Shopping for a cheap TV? 3 to buy and 1 to skip

Hisense U6H TV in living room
(Image credit: Hisense)

Cheap TVs have come a long way. If you look at our guide to the best TVs we’ve tested and the best budget TVs we’ve tested, you’ll notice some overlap between the two — that would have been unheard of in the past.

But we’re not focused on the best TVs here. Instead, we’ve curated a list of three TVs you can buy right now, that are great options if you’re looking for a cheap TV. We also are going to warn you against one TV that — while appealing — should be skipped over for one of our three recommendations.

Buy this: Hisense U6H

Hisense U6H TV streaming

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Hisense U6 is an extraordinary value. The LED display has impressive brightness for being priced at just $429 at launch. In fact, of the four TVs we’re covering here, it’s the clear winner in terms of peak brightness — though the Roku Plus Series comes close. Beyond the better brightness level, it also has good performance when it comes to color gamut and has low input lag, plus the Google TV smart TV operating system is easy to use and increasingly popular.

Really, the biggest mark against the U6H is that it lacks HDMI 2.1 ports. These ports are great in general, but especially for gamers. HDMI 2.1 provides higher bandwidth and faster performance. But given the display is limited to 4K resolution and 60Hz refresh rate, you wouldn’t reap the full benefits anyway. The other issue is that the sound is also bad, but one of our best soundbars will fix that problem in an instant.

Overall, this is a great TV at a great price. Even though it currently isn’t our best budget TV, there are a lot of reasons it's the one TV our TV and AV Editor Nick Pino would buy if he only had $500.

Buy this: Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV

Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV on tv stand

(Image credit: Roku)

Roku TVs have been around for a while, but the Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV was the first one that Roku made itself. And we’re glad it did — because it’s awesome.

Seriously, the Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV is the best budget TV we’ve ever tested. The HDR performance is amazing and despite the cheap price tag, with display brightness that at times matches the Hisense U6H and superior color performance, though the Hisense matches it when it comes to HDR Filmmaker mode. It aced nearly all our tests, which are the same ones we put the best TVs through. 

Unfortunately, it still suffers from some of the same faults as the Hisense U6H. Namely, it is also limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and lacks HDMI 2.1 ports. 

Still, this is an excellent cheap TV. The only reasons to get the Hisense instead are if you want to save a bit more money — the Hisense is at least $70 cheaper — or if you prefer the Hisense’s Google TV user interface. Otherwise, the Roku Plus Series is the cheap TV to get.

Buy this: Sony Bravia X80K TV

Sony Bravia X80K in living room

(Image credit: Sony)

If the Hisense U6H or Roku Plus Series 4K QLED didn’t speak to you, or you want something with name-brand recognition, we have an option for you: The Sony Bravia X80K TV has good picture quality and provides excellent value for money. It also has the Google TV smart TV interface and a very well-designed remote, which is a feature you don’t think about until you have to use a terrible remote on a daily basis.

And of course, it has a lot of the same shortcomings as these other great cheap TVs: poor sound, no HDMI 2.1 ports, etc. Unfortunately, the Sony Bravia X80K TV falls short of the Hisense U6H and Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV in terms of brightness and color gamut, though it occasionally holds its own with the Hisense. 

Luckily, the Sony Bravia X80K TV does have an appealing price tag, which is why it makes this list. The 43-inch model starts at just $449 and comes with support for HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG HDR support. We’d still recommend the Hisense and the Roku first, but it’s a good third option.

Skip this: Sony Bravia X75K TV

Sony Bravia X75K TV

(Image credit: Future)

Our Sony Bravia X75K TV review is still in progress, but the initial testing has not impressed us. The 55-inch model we tested fell well short of the performance of the other three TVs we recommended, though shockingly it did have the best input lag numbers (just 9ms!).

This isn’t to say it’s a terrible TV. There are some merits to the Sony Bravia X75K, including the fact that it’s often on sale. In fact, right now you can find a 55-inch Sony Bravia X75K for just $499 — $200 less than the Sony Bravia X80K TV in the same size. 

But given that the performance lags so far behind the others — and that you can get the Hisense U6H 55-inch for just $429 at Best Buy — we recommend you don’t jump at the cheap price point and instead buy one of the three TVs currently on our list of the best budget TVs we’ve ever tested.

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Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.