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As technology becomes more widely available, it becomes more affordable; and the best cheap TVs stay budget-friendly while still giving you all the smart features you've come to expect when it comes to home entertainment. Some models use the Roku or Fire TV platforms to give you access to preloaded, popular apps in streamlined hub menus to eliminate confusing input locations while others run on AndroidTV or proprietary operating systems to give you more features like screen mirroring and AI-assisted picture rendering and machine learning to suggest new shows and movies based on your watch and browsing histories. Many new televisions come packaged with voice-enabled remote controls with virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, while others need to be connected to an external device like the Amazon Echo for hands-free controls.
If you're a movie buff or TV show connoisseur, you can find affordable 4K models that make even classics look amazing; console gamers can find a wide variety of televisions that have automatic game modes that optimize settings for better motion clarity and input latency as well as dual band Wi-Fi connectivity for fast internet connections needed for online matches. Whether you're looking to buy your first smart TV or want to upgrade your living room or home theater, there is a model out there to fit your needs. We've gathered up our top picks from brands like Samsung, TCL, and Hisense, and we'll break down their features and tech specs to help you choose the right one for you.
Multiple virtual assistants
No Chromecast support
You'll be hard pressed to find a better, budget-friendly, TV than the Samsung TU8000. It's built with an updated Crystal 4K processor which uses artificial intelligence to scan movies and shows scene-by-scene for more efficient upscaling of non-4K content as well as to automatically optimize picture and sound settings for the best viewing experience possible. It also has HDR10+ compatibility for enhanced detailing and contrast and to make more lifelike pictures. The 55-inch screen is virtually bezel-free to give you an edge-to-edge picture, and with a 60Hz refresh rate, you'll get buttery smooth motion during action movies and sports so you never miss a detail. The voice-enabled remote has Samsung Bixby and Alexa built in, and it also works with Google Assistant so you can use your favorite virtual assistant for hands-free controls over your new TV.
The new Tizen operating system gives you preloaded apps like Disney+ and Netflix, as well as Samsung TV Plus which gives you access to dozens of live news, sports, and entertainment channels without a subscription. Bluetooth connectivity lets you wirelessly set up extra audio equipment for the ultimate home theater, and with AirPlay2 or Miracast, you can screen mirror your mobile devices for more ways to watch videos. The back of the TV has integrated cable management channels and clips to help keep cords from tangling and to help your media space look neat and organized. The integrated V-Chip lets you set up parental controls to keep little ones from watching inappropriate shows and movies.
Dual LED panel
Bixby/Alexa built in
No AMD FreeSync
The Samsung Q60T is an excellent option for an affordable, 50-inch television. It features a dual-LED panel that uses both warm and cool lighting to create more accurate colors and better saturation. With 4K UHD resolution and HDR10+ support, you get excellent contrast, deep blacks, and exceptional image sharpness. This model is built around Samsung's Quantum Processor Lite which gives you faster rendering and response speeds for optimizing contrast, color, and HDR settings for the perfect picture. It also has the Tizen smart features platform for a more streamlined experience when downloading and using apps or streaming your favorite shows, movies, and music.
With Bixby and Alexa voice controls built in, you get hands-free commands right out of the box; it is also compatible with Google Assistant devices for expanded smart speaker controls. The multi-view feature allows you to watch shows and videos while simultaneously mirroring your phone or tablet screen. This is great for anyone who wants to check their fantasy football rankings while watching the big game or keep up to date with stock tickers while listening to the news.
No built-in tuner
Sticking to a budget can be difficult when shopping for a new smart TV, but the TCL 43S425 makes it a little easier. With a price tag that sits comfortably under $250, even the most budget-conscious shoppers can get their hands on a great 4K television. It runs on the Roku platform to give you instant access to your favorite streaming apps, and the streamlined hub menu makes it easy to access game consoles, over-air antennas, and cable or satellite boxes without having to memorize input locations. The Roku app turns your smartphone or tablet into a voice-enabled remote for easier browsing and searching, or you can connect the TV to your Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker for expanded voice controls and to integrate your new TV into your smart home network.
The TV features three HDMI inputs as well as a USB port, composite input, and RF connection so you can set up a custom home theater to entertain family and friends. The dual, 8 watt speakers use Dolby Digital Plus technology to create clean, room-filling audio without needing to set up extra sound equipment; which is great for living rooms and home theaters that are short on space but need immersive audio.
Dedicated game mode
No native iOS support
The Hisense H8G is one of the more affordable televisions that is made with console gamers in mind. The proprietary ULED panel gives you excellent 4K resolution, and with Dolby Vision HDR support, you'll get great detailing and color for more lifelike images. It also has 90 local dimming zones for deep, inky blacks and better contrast. With an ultra-narrow bezel, the H8G gives you an edge-to-edge picture so you see more of your games and less of your TV itself. The dual 10 watt speakers work with Dolby Atmos technology to produce virtual surround sound audio without extra speakers, though you can take advantage of the available Bluetooth connectivity for a custom wireless audio setup for a truly immersive gaming experience.
The all-new Hi-View processor and AndroidTV operating system feature a dedicated gaming mode that automatically detects when you turn on your console to optimize refresh rates and lower input latency for virtually lag free gaming and silky smooth action. Dual band Wi-Fi gives you the internet speeds you need to take on ranked matches online. The voice-enabled remote has Google Assistant built in and works with Alexa for hands-free controls over your TV and game consoles. With Chromecast, you can screen mirror your Android devices to play mobile games on your TV or watch walkthrough videos when you're stuck on a tricky puzzle or pesky boss fight.
Custom input names
No screen mirroring
The 50-inch Insignia Fire TV is a great option for anyone who already has other Alexa-enabled devices in their home. The voice-enabled remote has Alexa built in so you get hands-free controls over your new TV without the need for an external smart speaker. The dual band Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to not only download new streaming apps, but you can also download new Alexa skills to do everything from tell you tomorrow's weather forecast and give inspirational quotes to start your day to even being able to play Skyrim and The Sims via Alexa; you can also set up automatic updates to effortlessly keep your TV up-to-date and streaming ready.
The TV produces great 4K resolution with HDR support for more true-to-life pictures, and the speakers use DTS Studio Sound technology for clean, clear audio. With the Fire TV platform, you get preloaded apps like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+ so you can start watching your favorite shows and movies right out of the box. You can also give custom names to each of the TV's three HDMI inputs so you instantly know what is plugged into where. THe integrated V-Chip allows you to set up parental controls to block inappropriate shows and movies from being accessed by your children.
Connect game controllers
May not be compatible with all wall mounting kits
Reports of bad screens
Reports of WiFi connectivity issues
Sleek and unobtrusive, the TCL 50S425 TV gives you a lot of great features at an affordable price. With over 500,000 movies and TV episodes available through the built-in Roku interface, fans of all genres will find something they like. Pictures are vivid and dynamic thanks to 4K Ultra HD and HDR, along with direct-lit LED. Though it comes with an intuitive remote, you can also download the companion app onto your phone or tablet and use that to voice control your TV, or plug in headphones and listen to whatever's on TV without bothering others in the room. Game controllers can also be connected, and the image quality is decent for gamers, especially at this price point. The TCL 50S425 also benefits from Roku continuously adding new features. It's available in 43-inch and 65-inch models as well.
Our product tester was quick to note that this was easy to set-up and the quality is top-notch for the price point.
"The colors pop in a vivid but not artificial way and yield realistic, even pristine, image quality." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Plenty of inputs
Streamlined hub menu
No Bluetooth or screen mirroring
Televisions with smaller screens are perfect for dorm rooms, apartments, smaller living rooms, and even RVs and campers. The TCL 40S325, like its sibling models, uses the Roku platform to give you access to all your favorite streaming apps like YouTube, Hulu, and Pandora so you can enjoy your favorite music, movies, and shows without having to mess with setting up external equipment. You can set up your mobile devices with the Roku app or connect your TV to a Google Assistant or Alexa-enabled smart speaker for voice controls and hands-free use of your new TV.
The streamlined hub menu makes it easy to locate apps, game consoles, and even cable or satellite boxes without needing to navigate confusing menus or memorize input locations. The dual, 8 watt speakers support Dolby Digital Plus surround sound technology to give you room-filling audio for a more immersive experience. If floor and shelf space is scarce in your home, you can wall mount the TV with the VESA compatible bracket holes on the back of the TV. With three HDMI inputs, RF and composite inputs, and even a USB port, you have plenty of places to connect DVD players, flash drives for viewing pictures, and other playback devices to set up the ultimate home theater.
The Samsung TU8000 is the best affordable smart television available. It produces excellent 4K resolution with HDR10+ support for superior detailing and contrast. The voice-enabled remote works with multiple virtual assistants so you can choose your favorite one to control your TV. You can also screen mirror your mobile devices for more ways to watch videos with friends and family. Gamers will love the Hisense H8G with its dedicated game mode that automatically optimizes refresh rates and input latency when you turn on your console for virtually lag-free gaming. With 90 local dimming zones and 4K resolution, your games will look amazing.
Taylor Clemons has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics for over three years. She has also worked in e-commerce product management, so she has the knowledge of what makes a solid TV for home entertainment.
Yoona Wagener has been with Lifewire since April 2019. With a background in content and technical writing, she has written for BigTime Software and Idealist Careers. She also has experience in tech support and help documentation as well as website building.
Working with a limited budget when shopping for a new TV doesn't mean you have to sacrifice cool features. A lot of lower-priced televisions still offer 4K resolution, voice controls, built-in streaming platforms, and even gaming modes. Some lower-priced televisions come packaged with voice-enabled remotes that work with Alexa or Google Assistant, or are able to connect to external smart speakers for expanded voice controls. Roku-based televisions use a dedicated app to turn your smartphone or tablet into a voice-enabled remote for easier browsing and searching. With 4K resolution becoming more and more mainstream, it's easier to find an affordable model that offers great picture quality. Some lower-priced televisions also support HDR technology for superior detailing and contrast.
If you're worried about a cheaper TV's quality, you don't have to be. Brands like TCL, Samsung, Insignia, and LG have several models of budget-friendly televisions in their line-ups, so you can buy from trusted manufacturers rather than obscure companies that may or may not be worth the money. Affordable televisions also have a wide range of screen sizes from as small as 32-inches to as large as 65-inches available, so you can find the perfect TV for your living room, home theater, or dorm room. We'll break down some of the most important factors to consider when shopping for an affordable TV to help you decide which is right for you.
Standing in front of a wall of televisions at a store like Walmart or Best Buy or Googling "cheap TV" can make it tempting to opt for an unknown brand simply because it fits your budget. However, you could run into problems with the TV model being discontinued and not supported by any warranties or customer service programs, or the brand may have a reputation for making sub-par products. It's important to research every brand you come across while shopping for an affordable TV to avoid being taken in by attractive sale prices. Fortunately, major brands like LG, Samsung, and TCL have several models of TVs in their lineups that are meant for more budget-conscious shoppers.
Of these brands, TCL is by far the most affordable option. Their TVs use the Roku streaming platform to give you access to thousands of apps, shows, and movies while maintaining low prices. TCL televisions keep their prices so low by giving you important smart features like streaming apps and voice controls while foregoing others like Bluetooth connectivity and screen mirroring. Samsung and LG models tend to be a little more expensive than their TCL counterparts, but they also offer more smart features and resolution technologies. Some offer Bluetooth connectivity, local dimming zones, and even Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound audio technology. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, it's worth springing for options from well-known brands to get the features you want and the customer support you need.
The screen resolution that is right for your home theater depends on how you get your entertainment. Do you still have a cable or satellite service? Or do you have an over-air broadcast antenna? Did you cut the cord and now exclusively stream your movies and shows? The best choice for those who still use cable, satellite, or over-air broadcast channels is 1080p full HD, while those who have cut the cord and exclusively stream their entertainment should opt for 4K. Televisions with native 4K resolution have become more and more popular as ultra high-definition content has become available for streaming and broadcast. These models also can upscale non-4K content for consistent picture quality; meaning your old DVDs or over-air shows will look just as great as Blu-Rays or UHD movies available for streaming. TVs that produce 4K resolution have four times the pixels of their 1080p HD predecessors, meaning that more detail can be packed on the screen. However, just because they're becoming more and more popular doesn't mean that 4K is the right choice for everyone.
There are affordable TVs that still use full 1080p HD. They give you all the smart features you come to expect, but they are made for those who prefer cable, satellite, or over-air broadcast to streaming. You still get a great picture with 1080p HD, including wide color ranges and good contrast, but the detailing isn't anywhere near as great as 4K.
When looking for an affordable, it's important to remember that smart features go beyond simply streaming content. There are lower-priced available that support hands-free voice controls with either voice-enabled remotes or with a separate smart speaker. You can use Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and even proprietary programs like Samsung's Bixby to control your TV. There are also several different operating systems and streaming platforms you can choose from when shopping for a television. Each platform and operating system offers something different. From a bevy of preloaded apps to screen mirroring, there's something for everyone. Some TVs feature an AI-assisted processor that upscales non-4K content scene-by-scene with a noise reduction process for a consistent picture. Some televisions offer Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound for a more immersive listening experience. Others have dedicated video game modes that automatically change picture and audio settings for smoother motion and enhanced detailing as well as reducing input lag for near real-time reactions on screen to your button presses.