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 time, the economy is in recession and lots of Americans face financial stress. That combination means you might be looking for TV deals 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 image quality and large sizes, but there are some exceptions. Below you'll find TVs we recommend as options for the best TV under $500, as well as one that's $50 more. On most of them the picture quality is perfectly fine and on the more expensive one it's excellent. Your call.
Read more: Best TV for 2022
Keep these points in mind as you look over my choices:
- The TVs below are older, but we're working on new 2022 reviews of TVs in this price range and expect to post them later in April or May.
- 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 TVs, 55-inch TVs, 65-inch TVs and 75-inch TVs.
- Don't see what you're looking for below? Here are all of the TVs I've reviewed, with more coming soon.
Roku is our favorite smart television platform for streaming apps and services like Netflix and it's even better when it's baked into the TV. This TCL 4-Series can't beat the 6-series (see below) on image quality -- its 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) compatibility don't do anything to help the picture or color -- but this 4K TV offers a fine viewing experience for most people, especially at this price.
Other sizes under $500: 55-inch, 50-inch, 43-inch, 40-inch.
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, neither of which are available on the TCL Roku TV. The Vizio actually comes in a bunch of sizes under $500 but we're listing one of the biggest here because we like big screens. Unfortunately there's a lot of picture quality variation in the various models (see the review for details), which is why the TCL above is a better overall pick.
Other sizes under $500: 60-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 43-inch, 40-inch (note that some of these sizes may be out of stock at many retailers).
Yes (Fire TV)
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 smart features, available by talking into the remote.
Other sizes under $500: 65-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 40-inch, 32-inch.
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 cheap 32-inch TV.
This is a 720p resolution TV which is fine at this screen size for video but if you'd like to use your TV as a computer monitor, we'd recommend spending the extra $20 or so for the 1080p version, model 32S327 (thanks for the comment, tjmile1).
Other sizes under $500: 43-inch, 40-inch.
Our favorite midrange TV for the money, the 55-inch version of this TCL was recently available for less than $500 but it's gone back up to $550. Even at that price it's a great deal, with well-implemented full-array local dimming that leads to a truly excellent image. As if that's not enough, the Roku smart TV operating system is our hands-down favorite.
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.
- New TV models are available now, but since TVs are generally a mature technology, an "older" model is perfectly fine.
- In my opinion, bigger is better. Big TVs are cheaper than ever and your money is best spent on large screen sizes rather than a slight upgrade in image quality.
- If you don't like the built-in smart TV system, you can always add a media streamer. They're cheap, easy to use and receive updates more frequently than most smart TVs. See our picks of the best media streamers.
- Most built-in speakers sound terrible, so it's worthwhile to pair your new set with a soundbar or other speaker system. Good ones start at around $100. See the best soundbars.
Looking for even more info? Here's everything to know about buying a new TV in 2022.