It turns out there’s nothing like a year in lockdown to make you properly appreciate your television. Let’s face it, this time last year we were full of good intentions, weren’t we? Learn a new language, finally paint the kitchen, have Zoom calls with all those friends and relatives… but by the time the nights started drawing in, the lure of the TV just got stronger and stronger.
And we’re not ashamed to admit it: watching the TV made us hanker after something a bit bigger and a bit better. We’re not about to get carried away, though – we don’t have money to burn and we don’t want to give over an entire wall of our home to a television.
So given that the economies of scale mean screens around the 50in mark tend to be among the most affordable, and given that most TV companies have their 2021 models looming on the horizon, we reckon now is the time to buy a shiny new 50in TV. Or something approaching 50in, at least. And to make sure it’s cracking value for money while we’re at it.
Which means not buying any old TV and hoping for the best. It means having a good look at this list of the six best 50in TVs around.
What’s the best 50in TV you can buy right now?
The Philips 48OLED+935 (£1,799) isn’t, strictly speaking, a 50in TV. But given that it combines superb OLED picture quality, profoundly impressive integrated audio courtesy of Bowers & Wilkins, every HDR standard going and an operating system with more apps than you can shake a stick at, we can overlook those missing couple of inches. No, it’s not what you’d call cheap – but the Philips 48OLED+935 is worth every penny.
Let there be no doubt: Hisense knows exactly what’s what when it comes to TVs that outperform their extremely modest price. This R50B7120UK (£329) – our best 50in TV for under £500 – is a great case in point – it may be lacking some of the technological highlights of the other screens in this list, but (and it’s a big ‘but’) this is a 50in 4K HDR TV with Roku TV operating system, plenty of connectivity and very agreeable picture quality. For less than £350.
Yes, some of 2021’s more expensive 50in TVs will cover even more next-gen games console bases than the Samsung QE50Q80T (£852) can. But a) they will cost an arm and a leg when they eventually go on sale and b) the Q80T is a deeply satisfying games monitor in its own right. As well as corking QLED picture quality and all the other stuff Samsung’s so good at, our best 50in TV for gamers can handle 4K @ 120Hz through one of its HDMI inputs. And when in ‘game’ mode, its response times are down below 9ms. What more do you want, really?
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WIRED Recommends: The Philips 48OLED+935 is the best 50in TV you can buy right now
Screen size: 48in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Android 9.0 | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 71 x 123 x 3.5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 13kg
By the standards of OLED TVs, the Philips 48OLED+935 (£1,799) is small. In fact, at 48in it’s small by the standards of 50in TVs too. Which, at first glance, might make the price seem high. But be assured: in this instance you get exactly what you pay for.
There’s that deeply desirable OLED slimness. There’s thrillingly complete picture quality, thanks to the potency of Philips’ processing and the company’s unique Ambilight feature – in this implementation it’s on all four sides of the rear of the screen. Each and every HDR standard worth having is present, and the Android operating system brings logic, clarity, and lots and lots of apps.
In addition, Philips has given over responsibility for the 48OLED+935’s audio system to Bowers & Wilkins – with predictably outstanding results. For once, here’s a TV with an integrated audio system that’s able to do proper justice to the quality of the pictures it delivers. And as well as looking good and sounding better, the integrated B&W soundbar also doubles as a stand should you choose not to mount your brilliant new TV on the wall.
Next-gen gamers will look elsewhere, admittedly – but everybody else needs to play close attention to this television. It’s brilliantly accomplished and wildly covetable in equal measure.
Pros: An unbeatable combination of picture and sound quality; Ambilight; good operating system
Cons: Not cheap; set-up menus go on and on (and on); not the gamer’s first choice
Price: £1,799 | Check price on Currys
The best LED/LCD 50in TV for under £500
Screen size: 50in | Screen tech: LED/LCD | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Roku TV | HDR: HLG, HDR10 | HDMI: 3 | USB: 1 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 66 x 113 x 8.6cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 9kg
It really should go without saying that a 50in TV for a price like this is compromised. But what’s so impressive about the Hisense R50B7120UK (£329) is just how mild the compromises are and, as a consequence, just what amazing value for money it represents.
We’ll start with what’s missing, though, as it’s not all that long a list. Yes, this is a 4K HDR TV – but it goes without any dynamic metadata HDR compatibility. Static, one-size-fits-all HLG and HDR10 is what you’re getting here. And it sounds wheezy and underpowered, no two ways about it – so even a very modestly priced soundbar will bring about sonic improvements.
Elsewhere, though, the news is either ‘good’ or ‘very good indeed’. The Roku TV interface, for example, is an absolute model of operability and common sense – plus it is packed with apps. Picture quality is impressive too – there’s a shortage of the finest detail, and the darker the scene the more apparent the shortage is, but the Hisense is no lemon. Its colour palette is convincing, it keeps white tones nice and clean, it can establish a wide contrast ratio, and it handles motion well in all but the most trying circumstances. It’s a very capable upscaler of sub-4K content, too.
Heck, even the remote control is half-decent. At half the price of what most brands would consider ‘entry level’, Hisense is able to show you a very good time indeed.
Pros: Excellent operating system; very watchable pictures; that price
Cons: That sound; no dynamic metadata HDR
The best 50in TV for gamers
Screen size: 49in | Screen tech: QLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Tizen | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ | HDMI: 4 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 63 x 109 x 5.5cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 13kg
To be honest, we could have deemed the QE49Q80T (£852) ‘the best 50in TV for…’ quite a few different things (although not ‘the best 50in TV for actually measuring 50in’, of course). This 49in QLED is a deeply capable across-the-board performer – picture quality is without meaningful problems, the Tizen operating system is second to none where sheer usability is concerned, even the fancy-pants Object Tracking Sound audio system is passable. But for those gamers who aren’t about to chuck money at a new whistles-and-bells HDMI 2.1-compliant monitor, the Samsung is a terrific option.
Three of its four HDMI inputs will handle 4K @ 60Hz information, the other can accept 4K @ 120Hz. So at least one element of the full-on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X specification is catered for. But more importantly, with a games console of any description plugged in, the Samsung is a stable, colourful and, above all, rapid device. The ‘Games Motion Plus’ preset keeps motion buttery-smooth while maintaining sky-high detail levels – but switch it off and latency of less than 9ms is yours. No other 2020 TV from any other brand is quicker.
Yes, Samsung’s ongoing pig-headedness where Dolby Vision is concerned grinds everyone’s gears. The lack of Freeview Play is a bit weird too. But in every other respect, this is a splendid TV – especially (but not only) for gamers.
Pros: Lavishly detailed, high-contrast images; super-fast response times for games consoles; reasonable sound; great operating system
Cons: No Dolby Vision; no Freeview Play
The best ‘affordable’ 50in OLED TV
Screen size: 48in | Screen tech: OLED | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: webOS | HDR: HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 62 x 107 x 4.7cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 15kg
LG is the OLED TV company, inasmuch as everyone who builds an OLED television has bought the panel from LG. That’s Sony, Panasonic and all the rest – all putting money LG’s way in order to get on the bandwagon.
And as befits a company that’s synonymous with the technology, LG was the first to deliver an OLED television of what might be termed ‘manageable’ size. No, the OLED48CX (£1,298) isn’t quite a 50in TV either – but let’s face it, that’s part of its appeal.
But naturally there’s more to the OLED48CX than just its winningly compact dimensions. The big draw here is picture quality: it’s outstanding. The LG has the brightness, the wide contrasts, the inky black levels and the generous levels of detail that have made OLED the TV technology of choice for the last few years. In addition it’s great with motion, serves up colours that are convincingly natural yet vibrant at the same time, and defines edges with real expertise. And it’s able to handle most of the brilliant new next-gen console features too (although it lacks a little of the Samsung QE49Q80T’s lightning-like rapidity).
Sound is very passable too, especially in the context of a skinny screen like this. In fact, you only need to get over LG’s mystifying omission of some of the UK’s most popular catch-up TV services on its otherwise-excellent webOS operating system, and complete TV satisfaction can be yours.
Pros: Big picture performance from (quite) a little TV; good gamer’s choice; nice user interface
Cons: Missing some catch-up services; no HDR10+
The best LED/LCD 50in TV for sports fans
Screen size: 50in | Screen tech: LED/LCD | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: my Home Screen 5.0 | HDR: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 3 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 65 x 112 x 6.3cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 14kg
Here’s further proof (in case any were needed) that buying Last Year’s Model just as This Year’s Model comes on stream almost guarantees value for money.
After all, the Panasonic TX-50HX800 (£639) wasn’t the single most glamorous TV when it launched – but it had it where it counts. And now the price has, relatively speaking, fallen through the floor it’s getting on for compelling.
The pictures it delivers aren’t the out-and-out brightest around, but by balancing decently deep, detailed black tones against clean, varied whites it serves up striking contrasts nevertheless. The colour palette is quite lush and, given some top-of-the-shop 4K HDR material to work with, the HX800 is capable of properly cinematic and thoroughly absorbing pictures. Backlighting is uniform, picture noise is generally well controlled, edges are drawn convincingly, and detail levels in skin-tones are very acceptable too.
And as long as you’re prepared to invest at least a little time investigating its Intelligent Frame Creation options then beautifully smooth motion can be achieved. This is what makes the Panasonic the sports fanatic’s choice: the ability to control rapid, unpredictable motion (especially when it’s occurring on a background of uniform colour) is by no means a given, but the HX800 makes it look like the most natural thing in the world.
Pros: Great picture quality, with motion-handling a real highlight; every HDR standard; a little sonic verve
Cons: Humdrum operating system; ‘only’ three HDMI inputs
The best ‘premium’ 50in LED/LCD TV
Screen size: 49in | Screen tech: LED/LCD | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Smart TV: Android 9.0 | HDR: HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision | HDMI: 4 | USB: 2 | Ethernet: Yes | Wi-Fi: Yes | Dimensions: 63 x 109 x 6.9cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 13kg
In some ways, and when lined up against some of these 50in-ish rivals, the Sony KD-XH9505 (£899) doesn’t look much like a ‘premium’ TV. It’s quite deep, its feet make it look bow-legged and its bezel is relatively chunky too.
You’ll notice, though, that all of these criticisms can apply to the Sony when it’s not even plugged in. Power it up, set it up (its Android operating system makes things easy, its exemplary remote control easier still), sit back and watch it… and yes, this is a ‘premium’ TV all right.
The Sony has what sporting types call an ‘all-court game’. Its colours are vibrant and punchy but never overblown; its contrasts are strong but still packed with detail; it handles motion without alarms and is capable of quite impressive depth of field at the same time. Bright white tones don’t glare or shout, black tones don’t crush all the detail from the image.
Even sound keeps the ‘premium’ side of the bargain. No, of course the sound of the Sony doesn’t compete with the Bowers & Wilkins-powered Philips 48OLED+935 (above) – but on its own terms it’s a surprisingly robust and expansive listen.
So by the standards of 50in TVs that aren’t actually 50in at all, this is a great-looking and great-sounding option.
Pros: Deft and convincing pictures; slick operating system; unexpectedly accomplished sound
Cons: Feet look a bit gawky; no HDR10+; not an obvious candidate for wall-hanging
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