The 10 Best Cheap TVs to Buy in 2018

You don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a great TV

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The Rundown

Best Overall: TCL 32S305 32-Inch Smart TV at Amazon, “Offers 720p HD video, a 60 Hz refresh rate and a Roku TV streaming platform.”

Best Budget: TCL 28S305 28-Inch Roku Smart TV at Amazon, “has built-in streaming functionality from Roku.”

Best Connectivity/Smart Functionality: Sony KDL48W650D Smart TV at Amazon, “produces some fantastic looking images.”

Best Design: Samsung UN40KU6300 at Amazon, “brings ultra HD resolution for a picture that is 4x sharper than 1080p models.”

Best for 4K: LG 49UK6300PUE 4K Smart TV at Amazon, “can be managed using voice functionality to control light settings, check the weather and more.”

Best Value: TCL 43S405 Roku Smart TV at Amazon, “includes a high-dynamic range for a more lifelike picture experience.”

Runner-Up, Best Value: LG 32LH500B at Amazon, “delivers crisp 720p visuals in a slim and lightweight frame for under $200.”


Our Top Picks

Best Overall: TCL 32S305 32" Smart TV

TCL 32S305 32-Inch Smart TV
Courtesy of Amazon.com
5

Chinese electronics company TCL is one the largest TV manufacturers in the world and the fastest growing TV seller in the United States. What to attribute to TCL’s recent success in the U.S.? Cheap and reliable smart TVs that outperform other low-end TV rivals.

The TCL 32S305 follows in the footsteps of previous smart TVs from TCL and delivers a heck of a deal for a 32-inch TV. For less than $200, this set offers 720p HD video, a 60 Hz refresh rate and a Roku TV streaming platform inside the box, so you can watch videos from Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and more. For ports, there are three HDMI, one USB, one RF, one composite, a headphone jack and an optical audio output.

TCL also sells 40-inch (Buy on Amazon), 43-inch (Buy on Amazon), and 49-inch (Buy on Amazon) versions of this model if you feel like going bigger, but still want to stay on a budget. These larger sets offer 1080p HD video quality instead of 720p, so that may factor into your TV purchasing decision.

Best Budget: TCL 28S305 28" Roku Smart TV

TCL 28S305 28-Inch Roku Smart TV
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you need the absolute cheapest TV that will not fill you with regret, then you should take a glance at the TCL 28S305. We outlined our appreciation of TCL TVs in the Best Overall category earlier, and this TCL 28-inch set follows in that vein at an even lower price.

The TCL 28S305 is a 28-inch TV with 720p HD video and a 60 Hz refresh rate. Its best feature, no question, is that is has built-in streaming functionality from Roku. This means you can stream great content via more than 4,000 “channels” such as Netflix, Watch ESPN, HBO Now, Hulu and Vudu. For connectivity, this model has three HDMI ports, a USB port, a headphone jack, RF, composite and optical audio out. This means the TV is ready to go to connect to your cable box, digital antenna or standalone for streaming only. One last thing: this TV also lets you control its main functions via your smartphone, which is great if you’ve lost the remote in the couch again.

Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best TVs under $500 can help you find what you're looking for.

Best Value: TCL 49S405 49" 4K Smart TV

TCL has long been synonymous with making some of the best-priced televisions around. The 49-inch 49S405 4K Smart TV is no exception. Lifelike picture quality is outstanding thanks to TCL including high dynamic range. The 120Hz refresh rate is a fantastic addition for the price and reduces motion blur to almost zero during fast-moving action scenes.

With 4K Ultra HD picture quality, you can make the most out of TCL’s partnership with Roku. Enjoy Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Hulu since they are full of 4K programming. Roku delivers direct access to each of those services and many more. The simplified navigation interface is a TCL staple and it’s unquestionably the most user-friendly in the business. The super-simple remote makes it easy to find the programming you want, and searching for shows or channels with voice control is also a lot of fun. You can even listen to programming with headphones and the mobile app just adds to the value. 

Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best smart TVs can help you find what you're looking for.

Runner-Up, Best Value: LG 32" 720p Smart TV

With a strong feature set and a wallet-friendly price, the LG 32LJ550b 32-inch 720p smart LED TV is an easy option to recommend. While a 720p might sound antiquated in the world of 4K televisions, the truth is anything but. LG’s Color Master Engine does a superb job of enhancing colors. Grass looks greener, skin tones are more accurate and blue skies look lifelike. In fact, the entire color wheel is enhanced thanks to the color master engine tech.

Matching its stand-out picture quality is the sound emanating from the LG. Creating a virtual surround sound, LG has built-in speakers that feel immersive without sounding distorted. The speakers are going to come in handy with the deep selection of built-in apps. Running webOS 3.5, there’s a slew of program options from the usual suspects. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube are all built in.

Factor in LG’s Magic Mobile Connection and there’s even more value. The downloadable app can connect wirelessly to compatible LG television. Once connected, you can display photos, videos, and even apps on the television screen.

Best Picture: Sony KD43X720E 43" 4K Ultra HD Smart TV

Sony’s image quality has long been the stuff of television legend with an expectation of great quality at all price points. Sony’s KDX720E 43-inch 4K Ultra HD smart TV does not disappoint. Delivering some of the sharpest images in the budget arena, native 4K content looks spectacular. Sony even added its X-Reality PRO tech that upscales HD content to near-4K quality. High dynamic range (HDR) adds lifelike color and contrast that’s particularly noticeable in areas of extremely dark black.

The 60hz refresh rate is par for the course on budget TVs. Fortunately, Sony added MotionFlow XR that lets the TV keep up with action scenes with no motion blur. Of course, action scenes deserve good sound, so Sony added ClearAudio+. Immersing you right into the action, your movies' music and dialogue will sound crystal-clear with no distortion.

As a smart TV, this Sony model wouldn't be complete without some much-loved extras like quick access to Netflix and YouTube. Dedicated buttons for each smart channel are built directly into the remote. 

Check out our other reviews of the best Sony TVs available on the market today.

Runner-Up, Best Picture: LG 49UK6300PUE 49" 4K Smart TV

It's hard to find a great 4K TV that doesn't cost a fortune. Luckily, the LG 49UK6300PUE exists, a TV that's packed with features and attractively priced.  One of LG’s line of new “ThinQ” televisions, this unit has AI and intelligent voice control and is designed to be the hub for all the connected devices in your home. Capable of connecting to Amazon’s Alexa devices, the LG ThinQ can be managed using voice functionality to control light settings, check the weather and more.

While LG puts the spotlight on the smart features, the real highlight is the gorgeous 49-inch display with Ultra HD technology that gives you lifelike color accuracy and enhanced sharpness. The quad-core processor reduces video noise and ensures that HDR content, including HDR10 and HLG, are optimized for the best picture results.

When it comes to user experience, LG’s webOS Smart TV is navigation-friendly and makes it easy to quickly toggle between movies, TV shows, online content and additional programming options from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more. When paired with LG’s Magic Remote, ThinQ television owners can quickly navigate through all their favorite programming with the flick of the wrist or with the press of a single button. 

Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best 4K TVs under $1,000 can help you find what you're looking for.

Best Smart TV: Toshiba 55" 4K HD Fire TV Edition

Toshiba’s 55-inch 4K HD Fire TV edition is the perfect example of a cheap TV done right. Boasting a 55-inch display, 4K resolution, and HDR, there’s a lot to love about this TV including its price. Overall image quality is strong with vivid colors and deep color contrast. But the real highlight is the smart capability. Amazon has built their Fire TV tech right into the hardware, which instantly adds a large number of streaming services and apps. HBO, ShowTime, and Starz are all on board as are regulars like Netflix and Hulu. There’s also support for live over-the-air television with a separately-purchased HD antenna.

As you might expect from an Amazon device, everything can be controlled through voice control. Volume, search and opening apps tie right into Alexa and the microphone-enabled remote control. Even smart home devices can be controlled directly from the remote.

Best Connectivity: Vizio 50" E-Series Smart TV

Vizio 50

 Courtesy of Walmart

Vizio has long embarked on the idea that good televisions don’t have to be expensive and that’s the case here. Right away, the spec sheet impresses. For the price, you’ll discover great image quality with 4K and Dolby Vision HDR for bringing out excellent detail in every frame. The Ultra 4K HD picture adds up to eight million pixels or four times the resolution of 1080p Full HD. That’s good news for streaming video fans who have access to hundreds of 4K movies and shows. Vizio’s Smart TV builds in most of the apps you already need or have with Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu.  

Where the Vizio sets itself apart on connectivity is with built-in Chromecast. A rarity even amongst televisions costing four times as much, this greatly enhances the Vizio’s capabilities. With thousands of Chromecast-enabled apps available on Android and iOS, the Vizio is a no-brainer for the price. 

Best for Gaming: TCL 55S517 55" 4K Ultra HD Roku TV

Gamers looking to stay on a budget with a television need to take a hard look at the TCL 55S517 55-inch 4K Roku TV. Not to be overlooked, the TCL is an ideal entry TV for 4K gaming while leaving enough money for actual games. Dolby Vision HDR gives you great 4K picture quality for the price. Colors are accurate and lifelike with deep blacks. Gamers will especially appreciate the 120Hz refresh rate for almost no motion blur, a critical requirement for a good gaming television.

The minimalist look of the hardware is welcoming. TCL creates a thin look that’s a stark contrast from other budget-priced options that often have larger, distracting bezels. That makes it even more attractive as the focal point of an entertainment or gaming center.

As with all TCL televisions today, there are thousands of streaming channels. The intuitive interface makes it easy to find anything on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other popular channels.

Best Small TV: LG 22" Full HD 1080p TV

If you're in the market for a much smaller screen, LG hits a home run with the 22LJ4540 Full HD 1080p TV by nailing all of the basics. In-Plane Switching leads to accurate color reproduction and being able to view the TV from nearly any angle. LG also included its Triple XD Engine to ensure colors looked natural with deep blacks for sharp contrast. Even the inclusion of LED backlighting ensures that you’ll see richer colors. As a side benefit, LED adds greater energy efficiency for keeping monthly energy costs down.

Due to its size, there was little room for LG to include many smart features. That means the television lacks the webOS standard interface and built-in options for Netflix, Hulu, etc. Not all hope is lost for extras, however, as the rear of the television sports a single HDMI port. That’s good enough to attach a Chromecast, Roku or Fire TV stick to enable smart functionality.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 35 hours testing one of our readers' favorite cheap TVs. To get the most comprehensive results possible, they set it up at home and watched movies and TV shows for hours on end. We asked them to consider the most important features when using this TV, from its picture quality to its streaming features and capabilities. We've outlined the can’t-miss points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Cheap TV

Picture quality - 4K is a buzzword when it comes to TVs, but how much does it really matter? If you’re buying a TV smaller than 55 inches — or if you know you’ll be sitting a good distance from the set — you probably don’t need to splurge on 4K unless you’re incredibly particular about sharpness.

Inputs - Many people use a receiver with their TV rather than hooking up their components to the set itself. But if you’re only going to use your TV’s internal speakers — or a wireless sound system like Sonos — you need to make sure that the television has enough HDMI and audio inputs for all your components. On the other hand, if you do use a receiver, ensure that the set has the outputs you need.

Streaming - Do you use an external streaming box like an Apple TV, a Roku, or an Amazon Fire Stick? If so, the streaming features and capabilities of the TV you purchase may not matter. But if you’ll be relying on the TV itself for all your streaming, looks into its ease of navigation, as well as whether it has your favorite apps built in.

Test Results: TCL 32S305 32-Inch Smart TV (Best Overall)

5

What We Like

  • High-quality display and audio

  • Mobile app remote

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like

  • Short power cord

  • Remote buttons should feature more popular streaming services

TCL 32S305 32-Inch Smart TV
TCL 32S305 Smart TV
TCL 32S305
TCL 32S305 Smart TV

“If you're looking for a basic smart TV for your bedroom or a small living room, this one offers great value,” reported one of our testers. In particular, our reviewers loved its crisp display, clear audio, and mobile app remote: “It makes searching for specific shows and movies way easier because you don't have to click letter by letter through the virtual keyboard on your TV screen,” one tester noted. In terms of downsides, our reviewers felt that the TV’s power cord was too short, and they also wished the physical remote’s buttons were slightly different: “The remote has buttons for four streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, Starz, and Sling,” one tester explained. “I like having Netflix and Hulu, but I wish the other two buttons were for something more popular like HBO Go or Amazon. I personally don't know anyone who uses Sling and I know very few people who use Starz.”