The best TVs under $500 that you can buy right now
This price range includes some of our favorite TVs from 32 all the way up to 65 inches.
Updated July 15, 2020 12:00 p.m. PT
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David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
ExpertiseA 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics.Credentials
Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
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.
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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.
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.
The ridiculously cheap Vizio V-Series offers solid image quality in some models, thanks to local dimming. It supports the latest 4K and HDR video formats, including Dolby Vision. Chromecast built-in works well if you like using your phone to control streaming.
Similarly cheap Roku TVs aren't much far behind in image quality and much better overall for streaming. Many V-Series models have inferior display technology.
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).
Amazon Fire TV Edition TVs are among the least expensive TVs on the market. Voice features are best-in-class, every model includes a voice remote and Echo and Dot owners can control it with Alexa. App selection is superb and responses are fast.
It has worse picture than TCL's cheapest Roku TVs and Vizio's E series TVs. The user interface promotes TV shows and movies from Amazon and its partners that you probably don't care about.
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.
Excellent overall image quality, with deep black levels, impressive brightness, rich contrast and more accurate color than last year. Its Roku platform is the best available. The TV handles both HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Brightness and video processing fall short of some more expensive TVs. No AirPlay or Apple TV app (yet).
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.
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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.