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You don’t have to spend four figures in order to get a great TV. Today, even cheap TVs can have a good picture quality, decent sound, and smart features capable of offering you the best home entertainment experience available, including 4K resolution, HDR image processing, and streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, thus eliminating the need for a TV box.
We generally consider “cheap“ televisions to be those that cost less than $1,000 for a 65-inch screen. Don’t worry though; this is the upper limit and there are plenty of options out there for a fraction of that price. Larger TVs are more expensive, and going from a 65-inch model to a 55-inch model will significantly reduce the price, even within the same model line. If you want a 43-inch TV, you can expect to spend less than $500.
Needless to say, there are always some trade-offs when buying a cheap TV, but choosing a budget model doesn’t mean you have to settle for sub-par picture quality, a smaller screen, or a “dumb“ device.
You’d be surprised how much high-end screen technology the best cheap TVs include these days — and how big those screens can be if you’re into that sort of thing. In recent years, the cost of the larger panels has dropped dramatically.
Plus, the best cheap TVs manage to keep the price down while still boasting a surprising number of premium features. Most importantly, there are now excellent budget smart TVs that feature the same intuitive software as flagship sets that cost thousands of dollars.
It’s true that their picture quality may not be on par with an OLED or QLED TV, but they do offer a crisp image, good HDR compatibility, and a solid selection of essential streaming apps.
Tips for buying a cheap TV
Having a tight budget when buying a new TV doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice essential features. Many low-cost TVs still offer 4K resolution, support for HDR technology, voice controls, integrated streaming platforms, and even a Game mode.
So what should you look for when buying a budget TV, and what trade-offs can you expect to make?
If you’re worried about the quality of cheap TVs, you don’t have to be. Brands like Samsung and LG have several budget models, so you can buy from trusted manufacturers rather than unknown companies.
Yes, the Samsung and LG models tend to be a bit more expensive than their counterparts, but they also offer smarter resolution features and technologies (more on that below).
Resolution is a term that tells you how many pixels there are on a screen. The more pixels a screen has, the more detailed it can get. A 4K resolution TV has twice the number of pixels of a Full HD 1080p TV, allowing for better picture quality. Not only is a 4K display sharper, but a 4K TV is more likely to support High Dynamic Range (HDR), which means it can be brighter and more colorful than a Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) 1080p TV.
The best screen resolution for you depends on your viewing habits. Do you still watch broadcast TV or prefer to stream everything? The former is fine with a Full HD TV, while the latter should opt for a 4K resolution.
Thankfully, 4K TVs can also upscale non-4K content for consistent picture quality. That’s why most of the screens on the market are now 4K. Put simply, there’s no reason for you not to buy a 4K TV at this point — it offers a myriad of benefits and no longer carries a premium price.
Affordable TVs have a wide range of screen sizes, from a minimum of 40/43 inches (for a 4K TV) to a maximum of 65 inches (if you want to pay less than $1,000), so you can find the perfect one for you.
And while it might be tempting to pay more for a 75-inch model, there’s a chance it’s going to be too big for your space. Fortunately, there is a simple formula to help you narrow down the size of your TV based on how far you sit from it. The ideal size (diagonal) of the screen can be calculated by dividing the distance from the screen (in inches) by 2. So, if you sit 10 feet (120 in) away from the TV, the ideal size is 60 inches (120/2=60).
All noteworthy TVs are connected to the network, via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, so check if they also support all the streaming services you want. That said, when looking for an affordable TV, it’s important to remember that smart features go beyond just streaming content. There are inexpensive TVs that support voice controls with voice-enabled remotes or via a wireless connection to your smart speaker. You can use Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and even some proprietary assistants like Samsung’s Bixby to control your TV.
In addition, some TVs are equipped with an AI-assisted processor that upscales non-4K content scene by scene with a noise reduction process for an even sharper picture. Others offer Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound for an even more immersive listening experience. Still, others have gaming modes that automatically change picture and sound settings for smoother movements, as well as reduce input lag for near-real-time reactions.
These are the best TVs you can buy on a budget (less than $1,000)
Samsung TU8000: the best
Samsung’s 8-series is traditionally positioned just below the company’s glamorous top-of-the-line QLEDs. In the past, this line of TVs has proven to be the sweet spot of picture quality and price. And the Samsung TU8000 (Check on Amazon) delivers on that promise, while still boasting an affordable price.
The screen is virtually bezel-less to give you an edge-to-edge image, while the picture is immersive, thrilling, and far beyond that of any other TV you can buy for less than $1,000. There is impressive detail, punchy colors, and an exceptional contrast ratio, more than capable of producing solid, deep blacks.
It features the updated Crystal 4K processor that uses artificial intelligence to scan movies and TV shows in order to produce a far more efficient upscaling of non-4K content and to automatically optimize picture settings for the best possible viewing experience.
While it is not a QLED and therefore does not have the same wide color gamut or local dimming features, it has slightly better viewing angles and exceptional black uniformity thanks to Samsung’s new dual-LED backlight system which uses two different shades for even richer blacks. In addition, it offers HDR10+ compatibility for enhanced detail and contrast that makes images seem even more realistic.
It has a slow response time, thus some motion blur is to be expected, but that also means it produces less stutter in low frame rate content like movies. Thankfully, its low input lag and fast Game Mode — it activates automatically when it detects a console is plugged in — make this one of the best gaming TVs for the price.
Sound is standard for a relatively cheap TV, but add a soundbar, and it can turn into a compelling home entertainment system. Moreover, Bluetooth connectivity allows you to wirelessly configure extra audio equipment and create the ultimate Home Theater.
It features three HDMI inputs, which should be more than enough considering it offers all the streaming apps you’d expect, so there’s no need to add a TV box. The back has cable management channels and clips to prevent tangling and to help keep your media space tidy.
The new Tizen OS — among the best in the business — gives you all the preloaded apps (like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and much more) you’d expect while the new interface does a great job of browsing through all that content. The voice-enabled remote has Samsung Bixby and Amazon Alexa built-in and also works with Google Assistant, so you can use your favorite virtual assistant for voice controls. Last but not least, with Apple AirPlay 2 and Miracast, you can mirror the screen of your mobile devices for even more ways to watch videos.
In short, the Samsung TU8000 (Check on Amazon) is definitely the best cheap TV and one of the biggest TV deals of the moment.
Samsung TU7000: best quality/price ratio
The Samsung TU7000 (Check on Amazon) is one of the cheapest TVs Samsung currently offers. But fear not, it still boasts the same performance and features of premium Samsung TVs at a lower price point. In short, it offers the best value for money of all the TVs you can buy today, and you have to spend a lot more to get a significant upgrade.
It’s 4K, of course, HDR support is onboard (except for Dolby Vision which no Samsung TV has) and makes the most of its admittedly limited brightness (as on most budget TVs). It also supports Auto Low Latency (ALLM) mode, which switches the TV to Game mode when it detects a signal from a game console — a feature missing from many far more expensive TVs.
Samsung’s dual-LED backlight (a new system that uses two different shades for even richer blacks) produces stunningly lifelike blacks and solid contrast — though detail is missing in the darker parts of an image, thus you don’t get to see everything that you should, but that is to be expected.
In addition, its Crystal UHD processor offers great upscaling, even better than that on some TVs that cost twice as much. The images are relatively free of artifacts, the color tones are natural, the details are good, the presentation is neutral, and this set handles movement with a good balance of smoothness and authenticity making it suitable for a wide range of content.
The sound quality is fine for watching TV shows but feels shy — unsurprisingly — with more dynamic content like movies. Consider pairing it with a soundbar since eARC connectivity allows for high-quality soundtracks (such as Dolby Atmos) to pass from your TV to a compatible soundbar for far greater performance.
Most “cheap” TVs offer about a tenth of the features of high-end sets, but not this one. The TU7000 is equipped with Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 while the Tizen operating system — among the best in the industry — is identical to that found on more expensive TVs, boasting the same user interface and selection of apps (such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and much more) which means you don’t need to buy an external TV box.
All in all, the Samsung TU7000 (Check on Amazon) is a fantastic value TV that offers amazing picture quality for the price thus allowing you to spend your money on getting an even bigger model.