The 50-inch TV is the sweet spot for many people and homes: large enough to provide a satisfyingly cinematic experience but compact enough to not totally dominate the living room.
The problem is that many manufacturers don't apply the same care and attention to TVs this size that they do to those that are 55 inches and larger. It's not that there aren't superb 50-inch TVs available, but you have to take extra care when choosing which model to buy. Our team of expert reviewers has tested hundreds of TVs of this size, and the sad truth is that many should be avoided.
You won't find any of those on this page, though. We've discarded all of the also-rans so we can draw your attention to only the very best models to have survived our gruelling review process. If a TV is featured below, it's a bonafide cracker.
It's also worth noting that while this page is titled 'best 50-inch TVs', it also incorporates the best 48-inch TVs and best 49-inch TVs because a) they are in practical terms the same size and b) OLED TVs are among the best but always come in 48 inches rather than 50 inches.
The quick list
The LG C3’s vibrant picture and extensive feature set still make it the best option around this size for most people.
Budget TVs are hard to get right, but the 50-inch Omni QLED succeeds where others have failed thanks to a consistent, considered performance and impressive feature set.
As many will already be well aware, the C3 is the latest in LG’s long-running and stonkingly popular C-series of OLED TVs. That popularity is well-earned: LG’s C-series has been a near-perfect intersection of performance, features and price for years, and not just compared with other LG OLEDs, but with TVs in general.
The latest model is no different. For a start, there’s simply not a better-specified TV available at this size. While neither MLA nor QD-OLED technology has made it below 55 inches yet, the C3 uses the best 48-inch OLED panel currently available from sister company LG Display, and it's crisp and well-defined, producing an image that’s really solid and has a three-dimensional feel. In fact, the increased pixel density of having a 4K resolution squeezed into a 48-inch space means this smaller C3 looks significantly sharper than its 65-inch C3 sibling. The key TV battleground right now is gaming specs, and the 48-inch C3 very much has the high ground here too.
The 48-inch C3 launched at a higher price than the preceding C2 did, and that was a slight issue considering the mildness of the upgrades. It's not an issue now, though, as several discounts have been applies since launch and the OLED48C3 is now excellent value and has few serious rivals.
Read our full LG C3 review
It’s fair to say that the standard of budget TVs has dropped significantly in recent years. Samsung, once the master of surprisingly capable and feature-packed budget models, struggles to scrape a four-star rating at the entry level these days, so we now have to look elsewhere for our televisual bargains.
Before we received the 65-inch Amazon Omni QLED in for review, we were expecting a TV packed with features and an eye-opening specification for the money, but likely short of cinematic quality. What we found was a TV that combined a very strong feature set and specs with surprisingly considered picture quality. So we were keen to do a dedicated review of the 50-inch model – and we're glad we did.
The Omni QLED’s performance is markedly more assured, considered and authentically cinematic than expected at this level, now or in the past. It clearly isn’t up there with the latest OLED models, such as the LG C3 above and Sony A90K below, but if those are out of reach this is an excellent compromise that will give you authentically cinematic entertainment for very little money (and effort).
Read our full Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED QL50F601 review
Best for sound
For reasons unknown, Sony didn’t launch a new 48-inch OLED TV in 2021. Instead, 2020’s A9 (A9S in the US) was tasked with holding the fort against increasingly large ranks of rivals for almost two years. This appears to be a recurring theme, as Sony has once again omitted a 48-inch model in its 2023 lineup, instead sticking with the XR-48A90K.
Thankfully, the Sony XR-48A90K is still a great alternative to the company's new A95L QD-OLED, which isn't available below 55 inches.
It might not quite have the flawless gaming feature set of the LG C3 OLED above, but it’s close, and a very good gaming TV in its own right, particularly if you’re a PS5 player.
It's fair to say that movies come first with the A90K, though. It delivers an extraordinarily detailed rendition of everything you play through it and it majors on picture authenticity, particularly in terms of colours and contrast.
What perhaps sets it apart from the competition most, though, is the A90K's sound quality. It sounds a bit lightweight and thin compared to larger TVs such as its A80L and A95L stablemates, but it's very good by the standards of TVs this size, producing very clear and detailed audio. The Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology, which features actuators that vibrate the whole screen in order to make sound, also allows the set to sound very direct and spacious at the same time.
We always recommend adding a dedicated sound system, particularly when buying a premium TV such as this, but if you're determined not to add even a soundbar, the A90K is the 48-50-inch TV to buy.
Read the full Sony XR-48A90K review
How to choose the best TV for you
So 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 affordable.
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, 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, particularly at this sort of size. But if you are determined to keep things neat and rely on the in-built speakers, check our reviews to make sure that they are good – 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.
48-50-inch TV FAQ
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 sizes 50-inches and smaller.
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 a really big deal, 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. Fancy gaming features such as Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate are often supported via HDMI 2.1 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. Physical headphone outputs are still relatively common, too, though Bluetooth is slowly killing them. Samsung TVs have done without headphone jacks for a while now and Sony is beginning to follow suit.
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 and Amazon Prime Video on board, and Disney+ is fast approaching a similar level of ubiquity. Apple TV (which is great for pay-as-you-go movies as well as the Apple TV+ subscription service) is becoming increasingly common, too.
You'd have thought that BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5 would be present on every TV available in the UK, but there always seems to be one brand that's lacking (it was LG in 2020 and Sony in 2021) so do check before you buy if any of those are important to you.
Other apps that are less common but potentially worth looking out for include BT Sport, Now, Britbox, and music apps such as Spotify and Tidal.
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 and Philips 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 response 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.
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 best 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 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.
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