The Hisense H8G is a great TV, particularly if you're looking for a great deal on a 65- or 75-inch screen. Unfortunately, its lack of features and its stiff competition leave it without a proper home in the current marketplace.
As far as entry-level TVs go, the Vizio V-Series packs a ton of value for its price point. Despite a lackluster smart platform and a dim picture, most folks will be happy with its performance.
TV technology has come a long way. These days, you can get a truly great TV for $500 or less. There’s still a fair amount of clunkers out there, but that's where we come in. We test tons of TVs—from the most basic to the ultra-premium—to make sure you're getting a great product.
If you just want our favorite TV under $500, check out the TCL 5-Series(available at Amazon). In addition to its decent performance chops, it also comes with Roku’s smart platform built right in. There are several other options on this list, however, so make a pick that works for you. Keep in mind that some of these TVs only fit our price criteria for specific sizes in their respective series.
Here are the best TVs under $500 we tested, ranked in order:
Amazon Fire TV Omni
Amazon Fire TV 4-Series
The 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 as bright and colorful as other 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 advanced 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 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.
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 seven-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 Murideo Seven 8K signal generator, and more Blu-rays than we can keep track of. For software, we use Portrait Displays’ Calman Ultimate color calibration software, 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 Under $500 We Tested
The Hisense H8G is a dependable mid-range TV best suited for people who want the brightest possible picture for a relatively affordable price.
The H8G’s quantum dots are its best asset; its picture is brighter and more colorful than just about everything else in this price range. That said, its native refresh rate is only 60Hz and the H8G also lacks features like VRR, ALLM, and eARC.
For folks with bright living rooms, the H8G is a fantastic option, as it gets bright enough to accommodate such rooms but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. In general, it’s a great-looking TV with a flexible smart platform. If you’re concerned about not having features like VRR and ALLM, however, you might be better off with something else.
The TCL 4-Series may very well be the quintessential entry-level 4K TV. With screen sizes ranging from a respectable 43 inches up to a massive 85 inches, the 4-Series is nothing if not flexible: You can even choose your smart platform to a degree, as this series is available in Roku TV, Android TV, and Google TV variants (we recommend a Roku TV model for the best experience).
As the natural and numeric step-up from the 3-Series, the 4-Series boasts immediate picture quality advantages, adding 4K resolution as well as HDR compatibility. This makes it a great choice if you’ve been craving an upgrade to the crispness of 4K resolution but aren’t sure you want to shell out big bucks for something fancier. As noted above, we feel almost everyone will enjoy the 4-Series’ built-in Roku software, which is intuitive and simple, and nets you access to all the streaming services you can shake a (streaming) stick at.
The 4-Series’ strong points are balanced by some drawbacks. You’re getting great black levels here, but at the expense of overall brightness. Even being an HDR TV, it isn’t very bright, and that lack of brightness extends to a limited range of color saturation. Good backlight uniformity makes it a staunch choice for movie night, but reflective glass in front of the panel (and its lack of brightness) make it a somewhat poor choice for a brighter-than-average viewing environment. However, if your living room or den is light-controllable, this shouldn’t be a major issue.
There are edge cases where the 4-Series lacks the chops to get the job done: It won’t do justice to HDR content, and because of its 60Hz refresh rate might feel a bit limiting when paired with a game console capable of 120fps gaming. But for basic everyday use, this is a great way to upgrade to 4K resolution without paying for features or specs you won’t use. Just keep in mind that both the dimness and somewhat narrow viewing angles may be more pronounced issues on the very largest sizes.
The Vizio V-Series is one of the most affordable ways to secure a smart 4K TV with a big screen. Unfortunately, it wears its affordability on its sleeve, offering only so-so performance and almost no extra features beyond its smart platform.
The V-Series is available in a whopping nine sizes, ranging from 40 inches to 75 inches. At the time that this was written, seven out of the nine sizes (every size variant between 40 and 65 inches) could be purchased for under $500.
Folks who aren’t picky about picture quality will probably find the V-Series’ performance to be just fine, so long as their viewing environment isn’t flush with sunlight. Because the V-Series can’t get very bright, its HDR performance is almost identical to its SDR performance. In practical terms, this means that high-quality HDR content (newer movies, games, and streaming shows) won’t pop the way they’re supposed to.
And while we appreciate the built-in smart platform, you won’t find any extra features or gaming enhancements here—the Vizio V-Series is about as barebones as TVs come. It’s a great value for non-fussy viewers, but you can get better performance in this price range if you’re willing to spend a bit more.
The Amazon Fire TV Omni (currently available for under $500 in 43-, 50-, and 55-inch sizes) is a mid-range 4K smart TV with an emphasis on smart features. Specifically, the Omni is designed to live alongside an ecosystem of Alexa-powered smart home devices. Essentially, it does everything you’d want a smart TV to do, but it can also talk with your Ring Video Doorbell, Echo speakers, and more. While the Omni succeeds at being an Alexa device, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard as a dependable mid-range TV.
Only the 65- and 75-inch versions of the Fire TV Omni feature Dolby Vision support and Auto Low Latency Mode, so if you’re looking to get the best possible performance out of the series lineup—for movie night and for gaming—you’ll have to opt for one of the two biggest sizes. However, even if you opt for one of these models, don’t expect above-average HDR—our 65-inch Omni TV didn’t climb higher than 330 nits, which isn’t bright enough for HDR to truly shine.
Still, as an Alexa device, the Omni is poised to please folks who use the voice-activated assistant every day. The TV’s far-field microphones (which can be toggled off via a physical switch on the TV) do a bang-up job catching “hey, Alexa” voice commands. The Omni’s Alexa-related functions (some of which weren’t yet available at the time of our review) promise to streamline everything from controlling audio to viewing a live feed from your doorbell.
For gamers, cinephiles, or anyone who just wants a performance-forward mid-range TV, the Omni is probably not a good fit. For Alexa acolytes, however, it’ll likely be a nifty living room companion.
If you’re looking for an affordable, entry-level 4K TV with a bit of a twist, the 55-inch Amazon Fire TV 4-Series is an interesting candidate.
The Fire TV 4-Series makes Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, the star of the show. By talking into the microphone-equipped remote, users can ask Alexa to find content, to change the TV’s settings, or to jump from one app to another. The 4-Series is also compatible with other Alexa-powered smart home products, like Echo speakers, Ring Doorbells, and more, making it a good candidate for those focused on a streamlined, Alexa-powered smart home.
But when it comes to picture quality and extra features, the Fire TV 4-Series is an entry-level experience through and through. The TV supports HDR, but viewers are unlikely to notice a difference in picture quality while HDR content is playing on account of the 4-Series' lack of brightness. The 4-Series also struggles to maintain its picture quality when viewed from the side, which could hamper group viewings. To be fair, however, most TVs in this price range also struggle with off-angle viewing, so avoiding this outcome will likely involve spending up on a mid-range TV.
That said, if all you’re looking for is a dependable, 4K upgrade at an affordable price, the Fire TV 4-Series is a decent, value-forward pick. The picture is mostly fine across all types of content, so long as you don’t expect a bright, dazzling experience. Folks who already use Alexa on a daily basis will likely appreciate the 4-Series even more.
If you’re shopping for a secondary TV, your budget is tight, and you only want to spend a couple hundred bucks, the pickings can be slim. Fortunately, the TCL 3-Series is one entry-level option that punches above its weight class. Available in smaller sizes (32, 40, or 43 inches) and with smart software in tow (either Roku or Android), the 3-Series may not have a lot of sizzle, but it’s still a prime cut.
The main gist of this series is that it does away with a lot of the newer and more expensive qualities of most of the mainstream TVs you’ll see in stores these days: the 32-inch 3-Series is available in older 720p or 1080p resolution, while the 40- and 43-inch versions are also 1080p. There’s no 4K resolution here (nor HDR compatibility), but you are getting reliable black levels, good color accuracy, and better backlight uniformity than we usually see in this price bracket.
If we’ve got one complaint about the 3-Series, it’s that it isn’t very bright. Testing revealed rather limited brightness even on the highest backlight setting, meaning it might not be a great choice for a very bright space. We also couldn’t help but notice some pixelation in menus while testing the 720p resolution version of the 32-inch model. The 1080p version is only a hair more expensive, so we’d encourage shoppers to try and get that one unless you really need to spend the absolute bare minimum.
However, the best thing about this TV is the built-in Roku software (which we generally prefer to Android software). It’s very easy to plug it in, do a bit of setup, and get down to watching things. Roku even includes a decent range of totally free channels, like westerns and kids’ content, meaning it’s a snap to enjoy programming right away. Coupled with the strong core picture qualities, the 3-Series delivers excellent value for the money.
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.