A new TV doesn't have to break the bank, and a second TV doesn't have to be an expensive luxury. While the latest TVs often boast impressive features like 4K resolution and high-dynamic range support, you can still get a capable TV that will handle your TV, media players and gaming consoles, all priced for $250 or less.
You may not get all of the fancy features for that low price, but you may get more than expected. Most budget TVs still offer connected features, like streaming through Netflix and Amazon video, casting media and apps from your smartphone, and offering HD picture quality.
We test budget-friendly TVs throughout the year, comparing the performance and functions of some of the most affordable sets on the market. Ranging from 24 inches up to 40 inches, we lab test every low-cost TV just like the more premium sets on the market, and rank them from best to worst to help you find the best bargain TVs available.
Saving money on a TV means you'll need to be prepared to make some compromises. The good news is that even in the $250-and-under range, you can still find some great features, like smart TV functions – including internet connectivity, streaming apps and smart home compatibility – and up to Full HD (1080p) resolution.
But there are real limitations, and the biggest one is size. In this price range you'll generally be limited to 40 inches or smaller. Current standards like 4K resolution are out of the question, but you can find 1080p if you look for it. And you will need to look for it, since some smaller, cheaper sets offer only standard HD (720p). And don’t expect anything like the slim, sleek designs you’ve seen in store displays; in this price range, you’re looking at chunky plastic construction and boxy, bulky designs.
The pickings also get pretty slim when it comes to connectivity. You will likely only get 2 or 3 HDMI ports and a single USB port, and while Wi-Fi is a common feature, it’s not guaranteed. Bargain hunters should always double check the specifications for the model they plan to buy, since not even basic features can be taken for granted.
The Vizio 24-inch D-Series (D24f-F1) is small enough to perch on a desk or a coffee table, making it a great choice for a kitchen counter, a cramped apartment or a small dorm room. The TV offers full HD resolution, with pretty great performance, given the price. And even though the TV is small, Vizio doesn't scrimp on the smarts, giving the D-Series the same full-featured version of its SmartCast platform that you'd see on it's larger, more premium sets.
It's also a good set for gaming, with respectably short lag times (24 milliseconds), and a pair of HDMI ports that let you connect a game console alongside a cable or satellite box.
Editor's Note (1/14/2019): The Vizio 24-inch D-Series (D24f-F1) is currently unavailable, but may be back in stock soon.
Screen size: 24 inches
HDMI Ports: 2
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Dimensions: 22.15 x 13.21 x 2.36 inches
Smart TV: Yes
The 32-inch Samsung M5300 is a compact, low-cost TV that manages to offer some great smart functions. The set is equipped with only two HDMI ports, but the built-in Wi-Fi and Samsung's Smart TV platform offer support for plenty of apps and streaming services.
The set struggled in terms of color accuracy and sound quality, but it manages to offer decent brightness (230 nits) and has a better color gamut than most competing sets. It also is slimmer than most TVs in this price range, and while it's not as svelte as some premium models, it's wall-mountable and has a size and weight that are well-suited to regular moves, whether it's from room to room or packing up to head to a new house.
Screen size: 32 inches
HDMI Ports: 2
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Dimensions: 29.2 x 17.2 x 2.7 inches
Smart TV: Yes
You might be eyeing the TCL 32S305, excited about a 32-inch LCD TV for just $200, but don’t get too hasty. The TCL may boast Roku smart functions, built-in Wi-Fi, and three HDMI ports, but there’s one big catch: It’s a 720p display.
The image is noticeably grainy, even without comparing directly to a full HD panel. Color quality is fine, provided you view the screen head-on, but off angles experience some significant color shifting, with oranges going yellow. It may still be a good deal if you value the feature set over display quality, but you definitely will notice the difference every time you watch it.
Screen size:32 inches
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Dimensions: 28.9 x 17.1 x 3.2 inches