The TCL 5-Series is a dependable TV across all types of content, though it's not as bright as one might expect given its inclusion of quantum dots. Still, the TV's sensational price and built-in Roku smart platform will satisfy most bargain hunters.
The Sony X800H is a dependable mid-range TV whose best qualities are its accurate color production and its ability to get very bright. That said, its native refresh rate of 60 Hz make it a less-than-ideal choice for hardcore gamers, its black levels are disappointingly shallow, and its priced higher than its chief competitors.
It used to be that a 50-inch TV was considered huge. These days, the average living room TV size—in America anyway—is closer to 55 inches. As big TVs get more affordable all the time, the average TV size just keeps going up. Essentially, it's easier than ever to land a really big TV without spending oodles of cash.
Case in point? Our favorite big screen TV under $1,000, the 70-inch Vizio M-Series(available at Best Buy for $699.99). What the M-Series lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in its sensationally low price. It’s a great 4K smart TV for folks who covet a big screen but don’t want to spend too much for the privilege. We’ve also outlined a handful of other options between 65 and 85 inches to help you land a dependable big screen TV that’s just your style.
These are the best big screen TVs under $1,000 we tested:
Vizio M-Series (70-inch)
Vizio V-Series (75-inch)
TCL 5-Series (65-inch)
Sony X800H (65-inch)
The Vizio M-Series (MQ6) is an impressive mid-range TV with a solid larder of useful features and enhancements. It’s a great choice for people who are shopping on a budget but still want to get some extras included in the deal, and it comes in some mondo sizes, such as the 70-inch model we've chosen for this list.
This particular variant of the Vizio M-Series—dubbed the MQ6—features a quantum dot display, High Dynamic Range (HDR) support (including Dolby Vision), Auto Low Latency Mode, Variable Refresh Rate, and Vizio’s Chromecast-based smart platform, Smartcast, which allows you to stream directly from the TV or "cast" content from your phone over Wi-Fi.
Although the M-Series doesn’t get nearly as bright as some of the pricier HDR-enabled TVs we've tested, its picture is reliably bright in normal lighting, especially dimmer rooms. While you'll have to look elsewhere for truly impressive HDR performance that really pops with added brightness, you'll also have to spend a heckuva lot more money.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the M-Series is its out-of-the-box color calibration. In Vizio’s “Calibrated” picture mode, colors on the M-Series are rich and true-to-life—no doubt a benefit of the TV’s quantum dots, tiny crystals designed to enhance color when lit up by the TV's LED backlight.
The inclusion of Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate makes the M-Series a great choice for gamers, provided you’re OK settling for a native refresh rate of 60Hz (a maximum of 60fps for gaming).
The Vizio M-Series is a great value given its cost, performance, and feature set. As long as you’re not planning on putting your new TV in a brightly lit room, the 70-inch M-Series offers impressive 4K performance, a handful of useful features to hang your hat on, and a screen big enough to bring some movie theater atmosphere to your living room.
Reviewed has been testing TVs since some of its current employees were in middle school. While many proud TV testers have come and gone through Reviewed's labs, the current Home Theater team consists of Michael Desjardin and Lee Neikirk. Michael is a senior staff writer and a six-year veteran of the Reviewed tech team. A film enthusiast and TV expert, he takes picture quality seriously but also understands that not every TV is a good fit for everyone.
As Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, Lee doesn't do as much testing these days. However, he designed the company's current TV testing methodology after receiving calibration certification from the Imaging Science Foundation.
It'd be an understatement to say that we're serious about TV testing. The lab in our Cambridge location is outfitted with much of the same equipment you'd find at a factory that manufactures and calibrates television.
On the hardware side, we've got things like a Konica Minolta CS-200 tristimulus color meter, an LS-100 luminance meter, a Leo Bodnar input lag tester, a Quantum Data 780A signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use CalMan Ultimate, the industry-standard in taking display measurements and calibrating screens to specifications.
Our testing process is equally complicated and has been honed over many years to gather data that is marginal enough to satisfy curious video engineers, but also relevant to the average person's viewing experience. We measure things like peak brightness, black level, hue and saturation for primary and secondary digital colors, the accuracy of the TV's electro-optical transfer function—you get the idea, it's complicated.
Weighting for our performance tests is based on how the human eye prioritizes vision, which means we put "brightness" data (monochromatic eye based on light sensitivity) higher than colorimetry, which is also scaled by the eye's sensitivity, and so on.
Outside of the strictly technical tests, we also spend a lot of time just watching and using each TV, getting a feel for the at-home experience of doing things like dialing up streaming video service, connecting a Blu-ray player and watching movies, using the smart features, and checking out the TV's ports, remote, and on-set buttons—anything and everything that might be relevant.
What You Should Know About Buying a Television
While everyone has different eyes, generally, our vision all functions the same way: we prioritize dynamic information and bright, compelling colors over subtler hues and resolution (sharpness). Generally, a TV can be considered a good TV when we forget that we're watching a TV. We don't see pixels creating mixes of red, green, and blue to simulate colors; we see the real world, lit and colored as it is, in fluid motion.
In simpler terms, this means a TV that can get very bright and dark without obscuring details; produces accurate colors (compared to various color standards designated by the International Telecommunication Union); possesses proper bit-mapping and the right codecs and decoders for video processing; and can properly play the various types of content thrown at it without judder, blurring, and so on.
Note that specs alone (pixel count, measured brightness) aren't automatic indicators of quality, much like intense speed is not automatically an indicator of a good car.
What TV Terms Do I Need To Know?
When it comes to knowing what you're paying for, almost no category is rifer with subterfuge and tomfoolery than TVs. While knowing the specs of the TV you're shopping for is only half the battle, it's the bigger half. Here are the key bits of jargon you'll want to know while browsing:
LED/LCD: This refers to Light Emitting Diode and Liquid Crystal Display. LEDs are the backlights used in LCD TVs, also sometimes called a LED TV for this reason. The LED backlight shines through a layer of a semi-solid substance called "liquid crystal," so named for its ability to morph in reaction to tiny electrical volts and allow light to pass through.
OLED: This means Organic Light Emitting Diode. This is an altogether different panel technology than LED/LCD. Rather than an LED backlight element shining through an LCD panel element, OLED TVs essentially combine the backlight and crystal array, using sub-pixel strata that produce light and color individually.
4K/UHD: Usually 4K refers to resolution—specifically, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is the current standard/mainstream resolution for most TVs. UHD means Ultra High Definition, and actually refers to a suite of picture improvements like 4K resolution and Wide Color Gamut, which can display many more shades than HD TVs.
High Dynamic Range: Like "UHD," High Dynamic Range (or HDR) refers to both a type of TV and a type of content that expands on the typical range of brightness (luminance) and color that a TV will produce. HDR TVs are newer and usually a bit more expensive, but can have many times the brightness and 30% more color production than non-HDR TVs. Current top HDR formats include HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.
60Hz/120Hz: These numbers refer to what is called a "refresh rate," with Hz (hertz) representing "times per second." So if a TV's refresh rate is 60Hz, this means it re-scans and updates for picture information 60 times per second; with 120Hz, it's 120 times per second. Currently, TVs only come in 60 or 120Hz. A higher refresh rate is always better, but not always necessary.
Smart TV: The term "smart TV" has evolved a lot over the years, but all it really means is that the TV connects to the internet. Most smart TVs these days are just a way to watch streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video on your TV. Some smart TVs have browsers, calendars, or even Roku or Android functions. All smart TVs have ethernet or WiFi built-in.
Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are used in LED/LCD TVs only. These are microscopic nanocrystals that produce intensely colored light when illuminated. Quantum dots can be used to vastly improve the red and green saturation of a TV, and are one way that LED/LCD TVs can match the color spectrum of OLED.
Local Dimming: OLED panels look great because each pixel can operate independently. LED/LCD TVs can imitate this functioning via a process called local dimming, where localized clusters of LEDs dim or boost depending on whether the screen needs to be darker or brighter, sometimes vastly improving their performance and worth.
What Is a TV Series?
You may notice the TVs listed in this roundup don't follow the traditional naming convention you might see in a store or online. That's because rather than nominating a single size of TV (such as the LG OLED65C8PUA, aka the 65-inch LG C8 series OLED), we nominate the entire range of sizes within a "series."
Typically these TVs are identical in performance but differ in price and size. We do this in order to offer you more flexibility in your decision, but also because it's the most accurate representation available.
Other TVs We Tested
One of the most affordable Vizio TVs released recently, the Vizio V-Series (V5) (also available in a 70-inch model) is a budget-friendly smart TV that will satisfy the needs of anyone looking for a low-cost, no-frills 4K experience. It’s one of the cheapest ways to score a big screen without breaking the bank.
Although the V-Series technically supports HDR, its limited brightness keeps it from delivering a picture that utilizes the format to its full potential, something videophiles may notice. Despite this limitation, the V-Series nevertheless serves up a good-looking picture in nearly all cases, particularly if you tune the settings to its “Calibrated” picture mode.
While the V5 V-Series includes Auto Low Latency Mode, gamers ought to be aware of the fact that this TV does not come with Variable Refresh Rate. For that feature, you’ll have to spend a little more and move up in the Vizio lineup, such as the M-series.
The V-Series is a particularly good choice for people who are upgrading to 4K for the first time, since the leap from Full HD to Ultra HD will ultimately be a massive improvement—especially at this size. If you’re looking for dependable performance, tons of screen real estate, and a sensible price tag, the V-Series is a fantastic choice.
The 65-inch TCL 5-Series isn’t the most robust 4K TV on the shelf, but what it lacks in performance it makes up for in value: This is a budget-friendly quantum dot TV with commendable picture quality that won’t break the bank.
While not nearly as bright and colorful as the rest of the mid-range and high-end QLED TVs we reviewed this year, the TCL 5-Series is nevertheless brighter and more colorful than most of the slightly cheaper, entry-level TVs that occupy the same store shelf. And at this price point, it’s a steal of a deal that most bargain shoppers will appreciate.
Its motion handling and viewing angles aren’t particularly impressive, and it won’t net you any up-and-coming gaming features like VRR and ALLM, but the 5-Series is a better performer than you might expect given its price. Plus, being a Roku TV, it features a terrific, easy-to-use smart platform built right in.
If you’re looking for a bargain but you want to avoid scraping the bottom of the barrel for the cheapest possible TV, the 65-inch TCL 5-Series is worth the minor price hike over the lowest-tier options. It's an especially great TV for folks who are upgrading to 4K for the first time.
The 65-inch Sony X800H is a solid mid-range TV with accurate color, impressive brightness, and dependable viewing angles. It’s a great option if you’re a diehard Sony fan or if you’re just looking to maximize your dollar on a big TV.
Thanks to Sony’s Triluminos technology, the X800H produces rich, accurate color and offers Dolby Vision support, making it a terrific mid-range option for cinephiles. It also gets quite bright for a TV at this price, so if you’re planning on putting your new TV in a brightly lit room, the Sony X800H is worth a look.
Unfortunately, the X800H gets so bright that its black levels remain relatively shallow. In addition, the X800H’s native refresh rate is 60Hz, so it’s not exactly the ideal choice for hardcore gamers.
There are better-performing big screen TVs that offer similar peak brightness levels and comparable color production, but that’s not to say that the Sony X800H isn’t worth consideration. Just keep its limitations in mind.
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.