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Buying a budget TV doesn't mean you have to sacrifice sound, 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.
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.
Samsung may be more well-known for mid-range and premium-grade TVs, but the CU8000 is the king of its budget-friendly offerings. For about $530, you get a 55-inch LED panel that is capable of producing over a billion colors and works with HDR10+ technology to create more lifelike images. It also uses a version of Samsung's object-tracking sound technology to give you audio that follows the on-screen action for a more immersive experience.
Console gamers will love the new Samsung Gaming Hub, which supports cloud-based gaming via services like Xbox Game Pass and GeForce Now as well as Twitch and Spotify integrations for keeping up with your favorite players or chilling out after work with lo-fi playlists while you boot up your comfort game. And if you're looking for a way to make your home theater or living room a little more eco-friendly, the CU8000 comes packaged with a solar-powered remote control.
Hisense R6 specs:Screen size: 65 inches | Panel type: LED | HDR: Dolby Vision | Audio: Not specified | Voice controls: Alexa, Hey Google, Apple HomeKit | Refresh rate: 60Hz
If you've finally cut the cord with your cable or satellite provider, or if you've been exclusively streaming your entertainment for a while, the Hisense R6 is a great option for a budget-friendly TV upgrade. It uses the Roku platform to give you access to thousands of apps like Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video as well as free, live TV channels so you can stay up-to-date with local news, sports, and events.
The Roku platform also keeps your most-used apps and connected devices in a single hub menu for faster, easier access; which means you won't have to memorize HDMI input locations or navigate confusing menus to watch a movie or play a game. With Dolby Vision support, you'll get enhanced contrast and detailing for more lifelike images, and with hands-free voice control you can use Alexa, Hey Google, or even Siri to navigate your new TV, launch apps, or turn on connected devices.
Console gamers looking to upgrade their setup without breaking the bank should definitely check out the TCL 55S555. The TV is built with a QLED panel for better color accuracy and contrast than TCL's other budget-friendly options, which use regular LED panels. It also supports both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos for enhanced detailing and virtual surround sound.
With 4 HDMI inputs, you'll be able to connect multiple consoles at once while support for Alexa, Hey Google, and Apple Homekit gives you hands-free voice controls over your TV and connected devices. And not only will you get great 4K resolution, but you'll also get support for AMD FreeSync VRR technology, which helps prevent annoying screen tearing and stuttering that can ruin your momentum in a match.
If you have any retro consoles in your collection, you can use them with the TCL 55S555 since it features both RF coax and composite A/V connections -- which is great news for anyone who has a gaming space that's on the smaller side. You no longer have to try and find space for two televisions or figure out how to replace a CRT TV that's older than you are when it finally gives up the ghost but you still want to play the almost-40-year-old NES you spent entirely too much money on.
While normally I wouldn't consider a cool grand anywhere close to a "budget" price, it is when you're talking about OLED TVs. The 55-inch A80K from Sony is one of the most affordable OLED models on the market, making it easier to get your hands on a truly impressive TV without having to cash out your retirement plan. It supports Dolby Vision HDR for enhanced detailing and contrast while the OLED panel provides almost true-to-life colors.
It also uses Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology to turn the whole screen into a speaker for near-perfect audio and video syncing and to create sound that follows the on-screen action for a more immersive experience. It comes with a suite of preloaded apps, including Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney+ so you can get started streaming right out of the box, and with support for both Miracast and Apple AirPlay, you can share photos, music, and videos from your mobile devices for more ways to entertain yourself, family, and friends.
Samsung CU8000 specs: Screen size: 75 inches | Panel type: LED | HDR: HDR10+ | Audio: Dolby Digital Plus | Voice controls: Alexa, Hey Google, Bixby | Refresh rate: 60Hz
Like OLED models, big-screen TVs can be quite expensive, but the CU7000 from Samsung has a 75-inch option for about $800. Not only is the price reasonable for a big-screen TV, but you'll also get excellent features like integrated voice controls via Alexa and Bixby or through Hey Google-enabled devices, Dolby Digital Plus audio, and HDR10+ support.
It comes with a suite of preloaded apps like ESPN+, Netflix, and Spotify so you can start streaming right out of the box and make your new TV the entertainment hub of your home. It also works with Samsung's Object Tracking Sound Lite technology to create audio that follows the on-screen action for a more immersive experience while gaming, watching movies, or binging your favorite shows.
My pick for the best budget TV is the Samsung CU8000. It's a stripped-back version of their B and C lines of televisions, offering a solid TV for a lower price. But it still provides plenty of cool features like object-tracking sound, a solar-powered remote, and voice controls via Alexa, Hey Google, or Samsung's SmartThings hub.
Which budget TV is right for you?
Once you've nailed down a budget, you'll want to choose a TV that has a suite of features to suit 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, budget-friendly TV. It features support for object tracking sound and a solar-powered remote control.
A budget TV for streaming movies and shows. It uses the Roku platform to put all of your favorite apps and connected devices in one hub menu.
A budget gaming TV. Dolby Vision HDR, AMD FreeSync VRR, and built-in cable management make this TV a great choice for console gamers.
A budget-friendly OLED TV. While the price is still higher than others on this list, the A80K is one of the most affordable OLED TVs on the market.
A budget-friendly big-screen TV. It has a 75-inch screen that supports 4K upscaling, HDR, and object tracking sound for a more immersive experience.
How did we choose these budget TVs?
Aside from making sure my picks are 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 provide 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.
Does it matter what brand of TV I buy?
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.
How long should a TV last?
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.
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.
What do I do with my old TV when I upgrade?
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 another 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.
What is the best budget 65-inch TV?
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.
What is the best budget TV for gaming?
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.
Are there alternative budget TVs worth considering?
There are plenty of budget-friendly options to buy if you're looking for a new TV on the cheap. Here's a short list of other models I thought were great:
The new Fire TV Omni QLED from Amazon uses the Fire TV platform to give you access to Prime Video's entire category, as well as shows and movies from partner apps like HBO Max, Paramount+, and BroadwayHD. The QLED panel produces excellent colors and contrast, making everything from retro cartoons to the latest releases look amazing.