Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best 4K TVs under $500

With technologies consistently evolving to create a better entertainment experience, once high-end televisions are now commonplace and available at a lower cost. The standard is now 4K resolution, offering incredible detail for content from television series to films to video games, and you can now get a great 4K TV for under $500.

While the top-tier 4K TVs still come with a high price tag, there are value options that can be had for less than $500. These might sacrifice some extras and features, but they still represent a quality investment for your entertainment center or anyone seeking a second TV for a guest room or dorm room.

To find the best value, it’s important to know which features are necessary and which are negotiable. Various aspects influence price, from brand to size to screen technology. Shopping on a budget might take a bit more research and time, but with some preparation, you can find the right 4K TV for you.

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4K TVs come with a remote that often includes buttons for direct access to top streaming services. Some options allow smart devices to control programming as well as voice control through Google Assistant or Alexa.

Key considerations

What is 4K resolution?

Also known as ultra-high definition or Ultra HD or UHD, 4K resolution boasts over 8 million pixels for impressive detail. 4K supplanted Full HD as the standard: new series, movies, and video games, including high-end blockbusters, are now shot in 4K. 

In order to get the maximum enjoyment out of a 4K TV, it’s important to have compatible content of the same resolution. You want to have a console, cable box, or Blu-ray player that is 4K-ready or a subscription to an online service that streams in 4K. Content that wasn’t shot in 4K can be upscaled to improve the quality. It won't be the same as native 4K content, but it will improve the overall viewing experience.

Size

TV size, which is measured in inches on the diagonal, doesn’t necessarily influence the cost as much as it once did. That means that a mid-range TV, including those up to 65 inches that can serve as an entertainment hub, are available for under $500.

Some 50-inch and 55-inch TVs are available for under $500, providing entertainment for small- to medium-size rooms.

Compact 32-inch and 43-inch TVs are common in the under-$500 price range. These are well suited to bedrooms, dorms, and guest rooms where they may be enjoyed by one or two people.

Brands

TV manufacturers can be roughly divided into two categories: top-tier brands and budget-friendly brands. 

Top-tier brands: These include Samsung, LG, and Sony. Because these industry leaders champion the top visual and audio technologies, their models are limited under $500. However, some options that are a year or two old and 50 inches or smaller fall just below the $500 threshold if you’re partial to these brands.

Budget-friendly brands: These include TCL, Hisense, Insignia, and Toshiba, and these TVs are prevalent in this range. They sacrifice some features to be able to provide moderate size and 4K resolution for those buyers looking to save some money. 

Vizio falls somewhere in between the two tiers because it borrows some technologies from the top-tier brands while selling at a reasonable price.

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Did You Know?
4K resolution is expected to be the standard for some time. Exceptionally expensive 8K TVs are offered by top brands, but there is little native 8K content currently available.
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4K TVs under $500 features

Screen technology

Most TVs in this price range have a traditional LED screen, which is lit from behind. This provides a bright picture but sacrifices a bit of contrast. LED screens enhance the contrast by creating specific zones that can dim and light up independently. The more zones on an LED screen, the better the contrast.

There are some quantum-dot LED (QLED) screens available at this price point. These displays are enhanced versions of traditional LED screens that use a quantum color filter to enhance image clarity, brightness, and fidelity. They also provide better contrast with increased local dimming zones. While Samsung was once the exclusive provider of QLED TVs, companies that provide more affordable TVs such as TCL and Hisense also offer some models. QLED TVs within the $500 budget are smaller and slightly older models.

Smart systems

Most TVs under $500 have one of several popular third-party smart systems. The more affordable brands offer Roku TV, Android TV, or Fire TV, but a couple of TV brands offer their own. 

Roku is regularly rated the best of these because it's easy to navigate and doesn’t favor one type of company or system over another. 

Android TV, not surprisingly, works best with Android devices.

Fire TV is Amazon’s integrated service that promotes the company’s products and works best with a Prime subscription.

SmartCast is Vizio’s own fast and intuitive smart system.

Tizen is Samsung’s reliable and fast smart system.

High dynamic range

Most 4K TVs come paired with high dynamic range (HDR) to boost color and offer more detail and image clarity. Two popular HDR formats are HDR10 and Dolby Vision. 

HDR10: Most options in this price range offer HDR10 because it’s compatible with most content. 

Dolby Vision: This is less common, but it provides better color saturation and increased brightness. The best 4K TVs under $500 also offer Dolby Vision compatibility.

Refresh rate

Those interested in playing video games and watching live sports should note the refresh rate, which is how often the screen refreshes an image per second. The standard refresh rate is 60 hertz, but anyone who enjoys live, fast-paced content, should look for a higher rate of 90 Hz or 120 Hz. If the rate is too low, you might notice motion blur or lag. 

Refresh rates become particularly important as screen size increases. Since most of the TVs in this price range won’t top 65 inches, 90 Hz or 60 Hz is sufficient for most consumers who are fine dealing with occasional lag.

You can save space and create a better viewing experience by mounting your TV on the wall at eye level across from the main viewing area. Also, have a plan for any cords or cables that need to reach the back of the unit.

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Pricing

Inexpensive: The cheapest TVs in this price range are small options from budget-friendly brands and cost around $250.

Mid-range: You can find quality 4K TVs of various sizes from budget brands for between $250 and $400.

Expensive: For between $400 and $500, you can find some smaller and slightly older options from top electronics brands as well as bigger options from budget brands.

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Staff Tip
Avoid using any harsh cleaners or chemicals on the TV screen. Use a soft, dry microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust as needed.
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BestReviews

Tips

  • Be careful about choosing an older TV. Watch out for any TVs that are approaching two years old. While they might be inexpensive, the technology will quickly become dated, and the TV won’t provide as much value over its useful life as a newer model.
  • Watch for sales. The easiest way to get the best bang for your buck is to buy a quality TV on sale. While options might be discounted throughout the year, the holiday season provides lots of opportunities to get a great deal.
  • Check the ports. Most 4K TVs offer at least three HDMI connections and a USB port. Take note of the options so you can connect all your devices, such as a gaming console or laptop.
  • Keep your TV updated. Your 4K smart TV requires firmware updates to improve performance, avoid viruses, and stay current.

 

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Some 4K TVs have video and audio presets for specific types of content. Explore these options to find what works best for what you like to watch. You can also customize the settings yourself.

FAQ

Q. Are 4K TVs under $500 worth it?

A. While small and midsize 4K TVs that fall in this price range can have value as your main entertainment center, most are better used in secondary rooms. These TVs are suited to casual viewing by consumers who aren’t preoccupied with top-of-the-line video or audio. 

These TVs might not be suited to those who want to fully enjoy the newest films, games, and series that showcase stunning detail and incredible special effects. While the 4K resolution provides detail and upscaling, inexpensive TVs can lack brightness, contrast, and power.

Q. What TV features are not available under $500?

A. High-end OLED TVs in which each pixel is individually lit are quite expensive and not available at this price. The same goes for most quantum LED TVs, particularly newer options from top brands, and TVs that are 65 inches and larger. Most options by Sony and LG cost more than $500 except for some older, smaller models. If you want to enjoy competitive online gaming and live sports, the refresh rates also tend to be lacking at this price.

The most notable deficit in this range is sound quality. While it is sufficient for casual viewing, there is a lot of room for improvement. A soundbar is a quality investment that can elevate your audio experience by adding two or three channels with the potential of upgrading to a surround sound system. In particular, a soundbar with an integrated or separate subwoofer can increase the bass significantly.

Q. How long does a 4K TV last?

A. You can expect TVs in this range to last a few years or more depending on how often they’re used. As a secondary TV for casual use, the TV might last five years, though its processing power is likely to slow over time. As a central entertainment hub, however, it might be sufficient for only a couple of years since television technology is always improving. 

 

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