The Best TVs Under $500 of 2018

By Lee Neikirk

It used to be spending less than $500 on a TV meant you were going to have to settle. Story time: In 2012 I bought a 50-inch Samsung that had a basic charcoal design, full-HD resolution, and no smart features. It cost over $800—on sale! I never would have found a 50-inch TV—which isn't even considered all that big these days—for under $500. If I had found one in 2012, I wouldn't have wanted to subject myself to it.

Nowadays, however, you can get pretty big, pretty feature-heavy TVs for $500 or less. In fact, there's a lot of them! But nailing down the best one for the most people still means testing those relatively affordable displays as thoroughly as we do the ultra-premium ones. Fortunately, we test TVs from $300 to $3,000 all year, and have a lot of recommendations.

My current recommendation is Vizio's 55-inch E-Series from this year (available at Amazon). Like the 2017 model, the 2018 E is still a great choice for most people: It's got the style, smart features, and tech panache to be a no-brainer for the average buyer. However, you might want something more stylish, something a little more specialized, or something even more affordable—we've got recommendations for those, too.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated September 12, 2018

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Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

55-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

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  • Editors' Choice

55-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

Best Overall

While it's right on the $500 line (and at some retailers is a little more expensive), the 55-inch Vizio E-Series from this year is easily the best overall choice for the most people.

What you're getting

  • 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
  • High Dynamic Range compatibility (benchmarked around 300 nits)
  • Excellent contrast (full-array local dimming with 10 zones)
  • Accurate color for standard (non-HDR) content)
  • Vizio SmartCast (Google Cast) software

What you're not getting

  • Impressive HDR (the TV just isn't bright/colorful enough)
  • Wide viewing angles
  • Great motion for some content (60 Hz refresh rates here)

Pound for pound, the 2018 E-Series is a great choice if you want a solid, reliable, and future-facing TV.

Simply put, you aren't throwing more money at a fancy design, a 120 Hz refresh rate (which may be preferable if you're watch a lot of Blu-rays or want better response during video games), or the more powerful LEDs necessary for really high-benchmark HDR performance. But you're unlikely to find those things under $500.

How We Test

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I've been testing and reviewing TVs at Reviewed since 2012. In our TV testing lab, we have the latest CalMan calibration software, a QuantumData signal generator, and individual light/color measuring meters—not to mention about 200 Blu-rays and sundry AV equipment.

We use industry-backed and scientifically sound tests to determine things like a TV's HDR peak brightness of what percentage of the DCI-P3 color standard it achieves. We also watch an awful lot of Netflix. Our top priority is to discover what the consumer will actually experience at home—regardless of what the meters say.

I personally tested and reviewed almost every TV on this list myself, and for those I didn't, it was still tested via the methodology and human vision-related weighting metrics I designed in conjunction with Reviewed's staff scientists and tech experts.

Other TVs Under $500 We Recommend

Maybe you don't want to spend $499. Maybe you want something bigger than 55 inches—or smaller. Maybe you don't want to pay for HDR, or don't like the sound of "SmartCast" at all. I get it. Here are a bunch of other really solid choices for under $500.


50-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

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  • Editors' Choice

50-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

A slightly smaller and slightly more affordable version of the best overall 55-inch model, the 50-inch has the same specs and the same amount of dimming zones.

While I tested the 65-inch E-Series during review, I expect the smaller versions to perform the same.

43-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

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  • Editors' Choice

43-inch Vizio E-Series (2018)

One step down from the 50-inch E-Series, this is the 43-inch version—other than being smaller, it's basically the same TV.

If you want the reliability and quality of the 2018 E-Series but don't have space for (or don't want to pay for) the 55-inch version, just get the 43-inch.

Want to learn even more about this TV, and the E-Series in general? Check out the full review.

50-inch Vizio M-Series (2017)

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  • Editors' Choice

50-inch Vizio M-Series (2017)

The Vizio M-Series is an upgrade from the more affordable E-Series, and typically will cost quite a bit more than $500. For example, this is last year's model, but the big 65-inch version still runs closer to $1,000 than $500.

Even still, the 50-inch can be found for under/right around $500 in some locations, and it's such a good TV for the price, I had to include it here.

What you're getting:

  • 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
  • High Dynamic Range compatibility (benchmarked around 350 nits)
  • Excellent contrast (full-array local dimming with 32 zones)
  • Accurate color
  • Vizio SmartCast Google Cast system

What you're not getting:

  • No TV tuner
  • Just okay HDR—it's not that bright
  • Limited viewing angles
  • This model is a bit out of date

This is a great choice if you want a brighter and more finely detailed exterior than you'll find on the 2018 E-Series above. The 2018 M-Series is still in review, and while I expect it to outperform this one, it definitely won't be available for less than $500—at least not for a while.

It's also worth noting you aren't getting a built-in TV tuner, which is a deal breaker for some folks. Still, if you specifically need a 50-inch TV, this might be the most HDR-appropriate one you can get for this price. Check out the full review for more info.

40-inch Samsung MU7000 (2017)

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  • Editors' Choice

40-inch Samsung MU7000 (2017)

This 2017 Samsung was one of the upper-tier 4K/HDR TVs in 2017. It's not one of the super-premium QLED ones, but this was a very fancy TV in 2017, and the 40-inch version can be found under $500 in some locations this year.

In fact, my only complaint about it last year was that it was too pricy, so it's a great candidate for the buy-a-year-later crowd. Because it has 4K resolution and HDR compatibility, you won't be missing out on the latest content (much) by going with a 2017 model.

What you're getting:

  • 4K resolution
  • HDR (HDR10) compatibility
  • Samsung Smart Hub
  • A really nice design
  • Great peak brightness (400 nits benchmarked)

What you're not getting:

  • The best motion (this has a native 60 Hz refresh rate)
  • Great viewing angles
  • A big screen

For a lot of people, a 40-inch TV might seem pretty big, but it's definitely on the smaller side by modern standards. Still, while there are a lot of way more affordable TVs out there, this is one of the poshest and best-performing "smaller" TVs around.

Check out the full review for the details.

Wait—do I even need 4K/HDR?

You'll notice almost all of the TVs on this list have 4K resolution, are HDR compatible, and have smart features. While you can find some super-cheap off brand TVs out there for sometimes a hundred bucks or so, we don't recommend buying the cheapest thing (almost regardless of product category).

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Related

What is HDR, and do you really need it on your next TV?

Not only are the TVs here more reliable, in general, than less-established brands, but getting "fancy" tech like 4K resolution and HDR compatibility means your TV should remain relevant for its projected lifespan—at least 5-7 years, if not more.


55-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

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55-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

The 2018 5 Series is TCL's midrange option for this year, and it's a solid choice. One of the most impressive and valuable TVs this year was the TCL 6 Series—the 5 Series is just a less powerful version!

What you're getting:

  • 4K resolution
  • High Dynamic Range compatibility
  • Built-in Roku smart platform
  • Excellent overall picture quality

What you're not getting:

  • Impressive HDR (TV is edge-lit, so not very bright)
  • The best motion (these are 60 Hz only)
  • Great viewing angles

The 5 Series is a great choice especially if you want Roku, but at $480 it isn't as good at HDR and isn't quite as nice from a design standpoint as our best overall 2018 Vizio E-Series. Still, it's a solid option for what you're paying.

Check out the full review.

49-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

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49-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

This is the 49-inch version of the TCL 5 Series from above—same TV, just smaller!

Obviously if you can't fit a 55-inch TV but are interested in the Roku-equipped TCL 5 Series, dropping down to the slightly smaller, slightly more affordable 49-inch makes a lot of sense.

43-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

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43-inch TCL 5 Series (2018)

And moving down one more size, this is the smallest of TCL's 5 Series lineup. At 43 inches, it's still decently big, especially if you are upgrading from a 32-inch TV!

However, considering it's the exact same price as the 43-inch Vizio E Series as of mid-September 2018, it's a little harder to justify. That said, expect to see price drops late in 2018, and even throughout 2019.

55-inch Vizio D-Series (2018)

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55-inch Vizio D-Series (2018)

If the Vizio E-Series is the company's midrange value/tech position in 2018, the D-Series is the budget option.

Because it's available in 14 different sizes, it's very unlikely that the 720p, non-smart 32-inch D-Series, for example, is anywhere as good as the 60-inch 4K model. However, where sub-$500 TVs go, the 55-inch—which you can snag for around $480 right now—is one of the best size-to-price ratios on the list.

What you're getting:

  • 4K resolution
  • Vizio SmartCast
  • HDR compatibility

What you're not getting:

  • The design is bottom-of-the-barrel
  • Basically no difference between HDR/non-HDR mode
  • Picture quality is okay, but nothing mind-blowing

The D-Series is priced so closely to the E-Series this year, we're not sure why you'd skimp on $30-50 to buy the D- instead of the E-, but if it's what's available where you live or you see one super on-sale, it's definitely a satisfactory choice, at least—check out the full review for more info.

When To Spend More

The bottom line is: you can get a well-designed, reliable 4K TV in 50/55 inches with decent smart features for under $500. What you can't get, at least not yet, is one that does really impressive HDR.

We like to see HDR TVs hitting a peak brightness of 400 nits (nits are a shorthand unit to measure luminance). It's not uncommon for the priciest TVs to hit 800, 1,000, or even 2,000 nits—but you aren't going to find that under $500.

Still, if you're willing to spend a little more than $500—say, $650—you can get the 55-inch TCL 6 Series, which we benchmarked around 600 nits. This is an all-and-all upgrade where HDR is concerned, but if you don't care about HDR (or don't have any ways to watch it), stick with one of the very affordable TVs here.

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