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The 6 Best Budget TVs - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Budget TVs
206 Televisions Tested
  • Store-bought TVs; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

You don't have to spend a small fortune to get a decent TV. Even cheap TVs today can deliver a decent viewing experience for most uses, and many of them have great smart features, eliminating the need to spend even more on an external streaming device. Whether you are looking for a small TV for a guest room, or a large TV on a budget, there is something for everyone.

We've reviewed 77 TVs, and below you'll find the best budget TVs to purchase in 2018. See also our recommendations for the best TVs under $500.

Note: Prices and availability fluctuate a lot at the end of the year and especially after Black Friday.

  1. Best Cheap TV: TCL 32S305

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2015
    • 0.9: Winter 2014
    • 0.8: Winter 2013
    6.2
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
    Score components:
    5.8
    Movies
    What it is: Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
    Score components:
    6.9
    TV Shows
    What it is: TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Sports
    What it is: Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
    7.0
    Video Games
    What it is: Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
    4.6
    HDR Movies
    What it is: HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
    Score components:
    4.1
    HDR Gaming
    What it is: HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
    6.6
    PC Monitor
    What it is: PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
    Score components:
    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    VA
    Resolution : 1080p (except 28", 32")

    The TCL 32S305 is the best cheap TV that we've tested so far. It is an affordable choice for a secondary TV, like in the kitchen or garage. It has great dark room performance, thanks to the great native contrast ratio, but it can't get bright enough to overcome glare in a bright room. 

    The 28" and 32" models are very cheap, but are limited to a 720p resolution. If you want something a bit better, the TCL S305 is also available in 40", 43", and 49", all of which have a 1080p native resolution. All models have the same great smart interface, with thousands of streaming channels available, covering almost any need.

    Overall, the S305 is a basic non-4k TV that should please most people, as long as you aren't looking for the best picture quality or performance.

    See our review

  2. Wide Room Alternative: Vizio D32f-E1

    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    IPS (except 50")
    Resolution : 1080p

    If you have a wide seating area, the IPS panel on the Vizio D Series 2017 may be a better choice, as the image remains accurate at wider viewing angles. Unlike the TCL S305, all sizes except for the 24" model have a 1080p resolution, which is great. Unlike most Vizio TVs, the D Series 2017 has a more feature-packed smart interface, including an app store with a limited selection of apps.

    The Vizio D Series 2017 has been replaced by the 2018 and now 2019 models, but unfortunately, we haven't reviewed them yet. We don't know what differences exist between them.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget TV: Samsung UN43NU6900

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2015
    • 0.9: Winter 2014
    • 0.8: Winter 2013
    7.4
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
    Score components:
    6.7
    Movies
    What it is: Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
    Score components:
    7.5
    TV Shows
    What it is: TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Sports
    What it is: Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
    8.1
    Video Games
    What it is: Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
    6.8
    HDR Movies
    What it is: HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
    Score components:
    7.6
    HDR Gaming
    What it is: HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
    7.8
    PC Monitor
    What it is: PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
    Score components:
    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    VA
    Resolution : 4k

    If you have a higher budget, the Samsung UN43NU6900 is the best budget TV that we've reviewed so far. The NU6900 is a decent 4k TV that delivers decent overall picture quality, with high native contrast and low input lag. Unfortunately, it only has 2 HDMI ports and has limited HDR capabilities. The image also loses accuracy when viewed at an angle.

    On the other hand, the NU6900 has similar smart features to the rest of the NU lineup, but it lacks some of the more advanced smart features, and comes with a simpler remote. It has excellent low input lag, great for gaming, and has a good response time, so fast moving objects only have a slight blur trail behind them.

    Overall, the NU6900 is a decent 4k TV, great for budget shoppers that don't need the best picture quality, or if you're looking for a cheap smart TV for a secondary viewing location.

    See our review

  4. Larger Alternative: Toshiba 50LF621U19

    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    VA
    Resolution : 4k

    If you want a larger budget TV, check out the 50" Toshiba Fire TV. It is a decent 4k TV that delivers decent overall picture quality, with a fast response time and very good low input lag. It has good SDR peak brightness, but can't get very bright in HDR. This TV has great smart features, including the excellent voice control features of Amazon Alexa that can be controlled from your phone, the remote, or by speaking directly to the TV.

    See our review

  5. Best Value for Size: Vizio E43-F1

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2015
    • 0.9: Winter 2014
    • 0.8: Winter 2013
    7.6
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: General purpose. The TV will be used for a variety of content and usages. Movies at night, TV shows during the day, video games from time to time, etc.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Movies
    What it is: Movies in the dark. The TV will be used for watching movies in a controlled environment, directly in front, in a home theater way. Mostly only high quality content, like Blu-rays, UHD Blu-rays, streaming and a little bit of HDR.
    Score components:
    7.3
    TV Shows
    What it is: TV Shows in a bright living room. The TV will be used in to watch TV shows, in a bright room during the day, from multiple viewing positions at different angles. The content watched has an average quality: cable, streaming, SD channels, etc.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Sports
    What it is: Sports in a living room. The TV will be used to watch sports during the day, like football or hockey. Usually watched with a group, so from multiple viewing position.
    8.4
    Video Games
    What it is: Video games. The TV will be used to play video games, directly in front, in a controlled light environment. Usually fast games, like online FPS, where motion blur and input lag is important.
    7.3
    HDR Movies
    What it is: HDR Movies and TV shows. The TV will be used to watch 4k UHD HDR content, with a wide color gamut and a high peak brightness. Either via UHD Blu-rays or HDR streaming.
    Score components:
    8.1
    HDR Gaming
    What it is: HDR Gaming. The TV will be used to play HDR video games using consoles that support it or on current generation gaming PCs. Xbox One S, PS4 Pro, GTX 10 series and AMD RX series graphics cards.
    8.0
    PC Monitor
    What it is: PC Monitor. The TV will be used as a PC monitor, from 2-3 feet away, either for productivity purposes or gaming. Sharp text is important, as well as a high resolution.
    Score components:
    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    VA
    Resolution : 4k

    The Vizio E Series 2018 offers the most value of any cheap TV that we've tested so far. It is a good 4k TV available in sizes ranging from 43" to 75". It has a VA panel, so it looks great in a dark room, but unfortunately, the image degrades when viewed at an angle, so it isn't as well suited for a wide, bright living room.

    The E-Series is a great cheap gaming TV as well. It has excellent low input lag, and an excellent response time, so fast moving objects in games look good, with only a slight blur trail behind them. It also has an optional black frame insertion feature that can help reduce persistence blur. Unfortunately, it doesn't support any variable refresh rate technologies like FreeSync, but very few TVs do.

    The Vizio E-Series doesn't have a wide color gamut, so HDR content doesn't look as good as it should. The E-Series also doesn't have the most advanced smart features. It has a nice interface that is easy to use, but it has a limited selection of apps, and no way to add more. Overall, the E-Series delivers decent picture quality that should please most people.

    See our review

  6. Better Smart Features Alternative: TCL 43S517

    Type : LED
    Sub-Type
    What it is: Type of display technology used by the TV.
    When it matters: Different technologies have different performance and are suited to different uses
    Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle. OLED maintains good color accuracy at an angle without any of the other issues seen with IPS and VA, as they keep good brightness and contrast at an angle.
    :
    VA
    Resolution : 4k

    If you want a great cheap TV, but are looking for something with more advanced smart features, check out the TCL 43S517. Unlike the Vizio E Series, the S517 has hundred of available streaming channels, covering almost any need, and the smart interface is very fast and easy to use, although it isn't as polished as the E Series. The TCL 5 Series delivers decent overall picture quality to the E Series, but it is a bit dimmer in HDR. It is also a great gaming TV, thanks to a fast response time and excellent low input lag. Overall, it is a decent TV that should please most people.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Samsung NU7100. Decent TV, but not much of an improvement over the NU6900. See our review
  • LG UK6300. Decent 4k TV with very good gaming performance, but the S517 is better overall. See our review
  • Insignia Fire TV. Nearly identical to the Toshiba Fire TV, but a bit more expensive. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget 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. 

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