Maybe you haven’t made the upgrade to 4K yet. Maybe you’re looking for a second TV for the bedroom. Maybe you’re just exploring your options. Whatever your reasons, you might be looking for a good deal on a new TV. Something big, sharp, bright, colorful, and most importantly, something that won’t break the bank. We have you covered, with a selection of affordable TVs that can suit nearly any budget.
We generally consider “budget” TVs to be less than $1,000 for a 65-inch screen. Don’t worry; that’s on the high end, and there are plenty of options out there for a fraction of that price. Larger TVs are more expensive, and stepping down to a 55- or 50-inch model will bring the price down considerably, even for the same model line. If you want a 42-inch TV for the basement, you can expect to spend closer to pocket change than a grand.
The Top Budget Brands: Not Who You’d Think
The biggest names in TVs include LG, Samsung, Sony, and other brands with fairly massive global presences. Big names don’t always mean the best values, however. While we’ve seen some incredible TVs from those manufacturers, like the LG C9P, the Samsung Q90R, and the Sony A8G, they’re almost all flagship models that cost a few thousand dollars each. Their less expensive TVs are far less impressive, and generally much less promoted.
The best brands for budget TVs might be unfamiliar to you: Hisense and TCL. These Chinese companies have made inroads in the United States over the last few years, and have carved out a space for themselves in the TV market with very affordable models that offer surprisingly good picture quality. They occupy the land Vizio used to dominate, which Vizio has somewhat ceded while claiming its own dominance in the midrange TV market.
Time to Go 4K
We’re far past the point where 4K is a high-end luxury, especially with 8K gearing up to become a major force in a few years. You might be able to find a smaller TV that’s still 1080p, but most screens on the market will be in 4K. With that in mind, we recommend you don’t go any lower than 4K when buying.
Simply put, there is no reason not to get a 4K TV at this point. It offers a plethora of advantages, and no longer carries a premium price. Not only is 4K sharper, but 4K TVs are more likely to support high dynamic range (HDR), which means they can be brighter and more colorful than 1080p TVs with standard dynamic range. And, since most major streaming services support 4K HDR now, you can get plenty of 4K content out of the box without worrying about replacing your DVD or Blu-ray collection.
Like 4K, smart TV platforms are now basically universal even for budget TVs. If you get a new TV, it will have some way to watch Netflix on it, and probably many other streaming services, too. Thanks to Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Roku TV, any television manufacturer can slot a connected interface into their product without creating it themselves. This is part of how Hisense and TCL have made such strong gains in the budget TV market; they rely on Roku TV and (for some Hisense models) Android TV, which are effectively prebuilt packages from Roku and Google that let them put a plethora of apps and services on their TVs with little development on the manufacturers’ parts.
You Still Get What You Pay For
Cheaper TVs generally don’t get as bright, and have higher black levels that result in much lower contrast ratios. They also often don’t have nearly as wide color gamuts, and usually are a bit thicker and look less streamlined.
Around the high end of the budget range (around $1,000 for 65 inches), you can get some excellent performance, including right panels, dark blacks, wide colors, and stylish designs. However, if you want to pay less, you can expect to get less in terms of picture quality and aesthetic considerations. Keep this in mind when shopping for a budget TV. That said, you really can’t go wrong with any of the options we’ve tested here.
Meanwhile, if money is no object, take a look at our list of the best TVs overall. And if fast response is important to you, consider one of our best TVs for gaming.
Pros: Fantastic color. Excellent contrast. Inexpensive for its performance. Runs Android TV software.
Cons: Contrast processing can occasionally be overly aggressive. Somewhat dull remote.
Bottom Line: The Hisense H9F series is one of the best budget TV lines we’ve seen, with strong contrast and extraordinary color range and accuracy.
Pros: Inexpensive. Bright panel. Wide color. Attractive design.
Cons: Magentas run a little warm. HDR Bright mode is a bit oversaturated. Roku voice features are underdeveloped.
Bottom Line: The 2019 TCL 6-series of TVs offer a bright, colorful picture for a very reasonable price, with lots of streaming options thanks to Roku TV.
Pros: Very bright panel. Excellent contrast and color. Android TV offers lots of features. Stylish design.
Cons: Light bloom can hurt effective contrast and shadow detail.
Bottom Line: Hisense’s H8F line of TVs terrific contrast, color performance, and loads of Android TV features for a very reasonable price.
Pros: Inexpensive. Excellent contrast and color performance. Very low input lag.
Cons: Notable light bloom.
Bottom Line: The Hisense R8F line offers Roku TV accessibility and surprisingly strong 4K picture quality for a very reasonable price.
Pros: Affordable. Fairly accurate colors. Roku TV platform has lots of features.
Cons: Dim panel. Color range isn’t particularly wide.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an affordable 4K TV in a variety of sizes, TCL’s 4-series is the line to beat.
Pros: Wide, accurate color. Supports Google Cast. Attractive design.
Cons: Relatively dim panel with mediocre black levels.
Bottom Line: Vizio’s M7 series of 4K TVs show remarkably accurate color out of the box, but contrast levels aren’t quite up to snuff.