The best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs: mid-size 4K TVs – now including OLED at last!

The best 48- to 50-inch TVs give you great image quality and comprehensive streaming options without costing the earth

Best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs
(Image credit: Samsung)

If you were to whip out a spreadsheet and plot a graph, the best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs would mark the transition point between 'TV' and 'cinematic experience'. Size does matter: go slightly bigger and you're in for a more immersive experience, and you also get a fair amount of extra flexibility when it comes to balancing your budget and your desired list of features. This is where the mid-range meets the high-end when price and functionality is concerned. 

Don't be put off by the size. Even the larger end of this bracket will suit a compact living room, while offering a leap up in terms of viewable screen over the likes of the  best 43-inch TVs. The experience absolutely skews more towards the full-on televisual experience of the best TVs than anything that reeks of compromise.

At one point in time the best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs were entirely represented by 4K LCD panels, but LG's OLED manufacturing expansion means there are now OLED examples to pick from. Where they were once exclusive to the best 55-inch TVs and up, a big contingent of the best OLED TVs have now been granted 48-inch variants.

Going larger does not only mean you get a bigger screen. Often you'll get better, too: the trend is definitely towards these more expensive panels earning themselves a boost in image quality from similar 43-inch TVs, particularly in the field of HDR; the bigger the screen, the more space there is to give the backlight some love. When you're working with a tech like QLED, that means a significant improvement in colour vibrancy.

Obviously, the larger the panel is, the more you'll be able to appreciate the extra detail that comes from UHD rendering too. Each of our picks here can handle upscaling from standard def with aplomb - and there's a little crossover with the best gaming TVs too, if that's something that matters to you.

Size doesn't mean spending big. This look at the best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs includes some of the best TVs under £1000, best TVs under $1000 and even reaches as low as the best TVs under £500. Even if price isn't your biggest concern, we've broken these down by the areas they most excel, so you can prioritise those features which matter.

Best 50-inch TV: Is this the right size for you?

While 43 inches remains the most popular screen size, a 50-inch 4K TV is perfect for today’s living spaces if you want a big upgrade to your visual oomph. As homes have gone more open-plan, so the demand for a bigger screen you can see from a greater distance has increased. In general, a 48- to 50-inch Smart TV can be viewed well from 10 feet away or more, though if you're a little close, you'll get a a good eyeful of that 4K detail.

Best 50-inch TV: What to look for

At this screen size you should be looking for 50-inch LCD TVs that are fully-specified. That means you can expect a direct LED backlight and local dimming in higher-end models, which will give you more vibrant colours and brighter highlights plus greater contrast for dark scenes in moves. 

To really elevate those parts of movies, you'll also want extensive HDR format support – particularly Dolby Vision and HDR10+ where possible (though most TVs will limit you to one or the other).

Here in 2021, we're also looking for AI-enhanced image processing, which improves the ability to upscale from SD or HD to fill the 4K screen. And we expect Dolby Atmos support, comprehensive smart systems, and additional gaming features from more expensive sets.

Best 48, 49 and 50-inch TVs: the list

LG C1T3 Award

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG OLED48C1

The best 48-inch OLED around - and just a fantastic TV overall

Reasons to buy
+Fantastic picture processing+Next-gen console ready+Great OLED results+Brilliant interface
Reasons to avoid
-No HDR10+-Middling sound

Whatever you want to watch, view, or play, LG's 2021 C-series TV has you covered. It's a mid-ranger, but a brilliant one, adjusting the design of the CX (below) with a number of slight improvements, and ladling on every feature critical for tomorrow's TVs. We're talking about things like HDMI 2.1, VRR, ALL, 4K 120Hz support, the sort of functions that new games console really need to shine - and the sort of thing you'll be grateful of if any broadcast standards happen to change in the near future.

You also get the newest version of webOS, LG's fantastic smart TV interface, which switches things up to go full-frame and works even better for it, as well as adding in support for Freeview Play. 

Perhaps its finest feature is the picture processor, LG's 4th-gen Alpha 9 chip, which is amongst the best we've ever tested in a TV. It's a fantastic hand at image processing, making things smooth and sharp and providing a super-convincing 4K upscale for FHD content. It is also a dab hand at HDR, getting superb results out of Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG content. No HDR10+ of course, but you can take that one up with Samsung.

Then, of course, there's the fact that this is an OLED, one of LG's new 48-inch versions; this means you get all of the benefits of OLED's self-emissive pixels, like supreme contrast and great brightness management. Check out our full LG C1 review to find out precisely why we loved the 65-inch version so much. 

LG CXT3 Award

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG OLED48CX

Last year's LG mid-ranger is the best 48-inch OLED TV for the money right now

Reasons to buy
+Stunning OLED contrast+Fantastic detail and upscaling+Top-tier gaming features
Reasons to avoid
-No HDR10+-Average sound

The LG CX is the sweet spot of LG's TVs right now – it's from LG's 2020 range, but includes the best 4K OLED panel and processing that LG offered last year. And with its replacement having arrives, its price has been slashed heavily, meaning it's a great pick while stocks last!

It's truly a breathtaking TV: the nuance it's able to produce in contrast-rich scenes is far superior to what the LCD TVs here can manage. Moody scenes have a realism far closer to what the eye can perceive, and OLED's ability to have bright highlights right next to dark areas with no bleed between them gives this a level of dazzle that nothing else in this list can quite match – and we really like the TVs in this list.

LG's processing is excellent at taking regular HD material and making it look close to real 4K, which great since a lot of what's on streaming services is still in HD. But with native 4K, and in Dolby Vision HDR, the set really gets to let its hair down… and boy, is that hair sharp and well textured.

On top of its unrivalled image quality, it also has a really friendly and understandable smart TV platform, with superb app support. And it's crammed with high-end technologica features, including all four HDMI connections supporting for all the latest special PS5 and Xbox Series X features, including 4K video at 120fps, Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rates (VRR). Read our full LG CX review for more on why we rated it so highly.

Sony XH95T3 Award

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony KD-49XH9505 / XBR-49X950H

The best 50-inch LED TV for overall image quality

Reasons to buy
+Excellent image processing+Dolby Vision support+Good built-in sound
Reasons to avoid
-No HDR10+-Missing the latest gaming features

The Sony XH95 (or X950H in the US) is the company's flagship 4K LED TV for 2020, and it's gone to great effort to fit in tons of high-end image tech at a more compact size here. The result is truly impressive performance for a 49-inch 4K TV – the panel benefits from a direct full-array LED backlight with local dimming, and there’s a host of image processing features.

These include Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor for top-of-the-line processing (nobody does processing better than Sony, and this is Sony's elite-level chip) for upscaling from HD to 4K, making SDR look more like HDR, and combining with X-Motion Clarity tech for the smoothest and clearest motion you can get.

The XH95 is the ideal 50-inch smart TV for sports fans because of that, but just as much for movie lovers, thanks to its dazzling HDR performance and great contrast control. The images are bright, detailed and colourful, while the exceptional motion handling means you won’t miss any of the action. Our review called this TV the "best-in-class at this price range. It combines barnstorming sound with pictures that, for the vast majority of the time, are truly things of beauty."

Even the sound is good enough that you won't need to add a soundbar immediately!

The Android TV operating system includes Google Assistant built-in, but also works with Amazon Alexa, and while the choice of streaming services isn’t as comprehensive as LG or Samsung, the XH95 remains a great 49-inch smart TV.

The only real downside is that it lacks the latest and greatest PS5/Xbox Series X-ready gaming features, such as 4K at 120fps and VRR – but if you're not into having the very latest gaming features, that won't be a problem at all. Here's our full Sony XH95/X950H review.

Philips OLED+935T3 Award

(Image credit: Philips)

4. Philips 48OLED935

The best 48-inch TV and audio package

Reasons to buy
+Beautiful image quality+Fantastic Dolby Atmos sound system+Complete HDR support
Reasons to avoid
-Limited gaming features

Want a truly cinematic TV sound and visuals upgrade in the most compact package possible? This offers you a 48-inch OLED TV with ultra-rich visuals, plus a stunning Dolby Atmos sound system built into its stand, complete with upwards firing speakers. It's like getting one of the best soundbars included in your TV for a low price. If you just want a single no-nonsense device to give you an instant living room upgrade, this is it.

The OLED screen is top quality, and Philips' processing really makes the most of OLED's colours and detail. Support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ means you can also be sure it's making the most of any footage you feed it. Meanwhile, those speakers are truly excellent quality, and means that Dolby Atmos soundtracks get the height and width they're supposed to have, though obviously it's no replacement for a true surround setup.

Smart TV features are handled by Android TV, which is comprehensive for streaming support, if not the slickest to use. When it comes to gaming features and performance, its lack of any HDMI 2.1 features and middling latency rate put it behind the likes of the LG CX or C1, but maybe you won't mind that.

Panasonic TX-50GX800T3 Award

(Image credit: Panasonic)

5. Panasonic TX-50HX800

The best-value 50-inch TV, and great for gaming

Reasons to buy
+Superb picture accuracy+Dolby Vision and HDR10++Dolby Atmos support
Reasons to avoid
-Smart system is basic

This TV benefits from Panasonic’s extensive picture know-how to deliver breathtaking images of remarkable detail and accuracy that basically unrivalled at this price.

The HCX processor gets the best out of every source using start-of-the-art upscaling and noise reduction, while the rich LCD panel and local dimming ensure a superior HDR performance. Best of all the HX800 supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, so you can enjoy both dynamic HDR formats.

The emphasis might be on picture quality – Panasonic is famous for tuning its TVs for accurate cinematic reproduction – but the gaming performance is also top-notch here, with incredibly low latency. 

The My Home Screen smart platform is fairly basic, but it includes the main video streamers, along with Freeview Play, and also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Throw an attractive design and equally attractive price into this TV's mix, and you’ve got the best-value 50-inch HDR TV. Read our full Panasonic HX800 review.

Samsung AU9000T3 Award

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung 50AU9000

The best budget 50-inch TV for smart TV features

Reasons to buy
+Great 4K image quality+Excellent smart TV platform+Good value overall
Reasons to avoid
-No Dolby Vision-Mediocre sound

This is Samsung best TV of 2021 that doesn't include its QLED panel technology, which helps to keep the price lower. Yet the image quality is still really impressive, especially when it comes to 4K detail – this really makes the most of high-quality sources. It's actually just as adept at upscaling HD video too, meaning it's generally great with streaming services and Blu-rays, while also being an impressive gaming performer.

It also includes Samsung's class-leading smart TV platform, which is really easy to use, and very well-equipped for streaming services. The sound is a bit weak, but otherwise, this offers incredible bang for buck, and is a new model, so is well future-proofed.