There are plenty of reasons why you would be looking for a great TV in the $500 range: Say your current TV is about outliving its usefulness, has already crossed the rubicon, or you just want to get something more contemporary without splurging a lot of cash.
The selection of TVs in this range has a fair percentage of duds. Our list features the best among the lot. We have a very good idea of what is obtainable within the range. But we go further to pick those that offer way more than the competition in terms of picture quality and features without breaking the upper limit of the range.
Still, each model has its strengths and weaknesses. Much of the concern in this range borders on size. For many, it may appear that stepping down a notch say from going for 50-inch screens to 40-inch or 32-inch screens will provide a better viewing experience or guarantee a richer spec sheet.
The recommended route to take is not set in stone. The difference between the viewing quality of a great-looking 40-inch TV and a larger TV is not considerable in most occasions. However, if a feature like superior build quality or additional streaming services is important to you and only the smaller-sized TV has the feature, then your choice is cut out for you.
In any case, if the ultimate picture quality and viewing experience is what you seek, then you have to drop the price limit. This best TV guide offers opinion on where to look for the best TV under $500.
Best TV Under $500 Complete Guide
VIZIO M43-C1 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
VIZIO E50-C1 50-Inch 1080p Smart LED TV
Sharp LC-48LE653U 48-Inch 1080p Smart LED TV
Samsung UN40JU6400 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Sony KDL48R510C 48-Inch 1080p Smart LED TV
Important TV Buying Considerations
Amalgam of Good Picture Quality and Useful Features
The very first question you ask when you are considering a TV in this price range is what makes a good TV. You can’t mince answers at this point else you are going to make a disappointing buy.
The answer is a good combination of features and decent picture quality. You may want to bring in the resolution argument. But it is not a primal issue just yet. You want to find out whether:
- The black is deep enough. Darker blacks guarantees better contrast ratios. Which leads to images that appear to pop out more than on other displays.
- The colors are accurate. Right off the bat, the colors should look natural. You don’t have to go mess in the settings, trying to adjust hue, saturation, and contrast like you have got some degree in optical calibration. A TV that has oversaturated colors and doesn’t look realistic is a visual nightmare.
- The viewing angles are wide enough. If you are a loner, wide viewing angles does not matter much. But if you have a pinch of social life and would have a few friends come over for Friday night football or have a family, then you want everybody to have a good viewing experience regardless of where they are sitting relative to the TV. Those at the edges should get a good view too—that is the essence of buying a TV with wide viewing angles.
Chatter about Resolution
Resolution has always been a bone of contention. Is it enough? Is the difference noticeable? Right now, the TV market is buzzing with chatter about 4K Ultra HD. With the current standard been 1080p, the new tech offers four times more pixels.
All things been equal, it should be an easy decision. But that’s not the case. The human eye only notices the difference at a specific viewing distance. At the moment, the conventional (or to put it more accurately, common) viewing distance is 10 feet. That places virtually all TV sizes below the 70 inches or greater segment outside of the range of TVs that need UHD, because the quality difference above 1080p will not be big.
To cap it off, 4K has an entourage of burgeoning picture quality advancements with the top two being HDR (High Dynamic Range) and WCG (Wide Color Gamut). These features only grace TVs with the highest price tags. It will take several years before they trickle down to TVs in the $500 range.
Best TV for Under $500 Reviews
1. VIZIO M43-C1 Review
The VIZIO M series continues to be one of the best quality and most affordable 4k TVs you can buy since their release. While they do not have all the bells and whistles that you’d find in some of the more expensive televisions out there, if you already have a streaming device and can do without 3D support or a top-end smart TV system, then the VIZIO M series will blow you away with its excellent 4k picture quality and is surely your best pick. We consider picture quality to be one of the more important characteristics we look at when reviewing products and organizing our guides, which is why the VIZIO was still able to take first place without all the extra goodies. If you plan to use 3D or want the built-in streaming or browsing functionality of a Smart TV, check out one of our other top picks.
TV sizes for the VIZIO M range from 43 to 80 inches, we went ahead and reviewed the 43 inch for this guide because it fits within our budget of under $500. Except for some minor variations in specs of the different sizes (for example different native panel refresh rates), we found the TVs to have an excellent picture regardless of the size. A big part of this great picture has to do with the full-array local dimming technology, which actively dims or brightens specific areas of the screen allowing for better contrast and therefore, results in a noticeably improved picture when compared to TVs of the same resolution but lacking in this feature.
VIZIO does have a decent content selection, and apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Vudu, and Plex are available, just to name a few of the big names. The 4k streaming works as it should in the apps that support it.
For those interested in some of the best 4k picture quality you can find for the price, the VIZIO M43-C1 should definitely catch your attention. Color accuracy is very good, and the ability to create deep shades of black is one of its main strengths. Shadow detail is also up to par with competition – paired with the deep blacks and the ability to tweek and customize the display with a multitude of options, and you have yourself a very high quality 4k TV for under $500 on Amazon.
2. VIZIO E50-C1 Review
Next up on our list is the VIZIO E50-C1. Unlike the M-series which is 4k HD, the E series is only available in 1080p HD. Some claim that the consumer is better off going a 50-inch 1080p display than the 43-inch 4k TV we reviewed above – the argument is that at 43-inches, it is very difficult to notice a difference in picture quality when comparing 4k to 1080p. We do happen to agree with many aspects of this argument at PricenFees. If you prefer to have a larger display and are on a budget of $500, 1080p HD resolution is likely more than enough.
Like the more expensive 4k displays by VIZIO, E50-C1 utilizes full-array backlighting which makes up for the lack of 4k and helps produce the excellent picture that can be seen with this television. The E50-C1 delivers impressively deep blacks, accurate colors that flourish even in the brightest lit rooms. The display can also be customized and tweeked to suit your preferences. The 16 individual LED zones in this TV produce a richly detailed picture in a 50-inch display that could easily fool viewers into the assumption that this is in fact a higher resolution screen than it actually is.
Like other smart TVs, you have the ability to download apps and stream content through your internet connection. Netflix and Amazon Instant have no problems streaming in 1080p HD in our tests, as they should. To top it off, the E50-C1 offers a 240 Hz refresh rate, compared to the usual 120 Hz or 60 Hz on the lower quality TVs out there. This means that the screen renews itself a staggering 240 times per second, resulting in less blur from objects moving across the screen.
If you are looking for a 50-inch TV that delivers an impressive picture and an overall top-quality Smart TV experience for under $500, then 1080p HD may be the best way to go.
3. Sharp LC-48LE653U Review
Sharp’s LE653U series is yet another example of a good quality set of TVs that are all reasonably priced – screen sizes go from 32 to 55 inches and the 48-inch TV makes our list. Nothing to write home about in terms of aesthetics, the LC-48LE653U is relatively plain-looking but delivers an impressive picture that is hard to compete with at this display size and price.
The Sharp delivers an impressively solid and detailed picture. The blacks are dark yet show just enough detail to avoid appearing washed out and are pretty much uniform across the display. The colors are fairly accurate with a decent contrast ratio, though we found we had to mess with the saturation settings before we reached optimum color and clarity.
If you plan to use this TV in a room with lots of lights are many windows, you may have a few issues – not because of reflection (in fact the semi-gloss finish on the display doesn’t actually reflect very much light at all), but because the display doesn’t get as bright as some of the other TVs we have reviewed. Two or three average sized windows should not be a problem, but if its much more than that you may want a brighter display. Overall, the Sharp LC-48LE653U is a great budget 1080p HDTV. It offers some basic Smart TV functionalities and produces a pretty good picture (its contrast ratio is one of the highlights of the display). If you can do without the 4K and want something smaller than the 50” VIZIO we reviewed above, this Sharp HDTV is an excellent option.
4. Samsung UE40JU640D Review
The Samsung UE40JU640D is another top contender for those who want to spend no more than $500. This is a 40-inch Ultra HD 4K TV that comes with a resolution of 3840 x 2160. Some would argue that a 40-inch 4K TV is a waste of resolution and there is little difference in picture quality from that of a 1080p display of the same size. While we might have to agree that noticeable advantage of 4K at 40-inches is less than that of a bigger screen, there is still a noticeable difference in clarity and overall quality – yes, 4K does look better than 1080p, even with a 40-inch display!
The UE40JU640D is completely flat, there are no curves on this display, which is good news for many consumers. Tizen, which is a more advanced smart TV system is utilized by this Samsung, which supports 4K content streaming from those apps that support it.
The TV itself is very light and it can easily be moved from room to room if need-be. The UE40JU640D is equipped with Samsung’s Ultra Clear Panel, which helps reduce screen glare and prevents ambient light from spilling across the screen. A global dimming system is also utilized for its LED backlight – this is in contrast to the more advanced Smart LED local dimming that the more expensive 4k TV sets are now using. Not a deal breaker – but also not the newest technology out there.
Picture quality is very good with some dark blacks and impressive color and a noticeable sharpness when needed – something 1080p can’t really compete with. This Samsung looks great out of the box, though we went ahead and tweaked some settings which made it even more impressive.
For those seeking out a top-quality 4k HDTV without spending all that hard-earned cash, the Samsung UE40JU640D is a great option. With this TV you get a nice blend of style and impressive picture and sound, and gain access to all Tizen has to offer.
5. Sony KDL48R510C Review
The Sony KDL48R510C is an excellent 48-inch 1080p HDTV with very little holding it back. Like other high-end Smart TV’s, you can easily connect to Wi-Fi and browse for popular apps to use for your enjoyment. 48-inches is neither too big nor small for most rooms, and may be just the right size for you. The tiny bezel makes the TV look sleek and sophisticated from viewing distance – paired with the impressive visuals and you have yourself a great TV for under $500.
The picture is crisp and with HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 you will be equally impressed with movies, tv shows, or while gaming. This TV sports Motion Flow XR 120, which is simply just another name for an enhanced 60 Hz refresh rate (this technology tries to mimic 120 Hz with a technique called frame insertion, which is basically the process of creating new images that are then inserted in-between the original frames). This is nothing to write home about, as we have reviewed TVs in this same list that boast 120 Hz or 240 Hz refresh rate, but again this should not be a deal breaker as the KDL48R510C more than makes up for this with some dark blacks and splendid color accuracy.
If you’re looking for a Smart TV 48-inch display with HD picture quality, the Sony KDL48R510C delivers impressive functionality and aesthetic personality for the price.