Best 50-inch TV Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best 50-inch TVs you can buy in 2021.
There was a time when a 48-inch, 49-inch or 50-inch TV would have been considered huge – it's now considered by many manufacturers (and some consumers) to be almost small and, as a result, unworthy of the latest tech. It was only 2019 that the first Samsung QLED was released at this size, and it took until 2020 for the first OLED TVs at this size to arrive (and, as you'll see below, very good they are too).
But what if a 50-inch screen is the maximum size of TV that you want or are able to fit in your room? We've got good news: while a true flagship TV might once have been out of the question, the arrival of 48-inch OLEDs means that's no longer the case. At the same time, competition is extremely fierce at these sizes and that means there are also lots of aggressively priced mid-range marvels available.
When it comes to picture technology, almost all models at this size are now 4K, and there's no need to look for a Full HD model, because these 4K TVs are already very affordable indeed.
Features should be strong across the board, so expect streaming apps from Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, YouTube and more to come as a standard. You can expect HDR, too, at least in HDR10 form but often in the more advanced HLG, Dolby Vision and/or HDR10+, ensuring the best possible 4K pictures.
Read on for our pick of the best 48-, 49- and 50-inch TVs.
How we choose the best 50-inch TVs
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of TVs. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and 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 below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
In a world of ever larger TVs, the 48-inch OLED remains a beacon of hope for those with more modest needs. The Philips 48OLED806 is one of the second generation of such televisions, which promise genuine flagship performance at a more manageable screen size – something that’s impossible to find on the LCD side of the market.
You might have a smaller living space, or want a great gaming TV, a screen for the bedroom or perhaps the 48-inch option is a compromise with your less AV-enthusiastic housemate. Whatever the situation, the 48-inch OLED is an excellent choice, and the Philips 48OLED806 is the best 48-inch OLED you can currently buy.
It takes more effort than most to find the best picture settings, and the default picture presets offered for each signal type are often less than ideal (Dolby Vision signals don't activate a proper Dolby Vision mode, for example), but with a bit of tweaking the OLED806 can be made to look both very accurate and supremely sharp and punchy. The performance is further enhanced by the beautiful Ambilight technology, which extends the onscreen action to the wall around the TV in the form of coloured light.
Last year's Philips OLEDs, while generally excellent, were notably lacking next-gen gaming features, but that isn't the case with the OLED806, which has two 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 sockets that support 4K@120Hz, Variable Refresh Rate and Auto Low Latency Mode. Input lag is very low, at around 14ms, and there's an HGiG picture setting for more accurate HDR tone mapping.
One thing to bear in mind is that one of the two HDMI 2.1 sockets is also the one that handles eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), which means that if you have two HDMI 2.1 sources you’re not also going to be able to send sound via eARC to a soundbar or AV amplifier. This is a limitation of all TVs that we’ve tested that have two HDMI 2.1 sockets and, unlike those others, Philips does somewhat mitigate the issue by supporting standard ARC via its other three HDMI sockets.
While we'd certainly suggest taking advantage of the eARC/ARC functionality by adding a separate soundbar or AV receiver, the Philips OLED806 does sound decent by TV standards, producing a more detailed and dynamic sound than most.
Read the full Philips 48OLED806 review
The Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK is likely to be the cheapest 50-inch TV we’ll see on sale in the UK this year from a major manufacturer. It promises a good-sized, punchy 4K HDR image and all the major apps and services you could need, without so much as an additional box or stick in sight.
It’s a pledge that Hisense delivered so well in 2020 with its R50B7120UK model that it has decided to leave the recipe pretty much as it was for its 2021 Roku TV.
Neither the picture nor the sound are perfect, but both are surprisingly good for the very low asking price. Add in a brilliant feature set and an unbeatable content offering, and you've got a great performance-per-pound proposition.
Read the full Hisense R50A7200GTUK review
There are few sets that scream ‘gaming TV’ quite like the LG OLED48C1, but don’t let that put you off if all you’re after is a modest-sized screen with top-notch picture quality. That’s very much LG’s MO too.
LG has been one of a happy few leading the way with OLED technology for many years now and, even before 2021, the company has had its C-series sets in a really good place, offering some very credible dark detail to accompany those typically deep OLED blacks. And don’t get us started on the rich, vibrant colours.
This year's model boasts improved motion handling and better shading, but is largely the same great TV as before. It also boasts support for every gaming feature under the sun, right up to 4K@120Hz with Dolby Vision.
If gaming's your thing, there's no better TV, and only the Philips beats it for movie picture and sound.
Read the full LG OLED48C1 review
It's official: 48 is the new 50. Time was that you couldn't get an OLED TV under 55in, but then LG launched the world's first commercially available 48in OLED set. And now Sony has one of its own, too - and it's the best TV you can buy around this size.
Sony has embraced the smaller size, making the KD-48A9 (known as the XBR-48A9S in the US) as petite as possible thanks to its tiny bezels and low profile pedestal stand. It does have a rather large enclosure bolted onto the back (to house the speakers, processing hardware and connections), but you'll only notice if you look at the set side-on.
Sony's X1 Ultimate processor makes images suitably stunning, there's plenty of dark detail on show, and it serves up pretty much every streaming app you could hope for. Motion control is still industry-leading, and in terms of sharpness and detail, there's never been a better TV at this size. If you can afford it, this is a superb option, and certainly the best 48-inch TV that we've tested.
Read the full Sony KD-48A9 (XBR-48A9S) review
We’ve seen a pretty dizzying mixture of the decent, the bad and the ugly from Toshiba’s recent TV efforts.
With this in mind, it was pretty much impossible to predict what we were going to get out of the new 50UK3163DB when it landed on our test benches. Certainly we could never in our wildest dreams have predicted that it was actually going to end up dazzling us with arguably the most aggressively ‘next-gen’ pictures we’ve seen from any sub-£500 TV to date.
Inevitably for its money, the Toshiba 50UK3163DB isn’t perfect. Black levels are average, its pictures sometimes border on harshness, and its colours sometimes look rather washed out.
Its entirely healthy obsession with trying to give you the maximum 4K and HDR bang for your buck may well win it plenty of fans, though. Especially in shops where it can be shown running side by side with its subtler rivals.
Read the full Toshiba 50UK3163DB review