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  5. Q&A

The 3 Best TVs under $500 - Spring 2018

Best TVs under 500

181 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.

Budget TVs won't have a fancy design and won't have great support for HDR content but they can still provide good picture quality and feature-rich smart platforms. Even more niche aspects like input lag and motion can still be quite good. As long as you aren't looking for fancy remotes or high-end build quality, you can still find some good TVs under $500.

We've tested 48 TVs and below are our top picks for TVs available under $500 in the spring of 2018.

Best TV under $500: TCL 55S405

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
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Test Benches: test

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2015
  • 0.9: Winter 2014
  • 0.8: Winter 2013
Mixed Usage
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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:
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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:
TV Shows
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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:
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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.
Video Games
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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.
HDR Movies
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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.
HDR Gaming
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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.
PC Monitor
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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
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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.
Resolution : 4k

The best TV under $500 is the TCL 55S405 4k LED TV. It isn't the brightest TV available, so bright room performance isn't great, but it produces decent picture quality. With the new 2018 models coming out soon, there are some great deals on the S405.

While it doesn't have a local dimming feature, it does have an optional black frame insertion feature which will help with motion, and it has excellent low input lag which is great for gaming.

It runs the excellent Roku TV smart interface, which has a great selection of smart apps available as well as hundreds of streaming channels. It also has built-in wireless streaming from phones and tablets, similar to Google's Chromecast.

See our review

Cheaper Alternative: TCL 49S305

Type : LED
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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.
Resolution : 1080p (except 28", 32")

If you want something cheaper and 4k isn't important for you, the TCL 49S305 is a good alternative. It isn't as bright but it has decent picture quality and good motion handling. It has the same smart features as the more expensive TCL S405.

See our review

Alternative With a Wide Angle: Sony KD43X720E

Type : LED
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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.
Resolution : 4k

If you have a large viewing area or enjoy watching the big game with lots of friends, the limited viewing angle of the TCL S305 and S405 is a problem. The Sony X720E is a great alternative. It doesn't provide the best value for the money, as the 43" is more expensive than the 55" TCL S405, but it has an excellent wide viewing angle and is currently our best budget TV for watching sports.

See our review

Notable Mentions

  • LG 55UJ6300. Bad picture quality for the price. See our review
  • Samsung 40MU6300. Decent versatile TV, but a bit too expensive for its size. See our review
  • Vizio E Series 2017. Good versatile TV, but more expensive than the TCL S405. See our review
  • TCL S517. Decent versatile 4k TV, but more expensive than the S405 for similar performance. See our review

All Reviews

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

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Questions & Answers

The format of the site is great. I'd love for you to add some more roku brands like TCL.
We have nothing planned for TCL yet, but we might start doing them if enough people request it.
Update: Ok, you can stop upvoting this question. We heard you. Our first review of a TCL TV will be posted next week!
I am looking to buy a smart tv around 46-55 inches. I want the tv to be a good price about $300-$400. I have my eyed set on either samsung or tcl roku as a brand. Can you guys tell me which would be best?
Unfortunately, we haven't reviewed any TV that we would recommend in that size and budget range.
I'm in the market for a 40"-class TV under $500. It'd be used for 60% TV watching, 10% BluRays, and 30% video games. The viewing environment is a relatively dim room with only a few lamps for lighting. For the next few weeks, I have the chance to purchase either the Vizio E420i-B0 or the Sony KDL-40W600B for roughly the same price. Would you recommend one over the other for my situation?
They're very similar in terms of the quality they deliver. You get better uniformity with the Sony W600B, but slightly more motion blur and a little bit more input lag. If you're sensitive to blur, pick up the Vizio E. Otherwise, the Sony offers slightly better picture quality. Again, it's very close.
Hi, I was wondering if you have any information on the Sony 650d and if this is a better TV than the Sony 600b. Thanks
We will be reviewing the Sony W650D in the coming months.
Not sure what the best way to "second" a response is - I up-arrowed the remark about TCL/Roku TVs. I am going to snag one for the bedroom as a 75% gaming 25% tv usage box. For $250-$300 i can get the TCL-40FS3800 but I can only compare the supposed input lag of 30ms Game Mode from CNet against some of the TVs you've reviewed and it looks like it will work for me. I would rather get all my info from you because I like how you review things. Thanks!
Cnet and us use the same tool to measure the input lag, so the numbers are comparable across sites (note, only this number is comparable, other measurements will differ).
Hello Cedric. I'm planning to buy a 40" LED TV just for gaming (Budget below $400). I recently came across the 2015 Vizio E series (Model no: Vizio E40-C2) on Amazon and Vizio's main website itself. So, can you guys review this TV? It would be of immense help if you guys do it as soon as possible. Thank you.
We do plan on reviewing this TV, but unfortunately, it has not hit stores yet. If all goes well, we'll have a review of this TV up within a month of it arriving in stores, though we'll likely be reviewing a different size of that model.
What is your advice on refurbished TVs of these brands? Is it all random; you get what you pay for?
You usually get what you pay for but you can still find some good deals with refurbished products. Try to buy from a store offering a good return policy, so you can bring the TV back if there is anything wrong with it.
Hi Cedric, Just came across this site - thanks for all the awesome work you've put in it so far - this is the exact type of detailed reviews I'm looking for in purchasing my new TV.
I'm looking to get a 40" TV for my bedroom (pretty dim room, only lamps, has no overhead lighting) (Only one bigger window, but it has blinds that can darken it out).
I've looked over the two recommendations: the Samsung UN40J300 and the Vizio E series. For some reason I'm leaning towards the Vizio. I would like to get the best budget option (I know that's cliche.) It seems the similar performance in Vizio is enough to justify not bumping up by ~70 bucks.
Although, I also heard good things about the SONY W600B (I read your review, but don't see it on the suggested page - only by searching). Is that TV outclassed now? The ratings in each category were higher for that Sony TV than the other ones - so I was wondering why it's not the recommended pick? Is the scale universal? Or overtime, does it get more competitive (Meaning a 7.2 now means more than a 8.0 did a year ago?)
Also, since this is important: My use case will be: mainly streaming HD video (Fire Stick, Chromecast, and my laptop via HDMI cable - so mainly Netflix and Prime Video and other streaming sites), as well as some TV, and the occasional gaming. I would say 50% HD streaming/some type of HDMI device, 40% TV/Sports (definitely equal balance), 10% gaming.
With those - which TV is recommended? The Samsung? Vizio? Sony? Or is there a newer model I'm missing out on? (1080p under 475 if possible, preferably under 425/450)?
We changed our scoring for this year, and also introduced some new tests. Because of that, the scores from last year aren't quite comparable to the scores from this year, which is why we don't mention 2014 models in our recommendations.
For your uses and price preference, the Vizio E is the best choice. The J6300 is better at displaying lower resolutions (so it's a bit better for sports), but the E-series has really good picture quality for HD video, and it has low input lag, so it's a good choice for gaming as well.
How is the soap opera effect on the Vizio D series?
Since the Vizio D series 4k series are 60Hz TV and can only interpolates content with a refresh rate of 30Hz and lower, the soap opera effect won't be as strong as any other 120Hz TV. Also, note that you won't be able to use the soap opera effect with any cable TV and streaming service that run at 60Hz.
Do you have any volume comparisons between the Vizio-E32C1 and the LG-LF5600 ? Thanks.
We will be adding sound test results within the next couple of weeks.
How is the Samsung UN32J4000AFXZA rated?
We scored it 7.8 overall. It's an okay budget TV, and has a wide viewing angle, but poor contrast. It's also only 720p.
You should only get this if you need a small, cheap TV with a wide viewing angle.
Hi, I'm looking for a TV mainly for gaming and my budget is about $350-400. It doesn't have to be a Smart TV, and I was wanting to mainly focus on input lag. 32-40" is the perfect size, as it is going in my bedroom. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance
Get the Vizio E40-C2. It has low input lag, good picture quality, and is well within your budget.
I’m looking for an HDTV for PS4, specifically for Fighting Games; 80% competitive gaming, 20% movies- DVD & Blu Ray. I am wondering if I should get an ASUS or if there is a good HDTV $500 or less, $600 max, with VERY low input lag, 12ms or less preferably (since FGs operate at 60fps), yet can handle movies as I am an avid movie watcher. From what I’ve heard, Sony’s online service isn’t as stable or as good as XBL, so I wonder how much latency that adds to the equation, as well as Wi-Fi. I also am curious about HDMI to A/V adapters as I only have 2 CRTs currently. I’m utilizing an arcade stick, which is wired. You’ve recommended the VIZIO E & M series several times, however I definitely need the optimal HDTV (or ASUS) as I play online frequently. In reference to ASUS, I would want one with sound; though I don’t know if a Turtle Beach Headset, et al. would bypass. Also, what HDMI cables would you recommend? I’m thinking of either Monster or Audio Quest…
The TV with the lowest input lag we have tested to date is the Vizio M with 18.5 ms. This is really fast for a TV but if you want the absolute in speed, get a PC monitor. If ever you are Ok with the little added lag of the Vizio M, it would do great for blu-ray movies as well but isn't the best for DVDs. Unfortunately, the TVs that do better with DVDs will have higher input lag so the Vizio M would still be the better pick for your needs. We don't have data to compare the quality/relabiality of the Playstation and Xbox online services but to get the best performance at home, you should use the most direct connection to your modem. If using a router, connect your console using a wire, if possible, bypassing any wi-fi connection. A receiver could also add input lag so preferably connect your gaming console directly to TV then sound out to the receiver. An HDMI cable won't add lag to gaming as long as the TV image processing features are turned off using the available game mode. Now if you use an A/V adapter between the TV and the console that can add lag since the signal is transformed. We don't review PC monitors but the Asus VG248QE is often recommend for gaming. It has audio and an input lag below 12 ms. For the brand of HDMI cable to get, no need to pay a premium price. These will work perfectly for gaming.
Want to purchase a 40" wall-mount tv for an exercise room. No super bright lights, but would like wide viewing angle. Which flat screen would you recommend?
The LG 40" LF6300 would be a good choice for an exercise room. It is a 1080p smart TV with a wide viewing angle. It is compatible with VESA wall mounts that fits 40" TVs.
Wanting to purchase a 32 to 40 inch flat screen that is hook-up to an out door antenna. Which flat screen has the most power to pull in good reception from an outside antenna? Thank you.
Unfortunately, we are not testing external antennas as of now. We have several ideas to improve our test bench in the future and this is one of them. We still haven't decided if we will go forward with this one.
What are the most budget options for CEC-enabled 32" set in the budget range?
In the 32" range, you have the TCL 32S3800, the Samsung UN32J5205 and the Vizio E32-D1.
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