A few years ago, if you wanted to buy a decent LCD TV, chances were that you wouldn't be able to find any good models under $500. Although the best models are still priced higher, depending on your use, you can find models that can serve you well in this price category. Keep in mind that most models are available in a wide range of sizes as well, so if you want the best TV under $500 but aren't willing to compromise on quality, you can always go for a smaller sized set.
We've tested over 80 TVs in the past two years, and below are our recommendations for the best TVs under $500 you can buy. You may also want to check out our recommendations for the best budget TVs and the best 48-49-50 inch TVs, or if you don't mind spending a bit more, the best 4k TVs under $1,000.
The best 4k TV under $500 that we've tested is the Hisense 55H8G. It performs surprisingly well considering its low price point and has fairly thin bezels that help it look more premium than its price would suggest. It uses the Android TV smart interface, which gives you access to a very large selection of apps and allows for a ton of customization, but it may not be the easiest to use at times.
It has an excellent native contrast ratio that's further enhanced by its full-array local dimming feature, something that's impressive to see included in this price range. This makes it a great choice for watching movies in a dark room, and its high peak brightness means that you shouldn't get too much glare, even if you watch a lot of daytime TV in a bright room. Both casual and serious gamers should enjoy its quick response time that results in minimal motion blur and low input lag.
Unfortunately, like with most models with a VA panel, its viewing angles are quite poor, so it's not the best choice if you watch with a large group of people in a wide seating arrangement. Also, while it's good for HDR content due to its wide color gamut, it can't get nearly as bright with HDR content as some more expensive options, so HDR images don't pop how they should. That said, this is a very good option for its price and is the best TV under $500 that we've tested.
If you prefer something with Roku TV as its smart operating system, then check out the TCL 55S535. It doesn't get as bright as the Hisense H8G, but the Roku interface is easier to use than Android, and it provides smoother menu navigation. You can also easily find your favorite apps in the app store. In terms of picture quality, the TCL is good and should please most people. It performs best in dark or dim rooms because it has an outstanding contrast ratio and decent local dimming feature that make blacks look deep and inky. However, it's not the best choice for well-lit rooms because it doesn't get bright, and the reflection handling is just decent. It also displays a very wide color gamut for HDR content but may not get bright enough to truly make highlights stand out.
If you want the best all-around TV under $500, you should be happy with the Hisense, but if you simply prefer Roku TV, then look into the TCL.
If you do a lot of gaming, then the best TV under $500 is the Vizio M55Q7-H1. It's a good overall TV from Vizio's 2020 lineup and offers very solid performance in its price range. It even includes advanced gaming features like variable refresh rate (VRR) and an auto low latency mode (ALLM) that you would expect to find on higher-end models. Vizio's SmartCast interface can be slow and buggy, but it's one of the few smart platforms that's ad-free.
While it's limited to a 60 Hz refresh rate, it should be fine for console gamers and casual PC gamers. It also has a good response time with minimal motion blur in fast-moving content and an exceptionally low input lag, making for a responsive gaming experience. If you prefer to game in the dark, it has an excellent contrast ratio that delivers deep, inky blacks. On the other hand, it only has decent brightness, so you may have some issues with glare in very well-lit rooms, despite its good reflection handling.
Unfortunately, even though it's advertised as having HDMI 2.1 ports, they only have the bandwidth capacity of HDMI 2.0. It's also not the best option for HDR gaming since its HDR brightness in 'Game' mode is sub-par, so highlights simply won't pop as they should. Finally, while it has full-array local dimming, its performance is mediocre, actually lowering the TV's contrast ratio. Still, for a budget TV, this is among the best TVs under $500 for gaming, and most people should be satisfied with it.
If you need a smaller gaming TV for your space, check out the Samsung UN43TU8000FXZA. It lacks VRR support and doesn't have a response time as fast as the Vizio M7 Series Quantum 2020, but unlike the Vizio, it's available in a 43 inch size, and it has a higher contrast ratio. Even though it doesn't have a local dimming feature, it still produces inky blacks that look great in the dark. It also runs on Samsung's Tizen OS, which is much smoother and faster than Vizio SmartCast. It also has a remarkably low input lag that makes gaming feel responsive. Despite having decent reflection handling, it doesn't get very bright, so it may struggle with glare in bright rooms. It also lacks a wide color gamut for HDR content and has narrow viewing angles, meaning the image looks washed out from the side and so it may not be the best option for co-op gaming.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with the Vizio if you want a TV under $500 with VRR support and a fast response time for gaming, but if you're looking for a smaller alternative with an even higher contrast ratio, consider the Samsung.
The best TV under $500 that we've tested with wide viewing angles is the LG UN7000. This entry-level 4k TV is available in a wide range of sizes in this price range, from 43 to 65 inches, so you can get whichever size fits your needs. However, the 50 and 60 inch models have a VA panel, which has a better contrast ratio and narrow viewing angles compared to the 55 inch model we tested, which has an IPS panel. If you want wide viewing angles, you should avoid those sizes.
The models with an IPS panel are great for wide seating arrangements as you won't lose much image accuracy when viewing from the side. Although this TV doesn't get very bright, it's still a decent choice for moderately or fairly well-lit rooms thanks to its great reflection handling. If you want to use it for watching cable TV or DVDs, it upscales lower-resolution content without any obvious issues. The built-in WebOS is easy-to-use and offers a ton of apps that you can download. Lastly, it's decent for casual gaming thanks to its low input lag and decent response time.
Sadly, one trade-off of having an IPS panel is its low contrast ratio that makes blacks appear gray when viewed in the dark. It also doesn't display a wide color gamut and doesn't get bright in HDR, so HDR content doesn't look all that different from SDR content. Our unit has some uniformity issues that could get distracting during sports, but this may vary between units. Regardless of these small problems, if you want a TV with wide viewing angles, you should be happy with this one.
Mar 23, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate with minor updates to text.
Jan 22, 2021: Moved the Samsung TU8000 to 'Smaller Gaming Alt', replacing the Samsung TU7000 as 'Larger Alt' because the 65 inch model is more than $500. Added the TCL 5 Series 2020 as 'Roku Alt' to the Hisense H8G. Replaced the LG NANO81 with the LG UN7000 because the NANO81 costs more than $500.
Nov 24, 2020: Added Vizio M7 Series Quantum 2020 and LG NANO81. Removed TCL 55S535 and LG UN7300.
Sep 25, 2020: Added the TCL 5 Series 2020 as 'Best Gaming' and the Samsung TU7000 as an alternative; added the LG UN7300 as 'Best with Wide Viewing Angles'; removed the LG UM7300, TCL 5 Series 2019, TCL 4 Series 2019.
Jul 28, 2020: Replaced the Hisense H8F with the newer Hisense H8G due to availability.
Mar 31, 2020: Replaced the TCL 6 Series 2018 with the Hisense H8F as a main pick, added the Samsung TU8000 as an alternate. Updated Notable Mentions to reflect market prices.
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 TV reviews, sorted by price from low to high. 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.