Should you buy a 55-inch OLED TV or a 65-inch LCD TV?

Depends on where you sit.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
3 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET

Right now you can get LG's OLED55B6P OLED TV for $2,000. It offers the best picture quality we've ever tested.

For someone in that price bracket, it sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not necessarily. That's because it's a 55-inch TV, and for a lot of people, that's just too small.

If you haven't been TV shopping in awhile, allow me to explain. Not too long ago, 55 inches was considered huge, and for many buyers it's still plenty big. But the real growth in TV sales over the last few years has happened in even larger screen sizes. TVs sized at 65 inches and up are cheaper than ever, so many people are buying one and moving their old, smaller TVs into a secondary room.

The falling price of big TVs leads to dilemmas like this:

Surprised by my answer? Here's where it comes from.

At home I sit about 10 feet from a 65-inch TV, and it feels pretty close to the "right" size to me. It's nice and big with an immersive image that shows plenty of detail with TV shows, movies and video games . But I review TVs for a living, and at this point I could easily imagine moving a 75-inch TV in there and being blown away. I won't lie -- it would be friggin' awesome, and I really doubt I'd consider it too big for my space.

For the record, my wife disagrees. I floated the hypothetical to her and the response was: "Hell no, our TV is big enough already." 'Nuff said.

Bigger alternatives to OLED

You can't get a great 75-inch TV for $2,000 yet, but there is an excellent selection of high-performance 65-inch models in that price range, and even less. My favorite is the Vizio P65-C1 ($1,900) but the Samsung UN65KS8000 ($1,600), the Sony X930D (currently $2,100, but $1,800 10 days ago) and the Vizio M65-D0 ($1,200) are great choices, too.

The problem? They're all LCDs, and they don't come close to the picture quality of that 55-inch LG OLED, especially when viewed from off-angle (seats to either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the TV). They're all very good, however, hence the dilemma.

My advice: Shop on size first, then quality

I've said as much for years in my TV Buying Guide, but let me reiterate: The best place to put your money is in screen size.

I'm not saying you should go out and get the biggest TV you can afford, image quality be damned. There's a balance. All of the LCD TVs I mentioned above are "very good" to "outstanding" performers according to CNET's rating system.

I'm also not saying you should buy one of them instead of LG's 65-inch OLED TV. But that TV currently costs $3,500 (up from $3,000 during the recent Super Bowl-inspired TV sales just a couple of weeks ago), which is way out of most people's price range.

If my choice was between a 55-inch OLED TV for $2,000 and a 65-inch LCD TV for around the same price, I'd only get the OLED if I was sitting relatively close -- say 7 feet or closer. OK, maybe 8, but definitely not 9.

For longer seating distances, get a good 65-inch LCD TV if you can't afford a 65-inch OLED. It won't deliver the same kind of world-beating picture quality, but the bump in size, immersion and general enjoyment of the picture will, for most people, be worth it.

Of course, if you're not in a rush, sit back and wait for those Black Friday OLED sales we hope to see nine months from now. That's when things may get really interesting.

Watch this: LG B6 and E6 OLED TVs give the best picture we've ever tested

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