The best smart TVs for streaming get you equipped for today's TV landscape, where the latest hit show is as likely to premiere on Netflix and HBO Max as it is to come from a major network. Shows, movies, sports and news are all part of today's rich streaming landscape, but if you don't have a smart TV or a streaming device, you're missing out on today's best TVs. And the best smart TVs for streaming give you everything you need to get every show you want.
Some of our favorite smart TVs boast unusual features like exclusive streaming services and broader app selection than others, but all of our favorite TVs offer plenty of smart features and all of the major streaming outlets, making it easy to get a TV that meets your needs.
After hours of testing and dozens of reviews, these are the best smart TVs for streaming.
The best smart TVs for back to school
The best smart TVs for streaming are also a great option for back-to-school shoppers. Whether you're using documentaries and YouTube videos to bone up on a subject, watching the movie version of that book you're writing a report on, or just want a way to unwind with Netflix after the homework is done, a smart TV gives you plenty of options for work and play.
Check out our picks for the Ultimate back to school guide 2021 for the best gear and deals for this school year.
What are the best smart TVs for streaming?
When it comes to finding a great smart TV, all of our favorites have the basics covered. You need a TV with internet connectivity, generally with Wi-Fi built in, access to apps, from big name favorites like Netflix and Amazon prime video to free streaming services and niche apps that help you find exactly what you want.
Our favorite smart TVs for streaming include the Samsung QN90A Neo QLED TV, offering Neo QLED, which has a killer combination of QLED color and mini-LED backlight. Pair that with a stylish design, rich smart features and fantastic sound, and it's easily the best 4K TV we've reviewed this year.
But for great value we love the TCL 6-Series Roku TV R635. It combines the solid Roku smart TV interface with premium display technology and stellar performance for much less than competing premium sets. If you want the best 4K smart TV for less money, this is it.
The best smart TVs for streaming in 2021
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 TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) offers tremendous value for its budget-friendly price, with superb picture quality and a great smart TV experience for much less than the competition. As TCL's best mainstream smart TV, the R635 ups the ante with mini-LED backlighting in addition to QLED. The result is impressive color and brightness, with some of the best HDR performance we've seen on anything this side of an OLED display.
But TCL keeps delivering more, like THX Certified Game Mode, which makes the 6-Series one of the best gaming TVs available, for consoles like the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. From the design's smart touches, like cable management in the stand, to the always-solid Roku TV platform, the TCL 6-Series R635 is the best smart TV value, no contest.
Read our full TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) review.
The Sony Bravia XR A80J is one of the best streaming TVs out there, thanks to Google TV streaming and Sony's own Bravia Core service. And it's absolutely packed with futuristic technologies: this 4K OLED TV has HDR, a 120 Hz refresh rate, ATSC 3.0 tuner, 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 LG CX OLED is our favorite TV overall, offering a fantastic smart TV with a premium OLED display, built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, and a ton of other smart features. From LG's webOS 5.0 to the addition of smart home control and an intuitive motion-control remote, it's one of the smartest TVs we've ever seen.
LG has improved on its superb OLED with a more powerful processor, the addition of Dolby Vision IQ (which adjusts HDR performance based on the ambient lighting) and beefed up the sound with AI-powered audio tuning. And while the LG CX OLED's premium price might put off some shoppers, it packs in more value than more expensive OLED competitors, while still delivering an unparalleled picture. It's the smart TV to beat.
Read our full LG CX OLED review.
The Hisense U8G Android TV is our favorite Hisense model, and one of the best Android TVs around. With a quantum dot-enhanced display for rich 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 easily our new favorite Hisense model.
Read our full Hisense U8G Android TV (65U8G) review.
The bargain priced Insignia 4K Fire TV Edition (2020 model) is a smart TV for people who want the convenience of Alexa and streaming services in a single package. With 4K resolution, HDR support with Dolby Vision and a huge library of apps and content, the real selling point of the Insignia Fire TV isn't any one feature, but the total package of smart capabilities that are offered in this ultra-affordable TV.
While it's true that you get what you pay for – the performance isn't top-of-the-line, the gaming support is middling and the Fire TV platform is a little too Amazon-centric for our liking – it's still a great option for casual viewers, and it's priced to sell like crazy. And that's before the steep discounts offered for every big sales event.
Read our full Insignia 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition NS-55DF710NA21 review.
What makes a smart TV good for streaming?
When it comes to smart TVs there are plenty of factors to consider, but a great streaming TV has a few key characteristics. Let's start with the operating system.
Software: The modern smart TV is essentially a computer, and that means dealing with software. For smart TVs this means the operating system, which serves as the main interface for all of your menus and content, and then a broad selection of apps that let you customize your experience.
Apps: Operating systems and apps vary a bit from one brand to the next, but you can count on most TVs offering similar support for a fairly similar lineup of apps. Popular services like Netflix and Hulu get support pretty much across the board, while other services, like HBO Max and Apple TV have made it to most TVs, but some are slower than others. Once you start looking at more specialized apps, however, it can be very hot or miss as you consider different smart TV systems. When in doubt, look up whether the app in question is supported for the TV you're considering before you make the decision to buy.
Some brands, such as Vizio's SmartCast platform, may have a limited selection of local apps, but allow the use of missing apps through built in Google Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. In these situations, you may still be able to enjoy the content and services you want, but you'll need to decide whether it's worth jumping through some extra hoops to do so.
Picture modes: For those who really want to optimize the streaming experience, you'll want to know about picture modes. Several brands, including LG, Samsung and Vizio all offer Filmmaker Mode, which eliminates motion smoothing (the so-called Soap Opera effect) and presents movies and shows pretty much untouched, preserving the filmmaker's original intentions.
Other brands, like Sony and TCL, have opted to skip that specific mode, though you can turn off unwanted motion smoothing and color correction manually on the sets. And Sony offers a Netflix Calibrated mode, a picture mode developed in partnership with Netflix to display all of the shows and movies from the big name streamer at optimal settings.
Voice interaction: Other streaming friendly features include voice search to quickly find exactly what you want without getting bogged down in on-screen keyboards. This voice interaction will often include voice controls for functions like opening specific apps or adjusting volume, but voice search is generally the most useful application for TVs.
If you've narrowed down your TV shopping by brand, price range or screen size, check out our picks for the best TVs in each.
And don't forget to watch out for the latest TV reviews.
Don't forget your network
Finally, the thing that might have the biggest impact on your streaming performance might not be your TV at all. If you haven't upgraded your router in the last year or two, chances are high that you're not using current equipment, whether it's a basic Wireless AC router or the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard.
And while you're at it, you also want to make sure you've got one of the best cable modems and check out our guide What internet speed do I need? to make sure that you've got a broadband plan that can handle all of your streaming needs. And we've also got a handy guide to the best Wi-Fi setup for streaming that can help you make the most of your wireless signal, so you never get stuck buffering or watching at low resolution.
Check out all of our home networking coverage: