I test TVs and these are the three I recommend for back-to-school shoppers

LG OLED C2 TV as monitor
(Image credit: Future)

One of my biggest regrets in college was not buying a better TV. You’re obviously there to learn, but you’ll have some serious downtime on weeknights and weekends when you just want to unwind. When you do, you’ll want a nice TV.

When choosing a great TV for back to school shoppers, it’s all about finding something that’s light enough to carry up several flights of stairs but still delivers great performance. It’s got to be big enough that you can see it from your bed, but not so big that it takes up half the room. 

It has to be all that, plus it’d be great if it could double as your monitor and didn’t cost over $1,000 — accidents can, and most likely will, happen. 

For all those reasons, I definitely recommend the 42-inch LG C2 OLED, the Sony X80K and the 50-inch Hisense U6H. The LG C2 OLED has an amazing picture and works wonderfully well with consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5, plus it’s light and can be used as a larger screen for your PC or laptop, while the X80K and U6H are cheaper and larger.

Buy: LG C2 OLED (42")

The 42-inch LG C2 OLED on a desk connected to a gaming PC.

(Image credit: LG)

Had it been available back in 2008 when I went to college, I would’ve absolutely gone for the LG C2 OLED. This is going to be a TV that will last you your entire college experience and will be something you can then bring with you to your first apartment afterwards. 

I highly recommend the LG C2 OLED for a few reasons. For starters, LG OLED TVs look incredible — they are among the best TVs on the market — which will mean that movies you watch are going to look amazing. Moreover, thanks to their incredible upscaling and motion smoothing, sports or episodic TV shows will look great, too. 

For gamers, the LG C2 OLED features a native 120Hz panel that’s capable of displaying 4K/120 frames per second gameplay from the Xbox Series X and PS5. Gaming-specific features like variable refresh rate (VRR) and auto low-latency mode (ALLM) enable the smoothest and most responsive gameplay, while Dolby Vision support means you’re getting the best form of HDR support.

If you’re good about taking care of your electronics and want a premium TV experience when it’s time to relax, the LG C2 OLED is the top of its class. And right now, you can find the 42-inch model for less than $900.

Buy: Sony Bravia X80K (43")

Sony Bravia X80K in living room

(Image credit: Sony)

The Sony X80K is the freshman model of the lineup. It misses out on a number of the great gaming features of the C2 OLED — but it’s great at the fundamentals and costs roughly half of what LG's OLED TV costs. 

In our review, we said that the Sony X80K punches well above its weight by offering direct LED backlighting, as opposed to the edge-lit TVs you will often find in the budget range. That, in addition to Sony’s top-notch picture processing technology, are what help to deliver a really strong performance at a great price point. 

We're also big fans of the Google TV smart platform installed on the Sony X80K. In addition to being connected to plenty of other services you’re likely already using, it’s easy and intuitive to navigate in its own right. It’s great about telling you what’s hot in the world of streaming each week, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on the world of entertainment just because you’re away at school.

It’s budget-friendly and it’s small enough to fit in a dorm; the Sony X80K is a great pick if you just want a solid TV without all the extra features.

Buy: Hisense U6H (50")

The Hisense U6H on a pedestal.

(Image credit: Hisense)

At 50 inches, the Hisense U6H is a bit larger than the X80K and C2 OLED models mentioned above. But if you’ve got the room for something bigger, we think it’s worth filling that space with this highly rated and still very affordable 4K HDR TV from Hisense. 

Like the X80K, the Hisense U6H doesn’t have all the features of the LG C2 OLED, but it has a few tricks of its own like HDR10+ Adaptive and Dolby Vision IQ support that will automatically adapt the picture settings to match the amount of ambient light in the room. 

Gamers won’t be able to push consoles or gaming PCs to their maximum settings with this screen, but its low input lag makes it a great pick for anyone looking to do some competitive eSports while they’re away at school. 

If you want an affordable 50-inch model that can be seen by both you and your roommate, the Hisense U6H is a great choice.

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Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.

  • hec007
    People should be warned that if you decide to buy an LG "smart" TV you will NOT be able to download certain apps. For instance. If you decide to try Directv streaming, you will be forced to purchase an Amazon Firestick because LG does not support this app. Nor does LG support other apps like Frndly tv. I found this out the hard way and I wish I would have known this before I sank my money in a LG TV. Never again will I purchase an LG smart tv. Never had this problem with my Samsung TV.