The best budget TVs are the ones that offer a great picture at an exceptional price — and yes, before you ask, they really exist.
Budget, however, can have a few different interpretations. For some folks, the term 'best budget TV' implies TVs that don't cost a lot of money. For others, it can mean that the TV is slightly more expensive, but it's a dream deal compared to other similar-performing models. This guide is going to tackle both scenarios.
To that end, whether you're here for the absolutely cheapest possible TV that fits within your budget or a budget buy that gets you a great TV for the price, we've got you covered.
What are the best budget TVs?
When it comes to buying a TV on a budget, there are plenty of options and it all comes down to how much you're willing to spend.
For friends and family who are on a budget, the TCL 6-Series (R635) is a great TV with a fantastic smart platform that rivals the technology you'll find on the latest Samsung TV. To wit, it uses mini-LED technology and a quantum dot filter, making it brighter and more colorful than regular LED-LCD TVs. It has a number of great gaming features if you're buying a TV for the Xbox Series X and PS5, and movie lovers will find the calibrated modes perfect for watching films. It's one of the more 'expensive' budget TVs on the list, but it's by far the best.
Under that, there's the best budget OLED TV: the Vizio OLED. It's a few years old at this point, but it remains an incredible value at just under $1,000 for the 55-inch version. We like this TV so much not only because it offers OLED performance at a non-OLED price, but it supports 4K@120Hz gaming on two HDMI ports alongside HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats. It's a great value for the money.
If you only have $500 to spend on a TV, make it the TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535). It's a fantastic 55-inch QLED TV that offers excellent color saturation, decent brightness and contrast, plus support for HDR and Roku's easy-to-use smart platform. It's no TCL 6-Series, obviously, but it's still a darn good TV for the price.
Read on for all our picks for the best budget TVs.
The best budget TVs you can buy
If you're looking for the best budget TV, there's no beating the TCL 6-Series Roku TV R635. It's one of the best values in the TV world, and in our testing we found that its combination of QLED color and mini-LED backlighting made for impressive picture quality and excellent HDR performance that outclasses many more expensive models.
This was the first TV with THX Certified Game Mode, which combines the latest gaming features, like variable refresh rates and auto low-latency mode with superb color and minimal lag times. We also love the chic, minimal design and cable management in the stand as well as the always-solid Roku TV platform.
The price of this TV is always fluctuating and you might still see the 65-inch model that was $899 currently selling for $999, but keep tracking it and it will eventually return to its regular price. If that's too much work and you need something ASAP, you can still get the 55-inch version for under $700.
Read our full TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) review.
Vizio's first foray into OLED TVs is a big step for the budget TV maker, but a giant leap for budget OLED TVs. Considering that LG was the only OLED game in town (at least here in America), it was nearly impossible to find an affordable OLED before now.
The Vizio OLED changed the game. The 55-inch model launched with a price of $1,299, but now its MSRP is just $999. Our testing found that the Vizio OLED delivers premium picture quality for hundreds of dollars less than the competition, and pairs it with great sound that has better-than-average bass.
Vizio SmartCast has also shaped up to become a solid smart TV platform, with an expanded app selection and built-in support for Google Cast and AirPlay 2. It's one of the best budget TVs, and the easy pick for folks looking for a cheap OLED.
Read our full Vizio OLED TV review.
Our top two budget TV picks offer exceptional value for their performance, but they aren't cheap. If you're looking for something cheaper, you'll want the TCL 5-Series Roku TV that comes under the $500 mark.
While you won't get all the fancy TV tech like Mini-LED or OLED panels, the 5-Series offers category-leading color and brightness of QLED, as well as Roku's easy-to-use smart TV interface, which puts thousands of apps right at your fingertips.
In addition to the excellent color accuracy and full color gamut offered by the QLED display, it offers top-of-the-line HDR support, with Dolby Vision in addition to basic HDR10 and HLG formats. With input lag clocking in at 13.1 milliseconds, it's great for gamers, too. If you want a no-frills 4K TV that looks great, this is it.
Read our full TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) review.
TCL TVs offer exceptional value, but they're not the only budget game in town. For a great value on a 50-inch TV, the Hisense H8G Quantum Series (50H8G) has plenty to offer. From the Android TV smarts to the QLED display and local dimming for great HDR support, the H8G is one of the best budget TVs under $500.
What makes this one a great budget buy? Like the 5-Series, the H8G's quantum-dot screen boosts the color performance, and local dimming provides great contrast. Android TV offers a great smart TV experience, with built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant providing plenty of flexibility to go with Google's huge library of apps. With lag times under 14 milliseconds, the Hisense H8G is also a great TV for gamers.
That said, there are still some compromises made in the name of affordability. The 60Hz display and middling motion handling aren't what you'd see on a more premium TV, and the color reproduction isn't perfect, but it's still among the best 50-inch 4K smart TVs you'll find at the $400 mark.
Read our full Hisense H8G Quantum Series review.
OK, but what if you need a really, really budget TV? If you're in that boat, the TCL 4 Series Roku TV, is one of the best TV values you'll find in any size. This 4K TV routinely sells for less than 1080p TVs and it offers far better performance.
So what can you expect from it? The 4-Series has good color accuracy and supports HDR10 — but not Dolby Vision — for improved contrast. It uses Roku’s smart platform which, well, you know how good it is.
The bad news is that, in exchange for the great price, the TCL 4 Series is missing a few features that the other TVs on our list deliver, like local dimming, so the HDR performance isn’t as good as it could be. It's also not the strongest performer on the audio front, with little bass and limited power. If this is going to be your main TV, consider adding one of the best cheap soundbars to overcome the audio issues.
Read our full TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435) review.
How to choose the best budget TV
Buying a budget TV definitely means making a few sacrifices (2,000-nit brightness on a budget TV? No way) but hopefully now you know that you can find the essential features at an affordable price. So what should you be on the lookout for when buying a budget TV model?
4K resolution: 4K resolution is so affordable, and the quality so much better than 1080p or 720p, that we always recommend going for 4K. Unless you're on a shoestring budget, getting a proper 4K TV won't even cost you much money, but you will notice the difference.
Screen size: You may not always be able to score a premium 65-inch TV for under $500, but you can still get a decent 55-inch model, so don't settle for some dinky 43-inch set unless it's the right size for the space.
HDR support: If there's one feature we recommend, it's high dynamic range (HDR). Even basic HDR support provides better color, brighter highlights and richer shadows, giving you a better picture in every respect. If you can find a set with Dolby Vision, that's even better, but you may pay more for that feature.
Connectivity: More HDMI ports are always better, so you don't find yourself having to awkwardly swap plugs on the TV every time you want to fire up a Blu-ray or jump into a game.
Gaming: For affordable gaming TVs, we recommend looking for sets with higher refresh rates of 60Hz, but the latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles can actually go higher. Lag time is another concern, so check out individual reviews to find sets that have a lag time of shorter than 20 milliseconds for the best performance.
What features are worth paying more for?
Budget TVs are great. They are. And yet, you might be wondering what you're missing by not spending the big bucks on a flagship model. Unfortunately, there are a few features that you just simply can't find on a budget TV model unless you're willing to flex the budget a bit.
Screen size: This one is a given. Unfortunately, you're not going to get a 75-inch or 85-inch TV for the same price as a 55-inch model. Bigger screens cost more money. It's like the law of gravity. Now, you can find a 75-inch TCL 4-Series for around the cost of a 65-inch 6-Series, but there are trade-offs in other areas to get that bigger size.
Class-leading picture quality: It's a shame, but you can't get class-leading picture quality on a budget. You can get close (see: the TCL 6-Series) but you'll never get an LG OLED or Samsung QLED TV's performance at the same price as, say, the TCL 5-Series. That means missing out on the best contrast, best color saturation, best upscaling and motion handling, and the best speed when navigating the UI.
Sound quality: Oof, we've all heard awful-sounding TVs and they can ruin the whole experience. While today's budget TVs do a lot of things well, sound quality isn't one of them. If you're going for something that's super cheap, expect weak and tinny sound from 10W speakers. The good news? You can buy a super cheap TV and then add one of the best soundbars later to get better audio.
Interested in a specific TV brand, price range or screen size? Check out our picks for the best TVs in each.