Five HDTVs under $500

Category: Television

I need help finding a good HDTV for under $500. The sheer number of brands, features, and confusing buzzwords has left me baffled, even after visiting two stores. What are the most important things to look for, and if you could recommend some specific models, that would be great!

Buying an HDTV for $500 or Less

You can buy a pretty good HDTV for $500 or less these days. Apart from screen size, which is the first consideration for most TV buyers, you'll be confronted with lots of technical jargon when buying an HDTV. Do you want 720p or 1080p? What about contrast ratio, dynamic backlighting and Internet connectivity? Should you go for Plasma, LED, LCD or 3D? It can be more confusing than buying a car or a computer!

If all of that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you, see my companion article How to Buy an HDTV for some plain-English explanations before making you do any serious HDTV shopping. Most of the HDTV models you'll find in the under $500 price range will measure 32 inches at most, but that's a good size for many viewers. If you shop diligently you may find larger HDTV sets for less than $500, like some of the ones mentioned below.
HDTVs Under $500

Sub-$500 HDTVs to Consider

The biggest sub-$500 HDTV that I could find was the Zenith 50-inch Class 720p Plasma HDTV (Z50PT320), which sells for $499 at many online retailers. Search for this model with the Google Shopping search engine, and you'll see that buyers consistently give it 5-star ratings, and rave about the price, picture quality and other features. Yes, it's 720p, not 1080p. But honestly, it's very hard to tell the difference. And people who own this model say that it looks just as good as 1080p. Although it has a Zenith label, this set is made by LG, which has a reputation for quality.

The LG 42LK450 42-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV is in stock at for only $459, a price so far below the MSRP of $700 that Amazon can't advertise it. This set has 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and features an "Intelligent Sensor" that automatically optimizes the picture, depending on the lighting conditions in the room. You'll have to add the TV to your shopping cart to see the price, but of course you can always delete it without buying. Shipping is free, too, and in most states you will pay no sales tax.

The VIZIO XVT323SV is a 32-inch LCD HDTV model with full HD 1080p that goes for $430, and is Internet-ready with built-in 802.11n WiFi connectivity. It has an LED display and 120 Hz refresh rate for razor-sharp rapid-response viewing. This unit claims an insane 1,000,000 to 1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio, which is just a bit more than any human can discern. But it's a good set, judging by customer reviews.

The Panasonic VIERA TC-L32C3 32-Inch 720p LCD HDTV has an MSRP of $400, but you can snag one for as little as $334 if you shop around online. A good choice for the bedroom or other secondary viewing room, this unit sports a crisp IPS panel and Intelligent Picture Control for ultra-sharp picture quality. It also features an SD card slot in addition to HDMI and analog ports. However, it lacks a USB port.

The Samsung LN32D550 32-Inch 1080p 60 Hz LCD HDTV costs $486. Its full HD resolution of 1080p works well with the 32-inch screen to deliver a fantastic picture. It features network streaming, picture-in-picture, a 5-band equalizer, and firmware updating. Also nice is the detachable power cord that can be replaced easily. Samsung is a hihgly respected brand, and the overwhelming majority of buyers give this unit their highest rating.

Shopping for Your HDTV

Here's my closing advice on finding an HDTV under $500. Begin your shopping online, and look for customers reviews at Amazon, even if you don't plan to buy there. Other sites such as Epinions and Buzzillions offer reviews, product info and comparison tools, too. Read the comments posted by owners, especially the pros and cons.

Make sure your HDTV has all the input and output ports you need to accommodate your set top box, game console, DVD player and other gadgets. And if possible, head to an electronics store and watch some live TV on the model in which you're interested. Compare to other sets, and ask the salesperson what feedback he or she has about it, or the brand in general. If their only advice is to buy a more expensive model, remember that many work on commission. If you're willing to buy a floor model, or one that has a minor cosmetic blemish (and carry it home yourself) you could save even more.

Have you bought an HDTV for under $500? Tell us about it! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Five HDTVs under $500"

Posted by:

Joel May
05 Jan 2012

(1) Best Buy has a house brand HDTV called Dynex. It is generally less expensive (feature for feature) than the name brands and gets good reviews. I recently bought a 40" 1080p 120 hertz LED HDTV for a list price of $399 and I'm very pleased with it.

(2) When shopping for an HDTV, be sure to add sales tax, delivery charges and extended warranty charges. My $399 set ended up costing a total of $577.77

Posted by:

05 Jan 2012

The LG is now $459. Lot's of 1 Stars for the Vizio. Bob - thanks a lot!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's what I see for the Vizio. Out of 190 Reviews: 5-star: (108), 4-star: (43), 3-star: (13), 2-star: (13), 1-star: (13). So overwhelmingly, the ratings are 5 stars! And 79% are either 4 or 5-star ratings.

Posted by:

05 Jan 2012

Recently bought a 23" Toshiba (I have a SMALL living room) and am very sorry I did. Technically it works and has nice specs. Unfortunately you have to go online to a poorly organized website to find even a chintzy substitute for the inadequate sheet of paper with too small print they throw into the package in place of a manual.
There are supposed to be controls on the front panel, but I can't seem to find them even with a flashlight, though if I run my finger around the set turns on. Maybe then I could work out a way to adjust the picture to decent viewability - certainly the screen menu, even when it stays on long enough to be read, is little help with adjustments having no visible result and terminology that may make sense to a tech but is not consumer-friendly.
And oh yes, there's no provision for an earphone so I had to buy a wireless unit that goes into the audio out to spare my wife the noise of football games and races.
For me, it's a crummy piece of goods that doesn't work.

Posted by:

John S.
05 Jan 2012

My 1st HDTV was a Zenith 42" plasma I bought @ K-mart for $499.00 plus tax back in 07. Within a week the picture got lines across the top. Zenith sent two guys out, took the tv off the wall & adjusted something inside and put it back up no charge. Never had another problem again. I sold it to a friend in 2010 for $300 and he still has it with no problems.
I then bought a Samsung 58" for much more than $500. at a "big box" store. But no extended warranty. I talked the sales guy down a few hundred dollars in the process.
The whole "extended warranty" thing is big business for those places and sales associates are encouraged to push them as part of the sale. If electronics are going to fail, 85% of these failures occur within the factory standard 1 year. The extended warranty offered by the store doesn't start until the manufacturer's is over, so if you never use it, it's win/win for them. Also these "extended warranties" are very specific in what they cover and what they don't. They may cover parts, but no labor. Will they take the set off the wall & put it back when done? often times no. All I'm trying to say is, be careful when going for the extended warranty. You can save hundreds, and if you do go for it, read every word before you sign. It's impossible to get a refund on one after you get home and find out it doesn't cover what you thought it did.
and by the way, no problems with the Samsung. It's picture is breath taking!! Thanks for reading my ramble, just trying to be helpful. J.

Posted by:

D.W. Whitlock
06 Jan 2012

A year ago, I purchased the 42 inch version of the Zenith 720P Plasma. I love it. I paid 400.00 plus tax. It has a superb picture and good sound. As Bob said it's innards are all LG which is quality stuff. My only regret is that I should have bought the 50 incher. I recommend these plasma 720P TVs very highly. They represent excellent value. You won't be disappointed. I have always been mystified as to why plasmas have such a small market share compared to LCDs. Plasmas still have better overall picture quality than like priced LCDs and without the annoying LCD picture changes in both off vertical and off horizintal axis. I did my homework first and I made the right choice...for my needs and budget.

Posted by:

06 Jan 2012

We bought a 52 inch plasma Samsung HDTV at Sam's for $498 in December before Christmas. Yes, it was on sale as a closeout and had been a lot more two days earlier. We opted for the setup offered by Sam's and we are glad we did!

Posted by:

Bill S.
06 Jan 2012

I bought the 42 inch Zenith 720P Plasma from Sears 2 months ago for $449 and am very happy with the unit. It has (3) HDMI inputs, all of which are in use; (1) for cable tv, (1) for DVD-VHS player, and (1) for my laptop to play Netflix movies. It also has other input ports available.

Posted by:

07 Jan 2012

Bob, a great selection! I have 2 LCD HDTVs.

The first one I bought, was a 52" Sharp Aquos LC-52SB55U HDTV. It was definitely OVER $500, but, it is just as clear and sharp, as the day it was delivered and put in my Living Room, over 2 years ago. Then, 18 months ago, I purchased a 32" Vizio E320VL LCD HDTV for $348. This was for my bedroom and is the perfect size. To date, the TV has been working perfectly. I LOVE both of my HDTVs!!!

I have seen some Plasma HDTVs and I honestly, don't think they are a 'sharp or clear', as the LCD or the LED/LCD. I will admit, that is probably a personal preference, but, I am a real critic, when it comes to 'sharp or clear' TVs, of any age.

When, I purchased my Vizio, I easily could have gotten a LED/LCD HDTVs. In looking at both the LED/LCD TVs and the LCD TVs, I really could not discern any difference, so I simply went with the cheaper price and the most HDMI inputs, for the price range.

All I can say, is after much research and going down to look at a variety of HDTVs, in person, I am extremely pleased, with my final selections.

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
09 Jan 2012

How about retitling your post "Five TV's for under $500?" Isn't every new TV on sale now, a high def one?

BTW, it sounds like jb is anti Vizio. Maybe he's an LG employee? Grin!

Posted by:

Jefferson Bales
27 Jan 2012

Consumer Reports has a great deal of detailed advice about buying all types of HDTVs, including yours about being sure you get all the input types you need. CR also says because they're set specifically for the store-lighting, you can't trust the picture in the store to be what you'll see at home and for many you don't need 1080p or the super-high contrast ratio or other specs you mentioned. The ease of use of the hand control and on-screen menus are more important. Plasma TVs can be viewed at much greater angles than LCDs and you need heavy, expensive glasses for 3D TVs CR says that if you buy at least a 37" TV, you'll be more likely to be getting a reliable set from any brand. In my experience Panasonic then Magnavox TVs and other video equipment have been the easiest to use and the rest much more difficult. CR discusses many more important features to consider before buying an HDTV, such as ease of use of the hand control and on-screen menu. For over 40 years I've been delighted with every product CR has judged a best buy. I've also been pleased with these updates of yours, Bob. I especially want to thank you for the information in an earlier one about the Teac machine that will allow me to burn my massive collection of cassette tapes to CDs.
Thank you,
JB - tutorjb1

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