The Best TVs Under $500 to Buy Now
For sports fans searching for a brand-new, big-screen TV for Super Bowl Sunday, as well as couch potatoes ready to curl up with a new season of a favorite show, the range of choices in cheap TVs is more appealing than ever. Ultra-high-definition TVs with 4K resolution are now available to budget shoppers, and overall picture quality and performance have gotten steadily better. Cheapism.com plowed through online reviews and product specifications to come up with the best TVs under $500 -- most of which sport at least 50-inch screens and all of which are smart TVs that make streaming online content easy and convenient. Consumers looking to try out a TV with HDR technology will also find an affordable entry-level model thrown into our lineup.
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The TCL 55FS3750 (starting at $448) has a 1080p HD screen rather than 4K ultra-HD resolution, but it measures 55 inches -- larger than 4K TVs selling around this price. This TV also boasts better-than-average black levels and contrast, and its color accuracy is very solid. The overall picture quality isn’t perfect, but expert reviewers say it’s still good enough to satisfy most buyers. This model uses the Roku smart TV platform to give users easy access to thousands of streaming sources such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
The Insignia NS-50DR710NA17 (starting at $400) is arguably the best budget TV from Best Buy's electronics brand. It's a 50-inch 4K ultra-HD model with the Roku smart TV system, which is easy to use and supports thousands of streaming options. The color accuracy is nearly perfect without having to touch a single setting, according to reviews. This is also a fast TV with a fairly speedy response time, something gamers will appreciate.
Those who like Roku for streaming will love the TCL 50UP130 (starting at $472), a relatively inexpensive 50-inch 4K ultra-HD TV. This is perhaps the best budget TV that incorporates the Roku platform into the TV itself -- no need for a separate Roku box. The included remote sports a headphone jack and voice search, nice touches for a cheap TV. Experts praise the picture quality, especially the color, although they say the black levels could stand to be darker.
Experts say the 50-inch Vizio’s E50u-D2 ultra-HD 4K TV (starting at $498) has the best overall picture quality among its competitors. It’s one of the only budget TVs we researched that supports local dimming, which significantly improves its black levels, and the colors are accurate and vibrant. New to this year’s E-Series lineup is support for Google Cast. A Vizio app turns a smartphone into a remote for controlling the TV settings and streaming options. Be aware, however, that this TV doesn’t include a built-in tuner. Those who receive local broadcasts with a TV antenna will have to buy a separate tuner.
The 50-inch Vizio D50u-D1 (starting at $498) is similar to its E-Series cousin in several ways. They’re both 4K TVs that support local dimming, which results in excellent black levels and high praise from reviewers for picture quality. Where the two models diverge is in the smart platform: The D50u-D1 uses a proprietary Vizio interface to stream content, whereas the Google Cast platform on the E50u-D2 offers more apps but requires a smartphone to control streaming services. The Vizio D50u-D1 also has a built-in tuner, unlike the E50u-D2, so it may be a better choice for those who like to watch over-the-air broadcasts.
Starting at $547, the 49-inch LG 49UH6100 is a little outside the Cheapism price range, but it has one compelling feature that may be worth the splurge -- it supports high dynamic range. HDR is the TV-tech version of falling in love: Colors seem more vibrant, bright spots seem brighter, darks seem silkier and sexier. It significantly boosts picture quality and usually boosts the price, as well. The cost of these TVs will surely drop, and we expect better, even more affordable HDR TVs to appear soon -- but in the meantime, this budget model may be a suitable stand-in for some (although it has its share of shortcomings).