Not too long ago, a 40-inch TV was considered rather massive – although admittedly this was back at the end of the CRT era, when TVs were thicker than most entertainment centers and weighed more, too.
Those days are now long behind us, with 65-inch TVs now the main staple of American living rooms (and Europe not far behind). As we get used to bigger - and hopefully better - displays in our homes, it's easy to assume that the lowly 40-inch TV could be on its way out.
- Want to know about the best 40-inch TVs of 2019? Our CES 2019 coverage starts January 7!
That's not the case though: if you want an upgrade from a 32-inch television that won't suddenly overwhelm your living room, a 40-inch TV is a superb option. You still get a great experience for movies and games, and 40-inch TVs are much cheaper on average than their 55- and 65-inch counterparts.
The only drawback is you don't always get the latest tech with a 40-inch TV. You won't find 40-inch OLEDs, or ones with the latest, greatest processors inside. That can mean that 4K and HDR are off the table, or that motion interpolation and upscaling are spotty at best – especially if you buy whatever TV is in the sale of the week.
The good news is that not all TVs and TV brands are created equal, and there are a number of exceptional 40-inch TVs with 4K HDR at a reasonable price. We've done all the hard work and research for you, and can promise that what you are about to look at are the best 40-inch TVs of the year.
How do I pick out a 40-inch TV?
Before we dive into our recommendations, it's worth going over what we look for when we're reviewing and recommending TVs here on TechRadar.
Ultra HD vs Full HD: That you can’t see a difference between Full HD and Ultra HD on a screen smaller than 55 inches is a common misconception. If you take your time and really look at a picture – especially if that picture is using High Dynamic Range – you will see a difference.
We recommend picking a TV with 4K Ultra-HD and HDR if you can find one. They’re not the standard at this screen size, as the cost can outweigh the benefits for someone shopping for an ultra-cheap TV, but if you're serious about video, 4K is vital.
Operating system: 40-inch TVs didn't always come with a smart TV operating system in the past. These dumb TVs were incredibly cheap to make, and therefore cheap to buy, too. But there was a problem: as Netflix and YouTube became more and more popular, people wanted to stream those services on their TV without resorting to a streaming video device like a Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Chromecast.
These days, it's fairly easy to find good Smart TV on a 40-inch TV. All but the most bare-bones of screens will have them. What you're looking for, ideally, is a well-maintained operating system like Roku TV, LG's webOS or Samsung's Tizen operating system. If you go with a TV that uses a proprietary operating system (basically an operating system exclusive to that one TV) you might have some serious issues down the road.
Inputs and outputs: Connections seem boring, but trust us – this is something most folks don't think about until they bring the TV home and get it all connected, only to realize their great new TV only has one HDMI port.
Having multiple HDMI ports (along with options for optical audio out and RCA connectors) allow you to connect most – if not all – of your devices. This will save you time in the long run as you won't have to get up and switch the cables around any time you want to change the input.
Now you know what to look for in a TV, here are a few screens that we think might be a good addition to your burgeoning home entertainment center.
What's the best 40-inch TV in 2018?
Samsung NU7100 Series
New for 2018, the NU7100 has awesome upscaling, UHD dimming and 4K resolution
Samsung has long led the way in the mid-range and until very recently was almost unchallenged for the throne. While TVs like the TCL 5-Series and VIZIO E-Series offer much fiercer competition than we've ever seen before, Samsung still beats all the rest with its NU7100. While it doesn't offer as colorful HDR as the TCL or VIZIO, Samsung's NU7100 does a significantly better job upscaling content, which means those of you still rocking HD content – cough, cable, cough – will appreciate this TV's ability to make 1080p content look great in any circumstance.
While the TV suffers from limited viewing angles and is slightly more expensive than the rest of the TVs you'll find on this list, the NU7100 is our pick for the best 40-inch TV in 2018.
TCL 5-Series 43S517
Great Smart TV features on a budget
OK, so the TCL 43S517 isn't exactly a 40-inch TV – it's 43-inches. But look, you can get three extra inches for less than some 40-inch screens! Beyond the extra size, however, the TCL is an extraordinary value. It packs Dolby Vision HDR into a 4K TV that's built on top of Roku TV. Not only does that save you from buying an external streaming video device, but Roku TV is one of the best platforms on the planet.
Samsung and LG might have done an exceptional job improving their UIs over the years, but Roku TV is fast, responsive and packed to the gills with content – thousands of channels are available. Not only does it have a ton of stuff to watch, it's all super-easy to find thanks to its universal search feature. It scans over 200 channels to find films and shows at their lowest possible price.
If you're after the best deal, you can do no better than this.
A fantastic 40-inch TV with 4K and HDR for UK buyers
UK residents don’t know how good they have it when it comes to mid-size TVs. Panasonic, one of the finest panel makers out there, makes high caliber 40-inch screens at an affordable price, like the Panasonic TX-40EX600B.
The screen was released in 2017 and packs both 4K and HDR into its 40-inch panel.
While long time Panasonic owners might be a bit concerned not to see the trusty Firefox OS at the helm of the screen, don’t worry – the My Home Screen 2.0 interface is almost the same thing, but developed entirely in-house by Panasonic.
Add to that three HDMI ports and you have a pretty fancy screen without a high price attached.
Vizio D-Series D40f-E1
Serious connectivity options in an affordable package
If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, and you live Stateside, VIZIO's D-Series offers great FHD visuals for next-to-nothing.
This year's model to beat is the VIZIO D40f-E1. The TV offers a 120Hz effective refresh rate, full-array backlighting and a 200,000:1 contrast ratio. This ensures solid image quality.
The VIZIO D40f-E1 looks good, has a great contrast ratio and can keep up with the action if you're watching a game of football on Sunday. It doesn't look as good as our top picks, but considering that VIZIO's screen usually costs less than $300, we're more than happy.
This is Panasonic's dirt-cheap designer 4K LED TV
Entry-level UHD is a hot category for TV makers in 2018. This year, every major brand want a slice of this booming budget market. But can the cheapest 4K HDR sets really deliver all the thrills that 4K HDR is capable of?
Panasonic reckons so, and has loaded its incoming FX600 Series with some impressive technology - including HDR10+ dynamic metadata support. Dynamic metadata allows a screen to more accurately tone map high dynamic range images, even though it lacks the native light output to really do HDR justice.
With a combination of sharp design, hassle-free smart portal and crisp imagery, this is one of the best entry-level panels on the market.
Read the full review: Panasonic TX-43FX600
- Looking for the best screen, period? Here's the best TV of 2018