10 best 50 and 55-inch TVs in the world today
1st Aug 2013 | 08:30
Find out which is the best 50-inch TV to buy
The size where a home cinema turns from dream to reality, it's also at this 50-55-inch TV screen size that 3D starts to become immersive enough to convince and impress. All of our top 50-55-inch TVs are Full HD, and most have either active shutter or passive 3D systems, though there is a technology divide between plasma and LED-backlit LCD.
While LED tech has gone a long way towards condemning plasma to a role on the outskirts of the TV industry, at 50-inches and above, plasma really comes into its own. Most home cinema buffs still swear by plasma, with its cinematic colours and deep blacks making for a real movie-watcher's paradise.
It's also a lot more economical to make a plasma screen at this size, and that's why there are plenty of plasmas on this list. But 2013 sees the first batch of 50-inch LED-backlit panels off the production line, a development that further marginalises plasma technology at one of the sizes it previously dominated.
If you're looking for a dream movie-watching experience, check out these home cinema beauties.
5mm bezel and smart TV apps going for a song
£860: Incredibly low-priced for a 50-inch TV, this affordable 2D-only 50-inch Edge LED TV may not boast the best picture quality around, but it does include Freeview HD, Wi-Fi and notable smart TV skills. And the Panasonic TX-L50E6B doesn't just have any old smart apps - we're talking Panasonic's brand new 2013 suite of apps that adorn the fabulous, customisable My Home Screen.
The 'super narrow' bezel is just 5mm (0.2 inches) wide, the glass is non-reflective and along the bottom edge is a translucent, slightly curved plastic strip - it's a great look that's not expected at this price.
Go up the range and you'll find faster processors, more HDMI ports (the Panasonic TX-L50E6B has three), special filters and local dimming, but as smart TV app-laden LED TVs go, this is the most affordable quality set around.
Bargain bigscreen best for Sky, Virgin or DVR owners
£1,000: Incredibly, it's possible to reach 55-inches for this low price, but there's more to the Finlux 55S9100-T than simple economics. With Freeview HD, BBC iPlayer and social media access via a smart TV platform, Wi-Fi connectivity and even passive 3D, this Edge LED TV from the online-only Finlux brand surprised us with the detail in still images as high as on any high-end TV.
There are a few downsides, such as a modicum of judder, a grey look to blacks and lacklustre 3D antics, but any TV that puts so many features on a 55-inch screen for under £1,000 has to be seriously considered.
Arriving with a stunning eight pairs of passive 3D glasses - yes, it's hard to believe - the Finlux 55S9100-T manages a depth of just 36mm (1.42 inches) and a mirrored chrome bezel that's a mere 5mm (0.2 inches) wide. Considering its less-than-polished user interface we'd judge the Finlux 55S9100-T as perfect for owners of a Sky box or TiVo.
55-inch TV with passive 3D and pretty pictures
£1,300: With a gloriously slim metallic silver and glass frame, this 55-inch Edge LED TV from Panasonic looks every inch a flagship TV, though it is actually the Japanese manufacturer's entry-level 3D model.
Compared to the slightly smaller Panasonic TX-L50E6B, this 55-inch screen adds 600Hz processing and a Clear Panel Pro filter, though most shoppers will be after Panasonic's superlative My Home Screen interface features, which do a brilliant job of streamlining your access to the TV's myriad content sources. It also supports Panasonic's Viera Connect online platform and the bevy of apps that reside within.
That potent motion processing and backlight scanning system ensures awesomely detailed pictures, while 3D images excel. Dark scenes reveal a rather average black level performance, but there are precious few prettier or better value 55-inch TVs available than this Panasonic.
Light on contrast, heavy on everything else
£1,500: Likely based around the same panel as the Panasonic TX-L55ET60, LG's 55LA740V seems tailor-made to make a big impact on the mid-range of the big screen TV market. Making sure of that is a Cinema 3D passive 3D panel, Freeview HD tuner, the deliciously lucid, logical and app-packed user interface and more picture calibration tools than you can shake a Magic Remote stick at.
That last feature differentiates it from the Panasonic (it has the same fundamental lack of contrast), but the LG 55LA740V is the superior choice for those after a media-savvy TV, since SmartShare and the linked Plex metadata-hunting software make streaming digital media around a home network a thing of beauty.
LG has worked hard on making its sophisticated smart TV platform intuitive, and the 55LA740V's bold colours, high brightness and sharpness make a big impact, too.
Exquisite 3D plasma superstar screen
£1,750: Is there anything better than a good Panasonic plasma TV? As anyone who's ever owned a plasma will know, the original flatscreen TV tech tends to produce more convincing-looking blacks - and therefore, colour in general - and isn't as prone to motion loss and judder as LED-backlit LCD TVs. As if to underline that, the Panasonic TX-P50VT65 boasts an all-new NeoPlasma Black 3000 panel that delivers astonishing 3000Hz scanning.
Truly, for every second of every 2D and 3D Blu-ray disc we played, the Panasonic TX-P50VT65's pictures looked nothing short of exquisite. It achieves a black depth and tonal naturalism that recalls Pioneer's now defunct Kuro plasma TVs from a few years ago, but does it within a thoroughly modern shell.
My Home Screen is present, as well as the full gamut of smart Viera apps, while a smartphone app even enables you to tweak picture parameters without touching the TV remote. It's all wow, all the time, though anyone wanting to save a few quid but retain the core plasma goodness should search out Panasonic's step-down TX-P50GT60B, TX-P50ST60B and TX-P50X60B models.
3D gas giant runs rings around rivals
£1,800: Competing with both Samsung's PS51F8500 plasma and the step-down Panasonic TX-P55ST60B plasma, this gas giant is nothing short of a masterpiece. Yes, it's best watched with the lights switched off, but it's much brighter than previous incarnations - so much so that this extraordinary plasma could easily do a job in a living room as much as a home cinema.
Its everyday features include a Freeview HD tuner, front-firing speakers and a brilliantly friendly smart TV user interface that extends to the custom-design of My Home Screen, while its pictures are all about vicious detail, depth and dreamily deep black levels.
THX endorses the Panasonic TX-P55VT65 with a specially calibrated picture preset, while the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) delivers two 'professional' presets and a huge array of picture tweaks. In a particularly brilliant touch, you can even fine-tune the pictures via the Viera Remote app - and what pictures they are.
It's not just Panasonic that makes great 3D plasmas
£1,850: There's been a mostly fair assumption that plasma = Panasonic, partly because brands such as Samsung keep pushing the benefits of LED TVs. So it's somewhat ironic that it's the Korean brand that's dished up the fabulous 51-inch Samsung PS51F8500, a great value plasma that has Panasonic firmly in its sights.
Remarkably bright for a plasma panel (something that makes this a great choice for 3D addicts) and with convincing black levels and detail, the PS51F8500 presents Samsung's scintillating Smart Hub alongside high-end features such as a touchpad remote, built-in camera and both voice and gesture recognition (both now in their second generation, though handle with care).
Sound quality is a cut above the norm, and though its bezel will be too wide for some, the Samsung PS51F8500 is a nicely priced option for a big screen plasma of this quality.
Terrific Triluminos delivers cracking colour
£2,250: Boasting a design that's much trimmer and cooler than its predecessors', this flagship Sony screen's feature count is bolstered considerably by the introduction of Triluminos, which widens the TV's colour gamut by applying red, green and blue filters directly to each LED. The result is gorgeous colours and a huge contrast range, all backed up by some surprisingly powerful audio. A touch of 3D crosstalk aside, this is heady stuff indeed, and puts the Sony KDL-55W905A right at the top of the LED TV tree.
The Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) smart TV platform has its critics - it lacks a decent second screen app, and does appear less well endowed than rival smart TV platforms if judged purely on apps. However, in terms of layout and ease of use, the Sony KDL-55W905A is hard to beat.
Well connected, with good multimedia support and - best of all - stellar picture quality, the KDL-55W905A puts Sony firmly back on the map.
All-singing, all-dancing future-proof flagship
£2,300: Samsung's flagship TV - Ultra HD aside - packs an almighty punch. The trimmest bezel ever (it's under half a centimetre across) with a gorgeously finished and robust rear, there's even a slot for a Smart Evolution pack, so that owners of the Samsung UE55F8000 can pay £200-ish each spring to update to the latest and greatest user interface.
Despite such future-proofing, a quad-core processor is already included, principally to power some seriously smart antics that stretch to voice and gesture tech and the industry's most app-laden interface, Smart Hub.
Excellent black level depth and backlight uniformity are the highlights on this thoroughly advanced Edge LED panel, while a handy new Cinema Black feature separately dims the sections of panel underneath the black bars seen above and below 21:9 ratio films. It's that kind of attention to detail that makes the Samsung UE55F8000 a mostly astonishing attempt at a top TV.
Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 11-55
The best-looking, best-sounding TV around?
£9,500: This truly is a one-off. Deliberately shunning the current trend for barely-there chassis bezels and mounting its 55-inch screen atop a huge speaker-bearing section a third as high as the screen, the TV inside the gloriously finished metallic outer frame is totally at home with Blu-ray films. The single most remarkable achievement is the depth of the screen's black level response. There isn't so much as a trace of the usual LCD low-contrast greyness hanging over parts of the picture that should look black, though we also love its immense shadow detail and strikingly natural skin tones.
It's prodigiously featured, too, thanks to built-in online, network and multimedia playback, an optional integrated 500GB HDD video recorder, peerless audio flexibility and uniquely clever automatic picture optimisation systems.
However, you'll have to forgo smart TV antics, since B&O presume that if you're paying this kind of money you've probably got an app-laden set-top box or smart Blu-ray player. It looks like it's hewn out of solid silver, but inside it's a gem. And it's one of the best-performing TVs we've yet to see this side of Ultra HD.