After a week of going hands on with new TVs at CES, we've gotten a pretty good look at all of the major new models, technologies and features coming to televisions in 2020. It will be a few months yet before any of these new models are available to buy, but if you're starting to look at a new TV, it's always worth paying attention to what could land on our best TV list.
We did see some exciting things in the TV space while we were in Las Vegas, but whether or not it's worth waiting to buy one of these new TVs is another question. While many of the trends we predicted have come to fruition, we were surprised that most of the hot technologies and new capabilities were being debuted on 8K TVs. Current 4K sets are getting only incremental updates, like improved smart TV software and a couple of funky new form factors.
OLED TVs: Finally, some competition
OLED technology will be offered by more companies than ever before in 2020 as Vizio, Philips, Panasonic and newcomer Konka are all planning to bring new OLED models to market this year. After several years of OLED sets coming exclusively from LG or Sony (who use LG OLED panels), the introduction of any competition from other brands is refreshing, and should open up the market to new leaders and lower prices.
LG and Sony are still in the OLED game, however, and they're both offering some impressive models that leverage their experience in making top-notch OLED sets. LG has announced the new Gallery Series, which packs a complete OLED TV, including the sound system and components, nto a super-slim 20-millimeter-thick package that can be hung flat on the wall. Sony's own OLEDs are getting a 2020 update with the Bravia A8H, which boasts an improved version of Acoustic Surface Audio, Sony's sound-from-screen technology.
With all of these OLED TVs on the market, we can safely predict two things: 2020 will deliver the best OLED TVs yet, with even better picture quality and sound than we've seen in years past. But it's also very likely that this will be the year of the affordable OLED. While prices will stay in the premium range when products launch, it's entirely possible that we'll see prices dip below $1,000 during big sales like Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday later this year.
8K TVs: Are you still throwing your money away?
We've been seeing 8K TVs at CES since 2018, but so far, we've been urging people to wait on buying these new sets themselves. While 8K TV still has some maturing to do, 2020 may be the first year we don't actively discourage people from buying the new higher-resolution sets. With new models announced by LG, Samsung and Sony, along with the first 8K model from TCL, the range of 8K TVs has never been broader.
The new offerings include the Samsung Q950 8K QLED, which boasts a fancy frameless design and a new sound system that offers audio quality to match the beautiful 8K picture. Sony's Z8H does the same, with an improved version of Sony's Acoustic Audio+ technology that actually vibrates the frame of the TV with an embedded tweeter to produce sound.
8K TVs are coming down in price, and 2020 will be the first year that 8K content is finally available. The Tokyo Olympic Games will be broadcast in 8K – at least for some events – thanks to a partnership between LG and Japanese broadcaster NHK. And the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles will both be capable of gaming in 8K. The first 8K streaming options are expected to launch this year, and Samsung is pushing a new compression technology, called AI ScaleNet, that will allow 8K video to be streamed within the same bandwidth currently used by 4K streams.
It will still be at least a year before we start recommending anyone buy an 8K TV, but we've reached the point that early adopters are no longer throwing money away by buying into 8K technology too soon.
Smart TVs that listen: Proceed with caution
The other big trend to watch for should have you a bit more cautious, as smart TVs get the ability to listen to everything around them. The surging popularity of smart speaker technology has encouraged TV manufacturers to build the same capabilities into smart TVs.
Since many smart TVs already offer voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and others built in, it's a logical step in making voice interaction more accessible. And there will definitely be more convenience in being able to talk to your TV directly without having to speak into a microphone built into the remote control.
But it does raise some questions about privacy and security. TV makers have a checkered history when it comes to tracking user data, keeping close tabs on viewing choices, app interaction and more. And this information is almost always shared with third parties, usually with advertising in mind. There's no reason to think that manufacturers will suddenly turn away from this valuable trove of data when microphones that listen to the room are suddenly standard in many TVs.
That said, every TV manufacturer we've spoken to has taken pains to make sure that these microphones can be disabled, and will require users to opt into their use, whether as part of the setup process for a new TV, or as a separate function to enable. Rest assured, we'll be keeping a close eye on this development in the coming year.
Upgrading in 2020
The bottom line here is that, when it comes to buying a new TV in 2020, you may not want to hold off on purchasing for the latest TVs to arrive this spring. There are a few things worth waiting for if you're in the market for specific features or capabilities, like OLED or 8K. And if you're security-conscious, it might be a good time to pick up a top 2019 model before built-in microphones become commonplace.
But when it comes to the majority of 4K smart TVs, the annual churn of new models and features may not be quite as compelling as in years past. If you're in the market for a new TV, you're safe to check out our best TVs of 2020 for great models you can buy now.
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Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.