The 6 Best TVs for Under $500 in 2020

It's easy to buy a new TV without breaking the bank

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
TCL 50S425 at Amazon
"With a crisp and clear picture thanks to 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and direct-lit LED, you can watch movies and TV in brilliant quality."
"It uses Samsung's new Tizen operating system with popular apps like Netflix, Apple TV+, Hulu, and Disney+ preloaded."
"The 32-inch Hisense Android TV is small enough to place on a table, mantle, or shelf."
Best Budget:
TCL 32S325 at Amazon
"Like the other TCL models on our list, this one is built around the Roku streaming platform."
"A dedicated game mode automatically detects when you start up your console."
"With dual band Wi-Fi connectivity, you can download Alexa skills."

Whether you're looking to upgrade your main television in your living room or home theater, or wanting to get a secondary TV for your bedroom, kids' playroom, or RV, you don't have to spend a fortune to get a great model. The best TVs under $500 still give you plenty of features that you've come to expect for home entertainment like preloaded streaming apps, voice controls, and the ability to screen mirror your mobile device. Many new, cheaper, televisions either have voice-enabled remotes with virtual assistants built in, or can be connected to an external smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home for expanded voice controls. While some models have proprietary operating systems, like Samsung's Tizen or LG's webOS, others use AndroidTV, FireTV, or Roku to give you instant access to apps like Prime Video, the Google Play Store, or Hulu without the hassle of setting up external equipment. 

While many cheaper TVs use older technology to keep their prices affordable, models with native 4K resolution have become much more mainstream, and therefore much more affordable. Even the most financially savvy customers can find a great 4K television to modernize or future-proof their home theaters without having to empty their wallets. So no matter if you're looking to leave broadcast programming behind and move exclusively to streaming or want a smart TV to round out your entertainment options, there is an affordable model out there to suit your needs. We'll break down features from our top picks to help you decide which one is right for you.

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

What We Like
  • Roku built in

  • HDR support

What We Don't Like
  • No native voice controls

When it comes to finding the right TV, there’s a lot to take into consideration, like quality, size, and the most important detail, price. Thankfully, the TCL 4K Roku TV checks every box.

With a crisp and clear picture thanks to 4K Ultra HD, high dynamic range (HDR), and direct-lit LED, you can watch movies and TV in brilliant quality. Plus, the built-in Roku provides access to over 500,000 movies and shows. And with multiple inputs, you can plug in your devices, thumb drives, headphones, and more to watch the way you want.

The possibilities are endless with the TCL; you can download the mobile Roku app and control the set from your phone, any new apps you add from Roku upload quickly, and it even comes with an easy-to-use remote.

Available in various sizes, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit at a price that won’t hurt your wallet. 

"The colors pop in a vivid but not artificial way and yield realistic, even pristine, image quality." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best for Streaming: Samsung UN55TU8000FXZA 55-Inch Crystal UHD TV

What We Like
  • Preloaded apps

  • AI upscaling

  • Free live TV

What We Don't Like
  • No Chromecast support

  • UI feels clunky

Smart TVs have become the norm for home entertainment, and the Samsung TU8000 55-inch model gives you some of the best streaming options available. It uses Samsung's new Tizen operating system with popular apps like Netflix, Apple TV+, Hulu, and Disney+ preloaded so you can start watching your favorite shows and movies right out of the box. It also features the Samsung TV app to give you access to live cooking, home improvement, sports, and news without a cable or satellite subscription. The updated Crystal 4K processor uses artificial intelligence to more efficiently upscale non-4K content for a consistently beautiful picture. The screen has virtually no bezel, giving you an edge-to-edge picture for a more immersive viewing experience. 

The voice-enabled remote has Samsung Bixby and Alexa built in for hands-free controls over your new television without the need for a smart speaker; it's also compatible with Google Assistant. If you connect the TU8000 to the SmartThings hub, you can use the voice-enabled remote to control Blu-Ray and DVD players, game consoles, and other playback devices. With AirPlay2 and Miracast compatibility, you can screen mirror your smartphone or tablet for more ways to watch videos. The back of the TV has integrated cable management channels and clips to help keep your home theater or media center looking neat and organized.

Best Small Screen: Hisense 32H5500F 32-Inch Smart TV

What We Like
  • Parental controls

  • Google Assistant built-in

  • Bluetooth

What We Don't Like
  • Only 720p

  • Only 2 HDMI inputs

Small format televisions are great options to use as a secondary TV in your bedroom, childrens' playroom, camper, or RV. The 32-inch Hisense Android TV is small enough to place on a table, mantle, or shelf, and with VESA compatible holes, you can wall mount the TV when you need to free up floor or table space. It uses the AndroidTV operating system to give you instant access to apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime video as well as Google Assistant and Alexa with the voice-enabled remote. 

The dual speakers use DTS Studio Sound to create clean, room-filling sound without extra equipment; though, with Bluetooth connectivity, you can wirelessly set up sound bars, speakers, and subwoofers for a custom audio configuration when you want it. With Chromecast built-in, you can screen mirror your Android mobile devices to watch home videos with friends and family. The Hisense TV features parental controls which allow you to block little ones from accessing inappropriate content and channels.

Best Budget: TCL 32S325 32-Inch Roku TV

What We Like
  • Roku built in

  • Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant compatible

  • 1080p full HD

What We Don't Like
  • Not 4K UHD

If you're working with a tight budget when shopping for a new TV, check out the TCL 32S325 32-inch model. This TV has a price point under $150, so even the most money-conscious shoppers can fit it into their budget. Like the other TCL models on our list, this one is built around the Roku streaming platform for easy access to your favorites apps for movies, shows, and music. The direct-lit LED panel gives you great 1080p full HD resolution and contrast for tons of detail and color saturation. 

You can connect your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices for expanded, hands-free voice controls. This TV has three HDMI inputs, a USB port, RF, and composite video connections that will allow you to connect all of your media devices, game consoles, and sound equipment quickly and easily. It also has a headphone jack for private listening so you don't disturb others.

Best for Gaming: TCL 50S525 50-Inch QLED Roku TV

What We Like
  • Automatic game mode

  • Integrated cable management

  • Streamlined hub menu

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • No screen mirroring

Console gamers know that their TV choice can make or break the gaming experience. The TCL 50-inch Roku TV is designed with gamers in mind. It uses a QLED panel with 80 individual contrast zones to produce deep, inky blacks for better contrast and to make the over 1billion colors really come to life. With native 4K resolution and Dolby Vision HDR support, you'll get incredible detailing and a TV that can handle the next generation of games. It uses the Roku platform to give you a streamlined hub menu for easy access to all your consoles as well as streaming apps and playback devices. 

The Roku app also turns your mobile device into a voice-enabled remote, or you can connect the TV to your Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker for expanded voice controls. A dedicated game mode automatically detects when you start up your console and optimizes refresh rates, picture and sound settings, and input response times to give you smooth motion and virtually lag free gaming. The screen has an ultra-narrow bezel to give you an edge-to-edge picture for a more immersive experience. With four HDMI inputs, you'll be able to connect all of your consoles to the TV at once and keep all the cords organized with the integrated cable management channels to make your game room or media setup look clean and organized.

Best for Alexa Users: Insignia Insignia NS-50DF711SE21 50-Inch Fire TV

What We Like
  • Custom input names

  • Parental controls

  • Alexa skills

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • No screen mirroring

If your home is already chock full of Alexa-enabled devices, the Insignia 50-inch Fire TV will be an excellent addition. This TV runs on the Fire TV platform, not only giving you access to preloaded apps like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+, but the voice-enabled remote has Alexa built in, making it easier to integrate the TV into your smart home network. With dual band Wi-Fi connectivity, you can download Alexa skills to make your TV do everything from give you daily weather updates to quoting Doctor Who for nerdy inspiration; you can also set your TV to receive automatic updates to keep it streaming ready. 

The 50-inch screen uses a direct-lit LED panel to give you stunning 4K resolution, and with HDR support, you'll get excellent detailing and contrast for more lifelike images. The speakers use DTS TruSurround technology to produce virtual 3D audio for a more immersive experience. The Insignia Fire TV allows you to give each HDMI and USB input a custom name so you can instantly know where your game consoles, cable or satellite boxes, Blu-Ray players, and photo albums are plugged in without having to navigate confusing menus or memorize generic input locations. It also features a V-Chip for parental controls so you can be sure your children aren't watching shows or movies that are not age appropriate.

Final Verdict

The TCL 50S425 is one of the best televisions available under $500. It uses the Roku platform to give you instant access to streaming apps as well as playback devices, game consoles, and cable or satellite boxes with the streamlined hub menu. The Roku app turns your mobile devices into voice-enabled remote controls, and the TV works with Alexa and Google Assistant for expanded voice controls. The Samsung TU8000 is the perfect choice for budget-conscious customers looking to cut the cord and move exclusively to streaming. The new Tizen operating system gives you access to popular apps, and AirPlay2 and Miracast compatibility let you screen mirror your mobile devices for tons of ways to watch your favorite shows and movies.

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 a background in content and technical writing along with experience in providing tech support and help documentation. These skills let her provide detailed reviews for consumers who may or may not be familiar with the latest home entertainment technologies.

The Ultimate TVs Under $500 Buying Guide

Having a budget under $500 can make it tough to find a good quality television that offers a decent balance between picture quality, screen size, and smart features. Luckily, most top brands like TCL, LG, and Sony have a range of models that cater to more budget-conscious consumers looking to either purchase their first smart TV or upgrade their current home theater configuration. Lower-priced televisions can still give you the option of 4K resolution so you can stream high-quality video or use a UHD DVD player, as well as compatibility with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home for hands-free voice controls and smart home network integration. 

Some have Bluetooth connectivity for screen mirroring your smartphone or tablet or wirelessly connecting external soundbars, speakers, and subwoofers for a custom audio setup. There are even budget models that have dedicated game modes that lower input latency and boost color and contrast. In this buying guide, we'll break down a few important factors to consider when looking to purchase a TV priced under $500 to help you choose what best fits your needs.

TCL S405 Series 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart TV Example
TCL S405 Series 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart TV Example. Image provided by Amazon

Smart Features

Lower-priced televisions offer fewer smart features than their more expensive counterparts, but you can still get a quality model on the cheap. TCL offers several models that run on the Roku platform, allowing you to download apps right to the TV so you can watch your favorite shows and movies without the need for any extra equipment. With the Roku app, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a voice-enabled remote for easier searching and browsing. Insignia uses the Amazon Fire TV platform and has several apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video pre-loaded for quality streaming right out of the box. Insignia televisions also have Alexa built-in for hands-free voice controls without needing an Amazon Echo or other smart speaker. Samsung televisions use their proprietary Bixby virtual assistant, but are also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant for customers who prefer them. Some other brands like LG and Sony have compatibility with Apple Homekit, allowing you to use Siri for voice commands. 

Screen mirroring is becoming more and more popular for home entertainment, and a few of the more budget-friendly televisions allow it via AirPlay2 for iOS devices and Chromecast for Android. Screen mirroring lets you share your smartphone or tablet screen for more ways to watch videos and view pictures with friends and family. Bluetooth connectivity also lets you stream music from your phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV for room-filling audio and a more immersive listening experience. Televisions with Bluetooth connectivity also allow you to wirelessly connect soundbars, subwoofers, and speakers so you can set up a surround sound system for the ultimate home theater configuration.

Insignia Amazon Fire Edition TV Example
Best Buy

Screen Resolution

With 4K resolution becoming more and more mainstream, it's easier to find budget-friendly televisions that support it. You can still purchase a full 1080p HD model if you like, but with the rise of 4K content, you'll want a model with UHD capabilities to keep up with current video streaming trends. A full HD 1080p resolution television uses older technology to produce a middling resolution picture. This was popular several years ago when HD video first became available. Televisions that utilize 4K resolution give you four times the pixels as a 1080p television, allowing for better detailing and a more true-to-life picture. The difference between 4K and 1080p is clear to see, and when you do see it, you'll want to opt for the better picture. 

Televisions that have 4K resolution often support HDR, high dynamic range, technology to produce color and contrast levels that closely mimic what you would see in the real world. This technology comes in four variations: HDR10/10+, HLG (hybrid log gamma), Dolby Vision, and Technicolor HDR. There isn't much difference between each variation of HDR besides which company has licensed the use of the technology. Each variation uses the same basic principles to produce enhanced color volumes and contrast for better detailing and more life-like pictures.

A high refresh rate is also needed to make a great picture. Models that support 4K resolution, as well as HDR technology, often have a refresh rate of either 60Hz or 120Hz. A refresh rate is how many times a TV changes the image on screen per second, so 60Hz means it changes 60 times a second and 120Hz means it changes 120 times a second. A high refresh rate makes motion blur a thing of the past, leaving you with smooth action even during intense and fast-paced scenes, so you never miss a detail. One downside is that you may get the "soap opera" effect when a video, show, or movie doesn't support a high refresh rate. This gives the picture a fuzzy, inferior quality and brings movement into uncanny valley territory. To fix this, you can turn off automatic refresh rate options in your television's settings menu when you plan on watching older movies and shows.

Smart TV Platform Examples (LG, Samsung, Sony, Roku)
Smart TV Platform Examples (LG, Samsung, Sony, Roku). Images provided by LG, Samsung, Sony, Roku

LCD vs LED

The technology that a television uses to produce a picture plays a large part in how much it costs as well as the quality of the image on screen. TVs that use LCD screens are generally much more affordable than their LED-based counterparts. But LCD screens are an older technology. They use an electrical current running through liquid crystals and a fluorescent backlight in order to produce colors and details. This results in a much less clear picture with muddier colors and contrast. Models that use LED screens have individually lit pixels, allowing for pixel-precise color, detail, and contrast. Televisions that use LED screens often have localized dimming zones that completely turn off the LED bulbs for deep, inky blacks to starkly contrast brighter colors. Another advantage of an LED screen is that LED bulbs are more energy efficient than fluorescent lights, meaning it costs less to operate, saving you money on your electric bill. LED televisions are also more lightweight and can be more thin than LCD models because of the newer technology, giving them a more sleek, modern look that will better blend into your home decor.