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A 48-inch television seems to hit the sweet spot between small-format models suited for apartments and dorms and the huge screens we come to think of when talking about home theaters. The best 48-inch models give you a balance between picture quality, smart features, and connectivity. Samsung has begun to include their proprietary virtual assistant, Bixby, in all their new TVs, so you don't need to bother with setting up an Amazon or Google account to get voice controls. LG offers an OLED model in the 48-inch size class, giving you the absolute best viewing experience available.
Sony has proven itself to be the most versatile brand, offering upscaling of non-4K content as well as voice controls, screen mirroring capabilities, and even Bluetooth connectivity for wireless audio setups. Whether you're looking to cut the cord with your cable or satellite provider and exclusively stream movies and shows, or want a well-rounded television for your living room, there is something out there for everyone. We've broken down our top picks to help you see which is right for you.
Integrated cable management
No native iOS support
The Sony X800G is an excellent option for a mid-sized smart TV. It's built on the Android TV operating system, giving you access to thousands of apps, shows, and movies in one convenient hub menu. The LED panel produces stunning 4K UHD resolution, and with HDR10 and HLG support, you'll get enhanced contrast and detailing for a superior picture. The 4K X Reality Pro picture processing software intelligently upscales non-UHD content with an integrated noise reduction process for consistent picture quality.
The remote control has a microphone built in and is compatible with both Google Assistant and Alexa to give you voice commands right out of the box. With Bluetooth connectivity, you can set up sound bars and other home audio equipment for a custom home theater configuration. The TV also has Chromecast built in to let you mirror your smartphone or tablet for more ways to share your favorite videos. The X800G has integrated cable management channels and clips to help keep your home theater looking neat and organized.
Adaptive picture mode
Object tracking audio
No composite/component inputs
The 49-inch Q80T is one of the newest models from Samsung. It features the new Tizen operating system with Samsung Bixby voice controls built in and compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant. The new operating system gives you faster response times for opening apps and works with the updated 4K processor to produce great picture quality with AI-assisted upscaling. The direct lit panel uses local dimming zones and HDR support for enhanced contrast by creating deep, inky blacks and brighter whites. It also uses an adaptive picture mode to monitor your room's lighting and automatically adjust picture settings.
The built in speakers use object tracking to produce virtual 3D surround sound that follows the action on screen for a more immersive listening experience. They also have an adaptive voice amplifier that monitors ambient noise and automatically adjusts dialogue volume so you never miss a line of your favorite shows and movies. With the new multiview function, you can mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV while simultaneously streaming movies and shows; this is perfect for checking sports stats and scores, news headlines, and stock market activity while keeping up with your favorite shows.
You can use Bixby Voice to manage almost all of your device settings, download, install, and use apps, initiate phone calls, send text messages, post something on twitter or facebook (includes photos), get directions, ask about the weather or traffic, play music, and more. - Robert Silva, Product Expert
No parental controls
If you're a loyal Sony customer, the X950H is an excellent option if you're looking to upgrade your current home theater or purchase your first smart TV. It features Sony's X1 Ultimate processor to produce great 4K UHD resolution as well as the proprietary X-Reality Pro and X Motion Clarity technology for silky smooth motion and enhanced color volume. The screen has a Netflix Calibrated Mode and an IMAX Enhanced mode that allows you to watch your favorite movies as they were meant to be seen. With built-in Wi-Fi and the Android TV operating system, you can download apps like Netflix and Hulu right to the TV.
The remote has a built-in microphone that works with both Google Assistant and Alexa to give you hands-free controls right out of the box. The dual 10 watt speakers utilize Dolby Atmos technology for virtual surround sound, and they also feature a voice zoom setting that boosts dialogue; perfect for news broadcasts or talk shows. The TV has support for both Chromecast and AirPlay2 to allow screen mirroring for more ways to share videos. With Bluetooth support, you can set up external sound bars and other audio equipment for the perfect custom home theater configuration.
Bluetooth uses less power and costs less to implement than Wi-Fi. Its lower power also makes it far less prone to suffering from or causing interference with other wireless devices in the same 2.4GHz radio band. - Melanie Pinola, Product Expert
LG is one of the biggest names in televisions, and their OLED models are some of the best on the market; the 48-inch CX is no exception. It uses organic substrates and LED edgelighting to produce billions of rich, deep colors as well as pixel-level dimming for near-perfect blacks and superior contrast. It's powered by a third generation a9 processor that uses LG's ThinQAI technology to intelligently analyze media for optimized upscaling, audio mastering, and picture rendering. With Dolby Vision IQ and Dolby Atmos audio technology, you'll get a picture that automatically adjusts to ambient lighting conditions and multi-dimensional sound for the most immersive cinematic experience available at home.
The webOS operating system not only gives you access to your favorite streaming apps, it also has a sport alert function to instantly show you updated scores and headlines so you can stay up-to-date all season long. The voice-enabled remote can be used with Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Siri to give you hands-free control over your TV. With Bluetooth connectivity, you can set up dual wireless soundbars, speakers, or subwoofers for surround sound audio. The CX is compatible with both Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync technology, so console gaming looks better than ever. Apple AirPlay2 is built-in, allowing you to mirror your iOS device for more ways to share videos and photos with friends and family.
Burn-in is possible
Roku TV built-in
Versatile input options
No voice assistant
4K UHD isn't as crucial when dealing with smaller TVs, so you may find that you're perfectly content with a full HD 1080p TV, in which case TCL offers a great option here as well. The 49S325 offers solid picture quality with impressive color and dynamic contrast levels for a 1080p set, plus a wide collection of inputs and smart TV features.
Unlike a lot of similarly-priced 1080p sets, the 49S325 also gives you a wealth of input options, including 3 HDMI ports, one which includes HDMI ARC, plus a USB media player connection, a coaxial antenna/cable port and composite input for older analog devices. There's also a headphone jack and optical audio out. While there's no voice assistant built-in, if you have an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-compatible speakers, or a Google Home, you can tie these in to issue voice commands to the TV too.
As with other TCL sets, this is powered by Roku TV, which means you get access to over 500,000 movies and TV shows thanks to the massive collection for streaming channels. Not only can you stream from the big players like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, the Roku platform also offers channels for a massive collection of more specialized streaming services. It's one of the first to support both the new Apple TV+ and Disney+ services right out of the box.
Chromecast/AirPlay 2 support
No component video
Whether you're looking to buy your first 4K UHD television or simply upgrade your current setup, the Sony X800H is the best mid-size 4K TV. It features Sony's X1 processor and proprietary Motionflow XR technology for superior picture rendering, silky smooth motion, and great color volume. With HDR support, you'll get enhanced contrast for better detailing. It's built on the Android TV operating system to give you access to thousands of apps as well as support for both Google Assistant and Alexa voice controls. The built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity supports both Chromecast and AirPlay2 screen mirroring for more ways to share videos and pictures with family and friends. The screen's narrow bezel gives you an edge-to-edge picture for a more immersive viewing experience.
The dual 10 watt speakers use Dolby Atmos and DTS Digital Surround technologies to produce virtual surround sound for a more cinematic listening experience. The TV also has the option to turn on closed captions for hard of hearing users or anyone who prefers to have subtitles and captions while they watch their favorite shows and movies. The TV has four HDMI inputs, including one with ARC connectivity, making it easy to connect all your playback devices, game consoles, and soundbars for the ultimate home theater setup.
The Sony X800G is one of the best 48-inch models available right now. With 4K resolution and HDR10 support, you'll get stunning pictures time after time. The voice-enabled remote gives you access to Google Assistant or Alexa without a smart speaker, and with Chromecast, you can mirror your Android mobile device for more ways to share videos. The Samsung Q80T is another excellent choice for a 4K TV. Samsung has started to include their Bixby virtual assistant in all their new TVs, so you don't need to set up an Amazon or Google account to get voice controls. It also features a dual LED panel for a better color range and object tracking sound for a more immersive listening experience.
Taylor Clemons has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics for over three years. She has also worked in e-commerce product management, so she has the knowledge of what makes a solid TV for home entertainment.
Melanie Pinola spent five years writing for Lifewire about telecommuting and mobile offices, She has more than a decade of telecommuting experience as an IT administrator and art director.
Robert Silva has been reporting on consumer electronics since 1998. He's focused more on home entertainment and home theater technology since 2000. He has made appearances on the YouTube series, Home Theater Geeks.
Walk into the TV section of any big box retailer and you may be led to believe that even a 55-inch TV is on the small side, but despite the push toward bigger and bigger screens, not everybody needs or wants a massive TV, and there's still a strong market for sets in the 48-inch range.
In fact, if you live in a smaller home, apartment, or condo, 48 inches may just be the sweet spot for your living space and your entertainment needs, and best of all you can get some pretty sweet 48-inch sets with incredible features and picture quality at prices that won't hurt your wallet, leaving you with plenty of room to accessorize by adding things like a cabinet or a better sound system.
One of the best things about TVs in this size is that you have a lot of options, meaning you'll almost definitely find something to fit your needs and your budget, but of course this many options can make things a bit confusing, so it's important to consider first what you want out of a TV set and then narrow things down from there. Are you planning to use it for casual watching of news and daytime television? Prime-time hits? Blockbuster movies? Is it going to be put in a darker basement or a brightly-lit family room? Are you going to stream from services like Netflix or just rely on over-the-air broadcasts? These are all the kind of questions that are important to think about when shopping for a 48-inch TV.
You're probably aware that 4K TVs are all the rage these days, and while we certainly wouldn't discourage anybody from buying one if you have the money to spend, when dealing with smaller screens it's really important to ask yourself whether you're going to be able to truly take advantage of the higher resolution, both in terms of where you're putting it and what you'll be watching on it.
You see, if you normally sit more than a certain distance away from the screen, chances are that your eyes won't be able to appreciate the extra detail offered by a 4K UHD set. The rule of thumb for this is about 1.5x the screen size, which means that your maximum viewing distance to truly appreciate a 48-inch 4K TV is 6 feet. While this will vary depending on the quality of your vision, if the design of your room means that you'll be sitting much farther away than that, then you may want to consider saving a few bucks and simply getting a 1080p HD set instead, which you'll still be able to fully enjoy at almost twice that distance.
That said, it's important to keep in mind that there's more to 4K UHD TVs than just the actual resolution. Almost all modern 4K sets also offer High Dynamic Range (HDR), which is something you won't find on 1080p HD sets.
There are various flavours of HDR, such as Dolby Vision, HDR10, and others, but they all have one thing in common, and that's providing much richer colours and deeper contrast levels. To put it simply, you get an image that's much closer to what the real world looks like.
To take advantage of this, however, the content you're watching has to be encoded in an HDR format to begin with, and if all you plan on using your TV for is to watch things like news, sports, and daytime television shows, chances are you're not going to be seeing HDR content anyway. In fact, if all you're doing is hooking your TV up to cable or an over-the-air antenna, you probably won't even be getting much 4K content at all.
For the most part, HDR formats are most widely used in feature films, although many modern prime-time shows also offer HDR, especially when they're coming from streaming networks like Netflix, and even more so when they're originals produced by those streaming services.
Keep in mind, however, that your set also has to support the specific HDR format that the content is broadcast in. Although many TVs support more than one flavour of HDR, not all do, so you'll want to read the fine print. As a rule, sets that include Dolby Vision usually offer the widest range of support for other formats as well.
As we noted earlier, the 48-inch size range has a lot of different options available, and while the most affordable models will still only sport standard LCD screens, if you're willing to spend a bit more you can up your game by going with even better screen technology.
If feature films are your thing, we generally recommend going with an OLED screen if you can afford it, as this will provide the best contrast ratios you can get, with incredibly deep blacks that make it an especially great choice for action/adventure flicks. Much like the plasma TV technology that came before it (and which home theatre enthusiasts have sworn by for years), OLED screens actually turn off completely in areas that are supposed to be black, as opposed to LED/LCD TVs which can only dim them to a dark grey. OLED screens also let you view them from any angle without the strange discolouration that you'll see when looking at an LCD/LED set from the side.
However, if films are not your main thing, or an OLED screen simply isn't in your budget, then an LCD/LED set can still be a great choice, and in fact could even be better if you plan on setting up your TV in a brighter room and watching it during daylight hours. Samsung's QLED technology is some of the best LED technology available, as the company has been building it to rival OLED, and while it can't provide the same contrast ratios, it does get a lot brighter while still providing the same sort of deep and rich colour reproduction, which is especially great for HDR content. LG's Nano Cell LED technology is also a solid choice if you can't afford to step up to one of its great OLED sets.
These days most TVs offer some pretty impressive built-in sound. These aren't the tinny mono or two-channel speakers of yesteryear, and many can actually produce pretty respectable virtual surround sound from only the built-in speakers.
Of course, this won't compare to actually setting up a true 5.1 channel Dolby Surround system in your rec room, but it's probably more than enough for casual TV watchers. Few things other than movies are really encoded with impressive 5.1-channel sound, and the sound quality of modern TVs should easily be up to the task of handling that kind of content.
On the other hand, however, if you're an action movie buff you're probably going to want better sound than any set will be able to provide by itself, so you should make sure that the TV you’re considering has the necessary features to support a true surround sound system. In most cases, this will mean a digital optical audio output or HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection, although some of newer and higher-end models also offer support for wireless speaker system standards like WiSA, letting you add 5.1-channel audio without the need for cables or a standalone home theatre receiver.
These days it's hard to find a modern TV that doesn't include smart TV features with support for popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime built right in, so even if you have your own standalone digital set-top box or aren't interested in streaming, you're going to get these features anyway, but the good news is that in most cases they're pretty unobtrusive if all you want your TV to do is work as a display for other devices.
Still, if you definitely don't need the built-in smart TV features, one of the great things about smaller sets is that you can still find "dumb" TVs that are really just screens, so you can save yourself a few bucks if you're willing to connect your own Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV set-top box, which could also offer some advantages over having your smart TV features built-in, depending on what it is that you plan to do.
Still, the built-in smart features are continually getting better and more powerful, and many even now include integration with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and home automation systems like Apple's HomeKit. Generally it just comes down to choosing which platform you prefer and which streaming services you plan to watch. However, if you're looking at a TV that supports Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, just be aware that in most cases that doesn't mean that they include the actual voice assistant built in, but rather that they can be activated by commands that you speak to an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker that's already on the same network.
Also remember that if you plan on streaming content over the internet, you’ll need an internet connection and Wi-Fi router that can handle it, and this is even more true if you’re looking at a 4K UHD set; streaming Netflix in 4K requires a minimum 25mbps connection, and will eat up around 10-12GB of data per hour, so you’ll want to watch out for any data caps too. Plus, if you’ll be putting your TV farther away from where your internet connection comes in to your home, you may need a long-range router or Wi-Fi extender to ensure you can get a strong and fast enough signal to your set.
If you're shopping for a 48-inch TV from a major brand like Samsung, LG, or Sony, your choice will often be determined more by the smart TV features you're looking for or the kind of screen technology you want, since each manufacturer can be fairly unique in these areas. For example, while you might find it rather ironic considering their competing smartphone platforms, Samsung TVs are actually one of the best choices for Apple fans, thanks to their built-in support for Apple's TV+ service, iTunes Movies and TV Shows, and AirPlay 2 streaming. On the other hand, Android enthusiasts may lean more toward brands like Sony that use the Android TV operating system.
Similarly, if you're looking for an OLED screen, LG makes some of the best ones you can find, whereas Samsung's QLED technology leads the way among LCD/LED panels.
However, you don't need to be swayed by the major brands if you're on a budget or you're only looking for a set for more casual viewing, and this is even more true if you simply want a "dumb" TV to watch cable or broadcast television. Going off-brand can save you quite a bit of money, and you may be surprised at how many vendors like TCL that you've probably never heard of still offer great TVs with advanced smart TV and connectivity features.