Tech

The best 55-inch TV for 2021


Is it time to upgrade your home theater with a new television? Let’s talk about 55-inch TVs. You may be surprised to learn that in 2021, a 55-inch screen is actually considered a medium-size TV. Even more interesting is that when you look at the high-end television market, every nice TV series not only has a 55-inch size, it’s often the smallest size in the lineup. You see, companies have been offering ever-larger screens for lower prices — we’re talking just over $400 for a perfectly decent 55-inch TV — and sales can take the prices even lower. 

Many of these TVs come with all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect, including full-array local dimming, OLED screens120Hz refresh rate4K UHD resolutionHDR (high dynamic range), a plethora of HDMI ports, and even high-end gaming features — including variable refresh rate — to go with a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Oh, and most of these options for the best 55-inch TV are smart, which gives you access to all of your beloved streaming channels and TV shows without a second device. Talk about an optimal viewing experience!

In my view the 55-inch TV screen size offers more choice than any other, and there are a lot of quality options. Let me help you decide by listing my favorites.

The list below represents the best 55-inch TV options I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab (for 2021, that’s my basement), where I compare the pros and cons of various TV sets side by side to see which are most worth buying. Here are my latest recommendations for the best 55-inch TVs, periodically updated. Keep these points in mind as you look over my choices:

  • Looking for a different screen size? Check out our comparisons of 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
  • Although most of these TVs are 2021 models, a few came out in 2020. For the 2020 TVs on this list I’ve included a “2021 outlook” section with everything I know about the new models, but in general they’re similar (and often a better bargain) compared to 2021 models.
  • The images below are generally of 65-inch TVs since that’s the size we review at CNET. But the reviews also apply to the 55-inch versions.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for below? Here are all the TVs I’ve reviewed, with more coming soon.
  • This list is updated periodically.

Read moreDo this to your TV now: 9 crucial settings to improve the picture

Sarah Tew/CNET

No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series 4K UHD TV has even better picture quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. This QLED TV is also a solid gaming TV choice for gamers with a THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.

2021 outlook: TCL says this TV will remain on sale through most of 2021, and it remains my top choice. TCL also sells an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don’t think it’s worth the extra money, as well as a Google-powered version I have yet to review (although according to TCL its image quality is the same as this Roku version).

Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s that you say? You just want the best 55-inch TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my tests the LG G1 OLED TV and the cheaper C1 below were the best TVs I’ve ever reviewed, with unbeatable contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. The main advantage of the G1 is slimmer, more wall-friendly design compared to the C1, so if you value that style and can afford it, this is the TV to get. 

Read our LG OLEDG1 series review.

 


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Currently this OLED TV is available for hundreds less than the G1 above, and with picture quality that’s almost as good, the C1 is a better choice overall for people who want a nice TV but don’t have money to burn. The only real advantage to the G1 is that slim styling, but the C1 is pretty slim itself.

Read our LG C1 series OLED TV review.

 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Looking for a high-end TV with spectacular image quality, but don’t want an OLED? The Samsung QN90A is your best bet. This TV uses QLED tech augmented by mini-LED, for a brighter image than any OLED TV. The spectacular contrast of OLED still won out in my side-by-side tests, but the QN90A comes closer than ever. It’s also a bit cheaper than 2021 OLED TVs, but not cheaper than the 2020 CX.

Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for streaming apps like Netflix, and it’s even better baked into this 4K TV. Picture quality on this TCL 55-inch television set can’t beat any of the models above — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.

Read our TCL 4-series Roku TV (2021) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has better picture quality and a better smart HDTV system so it offers a superior TV viewing experience overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive. If you can’t afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good runner-up.

2021 outlook: The successor to this TV is the M55Q7-J. It looks very similar on paper — the major difference is a new voice remote. I haven’t reviewed the new model yet but since it currently costs $800, I doubt it will be worth the price difference compared with the 2020 version.

Read our Vizio M7-Series Quantum (2020) review.

 

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Vizio’s V-series is our favorite budget alternative to the TCL 4-Series Roku TV at this size. We liked Roku’s smart TV system better (sound familiar?), but the V-series has some advantages, including a better remote with voice and more advanced picture settings. Picture quality between the two was basically the same, so if you don’t have a preference, it makes sense to get the cheapest one.

Read our Vizio V-series (2021) review.

 

David Katzmaier/CNET

With excellent picture quality, anchored by full-array local dimming and plenty of brightness to make HDR content shine, the X90J is Sony’s answer to the TCL 6-Series and step-up Vizio models. This LED TV’s sleek looks and the Google TV operating system score additional points, as does its next-gen console support (it has 4K/120fps inputs and Sony promises VRR… sometime) and built-in NextGen TV tuner. If you want an “S” brand, this is one of the best values we’ve tested.

Read our Sony X90J series (2021) review.

 

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone, and one of its most popular is the Q60A series. Its sleek design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultrathin OLED models are even sleeker. It offers better features and image quality than budget models like the TCL 4-Series, and it comes in a vast array of sizes. The TVs above are all superior values, but if you want a Samsung TV and can’t afford the QN90A, this is a great choice.

Read our Samsung Q60A series (2021) review.

 

Other stuff to know about buying a new 55-inch TV

I’m sure you’d be happy with any of the TVs above, but a new 55-inch TV set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.

  • In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality or resolution.
  • If you don’t like the way the built-in smart TV system interacts with your streaming apps, you can always add a media streamer. After all, there are more streaming services with more amazing content than ever before.
  • Streamers are cheap and easy to use, and they receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
  • Most built-in speakers sound terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a soundbar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.

Got all that? Great! Now grab your remote control and settle in for some high-end TV viewing.

Looking for even more info? Here’s everything to know about buying a new TV in 2021

More TV recommendations



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