The best 55-inch TV for 2021 – CNET

A 55-inch television is currently considered medium or even small, which may be surprising if it’s been a few years since you bought one. Companies have been offering ever-lower prices for ever-larger screens — we’re talking $300 for a perfectly decent budget 55-inch TV — and even lower on sale. And at the high end of this market, just about every nice TV series has a 55-inch size, and it’s often the smallest in the line.

Many of these TVs come with all the bells and whistles, including full-array local dimming, OLED screens120Hz refresh rate4K resolutionHDR, a plethora of HDMI ports, and even high-end gaming features to go with a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Oh, and most of these options for the best 55 inch TV are smart, which gives you access to all of your beloved streaming channels and TV episodes without using a second device.

TL; DR: The 55-inch size offers more choice than any other. As such there are a lot of quality options. Let me help you decide by listing my favorites.

The list below represents the best TVs I’ve reviewed in CNET’s test lab (for 2021, that’s my basement), where I compare the pros and cons side-by-side to see which are most worth buying. Here are my latest recommendations for the best 55-inch TVs, periodically updated. Keep these points in mind as you look over my choices:

  • Looking for a different size? Check out our comparisons of 32-inch TVs, 43-inch TVs65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
  • If you’re worried that upcoming TVs announced at CES 2021 will have some great feature or picture quality enhancement you’ll miss out on if you buy a TV now, relax. TVs are generally a mature technology and our advice is that if you need a new TV now, you should get one
  • Most of the TVs below came out in 2020. The new 2021 models are starting to become available now and throughout the spring. Where applicable I’ve included a “2021 outlook” section with everything I know (so far) about these TVs’ replacements. I’ll update it when more information, particularly pricing, is revealed.
  • The images below are generally of 65-inch TVs since that’s the size we review at CNET. But the review still applies to the 55-inch version.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for below? Here are all the TVs I’ve reviewed, with more coming soon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The 2020 TCL 6-Series has even better picture quality than its predecessor, thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. This QLED TV is also a solid choice for gamers with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, the Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.

2021 outlook: TCL says this TV will remain on sale through most of 2021. I don’t expect it to be replaced until at least the fall, and it might stick around the entire year. TCL will also sell an 8K version of the 6-Series, but I don’t think it will be worth the money.

Read our TCL 6-Series (2020 Roku TV) review.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s that you say? You just want the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect off-angle viewing and excellent uniformity. If you can afford this OLED TV, this is the 55-inch TV to get.

2021 outlook: The new model, designated C1, will ship in the spring. It adds some minor new features and improved processing, but I expect image quality to be largely the same as the CX. As usual, I expect the CX to cost significantly less than the C1 throughout the spring and summer, while the two coexist. LG also announced a new G1 series with a brighter panel, as well as a cheaper A1 version.

Read our LG OLEDCX series review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture quality and better smart HDTV system so it offers a superior TV viewing experience overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive. If you can’t afford the 6-Series, this Vizio is a very good runner-up.

2021 outlook: Vizio hasn’t announced any new 2021 TVs, so this model will remain current until it does.

Read our Vizio M7-Series Quantum (2020) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With overall image quality on par with the TCL 6-Series above and a price that’s not that much more expensive, the X900H’s suite of connections is actually better than the TCL. This 4K Ultra HD TV is the most affordable option with full 4K/120Hz HDMI input capability.

2021 outlook: The successor to this TV, the X90J, will ship in spring. Sony touts improved “cognitive” processing, but as with LG I’d be surprised to see a big improvement in image quality, and the X900H will likely remain less expensive than the X90J for the first half of 2021.

Read our Sony XBR-X900H series review.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than anyone, and our favorite Samsung for the year is the Q80T series. Its sleek design stands out compared to the other TVs on this list — although the ultrathin LG CX OLED is even sleeker — and this Samsung TV also offers excellent image quality, next-gen gaming connectivity and a great smart TV system. The TVs above are superior values but if you want a Samsung anyway, this is a great choice for gaming or watching TV shows, movies, YouTube TV and more.

2021 outlook: The successor to this TV is the Q80A, which I haven’t reviewed but expect to perform about the same, and it’s currently available for a bit more ($1,300 for the 55-inch size). There’s also the QN85T, one of Samsung’s Mini-LED-equipped Neo QLED models I expect it to be brighter and deliver somewhat better image quality than the Q80T, but it’s also significantly more expensive, starting at $1,600 for the 55-inch size.

Read our Samsung Q80T series (2020) review.

Other stuff to know

I’m sure you’d be happy with any one of the TVs above, but a new 55-inch TV set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.

  • In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever, and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality or resolution.
  • If you don’t like the way the built-in smart TV system interacts with your streaming apps, you can always add a media streamer. After all, there are more streaming services with more amazing content than ever before (have you watched WandaVision yet?!) Streamers are cheap and easy to use, and they receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
  • Most built-in speakers sound terrible, so it’s worthwhile to pair your new set with a soundbar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.

Got all that? Great! Now grab your remote control and settle in for some high-end TV viewing.

Looking for even more info? Here’s everything to know about buying a new TV in 2021

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