The best budget TVs offer a surprisingly good picture for their price. Yes, they may be lacking in some of the advanced features of more expensive OLED or QD-OLED TVs, but the budget TVs listed below absolutely nail the basics.
So which one is right for you? Every model in this list has been through Tom's Guide TV testing process, which sees a set evaluated for color accuracy and reproduction, brightness and lag time. And of course we also spend plenty of hands-on time with it, so that we can give you our real-world impressions.
With that said, while we'd strongly recommend checking out some of the top-tier models like the newly released Roku Plus Series QLED TV as well as some great value TVs from brands like TCL, Hisense and Vizio. Amazon makes a decent budget TV with the Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED, but you should probably stay away from the new Amazon Fire TV 2-Series that only scored two-and-a-half stars in our review.
Also, if you can, we'd advise you to stick with the former brands rather than the super budget-friendly Element or Insignia TVs, as brands like TCL, Hisense and Vizio offer a better picture for just a few dollars more. Looking for even more advice? This is the one budget TV I'd buy right now if I could only spend $500.
My name's Nick and I look after our guides to the best TVs, best OLED TVs and best 4K TVs. Most of my day is spent watching and evaluating new screens from LG, Samsung, Sony, Hisense, TCL and Vizio. I have 10 years of experience in AV, and before I joined Tom's Guide I was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar. I love helping people find the perfect TV, so please feel free to reach out over email or tag me on Twitter and I can help you out.
The quick list
Here's a quick overview of the best budget TVs you can buy right now based on our testing and reviews. And keep up on scrolling if you want to see our in-depth analysis of all the top TVs for every budget.
Best budget TV
The best budget TV
The Roku Plus Series QLED TV offers surprisingly good picture quality and sound, two things that are usually the first to go with budget sets. It's well-suited to watching just about anything...as long as it isn't sports.
Best gaming TV
Best budget gaming TV
The TCL 6-Series Roku TV costs under $1,000, but with superior brightness and gaming capabilities, no one who watches it will ever know. If you’re looking for one of the best gaming TVs, look no further.
Best Google TV
The best Google TV
The TCL 5-Series Google TV (S546) wowed us with its solid performance and great value for your dollar. The move to Google TV gives the affordable 4K smart TV a more premium smart TV platform.
Best under $500
Best under $500
For a TV that costs less than $400, the Hisense U6H has a surprising amount of power and picture potential. It delivers good brightness in our testing, low input lag for gaming and the intuitive Google TV interface.
Best budget OLED
Best budget OLED TV
Don't be fooled by its cheap sticker price, the LG A2 OLED offers a colorful picture and fairly strong audio along with a slick interface. It's slightly more expensive than some of the other models on this list, but it's the cheapest OLED TV.
The full list: Best budget TVs in detail
The Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV marks the streaming giant’s first foray into sets after long focusing on software and set-top and plug-in devices — and the move is a successful one. In addition to delivering a ton of screen for its starting price of $499, these TVs also give you surprisingly good picture quality and sound, two things that are usually the first to go with budget sets.
Despite its price, the Plus Series does not look cheap: A gray, metal bezel surrounds the screen on all sides, measuring less than an eighth-inch on the left, right, and top, and about two-thirds inch on the bottom to allow for a front-and-center chrome Roku logo.
The Plus Series uses quantum-dot LED technology to produce more and more vivid colors and increased brightness. And in everything we watched, we found that the TV lived up to Roku’s claims. Picture vibrancy does start fading as you move away from the center of the screen, but it took a fair distance for the display to look unbearable.
All in all, the Plus Series is well-suited to watching just about anything except super-fast action such as sports, thanks to the panel’s limited 60Hz refresh rate.
Read our full Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV review.
The best TV for gaming
TCL has long been acclaimed for bringing a lot of performance to TVs that don’t cost a lot of money. That trend continues with its latest 6-Series Roku TV, the 65R655, which amps up key aspects of its performance—particularly brightness and gaming potential—while keeping the price at $999.99. Throw in the super-easy-to-use Roku TV interface and you have a set that more than delivers on its picture promise without busting your budget.
If you’re a gamer, or if you can’t bear to give up bright and dark details when watching movies or TV shows, you’ll find a lot to love about it. Its sound and color performance can't match the top TVs on our list, but they can’t stop this set from punching well above its weight where it counts.
So if maximizing your TV-buying dollar is your goal, Roku TV is a small price to pay for a TV that’s as packed—and as low-priced—as the TCL 65R655.
Read our full TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R655) review.
The best value TV
The TCL 5-Series Google TV (S546) wowed us with its combination of smart TV features, solid performance and great value for your dollar. Building on the foundation of the already-good 5-Series, the move to Google TV gives the affordable 4K smart TV a more premium smart TV platform, one that offers personalized and customizable suggestions, a huge assortment of smart features, and deep Google Assistant integration that makes it a viable center for the entire home of connected gadgets. But it also offers a step up in other aspects of the TV.
As we found in our extensive testing, the 5-Series Google TV is a more polished version of the 5-Series TV when it comes to everything from color quality to lag times. And as well as delivering an excellent QLED 4K display, you also get a slick remote control, and a surprisingly wide array of gaming features for a 60Hz TV. For a smart TV that sells for under $1,000 for most size options, it's easily one of the best TVs on the market.
Read our full TCL 5-Series Google TV (S546) review.
The best cheap TV
The Hisense U6H is the entry-level offering in Hisense’s ULED series of TVs, utilizing local dimming on its backlit LCD to boost brightness and quantum dots to kick up the color. Hisense’s gamble is that the combination of these features, plus its suite of ULED picture-enhancement technologies, will allow this set to deliver more than you’d expect to see for less than you’d expect to pay — and it’s one that generally pays off.
The U6H may not get quite as bright as its splashier siblings, the U7H and the Hisense U8H, but for its class, it fares pretty well. Its SDR brightness as measured in Filmmaker Mode (the mode that most closely matches out-of-the-box calibration) lands at 537 nits — decent but not spectacular, but enough to win against competitors such as the Amazon Fire TV Omni, the Samsung Q60B, the TCL Series-6 Roku TV, and the Vizio M-Series Quantum.
Are you likely to be thoroughly wowed by what the Hisense U6H can do? Probably not. But a TV that combines this level of quality with this level of affordability doesn’t come around every day. So, the U6H is well worth your time and attention.
Read our full Hisense U6H review.
The best budget OLED
No matter their price range, OLED TVs promise near-perfect black levels and exquisite colors, and that's exactly what you're getting with the LG A2 OLED.
To wit, the LG A2 OLED offers a decently sized OLED panel with top-notch color, surprisingly good sound, and low input lag. Its smart platform, webOS, is a clean, well-organized interface for navigating the TV and accessing its features and despite it being paired by only 20-watt, downward-firing speakers, there’s no lack of clarity even in hectic scenes where dialogue, action sounds, and music are all blazing at once.
Admittedly, you won’t get everything with the A2 that you will with pricier and tonier LG TVs. You’ll have to settle for a lower refresh rate, an older HDMI standard, and lower brightness. But considering that it wasn’t that long ago that OLEDs were unthinkable at the sub-$1,300 price point — to say nothing of the sub-$1,000 price point at which the smallest model can currently be found — those features might be small prices to pay if all you can pay is a small price.
Read our full LG A2 OLED review.
Best entry-level TV
Sony’s entry-level line of TVs might not seem to offer a lot to the discriminating shopper, but the Sony Bravia X80K ($449 as tested) punches above its price. With fine picture quality and backed by Sony’s cagey technological innovations and sharply honed attention to fit and finish, the X80K is, in most ways, better than you might expect.
If you don’t need or want a TV with outlandish performance, you don’t have to pay for it — and you can still get a respectable TV. You get a lot for your $449.99 with the Sony Bravia X80K, as far as the picture, input lag, and the quality of Google TV and the remote. Comparably sized models of the Samsung Q60B and the Vizio M-Series Quantum better the Sony in some ways, but cost more.
For a simple TV at an affordable price, the Sony X80K is an attractive and effective compromise candidate. Just keep the volume down.
Read our full Sony Bravia X80K TV review.
How to choose the best budget TV for you
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?
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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.
How we test the best budget TVs
Evaluating TVs is about more than just kicking back to watch a movie. We lab test every TV, measuring color gamut, color accuracy and brightness to objectively see which sets are the best for these key indicators. We also test for lag time – a key detail for gaming – measuring to the millisecond how long it takes for content to travel from the original source to the screen. We use these results to make numbers-based comparisons about color and display quality.
We also spend time with each set for real-world evaluation and see how our lab results translate into more subjective performance. We also compare sets side by side and view samples from the latest movies, specialized test patterns that highlight strengths and weaknesses of each display, and a range of content across several sources. With that information, we can tell you which TVs look best, sound best and offer the best viewing experience.
Finally, we evaluate the smart TV functions and apps for each TV, looking at everything from the remote control design to the voice interaction.
We put all of that data together with our real-world testing and stack it against the price of the TV. The result is a score that we feel best represents the totality of that model, and how well it stands up against its contemporary rivals. A TV that scored highly five years ago may not score as highly against a newer model, but we do our best to update reviews when newer models become available.
Interested in a specific TV brand, price range or screen size? Check out our picks for the best TVs in each.