The 6 Best TVs for Under $500 in 2021

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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

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.
Best for Streaming:
Samsung TU8000 4K TV at Amazon
It uses Samsung's new Tizen operating system with popular apps like Netflix, Apple TV+, Hulu, and Disney+ preloaded.
This small-screen TV can easily be wall-mounted or tucked away on a shelf to free up space and give you tons of placement options.
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.
It uses an updated processor, along with a host of proprietary software for great 4K resolution.

Buying a TV for under $500 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice awesome features to stick to your entertainment budget. TCL and Hisense have proven themselves to be solid options for anyone looking for a cheaper TV, but bigger brands like Samsung have also started to offer lower-priced options to those who value brand loyalty or just look for recognizable brands for their electronics. Smart TVs and 4K resolution have become standard for home entertainment, and that means you can get Wi-Fi connectivity and great picture quality on-the-cheap. Some models come packaged with voice-enabled remotes for hands-free controls, while others use external smart speakers to work with virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Console gamers can pick up an affordable TV with an automatic game mode to help create a smooth and immersive gaming experience, while audiophiles can use Bluetooth wireless connectivity or HDMI ARC support to set up sound bars and speakers for surround sound. Some of the more budget-friendly options even have screen mirror capabilities to let you share photos, videos, and music from your mobile devices for more ways to entertain your family and friends. Take a look at our top picks below to see which is the right choice for you.


Best Overall: TCL 50S425 50-inch 4K Smart LED Roku TV

TCL 50S425 50" 4K Roku 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: Insignia NS-24DF311SE21 24-Inch Fire TV

What We Like
  • Alexa Skills

  • Plenty of inputs

  • Parental controls

What We Don't Like
  • No 4K

  • No Bluetooth

If you're looking for a smaller TV to put in your bedroom, child's playroom, or even your RV, the Insignia 24-inch Fire TV is a great option. This small-screen TV can easily be wall-mounted or tucked away on a dresser to free up floor space and give you tons of placement options. Along with the Fire TV platform, you'll get access to integrated Alexa voice controls for hands-free use of your new TV and connected devices. You can even download Alexa Skills to turn your TV into a true entertainment hub. The dual 2.5 watt speakers use DTS TruSurround technology to give you clean, clear audio when streaming shows or music. The screen produces great 720p resolution, which is perfect for anyone who still watches over-air, cable, or satellite broadcast programming. The TV has tons of inputs for setting up DVD players, home audio equipment, and game consoles, and a headphone jack allows for private listening when you don't want to disturb others. If you have children, the integrated parental controls let you lock out inappropriate channels and apps to keep your little ones from accessing anything they shouldn't.

Best Budget: TCL 32S325 32-Inch 720p Roku Smart LED 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 Picture: Sony X800H 43-Inch 4K UHD TV

Sony X800H 43 Inch TV
  • Excellent picture

  • HomeKit compatible

  • Optimized for PS5

  • No Xfinity compatibility

  • Speakers can sound "tinny"

Opting for a more affordable TV doesn't mean you have to skimp on picture quality, and the Sony X800H delivers. It uses an updated processor, along with a host of proprietary software like Sony's Triluminos display, MotionflowXR, and dynamic contrast enhancer to give you excellent 4K resolution and upscale 2K or 1080p images for better clarity. It also works with Dolby Vision HDR for enhanced detailing and Dolby Atmos for virtual surround sound without having to set up external equipment. It runs on the AndroidTV platform, giving you access to the Google Play store and Google Assistant voice controls so you can download thousands of entertainment apps and get hands-free control over your new TV. It works with Alexa and Apple HomeKit for expanded voice controls. With Chromecast and AirPlay 2 support, you can share videos, photos, and music from your smartphone or tablet for more ways to keep up with your favorite artists and shows or share media with friends. If you've managed to pick up the new PlayStation 5, this TV features a dedicated game mode that is optimized for the console, giving you a smoother, more immersive gaming experience.

Final Verdict

The TCL 50S425 is one of the best cheap TVs available. The Roku platform and mobile app give you access to thousands of streaming services as well as voice controls. This model also provides great 4K resolution at a budget-friendly price. The Samsung TU8000 is the perfect affordable TV for anyone who has moved exclusively to streaming. The updated processor uses AI to upscale non-4K content, and you get a suite of preloaded apps as well as free live TV with the SamsungTV+ app.


What to Look for in a TV Under $500

Resolution
A display's resolution is one of the most important factors in determining picture quality. It indicates the total number of pixels a television or monitor is capable of displaying at once, and the density of pixels is incredibly important for determining how sharp or clear an image looks. An FHD/1080p display, for instance, boasts a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, for a total of 2,073,600, while a 4K set can, appropriately, display four times as many.

HDR
A TV with High Dynamic Range has access to a great range of not only colors but contrast as well, meaning it can potentially display more color-accurate images as well as deeper blacks and brighter highlights, to create a more vivid and realistic picture. Most mid-tier TVs support HDR, but it's worth double checking, especially with less expensive sets.

Refresh Rate
Refresh rate determines the number of frames a device is capable of displaying per second. Generally, the more frames, the smoother and more fluid motion and action looks on screen. This is largely a consideration for gamers, but anyone can benefit from a higher frame rate when viewing motion-intensive content like sports or action films.

FAQs

What size TV do I need?
To find the ideal TV size for your living room or home theater, measure the distance between where you'll be sitting and where your TV will be wall-mounted or sit on a dedicated stand, then divide that number by 2. A distance of 10 feet (120 inches) means the best screen size for your space will be around 60 inches. You can go a bit bigger or smaller depending on what is available to buy and your budget, but a screen that is too large will overpower the room. On the other hand, a screen that is too small will make the room feel like a cavern and cause everyone to crowd around to watch; not great for Super Bowl Sunday or your next watch party.

Can I download apps to this TV?
If your new TV is capable of connecting to the internet via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, you can download streaming apps to it. Many new smart TVs feature a suite of preloaded, popular apps like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube so you can pick up where you left off in your favorite shows without any hassle.

Can I use voice controls?
Most new smart televisions feature some degree of hands-free voice controls. Higher-end models will come packaged with a voice-enabled remote and integrated virtual assistants, while more budget-friendly TVs will require an external smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or a mobile app like Roku to turn your smartphone or tablet into a voice-enabled remote.

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.

Was this page helpful?