The 8 Best Dorm and Small Apartment TVs to Buy in 2018

Make your dorm or apartment the go-to spot for movie night

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The first big difference between high school and college? Your back-to-school shopping list includes a TV. When it is comes to buying a TV for your dorm or off-campus apartment, bigger is not better. Aside from the fact most college students are working with a shoestring budget, big TVs take up a lot of space, and you're likely to be sitting just a few feet from the screen. To help with your TV search for your dorm or first apartment, we've rounded up the six best ones (including a projector) on the market that are guaranteed to make your place the go-to spot for movie parties. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Sceptre X3288BV

It may come as a bit of a surprise to see a brand like Sceptre at the top of our list, but stay with us. If you’re looking for a dorm TV, your size limitations likely max out around 32 inches and price is your other main consideration. Dorms are notoriously public spaces, ripe for theft and damage from social gatherings. Sceptre is a brand known for value, but the X3288BV also offers a few spec points that are a welcome surprise giving its low price point.

First off, the 720p resolution may be the bare minimum for pixel count, but the bright LED tech make this “barely HD” TV seem solidly brilliant. The unit also has built-in MEMC 120 technology — something that essentially estimates movement in quicker sequences to help smooth it out, mitigating the need for a higher refresh rate. There’s an HDMI input and mobile HD connectivity through the built-in MHL link. There are also USB, VGA, and component inputs, and there’s even a Clear QAM tuner meant to make hooking up live TV even easier — eliminating the need for an antenna. All in all, this is a mount-ready unit that will work well for a college student thanks to its steady performance and exceptionally low cost.

Best for Bedroom: TCL 32S305 32-Inch 720p Roku Smart LED TV (2017 Model)

This 32-inch LED TV comes with built-in dual-band Wi-Fi that easily connects to your home network. For the budget price, you’ll be pleased with its 720p HD resolution and 60GHz refresh rate that keeps up with fast action scenes. Our favorite thing about this TV is its intuitive user interface, so you won’t have to navigate complicated menus to get to your favorite shows and apps. It also has ample inputs, including three HDMI (one w/ ARC) and one USB. 

The TV itself is fairly standard in appearance, but its simplified remote has just 20 buttons, which is half that of a standard remote, including shortcut buttons to these popular apps: Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Vudu. Best yet, if you’re already snuggled into bed and can’t reach the remote, you can download the mobile app to turn your smartphone into the clicker.

Best Monitor For Video Streaming: Acer R240HY

Acer R240HY
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you plan on coming to campus with a desktop PC, consider investing in a quality monitor and skipping the TV altogether. This works particularly well for students who are going to be watching the majority of their content from streaming services like Amazon and Netflix rather than traditional cable providers. Those going the monitor route need to consider the Acer R240HY, which is the best value for a 1080p monitor on the market.

The 23.8-inch screen has a TrueHD max resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and comes in spellbinding 100 Million:1 contrast ratio. In-Plane Switching (IPS) shows colors in vibrant form from any angle. That means your friends watching from over on the bed get to see the high-quality imagery in the same vibrancy you do from your swivel chair.

The slim, frameless monitor and attractive bezel mimic the design of a flat-screen TV, making it even easier to skip a second screen. VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs make it easier than ever to get content from a computer or phone to the monitor. Just be warned that this monitor is not mountable, so it will need to sit on your desk.

Best 19-Inch TV: Sceptre E195BV-SHD

Sceptre E195BV-SHD
Courtesy of Amazon.com

TVs that measure 19 inches are becoming a thing of the past, but a few manufacturers are still making good, inexpensive units that work well in small spaces. The Sceptre E195BV-SHD is a bare-bones 720p HD TV with an LCD display and HDMI connectivity. It measures 19.8 x 14.8 x 4 inches and weighs 7.6 pounds, so it’s very portable and easily could find a home in whatever space you have open.

Reviewers on Amazon have noted that the Sceptre E195BV-SHD works great as a cheap non-primary TV, especially in places like a bedroom or a kitchen. Some people have even used it as a PC monitor and have said this TV works well for switching between game console, TV and PC usage.

Best Budget: Element ELEFW195R

As mentioned before, a good price is paramount for a dorm or small apartment: after all, if you're a student, you likely aren't in a position to drop hundreds of dollars on a TV. That’s where this 19-inch flat screen from Element comes in. For right around $60 — probably the same amount you’d spend on a week of groceries — you get a perfect TV for your small space.

With a resolution of 1366 x 768, the Element ELEFW195R sits firmly in the 720p category, which should honestly be fine for its tiny screen size. The dynamic contrast ratio is 1000:1 and the aspect ratio is 16:9. Element has loaded in 3D Video Noise Reduction for a clearer picture and there are HDMI, USB, component, composite, RCA, and headphone inputs, so all the requisites are here. And, of course, there’s also automatic digital and analog antenna channel tuning to make sure you get the most out of whatever package you’ve purchased. It isn’t a smart TV and it doesn’t come with any of the flashy name brand features, but at this price point, you get an amazingly serviceable machine. 

Best 32-Inch: Samsung UN32N5300

As the TV market has progressed, the depth of options for TVs as small as 32 inches has definitely gone down. That said, there are still some choice units from top manufacturers, and this 32-inch TV from Samsung checks basically every box you could want. First, it’s 1080p, so while it isn’t breaking any pixel records, when you factor in the increased clarity from the HDR functionality, you have a great-looking screen. And if that brightness wasn’t enough, Samsung has loaded in a proprietary algorithm they’re calling Ultra Clean View to smooth out distortion. There’s more: the bolstered color performance, Micro Dimming shadow definition, and enhanced contrast all yield the best possible picture under the 1080p restrictions. Of course, there’s also smart TV app access and an external app you can control with your mobile device to make navigating the on-screen options even easier. It all connects via Wi-Fi, component cables, HDMI, and more, meaning it offers a great straight-out-of-the-box experience.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Sony KDL32W600D 32-Inch

Sony KDL32W600D 32-Inch
Courtesy of Amazon.com

When you don’t have a lot of space to work with for your TV, getting a smart TV is often a good idea because it means you don’t have to find space for streaming media players or game consoles to bring Web content to your TV. The Sony KDL32W600D is a well-reviewed 32-inch smart TV that fits this role. It has a 720p direct-lit LED screen and has two HDMI inputs and two USB ports, ensuring good connectivity.

Now let’s talk about what makes the Sony KDL32W600D smart. The TV has built-in WiFi and downloadable apps so you can stream content from most major video services, including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. You can also play media like movies and music directly from a USB stick by simply sticking into one of the two USB ports.

The vast majority of Amazon reviewers have been happy with this TV, especially when it comes to picture quality. The only thing reviewers found lacking was sound quality, so you might want to invest in a small sound bar if you have audio concerns.

See more reviews of our favorite Sony TVs available for purchase.

Best Projector: AEHR Mini Projector

Projectors have a reputation for being more appropriate in Dad’s home theater than in a dorm room. For many years their dim bulbs, bulky design, and complicated mess of wires made them a no-go for small spaces. Those days are gone. The AEHR Mini Projector is at the forefront of a new generation of smart projectors that can blast a large image from a small, wireless source. Best of all, a slew of connectivity options and a killer Android 7.1 system makes it easy to access online content.

This tiny projector — it's only 6 x 0.7 x 3 inches and 0.6 lbs — can turn a drab white wall into a 130-inch, 1080P screen. Keystone correction and an included tripod make for a hassle-free set-up. Then, just use the built-in Android 7.1 system to access the internet directly, or use your Android or iOS device to mirror your screen, (this can be set up wirelessly or using a USB cable). It has never been easier to project your favorite media, both indoors and out. This projector is also small enough that it can be slipped into a purse, backpack, or even a pocket for easy transport.

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