The best 55-inch TV for 2021 – CNET

These days a 55-inch television is considered medium-size, which may be surprising if it’s been a few years since you bought a new TV. Companies have been offering ever-lower prices for ever-larger screens — we’re talking $400 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 a second device.

In my view the 55-inch size offers more choice than any other, and 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 of various TV sets 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 new 2021 TVs 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 just started becoming available and I’ve reviewed a couple so far. For the 2020 TVs on this list I’ve included a “2021 outlook” section with everything I know (so far) about the new models. 
  • The images below are generally of 65-inch TVs since that’s the size we review at CNET. But the reviews also apply to the 55-inch versions.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for below? Here are all the TVs I’ve reviewed, with more coming soon.
  • This list is updated periodically.

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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 55-inch TV and can afford whatever you want? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the LG G1 OLED TV is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, with world-beating contrast, perfect wide viewing angle and excellent uniformity. It beat the picture of the LG CX below, barely, and offers a slimmer, more wall-friendly design. If you can afford it, this is the 55-inch TV to get.

Note that as of early June the G1 is difficult to find and subject to long wait times at most merchants.

Read our LG OLED55G1P review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Currently available for hundreds less than the G1 above, and with picture quality that’s almost as good, the CX from 2020 is a better choice overall for people who want a really nice TV but don’t have money to burn. The G1 was slightly brighter in my measurements and has slightly better video processing, but it was really hard to tell the difference. The only real advantage to the G1 is that slim styling, but the CX is pretty slim itself.

2021 outlook: The new model, designated C1, costs a few hundred dollars more than the CX. I haven’t reviewed it yet. It adds some minor new features and improved processing but I expect image quality to be largely the same as the CX’s.

Read our LG OLEDCX series review.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Looking for a high-end TV with spectacular image quality, but don’t want an OLED? The Samsung QN90A is your best bet. This TV uses QLED tech augmented by mini-LED, for a brighter image than any OLED TV. The spectacular contrast of OLED still won out in my side-by-side tests, but the QN90A comes closer than ever. It’s also a bit cheaper than 2021 OLED TVs, but not cheaper than the 2020 CX.

Read our Samsung QN90A series (2021) 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 better picture quality and a 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: The successor to this TV is the M55Q7-J. It looks very similar on paper — the major difference is a new voice remote and a larger selection of sizes. It ships in June and initial list pricing is $800. I doubt it will be worth the price difference compared with the 2020 version.

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

David Katzmaier/CNET

Samsung is the TV brand that sells more TVs than any other, and our favorite Samsung for the year is the Q80T series. Its sleek design stands out compared with 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. If you want a 55-inch Samsung TV and can’t afford the QN90A, this (or the 2021 version) is my recommendation.

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 at a similar price.

Read our Samsung Q80T series (2020) review.

Other stuff to know

I’m sure you’d be happy with any 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

More TV recommendations


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