The best 55-inch TV for 2020: LG, TCL and more compared

The best 55-inch TV for 2020: LG, TCL and more compared thumbnail

If you haven’t purchased a television in eons, you may be surprised to learn that a 55-inch TV is currently considered a medium or even a small screen size. LCD TVs are now so popular and numerous that consumers have been paying ever-lower prices for ever larger screens — we’re talking $300 for a perfectly decent budget 55-inch TV with the latest technology in picture quality and streaming. 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.

TL; DR: the 55-inch size offers more choice than any other. As such, upscaling is now a necessity, 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, where I compare the pros and cons side-by-side to see which are most worth buying. Here are my latest recommendations for the best 55-inch TVs. 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.
  • The images below are generally of 65-inch TVs since that’s the size we review at CNET. But the review still applies to the 55-inch version.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for below? Here are all the TVs I’ve reviewed, with more coming soon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

OLED TVs are the picture quality kings, but they’re not cheap. The TVs’ OLED displays use organic light-emitting diode technology to deliver a contrast ratio, viewing angles, and a wide color gamut that no LCD TV (or QLED TV) can match. All of LG’s 2019 OLED models include the latest version of the HDMI standard: 2.1. That means their HDMI ports can handle 4K at 120fps, as well as two gamer-friendly extras: variable refresh rate and automatic low latency mode (aka auto game mode). As the least expensive OLED TV, the B9 55 inch TV is our favorite overall for high-end shoppers. It fell just a bit short of the C9 55 inch TV (below) in image quality in our tests, but the differences in picture quality are minuscule — and since it’s less expensive than the C9, it’s a better value.

Read the LG OLED55B9P review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to improved color technology, and its well-implemented full-array local dimming helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. As if that’s not enough, the Roku smart TV operating system — which really accommodates all of the top streaming services well — is our hands-down favorite for a seamless viewing experience. Yeah, this is one of, if not the best 55-inch TV.

Read the TCL 55R625 (2019 Roku TV) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s that you say? You just want the highest-end TV with the best picture quality, and money is no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the C9 is the best quality TV I’ve ever reviewed, barely beating the 2018 models like the B8 (above), which is a superior value — almost as good and much less expensive. That said, there are people for whom this is the smart option. The LG 2019 OLED TV also has HDMI ports with 2.1 future-proofing that some high-end buyers, particularly gamers, desire.

Read the LG OLED55C9P review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the TCL 6-Series above, no TV offers this much picture for this little cash. In my comparisons, the TCL won slightly in a couple of important areas, in particular HDR brightness and black levels, which are integral to the viewing experience. I’d also recommend the TCL to streaming services centric viewers because of its superior Roku smart TV system with voice control features. All of that said, the Vizio is still an excellent choice and sometimes available for less than the TCL — just make sure you’re getting the M8, not the M7. And stay tuned for upcoming reviews of Vizio’s other 2019 models.

Read the Vizio M558-G1 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for streaming apps and apps like Netflix, and it’s even better baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the models above on image quality — its 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture or color– but it offers a fine viewing experience for most people, especially at this price.

Read the TCL 55S425 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With a refresh rate of 120 hertz, Samsung’s QLED TVs are basically fancy, high-quality LCDs, so don’t confuse them with OLEDs. The Q70R has an excellent picture and plenty of Samsung design and features goodies for a price that’s relatively affordable, albeit not exactly “budget.” If you’re not interested in a TCL or Vizio and don’t want to splurge to watch your content on an OLED, the Q70 is an excellent choice. A note to gamers and people who need to connect a Blu-ray player or have lots of streaming devices, there are four HDMI ports and two USB ports.

Read the Samsung QN55Q70R review.

Other stuff to know

I’m sure you’d be happy with any one 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.

  • Prices for 2019 TVs started hitting their lowest points around late November (for Black Friday) and discounts on some models will continue now that the Super Bowl is over. The 2019 TVs will start selling out over the next few months.
  • In early 2020 new TV models will arrive, but since TVs are generally a mature technology, they won’t be worth waiting for if you want a TV now.
  • 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 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 started The Mandalorian yet?!) Streamers are cheap and easy to use, and 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 2020

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Originally published earlier this year. Updated periodically with new recommendations. 

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