Of all the specs and bits of jargon thrown around with modern TVs, HDMI 2.1 may be the most important. The first TVs with HDMI 2.1 connectivity started selling a couple of years ago, but even today, some manufacturers don't offer the connection. With distinct features that we all appeal to gamers, and capabilities that are essential for 8k TV, HDMI 2.1 is a must-have technology for the most demanding TV shoppers.
If you're on the hunt for a TV with HDMI 2.1, we've made things a little easier for you, especially as not all HDMI 2.1 displays are what they seem. We've gathered a list of the best TVs we've reviewed that have HDMI 2.1 support, along with handy advice about who needs HDMI 2.1, what features are offered as part of the 2.1 spec, and whether you need to buy new cables to really take advantage of those HDMI 2.1 connections. (Spoiler alert: You do.)
What are the best TVs with HDMI 2.1?
While many of the top TVs coming out feature one or more HDMI 2.1 connections, some stand out, thanks to superior performance and value.
The best TV you can get with HDMI 2.1 is the LG C1 OLED, a gorgeous premium OLED smart TV that boasts four HDMI 2.1 ports and category-leading gaming performance to go with it. From the 120Hz display to advanced support for Nvidia G-Sync and unique gaming features, it's the best HDMI 2.1 TV we've seen.
For a non-OLED alternative, we love the Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV, which includes HDMI 2.1 alongside several other best-in-class capabilities and the richest selection of smart features we've seen. But the big draw is the exquisite Neo QLED display, which is brighter and more vivid than OLED, while offering near-OLED levels of crisp clarity and inky blacks.
For a killer value, we recommend the Hisense U7G Android TV. It offers a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports, along with solid QLED performance and a handy two-position stand. But the real draw is gaming. Made to appeal to gamers, the HDMI 2.1 connectivity offers rich support for the expected features and the TV's 17.2-millisecond lag time makes it very responsive.
For the most premium TV with HDMI 2.1, we have to suggest the LG G1 OLED TV, which has a sleek 20-millimeters-thick, flat-to-the-wall design, an enhanced OLED panel and plenty of great smart functions.
The best TVs with HDMI 2.1 you can buy
The LG C1 OLED is a fantastic value among premium TVs, offering an amazing OLED display, a full complement of HDMI 2.1 ports, and the best gaming performance and features you can get. The display offers rich picture quality with impeccable contrast and sharpness, superb HDR support and gaming performance that beats everything else we've seen. Combine all of that with a stunning design and better-than-average sound, and you've got one of the best TVs you can buy.
LG's webOS faces stiffer competition on app selection and features, but smart options, like your choice of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants, AI-driven sports alerts, and gaming features like the game optimizer menu and support for Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Cloud keep it in the mix for the best smart TVs. All in all, it delivers incredible quality and solid value for the admittedly premium price, making it one of the best TVs we've seen all year.
Read our full LG C1 OLED TV review.
The Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV combines Samsung's highly refined quantum dot technology with the tight control of mini-LED backlighting, resulting in one of the best TV displays you'll ever see. Brilliant color and unmatched brightness make for superb performance, and Samsung pairs that with a bounty of smart TV functions and genuinely intelligent features, like a solar-powered remote control that eliminates the need to swap out batteries — delivering eco-friendly design and unbeaten convenience at the same time.
The whole thing is packed into a gorgeous 1-inch-thick design that contains a huge array of smart features, potent Dolby Atmos sound and some of the best performance we've ever seen. HDMI 2.1 connectivity comes standard, along with gamer-friendly features and impressive 12.6-millisecond lag time for an unparalleled gaming experience. It's the best TV we've seen this year, and the winner of the 2021 Tom's Guide Award for Best TV, and a second award as the best gaming TV of the year.
Read our full Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV review.
The Hisense U7G Android TV is being marketed as a TV built for gaming, and the specs make it easy to see why: The Quantum Dot display boasts good color and sharp images, the panel's 120Hz refresh rate will handle the most demanding game console output, and a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports offer the best connectivity you can get for high-frame rate gaming.
And any TV that's good for gamers will usually do pretty well at everything else. Handling both Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus formats, it's got some of the best HDR support available, and Dolby Atmos sound means it has the audio to match. It impressed us in our testing, and it's more affordable than you'd expect given the feature set. Gamer or not, the Hisense U7G Android TV is a solid 4K smart TV.
Read our full Hisense U7G Android TV review.
The LG G1 OLED TV is the updated version of LG's superb Gallery OLED, boasting a premium 20 millimeter-thick design and sleek flush-to-the-wall mounting setup. The design is impeccable — enough to win best TV design in the 2021 Tom's Guide Awards. It's still the best 4K OLED TV made by LG, but as the first TV with LG's second-gen OLED evo technology, it falls short of some claimed performance improvements we were pretty excited for.
That said, the LG G1 OLED is still an impressive OLED set, and LG has even knocked the price down a bit, while updating almost everything else about the set. The slim OLED features a more comfortable remote control, enhanced gaming features, and the latest version of webOS, all while delivering the same excellent picture quality and impeccable sound that we expect from LG's best OLED models. The LG G1 OLED TV stands as a reminder of just how far modern TV technology has come — we just hope it hasn’t plateaued.
Read our full LG G1 OLED TV review.
The Sony Bravia XR A80J is absolutely packed with futuristic technologies: this 4K OLED TV has HDR, a 120 Hz refresh rate, ATSC 3.0 tuner, Google TV streaming and Sony's own Bravia Core service, Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology… the list goes on. Sure, not everyone will need everything here, but it's nice to have the option.
Just as importantly, it also excels at the basics — contrast is superb, colors are rich and varied, viewing angles are impressive and it handles upscaling well. Sound is also excellent and Google TV is a big upgrade on the older Android TV. Against that, the XR A80J requires a little more tweaking in order to look its best; it's fine out of the box, but to really reach its full potential, you'll want to play around with various modes. It's not the cheapest and other sets beat it purely based on picture quality, but as an all-round package the A80J is a great choice.
Read our full Sony Bravia XR A80J review.
The Hisense U8G Android TV is one of our favorite Hisense TVs with HDMI 2.1, and one of the best Android TVs around. With a quantum dot color and integrated Chromecast and Google Assistant, it's a full-featured smart TV that offers great quality for a reasonable price. With support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, it also offers the best HDR format support you can find, along with Dolby Atmos sound. It has built-in voice control with room-listening microphones, effectively letting you use the TV as a smart speaker, and offering the sort of smart home integration and control that would normally cost much more.
In our review, we were especially impressed by the U8G's brightness, which exceeds 700 nits of peak brightness and combines with the better-than-average HDR support for great performance that brings out highlights and shadows. With few complaints and lots of great perks, the Hisense U8G Android TV is easy to recommend.
Read our full Hisense U8G Android TV (65U8G) review.
The Vizio M-Series Quantum MQ6 tries to deliver a QLED display and 4K smart TV features while keeping prices low, and it mostly succeeds. You'll get a budget-friendly 4K set with HDMI 2.1 connectivity, Vizio SmartCast, decent performance and a new addition for Vizio models — voice control. There's a lot to love here, but the low price comes with some compromises that you'll just have to live with.
The addition of voice interaction and a new streamlined voice-enabled remote control help make Vizio SmartCast the best it's ever been, and the quantum display delivers great color reproduction and picture quality. But you'll be faced with a limited app selection and blunted brightness and contrast performance. If you're not picky about smarter aspects of smart TVs, it's a solid option for shoppers who want to save a buck.
Read our full Vizio M-Series Quantum MQ6 review.
Vizio's most affordable 4K smart TV offers a better bang for the buck than ever before, with a trio of HDMI 2.1 ports, support for advanced features like variable refresh rates (VRR) and voice control, along with Dolby Vision and HDR10 Plus – two HDR formats you rarely see supported on the same TV.
It's not a perfect TV, and there are some compromises made to achieve the low price, namely an unsophisticated backlight for poor brightness and HDR performance and middling (though surprisingly loud) audio. But with the best version of Vizio's SmartCast software and a small selection of popular apps, it may still be one of the best TVs for the price, with even the largest model selling for under $1,000 and most screen sizes selling for under $500.
Read our full Vizio V-Series (2021 Model) review.
When it comes to 8K TVs, there are plenty of ultra-premium sets you can choose from, but TCL has stepped things up by bringing the price down. The TCL 6-Series 8K Roku TV (R648) is the most affordable 8K TV on the market, and it's even more affordable than some of the 4K sets we recommend. Plus, it's got everything we love about Roku TVs, along with excellent performance and short lag times for gaming.
By offering next-gen resolution at current-gen prices, it's the 8K TV we recommend — or, that we would recommend, if we thought people should be buying 8K TVs (which we don't). Our only issues with the TV's performance were the 8K panel's limited viewing angles and the mediocrity of the audio, which can be solved with one of the best soundbars. But the bigger issue is one facing any 8K TV out there: There's next to nothing you can watch in 8K, and that may not change anytime soon.
Read our full TCL 6-Series 8K Roku TV (R648) review.
What is HDMI 2.1?
HDMI has been around for several years, but while the HDMI ports on your 4 or 5-year-old TV may look the same as the ports on the top models listed here, not all HDMI connections are identical.
The latest HDMI standard is HDMI 2.1, which features increased bandwidth (48 Gbps) to move a lot more data. With nearly three times the bandwidth of HDMI 2.0 (18 Gbps, or enough for 4K video at 60 frames per second). HDMI 2.1 supports uncompressed 8K video at up to 60 Hz, or 4K video at up to 120 Hz.
It's essentially a much larger pipe for information back and forth from video sources such as 4K Blu-ray players and game consoles and out to other devices, such as soundbars. That increased data allows for higher resolutions and higher frame rates, making it essential for 8k TVs and high frame rate 4K gaming.
Other key features include:
Auto low latency mode (ALLM) detects when a game console is connected or powered on, and allows the TV to automatically switch to game mode, turning off unnecessary video processing to reduce lag times. It's one less step you'll need to take before getting into your game.
Variable refresh rate (VRR) uses adaptive sync technology similar to Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, aligning the TVs refresh rate with the frame rate of a connected game console. By matching refresh rate to frame rate, the TV is able to play games with perfect smoothness, eliminating any judder or screen tearing that can be caused by new frames rendering mid refresh.
Enhanced audio return channel (eARC) is another great feature offered on HDMI 2.1 (but not exclusively, it can also be found on the more common HDMI 2.0 connection) which allows you to use a single HDMI cable to connect a TV to a soundbar or other audio equipment, without requiring additional cables. ARC allows a downstream connection over HDMI, meaning that you can use one of your regular HDMI connections to output audio to a soundbar. With the higher bandwidth and HDMI 2.1, ARC technology is updated and enhanced to support uncompressed audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos. (Read our article What is HDMI ARC? to learn more.)
Who needs HDMI 2.1?
There are a few instances where HDMI 2.1 will be indispensable, with features that require the new high bandwidth connection.
The first is gaming. If you want to get the best possible performance from a new PS5 or Xbox Series X, you'll need to take advantage of the console's HDMI 2.1 connectivity, and that means using a TV that has HDMI 2.1, and using a compatible HDMI cable. Features above like ALLM and VRR are only available in the 2.1 spec, so we firmly recommend HDMI 2.1 for anyone looking for the best gaming TVs.
8K early adopters will also want HDMI 2.1. As the first single HDMI connection capable of carrying 8K resolution at watchable frame rates, HDMI 2.1 is indispensable for 8K. Or it will be, whenever 8k media really arrives.
For the time being, there are no 8K-enabled media players or game consoles, so it's kind of a moot point. But when 8K media does arrive – and it's not a matter of "if" but "when" – HDMI 2.1 is the current standard it will use, so early adopters will want to keep an eye out for the new spec now.
What about HDMI 2.1 cables?
I know what you're asking yourself right now, and the answer is "Yes." Yes, the new HDMI standard will require new cables. Because the new HDMI 2.1 specification offers significantly more bandwidth and features than older versions, using an older HDMI cable just won't cut it.
That's not to say that an older cable won't work. The different versions of HDMI are backwards compatible, so you can still connect with an older cable, but you will give up the bandwidth and features that the 2.1 spec offers, and the older cable will serve as a bottleneck, preventing the higher resolution and frame rates you would otherwise be able to enjoy.
Here are some HDMI 2.1 cables we recommend.
Belkin Ultra High Speed Premium HDMI 2.1 cable
This 2-meter cable gives you plenty of length for connecting a game console or media player over HDMI 2.1, and boasts the full 48Gbps bandwidth required for 4K@120HZ or 8K@60Hz. Durable 2-layer shielding construction minimizes interference, and the whole thing sells for under $40.
Monoprice 8K No Logo Ultra High Speed HDMI 2.1 Cable
The best price on HDMI 2.1 we've seen comes from value champ Monoprice, which sells this 1.5-foot HDMI 2.1 cable for under $10. Granted, it's short, but you may not need much length when connecting your PS5 or Xbox Series X to your TV, and it still boasts full 48Gbps throughput and all the resolution and features that come with it.
SecurOMax HDMI 2.1 cable with Braided Cord
The SecurOMax is another highly affordable 6-foot HDMI 2.1 cable, but it gets our attention for more than just the bandwidth and feature support. From its 24K gold-plated connectors to its silver-coated oxygen-free bare copper wiring, the cable offers superior connection with a thiner and more flexible cable, protected by braided sheathing and triple-shielded to prevent interference.
How we test TVs with HDMI 2.1
Like every other TV we review, all of the above TVs were put through our rigorous testing process. Our collection of lab tests measure color gamut, color accuracy and brightness to objectively see which sets are the best for these key indicators. We use these results to make numbers-based comparisons about color and display quality.
We also test for lag time, measuring to the millisecond how long it takes for content to travel from the original video source to the screen. TVs with shorter lag time offer better gaming performance, an especially important concern for HDMI 2.1 shoppers, who are most likely to be using the new connection to get the most from their game console.
We spend hours with each set to see how our lab results translate into anecdotal performance. We also compare competing sets using a range of content across several sources. With that information, we can tell you which TVs look best, sound best and offer the best viewing experience.
Of course, we also consider the smart TV functions and apps for each TV, looking at everything from the remote control design to the voice interaction.