The best budget TV of 2023 isn't made by Samsung or LG — it's this $499 Hisense Mini-LED TV

The Hisense U6K in a home office.
(Image credit: Future)

Don't get me wrong, I love reviewing the best OLED TVs like the LG G3 OLED and Sony A95L OLED as well as superb QLED TVs like the Samsung QN90C and Samsung QN900C 8K but secretly, my true love is budget TV models. 

That's because I love a good deal, and while some TVs that cost under $500 can be a bit disappointing, that wasn’t the case with the Hisense U6K, a 65-inch TV that’s routinely on sale for $499. 

I put it through its paces this month, watching everything from Disney's Ahsoka to test the surprisingly good black levels to Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse to test its color saturation, and I’m incredibly impressed by what I saw.

Hisense 55” U6K Mini-LED 4K TV: was $579 now $449 @ Amazon

Hisense 55” U6K Mini-LED 4K TV: was $579 now $449 @ Amazon
The Hisense U6K is the cheapest Mini-LED TV we’ve seen so far. The TV sports 200 local dimming zones and Hisense claims the TV will reach up to 500 nits of brightness. Dolby Vision, Dolby Vision Gaming and Dolby Atmos support are also included. However, with a 60Hz refresh rate and no HDMI 2.1 support, it’s not the best choice for gamers. 

Mini-LED offers better brightness, contrast and more

What helps elevate the Hisense U6 from merely average to one of the top performers is Hisense’s implementation of Mini-LED technology that enables better contrast with above-par black levels and a quantum dot for color saturation.

In my testing I saw much better brightness and contrast compared to similar-costed screens from Samsung and Sony.

Most manufacturers only implement a Mini-LED backlight system in TVs that cost over $1,000, but the Hisense U6 has it and it makes a world of difference. In my testing I saw much better brightness and contrast compared to similar-priced screens from Samsung and Sony

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Hisense U6KSamsung Q60CSony Bravia X75K
SDR Brightness (10%, in nits)334233157
Delta-E (lower is better)3.57831.65472.0027
Rec. 709 Gamut Coverage99.472899.564893.5566
HDR Brightness (10%, in nits)525356295
UHDA-P3 Gamut Coverage97.1692.6278.52
Rec. 2020 Gamut Coverage72.1370.3557.57
Input Lag (ms)

To that end, with a peak brightness of 525 nits in HDR, brightly lit areas of the screen had a nice pop compared to darker areas. I saw this time and time again in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty on Xbox Series X.

An added bonus, the use of Mini-LED should lower likelihood of the dreaded Dirty Screen Effect (DSE) from non-uniform lighting elements that are all-too-common in TVs of this caliber. If you've ever seen a TV where the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen look grey, that's DSE and it can really be a mood-killer when you just paid good money for a 4K TV.

A budget banger with a few small flaws

The Hisense U6K in a home office.

(Image credit: Future)

Admittedly, the color accuracy — which we measured using an X-Rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a SpectraCal VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and Portrait Displays’ Calman calibration software — leaves a little to be desired and can be a little offputting if you don’t go in and tweak it. But even that doesn’t detract too much from the otherwise stellar performance of the Hisense U6K.

The only real issue I had with the TV was its Google TV smart platform which, usually, performs well above average on TVs with similar processors. Unfortunately, Google TV runs a bit more … erratic on the Hisense U6K. 

On more than one occasion, there were a few moments when there’d be a delay when jumping from one app to another and times when I’d select something on Amazon Prime Video that Google TV would take me back to Disney Plus. 

Other times I'd go to log into Netflix or Disney Plus and be told that my Wi-Fi was disconnected despite having full bars in the settings. Usually this just meant that I needed to reconnect the TV to my network, but these small annoyances marred what was otherwise a really spectacular experience with the U6.

Limited TV funds? Spend it on this

TVs are a luxury good. Yes, there's some genuine benefit to buying higher-end models like longer lifespans and features, but the vast majority of folks just want a TV that looks great when they're watching a movie at the end of the day. 

The Hisense U6K is that TV. 

If you saw it side-by-side with an LG C3 OLED, you'd pick the OLED every time. But put their sticker prices on them, and you'll see that the U6 will give you 85% of what the LG OLED offers at around 50% of the price. It's an unbeatable TV in terms of price, and it's by far the best under $500 for 2023. 

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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.