation in the A1 OLED proved to be annoyingly sluggish. I often found myself frustrated with the amount of lag between my button presses and the corresponding action on the screen. The system is serviceable for watching Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other apps, but I would highly recommend the addition of a Chromecast with Google TV, which will provide a big improvement in experience and responsiveness, though it will take up one of just three HDMI inputs.
Audio
The LG A1 sounds surprisingly good considering its slim construction and reduced price. I think most users will find the onboard sound system perfectly fine for daily TV watching thanks to its solid dialogue clarity and decent amount of bass production, though I would always recommend a pick from our list of the best soundbars for a more theater-like experience while watching movies and games.
Picture
Since it’s impossible for me to review the LG A1 without comparing it to LG’s only slightly more expensive C1 OLED TV series, I’ll be presenting most of my picture quality observations in that context. However, before I get started down that road, I want to make a few things clear.
As I stated before, the LG A1 is an OLED TV and as such, it comes with a few benefits baked right in. Aside from its stunning good looks, the A1 is blessed to produce perfect black levels. Since the A1 OLED doesn’t have any backlight (each pixel lights itself up), there are no annoying backlight anomalies to put up with. There’s no blooming or halo around bright objects on a black background, no dirty screen effect (blotches on an LCD screen), and no backlight fluctuations (slow brightening and dimming). As such, the A1 OLED has a remarkably clean look to it, with deep, rich colors and an eerily satisfying quality to its image.
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
The A1 OLED’s response time is also virtually instantaneous, meaning no image blur is ever caused by the screen. Instead, blur you’ll see on the A1 is actually caused by the fact that your eyes can’t keep up with the speed at which the image changes — even on a 60Hz screen like the one found on the A1 OLED.
However, the A1 OLED’s 60Hz screen does rob the TV of the more fluid motion you’ll see on the C1 OLED. Also, the A1 OLED’s A7 Gen4 processor isn’t as refined as the upgraded A9 Gen4 image processor found in the C1 OLED series and above. It would take placing the TVs side-by-side to notice, but the A1 doesn’t do quite as good a job at upscaling low-quality content (low-resolution or low bitrate streaming videos or cable/satellite content) as the C1 does.
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
But the A1’s real shortcoming is its brightness. While not at all a dim TV, the A1 OLED doesn’t possess the brightness potential needed to really make HDR images pop off the screen. The A1 OLED’s peak brightness measures at about 500 nits while the LG C1 and Vizio OLED max out closer to 750 nits. That’s enough difference for most folks to notice, whether the TVs are side-by-side or not. The A1 just looks less brilliant.
The lack of brightness extends beyond bright highlights and into color and the overall picture. Colors lack a certain sizzle on the A1 compared to the C1, and the overall picture level is a bit dimmer. It’s totally fine (even dazzling at times) in a very dark or very dim room, but even turning room lights on steals a lot of the A1 OLED’s zeal, making it a less realistic TV option for many.
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As mentioned before, the LG A1 OLED doesn’t offer variable refresh rate. And even though an Xbox Series X or S will tell you the TV is capable of 1080p resolution at 120 frames per second (fps), the truth is it’s not. The A1 will simply skip every other frame from a 120 fps signal.
The A1 can do 4K HDR at 60Hz, though, and it has remarkably low input lag at about 10 milliseconds in game mode. The A1 also comes with LG gaming dashboard, which allows game genre detection and optimization, along with black and brightness level controls that can make seeing enemies in dark shadows a bit easier in challenging first-person shooter games.
The takeaway here is that the A1 OLED is an excellent TV for most gamers, but those who want to wring the most out of their next-gen Xbox Series X or S would want to step up to the C1 OLED for the best experience.
Our take
The LG A1 OLED comes with all of the picture quality benefits inherent in an OLED display and looks quite beautiful in a dark room. None of its drawbacks on their own are deal-breakers, but when the A1 OLED’s individual shortcomings are added together and considered in the context of the very small price difference between it and the step-up C1 OLED, it’s hard to imagine why someone wouldn’t save up for the better TV and pass the A1 OLED by entirely.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. The LG C1 OLED is a superior TV, although just slightly more expensive. The upgrades are worth the added expense, though; you get what you pay for in this case. The Vizio OLED is also a brighter TV available at the same price, but I don’t care for its SmartCast smart TV interface or some of its bugginess. The Vizio OLED is a better overall gaming TV, though.
How long will it last?
Given the A1 OLED doesn’t have the latest processor or HDMI connectivity, I think it will feel its age a bit sooner than most TVs. However, from a general longevity standpoint, I would expect it to last for many years to come. I would not suggest an OLED TV to anyone who watches the same news, weather, or sports channel for several hours a day, every day, for months on end, as burn-in is a slight risk with any OLED TV.
Should you buy it?
If the price dips down below $1,000 for a 55-inch model, then yes. Otherwise, I would skip the A1 OLED and buy the LG C1 OLED TV instead.

Editors’ Recommendations

The 6 greatest TVs underneath $1,000 for 2021

While premium picture features, high-quality sound, and cutting-edge smart features are typical highlights of many flagship TVs, you don’t necessarily need to spend flagship prices to get a top-tier set. Even if you’re on a budget, you don’t need to sacrifice quality. In fact, some of our favorite TVs are actually under $1,000. One of these top budget options has to be the 65-inch Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV.
The H9G is going to be a great choice for most people, but it’s not the only TV that provides quality at an affordable price. If you’re looking to save even more, take a look at our picks for the best 4K TV deals and the best TVs under $500.
Best TVs under $1,000 at a glance

65-inch Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV

Why you should buy this: You won’t find darker darks or brighter brights without spending a lot more money

Who it’s for: Those who want to place their TV anywhere and still get top-notch picture quality.
Why we picked the 65-inch Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV:
One of the keys to good picture quality, especially when watching HDR content, is brightness. If your TV can’t get bright enough, you won’t see as many colors, and it won’t produce sufficient contrast. In a darkened room, this is less of an issue, but if you want to watch TV in a room that gets lots of natural light or in a room that’s brightly lit most of the time, a bright TV is critical.
That’s where the 65-inch Hisense H9G Quantum HDR TV shines (literally). It’s one of the brightest TVs we’ve ever tested — at any price — which is why it has earned a spot on this list as well as our Best TVs list.
That extra brightness (and impressive dark performance, too) really comes in handy when watching content in Dolby Vision or HDR10, which the H9G supports. It’s also key to enjoying good ol’ SDR movies and shows, too.
Better yet, Hisense makes getting the most out of the H9G very easy: Instead of tweaking both SDR and HDR settings separately, you can adjust one and the other will adapt to your preferences automatically. As our reviewer said, “just sit, click, watch, and know you are getting the best picture performance.”
The H9G uses the Google-created Android TV operating system, which means it has Google Assistant built-in (you can access it via the included voice remote) as well as Chromecast — perfect for shifting your favorite content from your phone or tablet to the big screen.
The only thing you should be aware of before buying the Hisense H9G is that it’s not ideal if you want to be future-proofed for gaming. It doesn’t have any HDMI 2.1 ports, and no gaming features like variable refresh rate (VRR) or automatic low-latency mode (ALLM).
Read our in-depth Hisense H9G Quantum review
55-inch TCL 6-Series
TCL
Why you should buy this: It’s as close as you can get to OLED picture quality for on or near $1,000.

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for the best possible picture quality and features for the lowest possible price.
Why we picked the 55-inch TCL 6-Series 4K TV (2020):
There are hundreds of TVs available for less than $1,000, but none stand out as much as TCL’s 55-inch 6-Series (R635).
Previous 6-Series models were already so good, they completely changed our perception of the TCL brand, elevating it from so-so budget territory to the status of a genuine competitor to brands such as LG, Samsung, and Sony.
This 6-Series solidifies that reputation, largely thanks to TCL’s pioneering efforts with Mini-LED backlighting. It effectively swapped hundreds of large LED bulbs for many thousands of smaller LEDs, which gives the 6-Series the ability to control local dimming at granularity we’ve only seen once before (in TCL’s own 8-Series). To say that it improves picture quality is an understatement. It brings QLED displays closer to OLED performance for black levels and contrast than they’ve ever been before.
There’s also plenty of format support to love: Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, HDR10, and, of course, the excellent Roku OS running the show — they’re all here. (If you’re more of a Google TV OS person, you may want to check out the latest TCL 5- and 6-Series TVs, too) New for this model is a THX-certified gaming mode, AMD’s FreeSync variable refresh rate (VRR) technology, and auto game mode. Gaming at 120Hz is possible, but it caps at 1440p. Still, with the Mini-LED backlighting, shadow details is so good, and the motion so smooth, you might not mind the lower resolution.
The Roku OS offers a ton of great features, from an intuitive interface to thousands of streaming apps. As such, it should come as no surprise to hear that it’s a one-stop-shop for live and on-demand content, providing an instant portal to the likes of Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, Hulu, Sling TV, and Netflix, along with a wide array of lesser-known services, so you can stream to your heart’s content.
It’s compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant should you wish to control the TV via one of these smart speakers, or you can simply use the remote’s built-in voice control. Just hit a button on the remote and you’ll be able to throw all sorts of vocal instructions its way, from commanding it to search a particular movie or show across all your preferred content providers to adjust the volume level.
Here’s a quick look at some of the commands the TCL 6-Series understands:

“Find The Big Bang Theory.“
“Switch over to HDMI 3.”
“Play Designated Survivor on Netflix.”
“Switch off after this episode of Friends.”

Read our in-depth TCL 6-Series (2020) review
75-inch LG UHD 70 Series 4K HDR TV
LG
Why you should buy this: It’s a massive TV that doesn’t require a conversation with your financial adviser.

Who it’s for: Dedicated gamers who are looking to breathe fresh life into their gaming station.
Why we picked the 75-inch LG UHD 70 Series 4K HDR TV:
Sometimes, there’s simply no substitute for size. If a big TV is what you want, this LG UHD 70 Series is your biggest bang for the buck, with a monstrous, Super Bowl-ready 75 inches of screen real estate, for well under $1,000.
But there’s more to this TV than a big screen; it’s also a great choice for gamers. That’s partly because of the size but also because of its low input-lag and its automatic low-latency mode (ALLM). It’s also one of the few TVs that supports the HGiG recommendations for HDR gaming — in other words, it will be able to communicate with next-gen game consoles to maximize the image quality of HDR games.
Apple device owners will like the fact that this TV has Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit onboard, making it a cinch to share phone and tablet content onto the big screen, and control the TV via Apple’s Siri.
But if you’re not a big Siri fan, that’s OK: The 70 Series is also compatible with Alex and Google Assistant smart speakers.
The LG 70 Series all runs on LG’s WebOS, a very easy-to-use smart TV system that has hundreds of popular streaming apps such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and many more.
55-inch TCL 5-Series (2020)
TCL
Why you should buy this: Great picture quality, leading-edge features, and an incredibly affordable price.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs a new TV and doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.
Why we picked the 55-inch TCL 5-Series (2020):
TCL has proven over and over again that it makes the most affordable high-quality TVs on the planet. Right now, the best example of that is the TCL 5-Series (2020). TCL basically took all of the qualities of last year’s 6-Series (one of our favorite TVs) and repackaged them into an even more affordable model.
What you get is a bright, colorful image thanks to its quantum dot-enhanced backlight, deep blacks, and screen size that will find a home anywhere from the bedroom to the basement.
It supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, the two most common flavors of HDR, it as an excellent 4K upscaler so that your non-4K content looks as good as possible, and it’s gamer-friendly with an auto game mode that provides low input-lag and fast response times.
Four HDMI ports give you plenty of connection options, including HDMI ARC, which lets you connect an A/V receiver or soundbar with just a single cable. There’s no Dolby Atmos support, but as long as your receiver or soundbar supports it, you’re good to go.
Because it’s a Roku TV, the whole experience is powered by Roku’s incredibly simple yet powerful software, with thousands of streaming apps available.
The 5-Series is compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered smart speakers. The included Roku remote doesn’t have a microphone, but if you download the free Roku app on your smartphone you can use it for voice searches and for private listening.
All in all, the TCL 5-Series is an exceptional value in a 55-inch 4K HDR smart TV.
Samsung 65-inch TU-8000 Series UN65TU8000FXZA

Why you should buy this: Those who want to save without skipping on resolution upgrades.

Who it’s for: Gamers on a budget and those with old home theaters in need of an upgrade.
Why we picked the Samsung 65-inch TU-8000 Series UN65TU8000FXZA:
Samsung’s affordable TV doesn’t skimp on resolution with a Crystal processor-powered 4K display with automatic upscaling for content. The “Crystal” label also extends to the TV’s color range and color tuning, giving you superior, accurate colors so you can enjoy visuals as they were meant to be seen. Speaking of — this model also comes with HDR support, so content that offers HDR optimization will look even better with no need to change any settings on your own.
The TV comes with Samsung’s OneRemote, which can be programmed to control multiple smart devices … but if you prefer to avoid using remotes as much as possible, it also supports both Alexa and Samsung’s Bixby voice assistants for quick commands. Plus you have settings like Auto Game Mode, which makes automatic changes to minimize input lag, will pair perfectly with consoles.
We’re also big fans of the Samsung UN65TU8000FXZA’s design, which includes a slim, bezel-less design, sturdy support, and a nifty track to hide cables so they won’t dangle behind the TV.
Vizio 65-inch M-Series M65Q7-H1

Why you should buy this: It has console-friendly features and excellent HDR support.

Who it’s for: Gamers who want the best results for under $1,000.
Why we picked the Vizio 65-inch M-Series M65Q7-H1:
One problem that many “smart” TVs have is that their smart features really aren’t that useful. Basic access to apps over Wi-Fi is something that we already get from our consoles, receivers, and set-top boxes, so there’s not really much for the TV to do. One way to fix that is to add voice assistants for easier control, which many of our picks have. This 65-inch Vizio model takes another popular track and adds built-in support for Airplay and Chromecast, making it easier to switch streaming from your favorite mobile devices to your TV whenever you need to.
The TV also sports a 4K resolution and excellent support for both Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10+, which will optimize the latest content so it looks better than ever. Meanwhile, Vizio reports that its Quantum Color technology offers a 75% greater color range from a standard 4K TV — a significant claim, although the color on this model does look excellent, especially for the price.
Finally, the izio 65-inch M-Series M65Q7-H1 Vis a great pick for gamers. It includes automatic optimization for both the Xbox and PlayStation and matches refresh rates to help reduce game stuttering. It even supports AMD FreeSync for more advanced screen tear prevention.

Research and buying tips

What size TV can I afford for $1,000?
You’ll be able to find a TV as large as 75 inches for under $1,000.
Can I get an OLED for less than $1,000?
Not yet — or very rarely for special deals. OLED technology still is primarily available on high-end models that soar beyond the $1,000 mark. But that may not be the case for long. Vizio is selling its first OLED models, with a 55-inch size, that sells for $1,300.
Can I use an HDTV or 4K TV with a PC?
Yes, as long as your computer has an HDMI output. If not, you can try using an adapter, but adapters usually don’t transmit audio.
Do TVs under $1,000 work with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri?
Using either Google Home, Fire TV, or an Amazon Echo, you can pair many modern TVs with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Many newer TVs have these options built-in, so you can use them without buying a separate appliance.
Unfortunately, no current models of TVs have Siri built-in, so you’ll have to try a workaround. For example, TVs that support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit let you control them by using Siri on an iOS device, such as an iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac.
What outputs should TVs under $1,000 have?
The No. 1 thing to consider is HDMI in terms of outputs and inputs. We recommend purchasing a TV with HDMI ARC, which means your TV audio can stream to an A/V receiver or a soundbar. Every TV we’ve included on this list has at least one HDMI ARC post, and most have three total HDMI posts. This means you’ll have plenty of image and audio channels available to connect gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes into your system. Getting the latest generation of HDMI is also important for enabling the latest visual/audio options.
What is the best month to buy a TV?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way — Black Friday and the surrounding holidays tend to have the best deals for things like TVs, so November and December are clear choices. But if you missed a deal or it ran out of stock, these can also be annoying months to buy. We suggest also looking for deals in January, where brands discount in preparation for the Super Bowl, as April and May, when many TVs go on sale.
Which TV brands last the longest?
With proper care, TVs can last for many years. But Samsung and LG have particularly good reputations for durable TVs that can handle long-term use without developing annoying issues like damaged pixels, while still offering top-notch quality.

Editors’ Recommendations

Tons of T-Cell subscribers simply received a free yr of Apple TV+

If you’re a T-Mobile subscriber on one of the company’s Magenta or Magenta Max unlimited data plans, you’re going to be getting access to Apple TV+ for free, for a whole year, starting August 25. Unlike some other bonus offers, this one isn’t just being used as a way to lure new subscribers to T-Mobile (though clearly, it could do that as well).
T-Mobile customers on the company’s Magenta 55+, Magenta Military, Magenta First Responders, Sprint Unlimited Plus, Sprint Premium, and T-Mobile for Small Business Customers plans all get in on the free Apple TV+ action. Better yet, it doesn’t matter if you’re currently on a free trial for Apple TV+ or if you’re already paying for the streaming video service. Those in the midst of a free trial will see their trial period extended by 12 months, while paid plans will be put on a payment holiday for the duration of the free year.
It’s not the first time T-Mobile has provided special offers on streaming services for its customers. Previous and ongoing programs include Netflix on Us, plus discounts on YouTube TV and Philo.
What’s curious about the Apple TV+ freebie for T-Mobile is that it’s not tied to Apple hardware. In the past, Apple itself has given away a year’s worth of Apple TV+ to anyone who purchases a new Apple device, although these trial periods have been getting shorter recently. That has always made sense: Apple TV+ doesn’t have the catalog size to compete with Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime Video, so using it as a small perk when you buy an Apple product kills two birds with one stone — you sell some hardware and you give people an easy and free way to check out what Apple TV+ has to offer.
But the T-Mobile offer isn’t tied to hardware sales, which could mean that Apple is looking for additional ways to ramp up its subscriber base. The company doesn’t share how many subscribers Apple TV+ has (it gets lumped into Apple’s total universe of services subscribers, which was recently pegged at more than 700 million), but a report released at the beginning of 2021 suggests that a majority of those folks (62%) are on some kind of unpaid trial. The report also said that 29% of those free-trial members had no plans to start paying when their trial period had ended.
This suggests that it’s now a numbers game. The more free trials Apple can give away, the more folks will stick around and start paying the current $5 per month subscription for Apple TV+. Apple’s service may never overcome the massive lead held by the big players, but it has a unique — if relatively small — lineup of movies and shows. If titles like Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and For All Mankind are going to become must-see shows (and thus a reason to subscribe). Apple is going to need more folks telling their friends and family members how good they are. Giving millions of T-Mobile customers free access to the service seems like a pretty good way to make that happen.

Editors’ Recommendations

That is the most cost effective 65-inch QLED 4K TV you should purchase at present

When you’re ready to get a brand-new TV, you have a lot to consider. Should you look through the latest 4K TV deals for an ultra-high-definition set? Is 8K an option? Would it be better to sift through LG TV deals, QLED TV deals, or Walmart TV deals? Finally, there’s the budget to consider, and how much you’re willing to pay.
It’s a tough decision, indeed. Sometimes, though, there are exclusive deals that make things a little easier. If you can find a decent set at a great price, the search is over almost as quickly as it started! Like the deal Best Buy has, right now, on a Hisense 65-inch ULED 4K UHD Smart Android TV. You get $150 off so you can grab it for $700 with free delivery or in-store pickup.

The Hisense 65-inch Class U6G Series Quantum ULED Smart TV is 4K UHD-ready, with incredible color, contrast, brightness, and motion settings. It has the Android TV smart entertainment system built-in, with access to all of your favorite streaming apps and services. You also get Google Assistant support so you can navigate the system, and start playback, with voice commands — the remote is voice-enabled, as well. Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos offer a mashup of and high-quality and exceptional surround sound, so you get a more authentic home theater experience.
It comes with 2 small legs, so you can stand it up on an entertainment center, bureau, or shelf. It does support the VESA wall-mount standard, with a configuration of 300mm x 200mm. It’s sleek and lightweight. Connectivity includes plenty of HDMI — there are 4 total — RCA in, digital audio, 2 USB, coaxial, headphone out, and an Ethernet or wired LAN input. Of course, being smart it also includes Wi-Fi built-in with Chromecast screen-mirroring technology. The latter allows you to broadcast or mirror what’s on your compatible phone or tablet screen, on your TV. HDR and HDR 10+ are also supported.
Best Buy is currently offering the Hisense 65-inch U6G Series Quantum ULED 4K UHD Smart Android TV for $700 with free delivery, which is $150 off the normal price ($850). That’s an awesome deal, but we’re not sure how long it’s going to be available so act soon.

More smart TV deals available now
Want to see what else is available or on sale? We rounded up all of the smart TV deals that are live right now. You can check those out below.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Recommendations

The most effective earbuds for 2021

Whether you go wired for an old-school experience or wireless for cordless freedom, picking the right earbuds can be tricky — there are so many choices out there. But we’ve tried hundreds of models from a wide variety of manufacturers, so you don’t have to.
In our opinion, the best wired earbuds you can buy are the 1More Triple Drivers, which offer a sweet mix of style and performance at a reasonable price, while Sony’s WF-1000XM4 offer the best overall feature set in a pair of true wireless earbuds.
But there are tons of great models out there, some of which really excel in specific areas. So if the 1More and Sony models aren’t quite what you’re looking for, we’ve got several awesome alternatives.
Don’t forget, we also keep updated lists of the best true wireless earbuds, the best cheap true wireless earbuds, and the best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds, in case you’re looking for something specific.
The best earbuds at a glance

The best wired earbuds: 1More Triple Driver

Why you should buy them: They’re a sweet mix of style, performance, and shocking affordability.

Who they’re for: The discerning listener who craves quality but hasn’t yet landed that corner office.
Why we picked the 1More Triple Driver:
We could have gone many ways for this pick, but 1More’s unassuming Triple Driver just wouldn’t stop popping up into the picture. The 1More in-ear headphones aren’t at the top of the class in performance, but what they do have going for them is unrivaled quality and value at their (very reasonable) price point. The company has created plenty of iterations since, including the recent Dual Driver ANC Pro Wireless, the Quad Driver, and even an over-ear version, creatively called the Triple Driver Over-Ears. But when it comes to value for the money, we always come back to the original wired earbuds.
China-based upstart 1More blew our minds when we discovered how little the company wanted for the Triple Driver headphones, the first pair we’d ever heard from the brand. For this kind of build quality and performance, we’d expect to pay at least double. And while these aren’t wireless earbuds, if you don’t mind some strings attached, they more than make up for their wired constraints with sweet sound for the dough.
So what specifically do the Triple Driver offer your ears? A gorgeous aesthetic, solid construction, and — you guessed it — three drivers within each earbud for excellent sound. That includes one dynamic driver for warm and full bass and a balanced armature driver for both the midrange and treble to create clear and articulate sound. It’s an intriguing design that one might think is a gimmick, but we can assure you that when it comes to the results, it’s anything but.
Along with the earbuds, you get a carry case, an airplane travel adapter, a cable clip, and a huge assortment of silicone and foam eartips to help you find the perfect fit.
The 1More Triple Driver’s sound signature provides sparkling clarity, smooth and powerful bass, and balanced sound that outdoes everything we’ve heard at a similar price point. These headphones provide exceptional sound for anything you listen to, from electronica to acoustic folk. Unlike many dedicated wired earbuds, the Triple Drivers include an inline mic and playback controls. Oh, and if you’re rocking a new iPhone and you using Apple’s headphone adapter, there’s a Lightning version, too.
If the 1More Triple Driver appeal to you, but you want to spend less, check out the Strauss & Wagner EM205. They sound almost as good but cost half the price. They’re also tiny and very lightweight — perfect for tossing in a backpack. If, on the other hand, you want to level up your wired listening, both the $159 Final Audio A4000 and $199 Campfire Audio Satsuma will deliver gorgeously detailed audio. The only caveat: As true in-ear monitors (IEMs), they do not have a mic for calls or buttons for music control.
Read our in-depth 1More Triple Driver review
The best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony
Why you should buy them: They’ve got brilliant sound quality, battery life, noise-canceling, and tons of extra features.

Who they’re for: Those who want one set of earbuds that do it all and do it really well.
Why we picked the Sony WF-1000XM4:
Sony’s previous flagship earbuds, the WF-1000XM3 were already some of our favorites, so when the company released the follow-up WF-1000XM4, we knew they’d be pretty hard to beat. We were right.
With the XM4, Sony has essentially improved on every aspect of the XM3. The design, battery life, ANC, and transparency are all better than before. Meanwhile, Sony kept the price the same, while dropping the price of the XM3, giving buyers two fantastic choices.
At the top of the improvement list is the new, compact shape. Though only 10% smaller than the XM3, the XM4 fit almost entirely inside your outer ear, making them appear way smaller. The new shape makes the touch controls easier to use, but some with especially small ear openings may actually find them to be less comfortable.
The earbuds are more robust too, with an official IPX4 rating for water resistance. Don’t swim with them, but you need not fear sweat, rain, or the occasional splash.
The charging case was put on a diet too. At 40% smaller, it also packs wireless charging, something the XM3’s case didn’t offer.
Total battery life is the same at 24 hours with ANC on and 36 hours with it off, but the earbuds can now go longer between charges: Eight hours with ANC on, and a huge 12 hours when it’s off.
Sound quality is generally better as well, but not across the board. The low-end bass response has been improved, with an uncanny ability to render tiny details from the lowest frequencies. However, there’s been a little loss of energy at the high end of the spectrum as compared to the XM3. We attribute this to Sony’s decision to ship the XM4 with foam eartips only, which can affect the sound.
As with the XM3, ANC and transparency are excellent and even moderately improved. A big bonus is Sony’s speech-sensing tech, which switches transparency on and mutes your music when the earbuds detect that you’ve started talking.
Add to this a slew of features like being able to use wake words with Alexa and Google Assistant on Android phones, and Sony clearly has another winner in the WF-1000XM4.
Read our in-depth Sony WF-1000XM4 review
The best earbuds for running: Sony WF-SP800N
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why you should buy them: With astonishing battery life, sound quality, and noise cancellation, they’re great workout companions.

Who they’re for: People who want total wireless autonomy for demanding workouts.
Why we picked the Sony WF-SP800N:
Sony has a reputation for making stellar audio products, and the WF-SP800N take all of Sony’s know-how and squeeze it into a compact set of workout-friendly earbuds. Their IP55 water- and dust-resistant rating means they can take pretty much whatever you can throw at them, and their battery life is enormous: Nine hours if you leave their active noise cancellation on and 13 hours if you turn it off.
Though bulkier than some other workout buds like the Elite Active 75t, the SP800N won’t budge once they’re sitting in your ear thanks to their silicone wingtips that provide a secure three-point anchor in your concha.
Sound quality, as you would expect, is excellent, and the Sony Headphones app lets you tweak the equalization to your heart’s content, including turning on and off the ExtraBass feature. If you’re curious about Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which can give you the feeling of being at a live performance, the WF-SP800N are compatible with the streaming services that offer it, like Deezer and Amazon Music HD.
The adjustable ANC is also a high point, though this feature tends to work best in non-windy environments. You can engage a transparency mode any time you need it or simply use the quick-attention mode, which automatically switches to transparency and lowers your music volume temporarily while you press the left earbud.
Call quality is very good, whether indoors or outside. Our only real complaint about the WF-SP800N is their charging case. It’s definitely on the bulky side and doesn’t offer wireless charging.
Looking for alternatives to the WF-SP800N? These models are all excellent options:

Jabra Elite Active 75t
Powerbeats Pro
JBL Reflect Mini NC
Jaybird Vista 2

Read our in-depth Sony WF-SP800N review
Best earbuds for bass: JVC HA-XC90T
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why you should buy them: Their enormous bass is matched with the longest battery life we’ve ever seen.

Who they’re for: Those who want big bass, clear sound, and a battery that will outlast anything else out there.
Why we picked the JVC HA-XC90T:
While some true wireless earbuds attempt to offer something for everyone, JVC’s HA-XC90T (also known as JVC XX) are unapologetic about their mission to provide the biggest bass you’ve ever heard.
The black earbuds with the red rings deliver what can only be described as a subwoofer-grade bass response, and that’s before you engage their bass boost mode, which makes them downright thunderous.
Amazingly, this powerful low end doesn’t prevent the mids and highs from taking their place on the soundstage, though make no mistake: If you’re not a fan of deep notes, the JVC XX are not the buds for you.
Along with that incredible boosted bass is a boosted battery. The JVC XX can go a whopping 15 hours on a single charge, making these earbuds the stamina kings of the true wireless world. The charging case holds another two full charges, which means you can use the JVC XX for almost 48 hours before needing to plug the case into a power cord.
Speaking of the charging case, it’s a big, solid affair made of aluminum. The slide-out tray feels sturdy and locks into place with a satisfying click. There’s no wireless charging option, but given how infrequently you’ll need to grab a USB-C cable, that’s not such a bad thing.
Other caveats include no app for customizing the equalizer or button controls, no active noise cancellation, and no auto-pause when you remove an earbud.
Those are a lot of missing features on a set of earbuds at this price, but they have IP55 protection from dust and water and a “touch and talk” feature, which gives you a temporary transparency mode when you need it.
When you consider that, plus the JVC XX‘s two big benefits (bass and battery), these earbuds still manage to justify their asking price for those who value what they offer.
Read our hands-on impressions of the JVC HA-XC90T
Best earbuds for swimming: Sony Walkman NW-WS413

Why you should buy them: You want a water-safe device so you can listen to your favorite tracks while hitting the lap lanes.

Who they’re for: Swimmers and athletes who prefer to leave their phones at home.
Why we picked the Sony WS413 Walkman W-Series:
It doesn’t matter how waterproof you make them, true wireless earbuds won’t be able to play your tunes when you dip below the surface. It’s simple physics: Bluetooth can’t travel through the water like it can through the air. And should an earbud become dislodged while you’re swimming, your odds of retrieving it are slim to none.
That’s why the Sony W-Series Walkman Sports MP3 player wins this category, even though they don’t possess any wireless capabilities at all. Not only can they be completely submerged and continue to play music, but they can operate in salt or fresh water at depths of up to 2 meters — so go ahead and jump in the deep end.
They’ll even stay on after that cannonball, kept in place by both around-the-ear hooks and a tiny band that snugly stretches around the back of your head. The headphones also feature unique earbuds that are designed to keep water from entering the driver casing — which would otherwise ruin the headphones for good.
The Sony WS413 Walkman WS Series is an all-in-one device that doesn’t need to be connected to a phone or other playback source; instead, it has 4GB of storage to hold your music, and you can load up songs and playlists on your PC via the included USB cable.
Sure, 4GB might not sound like much space, but that adds up to about 1,000 to 2,000 tracks, depending on their file size. All playback is controlled with tiny buttons on the sides of each earbud. Speaking of charge, the W-Series Walkman will last up to 12 hours per charge, and Sony claims you’ll be able to charge them in no time via their quick-charge feature.
The WS413 is perfect for swimmers who want total immersion in both the water and their tunes, but sometimes we need to be more aware of our surroundings. Whether it’s being able to hear a swim coach’s instructions, a lifeguard’s warnings, or just other swimmers, earbuds that block out the outside world aren’t always the best tool for the job.
In these circumstances, the $150 Aftershokz Xtrainerz are the way to go. They offer the same 4GB capacity as the Sonys, but they use bone conduction to transmit sound to your ears, which leaves your ear canals open. That means you can hear everything going on around you and your music, plus you can insert your favorite swimming earplugs if you want — and they won’t interfere with the audio.
The best earbuds for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro
Digital Trends
Why you should buy them: As long as they’re synced to an iPhone, the AirPods Pro have features few other devices can match.

Who they’re for: Apple die-hards who want a fully wireless option.
Why we picked the Apple AirPods Pro:
The truth is, there are better-sounding earbuds out there that can work with iPhones, but even so, we still think the AirPods Pro are the best iOS-specific choice thanks to how Apple they are.
For better or for worse, AirPods Pro have all the hallmarks of an Apple product: They’re sleek, feature-rich, and extremely easy to use. The design includes simple controls and no-fuss compatibility with other Apple products. That last point is probably the most important reason why the AirPods Pro are our pick for the best wireless headphones to use with iPhones. Unlike other Bluetooth devices, AirPods Pro are designed to automatically sync with your device.
Perhaps most importantly for Apple users (apart from the iconic style), these earbuds couldn’t be easier to pair and set up. Just open the case, hold the new AirPods next to your iPhone, and you’re ready to listen. Once the AirPods Pro are paired, they’ll also show up automatically on any of your iCloud-connected Apple devices, including a companion iPad or MacBook. Switching can be done with a single click, but if you’re on the latest versions of iOS and macOS, that switching can even happen automatically.
The main difference between the AirPods Pro and the AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case, which used to hold this spot, is the addition of noise-canceling. They also offer a more discreet, fitted design that makes use of silicone tips to, A) keep the Pods firmly fixed to your ears during intense exercise, B) make them more pleasant to wear for extended periods, and C) create the seal that’s required for noise-canceling to function as intended.
They’re also IPX4 sweat-resistant and offer much better sound quality. Earlier in 2020, Apple added spatial audio to the AirPods Pro, making them an intriguing companion for watching movies on Apple’s devices. When iOS 15 launches in the fall of 2021, the AirPods Pro will also be able to offer hearing enhancement in situations where conversations may be more difficult due to competing sounds.
For all these reasons, the Apple AirPods Pro are a solid choice for Apple’s products, especially the iPhone.  But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that every other pair of fully wireless earbuds work great with iPhones too. And you can find a pair that sound just as good as the AirPods Pro for a bit less money. It’s a big world out there, so before you just jump into the most obvious Apple pairing, we suggest shopping around a bit.
Read our in-depth AirPods Pro review
The best earbuds for Android: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung
Why you should buy them: They’re chock-full of the latest features like ANC and wireless charging, but cost way less than the AirPods Pro.

Who they’re for: Android fans looking for comfortable, great-sounding buds with noise cancellation.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2:
Our previous pick for this category was the Google Pixel Buds A-Series. With their $99 price and virtually all of the features from the $179 Pixel Buds, they were an obvious choice.
But Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 have forced us to change things up. For an extra $50, they offer ANC, transparency mode, and wireless charging — three very desirable features you won’t find on the Pixel Buds A-Series. What’s more, the Galaxy Buds 2 are even comfortable and secure than the A-Series, making them a welcome change for folks who have traditionally struggled to find a good fit.
Sound quality is very good if not quite up to the standard set by the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Master & Dynamic MW08, and you get several EQ presets within the Samsung Wearables app. That app also provides a fit test to make sure you’ve got the right size of eartips installed, and a find my buds feature for when they inevitably go missing.
Battery life is solid: Five hours per charge and 20 hours total with the charging case if you keep ANC on, and that rises to 7.5/29 hours if you turn the feature off. An IPX2 rating means you probably shouldn’t expose them to much water, but they’ll at least be able to handle a bit of rain and sweat without incurring any damage.
Our only real caveat with the Galaxy Buds 2 is their touch controls. They’re a bit too easy to accidentally trigger when inserting or adjusting the earbuds, but we do appreciate that you can customize these controls or even turn them off entirely within Samsung’s app. Why do we only recommend these buds for Android users? That awesome app just isn’t available for iOS, which drastically reduces the Buds 2’s value to iPhone owners.
Read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review
The best earbuds for listening to music: Master & Dynamic MW08
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why you should buy them: They have huge battery life, sound incredible, and have a unique, stylish design.

Who they’re for: Anyone who wants a no-compromises listening experience in a set of true wireless earbuds.
Why we picked the Master & Dynamic MW08:
When it comes to true wireless earbuds that deliver audiophile-grade sound quality, it’s a small crowd. Leading that pack are the Master & Dynamic (M&D) MW08, a beautifully crafted set of buds that sound as good as they look.
M&D is no stranger to the true wireless space. Its MW07 and MW07 Plus models were both very well received for their top-notch sound, and the MW08 take the design even further. They’re smaller and more comfortable than the previous models and their battery life is incredible, with up to 12 hours between charges when you turn off active noise cancellation (ANC) and keep the volume level under 50%.
Their stainless steel charging case provides another 30 hours of capacity, for a total of 42 hours before you need to plug them back in using a USB-C cable.
But the real story here is the MW08‘s sultry sound. Across the frequencies, from the lowest lows to the highest highs, these earbuds deliver a crisp and precise response, letting you appreciate each element of a song. Whether it’s the booming bass of hip-hop or the delicate resonances of jazz and classical, the MW08 sacrifice nothing.
M&D has used some pretty exotic materials on the MW08 including ceramics and aluminum, which give them a sophisticated, high-end look and feel that stands apart from the all-plastic designs from Sony, Bose, Apple, and Sennheiser. They also feature physical control buttons instead of the touch controls that are becoming ubiquitous. These controls give you access to every feature, from volume to voice assistants, and have a very precise operation.
Our only real critique of the MW08 is that their ANC isn’t as good as what you’ll find on the AirPods Pro, WF-1000XM3, or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. However, when you consider just how good the MW08 sound, we think it’s worth the tradeoff.
If wireless charging is a big feature for you, the Master & Dynamic MW08 Sport edition adds that capability in a much lighter weight Kevlar-wrapped charging case.
Read our in-depth Master & Dynamic MW08 review
The best earbuds for Amazon Alexa fans: Amazon Echo Buds 2
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why you should buy them: They’re very affordable, sound great, and let you summon Alexa whenever and wherever you like.

Who they’re for: Folks who love Amazon’s virtual assistant and want an affordable set of true wireless earbuds.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo Buds 2:
We were already big fans of the original Amazon Echo Buds, so when Amazon released the next version (technically named Echo Buds 2nd Gen) for the same price, but with some nice upgrades, we knew they’d be a solid pick.
What sets the Echo Buds 2 apart from other earbuds (other than Alexa, which we’ll get to) is the sheer value they offer. For $120 ($140 for the version with wireless charging), you get a small and comfortable set of buds, with an equally small charging case. They have active noise cancellation (ANC) and a transparency mode, they auto-pause the music when you pull an earbud out, they can be used independently, and they even have a basic workout tracking feature.
Using the Alexa app (which you pretty much need for all of the advanced features) you can adjust their EQ settings, fine-tune the side-tone (how much of your own voice you hear during calls), and even locate your earbuds if they go missing.
To put that in perspective: A feature set like this would normally cost $180 — the price of the Jabra Elite 75t — so $120 feels like a bargain.
The sound quality is very good. Not quite what you’d get from pricier earbuds, but close enough for folks who just want great tunes or podcasts for their daily commutes.
Being able to simply say “Alexa,” followed by hundreds of different commands (including all of the earbud and playback functions like ANC and call answer) is a major convenience, and the Echo Buds 2 are the only earbuds (other than the original Echo Buds) that let you do this.
Battery life on the buds themselves, at five hours with ANC and Alexa turned on, and 6.5 hours with these features off, is a little better than Apple’s AirPods Pro, but nothing stellar when compared to other earbuds at this price. Unfortunately, the case only holds two full charges, so you may have to adjust your habits accordingly.
We didn’t think that Amazon’s ANC was a big improvement over the previous generation’s Bose tech but given how much more comfortable the new design is, it’s not a deal-breaker by any means and we definitely recommend the Echo Buds 2.
Read our in-depth Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

Research and buying tips

Can earbuds damage your ears?
Yes, because of their isolation and because the drivers are closer to your eardrums, it is not recommended to listen at higher volumes for extended periods of time. Check out our helpful noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) explainer for how to avoid this from happening.
Are earbuds waterproof?
Many are water-resistant, few can be fully submerged. We recommend checking for an IP rating if you want to make sure you are treating them properly.
Can earbuds sound as good as over-ear headphones?
Yes, at the high end, in-ear monitors can sound as good as virtually any headphones on the market. That said, you’ll have to pay a hefty premium to get top-tier sound.
How should earbuds fit?
Comfortably and securely. You may want to find a pair with earfins or earclips if you are planning on working out.
Should I use earbuds when driving?
No. It is dangerous and illegal in many regions.
Glossary

Driver: The unit that produces sound in a headphone, made up of magnets, voice coils, and other materials. Typically, the larger the driver, the more power a headphone has, and bigger drivers inside in-ear headphones generally indicate that a better range of frequencies can be reproduced.
Dynamic driver: A single driver capable of covering the entire frequency range. The diaphragm is connected directly to a voice coil in the headphone, with the voice coil moving between magnets to produce sound.
Balance armature driver: In a balanced armature driver, the headphone’s diaphragm is connected to the armature, with micro-vibrations producing the sound. Most balanced armature drivers are best within a specific frequency range, which is why many headphones contain multiple balanced drivers, with certain frequencies divided between drivers for full-spectrum sound.
Soundstage: The perceived size and depth of the sound coming through the headphones.
Passive noise isolation: Noise that is blocked out by the headphone or earbud based on its physical shape and size in your ear.
Frequency response: The spectrum of frequencies that a headphone can reliably reproduce. Typically, this is 20Hz-20kHz — a spectrum that is widely regarded as the limits of human hearing. However, some models claim a frequency response as high as 40kHz, which some regard as necessary to reproduce hi-res audio.

How we test
We test headphones and earbuds the way normal people live.
We run every pair of earbuds through a rigorous process over several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we test that, too.
We also move up to high-resolution audio files, as well as a wide variety of sources, including plugging in directly to a PC or Mac, using USB DACs (digital-to-analog converters), and employing high-quality dedicated portable players and amplifiers. Finally, we compare the earbuds to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above, to find out if they can punch above their weight.

Editors’ Recommendations

One of the best streaming gadgets for 2021

Your smart TV probably has a number of popular streaming apps built-in, like Netflix or YouTube. But if your TV isn’t “smart” or if you want to expand beyond the biggest of the streaming services, your next step is finding a high-quality streaming device to watch your favorite movies, whether they’re on Netflix or elsewhere.
Not only do dedicated streaming devices have more apps and features than a typical smart TV, but streaming services often enable new formats (like Dolby Atmos) on these devices before they’re added to TVs. Plus, they can add valuable features like Apple AirPlay 2, or Google Chromecast.
Of all the choices out there, we think the Google Chromecast with Google TV is the best all-around smart streaming device. It’s tiny, it’s powerful, it’s versatile, and most people will find it an affordable option.
We’ll explain our choice in greater detail below, but don’t worry — if the new Chromecast isn’t right for you, we’ve pulled together a list of smart streaming device alternatives, each with its own unique strengths.
The best streaming devices at a glance

The best streaming device: Google Chromecast with Google TV

Why should you buy this? It’s all of the best parts of Google’s Chromecast, and it’s a full media streamer too.

Who’s it for? Those who want an affordable and capable alternative to Roku, Apple, and Amazon.
Why we picked the Chromecast with Google TV:
Google’s $70 Chromecast Ultra was a pretty good pick if you wanted a no-nonsense 4K UHD streaming device, but the new Chromecast with Google TV totally changes what we’ve come to expect from a Chromecast device — and what we expect to pay for it.
At just $50, the Chromecast with Google TV is already a great deal if you liked the Chromecast Ultra — it’s $20 cheaper and can do all of the same things. But it does way more too. It’s a fully functional Android TV streamer, equipped with its own voice-capable remote.
That remote can be used to control your TV’s power, volume, and mute, but it’s also how you navigate Google TV — the built-in content curation and discovery interface that acts as the Chromecast’s home screen.
One of the best parts of the Google TV experience — for those who have associated their streaming subscriptions to their Google account — is that it automatically pulls these subscribed services into your home screen, with no awkward and time-consuming entering of account names and passwords.
Google TV can pull content recommendations from over 30 of the top streaming services (as long as you’re a subscriber) but you can add any streaming app that is available for Android TV on the Google Play store. Speaking of
If you’re a YouTube TV subscriber, it gets even better. Under the Google TV Live tab, you can access the full YouTube TV channel guide as well as all of the service’s DVR features.
You can build your own watchlist, with individual user profiles, and these can be accessed on the go via the Google TV app for Android devices.
There’s no lack of media format support — the Chromecast has HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos all built-in. If you’re a gamer, you can now take advantage of Google’s Stadia cloud gaming platform on the new Chromecast.
Doing the initial setup takes some time, especially if you don’t already have the Google Home app on your phone, but once you’re done, the Google Chromecast with Google TV will reward you with a highly engaging, personalized, and future-proofed way to enjoy all that the streaming world has to offer. And at just $50, we can’t think of a better value.
Read our in-depth Google Chromecast with Google TV review
The best streaming stick: Roku Streaming Stick+
Caleb Denison/Digital Trends
Why should you buy this? It’s the best streaming stick on the market, and it’s affordable to boot.

Who’s it for? Anyone who wants to stream 4K and HDR through an easy-breezy interface.
Why we picked the Roku Streaming Stick+:
Though it’s now one of the oldest devices on this list, the Roku Streaming Stick+ still has one of the best features-to-price ratios among streaming devices out there. You’ll be able to experience 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos Audio through this tiny device that looks like a USB thumb drive and easily hides behind your TV.
The discreet design extends beyond just its physical profile. Thanks to powerful 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless support, you’ll be able to set it up anywhere within your home’s Wi-Fi range — no Ethernet required. The only actual requirement with the Streaming Stick+ is a TV with an HDMI port. If your TV also has an available USB port, the setup is even easier — that port can probably be used to power the streamer.
Despite being a 2017 model, Roku has continued to update its software and features. Recent additions include Apple HomeKit and AirPlay support, plus compatibility with Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. The superb free Roku app for Android and iOS gives you a second remote control option, private listening, and on-the-go access to the Roku Channel’s wide selection of free, ad-supported content.
One of our favorite things about the Roku Streaming Stick+ is a feature shared by all Roku devices: An awesome user interface. Roku OS keeps things simple, with big, easy-to-see icons and menus that are totally self-explanatory. This makes finding TV shows and movies to watch easier than with almost any other device on the market. Despite lacking Dolby Vision support that newer devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K possess, we still prefer Roku’s voice search and easy-to-use interface. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best streaming stick on the market.
Read our in-depth Roku Streaming Stick+ review
The best premium streaming device: Roku Ultra (2020)
Roku
Why should you buy this? It’s a powerful, well-rounded set-top streaming box bolstered by Roku’s excellent interface and app support.

Who’s it for? Those who like the features of the Streaming Stick+, but want even more speed and media options.
Why we picked the Roku Ultra (2020):
The previous version of the Roku Ultra was already our pick for the best premium streamer, and the new 2020 version cements that honor.
In addition to its support for 4K, HDR10, and HLG the Ultra (2020) now includes Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility, bringing it in line with both the Fire TV Cube and Apple TV 4K in terms of media support.
Like the Fire TV Cube, the Ultra sports an Ethernet port to help improve connection speeds, but you may never need it — Roku has given the new Ultra powerful 802.11ac MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi. It also has a USB port, so you can view content from an external hard drive or flash drive.
The box also features a “lost remote” button that will trigger a tone from the remote (even though we all know it’s under the couch). The remote has both a headphone jack for private listening and dedicated power/volume buttons that can control TV volume, depending upon the model.
The remote has two customizable shortcut buttons that are a snap to program: Simply speak a voice command while holding the microphone button, then hold the shortcut button until you hear a beep. The Ultra is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant-powered smart speakers, and Roku’s Featured Free menu option makes finding free content to watch incredibly easy.
The Night Listening mode of the Roku Ultra automatically adjusts volume scene-by-scene to avoid waking up the kids, and the included JBL headphones should offer better sound for headphone playback as well.
New in 2020 is the ability to use the Ultra as a Bluetooth receiver for any audio you’d like to play from a smartphone or tablet. The Ultra is also among select Roku 4K-capable devices that have been upgraded with Apple AirPlay and HomeKit. When you factor these features in, the Ultra becomes an even more compelling alternative to the much pricier Apple TV 4K.
As you probably already guessed from our look at the Streaming Stick+, we love the Roku OS. From the biggest library of apps (aka “Roku channels”) to incredible cross-channel search functionality, there is no digital ecosystem that competes. Plus, The Roku Channel recently announced that it’s adding more than 100 channels of free live TV to browse through.
The best budget streaming device: Roku Express 4K+
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why should you buy this? It’s the absolute cheapest way to get 4K UHD plus HDR streaming for your TV.

Who’s it for? Anyone who wants an affordable and powerful streaming media player for movies and TV shows and doesn’t care about Dolby Vision.
Why we picked the Roku Express 4K+:
Originally, we had the excellent Fire TV Stick Lite in the category, and at just $30, it’s still a phenomenal value. But when Roku released its Express 4K+ for just $10 more, we had to reconsider: Roku has packed so many features into the Express 4K+, we think it more than justifies spending that extra money.
Let’s start with the remote. Roku’s remotes have always been excellent, but this is the first time Roku has made its voice remote available in a device that costs less than $50. It also upped the ante by adding TV power, volume, and mute controls, which might just let you put your TV remote in a drawer and never look at it again.
If you’re an Apple iPhone, iPad, or Mac user, the included AirPlay feature makes screen mirroring and streaming content from these devices a snap.
The Express 4K+ might not be quite as easy to hide behind your TV as the Roku Streaming Stick+, but thanks to the remote’s ability to communicate with it over wireless instead of infrared, it doesn’t need to be within the remote’s line of sight.
The Roku interface is quick and responsive, and as the name indicates, if your chosen streaming content is presented in 4K resolution, you’ll be able to see all of that detail on your 4K TV. And as long as your TV supports HDR, you’ll get much brighter and more vivid imagery than with the non-4K HDR Roku Express.
Dolby Atmos passthrough is also supported via Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video with more coming soon.
As with Roku’s other devices, what you get doesn’t start and end with the hardware in the box. The free Roku app gives you another remote control option for when the physical remote inevitably becomes stuck between the couch cushions, and it gives you a private listening feature — perfect for when you need to keep things quiet while you binge the latest series way into the wee hours of the morning.
All of this makes the Roku Express 4K+ an amazing budget buy.
Read our in-depth Roku Express 4K+ review
The best streaming device for gamers: Nvidia Shield TV Pro (2019)

Why should you buy this? It offers 4K, Dolby Vision HDR, and Dolby Atmos paired with premium gaming features.

Who’s it for? Those who prefer their streaming with a healthy side of gaming.
Why we picked the Nvidia Shield TV Pro:
Most of the products on this list are squarely focused on streaming video, but despite the “TV” in its name, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro takes a different approach. The device features 4K resolution and HDR streaming capabilities based on the Android TV platform, but at its heart, the Shield TV Pro is designed for gamers.
More than 200 games are available to play via Android TV, with many exclusive to the Shield TV. If you’re a PC gamer, the ability to stream PC games to your Shield TV while you kick back on the couch makes it an even more attractive option. It has 16GB of storage, a voice-capable, backlit remote control with dedicated media buttons (something the previous generation lacked), and it has Google Assistant and Chromecast onboard. In fact, Shield TV is the only media streamer to which you can cast Disney+ content.
The new Tegra X1+ processor is 25% faster than the previous Shield TV Pro’s Tegra X1 and will deliver even better gaming performance. You can buy an Nvidia-designed wireless game controller, but it’s no longer included in the box. Instead, Nvidia suspects most buyers will opt to use an existing Bluetooth controller, including Sony’s DualShock 4 and Xbox One controllers — they’re both compatible with the Shield TV Pro.
For 4K streaming, Netflix, Disney+, Vudu, UltraFlix, Amazon Video, and YouTube are all supported, with HDR support available on select services. It also has Dolby Vision support, which users have been asking for. For HD streaming, many more options are available, including HBO Max, Twitch, CBS, Fox, and Vimeo — basically, anything in the Google Play store — and live TV is available via Sling TV and Hulu + Live TV. Many of these apps can easily be searched using the built-in Voice Search feature.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now service lets users stream games to their Shield TV at up to 4K resolution, but performance is dependent upon internet speed. And with the recent addition of support for Google’s Stadia gaming platform, the Shield TV gives you the best of both worlds.
On the audio side, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro supports 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound. High-resolution audio is also supported, with some formats supported natively and others supported via passthrough. If you’re a Plex user, you’ll appreciate that the Shield’s Plex client is one of the few that supports Dolby TrueHD with Atmos and is powerful enough to play 4K HDR movies without server-based transcoding.
If you’d like to save some money, the $130 Shield TV (2019) has all  the same streaming capabilities as the Shield TV Pro, but it lacks any USB ports, and it can’t be used as a Plex Media Server.
The best streaming device for Apple lovers: Apple TV 4K (2021)

Apple

Why should you buy this?

Who’s it for? Devotees of Apple’s ecosystem who want a top-flight streaming media experience.
Why we picked the Apple TV 4K (2021):
Let’s start with what the Apple TV 4K supports, which in short is pretty much everything. Dolby Vision at up to 60 frames per second, HDR10, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Atmos, HDMI 2.1 with ARC and eARC support. It’s a techno tour de force and more powerful than the previous version thanks to a new processor: The A12 Bionic chip.
If you own one or more Apple HomePod or HomePod Mini smart speakers, these can be connected wirelessly to give you another high-quality audio alternative to a big, bulky soundbar.
There are thousands of apps for the tvOS software, and we can’t think of a single streaming service that isn’t available. In fact, most new features from these companies show up on the Apple TV 4K before they get to other platforms.
With the preeminent AirPlay device in Apple’s arsenal, you can mirror the contents of an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to your TV and stream from hundreds of apps. This works the other way too: The Apple TV 4K can AirPlay its audio to any AirPlay 2-compatible speaker.
It’s the big-screen home of Apple Arcade, which turns the small black box into a capable casual gaming platform that works with both Sony and Xbox Bluetooth wireless game controllers — even the most recent PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X  controllers. Recent updates add picture-in-picture capabilities and the ability to pair two sets of Apple’s AirPods at the same time for completely silent listening.
It’s also worth mentioning that as we are still in the midst of a pandemic, Apple Fitness+, which only works on Apple devices, is a great way to turn your Apple TV 4K into your own personal home gym.
You can use Siri to search for content from any of the streaming services that Apple supports, with intuitive questions and statements like “Show me 4K movies on Netflix” instead of resorting to awkward jargon. And though Apple’s library of apps isn’t as diverse as Roku’s, you can access all of the majors like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime Video.
Speaking of Siri, for some, the biggest advantage of Apple’s new streamer is the new remote. Gone is the flat touchpad that so many grew to dislike, replaced with a physical directional pad that is — wait for it — also a touchpad. You get the best of both worlds. Apple has also added a power button, which combines with the volume buttons for better TV control, and a new side-mounted push-to-talk mic button makes speaking to Siri more intuitive.
With Dolby Atmos, 4K, and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10, it’s got the support you need to watch and listen to the newest formats, though beware: It is super picky about which HDMI cables you’re using and might well prevent you from seeing Dolby Vision if your cables aren’t rated for ultrahigh-speed connections.
Speaking of Dolby Atmos, now that Apple has added thousands of Dolby Atmos Music tracks to Apple Music, an Apple TV 4K connected to a Dolby Atmos-capable soundbar or A/V receiver is a fantastic way to experience this immersive music format. When tvOS 15 launches in the fall of 2021, you’ll be able to enjoy head-tracking-based spatial audio when using Apple AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.
Is the Apple TV 4K worth its hefty price tag? We’re on the fence there, but if you’re one of those “all-Apple-everything” types, this is the streaming device for you. This is even more true now that the iPhone 12 series of phones can record and play back Dolby Vision HDR video, which makes an Apple TV 4K the perfect big-screen companion.
One last thing we want to point out: Although many other third-party devices and smart TVs now have Apple’s TV app (along with access to Apple TV+), we think the Apple TV 4K is the best way to experience it. You’ll probably get faster updates and better OS integration with Apple TV. Keep that in mind if Apple TV+ is important to you.
Read our in-depth Apple TV 4K (2021) review
The best streaming device for those who want to ditch their remotes: Amazon Fire TV Cube
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Why should you buy this? The Cube isn’t just an excellent streaming device — it can control your entire entertainment system better than your remotes can.

Who’s it for? Those looking for a streamlined, Alexa-driven home entertainment experience.
Why we picked the Amazon Fire TV Cube:
When the Fire TV Cube debuted, it was (and still is) the only streaming media device to feature a built-in smart speaker. That alone is a pretty good reason to consider it — totally hands-free voice commands are very, ahem, handy. But the Cube is way more than Alexa trapped inside a streaming box. It’s loaded with powerful tech and features that will let you control just about everything in your entertainment center with minimal need for a remote.
Thanks to ports supporting HDMI CEC and HDMI ARC alongside included IR blasters, you’ll be able to use voice commands to turn on your TV, swap between apps, and even switch inputs over to other connected devices like gaming consoles, A/V receivers, and Blu-ray players. You can direct Alexa to do things like “play Snowpiercer,” and the Cube will switch on the TV and sound system and immediately start up the show on Netflix — all without a remote. It’s pretty much the home theater equivalent of talking to the computer on the Enterprise.
While Alexa requires specific voice commands out of the box, the A.I. assistant will learn to recognize your input style. Amazon also promises to continually update Alexa’s voice recognition abilities and tune the assistant to meet the needs of users, meaning simple, even vague speech may be recognized as more people use it.
The Cube’s nature as a home theater control hub may be its biggest selling point — especially now that Logitech has exited the smart remote business —  but it is also just an excellent streamer. It’s capable of 4K and HDR playback, it has built-in support for Dolby Atmos, and comes with an Ethernet adapter for the most reliable data connection possible — something lacking in other Fire TV devices.
In 2019, Amazon released a refreshed model that added HDR10+ and — more importantly — Dolby Vision, the lack of which was a big knock on the original. With that, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is better than ever. There are a lot of reasons to love the Fire TV Cube, but it’s the all-in-one control afforded by HDMI CEC support, the IR blaster, and Alexa voice commands that makes it the ultimate home theater companion for those who never want to reach for their remote again.
Read our in-depth Fire TV Cube review
Other information
How we test
We test our streaming players over a period of days or weeks, replicating exactly how you’d use them in real-life scenarios. That includes testing them for speed, convenience, intuitiveness, and a variety of features. Accessibility to a wide variety of apps is also crucial — after all, most TVs and Blu-ray players are already set up for basic streaming — so a designated streamer should offer something more.
A streamer might have the best hardware in the world, but this won’t matter if you can only watch content from one streaming service. To meet our standard, a streaming media player ideally supports all or most of the major content providers, as well as a wide variety of newer features like 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Finally, we look at how much quality and how many features you get on a dollar-by-dollar scale to ensure each of our top streamers is not only a great experience but also a great value.
Is now a good time to buy?
The streaming media device category is fiercely competitive, and new models appear each year. That said, even older models tend to enjoy long lifespans. The Apple TV 4K (2017), for instance, is four years old and Apple shows no signs of dropping support for it.
The most recent products are:

Walmart onn. FHD Streaming Device
Apple TV 4K (2021)
Roku Express 4K+
Chromecast with Google TV
Roku Ultra (2020)
Fire TV Stick Lite

Platform differences
Roku: Roku’s interface is consistent across every model, whether you’re talking the top-of-the-line Ultra model or the entry-level Express. There is also a certain look to Roku apps, and you won’t find interface differences across different apps as much as you might on other platforms.
As we’ve mentioned before, you’ll find nearly every streaming service or channel you care about represented here, and unlike certain other platforms, you won’t find any gaps, with the notable exception of iTunes, which is only available on Apple streamers.
Amazon: Amazon offers four Fire TV models — the Fire TV Stick Lite, the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Cube and the new Fire TV user interface puts a greater emphasis on content discovery and curation — it’s quite similar to Google TV.
As of June 24, 2021, you can add the Peacock app to Fire TV devices, which leaves Google Play as just about the only major service that isn’t available (there is a workaround). It used to be much worse: Vudu, HBO Max, and YouTube were all unavailable at one point or another, but all are now on Fire TV.
Apple TV: The Apple TV user interface lies somewhere between the Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Apps have a fairly consistent look, but you’ll always be able to tell when you’re watching on an Apple TV. Apple would prefer users to buy and rent content via iTunes, so you won’t currently find an app for Google Play Movies and TV. There’s a workaround: Make sure you’re signed into the YouTube app and your purchases should show up. Failing that, Google Play offers a mobile app that allows content to be streamed to an Apple TV via AirPlay — but only from an iOS device.
Android TV (Nvidia Shield, Chromecast with Google TV): Android TV is a little different from the other options here in that manufacturers can put their own spin on the interface, similar to phone manufacturers with Android.
You’ll find that many apps exhibit plenty of individuality on Shield TV and Chromecast with Google TV, which contrasts with the visual in-app consistency with Roku apps. There were some annoying gaps early on, such as Amazon Video not being available out of the box outside the U.S., though that issue has since been rectified. Generally speaking, Android TV devices include the Google Assistant for voice commands and smart home control and have Chromecast built-in too.
Google is said to be slowly migrating Android TV over to the Google TV interface, which debuted on the Chromecast with Google TV. This interface de-emphasizes individual apps in favor of a curated and personalized content recommendation layout that is arguably much more helpful when trying to find something to watch.
Chromecast: Until the debut of the newest version of Chromecast with Google TV, Chromecast ran entirely on the magical power of casting — i.e., beaming content from one device wirelessly to your TV. Everything about the Chromecast was controlled via your casting device — including app search, content playback, and even private listening modes — whether that’s an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet, a Windows PC, or a Mac.
But the new Chromecast with Google TV changes that script, bringing in a handy remote control and on-screen interface. Essentially, this new $50 dongle is the best of both worlds.
Words and terms you need to know

4K Ultra HD: While no longer the highest resolution available (that title goes to 8K), 4K Ultra HD is the highest resolution with significant support from content creators and distributors. At around four times that of 1080p HD (3840 x 2160), it’s the standard for all but the most expensive new TVs.
802.11ac Wi-Fi: Superseded by Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ac is still plenty fast — fast enough even for streaming 4K HDR content — but it’s not as reliable (or as fast) as Ethernet.
Android TV: An app-centric smart TV platform powered by Google’s Android software and available across smart TVs, set-top boxes, and more.
Google TV: A curated and personalized smart TV interface that runs on top of the Android TV software. We expect that Google will eventually make the Google TV experience the default for all Android TV devices.
Casting: A term, popularized by Google, for making content found on a mobile device or PC and appear on a TV or wireless speaker.
High Dynamic Range (HDR): Short for High Dynamic Range, HDR offers better contrast and more colors than standard dynamic range. It’s considered by many to be a more notable visual improvement than the jump from 1080p Full HD to 4K Ultra HD resolution. Not all media streamers support it, and of those that do, not every flavor of HDR is necessarily supported.
HDR10: The most widely adopted HDR format. If you buy an HDR TV, it may support other formats too, but it will always have HDR10.
Dolby Vision: A dynamic HDR format (as opposed to the static HDR10), Dolby Vision has several advantages, such as the ability to gauge your HDR TV’s capabilities and tailor the HDR experience. Not all TVs or media streamers support it, however, so be sure to check the specifications before you buy.
HDR10+: A license and royalty-free dynamic HDR format that appears predominantly on Samsung TVs (which do not offer Dolby Vision).
Dolby Atmos: A technology that allows sound designers to specify the positioning of audio in an immersive, 3D soundstage. Sounds can be placed anywhere around a room, bringing you deep inside the action on-screen. Dolby Atmos sound systems can range from multi-thousand-dollar setups with installed ceiling speakers, but can also be had in a $200 soundbar that creates a virtual Atmos experience from as few as two channels. Support for this sound format varies from device to device and not all streaming services offer it. Those that do, don’t offer it on all of their TV shows and movies.
Single Sign-on (SSO): A feature that allows users to use a single login to automatically sign in to all linked apps, provided they support the feature. This is supported by each of the devices we’ve picked here but requires an account through a paid TV provider.

Editors’ Recommendations

Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K is discounted in time for again to highschool

Whether you’re headed back to school, or just looking for better, cheaper, ways to stream, one of the best ways to enjoy content is through Amazon, and the items offered in these Amazon TV deals. They connect you to endless amounts of content, for way less. Right now, at Amazon, the Fire TV Stick 4K streaming device is only $38, which means you can save $12 from its regular price of $50. That’s nearly 25% off!

Ideal for students traveling between dorm rooms, the Fire TV Stick 4K, allows you to bring your TV with you, wherever you go. It’s fast, offers support for HDR10+, has super responsive voice control, a better remote, and improved Alexa. If you’re looking for an easy, fast, and versatile way to get streaming to your 4K TV, the Fire TV Stick 4K could be for you. Amazon built the Fire Stick to compete with other streaming dongles such as Roku’s Streaming Stick Plus, but it’s nearly half the price; plus it has Alexa voice integration.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K can be the ultimate streaming device because you can just plug it into the HDMI slot in any accommodating TV and you have all your content ready to go. You don’t need to be an Amazon Prime member to use it, but if you are, it will come pre-registered to your account, giving you instant access to all your Amazon Prime shows and films the minute you plug it in (not to mention all the Amazon Original shows you want). But it’s not just for Amazon content by any means; you can of course access your other favorite content streamers, be it Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or YouTube.
If you are a student, and you happen to have a subscription to live sporting events, or Hulu, or Amazon Prime — you can bring the Fire Stick 4K to a friend’s house, plug it in, and everyone there can watch the big game or latest episode of White Lotus.
And controlling your Fire TV Stick 4K is easy. Using Alexa, you can even ask her to switch HDMI ports. Alexa can also help you control playback within multiple apps, including Netflix (if you want even more controls, try the Fire TV Cube). In addition to Alexa, the new remote has the Fire TV’s patented navigation dial, and all the basics you’d expect, plus a power button for your TV and volume control. But this dongle is also aligned with a remote app, which works with Android and iOS, and gives you a full digital keyboard. Amazing! Especially for only $38.

More 4K TV deals
Want to find the best way to enjoy your home theater? Check out this roundup of the best 4K TV deals, below.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Recommendations