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 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 three TVs we recommend that cost $499 or less. For the most part, the picture quality is perfectly fine, and one, the TCL 6-Series, is one of our favorite TVs, period.
TCL 55R625 (55-inch)
CNET take: No TV I’ve ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash. The latest version of the TCL 6-Series has even better image quality than its predecessor, thanks to improved color technology, and its well-implemented full-array local dimming helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. As if that’s not enough, the Roku smart TV operating system — which accommodates all of the top streaming services well — is our hands-down favorite for a seamless viewing experience.
Best with AirPlay, Chromecast
Vizio V436-G1 (43-inch)
CNET take: 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. It actually comes in a bunch of sizes under $500 but we’re listing one of the smallest, the 43-inch model, because it’s one of the few TVs this small with our favorite picture-enhancing extra for LCDs: full-array local dimming. That feature isn’t available in every size, however.
Other sizes under $500: 65-inch, 60-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 40-inch.
Best with Alexa voice control
Toshiba 49LF421U19 (49-inch)
CNET take: 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, available by talking into the remote.
Other sizes under $500: 65-inch, 55-inch, 50-inch, 40-inch, 32-inch.