There was a time when plasma screens reigned supreme in the 46-inch TV market. But in much the same way as a meteor strike killed off the dinosaurs, the second coming of the LCD TV is the invasive species that has done for plasma.
We're still huge advocates of plasma on TechRadar, don't get us wrong, but the tech is dying out at this size. Old-school CCFL tech has been replaced by LED backlight scanning and technical wizardry to make LCD tech viable in large sizes.
So the majority of TVs in this size bracket are now from the LED side of the wall, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. LED TVs these days are brighter than plasmas, they're thinner and there's a lot more variety on show.
- Christmas special: TV Buying Guide 2014
So here's our selection of the best 46-inch, 47-inch and now also 48-inch TVs for your perusal.
An excellent option at a fair price
The 2D and 3D high def images impress on the 48-inch UE48H6700. It's a slight upgrade on the UE48H6400 below and the bigger price is all about the picture. The provision of both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners is good value, and so is the new concept for a remote control, though the standard remote provided is both small and, at times, unreliable. Confusingly, the massive-sounding quad core processor inside doesn't appear to speed-up navigation of the nevertheless excellent user interface. Overall it's a good value step-up set that will appeal most of all to those after some exacting picture quality, such as film fans, but you'll need a separate sound system.
Read: Samsung UE48H6700 review
A great all-round TV for a very attractive price
The UE48H6400 is a tad cheaper than the H6700 above but still sees the new penchant for direct LED-backlit LCD panels pay off handsomely, with the great black levels and contrast the highlights on this fast-working TV.
Ultimately, the quad core processor, intense detail and fantastic blacks levels make the first-ever 48-inch TV we've reviewed a winner. A fine example of a direct LED-backlit LCD TV, the UE48H6400 has contrast and black levels to spare, while both upscaling and smart TV impress, too.
Samsung 3D will presumably add the missing apps on its smart TV platform as quickly as it can, but the lack of the BBC iPlayer, Demand Five and BBC Sport apps at launch is a lesson in what to do with a brand new TV launched in Spring; leave it in the shop until late summer, that's what.
Read: Samsng UE48H6400 review
Is there a better budget smart 3D TV?
The headline-grabber is the Smart Touch remote control, which has a touch trackpad to navigate the TV screens as well as a built-in microphone. The latter's voice control is a disappointment, as is gesture control, but that applies to all Samsung smart TVs. The Wi-Fi-powered Smart Hub sports the finest collection of apps around - including the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player (exclusively), 4OD and Demand 5 - and looks better than ever with its new five-screen treatment.
Picture quality on the Samsung UE46F6400 46-inch TV - delivered by Samsung's 3D HyperReal Engine - sport black levels that are a step down from Samsung's higher-end TVs, with less shadow detailing on show, but we were impressed by the TV's ballistic colours, decent contrast and fine HD detailing. A 200Hz panel and MotionPlus processing ensures smooth motion sequences, and helps the active shutter 3D system work, too - though only two pairs of 3D specs are provided.
Read: Samsung UE40F6400 review
Great-looking 3D mid-ranger
Two pairs of 3D specs ship with the Panasonic TX-L47ET60B 47-inch TV, though here that's bordering on rude since this TV uses the 99p glasses-compatible 'easy 3D' polarised flavour. Panasonic's luscious new My Home Screen pages are home to apps, browser shortcuts and other widgets, and customisable to multiple users - it's all a huge advance on previous incarnations. We'd judge it about as impressive as Samsung's, though perhaps more polished. Swipe & Share 2.0, an app-based feature that sees two-way file exchanges between the TV and your smart devices, works a treat too.
The True Cinema picture preset lends the Panasonic TX-L47ET60B an immediate dose of accurate colour, detail, smoothness and awesome upscaling right out of the box, though black levels and contrast are average - those polarised 3D pictures are easiest on the eye.
NFC niceties on this great gaming TV
£1,100: The Sony KDL-47W805 47-inch TV is an acquired taste. We've included it here because of its totally refreshed user interface, which is as clean and well rendered as anything else we've seen in 2013. Bright content looks great and the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) smart TV platform, though not exactly stuffed with apps, contains the essentials. 3D works well and as a gaming TV there's few better, though native contrast is average and audio is uninspiring.
However, we're not convinced it's worth the slight premium over the the Samsung UE46F6400 and Panasonic TX-L47ET60B, which pile on apps and awesome usability while offering picture quality at least as good as this slightly overpriced offering from Sony's W8 Series. Those with NFC in their Android smartphone can begin a life of touch 'n' go streaming; a killer feature for sure, and possibly decisive.
Magic Remote puts Cinema 3D TV in control
A slinky design that can match any 47-inch TV issued in 2013, the LG 47LA740V has an extensive feature list that includes one of the most heavily populated and well-interfaced smart TV engines in town, as well as the sort of picture set-up subtleties normally reserved for high-end models.
The THX modes create an instant cinema-like picture, and though there are slight picture foibles - below par black levels and problematic local dimming - images are mostly bright and colourful. They also contribute to an excellent polarised 3D performance, but it's the smart TV antics that most impress. Laden with catch-up TV apps it may not be, but the user interface on LG TVs is the alpha male; its mobile device and digital media-savvy SmartShare software makes sure of that, but we also love its Magic Remote pointer-style controller.
Read: LG 55LA740V review
THX and ISF picture modes equal instant cinema
Once again it's hats off to LG for its stunning user interface - a simpler TV to use does not exist - though the LG 47LA860W 47-inch TV puts in a sterling picture performance, too. OK, so it lacks a touch of contrast, but colour is well saturated and natural-looking, while detail from HD sources is stunning even during fast-paced sequences. Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) picture modes are here, which once again work a treat at producing a brilliantly cinema-like image out-of-the-box, though there is a full suite of colour management tweaks for those who want them.
Unusually for a 3D TV, the LG 47LA860W has both great 24W speakers and can convert anything to 3D. From live TV to a DVD or even something you're streaming over the digital media software SmartShare, it's all fair game for 3D.
Quad-core usability ideal for living rooms
Slimmer than the Samsung UE46F8000 by half a millimetre, this step-down 46-inch TV packs a punch despite its use of weaker speakers and a less advanced panel. Its quad-core processor is a revelation in terms of usability (everyday TV functions are performed very quickly), while the redesign of Smart Hub - as well as a host of slinky transitions, icons and live TV thumbnails - is as impressive as the all-round picture quality that extends to awesome 3D.
Out-of-box presets are overcooked and we did find some slight LED light leakage in the corners, but the latter is only noticeable in blackout conditions. Elsewhere that quad-core power helps produce a versatile, clean and smooth picture. Destined for use in the living room, the Samsung UE46F7000 rounds things off by putting in an active shutter 3D performance of stunning detail and depth.
Bravia blazes its way to top marks
Slim of waist and with a Triluminous panel that creates vivid colours that visually snap, crackle and pop as you watch, the KDL-46W905A 46-inch TV is the pinnacle of Sony's Full HD TV ambitions. An upgraded version of its X-Reality Pro chip offers industry-leading picture processing. Reds in particular have a look of purity unlike anything we've seen before, while even poor source material sports a nicely polished look. The only downside is active shutter 3D, which features some crosstalk.
Sony does not provide voice activation or gesture-based control, but it does add a mini remote that can pair to an NFC-equipped smartphone just by tapping them together. That's smart, though apps are a little on the light side. If the pictures are so astonishing, why isn't the Sony KDL-46W905 the brand's top dog? Ultra HD, that's why, though anyone after a screen smaller than Sony's 55-inch KD-55X9005A Ultra HD TV should audition this W9 Series Bravia TV.
A home cinema sweetheart with convincing blacks
Philips' top Full HD television for 2013 - with the exception of the larger Philips 55PFL8008S, perhaps - is one of the best in the business. Detail in both moving images and close-ups is excellent, blacks are profound and its Perfect Natural Motion circuitry adds an enjoyable high frame rate-look.
Ambilight impresses once again, while the floating design is incredibly effective. Its double-sided remote makes entering text on a TV at least a possibility, while the sound quality is nothing short of stunning.
Samsung's flagship full HD TV with enhanced smart TV features
Flying the flag for premium Full HD flatscreens is a thankless task in the face of curved and 4K models, and models such as the UE46H7000 are in danger of being tarred with the outdated brush. It doesn't exactly push the envelope of Full HD, but putting aside comparisons with these nascent technologies for a second, the UE46H7000 features a slew of innovations designed to enhance the user experience.
These include a point-and-click remote, streamlined Smart TV interface, dual picture display and a faster processor. In terms of picture and sound processing it doesn't offer anything beyond previous generations but is more of a consolidation of existing technologies.
Read: Samsung UE46H7000 review