A few years ago, if you wanted to buy a decent LCD TV, chances are that you wouldn't be able to find any good models under $500. Although the best models are still priced higher, you can find models that can serve you well in this price category.
The TCL 6 Series/55R617 2018 is the best TV under $500. Its price fluctuates around the $500 mark, so it might be a few dollars more expensive when you check it out, though it's still worth it. This TV has great picture quality and can get very bright both in SDR and in HDR. Gamers will enjoy a responsive gaming experience due to the low input lag. The response time is very fast, and motion looks crisp with little motion blur trail behind fast-moving content. This TV has very good motion handling features like BFI, motion interpolation, and judder removal.
Unfortunately, the image loses accuracy when viewed at an angle, and there have been reports that the TV had issues with gray uniformity, although gray uniformity wasn't bad on our unit. On the upside, it has impressive HDR performance thanks to its wide color gamut and it can display HDR content with saturated colors and highlights that pop. Its dark room performance is also impressive. The TV displays deep blacks thanks to the high native contrast ratio and full array local dimming support.
It's worth noting that some retailers are currently offering the Vizio M Series Quantum 2019 M558-G1 at the same price as the TCL, though it isn't available everywhere at this price point. The Vizio has better local dimming and much better black uniformity, making it a better choice for a dark room. However, the TCL is a great all-around TV that should be able to handle a wide range of content and uses.
If you want something a bit cheaper than the TCL 6 Series 2018, check out the Hisense 50H8F. While it's 5 inches smaller, this great 50" TV can be found for considerably cheaper than the 55" TCL and has a very similar performance overall. The TCL is significantly brighter, which is excellent if you have a bright room, and it has better motion handling. That said, the Hisense looks much better in a dark room and has better reflection handling.
For the best performance under $500, get the TCL, but if you'd like to save some cash without compromising much in performance and don't need quite as big a TV, get the Hisense.
If you have a room with a wide seating arrangement and don't usually sit straight in front of your TV, check out the LG 55UM7300. It doesn't have the TCL 6 Series 2018's dark room performance, and blacks tend to look gray in a dark room. It also can't get very bright to fight bright room glare. On the upside, it has an IPS panel that delivers a decent picture quality with an image that remains accurate when viewed from the side. It has one of the lowest input lags we've measured up until now, and a very fast response time that'll keep gamers and those wishing to use it as a PC monitor happy.
If you sit straight in front of your TV, the TCL is the better choice; otherwise, if you don't need as big a TV, the LG will serve you well.
The best value for size TV under $500 is the TCL 5 Series/65S525 2019. Like other TCL TVs, it uses a VA panel that has an outstanding contrast ratio and impressive black uniformity, making it a great choice for dark room viewing. Response time is impressively low, with minimal blur trail behind fast-moving objects, but the backlight's flicker can cause some duplication of the image if the backlight is set too low, which can be bothersome for some. While this TV supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, its peak brightness won't be able to bring out highlights in HDR content; it is, however, bright enough to combat glare in a well-lit room.
For those looking to game on this TV, it has an excellent low input lag to provide a responsive gaming experience, and the TV can be used as a monitor as well, as it can display proper chroma 4:4:4. Unfortunately, it doesn't support any variable refresh rate technology and the panel is limited to 60Hz. Like most VA panels, viewing angles are quite poor, so it's not suitable for large rooms with wide seating arrangements. Roku OS is easy to use and runs smoothly, but you'll need to tolerate some ads on the main interface.
If you're looking for the biggest TV at the lowest price, this TV will give you the best bang for your buck.
If you're on a very limited budget, the TCL 4 Series/65S425 2019 is a good option. It has similar features to the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019, but it doesn't have a motion interpolation feature and doesn't support Dolby Vision. You get the same outstanding contrast ratio thanks to its VA panel, and it has a remarkably low input lag for gaming. The biggest downside of this TV is its peak brightness, as it's bright enough for a moderately lit room, but may struggle in well-lit rooms. It can get a bit brighter in HDR mode, but not enough to make HDR content an enjoyable experience. Last but not least, if you care about color accuracy, this TV has a rather disappointing performance compared to the 5 Series.
Overall, there's very little difference in price between the two models, which makes the 5 Series a better choice for most people, but if you want to save a few bucks, the 4 Series is a decent choice.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best TVs under $500 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.
01/31/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
01/02/2019: Made the TCL 65S525 main pick for 'Best Value for Size', with TCL 65S425 as 'Slightly Cheaper Alternative'. Changed LG 49UM7300 to LG 55UM7300 and Hisense 55H8F to 50H8F to reflect recent price changes.
10/29/2019: Replaced the TCL S Series 65S405 with the TCL 4 Series 2019 65S425, and the TCL 4 Series 55S425 with the TCL 5 Series/55S525 2019. Made changes to text for clarity.