Best HDTVs Under $500

Category: Television

There are more good HD TVs in the under-$500 price bracket than ever before. This “low-budget” segment is full of TVs that provide excellent pictures, “smart” features,” and ever-larger screen dimensions. Here are five top picks in the under-$500 HD TV category…

Looking for a Sub-$500 HDTV?

At 48 inches, the Vizio E480i-B2 is plenty big enough for most living rooms, and CNet’s editors say it delivers an "unbeatable picture for the money” (just under $500 at Dell Small Business, Amazon, and Home Depot). The display’s local dimming zones fine-tune picture quality to ambient lighting levels. The remote has dedicated keys for Netflix, Amazon Instant, and M-Go. Resolution is 1080p and the Vizio is Smart TV compatible.

On the downside, sound quality was rated “poor,” but perhaps better external speakers would help. The low-profile stand does not swivel.

The TCL Roku TV also sports a 48-inch, 1080p screen, and its street price is around $350. It gets praise for its easy-to-use, comprehensive Smart TV features. The Roku streaming media player is built right into this TV, including the same simple remote control. The bargain price means something was sacrificed, and it’s picture quality in this case. Blacks are not black enough, colors are not that vivid. But as a secondary TV that brings simplified streaming apps to the bedroom at a very affordable price, the TCL Roku is hard to beat.
HDTVs Under $500

Never heard of TCL? Me neither, but they build about 20 million TVs a year in their $4 billion factory in China. The TCL story is interesting, especially the profile of CEO Li Dongsheng.

Like all the others menrtioned here, the Panasonic AS520 Series Smart TV is an LED TV with a street price of about $450. (Panasonic got out of the plasma screen market in 2014.) But this 39.5-inch, 1080p model delivers excellent picture quality with style. Colors are well saturated, skin tones are authentic, and the physical design is surprisingly good for Panasonic.

The AS520 can stream Netflix, YouTube, Pandora and other Internet-based apps with built-in Wi-Fi and Web browser. Of the 280+ customer reviews on the BestBuy website, 96% said they would recommend this product to a friend.

Buying a new TV? Need help with the techie buzzwords associated with HDTVs? My article HOWTO: Buying an HDTV will explain terms like resolution, contrast ratio, refresh rate, other features to consider, and the difference bewteen LCD, LED and Plasma sets.

The Samsung UN32H6350 comes in 32 or 40 inch sizes; curiously, the larger screen sometimes costs less than the smaller one. You’ll generally see prices between $450 and $500, perhaps a bit more. A true 1080p either way, this model features accurate color and efficient video processing for smooth fast-action viewing. The blacks are not as black as they could be, but the Smart TV app suite is extensive. Samsung is still the only TV maker with HBO GO. Other notable apps include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Cloud Player, and AOL On.

The RCA LED42C45RQ lists for $449 but it’s been sold at Walmart for as little as $279. This very affordable 42-inch HD TV offers full 1080p resolution and energy-efficient LED backlighting. The built-in 8-inch speakers deliver solid but not wall-shaking sound. At this price point you don’t see Web connectivity or streaming apps.

But of course you can add a Roku or similar device if you want some "smarts" to your TV experience. See my article Roku and Friends: Can You Cut the Cable? for a list of such devices.

There are higher-priced, more luxurious HD TVs that would be better suited for home entertainment rooms. But for the guest room, kitchen, or even the bathroom, it’s good to have solid choices under $500. Just keep the remote away from the tub.

Do you have a sub-$500 HDTV in your home? Tell me what you like or dislike about yours. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best HDTVs Under $500"

Posted by:

16 Mar 2015

Uh...I'm an old fogey (76). I'd be happy with a 25" or so TV. I don't see the need for my having one of these monster screens. Any prices for them?

Posted by:

The Other Al
16 Mar 2015

It's a shame that companies (Panasonic for example) are getting out of Plasma. I really enjoy the colours on mine.

Posted by:

Robert Stewart
16 Mar 2015

$500 would be OK but Best Buy in Buffalo, NY and also Toronto, Ontario have this which costs $700. Samsung - 40" Class (40" Diag.) - LED - 1080p - Smart - HDTV - Black
Model: UN40H6350AFXZA SKU: 4182001

Posted by:

Brad Tomlinson
16 Mar 2015

I bought a 32" Samsung HDTV this past fall, and I really like it. The picture is super sharp, and the sound is excellent as well. If I remember correctly, I paid around $325 for it at Best Buy. It was on sale. It is not a smart HDTV, but I didn't want a smart TV anyway. I am also using Google's Chromecast. I highly recommend the Samsung HDTV.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2015

Yep, I got a Sanyo 39" HDTV, not a Smart TV though, for $298 plus tax!!! I got this TV, back in May 2013. This was a bang, of a bargain, too!

I really don't need a Smart TV, since I have DirecTV Genie. I have On Demand, which covers just about everything.

The next excellent deal that I got, was a Sharp Aquos 60" HDTV, for $848 plus tax and shipping was FREE!!! Again, it is not a Smart TV, but, as I said, I have DirecTV with On Demand.

Since, I have 2 Sharp HDTVs, I can only say, the picture on both of them, is awesome!!! Clear colors and sharp pictures. We love them. One is a 52" and the new one is a 60", like I already said. Watching baseball with a large screen TV, is the only way to go, in my opinion. Football is also, great and fun to watch. In all honesty, large screen HDTVs, are the only way to watch any sports!!! NASCAR is another great sport, to watch on a larger screen. You can really see what is going on in the back of the pack, since, the screen is so much bigger.

I am so glad, that all of the TVs in my household are HDTVs. No, none of them are Smart TVs, but, I really don't need them. We can even get movies, that are just coming out to the theaters through DirecTV, on our televisions. Yes, we do pay a good price, for that, but, in the end, we are at home, can make our own popcorn or eat all the candy we want, without paying the high cost, at all of the movie theaters.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2015

I recently purchased ( Nov.30,2014 ) a 40 inch, "Sceptre" (?) smart t.v. on sale for $200.00 ! My eyes nearly bugged out of my head when I read Walmart's add for that week advertising the aforementioned. And that was "DELIVERED" free !
I'd never heard of the "Sceptre" brand before but figured I can return it in 30 days if I'm not happy, so .... "JUMP ON IT !", and I did ! Figuring it wouldn't be around long at that price.
Absolutely "NO" complaints. Beautiful picture (1080p ) ... color, excellent .... backlit l.e.d.
60Hz ( but I haven't noticed and blurred or ghosts in action shots ) ... sound, very good for mini-speakers. One oddity ? The volume control doesn't seem to control the volume as well as I think it should. But .... figuring it just might be more me than the volume control, and the fact that I am sooo well pleased with it over all .. I can over-look that slight imperfection ( as my wife overlooks my many "Imperfections" ') I have no room to complain. Besides, she keeps asking me where MY "Volume Control" is, because it doesn't always work to suet her either ')
This new 40" Sceptre (?) replaced a 27" top-of-the -line 1080p l.e.d. Panasonic in our bedroom. And the Panasonic found a perch in our guest bedroom.
Review boiled down, "I love my new Sceptre t.v. !
( Even better that it was only $200.00 ! )

Posted by:

17 Mar 2015

I live in a 1 bedroom apartment and have no need of a 40 inch HDTV. How about some ideas in the 20-24 inch range.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2015

I 2nd the request for smaller TV ideas. I'd like one I can also use as a monitor in a pinch.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2015

I'd be unwilling to sacrifice picture quality, since it would be a constant... irritation. There are workarounds for smart TV features: your PC or game console come to mind.

I've been quite pleased with my Vizio 3D TV, which came in just under $500 when I bought it a few years ago. It does have a nice suite of smart TV apps with dedicated buttons on the remote, but the Bluetooth remote for my PlayStation is a much better controller than Vizio's stock remote. So I run the apps from the PlayStation instead.

My only complaint is the price of many 3D Blu Ray discs. You can still find five year old titles at their original prices. You'd think Disney, Sony et al were selling gold futures. And,no, including a DVD copy and a (now expired) download code don't add as much value as they seem to believe.

BTW first commenter Butch: my electric bills went down when I got my first HDTV, and went down again (by about 35%) when I replaced it with an Energy Star approved HDTV.

Posted by:

17 Mar 2015

I'm really disappointed that plasmas seem to be going extinct. In my opinion, they still provide a far better picture than lcd or led. One of my family members has a plasma, the other an led and I'd pick the plasma in a heartbeat. You can watch from any angle with no noticeable loss in picture quality whereas the led gets very washed out very quickly.
I guess I'll wait for the Oled tvs to become affordable.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2015

A "SmartTV" was the last type that was in my mind when we had to replace our INOP Panasonic 42" (1080p) Plasma TV that we had paid over $1100 for just 28 months ago. The replacement 50" LG SmartTV was at a close out price of $550.
MicroCenter had the 65" version of this PlasmaTV for about $80 more, as a discontinued unit. For our needs and the distance between the display and seating location did not justify "bigger is always better" mentality most users are forced with. The timing could not have been better for this LG unit purchase. The LG's "out-of-the-box" picture quality turned out to be noticeably much better than the top of the line Panasonic TV that it replaced. Unfortunately, it took me about a week to get it calibrated and set up for even better results. I had to keep visiting the AVS forums ( and had to pour over hundreds of posts on the proper picture quality settings that other folks had tried, tested and used instruments to calibrate their LG plasma sets with. I hadn't realized what a big following plasma TVs still had.
I really did not need the SmartTV features and the networked connectivity the LG (and all others now) provide, since I run an HTPC (Home Theater PC) configuration for our entertainment system. I also had no need to for the tinny (metal sounding) and tiny speakers that most manufacturers shove in their TVs, as my stereo setup is audiophile-grade. I would have been perfectly happy with a 'dumb' monitor void of any other features all TVs are equipped with, on the market. I also had no need for 3-D or 4K buzzwords that have been running rampant to push consumers to higher priced TVs. I dread the day when I must replace this LG model but I am hoping that this LG plasma TV will last until the OLED TVs come down to earth in pricing (even at twice the price I paid)!

Posted by:

18 Mar 2015

@John and @Carol:
For your needs for an under 30" display, may I recommend the purchase of a computer monitor with >2mS response time and >120Hz refresh rate? Both Samsung and Asus (to name a few) make such monitors at a reasonable cost and both manufacturers have reputable reliability. Some of these units provide features such as wireless connectivity and multiple HDMI inputs. But I would only recommend such PC monitors if your entertainment will be fed to them via external sources such as a DVR, Blu-Ray player, cable box or a set-top box (etc.)

Posted by:

18 Mar 2015

Error Correction for "... >2mS response time...":
I meant to say less than 2milliSeconds (not more than).

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