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 6 Series 2018, 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 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, then check out the LG 55UM7300. It doesn't have the TCL 6 Series 2018's dark room performance, and blacks tend to look like 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.
If you want the best value for size TV under $500, go with the TCL 5 Series/65S525 2019. This budget 65" TV has good picture quality and remarkably low input lag. Despite not having local dimming, this TV has deep and uniform black levels, though you'll get the best performance in a dark room. It utilizes Roku's smart streaming system, which is very easy-to-use and has an incredibly wide range of available apps.
This TV has a wide color gamut and supports Dolby Vision, making it a good choice for HDR content, though unfortunately it may not get quite bright enough for all highlights to stand out as intended. It's an excellent TV for gamers thanks to its very low input lag and very fast response time, which helps with motion blurring.
Unfortunately, like most TVs that use a VA panel, the image degrades at an angle, so you'll want to sit directly in front of the TV. Overall, this TV offers a great price-to-performance ratio, and if you want the biggest TV you can get under $500 while still maintaining good overall picture quality and features, this is a great choice.
If you want something slightly cheaper, consider the TCL 4 Series/65S425 2019. It can't get nearly as bright as the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 and doesn't have a wide color gamut for HDR content, but it's a bit cheaper and has better reflection handling. It's still a great choice for video games thanks to its low input lag and fast response time, so motion should look nice and smooth. At the time of writing, the price difference between the 4 Series and 5 Series is so minimal that the 5 Series is likely a more recommended buy, but if you need to save any possible penny, this is still a decent overall TV.
If you want the best value for size TV under $500, get the 5 Series, but if you want to save a little bit and don't mind a lower quality image, 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.
01/02/2019: 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.