While you may not be able to get the latest technology when you’re shopping for smart TVs under $500, you can still find some great models. The idea that cheap TVs sacrifice quality, feature-poor audio, and have disappointing features is misleading. This does not have to be the case.
Reviews of dozens of TV sets a year help us determine which sets are the best values, giving you better-than-basic features and above-average performance to help you find the best TV for your money.
The best TV under $400 and the best TV under $300 are also highlighted so that you get more bang for your buck.
|TCL 55-inch 5-Series 4K|
|Hisense ULED 4K Premium 55U6G|
|VIZIO 43-Inch V-Series 4K V435-J01|
|SAMSUNG 43-Inch AU8000 Series|
|Toshiba 55-inch Class C350 Series|
1. TCL 55-inch 5-Series 4K
As far as illumination goes, the 5-Series doesn’t skimp. Through its use of QLED lighting, the 5-Series offers an incredible range of vibrant colors and an arresting brightness – especially considering its price. While QLED lighting will look and feel superior on a Samsung TV, you’ll also pay more for it. But let’s get back to the 5-Series.
In addition to Dolby Vision HDR support, the QLED panel supports HDR10 and HLG. No matter what video content you’re watching from Netflix or a 4K Blu-ray, the 5-Series decodes today’s leading picture codecs to offer an image with a lifelike hue, depth, and richness not found in such a low price point.
There are some picture features in the 2020 5-Series that didn’t quite fit our needs (particularly the QLED lighting), but we were able to adjust them with a few tweaks. In spite of a slight improvement, the 2021 version is similar.
In addition to being an excellent gaming set, the 5-Series also has an Auto Game Mode that automatically detects game systems connected via HDMI. When you begin gaming, the 5-Series will automatically adjust color, brightness, and latency, so your gameplay runs smoothly and looks great.
TCL also offers a fantastic smart TV experience utilizing the Roku OS and including both Google Assistant and Alexa support. You’ll find plenty of content to enjoy on the TCL 55-inch 5-Series Roku TV, which offers a wide selection of apps and an assistant to help you find the best movies and shows.
2. Hisense ULED 4K Premium 55U6G
The Hisense 55U6G is one of the best TVs under $500 that you can get. It provides great picture quality and matches the performance of more expensive models.
Neither the 55 inch nor the 50-inch models cost more than $500, and they should each perform the same as the 65-inch model. Google Play Store has tons of apps available for Android TV, which comes built-in to it.
The VA panel, combined with the local dimming feature, makes this TV an excellent choice for watching movies because it has a high native contrast ratio. Streaming HDR content is easy with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support.
Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the format of the content before streaming. The display shows a wide color gamut, and although the HDR brightness is just about okay, some highlights won’t appear as bright as they should be. Moreover, it has good reflection handling and is bright enough in SDR to prevent glare, so visibility won’t be a problem.
Its narrow viewing angle makes it unsuitable for large rooms with wide seating arrangements, like those found in other VA panel TVs.
Additionally, it doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 bandwidth or variable refresh rate (VRR), but its low input lag and fast response time make for an excellent gaming experience. You can still find a good TV in this price range if you are not bothered by the lack of extra features.
3. VIZIO 43-Inch V-Series 4K V435-J01
There is no better small TV under $500 than the Vizio V435-J01. You can find this TV in this price range in a 43-inch or 50-inch size, and you can even get it in a 65-inch size. Testing resulted in the same results for the 65-inch model, as well as the 43-inch and 50-inch models. With a basic design and decent overall performance, this TV is suitable for most uses.
As one of the best-LED TVs we’ve tested, it performs best in dark rooms due to its excellent contrast ratio. Despite its fantastic black uniformity, it doesn’t have local dimming to improve the picture quality in dark scenes.
As a result, the blacks on the screen are not as deep as they could be. To enjoy accurate colors, you probably won’t need to have it calibrated since it comes with excellent accuracy out of the box.
Additionally, while the TV doesn’t upscale lower-resolution content from DVDs and cable boxes as well as other 4k TVs, it’s still decent enough if you watch that type of content.
Unfortunately, it is not a bright TV, so highlights don’t stand out in HDR, and the colors don’t match up well in HDR. It also has decent reflection handling, which is useful if you want to use it in a room with a few lights. If you want something small and affordable, this is a good option.
4. SAMSUNG 43-Inch AU8000 Series
In our roundups of leading TVs, Samsung typically shows up prominently, winning us over with performance and smart features.
You may be tempted to buy a bargain-bin TV for your bedroom if you want to save some money. While there’s nothing wrong with that, in most cases you can get a much better set for an extra hundred dollars. Samsung’s 43-inch AU8000 is an example of that.
As far as picture quality is concerned, Samsung comes out on top with this smaller-sized model. Using a VA panel, the AU8000 offers contrast levels typically reserved for more expensive and larger TVs.
However, despite the lack of local dimming, the AU8000 is excellent for viewing in dark areas. We consider it one of the best options for Netflix marathons.
Colors look vivid and lifelike on Samsung’s dynamic crystal color display and with HDR10+. The set’s edge-lighting can make transitions unpredictable, especially in low-lit scenes.
There’s also a bit too much latency at times. There are a few hiccups here, but they are more than made up for by the set’s overall color, contrast, and brightness.
AU8000 Smart TV owners will be more than pleased with the Tizen-based operating system, which offers hundreds of apps and voice controls for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Bixby.
For a small-screen TV for a bedroom, dorm, or living room, the Samsung 43-inch AU8000 is one of our favorites, with plenty of smart add-ons and plenty of features.
5. Toshiba 55-inch Class C350 Series
No matter what brand you buy, it’s tough to find a decent 55-inch 4K TV for under $500. This 55-inch C350 Smart Fire TV, produced by Toshiba, is proof that Toshiba produces top-notch TVs these days, even if the company doesn’t make headlines as much as its competition.
The C350 is powered by Toshiba’s 4K Regza Engine, which produces a vivid, high-contrast, UHD picture. Despite its lack of HDMI 2.1 inputs and the absence of Atmos, this set does support HDR – specifically Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10.
Moreover, the C350 has a respectable amount of lag across all its inputs, so gamers rejoice, this is also a great option for button-mashers of our readership.
You’ll be able to stream movies and TV shows from Amazon’s Fire TV platform via its smart TV interface. Alexa is even integrated directly into the included remote for voice control.
Toshiba’s 55-inch Smart Fire TV (also available in 43-, 55-, 65-, and 75-inch sizes) may not be at the top of the pack when it comes to picture quality and sound quality, but it is a great sub-$500 buy for people looking for an ultra-modern TV with a great smart interface.
Things to Consider Before Buying
If you’re shopping for a TV for less than $500, you’re likely to sacrifice some nicer features and design touches. There are still plenty of great features that won’t break the bank. There are still a few things you can easily find in your price range.
We always recommend a 4K resolution because it’s so affordable and has better quality than 1080p or 720p. You will notice the difference even if you don’t have a huge budget for a 4K TV.
Occasionally you won’t be able to find a premium 65-inch TV for under $500, but you can still find a decent 55-inch TV, so don’t settle for a much smaller set unless that’s exactly the size you need.
High dynamic range (HDR) is one of the features we recommend. HDR support even provides better color, brighter highlights, and richer shadows, making your pictures look better from every angle. You’d be better off getting a set that has Dolby Vision, but you’ll probably pay more.
You can avoid awkwardly swapping plugs on the TV every time you want to watch a Blu-ray or play a game if the TV has more HDMI ports.
If you’re looking for an affordable gaming TV, we recommend looking for one with a refresh rate above 60Hz. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles can actually reach higher refresh rates. If you’re looking for the best performance, check individual reviews for sets that have lag times of less than 20 milliseconds.