The 6 Best Cheap TVs of 2021

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

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The Rundown
"It's built with an updated Crystal 4K processor which uses artificial intelligence for more efficient upscaling of non-4K content."
"This model is built around Samsung's Quantum Processor Lite which gives you faster rendering and response speeds."
"The dual, 8 watt speakers use Dolby Digital Plus technology to create clean, room-filling audio."
"The all-new Hi-View processor and AndroidTV operating system feature a dedicated gaming mode."
Best Value:
TCL 50S425 at Amazon
"Over 500,000 movies and TV episodes available through the built-in Roku interface."
Best Small Screen:
TCL 40S325 at Amazon
"The TCL 40S325 uses the Roku platform to give you access to all your favorite streaming apps."

Shopping for a cheap TV doesn't mean you have to choose between quality and your budget. Brands like Samsung have begun to offer budget-friendly TVs that offer the basic features you've come to expect for home entertainment like Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming video and music, 4K resolution, and great sound quality without external speakers or subwoofers. TCL has made itself the king of affordable televisions, and for good reason. Their models use the Roku platform to give you access to thousands of apps, voice controls via external smart speakers or the Roku mobile app, and keeping all of your favorite apps and playback devices easily accessible in a simplified hub menu. 

If you've built a smart home network around a particular virtual assistant, many new smart TVs have Alexa or Google Assistant built in, or are compatible with external smart speakers like the Google Nest Hub Max or Echo Show for hands-free controls even without a remote. With Bluetooth connectivity, you can set up wireless home audio equipment or share content from your smartphone or tablet for more ways to entertain family and friends. Console gamers can pick up an affordable TV that offers either variable refresh rate technology support for smoother video playback or an automatic game mode that lowers input response times for near-instant on-screen reactions. Take a look at our top picks below to see which is the perfect upgrade to your living room or home theater.

Best Overall: Samsung UN55TU8000FXZA 55-Inch Crystal UHD TV

What We Like
  • Parental controls

  • Multiple virtual assistants

  • Screen mirroring

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best 50-Inch: Samsung 50" Q60T QLED 4K UHD Smart TV with Alexa

What We Like
  • Dual LED panel

  • Bixby/Alexa built in

  • Updated processor

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Under $250: TCL 43S425 43-Inch 4K UHD Roku TV

What We Like
  • Under $250

  • Voice controls

  • 4K

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • No built-in tuner

Sticking to a budget can be difficult when shopping for a new 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.

Best for Gaming: Hisense H8G 55-Inch QLED Android TV

What We Like
  • Dedicated game mode

  • Chromecast

  • Updated processor

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Value: TCL 50S425 50" 4K Smart TV

TCL 50S425 50" 4K Roku TV
What We Like
  • Built-in Roku

  • Connect game controllers

  • HDR compatible

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best Small Screen: TCL 40S325 40-inch 1080p Smart TV

What We Like
  • Plenty of inputs

  • Voice controls

  • Streamlined hub menu

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K

  • 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.

Final Verdict

The Samsung TU8000 is one of the best TVs available that's still exceptionally affordable. It offers integrated voice controls via multiple virtual assistants, a suite of preloaded apps, and the ability to share videos, photos, and music from your mobile devices. The TCL 43S425 retails for under $250, making it a perfect option for anyone who needs to stick to a very tight budget. It still provides great 4K resolution, and the Roku platform gives you access to thousands of streaming services.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what size TV I need?

While it may be tempting to spring for that 85-inch smart TV, there is a possibility that it will be much too large for your space. To find your ideal TV size, pick a spot to wall-mount your TV or place a dedicated TV stand and then measure the distance to your seating, dividing the final measurement by 2. A distance of 10 feet (120 inches) will tell you that the perfect TV size will be around 60 inches. You can go a bit bigger or smaller depending on budget, but a screen that is too large will overpower your space and even cause motion sickness; on the other hand, a screen that is too small will make your living room feel like a cavern and force everyone to crowd around to see.


What's the difference between 4K and 1080p HD?


Short answer: Pixels.


Long Answer: Resolution is a term used to tell you how many pixels are in a television, computer monitor, or smartphone screen. The more pixels a screen has, the more detailing you can get. A TV with 4K resolution has twice the pixels of a 1080p HD TV, allowing for better picture quality. You can check out our articles explaining 4K and 1080p resolution to learn more.


Can I get Netflix on this TV?


If your new TV has Wi-Fi connectivity, you can get Netflix or just about any other app you've heard of to turn your TV into a true entertainment hub for your home. Many newer smart TVs have a suite of preloaded apps that often includes Netflix so all you have to do is sign in and pick up your favorite show where you left off.

About Our Trusted Experts

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.

What to Look For in a Cheap TV

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.

Samsung MU8000 Series Premium Ultra HD TV
Samsung MU8000 Series Premium Ultra HD TV. Image provided by Amazon

Brands

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.

LG LJ550B Series LED/LCD Smart TV
LG LJ550B Series LED/LCD Smart TV. Image provided by Amazon

Screen Resolution

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.

TCL S305 Series Roku TV
TCL S305 Series Roku TV. Image courtesy of Amazon

Smart Features

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.

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