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 R617 is the best TV under $500. It has great overall picture quality and can get very bright both in SDR and in HDR. It has a wide color gamut and performs impressively in HDR as it displays saturated colors and highlights that pop. Watching movies in a dark room is great, thanks to the TV's deep blacks due to the high native contrast ratio and full array local dimming support. This TV has a remarkably low input lag, which is great for gamers, and good motion handling thanks to the very fast response time. It has great motion handling features like BFI, motion interpolation, and judder removal.
Unfortunately, just like most VA panel TVs, the image deteriorates when viewed from the side and there have been reports that the TV had issues with gray uniformity, although in our unit gray uniformity was not bad.
Overall, this is the best smart TV under $500 we've tested.
If want something a bit cheaper than the TCL R617, check out the Hisense H8F instead. This is a great TV, with very similar performance overall to the R617. The TCL is a lot brighter, which is great for a bright room, and it has better motion handling, but the Hisense looks much better in a dark room and has better reflection handling. Overall, there isn't much difference between the two.
If you have a wide seating arrangement and don't usually sit directly in front of your TV, then check out the LG UM7300. It doesn't have the size of the TCL, nor the great dark room performance as blacks tend to look like gray in a dark room. The LG 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 have measured up until now and a very fast response time which will keep gamers, and those wishing to use it as a PC monitor, happy.
The best value for size in the under $500 category is the TCL S Series S405. It's a good entry-level 65 inch TV, with decent picture quality with deep blacks thanks to its native contrast ratio, but lacks local dimming support to further improve dark room performance. It's slowly becoming harder to find as it's being replaced by the TCL 4 Series S425, which has similar performance but is still more expensive in this size. It has a very low input lag and a fast response time that delivers a crisp image with little blur behind fast-moving content. It's a good choice for use as a gaming TV, although it lacks some of the more advanced gaming features like FreeSync. The TCL runs the excellent Roku TV smart platform that gives you access to many apps and streaming channels, where you'll surely find what you need.
On the downside, it does not have wide viewing angles and can't deliver a great HDR performance because it can't get very bright. It doesn't have a wide color gamut.
Overall, this is a decent 65" TV that you can get for just under $500, and it'll serve you well for its cost.
If you find the TCL S405 too large and want the best value for size in the 55" size, then get the TCL 4 Series S425. It has very similar performance to its predecessor, the TCL S Series S045, but can't remove judder from the native apps as the S405 can. On the upside, it has a bit higher contrast ratio, which is great for watching movies in a dark room, and a slightly lower input lag, which is great for gamers.
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.