This 50-inch TV size is where a home cinema turns from dream to reality.
It's also the point at which 3D starts to become immersive enough to convince and impress. And while this class was last year dominated by full HD models, it's now being overrun by Ultra HD 4K models. It's a really exciting place to be if you can afford to be here.
This page was once the exclusive domain of plasma TVs, but these days they're simply not being made any more. The tech was too expensive to develop and in many ways incompatible with the push towards higher resolutions, so if you want a big screen TV today you're probably going to need to embrace the new LED-dominated world order. Either that or really splash out on an OLED TV.
- Christmas special: TV Buying Guide 2014
Don't worry though, there are some truly stunning 50-55-inch TVs in this list, and many aren't as expensive as you might be expecting.
So if you're looking for a dream movie-watching experience, take a browse through these home cinema beauties.
John Lewis 55JL9000
The department store's first own-brand TV is a great effort
John Lewis has got off to a fairly strong start with its first big-screen TV. Despite not being a 4K TV it establishes a high-end, uncompromising tone thanks to its gorgeously opulent metallic design, innovative audio system, peerless smart TV interface and often attractive pictures. It's a shame the 55JL9000's dependence on an IPS-style panel means it has problems handling dark scenes. But its strengths elsewhere still make it an attractive family TV, if you can get one before the current £1300 price (possibly) goes back up to £1700.
Samsung's flagship 4K curved TV is a stunner
The UE55UH8500 is a worthy addition to the 4K/UHD stable, complementing its big brother, the mightily impressive UE65HU8500. Most importantly for a screen, the best thing about the UE55UH8500 by far is the picture quality, both with native UHD and upscaled content. You could happily watch this TV all day and your eyes would never get tired. The revamped Smart TV hub is also the gateway to a gazillion apps, which are pleasingly presented. The screen also integrates well with other multi-media devices. There are some unsatisfying aspects to its less important features but for its sheer picture excellence it's a total delight. As for the screen's shape: try the curve, if you've got the nerve.
Size doesn't matter when it comes to this 4K TV
Make no mistake, the Panasonic TX-50AX802 is a stand-out 4K UHD TV in most every sense. With its metallic trim and crafty hidden pedestal, the set looks superb and (pedantic niggles aside) its picture performance is a richly hued wow. Throw in a superior connected feature roster with snazzy Freetime roll-back programme guide, and you're more than halfway a winner. The fly in the ointment, and it's difficult to know if this is a big fly or not, is its unfortunate incompatibility with Netflix 4K (wrong type of chips apparently). That said, it sells for considerably less than its nearest rivals, which should sweeten the deal.
Possibly the best value 4K TV around
By knocking-off a few quid and retaining both a stunning design and killer picture quality, Samsung has created perhaps the best value 4K TV yet. Drenched in smart TV apps, with two remotes and with a fast-working user interface, the UE55HU7500 is only a built-in camera away from the being ultimate future-proof TV. The UE55HU7500 does present 4K material with a slight (but hardly unexpected) motion blur issue, but perhaps the biggest issue is a lack of 4K material available. It tries to address that by offering HDMI 2.0 slots, being compliant with the HEVC codec that 4K can be streamed in, and adding support for some 4K filetypes via USB. It's future-proof, yet puts most of its effort into being a very good smart TV for the here and now.
Samsung UE55HU8200 review
Samsung's cheapest curved screen delivers superb 4K/UHD picture quality
Do you need a curved TV? Of course not. Does it help the picture? Not particularly, but there's no doubting that this 55-inch edge LED-backlit TV from Samsung is one of the best looking TVs around. Much more important is its 4K resolution, which thankfully doesn't mean the UE55HU8200 is biased towards this virtually non-existent source of video. Treating Blu-ray and Freeview HD very well with high detail, accurate colour and bags of contrast, the app-packed UE55HU8200 is a great all-rounder that only struggles with its smart interaction voice control, and the odd motion blur. As the most affordable way to get a curved TV, the UE55HU8200 should have wide appeal, though we'd still prefer to save £700 and go for the almost identical – but flat – UE55HU7500 above.
A great value 50-inch TV, but does it have great performance too?
At just £500, the 50L4353 wears its main attraction right out there on its price ticket. But to be fair, that's actually not the only thing it's got going for it. For starters, it's got more features than you might expect from a self-consciously budget TV, including multimedia playback from USB storage devices and DLNA networked computers, and access to Toshiba's Cloud TV online platform, complete with some handy content-finding features and a few video streaming services.
Its pictures benefit from 100Hz processing too, helping them look pretty tasty with bright content. A lack of contrast makes dark scenes less satisfying, though, while the smart TV platform could really use more video services.
Read: Toshiba 50L4353 review
Sony's W8 TV offers high-end performance at a surprisingly affordable price
It's difficult not to be wowed by Sony's 2014 W8 wunderkind. This TV delivers absolutely where it counts, offering a scintillating performance that belies its price tag. Indeed, image quality is so uncompromisingly good, coping well with everything from moody movies to sprightly sports, you'll probably find it difficult to justify spending more.
While Sony doesn't offer a full suite of catch-up, there's a broad selection of quality Internet TV services (at least those you'll actually want to use on a regular basis), plus excellent functionality in the shape of the Discovery search and programme suggestion bar.
Design and build quality is also high, if black metal minimalism is what you're after.
Read: Sony KDL-50W829 review
A great value 4K TV with a few compromises
Excellent 4K detail, luscious colour, a very slim design and an impressive HD upscaling performance from its 4K CEVO engine are the highlights from Toshiba's smallest foray into Ultra HD, but shouldn't all 4K TVs have a dual-core processor?
A blemished reputation for usability follows, though a ponderous navigating Cloud TV only finds a small selection of must-have apps. Though it uses the Active Shutter 3D system, the 58L9363's interpretation is stained with crosstalk, while the clean upscaling of SD to fit the enormous resolution panel is beyond its 4K CEVO engine.
Read: Toshiba 589363DB review
Awesome 4K and great Blu-ray upscaling with the best TV sound around
With only slightly less wow factor than its big sibling, the far pricier KD-65X9005A, the KD-55X9005A is currently the best value Ultra HD telly around.
But it's not just the pin-sharp performance with (as yet non-existent) 4K sources that blew us away. As if to throw the AV world a few crumbs as we await 4K Blu-ray, Sony's provision of some awesome speakers flanking the 4K panel are a timely reminder of just how much cinematic impact is from sound.
Colour, too, is stunning, and the upscaling of Blu-ray is proficient. The downsides are a touch of motion blur and the somewhat ropey-look to upscaled standard definition sources, where the maths involved proves too much.
One of the best performers with Blu-ray, let alone 4K, the KD-55X9005A is a standout winner with 3D, too. The passive 3D system's loss of resolution here looks less like a compromise, and it's always smooth and bright. Until we wait for native 4K Blu-ray discs to drip onto the market, the KD-55X9005A has plenty to keep anyone satisfied.
Read: Sony KD-55X9005A review
A brilliant and highly-specified 4K TV
Samsung's UE55F9000 is another simply spectacular UHD/4K screen that also happens to bring the high-resolution technology in at more manageable price and size levels than any previous UHD model. Its slender design delivers an attractive alternative to the bigger look of Sony's 4K TVs, and its Smart TV service is unmatched in terms of the video streaming content on offer.
The UE55F9000 isn't necessarily better than Sony's X9005A 4K models, but it's certainly just as good, simply offering a surprisingly different approach to the undoubted joys of UHD.
Read: Samsung UE55F9000 review
Panasonic's flagship LCD TV is good but not great
The Panasonic TX-L55WT65 makes a startlingly strong first impression. Its sleek, glinting, airy, generally gorgeous design gets the ball rolling, but this is swiftly joined by a brilliantly friendly interface, a feature-rich series of content-access options and, most important of all, some really eye-catchingly sharp, colourful and beautifully nuanced pictures.
Longer examination, though, reveals some distracting clumsiness when handling dark scenes, a shortage of video streaming services versus some rival online platforms and a higher-than-average input lag figure. That adds up to more problems than we're comfortable seeing on a TV at this price.
A feature-rich but ultimately flawed midrange TV
LG has done a good job of serving up on the LG 55LA740V all the key design tricks and features users increasingly demand from a respectable mid-range TV. And it's put all of these design tricks and features on sale at a respectable price. LG has also clearly worked extremely hard on making its quite sophisticated smart TV platform feel easy and intuitive to use.
The TV's pictures know how to make an impact too, with their bold colours and high brightness and sharpness levels.
However, the LG 55LA740V sadly comes a bit of a cropper when asked to reproduce dark sequences, thanks to a below-par native contrast performance and a somewhat rough and ready local dimming system. Add to this a fairly high input lag figure, and you've got a TV that will likely frustrate both film fans and serious gamers - a fairly significant portion, in other words, of its potential audience.
Read: LG 55LA740V review
Sony's wedge-shaped TV is worth considering
The build up to the 55W955 really couldn't have been better. Last year's Sony 9 series TVs were outstanding, and the 50W829 got Sony's 2014 off to a belting start. The 55W955 shows all the right signs of living up to its pedigree too, thanks to its startling, sound-boosting 'wedge' design and an eye-catching feature count dominated by Sony's new and improved smart TV plaftform.
Some aspects of its pictures – especially colour - deliver on the 55W955's flagship HD model status too. But sadly the 55W955 is ultimately undone by a single but potent frailty: an inability to render dark scenes convincingly. This is so much of a problem, in fact, that ultimately I found I'd much rather watch Sony's cheaper W8 series.
Read: Sony KDL-55W955 review
Samsung's full HD TV flagship gets the curve
The 55-inch UE55H8000 jumps off crowded store shelves at you thanks to its curved screen design – and its rather eye-watering price for a full HD TV.
It works hard to justify this price with its feature count, though, which includes a sophisticated smart TV system with an effective content recommendation engine, more control options than any other brand of TV can offer and some potent picture technology in that new curved screen.
By far the best justification for its price, though, comes from its performance. For while the curve is less persuasive on this 55-inch TV than it was on the bigger, 65-inch Samsung UE65H8500, its picture quality is supremely good, while its sound is startlingly powerful.
Read: Samsung UE55H8000 review
It's OLED. It's curved. It's bloody brilliant
With its amazing super-slim and subtly curved design and groundbreaking OLED picture reproduction system, there's truly never been a TV quite like the 55EA9800 before.
I sincerely hope there will be more like it in the future, though, for its picture quality proves that its beauty is way more than skin deep, serving up picture thrills the likes of which I've genuinely never seen before.
The decision to curve the 55EA9800's screen feels a bit like adding an unnecessary layer of controversy to its mostly seriously tasty proposition, but unless you've got a particularly large family fighting for seating positions the curve shouldn't represent enough of a problem to put you off buying into the 55EA9800's countless other charms. In fact, only the set's price and lack of 4K resolution count significantly against it.
Read: LG 55EA9800 review