You don't have to spend a small fortune to get a decent TV. Today, even cheap TVs can deliver a decent viewing experience for most uses, and many of them have great smart features, eliminating the need to spend more on an external streaming device. Whether you're looking for a small TV for a guest room or a large TV on a budget, there's something for everyone.
The best budget TV we've tested so far is the Hisense 55H8F. This is a great TV for dark room viewing thanks to its outstanding contrast ratio and exceptional black uniformity. With the help of its local dimming feature, blacks look deep and inky, and there's very little blooming in dark scenes. This TV also has an impressive wide color gamut, producing rich, saturated colors in HDR content; but unfortunately, its peak brightness isn't able to bring out bright highlights in some scenes. However, it's bright enough to overcome glare in a well-lit room, and reflection handling is decent.
Response time on this TV is somewhat on the slow side, but still decent. There's noticeable blur behind fast-moving objects, but thankfully, it has an optional black frame insertion feature to help clear up the image. Input lag is remarkably low for those looking to game on this TV; however, there isn't any support for any variable refresh rate technology, and the panel's refresh rate is limited to 60Hz. Like most VA panels, viewing angles are rather poor, so it's not the best choice for large rooms with wide seating arrangements.
This TV has a budget price, but its performance and features should still satisfy most people.
If you often host large parties to watch a big game, then you'll need a TV with better viewing angles and motion handling, like the LG 49UM7300PUA. Unlike the Hisense H8F, this TV uses an IPS panel with much better viewing angles, so images don't appear washed out even if you're watching from the side. However, the downside with most IPS panels is their low contrast ratio, making blacks look more like gray when viewed in the dark. Although there's some vignetting at the corners of the TV, its gray uniformity is great, as there's very little dirty screen effect that can be distracting. Response time and input lag are amazingly low, and it has an 'Auto Low Latency Mode' which is triggered when the TV detects a game being launched from a compatible gaming console such as the Xbox One.
Overall, the Hisense performs better, but sports fans should consider the LG.
If price is your primary concern, then the best cheap TV we've tested so far is the TCL 3 Series/32S325 2019. It's a mediocre TV overall. There's no HDR support or any advanced motion handling features like motion interpolation or a judder removal option. On the upside, this TV will serve you well if you're looking for a secondary TV, especially for a room where space is limited. It delivers a mediocre picture quality with deep blacks in a dark room, but can't get very bright so it's more suitable for a dim room like a garage.
This TV has a 1080p resolution and doesn't support native 4k. The 32" model is limited to a 720p resolution (except for the 32S327 variant). On the upside, all models run the same Roku smart TV interface found on the higher-end TCL models. The Roku interface is smooth, easy-to-use, and gives you access to a large number of apps to cover any need.
Overall, this TV can't compete with higher-end models, but it's great as a secondary TV where top picture quality isn't required.
If you don't need any of the Roku TV smart features found on the TCL 3 Series 2019 and would prefer a larger TV just to watch Free-To-Air channels, then get the TCL 1 Series/40D100. It delivers a decent picture quality but doesn't have any advanced options to help you further improve the picture quality. It completely lacks any smart features, but it'll serve you well as a simple display. If you want, you can connect an Android TV box or an Apple TV to turn it into a smart system. This TV will serve you well if you only have basic needs from your TV.
While the TCL S325 is the cheapest TV with a full set of smart features, if you don't care about smart features, the TCL D100 will do the job, and it's also larger.
Since prices fluctuate significantly around this time of year, it's hard to pinpoint the best value for size TV; however, the TCL 5 Series/65S525 2019 is a very strong candidate for this title. Despite being in the budget category, it's a 65 inch TV with a fairly premium look thanks to its very thin bezels and metal accents. It features a wide color gamut, which is important for displaying HDR content and delivers deep, uniform blacks, even without having a local dimming feature.
This TV should have no difficulty overcoming glare in bright rooms thanks to its good peak brightness for SDR content, though unfortunately, it doesn't get quite bright enough for HDR content to pop the way it should. This is a great TV for gamers, however, thanks to its outstanding low input lag and great response time, resulting in a responsive gaming experience with only a short blur trail behind fast-moving objects.
Unfortunately, the image degrades at an angle, so this may not be the best option for watching sports with a big group of people. It's also not the best choice for watching HDR content, as it can't get quite bright enough for it to pop, though it still does a decent job, especially for this price point. Overall, this is a good TV for most uses and offers great value for its price.
If you want a 65" TV in the budget category but don't want to spend quite as much, get the TCL 4 Series 2019 65S425. It doesn't have a wide color gamut like the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 and doesn't get nearly as bright, but it's a bit cheaper and has better reflection handling. Unfortunately, it doesn't look quite as premium as the other TCL, with thicker, plastic bezels, and its picture quality isn't as good due to its lack of a wide color gamut and significantly dimmer screen. On the upside, it does a better job of handling reflections, which is good if you have a lot of lights in front of the TV.
Overall, if you want the best value for size TV with a lot of modern features and capabilities for a very low price, get the 5 Series, but if you don't mind a lower quality image and want to save a few bucks, go with the 4 Series.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap TVs to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper TV wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no TVs that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our reviews of TVs that are less than $500. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no TV is perfect, most TVs are great enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.
03/02/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
01/07/2020: Replaced the 'Best Value for Size TV' to the TCL 5 Series 2019 65S525; changed the 4 Series 2019 65S425 to the 'Cheaper Alternative'.
12/06/2019: Reconfirmed the picks to reflect current market conditions; however, during the Black Friday period, prices fluctuate significantly making it hard to pinpoint the best choice. Make sure you check out the notable mentions as well.
09/10/2019: Replaced the 'Best Value for Size TV' from the Vizio E Series 2018 (E55-F1), as price changes allow the 65" TCL 4 Series S425 to fall in this category.