The TV world is always pushing the latest new thing, whether it's 4K resolution, bigger and brighter display panels, and smart functions that range from streaming movies to managing a house full of smart home devices. What if you just want a TV, and don't want to pay a lot? We've looked at several TVs, all priced at $250 or less, to tell you which looked and sounded the best, and which offer better-than-average features.
That low price doesn’t mean you have to give up everything, though. Connected functions like web browsing and streaming through Netflix and Amazon video have become so affordable as to be almost everywhere, and even in the lower priced sets we reviewed, you can still enjoy all of the content and capability you love.
We tested several budget-friendly TVs, ranging from 32 inches up to 40 inches, comparing them side by side and testing each one under lab conditions. We’ve ranked them here from best to worst, so read on to find the best bargain TVs available.
When you’re shopping in the $250-and-under range, you’ll need to be prepared to make some compromises. The biggest limitation will be size, since you’ll be looking at sets that are 40-inches or smaller. Current standards like 4K ultra HD are out of the question, so you’ll be looking at full HD panels the only offer 1080p, or even standard HD at 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. Most sets even in this price range come with smart TV functions, but that will also vary from one model to the next. 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.
For more ways to get the most TV bang for your buck, check out our guide to buying a cheap TV.
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