Best TVs under $500 – CNET

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In the age of coronavirus we’ve been asked to shelter in place at home, which leads to watching more TV than ever. At the same the economy is in recession and lots of Americans face financial stress
. That combination means you might be looking to buy a new TV without spending a lot of money. The good news is that you can get a second TV, or a new primary set that lets you move your current model to another room, for less than you might think.

Most of CNET’s favorite TVs cost more than $500 because they offer excellent and image quality and large sizes, but there are some exceptions. Below you’ll find TVs we recommend that cost $499 or less. On most of them the picture quality is perfectly fine, and one, the TCL 6-Series, is one of our favorite TVs, period.

Most of CNET's favorite TVs cost more than $500 because they offer excellent and image quality and large sizes, but there are some exceptions. Below you'll find TVs we recommend that cost $499 or less. On most of them the picture quality is perfectly fine, and one, the TCL 6-Series, is one of our favorite TVs, period.


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Keep these points in mind as you look over my choices:

  • Most of the series below offer multiple sizes that cost less than $500. We’ll list the size that we like best for the money (which typically skews larger).
  • Looking for a specific size? Check out our comparisons of 32-inch TVs, 43-inch, 55-inch65-inch and 75-inch TVs.
  • The images below are generally of 65-inch TVs since that’s the size we review at CNET, but the information applies to every size.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for below? Here are all the TVs I’ve reviewed, with more coming soon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to improved color technology, and its well-implemented full-array local dimming helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. As if that’s not enough, the Roku smart TV operating system — which really accommodates all of the top streaming services well — is our hands-down favorite for a seamless viewing experience. 

Read the TCL 55R625 (2019 Roku TV) review.

Read more: Best universal remote of 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku is our favorite platform for streaming apps and apps like Netflix, and it’s even better when it’s baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can’t beat the model above on image quality — its 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture or color– but it offers a fine viewing experience for most people, especially at this price.

Other sizes under $500: 55-inch, 50-inch, 43-inch, 40-inch.

Read the TCL 65S425 review.

Read more: Best over-ear headphones of 2020 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Vizio’s V-Series has two things that make it a natural if you want to stream from your phone to the TV: Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay. It actually comes in a bunch of sizes under $500 but we’re listing one of the smallest, the 43-inch model here because it’s one of the few TVs this small with our favorite picture-enhancing extra for LCDs: full-array local dimming. That feature isn’t available in every size, however; see the review for details.

 Other sizes under $500: 65-inch, 60-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 40-inch.

Read our Vizio V436-G1 review.

Read more: Best AV receiver of 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

This Toshiba features Amazon’s Fire TV system built-in, making it a direct competitor to the TCL’s Roku system. In general we like Roku better than Fire TV, thanks to superior menus and search, but this Toshiba has one cool extra the TCL lacks: built-in Alexa, available by talking into the remote. 

Other sizes under $500: 65-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 40-inch, 32-inch.

Read our Toshiba 49LF421U19 review.

Read more: Dolby Atmos: Why it’s cool, how it works and how to get it

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV is king at small sizes. At this price, buying a separate streamer for Roku is a significant investment — and juggling that streamer’s remote is a hassle — so if you must get a TV of this size to meet your viewing needs, this is our pick for the best 32-inch TV. 

Other sizes under $500: 43-inch, 40-inch.

Read CNET’s TCL 32S325 Roku TV review.

Other stuff to know about buying a new TV

Even at $500 a new set can be a big investment, so maybe you’re looking for a bit more information. Here’s a quick and dirty list.

Looking for even more info? Here’s everything to know about buying a new TV in 2020. 

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