There’s nothing like spending the bulk of a year indoors to make you appreciate your television. Nor, it would seem, to make you hanker after something a bit bigger and better where your TV’s concerned. And given that the UK’s favourite TV screen size is now up somewhere around the 55in mark, it seems only right that we should point you in the direction of the best televisions of this size around.
The electronics industry’s annual shindig may have been COVIDed down from January’s usual week-long shindig in Las Vegas to an endless succession of Zoom conference calls, but that didn’t prevent every one of the planet’s TV brands from dishing the details of its new products for 2021.
Which means, of course, that all of the TVs in this list are probably going to be superseded by May of this year – June at the very latest. This doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly have become museum pieces or in any way inferior, of course – but it does mean they should be getting a fair bit more affordable before much longer. So do you fancy a nice new 55-inch TV? Now could be the time to buy.
What’s the best 55-inch TV you can buy right now?
As far as combining picture performance, sound quality, state-of-the-art technology and an absolute stack of features while still keeping the price the correct side of ‘eye-watering’ goes, the best 55-inch TV around right now is the Samsung QE55Q90T (£1,299). It’s a good-looking object, the pictures it serves up look great (from any source) and it’s controlled by one of the best operating systems around.
No, it doesn’t cost much less than a grand and yes, there are plenty of more affordable 55in TVs around. But given that the Philips 55OLED754 (£989) is talented enough to give plenty of considerably pricier TVs a run for their money, let there be no doubt: this is the best Fractionally Less Than £1K TV you can buy.
There’s no sterner test of a television’s quality than some broadcast sports action. The combination of rapid, multi-directional on-screen movement, combined with big areas of uniform colour, can be Kryptonite to some TVs – but not the Panasonic TX-55HZ1000 (£1,599). If you want your viewing of all the action to be absolutely solid and certain, this is the screen for you. It’s the best 55-inch TV for sports fans.
WIRED Recommends: The best 55in TV you can buy right now
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: QLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Tizen | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ | HDMI: 4 | USB: 3 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 3.5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 20kg
Samsung has thrown every single one of its cutting-edge TV technologies at the QE55Q90T (£1,299) – and the result is a television that delivers extraordinarily accomplished and convincing pictures, no matter where they’re coming from.
It does its best work with 4K HDR content, naturally (and here we’re obliged to overlook the absence of Dolby Vision HDR) – and with some appropriate content on board, the Q90T ticks all the boxes. Contrasts are wide and persuasive, detail levels are absolutely sky-high, the colour palette is extensive, motion is handled with absolute certainty, the QLED party-piece of bright, vivid but never overblown images is strongly to the fore. And all of this holds true even when the Q90T is showing lower-resolution content, thanks to Samsung’s brilliantly accomplished upscaling algorithms. The QE55Q90T is as close to deserving the description ‘tour de force’ as any television that isn’t priced stratospherically.
It’s specified to bring the best from your next-generation games console, it’s possessed of the best, most intuitive operating system fitted to any TV, and it’s a decently slim object that looks quite handsome even when it’s powered off. By the standards of flatscreen TVs it even sounds passable, thanks to 60 watts of power and eight speaker drivers dotted around the edges of the screen.
No, £1,299 isn’t precisely a bargain. But in some instances you get what you pay for.
Pros: Impeccable picture quality from any and all sources; outstanding operating system
Cons: Not cheap; no Dolby Vision HDR
The best 55-inch TV for under £1,000
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Saphi | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 21kg
Here’s where Philips demonstrates you can have almost everything you expect from an OLED TV without having to fork out an arm and a leg. In fact, the 55OLED754 (£989) adds in a bit more than you might be expecting, at no extra cost.
There’s very little compromise required in 55OLED754 ownership. It has each and every worthwhile HDR standard on board (which is more than the likes of LG, Samsung or Sony can say), and it serves up images that are almost the dictionary definition of ‘OLED’: deep, lustrous black tones, clean and detailed whites, vibrant colours and almost forensic levels of detail.
And because it’s a Philips, the 55OLED754 has Ambilight technology on board too. Nobody else’s TVs are capable of delivering images that seem larger and more immersive than they actually are – but that’s what Ambilight can do for you.
Factor in a decent operating system, a remote control that’s just the right side of ‘awkward’ and half-decent sound, and the Philips is approaching the complete package. It’s even got a few nice little design flourishes (even if it sits so low on its little chrome feet that there’s nowhere to position a soundbar).
Nothing about the 55OLED754 suggests it’s one of the most affordable OLEDs currently offered by a leading brand. Which makes it a bit of a bargain, in anyone’s language.
Pros: Cracking value for money; Ambilight; all HDR bases covered
Cons: Labyrinthine set-up menus; remote control could be better
The best 55-inch TV for the budget-conscious
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: LED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Tizen | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ | HDMI: 3 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 6cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 14kg
How do you know when an aggressively priced television is well worth the money? When all the faults you can find with it have little or nothing to do with the picture quality.
So yes, those faults. Well, the Samsung UE55TU8000 (£549) doesn’t sound particularly impressive. In fact, it’s a little flat and matter-of-fact. And those feet are an awfully long way apart, so if you don’t want to hang it on the wall it’ll need a fairly wide surface to stand on. What else? Umm… it doesn’t have as many HDMI inputs as more expensive alternatives. And that’s about it.
In every other respect, the TU8000 so comprehensively outperforms its price-point it’s almost funny. Its pictures aren’t the brightest, admittedly, but they’re crisply defined and alive with detail. Black tones are impressively deep by the standards of backlit LCD TVs, and the subtleties of skin-tone and skin texture don’t escape this screen either. It keeps a pretty stern grip on motion, too.
And because it uses the same Tizen interface as Samsung TVs costing five or 10 times this amount, it’s a pleasure to use. If £500-ish is absolutely as much as you’re prepared to spend on a 55in TV, then, just spend it on one of these. Then ask your visitors (should you ever be allowed any) to guess how much they think it cost.
Pros: Composed, confident picture-making; excellent operating system
Cons: Sound is no great shakes; could be tricky to position
The best 55-inch TV for sports fans
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: My Home Screen 5.0 | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 3 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 6cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 21kg
In some ways, the Panasonic TX-55HZ1000 (£1,599) is an unremarkable television. It’s not impressively slim, the sound it makes is nothing to write home about, its operating system could learn a thing or two from some rivals, and it’s not as ready to optimise your next-gen gaming experience as many others.
But if what you want from your TV is outstanding picture quality, the Panasonic’s on much surer ground. And if what you want is outstanding picture quality most particularly when you’re watching sport, suddenly the TX-55HZ1000 becomes the screen to beat.
Thanks to its logical set-up menus, it’s easy to finesse the Panasonic’s motion-handling. And once you’ve arrived at the sweet spot, the HZ1000 handles the unpredictable and constant motion of televised sport with the sort of rigorous control that makes you entirely forget how hard it’s working. The doubling of images, or the shimmering and smearing of edges that less capable TVs indulge in, is entirely absent here – instead, you get rock-solid stability and the most natural pictures available anywhere at anything like this price.
Obviously this prodigious talent isn’t confined to sports broadcasts. The Panasonic is just adept with slow pans as it is rapid-fire motion of sport, and it’s this unflappable authority that makes its pictures so engrossing. And because it has every HDR standard on board, you’re guaranteed optimum picture quality from pretty much every source.
Pros: Remarkable picture stability; includes every HDR standard
Cons: Humdrum user interface; so-so sound
The best 55-inch TV for next-gen gamers
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: webOS | HDR: HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 3 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 19kg
LG has been blazing an OLED TV trail for quite a while now, and it shows no signs of slackening the pace any time soon. The BX range is its most affordable series of OLED screens, but what they lack in premium pricing they more than make up for in out-and-out performance.
Admittedly you have to get past the inexplicable omission of quite a number of the UK’s favourite catch-up TV services from its otherwise-exemplary webOS smart TV platform. But as long as you can live with this quirk of specification, there’s just no downside to OLED55BX (£1,098) ownership. This is a very capable television.
It has support for a stack of the cutting-edge next-gen games console features, including 4K @ 120Hz. It’s got Filmmaker Mode, which means you get images as close to the filmmaker’s intention as possible (even if that intention, nine times out of 10, turns out to be ‘make it a bit dim’). And even though its audio array doesn’t look all that promising on paper , it sounds perfectly adequate in practice.
Best of all, it’s able to deliver bright, stable and high-contrast images with the emphasis squarely on naturalistic colours and impressive detail levels. Hook up your Sony PS5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X and it might be quite some time before you re-enter the real world.
Pros: The best next-gen gaming TV this sort of money can buy
Cons: Some very odd specification gaps
The best 55in TV for sound as well as vision
Screen size: 55in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Android | HDR: HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 3 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 72 x 123 x 5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 17kg
You probably won’t be surprised to hear this Sony OLED produces some of the best pound-for-pound images – lustrous, detailed, high-contrast and low noise – of any TV you can currently buy. Equally, it won’t come as much of a shock to learn the KD-55A8 (£1,299) is beautifully built, simple to operate and delivers the sort of pride of ownership that’s been Sony’s stock in trade for donkey’s years.
What might be slightly more startling is how crisp, punchy and involving the HD-55A8 sounds. And what’s probably more startling still is the way the Sony goes about delivering sound in the first place.
The KD-55A8 is fitted with a couple of actuators that effectively turn the entire 55in screen into one big speaker. By vibrating the whole screen (imperceptibly, of course – it would be a rather more qualified success if you could see the screen moving), Sony is able to generate a much wider, taller sound than by using regular speaker drivers. And by reinforcing the sound the screen makes with a couple of conventional subwoofers, Sony has created a television with altogether more audio presence than any other OLED TV that isn’t charging a premium for some bespoke sonic fettling.
Most OLED TVs don’t have the sound quality to get anywhere near matching their picture quality. The Sony HD-55A8, though, is not most OLED TVs.
Pros: Natural, convincing picture quality; impressive sound
Cons: Short of next-gen gaming features
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