The 8 Best 42-inch TVs of 2020

Opt for a smaller screen without sacrificing great features

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
TCL 43S517 at EBay
"Delivers crisp 4K imagery."
Runner-up, Best Overall:
Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 at Amazon
"The remote features built-in Amazon Alexa voice controls for hands-free browsing."
"If you have an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device, you can connect them to the TV."
"If you see this TV going for under $200, consider it an incredible steal."
"It runs on LG’s webOS platform, which is one of the best around."
"It has an improved picture processor to upscale standard HD media without distorting the image."

Best Overall: TCL 43S517

What We Like
  • Built-in Roku platform

  • 4K UHD

What We Don't Like
  • No built-in voice control

For a great balance of features and a price that doesn’t put it at the high end of the pack, the TCL 43S517 stands out as a truly excellent option. We’ve already ranked it as one of the best 4K TVs under $1000, and with all that it offers, it handily takes the top spot on this list as well.

The TCL 43S517 is a 4K smart TV that uses the Roku TV platform. When it comes to finding streaming content, Roku is already one of the best options there is, so to have the functionality baked right into the TV is a plus. You also get voice control, so there’s less fussing around in TV menus.

Of course, you’re also getting the crisp imagery offered by a TV panel with a 4K resolution, further enhanced by a wide color gamut that offers over one billion colors, and support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The whole package is rounded out with dual eight-watt speakers, three HDMI 2.0 ports, dual-band Wi-Fi, and an Ethernet port.

Runner-up, Best Overall: Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 43" 4K Fire TV

What We Like
  • Fire TV operating system

  • 4K UHD

  • Amazon Alexa voice remote control

What We Don't Like
  • Wi-Fi connectivity issues

For an even more budget-friendly 4K UHD TV, check out the Insignia NS-43DF710NA19. This TV also features the Fire TV operating system, allowing you to watch your favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime Video shows and movies from a single, all-in-one hub menu. The remote features built-in Amazon Alexa voice controls for hands-free browsing.  

This model has three HDMI ports, allowing you to connect everything from a Blu-Ray player or soundbar to your game consoles quickly and easily. With a refresh rate of 60Hz, this TV delivers smooth and clear motion when watching sports or the latest blockbuster action movies. The backlit LED array screen produces stunning colors for crisp and detail-packed images. This TV is compatible with VESA wall mounting brackets to give you plenty of placement options.

Best Value: TCL 43S425 43-Inch 4K UHD Roku TV

What We Like
  • Voice controls

  • 4K UHD

  • Roku built in

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

Our second TCL pick on this list is a TV that gives you the most features for the price. This 43-inch model features the Roku streaming platform built in to give you access to thousands of apps, shows, movies, and songs without the need for extra equipment. With the Roku app, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for easier browsing and searching; it can even give you hands-free voice controls. If you have an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device, you can connect them to the TV for expanded voice controls and integrate your TV into your smart home network. 

This model has three HDMI inputs (including one with HDMI ARC compatibility), a USB port, an RF input, and a composite video input. This allows you to connect all your media playback devices, audio equipment, and game consoles without needing an HDMI switcher or other cumbersome equipment. With a refresh rate of 120 Hz, every action scene will have buttery smooth motion so you'll never miss a single detail.

Best for Cheap 4K: Toshiba 43” 4K UHD TV 43LF621U19

What We Like
  • Amazon Fire TV platform

  • HDR10 support

What We Don't Like
  • No voice control in remote

If you want to get a 4K Ultra HD TV without breaking the bank, Toshiba has the solution for you. The Toshiba 43LF621U19 is incredibly affordable and the good news is that you’re not losing out on features.

This is a fully smart TV powered by Amazon’s Fire TV platform. You’ll get easy access to Netflix, HBO, Prime Video, and more popular streaming channels. Plus, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is built right into the remote, so you can easily control the TV with just your voice. You can even control other smart home devices through Alexa on the remote.

The Toshiba 43LF621U19 offers support for HDR10, which may not be the newest or most exciting high dynamic range profile, but it is easy to find content that uses HDR10. With dual-band Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, this TV is ready to quickly stream 4K HDR content as well.

Best Premium: LG 43UK6500AUA

What We Like
  • Durable metal frame

  • Google Assistant/Amazon Alexa compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Voice control remote sold separately

If you're up for splurging a little bit and want a TV you can count on lasting and looking great for years to come, take a hard look at the LG 43UK6500AUA. It has a metal frame that will give it a more stylish footprint in your home, even when it’s turned off, and the panel is surrounded by razor-thin bezels.

When the TV is turned on, you’re also going to get great visuals. The LG 43UK6500AUA is a 4K Ultra HD smart TV, and it runs on LG’s webOS platform, which is one of the best around. With LG’s ThinQ AI and optional support for Google Assistant, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa, you can get the content you want to watch quickly and easily.

Beyond resolution, the content is further enhanced by the LG 43UK6500AUA’s support for HDR10 and HLG, as well as its use of local dimming. The TV also offers a wide color gamut, and LG’s 4K Active HDR can further improve dynamic range in your content.

Best Samsung: Samsung UN43RU7100FXZA

What We Like
  • Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant compatible

  • Bluetooth connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Must use separate devices for voice controls

The Samsung RU7100 is a great option for a 4K TV that has amazing native UHD resolution. It also has an improved picture processor to upscale standard HD media without distorting the image. With a refresh rate of 60Hz and Samsung's Motion Rate 120 technology, there's virtually no blurring during fast-paced action sequences. Whether you're watching the big game or your favorite movies, each frame will deliver silky smooth motion so you never miss a detail. 

You can connect your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices for hands-free voice controls over browsing and picture settings. The included OneRemote automatically detects and controls compatible media devices like soundbars and Blu-Ray players so you never have to fumble with multiple remotes ever again. This TV also has Bluetooth connectivity so you can use wireless headphones for private listening or connect soundbars without having to run extra cables. The back of the TV has convenient cable management channels and clips to help you create a clean-looking home theater setup.

About Our Trusted Experts

Taylor Clemons has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics for over three years. She has also worked in e-commerce product management and has extensive experience with what makes a TV a great choice for home entertainment.

The Ultimate 42-Inch TV Buying Guide

When you look at the gargantuan TV sets at your local electronics store, it’s hard to believe that there was a time not long ago when a 42-inch TV was considered more than big enough for just about anybody. Now, even though you’ll still find a few smaller ones, the 42-inch class sits at the bottom end of the standard range of sizes for modern TVs

The fact is that not everybody needs a massive TV screen. Whether you live in an apartment, a condo, or even a small bungalow, or you’re simply looking for a second set for your cottage or another room in your home, 42 inches can be a great size for a TV that will let you enjoy the latest shows without becoming the piece of furniture that defines your entire living space.

One of the other great things about TVs in this size range is that you’ll find that there are a lot of options, including some pretty solid and affordable brands, but this also doesn’t rule out premium sets that can provide the kind of quality you want for watching the latest feature films. Still, even when picking a smaller set it’s important to really think about how you’re going to use it, and where you’re going to put it. Is this going to be hooked up to a home theatre system for watching action/adventure films, or is it a secondary set used simply for watching news and daytime television shows? There’s no point here in spending more money than you need to for features and quality you’re not going to use, so it’s good to think about some of these things before shopping for a new TV in any size range. 

Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 Fire TV Edition
Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Is 42 Inches the Right Size For You?

As we mentioned earlier, the 42 inch class is now pretty much the smallest size you can get among the premium TV models, which in many ways is a good thing, since it means you can get all of the same features and quality from larger sets packed into a size that’s more appropriate for your living space. 

When picking a 42-inch class of TV, however, you shouldn’t just think about whether it fits into the wall or cabinet space that you have for it, but also consider how far away you plan to sit when watching it. This will also be part of deciding whether you should go with a 4K or 1080p HD set.

For 4K, the ideal viewing distance is between 1x and 1.5x of the screen size. Any more than that, and you won’t see enough detail to really appreciate the 4K resolution, and if you’re too close, then you’re going to see too much detail. At 42 inches, this doesn’t give you much room to work with—if you’re sitting more than 5–6 feet away, you may not get enough of a benefit from 4K in this screen size to justify the extra expense of purchasing one. 

On the other hand, a 1080p HD 42-inch set is good at almost twice that viewing distance—up to almost 9 feet away, although there’s a minimum distance to consider here as well. 1080p HD has an optimal viewing distance of between 2x and 2.5x the screen size, which means that if you’ll be sitting closer than 7 feet, it won’t look nearly as good. 

Ultimately, however if you want to be able to appreciate full 4K quality from a longer distance, then a 42-inch TV may not be right for you, and you may want to consider stepping up to a slightly larger screen size. 

What about HDR? 

That said, there are other reasons to go with a 4K set than purely the resolution. Almost all modern 4K UHD TVs offer support for some flavour of High Dynamic Range (HDR)—a feature that will give you way better colour and contrast ratios, and one that’s not available on 1080p HD sets at all.

There are a few different versions of HDR, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, and others, but to take advantage of HDR, you have to be watching content that uses it, and that’s not true of all 4K content, and of course it’s not even available for 1080p HD material, even on a 4K UHD TV with HDR support. In practical terms, this means feature films in 4K from Blu-ray discs, streaming services like Netflix, or digital stores like iTunes. You’ll also find that many of the original shows from streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+ are also encoded in 4K UHD, but don’t expect most content recorded for traditional cable networks to follow suit, and even those that do get broadcast in 4K don’t necessarily offer HDR. 

So if you’re buying a TV to watch premium 4K content like this, then you’ll definitely want to make sure it has good HDR support, and we recommend going with one that includes Dolby Vision, as this is what most of the content on streaming services uses these days, and sets that offer Dolby Vision also usually offer wide support for other HDR formats as well, so you’ll be getting the best of almost all worlds.

On the other hand, if the TV you’re getting is just for watching stuff like news, sports, and shows for your kids, you’re not going to find a lot of that in 4K, much less 4K HDR, so none of this will be nearly as important, and you can probably save a few bucks by not worrying about HDR.

Screen Quality

If you’re shopping for a new TV, you’ve probably heard the alphabet soup that describes different screen technologies, and it’s easy to get caught up in a lot of hype about whether you should pick an OLED, or a QLED, or a Nano Cell or an LED/LCD.

For example, you may have been told that OLED is the best screen technology going, and while this is technically sort of true in the sense that it’s the most advanced screen technology, it’s not going to be the most suitable for every purpose. For example, OLED screens offer ridiculously deep black levels — when a part of your screen is black, it’s black, not that slightly washed-out “black” that LCD/LED screens offer. This makes OLED great for watching feature films and even action/adventure type shows, especially in 4K HDR, but you may not care as much if all you’re really into is sitcoms and talk shows. 

Plus, in addition to being more expensive, OLED isn’t always the most ideal if you’re putting a TV in a brightly-lit room. If your 42-inch TV is going in an upstairs family room for your kids to watch, or you’re mounting one in your kitchen to watch while you’re cooking, you’ll probably be better off with an LCD/LED set, as many of these can get much brighter, and there have been some nice advances in this area too.

For instance, Samsung’s sets with their QLED displays provide a much wider colour gamut and even higher range of brightness levels than most LCD/LED screens, and while they can’t compete with OLED on black levels, the depth and quality of their colour reproduction is actually at least on par with OLED, and can even surpass it in some cases. They’re also a lot cheaper, especially in the 42-inch class, where OLED sets are starting to become less common as manufacturers focus on saving the technology for larger screens. 

LG 84LM9600 and Toshiba Prototype 4K UltraHD TVs at CES 2013
Photo of the currently available LG 84LM9600 and Toshiba Prototype 4K UltraHD TVs at CES 2013. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Sound Quality

If it’s been a while since you’ve bought a new TV, you may be surprised at how great the sound quality has gotten from the built-in speakers. Sadly, this is something that you won’t be able to experience in most electronics stores unless you actually visit a more boutique-style home theatre shop that offers small demo rooms, but even then it’s not going to be quite the same as what you’ll hear at home.

We’re not going to mince words here; a two-speaker sound system built into your TV will never compete with a full 5.1-channel positional audio system hooked up through a dedicated home theatre receiver, but chances are if you’re buying a 42-inch TV, getting that kind of movie theatre sound quality probably isn’t too high on your list, and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at how good the built-in speakers on most modern TVs are these days, especially for more casual watching. 

This is especially true since most TVs have support for multiple streaming services built right in, so manufacturers no longer expect users to already have an external cable box, Blu-ray player, or sound system. The TV has to be able to handle it all, and as a result TV makers have had to up their game when it comes to built-in speakers. Many sets now offer “virtual” Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, which uses advanced acoustic engineering to give you the sense of a surround experience even though you only have two speakers on the front of your TV. 

How well this works will vary a bit based on the design of your room, but unless you already have an external speaker system you plan to use, we’d suggest checking out the audio specs on your TV sets of choice, listening to the TV as best as you can, and then deciding from that if you need to add external speakers. 

That said, don’t limit your options—make sure the set you’re buying has the necessary audio outputs should you ever decide to add an external sound system later on, which generally means looking for a digital optical audio output or HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection that can be used to hook in a home theatre receiver or sound bar. Also, while some TVs do offer Bluetooth support, this is generally only great for pairing up wireless headphones for more discrete listening or an external Bluetooth speaker if you simply need more volume, but not necessarily better quality.

Smart TV Features

These days getting up and running with a new 42-inch TV is even easier than it used to be, since so many of the sets are effectively all-in-one devices that give you everything you need right out of the box. While many people who pick up larger sets are prepared to add accessories to build out a bigger home theatre system, chances are that in the 42-inch price range, you want something that will just get the job done without a lot of extra fuss.

This is where smart TV features come in. Unless you’re specifically looking for a “dumb” TV, any set you buy is going to have the ability to stream from services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and likely a dozen others. This saves you the trouble of buying a separate Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV set-top box, as pretty much everything you need should already be there.

In fact, you’ll even find many brands now include the actual Roku or Amazon Fire TV systems built right in, meaning that you’ll get the exact same features that you would if you bought a separate box anyway. However, even those popular brands like Samsung or LG that use their own proprietary smart TV operating systems will provide support for all of the same streaming services, and sometimes even a few more.

For example, although Apple hasn’t licensed its tvOS platform to smart TV makers (unlike Roku, Amazon, and Google), it has licensed key apps like its TV+ app to a number of vendors to include in their own platforms, and Samsung even goes one step further with support for buying and renting movies and TV shows from Apple’s iTunes Store. Most also include the ability to add more apps to support newer services as they become available, such as Disney+ or NBC’s Peacock, plus support for Google ChromeCast and/or Apple AirPlay to let you stream just about any video or audio directly from your Android phone or iPhone to your TV. 

In addition to streaming services, many smart TVs also come standard with support for voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant, allowing you to do things like turn your TV on or off or bring up streaming services with your voice, although you should note that there’s a difference between a TV that includes the actual voice assistant built into the set or the remote, and those that simply respond to the commands issued to a smart speaker on the same network, so make sure you read the fine print if you’re looking for a TV that has a voice assistant built-in.

Samsung UHD TV Example
Samsung

Internet Speeds

If all you’re doing is hooking up your TV to cable or an over-the-air antenna, you won’t even need to worry about having an internet connection at all, but if you’re planning on taking advantage of the built-in smart TV features to stream Netflix in 4K UHD, you’re going to need to make sure that you have the internet speeds to handle it.

This means not only paying for a fast internet connection with high enough data caps, but also having a wireless router that can deliver those speeds to your TV. Streaming from services like Netflix in 4K UHD requires a 25mbps internet connection, and can burn through 10-12GB of data per hour. If your home internet plan isn’t up to the task, you’ll still be able to stream Netflix, of course, but you won’t get the kind of quality that your 4K UHD TV can take advantage of. 

Further, even if you have a fast internet pipe, if you have a big home and your TV is farther away from your router, you’ll need to make sure there’s a strong enough Wi-Fi signal. This might mean needing to upgrade to a longer-range router or mesh Wi-Fi system. In some cases, a Wi-Fi extender can also be an option, and although most smart TVs rely exclusively on Wi-Fi, if you get a TV with an Ethernet jack you have the option of running a cable from the router to your TV or using a Powerline network adapter.

Note that unless you have networking experience, there’s no reliable way to test this with any certainty until you actually get the TV up and running, but be sure to plan for the possibility of needing to upgrade your router if you don’t already have good coverage and your TV is going to be more than a couple hundred feet away or on a different floor of your home.