We've all read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? There's something to be learned from those bowls of porridge about a thing being "just right" — and when it comes to 4K TVs, 55 inches is one of the most popular sizes around the world for a reason. Not too big and not too small, 55-inch TVs feel luxuriously large without entirely dominating the room.
If you just want the best 55-inch 4K TV you can buy, go with the LG C9 OLED(available at Amazon for $1,496.99) from last year. Between the array of features and mind-blowing OLED picture quality, you really can't go wrong. That said, if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a TV, we totally understand. That’s why we’ve tested great TVs in every price bracket—we’re sure you’ll find something that fits your budget.
These are the best 55-inch TVs we've tested, ranked in order:
LG C9 (2019)
LG C8 (2018)
Sony A9F (2018)
Samsung Q80 (2019)
Sony X950G (2019)
Vizio M Series Quantum (2019)
TCL 6-Series (2019)
Vizio V Series (2019, V556-G1)
TCL 4-Series (2019)
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
LG's C9 is our pick for the overall best 55-inch 4K TV money can buy.
For the last several years, LG has released a slew of ultrar-premium OLED TVs. Starting with the C7 OLEDs in 2017 they've been our favorite TVs every year–for very good reason.
If you haven't heard, OLED panels are some of the best in the business. Each pixel turns "on" and "off" automatically, so when OLED TVs display black, they display actual black. Likewise, when they display a color, it emits from the pixel directly, giving it a more pure and unfiltered appearance than the color of traditional LED/LCD TVs. LG's been the leader in OLED TV production for several years, and the 2019 C9 is almost the most affordable one in the lineup.
The C9 series (which is also available in 65- and 77-inch sizes) delivers a justifiably high price tag alongside all the same excellent OLED picture quality, 4K resolution, HDR and Dolby Vision specifications, plus LG's friendly "webOS" smart platform. It's full of great features and a wide selection of calibration options for AV nerds who feel like tinkering with their TV settings. Check out our full review of the LG C9 series for more information.
When it comes to new 55-inch TVs that pack a ton of value, it’s hard to top the 2019 Vizio M Series Quantum (M558-G1). This outstanding, affordable TV offers a taste of quantum dot performance for a price most of us can manage.
The M Series Quantum doesn’t get quite as bright as TVs in higher price brackets, but that doesn’t mean its contrast isn’t impressive; the TV’s brightness and deep black levels come together nicely on the full-array panel. Colors pop, too, thanks to the M Series’ quantum dots.
One caveat, however, is the M Series Quantum’s native refresh rate of 60 Hz. This might be a dealbreaker for folks who need super fast response time during gaming or watch a lot of sports: y'all might want to hunt down a 120 Hz TV.
While we love the 55-inch model (M558-G1), the M Series quantum is also available in a wider variety of sizes than its closest competitor, the 2019 TCL 6-Series. All in all, it’s a great TV for anyone looking to upgrade to a dependable HDR TV without breaking the bank.
Reviewed has been testing TVs since some of its current employees were in middle school. While many proud TV testers have come and gone through Reviewed's labs, the current Home Theater team consists of Michael Desjardin and Lee Neikirk. Michael is a senior staff writer and a six-year veteran of the Reviewed tech team. A film enthusiast and TV expert, he takes picture quality seriously but also understands that not every TV is a good fit for everyone.
As Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, Lee doesn't do as much testing these days. However, he designed the company's current TV testing methodology after receiving calibration certification from the Imaging Science Foundation.
It'd be an understatement to say that we're serious about TV testing. Our lab in Cambridge location is outfitted with much of the same equipment you'd find at a factory that manufactures and calibrates televisions.
On the hardware side, we've got things like a Konica Minolta CS-200 tristimulus color meter, an LS-100 luminance meter, a Leo Bodnar input lag tester, a Quantum Data 780A signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use CalMan Ultimate, the industry-standard in taking display measurements and calibrating screens to specifications.
Our testing process is equally complicated and has been honed over many years to gather data that is marginal enough to satisfy curious video engineers, but also relevant to the average person's viewing experience. We measure things like peak brightness, black level, hue and saturation for primary and secondary digital colors, the accuracy of the TV's electro-optical transfer function—you get the idea, it's complicated. Weighting for our performance tests is based on how the human eye prioritizes vision, which means we put "brightness" data (monochromatic eye based on light sensitivity) higher than colorimetry, which is also scaled by the eye's sensitivity, and so on.
Outside of the strictly technical tests, we also spend a lot of time just watching and using each TV, getting a feel for the at-home experience of doing things like dialing up streaming video service, connecting a DVD player and watching movies, using the smart features, and checking out the TV's ports, remote, and on-set buttons—anything and everything that might be relevant.
What You Should Know About TVs
While everyone has different eyes, generally, our vision all functions the same way: we prioritize dynamic information and bright, compelling colors over subtler hues and resolution (sharpness). Generally, a TV can be considered a good TV when we forget that we're watching a TV. We don't see pixels creating mixes of red, green, and blue to simulate colors; we see the real world, lit and colored as it is, in fluid motion.
In simpler terms, this means a TV that can get very bright and dark without obscuring details; produces accurate colors (compared to various color standards designated by the International Telecommunication Union); possesses proper bit-mapping and the right codecs and decoders for video processing; and can properly play the various types of content thrown at it without judder, blurring, and so on.
Note that specs alone (pixel count, measured brightness) aren't automatic indicators of quality, much like intense speed is not automatically an indicator of a good car.
What TV Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is more rife with subterfuge and tomfoolery than TVs. While knowing the specs of the TV you're shopping for is only half the battle, it's the bigger half. Here are the key bits of jargon you'll want to know while browsing:
LED/LCD: This refers to Light Emitting Diode and Liquid Crystal Display. LEDs are the backlights used in LCD TVs, also sometimes called a LED TV for this reason. The LED backlight shines through a layer of a semi-solid substance called "liquid crystal," so named for its ability to morph in reaction to tiny electrical volts and allow light to pass through.
OLED: This means Organic Light Emitting Diode. This is an altogether different panel technology than LED/LCD, albeit on the surface they work similarly. Rather than an LED backlight element shining through an LCD panel element, OLED TVs essentially combine the backlight and crystal array, using sub-pixel strata that produce light and color individually.
4K/UHD: Usually 4K refers to resolution—specifically, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is the current standard/mainstream resolution for most TVs. UHD means Ultra High Definition, and actually refers to a suite of picture improvements like 4K resolution, Wide Color Gamut, and High Dynamic Range.
High Dynamic Range: Like "UHD," High Dynamic Range (or HDR) refers to both a type of TV and a type of content that expands on the typical range of brightness (luminance) and color that a TV will produce. HDR TVs are newer and usually a bit more expensive, but can have four times the brightness and 30% more color production than non-HDR TVs, at least. Current HDR formats are HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
60 Hz/120 Hz: These numbers refer to what is called a "refresh rate," with Hz (hertz) meaning "times per second." So if a TV's refresh rate is 60 Hz, this means it re-scans and updates for picture information 60 times per second; with 120 Hz, it's 120 times per second. Currently, TVs only come in 60 or 120 Hz. A higher refresh rate is always better, but not always necessary.
Smart TV: The term "smart TV" has evolved a lot over the years, but all it really means is that the TV connects to the internet. Most smart TVs these days are just a way to watch streaming services like Amazon Prime Video on your TV. Some smart TVs have browsers, calendars, or even Roku or Android functions. All smart TVs have ethernet or WiFi built-in.
Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are used in LED/LCD TVs only. These are microscopic nanocrystals that produce intensely colored light when struck with light. Quantum dots can be used to vastly improve the red and green saturation of a TV, and are one way that LED/LCD TVs can match the color spectrum of OLED.
Local Dimming: OLED panels look great because each pixel can operate independently. LED/LCD TVs can imitate this functioning via a process called local dimming, where localized clusters of LEDs dim or boost depending on whether the screen needs to be darker or brighter, sometimes vastly improving their performance and worth.
What Is a TV Series?
You may notice the TVs listed in this roundup don't follow the traditional naming convention you might see in a store or online. That's because rather than nominating a single size of TV (such as the LG OLED65C8PUA, aka the 65-inch LG C8 series OLED), we nominate the entire range of sizes within a "series."
Typically these TVs are identical in performance but differ in price and size. We do this in order to offer you more flexibility in your decision, but also because it's the most accurate representation available.
Other 55-inch TVs We Tested
LG C8 (2018)
This is essentially the 2018 version of our Best Overall pick, the LG C9. The 55-inch LG C8 is still a 4K/HDR OLED TV; in fact, other than very specific differences, which you can read more about in the full review, the C8 and the C9 are almost identical.
Being a year older, the 2018 55-inch C8 will be harder to find, but there’s good news: the price has also dropped considerably. In terms of performance, the picture quality and HDR/Dolby Vision performance is still fantastic. Plus, you still get key extras like the LG webOS platform, the Magic Remote, and a unique-looking design.
The 2018 C8 series may not be quite as fancy as the 2019 C9 series, but it still demonstrates the perfect black levels, excellent contrast, and vivid color production we’ve come toexpect from OLED TVs.
In order to compete with LG’s OLED TVs, Sony's 2018 A9F Master Series needed to set itself apart. For the most part, it succeeded—the A9F is a visually striking television with fantastic, top-tier performance chops.
That said, this is still an incredible 4K OLED TV, and you're getting ultra-premium features and performance from top to bottom. We just don't think it outperforms the 55-inch LG C9 enough that it's worth paying more for.
The 55-inch Samsung Q80R isn’t as good as some of Samsung’s more posh offerings, but the difference in cost might make it an appealing alternative for folks who don’t want to splash out completely when buying a new TV.
Being a quantum dot TV, the Samsung Q80R delivers searingly bright highlights and vivid, well-saturated colors. Its panel features a native 120 Hz refresh rate, too, which means its motion handling is terrific—a perfect fit for gamers.
The only downside here is the Q80R’s price tag, which is too high to compete with some of the more affordable quantum dot TVs like the 2019 TCL 6-Series. It’s certainly a better performing TV than the TCL 6-Series, but given the Q80R’s price tag, you might be tempted to just spring for something on the top shelf.
The X950G isn't the best TV on the block, but given its price tag, you're getting a lot of really awesome specs and features—starting with a bright 55-inch screen. It’s one of Sony’s best TVs from last year.
If you're not concerned about its narrow viewing angles and slightly disappointing color production, you're looking at a great TV that holds up well, especially in brightly lit rooms. For the most part, the X950G performs as well as it should given its price tag.
While you can check out our full review of the Sony X950G for more information, the thing to know about the X950G is that it's a good all-rounder. Performance isn't the X950G's only selling point: At this price, you're getting the Android smart TV platform and a slick, modern design, too. It's not the best value nor the best performer of 2019, but it offers a posh-feeling without a super-high price tag.
The 55-inch TCL 6-Series is a budget-friendly quantum dot TV that brings the benefits of this impressive technology (namely better brightness and color production) to a price bracket that most folks can actually afford.
We were quite impressed with the TCL 6-Series’ contrast; the TV’s relatively deep black levels look all the better thanks to its ability to get very bright. It’s also hard not to love the TV’s built-in Roku platform; it’s our favorite smart platform of all the major players, and having it baked right into the TV’s software is a blessing. That said, it’s hard to offer a QLED TV in this price bracket without making some concessions. The 6-Series’ motion handling isn’t as good as higher-end QLED TV’s whose panels feature a native refresh rate of 120 Hz. In addition, the 6-Series’ viewing angles are quite limited.
Still, this TV is flush with value, especially if you’re hoping to land a TV that’s bright enough to hold up in a brightly lit room.
The 55-inch Vizio V Series is a great pick for folks who just need to upgrade to a 4K/HDR TV but don’t want to splash out on bells and whistles. Its performance isn’t much to write home about, but given its price point, we can’t really complain about it, either. In other words, it’s not the type of HDR TV that will demonstrate the superiority of HDR content, but you shouldn't expect that at this price point.
The V Series isn’t the best TV on the block, nor is it the best budget TV on the block, but most people will be satisfied with it—especially folks who are upgrading to a 4K picture for the first time.
Very, very affordable
Performs quite well for the cost
Vizio's smart platform is a drag
Doesn't get as bright as the Vizio M Series Quantum
The 55-inch 2019 TCL 4-Series is a great option for bargain hunters. Essentially, you're getting 4K resolution, HDR10 compatibility, a built-in Roku platform, and a 60-Hz refresh rate. Not bad for this TV’s price point.
The TCL 4-Series is one of the most affordable 4K TVs we've seen to date. Although its performance won’t blow you away, it gets the job done for a low, low price.
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.