The 6 Best Dorm and Small Apartment TVs of 2020

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

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The Rundown
"It supports over 5,000 different apps for streaming music, movies, and shows."
"If you're a movie buff, this TV has a filmmaker mode that automatically adjusts the picture and sound settings."
"This TV is built on the Roku TV platform, giving you access to thousands of shows, movies, and apps in one convenient hub menu."
"The screen uses dual LED lighting that produces warm and cool colors simultaneously for better color volume and saturation."
Best Budget:
TCL 40S325 at Amazon
Best for Amazon Alexa Users:
Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 at Amazon
"This TV is built on the Fire TV platform and features Alexa voice controls built-in."

The limited space of a dorm room or small apartment can make it difficult to find a TV that will fit, but the best dorm and small apartment TVs feature small-format screens while still delivering all the features you've come to expect for home entertainment. Brands like Sony, Samsung, and TCL offer smaller TV models with 4K UHD and HDR support for excellent picture quality while streaming or using playback devices like Blu-Ray players and game consoles. Many modern televisions offer compatibility with virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free controls over the TV and easier searching and browsing. 

Some models have dedicated game modes which automatically adjust the screen's refresh rate and lower input response times for smooth motion and virtually lag-free gaming. Samsung's newest line of televisions use dual LED panels to produce cool and warm colors simultaneously for more brilliant colors. With features like Dolby Atmos audio technology and Bluetooth connectivity, you can get crisp, clean, room-filling sound with or without extra audio equipment like soundbars or subwoofers; which is great for studio apartments and dorm rooms where every inch of space is accounted for. We've broken down our top picks for small-format televisions to help you decide which is right for you and your space.

Best Overall: Sony X800H 43-Inch 4K UHD TV

What We Like
  • Voice controls

  • AirPlay2/Chromecast support

  • Closed Captions

What We Don't Like
  • No virtual surround sound

  • No pre-installed web browser

The Sony X800H 43-inch 4K UHD TV brings the best balance between features, size, and price. This TV delivers stunning 4K UHD resolution with HDR10 support and Dolby Vision technology to give you the best possible viewing experience. The X1 processor intelligently upscales standard and full HD media so you get an awesome picture no matter what you're watching. The dual 10 watt speakers utilize Dolby Atmos technology to pump out crystal clear sound that fills the room without distortion. 

With voice commands built into the remote control, you can integrate your Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled devices for hands-free controls. The TV uses the AndroidTV operating system for automatic updates and to keep all your favorite streaming apps in one convenient place. It supports over 5,000 different apps for streaming music, movies, and shows as well as AirPlay 2 and Chromecast connectivity for screen mirroring with your smartphone or tablet. It supports 71 languages and closed captioning so everyone can enjoy movie night or binge watch parties.

Runner-Up Best Overall: LG 43UN7300PUF 43-Inch 4K UHD with Alexa

What We Like
  • Text-to-speech

  • Voice controls

  • Quad-core processor

What We Don't Like
  • Not ENERGY STAR rated

  • No built-in TV tuner

The LG UN7300 is a close second to the Sony X800H. This model also gives you excellend 4K UHD resolution, and the quad-core processor features double step noise reduction when upscaling lower resolution media for a clean, clear picture. With HDR10 and HLG support, you get enhanced contrast and sharpness for even better viewing. LG has integrated their ThinkQ AI programming into this TV that works with your smart speakers as well as Apple Homekit to give you access to your favorite virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri for hands-free control. 

If you're a movie buff, this TV has a filmmaker mode that automatically adjusts the picture and sound settings to let you watch your favorite movies as they were meant to be seen. You also get access to LG Channels: 180 free live and original content channels to stream sports, news, and more. The WebOS operating system lets you download your favorite streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu right to the TV. With text-to-speech capabilities, those who prefer audio cues or who are visually impaired can easily navigate menus.

Best for Streaming: TCL 43S525 43-Inch 5 Series 4K UHD

What We Like
  • Voice controls

  • Roku TV

  • Automatic game mode

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

  • No AirPlay2/Chromecast support

If you're looking to cut the cord with your cable or satellite TV provider and turn entirely to streaming for your entertainment, you can't do much better than the TCL 43S525. This TV is built on the Roku TV platform, giving you access to thousands of shows, movies, and apps in one convenient hub menu. This menu also allows you to choose your input if you have a game console or over-air antenna connected to the TV without having to scroll through confusing menus or remember input names. With Dolby Vision HDR support and great 4K UHD resolution, you'll get a great picture time and again. The minimal bezel around the screen gives you a fuller viewing area than other TCL models. 

With the Roku app, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for easier browsing and searching. You can also set up voice commands with Alexa and Google Assistant. If you're a gamer, this TV has an automatic game mode that enhances the refresh rate and contrast for smoother motion and greater detailing. The TV also has three HDMI ports, a USB port, and RF and composite video inputs so you can quickly and easily set up your home theater system. It also has a headphone jack for private listening while you watch movies and shows or play video games so you won't disturb roommates or neighbors.

Best QLED: Samsung Q60T 43-Inch Smart TV

What We Like
  • Updated processor

  • Voice controls

  • Dual LED panel

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • No built-in tuner

The Q60T is Samsung's newest 4K UHD smart television. This model features an upgraded processor for faster picture rendering and better upscaling of non-4K content for a better viewing experience. It also has the new Tizen operating system that allows you to download your favorite streaming apps right to the TV for quicker and easier access. The included remote has a built-in microphone that allows you to use virtual assistants like Bixby, Alexa, or Google Assistant.

The screen uses dual LED lighting that produces warm and cool colors simultaneously for better color volume and saturation. With Dolby Vision HDR support, you get enhanced contrast and sharpness. There is also an automatic game mode that takes advantage of the 120Hz refresh rate for smoother action. The minimal bezel around the screen gives you a fuller picture for a more immersive viewing experience. The dual 10 watt speakers use Dolby Audio technology to produce rich, room-filling sound. Like all newer Samsung televisions, the Q60T has an ambient mode that turns your TV into a work of art to blend into your home decor when not in use.

Bixby Voice allows the creation of verbal shortcuts (quick commands) for complex tasks. For example, instead of saying something like "Hi Bixby - Open YouTube and play cat videos" you can create a quick command, such as "cats" and Bixby will do the rest. Robert Silva, Product Expert

Best Budget: TCL 40S325 40-inch 1080p Smart TV

You don't have to spend a fortune to get a great TV for your dorm room or apartment. The TCL 40S325 retails under $200, so even the most budget-conscious shoppers can feel comfortable with the price tag. It runs on the Roku streaming platform, giving you a simplified hub menu to access all your apps, game consoles, over-air antennas, and playback devices all in one place. This means you won't have to memorize HDMI inputs or navigate confusing menus to watch your favorite shows and movies or play video games. 

The Roku app can turn your iOS or Android mobile devices into a voice-enabled remote control for easier browsing and searching; you can also connect the TV to your Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker for expanded voice controls. The LED screen produces excellent 1080p full HD resolution so you get a great picture time after time, and with a 60Hz refresh rate, you'll get silky smooth motion even during intense action scenes. With three HDMI inputs, you'll be able to connect your frequently-used devices all at once.

What We Like
  • Voice controls

  • Under $200

  • Roku platform

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K

  • No Bluetooth

Best for Amazon Alexa Users: Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 43" 4K Fire TV

What We Like
  • Alexa built-in

  • Plenty of inputs

  • Automatic updates

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K UHD

  • No Bluetooth connectivity

  • No Google Assistant support

If you can't live without your Amazon Alexa devices, the Insignia Fire TV will fit right into your smart home network. This TV is built on the Fire TV platform and features Alexa voice controls built-in. With pre-loaded apps like Netflix, HBO, YouTube, and Prime Video, you get instant access to thousands of shows and movies. You can pair it with an Echo device for hands-free controls. The direct-lit LED panel gives you great 720p HD resolution, and the quad-core processor gives you faster app loading and better picture rendering. The dual speakers used DTS TruSurround technology to give you a more immersive listening experience when streaming movies or music. 

This TV has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to give you automatic updates so your television always has the latest versions of apps and the Fire TV platform. It comes in both 24 and 32-inch sizes, so it can fit just about anywhere. This TV has three HDMI inputs, including one ARC input for connecting soundbars and other audio equipment, a USB port, a composite video input, and RF inputs for cable and satellite connections or an over-air antenna.

Final Verdict

The Sony X800H is the best 4K UHD television built with dorms and small apartments in mind. With great resolution and upscaling, you'll get a crystal clear picture no matter what you're watching. For more budget-conscious shoppers, the Hisense 40H5500F delivers quality features like voice controls and the AndroidTV operating system for a lower price.

About Our Trusted Experts

Taylor Clemons has worked in a variety of fields including: manufacturing, marketing, and e-commerce. She has written for TechRadar, GameSkinny, and her own website, Steam Shovelers.

Mark Harris is a former digital music writer for Lifewire. He has experience covering digital music formats, players, and streaming services. 


Robert Silva
has been reporting on consumer electronics since 1998. He has written for Dishinfo.com and made appearances on the YouTube series Home Theater Geeks.

The Ultimate Dorm and Small Apartment TV Buying Guide

If you’re looking for a TV for your dorm, small apartment, or condo, chances are you’re going to want something relatively small, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go cheap — you can find great options to fit within whatever your budget may be, whether it’s a simple low-res TV to stick in a corner for casual watching or an ultra-high resolution 4K UHD screen to be able to watch the latest movies in all of their HDR glory. 

Beyond where you’re going to put it, you’ll want to consider questions such as what you’ll be using it for and what kind of devices you’re going to want to plug in. If you’re a gamer, for instance, you’ll want something higher resolution with a better refresh rate, but on the other hand if you’re on a budget or have a limited internet connection, a good digital tuner may be far more important than streaming features. 

Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 Fire TV Edition
 Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Screen Size & Resolution

If you’re trying to get a TV to fit into a specific space in a dorm or small apartment, you’ll want to keep in mind that TVs are measured diagonally, from one corner to another. This means that the width of your TV will normally be slightly less than that, so you may not need to go as small as you might think. For example, a 43-inch TV typically measures between 37 and 40 inches wide, depending on the size of the bezel.

Determining the ideal resolution is a much trickier question when purchasing a TV for a smaller space, because there’s really a point at which you could be wasting your money by paying for higher resolutions on smaller screens. 

For example, unless you’re going to be sitting within about 2-3 feet of your TV, you likely won’t notice much of a difference between 1080p and 4K on a screen that’s under 40 inches, so the smaller you go, the less reason there is to pay for 4K UHD, at least for a television (computer monitors are a different story, since you typically sit much closer to your computer). 

That said, however, buying a 4K TV does mean you’ll be able to get closer while still seeing the same level of detail, so you really have to ask yourself where you’re going to put it and where you’ll typically be sitting. A good rule of thumb is that for a 4K TV your viewing distance should be between 1x and 1.5x the width of the screen, while for 1080p HD, that jumps to 2x to 2.5x. So for a 40-inch screen, that means 40-60 inches away for 4K, or 80-100 inches away for 1080p HD.

Smart TV Features

Almost all TVs these days come with support for built-in streaming services, with Netflix as a common standard. However, if your streaming tastes are a bit more varied, you’ll want to make sure to look for a TV that has the apps to match your preferences. For example, while most smart TVs also include other mainstream services like Hulu, not all do, and even fewer include things like Disney+ or Apple TV+. 

Of course, you also always have the option of adding a set-top streaming box like a Roku or an Apple TV, which will give you a wealth of additional options, but those are an additional expense, and although they’re pretty small, they also still take up some space as well as requiring additional inputs and power connections. Note that you can also get TVs that have Roku capabilities built-in

Keep in mind as well that smart TV features work over the internet, so you’ll need to have a decent internet connection to support them, and a good wireless router to match. For example, 4K Ultra HD Netflix streaming typically requires a minimum 25mbps internet connection, and if you have data caps, it can burn through them pretty quickly too — at a rate of around 11-12GB per hour of streaming. HD quality streaming, on the other hand, is considerably more lightweight at around 5mbps. You also shouldn’t expect to get reliable 4K streaming if you’re using Wi-Fi in a dorm, since it will often be slower and much more congested.

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

Connectivity

Smaller TVs often have more limited inputs, so you’ll need to think about what you want to plug into your TV before buying, and of course exactly how you’ll be using it.

The good news is that this is probably a little bit less complicated than buying a TV for a home theatre system, since you won’t likely be hooking up sound bars or AV receivers, but you’ll still need to have a few free HDMI inputs if you want to add a Blu-ray player, game console, streaming box, or have your TV double as a monitor for your computer. 

If you’re on a tight budget, having a good QAM tuner may be preferable to paying for a bunch of streaming services and the internet connection needed to support them. In many places, you can pick up many over-the-air HD signals for free, and while you’re not going to get premium movie networks, if you’re willing to hook up an inexpensive antenna, you can bring in most of the major networks in good stable quality. 

Audio

While you’re probably not going to be setting up a thundering 5.1 channel surround sound system in your dorm, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for second-rate audio. Many smaller TVs still provide pretty decent built-in speakers, but if getting good audio is important for you, you’ll want to make sure that the TV has either analog or digital optical audio outputs so that you can hook up your own speakers. 

Some TVs even include Bluetooth support, which can be valuable for pairing up a set of headphones if you’re sharing a small space and want to avoid disturbing your roommates or neighbours.

Hisense 40H5590F
Lifewire / Andrew Hayward 

Brands

There are dozens of companies out there making TVs, and you can actually find some pretty good “off-brand” sets, especially if you’re on a budget. While mainstream companies like Sony, Samsung, and LG make some absolutely great TVs, lesser-known brands like TCL and Hisense still deliver quality sets with lots of smart features at some pretty great prices, and often even include built-in support for well-known streaming platforms like Roku

The bigger brands naturally offer even more, of course, including features like Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound, advanced screen technology, and even support for voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, but many of these are things you may not need in a smaller TV, especially if it’s just for your dorm room.

Future Needs

Just because you’re buying a smaller TV for your dorm doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think ahead a bit. Since TV technology doesn’t change all that often, chances are that whatever TV you buy right now could still be serving you well years down the road. 

So if you have the budget, consider what you may want to use your TV for in the future. For instance, even if you don’t need 4K streaming capabilities now, there’s a good chance you might someday, so it’s a good idea to try and find a TV today that can still give you what you need tomorrow, even if it’s just something you can put in a secondary room when you move into a larger space.