For many Amercians, 50 inches may be considered a 'small' TV – not exactly living-room dominating, though big enough to deliver a really engaging and exciting performance.
The thing is, TV manufacturers don't always put the same effort into screens this size as they do those that measure 55 inches or bigger, which is why you have to take extra care when making your purchasing decision. Believe us when we say that we've reviewed lots of 50-inch TVs that you definitely should not buy.
You won't find any of those duds on this page though, because we've already filtered them out so we can focus on the stone-cold stunners. If a TV is on this list, it's because it excelled in our comprehensive, comparative testing process and represents an excellent buy.
Before you scroll down and choose your new TV, though, one quick note on sizes: while LCD (often these days referred to as 'LED') TVs generally come in a 50-inch size, OLED TVs around this size are always 48 inches, so you can also consider this a guide to the best 48 inch TVs. 49 inches used to be a common size for LCD TVs but no longer.
The quick list
Best 50-inch TV overall
The LG C3’s vibrant picture and extensive feature set still make it the best option around this size for most people.
Best for movies
Best 50-inch TV for movies
With its almost flawless image quality, movie buffs shouldn’t buy a new 50-inch TV without considering this Sony.
Best Mini LED
Best Mini LED 50-inch TV
Some people might prefer to stick to an OLED, but Samsung’s Mini LED technology delivers a class-leading LCD experience even at this relatively small screen size.
The best 50-inch TV overall
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. At this stage, it’s a bit of a living legend.
The latest model is no different. To put it plainly, there’s no 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 isn’t markedly different to the C2 it replaces (which is just about still available for roughly 10 per cent less), and at its launch price, that might have been a problem. However, some months and several discounts into its life, the OLED48C3 is excellent value and is notably short of serious challengers. Hence why it recently picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award 2023 as the best premium screen at its size.
Read our full LG C3 review
The best 50-inch TV for movies
For reasons unknown, Sony didn’t launch a new 48-inch OLED TV two years ago. Instead, its A9S from 2020 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 last year's XR-48A90K.
Thankfully, the Sony XR-48A90K – Sony’s flagship OLED for 2022 – is still a great alternative for the company's A95K and new A95L QD-OLEDs, which aren't available below 55 inches.
The 48-inch Sony A90K OLED is a force to be reckoned with. It might not quite have the flawless gaming feature set of an LG OLED, but it’s close, and a very good gaming TV in its own right, particularly if you’re a PS5 player.
Where the A90K is almost flawless is in its picture quality. We have never before tested a TV this size that’s this good, so if can live without the extra gaming facilities of the LG C3 above and don't mind stretching your budget quite a bit further, the Sony A90K is a great option.
Read the full Sony XR-48A90K review
The best 50-inch Mini LED TV
While a certain type of AV fan will always be drawn to the greater light stability and pixel-level light control you get with OLED TVs, the Samsung QE50QN90B’s combination of higher HDR-friendly brightness, peerless (by LCD standards) light controls and impressive image flexibility ensures it has more than enough charm of its own to make a convincing case for itself. Especially for people looking for a TV able to take on a bright room environment.
It also has an app-packed (albeit slightly sluggish and convoluted) operating system and excellent gaming specs, including four HDMI 2.1 sockets that support 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM.
The lack of Dolby Vision support is a shame, but par for the course with Samsung TVs. The only other concern is that the QN90B doesn't sound very good, even by the relatively low standards of 50-inch TVs, so you should definitely budget for at least a soundbar.
Read the full Samsung QN50QN90B review
The best budget 50-inch TV
It’s fair to say that the standard of budget TVs has dropped significantly in recent years. We used to be able to rely on Samsung to produce impressively capable and feature-packed TVs at accessible prices, but no budget TV from Samsung has achieved higher than four stars in the past two years – and most have been rated lower.
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 48A90K 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).
And that's why it's a What Hi-Fi? Award 2023 winner.
Read our full Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED QL50F601 review
How to choose a TV
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 colors. 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.
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 colors), the more lifelike the picture. HDR offers greater subtlety and depth of gradations of colors, 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.
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.
Beyond those, you're going to want to look out for services such as HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+ and Peacock, with priority given to those services to which you already subscribe.
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 colors, 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 Hulu, 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 below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you are getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
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.