Manufacturers have been so desperate over the last few years for you to buy one of their biggest and most expensive TVs that they've dedicated almost no effort into promoting their smaller and more affordable sets.
But for many people, a 65-inch TV is too big and even 50 inches is a stretch. That's where the best 40-inch, best 42-inch and best 43-inch TVs come in. Lest we forget, just a few years ago this was considered large for a television, and a TV in one of these sizes can still be fairly cinematic without turning your lounge into a multiplex.
Thankfully, in the last couple of years, there's been something of a shift in focus for some manufacturers, most notably with the first 42-inch OLED TVs hitting shops. Meanwhile, Samsung, which doesn't have a small OLED in its range, has for a little while offered its premium QLED TVs in a 43-inch size. That's great news if you want a flagship TV experience at a compact size.
There are, of course, still plenty of cheap TVs available at the size, too, though finding a good one can be hard.
What to look for in a new 40-43-inch
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Arguably the biggest factor to consider when choosing a new TV is the panel technology.
Without a doubt, OLED has become the premium TV technology of choice, thanks to its perfect blacks, extraordinary contrast and exceptional viewing angles.
QLED, which combines LED (or Mini LED) backlighting with ultra-vibrant Quantum Dots, is a strong alternative, though, largely thanks to being capable of greater brightness and punchier colours.
Standard LCD TVs (often, confusingly, sold as 'LED' TVs on account of their LED backlights) are more variable in overall quality but, if you shop carefully, can offer excellent bang for your buck.
Are you planning to combine your new TV with a dedicated sound system? You probably should, because most TVs sound passable at best, even the flagship models. Smaller TVs tend to sound weaker than larger ones, too, thanks to the even greater space limitations for speakers. If you're really determined to keep things neat and rely on the in-built speakers, check our reviews to make sure that they are at least decent – there's no point in a great picture if the accompanying sound is rubbish.
If you are a gamer, it's also worth considering the next-gen gaming features of your prospective new TV. Xbox Series X and PS5 gamers can gain a competitive advantage on certain games if their TV supports 4K 120Hz, while VRR support can result in a smoother gameplay experience. ALLM, meanwhile, simply ensures that you automatically get the best visual experience from both games and movies / TV shows. If you are a more casual gamer or not a gamer at all, you can pretty much disregard these features, and it's likely that doing so will save you a lot of cash.
It's now common to find 4K on 40, 42 and 43-inch sets, even at the budget end, and support for HDR formats (including HDR10+ and even Dolby Vision in some cases) is usually included, too. Peak brightness and colour depth are often a bit limited with cheaper models, though, so it's generally best not to expect a dazzling HDR performance unless you're prepared to spend quite a lot of money.
One last note before we get to the specific TV recommendations: not every TV on this page has been tested at this particular size, but we feel comfortable making the recommendation based on the performance of a larger model. We've noted below where this is the case. Broadly speaking, OLED technology scales up and down very consistently, although the latest, largest models can now often go a bit brighter than their smaller siblings. With LCD-based sets (including QLEDs) it's more of a lottery, with different-sized models in a range often featuring different panel types.
Got all of that? Then here are the best 40-inch, best 42-inch and best 43-inch TVs.
The best 40-inch, best 42-inch and best 43-inch TVs you can buy
For years now, those with modestly proportioned rooms have been barred from owning the best TVs. It took until 2020 for the first 48-inch OLED TV to hit shops, and even 48 inches is far too big for many living rooms. You’d have thought that manufacturers would have released flagship LCD sets to fill the obvious void but, broadly speaking, the quality of non-OLEDs smaller than 55 inches has until very recently been disappointing.
2022, though, was the year that true flagship performance hit the TV small time, because 42-inch OLEDs finally arrived, and the LG C2 is the best of the excellent bunch.
While there have been brighter TVs at this size, there’s never been one with this kind of contrast. The combination of inky blacks and pure whites is intoxicating, and there’s no raising or lowering of brightness as the ratio of light to dark ebbs and flows from shot to shot – there’s instead a consistency that means you’re never distracted from the action by the way in which it’s interpreted by the display.
Add rich but nuanced colours, superb detail and excellent sharpness and you've got a glorious overall picture performance.
There's no better TV for gaming, either, with all four HDMIs supporting 4K/120Hz signals (even with Dolby Vision), VRR and ALLM, to the extent that it's well worth considering as a dedicated gaming monitor.
The only slight letdown is the audio, which is rather lightweight and a bit rattly at the bottom end when provoked by a very bassy soundtrack. It still sounds decent by the standards of TVs this size, but you're well advised to also budget for a decent soundbar.
Read the full LG OLED42C2 review
Look up ‘unassuming’ in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of the Samsung UE43AU7100. This 43-inch LCD TV doesn’t flaunt a particularly flamboyant design, doesn’t sell for a particularly outrageous price – either high or low – and its features list is certainly no Lord Of The Rings-style epic.
You don’t have to spend long in the UE43AU7100’s company, though, to realise that a TV doesn’t have to be an extrovert to stand out from the crowd. Solid processing and a thoughtful, balanced picture that actually seems to have had some care and attention lavished on it can be more than enough.
While inevitably for its money it is not without its limitations, the UE43AU7100 delivers an impressively balanced, consistent and immersive picture. Particularly great to see at this price point is how deep its blacks are. Dark elements of mixed light and dark images enjoy rich and deep black tones, while full-on dark scenes appear with startlingly little of that grey or blue wash over them that so often blights such scenes on relatively affordable LCD TVs.
Good black levels are often accompanied by good colour, and so it proves – mostly – with the UE43AU7100. Colour blends are delivered with impressive subtlety and practically no ‘banding’. And while the set isn’t bright enough to drive colours off the screen with particularly spectacular volumes, there is still an agreeable sense of daylight lustre to the tones of sun-drenched HDR woods, vibrant blue skies and busy city streets.
The UE43AU7100 even proves a little more tolerant of wide viewing angles than most budget LCD TVs, wrapping up a picture performance that trades showiness and aggression for immersiveness and consistency in a way we wholeheartedly endorse.
The AU7100's sound is only passable, with a lack of volume and projection that makes for a presentation without much impact. That said, while it's hardly cinematic, the presentation is certainly good enough for everyday TV-viewing – just don't expect a rousing rendition of action movie soundtracks.
Ultimately, while the UE43AU7100 certainly can't hold a candle to a top OLED or QLED, it's superb for its price.
Read the full Samsung 43-inch AU7100 review
Hot on the heels of LG's first 42-inch OLED TV came the 42-inch Sony A90K, which uses the same panel.
The A90K offers a true flagship picture performance that majors on authenticity and accuracy, particularly in regard to colours, which are rich and vibrant when required, but also subtle and nuanced. Skin tones are particularly natural and lifelike. It's not quite as outright punchy and bright as the LG C2, but it maintains impressive colour volume in its highlights.
This is a brilliantly detailed and sharp performance, too, and Sony's processing includes a feature that automatically enhances the depth of the image, resulting in excellent solidity and three-dimensionality. On the subject of processing, Sony's motion-handling is still peerless, smoothing panning shots and fast action without introducing any unnaturalism.
As with Sony's other OLED TVs, the A90K uses actuators that imperceptibly vibrate the screen in order to create sound, and the result is very clear, detailed, direct audio that's tied to the on-screen action in a way that other TVs can't match. Unfortunately, it also sounds a bit thin and bass-light, as is common with 'small' TVs. We recommend adding a soundbar if you can.
Gamers will be pleased to learn that the A90K has HDMI 2.1 sockets, albeit just two of them (the LG C2 has four). These support 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM. There's no HGiG mode, which is a slight shame, and despite supporting Dolby Vision for movies, there's no Dolby Vision game mode. In short, the A90K is very good for gaming, but the LG C2 is even better. For movies, though, this is a great but expensive option.
Read the full Sony XR-42A90K review
While LCD is no longer Samsung’s only TV technology, the brand clearly still puts it at the heart of its TV world. So much so that Samsung’s 2022 flagship LCD TVs are positioned higher in the brand’s range than its new QD-OLED model.
Also, more usefully for the mainstream TV market, Samsung’s ongoing LED backlighting focus sees it prepared to extend its uncompromising LCD approach down to even relatively small screen sizes, such as the 43-inch QN90B.
While a certain type of AV fan will always be drawn to the better blacks, greater light stability and pixel-level light control you get with OLED TVs, the QN90B's awesomely bright, punchy and sharp picture makes it a very worthy alternative.
It's a great option for gaming, too, thanks to that superb picture punch and a feature set that includes support for 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM, and an HGiG mode for excellent HDR accuracy.
The sound is pretty weak, the new operating system is a bit sluggish and convoluted, and there's no Dolby Vision support, but the QN90B is nevertheless an excellent option.
Read the full Samsung 43-inch QN90B review
How we test TVs
How we test TVs
Testing a TV is a long and complex process because a modern TV simply does so much. Not only does it need to handle a variety of content resolutions – standard-def, 1080p, 4K and sometimes 8K – and both standard dynamic range and high dynamic range (the latter in a number of formats), all of which need to be specifically tested, it also has a sound system with various advanced settings and a full smart platform. A TV is an all-in-one device in the best sense, but that also makes it a challenging review proposition.
As part of our testing process we manually check that every major app – from Netflix to All 4, Prime Video to Spotify – is not only present, but also outputting in the video and sound formats that it should. Just because there's a Disney+ app doesn't necessarily mean it's working in Dolby Vision and/or Dolby Atmos. In fact, in many recent cases it hasn't been.
We also connect both a PS5 and Xbox Series X in order to establish which advanced gaming features are and aren't supported, and on which of the TV's HDMI ports. Is 4K/120Hz supported? How about VRR? Is there a Dolby Vision game mode? Is there an HGiG preset for more accurate HDR tone mapping? We check all of these things, and measure input lag using a Leo Bodnar device.
We then test the TV's picture quality using a huge variety of content, from old DVDs to the latest 4K Blu-rays and plenty of streamed movies and TV shows in between. Every TV is tested against the best model at its price and size – we have a stockroom packed full of Award-winners for this very purpose.
We don't accept the out-of-the-box settings that a TV comes in either. While we intentionally don't go down the route of professional calibration (you shouldn't have to have your TV professionally calibrated in order to get the best out of it), we do spend hours adjusting settings using a mixture of test patterns and real-world content until we are sure we're getting the most out of a TV so that it has the best chance to shine.
While we almost always advise that a new TV is combined with a dedicated sound system such as a soundbar or AV amplifier, many people still prefer to stick with their flatscreen's built-in speakers, so we thoroughly test these too, using a wide variety of movie and music content and with great attention spent to the TV's many processing modes and individual settings.
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Bath and Reading, where our team of expert reviewers do all of our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. What's more, all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended above, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you are getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
How to choose a TV
Should you buy a 4K or Full HD TV?
This question is pretty much moot now, as the vast majority of TVs are now 4K. It's actually rather hard to find Full HD (1080p) models, even at relatively small sizes.
If you're buying a TV below 32 inches and can save a lot of money on a Full HD model, by all means go for it (4K won't be a huge benefit at that sort of size anyway), but otherwise 4K is both worthwhile and, in all likelihood, your only option.
Should you buy an HDR TV?
High Dynamic Range is without a doubt a much bigger deal than 8K, and certainly something you should consider before buying your next TV.
Essentially, the higher the dynamic range (brightness and colours), the more lifelike the picture. HDR offers greater subtlety and depth of gradations of colours, plus stronger contrast.
There are various types of HDR out there, and with different TV brands backing different variants, it can be a minefield trying to find the best option. Allow us to explain.
First up is HDR10, which is essentially the core HDR format that every HDR TV should support.
HDR10 is a static HDR format that applies the HDR values on a scene-by-scene basis (i.e. whenever the camera cuts to a new scene). Dolby Vision, on the other hand, applies this image information (called metadata) on a frame-by-frame basis. This dynamic form of HDR, when implemented properly, has the potential to improve upon the standard HDR10 presentation.
HDR10+ is a rival format to Dolby Vision. Created by Samsung, it also uses dynamic metadata but, whereas Dolby Vision is licensed, HDR10+ is a free, open format that any company can deploy as it sees fit.
Of these two 'dynamic' HDR formats, Dolby Vision is by far the most prevalent, both in terms of TVs and content, and if you have to choose between one and the other, that's the one we'd recommend. That said, you can now buy TVs from the likes of Philips and Panasonic that support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
Finally in our rundown of HDR formats is HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), which was developed specifically for broadcasting by the BBC and Japan's NHK. It's used to deliver all of the HDR content offered by the BBC and Sky, so can be considered very important. Luckily, it's now almost as common as standard HDR10 in TV spec lists, so you should have little problem finding a model that supports it.
What inputs and outputs does your TV need?
These days, it's all about HDMI, which is used to connect everything from set-top boxes to video streamers, Blu-ray players to games consoles. Thanks to ARC/eARC (Audio Return Channel / Enhanced Audio Return Channel), a single HDMI connection can even be used to output sound to an AV receiver or soundbar at the same time as it receives a video signal.
Currently, three HDMI connections is standard on budget and mid-range TVs, while four is the norm for premium models.
The specification of the HDMI connections tends to differ depending on the price of the TV, too, with premium models now commonly getting at least one or two HDMI 2.1 sockets. These have greater bandwidth than their HDMI 2.0 counterparts and can support advanced formats such as 4K@120Hz and 8K@60Hz. Fancy gaming features such as Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate are often supported via HDMI 2.1 (and some HDMI 2.0) sockets, too, though not always. It's sensible to check the specs thoroughly if there are particular features you're after.
After HDMIs, USB ports are the most abundant on modern TVs. You can use these to keep devices charged (often particularly useful for stick- or dongle-style streamers), and some TVs allow the connection of flash drives and hard drives for the recording of live TV content.
On the subject of live TV, you can expect practically every TV to have an aerial socket via which it can receive Freeview broadcasts, but many also have a satellite connection. Be warned, though; the presence of a satellite connection doesn't guarantee that there's a Freesat tuner on board. Without one, you'll receive only a patchy and disorganised selection of satellite TV channels.
Other useful connections include optical and stereo outputs, which can be used in lieu of HDMI ARC to connect legacy audio equipment. Headphone outputs are still fairly common, too, though Bluetooth is also supported by most TVs now and some models now feature the latter but not the former.
Lastly, while some TVs feature composite inputs (often via an adapter), most – even at the budget end – have phased out legacy connections such as SCART. So those clinging on to old video cassette recorders, for example, should be aware of that.
Which TV smart features and streaming apps do you need?
As with 4K, it's now hard to buy a TV that doesn't have a smart platform packed with streaming apps. Almost every TV will have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ on board, and Apple TV (which is great for pay-as-you-go movies as well as the Apple TV+ subscription service) is becoming increasingly common, too.
Also expect to find lots of region-specific apps such as BBC iPlayer in the UK, HBO Max in the US and Stan in Australia.
It's always worth checking that the TV you're looking at does definitely have the apps you use (or want to use), but if it comes to it any gaps can be plugged pretty inexpensively by a streaming stick or dongle.
Should you buy an OLED, QLED or LCD TV?
LCD TVs, which require a backlight usually made up of white LEDs to show a picture on the LCD panel, are available in a wide variety of screen sizes and, thanks in part to the technology's low cost of production, at affordable prices.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a panel technology that uses self-emissive particles – so there's no need for a backlight. This allows OLED TVs to be unbelievably slim, while also offering convincing pitch-dark blacks, strong contrast and superb viewing angles. LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and now Samsung are the big brands with OLED TVs in their line-ups and, broadly speaking, they're excellent.
QLED (Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode), meanwhile, is Samsung’s rival technology to OLED. A QLED TV is an LCD TV but with a quantum dot coating over the backlight. However, the quantum dots (tiny semiconductor particles) in current QLEDs do not emit their own light. So QLED TVs, like conventional LCDs, rely on a backlight. The advantages of a QLED TV? You tend to get brilliantly vibrant colours, plus bright, sharp and crisply detailed images. Samsung's QLEDs have got better and better over the years, existing as a fine alternative to OLEDs TVs. Interestingly, Samsung has now launched its own range of OLED (QD-OLED) TVs, though we expect it will be a long while before those are available in the 42-inch size.
- Not restricted for size? Here are the overall best TVs
- Hardcore gamer? These are the very best gaming TVs
- Need a certain size? We've rounded-up the best 55-inch TVs
- Need something bigger? What about the best 65-inch TVs