As our early pick for best overall bang-for-the-buck, the ST50 manages to combine stellar picture quality with a price that, compared to a college education, seems like a downright steal. It's not as cheap as many of the other sets on this list, but any graduate who likes watching movies in the dark will appreciate the splurge.
Did we say "cheap?" We meant "TCL." The price and screen size is about all you need to know about this insanely value-priced television. The picture quality isn't anything to write home about, but no grad getting a 40-inch TV as a gift has any right to complain about light black levels.
Is your future graduate a dyed-in-the-wool Google geek? You know the type: uses Google docs for everything, brags about his Gmail spam filter, disparages Facebook and Apple for their closed, unhackable products and will only use Google + and Android? Surprise the guy with the newest Google TV and watch his eyes glaze over with love. He won't mind the disappointing picture quality when he's downloading apps from the Play store.
Although it's in the same picture quality league as the TCL, this Vizio has one thing going for it: Smart TV. Think of it as the budget version of the Google TV, with plenty of built-in doo-dads to keep your grad entertained. The exclusive Rhapsody app is particularly, er, "cool."
If the one thing your grad will miss about leaving home is your huge TV, this 60-inch behemoth should be the ultimate homesick cure. It's not exactly a "budget" model but considering the size, it's still a great deal.
The throwback 2011 Samsung LND550 lacks Smart TV bells and whistles, LED backlights and just about every other doo-dad, but it does give very good picture quality for the money. What else does a grad need?