Comparing 55-inch smart TVs

Today’s 4K TVs perform better and cost less than ever before. There are also more options to wade through than in recent years, which can make it difficult to find the right one for your space. This is partly because 55 inches is by far the most popular size, and nearly every single family of TV starts there and works its way up.

You’ll want to look for different features and protocols in your new TV, depending on what kind of content you like to watch, whether you stream media or collect discs, and if you like to play games. To the delight of most consumers, you don’t necessarily have to spring for the most expensive TV you find just to get excellent picture quality and video playback.

Why get a 55-inch TV?

Most people sit six to eight feet from their TV. At that distance, a 55-inch TV provides a good balance between seeing the most minute details and having a wide field of view. You won’t be able to make out individual pixels from six to eight feet away at a 4K resolution. If you’re sitting closer to six feet away, you will get the immersive cinematic experience that directors aim to provide.

LCD vs. OLED TVs

LCD and OLED are two significantly different types of LED technologies. LCD panels rely on a single backlight (sometimes with multiple separate zones) that passes light through a matrix of what’s called liquid crystal. The TV’s internal controller tells each pixel of liquid crystal how much light to let through. A set of color filters then process the light that does pass through the LCD matrix, resulting in the colors you see on-screen.

OLED panels eliminate the overarching backlight, instead using an array of pixels that each produce their own light. These self-illuminating pixels then pass light through a set of filters, again resulting in a colorful onscreen image.

LCD panels can get brighter than OLEDs, while OLED panels produce notable deeper blacks. You can also view OLED TVs from much wider angles without colors distorting or washing out. OLEDs generally have a remarkably wide color gamut, although some high-end techniques bring LCD color production to nearly the same level. The biggest drawback to OLED TVs is that they’re usually more expensive than LCDs.

What is high dynamic range?

HDR is one of today’s most popular TV buzzwords. When viewing standard dynamic range content, a TV’s brightness and contrast profiles remain the same from start to finish. HDR content, however, sees the brightness of certain screen areas change in order to bring out subtle highlights in dark scenes and bold highlights in bright scenes.

There are a handful of specifications to pay attention to if you want the best possible HDR performance.

Peak brightness

How bright a TV gets directly determines how well it brings out highlights in bright scenes. Premium LCD TVs from manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony tend to have great brightness measurements.

OLED TVs, on the other hand, have struggled to reach the same level of brightness. Only in the last couple of years have they begun to compete with LCDs in terms of performance in a well-lit room.

Local dimming

Despite what many budget TVs claim, you can’t have real HDR without local dimming. This is a technique that separates an LCD panel’s main backlight into anywhere from dozens to hundreds of individual sections, each of which can dim on its own. Full-array local dimming is a must-have for a true HDR experience on an LCD TV.

In contrast — no pun intended — OLED panels essentially represent the ultimate in local dimming because every single pixel can turn itself on and off at will. 

Color gamut

This term simply refers to how many colors a panel can produce. It’s integral to the basic image quality of any TV. It’s also critical to advanced playback technologies such as high dynamic range.

Do I need HDMI 2.1?

The HDMI standard details how a video signal is transmitted from a source to a display. Unfortunately, the HDMI forum recently decided to completely abandon the HDMI 2.0 standard. The result is that a claim of HDMI 2.1 compatibility is almost meaningless in 2022 because manufacturers don’t necessarily have to meet any specific thresholds to make that claim. Nonetheless, there are some particular things to look for when evaluating the HDMI 2.1 support of any given TV.

High refresh rate

True HDMI 2.1 TVs support refresh rates of 120 hertz, meaning they can display up to 120 frames per second. You will need a high-end home theater setup, latest-generation gaming console, or recently released PC graphics card to take advantage of this high-speed display technology.

Enhanced Audio Return Channel

Audio Return Channel technology allows your TV to pass audio data backward to your AV receiver so you can get high-quality sound without running additional analog or optical cables. The Enhanced version that true HDMI 2.1 supports allows for high enough audio bandwidth to transmit high-bit rate audio such as uncompressed 7.1-channel surround sound and Dolby Atmos object-based sound.

Variable refresh rates

In addition to high refresh rates, gamers will appreciate the HDMI forum’s VRR implementation. VRR allows a TV to match its refresh rate to the frame rate of the incoming source video. This essentially eliminates screen tearing and greatly reduces jitter associated with mismatched refresh rates and frame rates.

Auto low latency mode

Another gaming-centric feature, ALLM detects gaming sources such as PC graphics cards or gaming consoles and adjusts its settings to reduce input lag significantly. Lower input lag means better response times in fast-paced games.

The best 55-inch TVs 

LG Evo C2 OLED

LG Evo C2 OLED

The update to last year’s best OLED TV, LG’s C2 offers increased peak brightness and a wider color gamut in both standard and high dynamic range content. It also implements an improved operating system that allows for hands-free voice control and separate profiles for each household member.

Sold by Amazon

LG C1 OLED

LG C1 OLED

While it’s been supplanted by the 2022 C2, the C1 is still a fantastic TV in its own right, with perfect black levels, impressive dynamic contrast and impressive color accuracy. The biggest reason to get one, though, is that despite being nearly as good, it’s significantly more affordable than its replacement.

Sold by Amazon

Sony A90J

Sony A90J

Built around a top-of-the-line LG OLED panel, this high-end Sony is currently the best TV for watching movies due to powerful HDR support and peak brightness that outshines most other OLED models. It leverages novel technologies to mitigate burn-in risk and supports just about every advanced video protocol released, including Dolby Vision.

Sold by Amazon

Vizio V555-J0

Vizio V555-J0

Anyone who loves fast-paced video games but doesn’t want to break the bank should consider this supposedly entry-level option from Vizio. Despite its low price, it boasts high-performance features such as HDMI 2.1, 2,000-zone local dimming, and a remarkably low input lag of just 10 milliseconds.

Sold by Amazon

Samsung Neo QN90A

Samsung Neo QN90A

It combines most of Samsung’s cutting-edge and refined technologies to deliver a remarkably wide color gamut, excellent motion handling and some of the best cinematic performances home theaters have ever seen. While it is last year’s model, it’s considerably less expensive than its replacement and, in many cases, the local dimming and HDR actually work better.

Sold by Amazon

Hisense U8G

Hisense U8G

Far removed from its reputation as a solely budget-friendly manufacturer, Hisense now produces some of the most cost-effective LED TVs, and the U8G is one such example. Its 120-hertz refresh rate and quantum dot filtration combine to give it the precise motion handling and bold colors you’d expect from a far more expensive device.

Sold by Amazon

TCL S535

TCL S535

If you want to save money without sacrificing all the bells and whistles of a high-end TV, consider this affordable model from a tried-and-true manufacturer. It offers passable HDR performance using the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision protocols and sports the incredibly popular Roku TV operating system.

Sold by Amazon

Hisense U6G

Hisense U6G

There are few models in this price range that look as good with such a wide range of content, whether you’re watching sports, TV shows, or movies. Although said interface is somewhat riddled with ads, it offers great uniformity, surprisingly good black levels for an LCD TV and a powerful Android TV interface.

Sold by Amazon

TCL S446

TCL S446

It won’t win any awards for image quality or premium features, but this highly reliable, budget-friendly option looks good and runs on the powerful Google TV platform. It’s especially good for TV shows and sports, although its black levels leave a little to be desired when watching movies in a dark room.

Sold by Amazon

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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