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Buying a budget TV doesn't mean you have to sacrifice sound or picture quality or cool features like Bluetooth connectivity and voice controls. While TCL and Hisense are best known for their budget-friendly models, brands like Samsung and LG also have cheaper options available for anyone who prefers those brands over others. This means that if you're looking to upgrade, you can get your hands on a great TV from a trusted brand without skipping rent.
If you have your heart set on a Sony TV but don't know which model is right for you or even what the primary differences are between each one -- no worries. ZDNET researched and compared the top five models and even found the best Sony TV overall.Read now
Also: Best TV: Budget-friendly to big-screen opulence
While you won't be able to find an OLED TV for less than $1,000, you can still get great picture quality by choosing a model that offers either Dolby Vision or HDR10 support and a good refresh rate for smoother action. If sound quality is your priority, you can find affordable options that support Dolby Digital Plus audio processing or Bluetooth connectivity for setting up wireless soundbars and speakers to create a custom home theater.
I've rounded up a small list of the best budget TVs available and broken down their features to help you find the best fit for your home and finances.
Also: The best 65-inch TVs
Screen size: 50 inches | Resolution: 4K | HDR: Quantum HDR, HDR10+ | Panel type: QLED | Refresh rate: 60Hz
If you're in the market for a new TV but don't want to break the bank, the Samsung Q60B is budget-friendly while still providing plenty of cool features. The QLED screen uses dual LED panels to create warm and cool colors simultaneously for a wider range of colors and more lifelike images.
The integrated speakers give you excellent audio, but you can connect a Samsung soundbar and use the Q-Symphony feature; this allows sound to play through both the TV's speakers and the soundbar for richer, room-filling audio without cranking up the volume. You can use Alexa, Hey Google, or Bixby for hands-free voice controls and even remotely connect the TV to your PC so you can stream games or work from the comfort of your couch.
And if you want to make your home theater a little more eco-friendly, the remote for the Q60B has an integrated battery and mini solar panel for recharging.
Screen size: 43 inches | Resolution: 4K | HDR: HDR10 | Panel type: LED | Refresh rate: 60Hz
For anyone who has cut the cord with their cable or satellite provider and moved exclusively to streaming content, the Amazon Fire TV Omni series 43-inch model is perfect for you. It runs on the Fire TV platform, not only giving you access to Prime Video but hundreds of other apps, as well as Alexa voice, controls built-in. You can even download Alexa Skills to turn your TV into an entertainment hub for your home.
The TV can connect to Echo speakers for whole-home sound, and the integrated microphone allows you to make 2-way calls to keep in touch with family and friends. If you have iOS mobile devices, you can share your screen on the TV with AirPlay for more ways to show photos, videos, and stream music.
Screen size: 55 inches | Resolution: 4K | HDR: Active HDR | Panel type: LED | Refresh rate: 60Hz
Console gamers looking to save a bit of cash on a new TV for their gaming space should definitely consider the 55-inch LG Nano75. This TV has a dedicated game optimizer mode and dashboard that lets you monitor things like frame rate, latency, and contrast so you can fix issues before they can ruin your gaming session. It also supports cloud gaming via Nvidia GeForce Now so you can play your favorite PC games from the comfort of your couch.
You can also create a custom audio setup by connecting soundbars, subwoofers, and speakers to the TV via Bluetooth. Or you can enjoy virtual 5.1CH surround sound via the AI-enhanced, built-in speakers. And with three HDMI inputs, you can connect multiple consoles at once and switch between them on-the-fly.
Screen size: 40 inches | Resolution: 1080p | HDR: N/A | Panel type: LED | Refresh rate: 60Hz
Small-screen TVs like the Hisense A4 are great for apartments and dorm rooms since they can be placed on a shelf or table without taking up a ton of space. This 40-inch TV uses an LED panel to produce great 1080p resolution while the 60Hz refresh rate gives you smoother playback. It even has a refresh rate booster feature that all but eliminates motion blur for sports broadcasts and console gaming.
Plus, you can connect wireless speakers and soundbars via Bluetooth for a cleaner and more organized setup, and Wi-Fi connectivity lets you download your favorite streaming apps to stay up-to-date with the latest blockbuster movies and binge-worthy shows.
Screen size: 75 inches | Resolution: 4K | HDR: Dolby Vision | Panel type: LED | Refresh rate: 60Hz
While around $1,000 isn't usually considered "budget friendly," it is when it comes to big-screen TVs. And the Sony X80K is a great 75-inch TV that's a bit easier on your wallet. It features an updated LED panel that works with Dolby Vision for better color, contrast, and detailing as well as Sony's Triluminos Pro technology for a brighter picture.
It uses the Google TV platform to give you access to all of your favorite streaming apps as well as voice controls with Hey Google. It's even compatible with Bravia Cam webcams so you can make video calls from the comfort of your couch.
If you're an audiophile, you'll appreciate the X80K's Dolby Atmos feature which produces rich, room-filling sound without the need for extra speakers.
My pick for the best budget TV is the 50-inch Samsung Q60B. For under $600, you get excellent native and upscaled 4K resolution as well as great picture quality. The QLED screen uses dual LED panels to create warm and cool colors simultaneously for a greater color range and more lifelike images. You can use Alexa, Hey Google, or Bixby for hands-free controls, and view multiple video sources at once with its Multi View feature.
But if you're considering other options, here is a comparison chart of each TV:
Amazon Fire TV Omni Series
Once you've nailed down a budget, you'll want to choose a TV that has a suite of features that best suits your entertainment needs. If you prefer wireless connectivity, choose a TV that has Bluetooth for setting up audio equipment or sharing your mobile device screen. Console gamers should look for a TV with a dedicated gaming mode that optimizes picture settings and input lag while also providing plenty of HDMI inputs if you have more than one console.
Choose this budget TV...
If you need...
A well-rounded and budget friendly TV for streaming and gaming
Amazon Fire TV Omni Series
A budget-friendly TV for cord cutters
A budget TV for console gamers
A budget TV for small spaces like apartments and dorms
A more budget-friendly 75-inch TV
Aside from making sure my picks were budget-friendly tv deals, I chose a variety of screen sizes and brands with features customers have come to expect from smart TVs. I tried to choose models that provided a lot of value for the actual cost of the TV so shoppers wouldn't have to sacrifice things like sound or image quality and streaming capabilities in order to stick to a budget.
If brand loyalty is important to you, then yes, it does matter. But if all you're looking for is a decent TV that you can use to put on Love is Blind in the background while you cook dinner (and then have to start over because, like Marie Kondo, you love mess and don't want to miss any of the truly unhinged dialogue), then no, branding doesn't matter. Different TV brands do have some unique features like Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio which turns the screen into a speaker, Samsung's Bixby voice assistant, and TCL's use of the Roku platform.
But since all televisions serve the same basic functions and budget-friendly models either have very few of these unique features or none at all, it's best to just go with what you can afford and what works with your existing setup.
No matter how much you spend on a TV, you can reasonably expect it to last at least 4 or 5 years before it needs to be replaced; whether it's due to become obsolete when new, better models hit the market or systemic part failures. Of course, a TV can last much, much longer if they are properly cared for (the 25-year-old, 19-inch CRT model I carted around with me to college, my first apartment, and beyond can attest to that), but smart TVs are making that more and more an exception rather than the rule.
Eventually, an older smart TV won't be able to support new versions of apps or operating system firmware, forcing you to upgrade whether you want to or not. But the good news is: you know it's going to happen at some point, so you can prepare well in advance by window shopping, making a list of must-have and nice-to-have features, and socking away a tiny bit of savings to buy a new TV when your current one eventually either gives up the ghost or needs to be relegated to the basement playroom as a DVD-only screen for your kids.
There are a lot of options for you when you upgrade your TV. You can set up the old one in a different room of your house for a secondary screen, so your family doesn't have to argue about what movie to watch. You could try to sell it if it's still relevant enough. You could also donate the old TV to a charity shop like a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, which could get you a tax write-off if you need more incentive than keeping electronics out of landfills or providing a less-well-off family with a decent TV.
Or, if you live in a bigger city and the TV is too old to sell, you could take it to an electronics recycling center which will strip it down for copper, what little gold is in the circuit boards, glass, and plastic to keep non-biodegradable waste out of landfills and repurpose precious and semi-precious metals for more eco-friendly electronics in the future.
My pick for the best budget 65-inch TV is the Hisense 65U6G. For less than $600, you'll get Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support for enhanced detailing and color accuracy as well as Google Assistant built in for hands-free voice controls. It's also compatible with Chromecast so you can share your smartphone or tablet screen to view photos and videos or listen to music.
The best budget TV for gaming is the LG Nano75 series. It has a dedicated game optimizer mode that lets you monitor frame rate, input latency, and contrast so you can catch issues before they can ruin your gaming session. It also supports cloud gaming via Nvidia GeForce Now so you can play PC games from the comfort of your couch. And with 3 HDMI inputs, you can connect all of your consoles at once.
There are plenty of budget-friendly options to buy if you're looking for a new TV on the cheap. Here's a shortlist of other models I thought were great: