TVs are one of the pieces of tech we use the most but it's not easy to afford a flagship set from the likes of Sony, LG and Samsung. However, there are plenty of decent budget TVs on offer and these are the best ones we've tested.
Technology in this market can be confusing - there's a lot more to TV specs than the resolution and size - not least because the brands can't slap a lot of nice-sounding words on the box.
What you will be getting here is a 4K (Ultra HD) resolution at the least and likely HDR support in one form or another. There will inevitably be sacrifices to make but often only things tech-savvy users will notice. Read our in-depth buying advice below the chart if you need more information on what to look for.
What you consider to be 'cheap' depends on various things, but we're aiming for the best TVs under £500 here.
Although we may include some that go slightly over if they are particularly good and bear in mind that larger sizes cost more so it may only be smaller options that come in under the threshold. We have a chart of the best smart TVs if you do have a little more to spend.
The budget TV market has never been so good so you'll be sure to find a cheap set that's right for you from the selection below, all tested by our experts.
Best budget TVs 2021
1. JVC Fire TV Edition - Best Overall
This collaboration between JVC and Amazon delivers the latter's Fire TV operating system direct into a TV, saving you from the need for a separate streaming stick.
Specs are strong for the low price - though watch for the jump in display quality from the 40in model to the 49in and 55in variants - and even the audio's alright, but the software is what this TV is really about.
With built-in Alexa support, voice search, and easy access to a load of apps this has plenty to offer, making it one of the better budget buys.
Read our full JVC Fire TV Edition review
2. Hisense Roku TV (B7120UK) - Best for Streaming
This collaboration between Hisense and Roku has resulted in one of the best budget TVs you can buy so we're glad it's finally made it to the UK.
For under £500 - potentially half that price depending on the size - you get a lot of TV for your money. Design and build are never going to be anything special but it's also far from ugly.
The main thing here is that you get an excellent combination of picture quality and Roku's user-friendly interface packed with features and streaming services.
This is budget done properly.
Read our full Hisense Roku TV (B7120UK) review
3. Samsung TU7100 - Best Picture Quality
The Samsung TU7100 (TU7100 in the US) is a bargain for anyone looking at getting a TV on the cheap. It's available in a huge range of sizes starting at 43in and larger options still come in at under £500.
One of the main downsides to consider is the limit of just two HDMI ports, although this can be helped with a splitter or AV box.
What you are getting is decent picture quality with Samsung's Crystal UHD technology, and budget buyers are unlikely to be affected by the downsides. It's mainly brightness that's a little lacking here.
You're also getting the fantastic Tizen OS with an easy-to-use interface and one of the best selections of streaming services, meaning you might not need to buy anything to plug in.
Read our full Samsung TU7100 review
4. Hisense U7QF - Best HDR Performance
As is so often the case with Hisense, the U7Q offers you the chance to own an excellent TV without breaking the bank.
Apart from simply getting a stylish set in large sizes for under £500, the U7Q has incredibly good HDR performance normally reserved for much higher-end TVs. Quantum Dot panel technology, Full Array Local Dimming, Ultra Smooth Motion and wide HDR standard support will leave you dazzled.
There's good gaming performance too, even if it doesn't support 120fps for next-gen consoles. Sound quality is mediocre but that's to be expected and the combination of Freeview Play and Vidaa U4 OS gives you plenty to watch - albeit without Disney+, Apple TV and Sky Now TV.
This is one of the best TVs you can get for under £500.
Read our full Hisense U7QF review
5. Samsung TU8500 - Best for Gaming
If you can't afford a flagship TV but want a big brand with decent specs then Samsung's 2020 mid-range offers a nice balance of price and quality.
This set might not have the best HDR performance but the dual-LED backlighting system gives picture quality more punch and 4K content looks sharp. The TU8500 is also a great choice for gaming thanks to its low input lag.
It also looks nice with slim bezels but more importantly has an excellent Tizen smart operating system with plenty of benefits including a vast array of streaming services and Samsung's clever Ambient mode.
Read our full Samsung TU8500 review
6. Hisense A7500F - Best Netflix Integration
Over the years Hisense had become the go-to brand for affordable TVs with nice design and decent specs.
That's still true of the A7500F which provides you with a large 4K screen complete with Dolby Vision HDR, all inside a pretty sleek uni-body chassis.
There's plenty of detail on offer here as well as a wide colour gamut and excellent gaming performance, too. We also like the fuss-free Vidaa smart operating system.
It's not perfect though as the contrast isn't great, there's no local dimming and viewing angles aren't so good either.
Read our full Hisense A7500F review
7. Toshiba U29 - Best Value at Large Sizes
The Toshiba U29 should be considered remarkable value. Any 4K HDR at these prices will turn heads, but the fact that this one performs well warrants a thumbs up.
While not a top flight picture performer, we reckon it’s ideal for second room duties or if you simply can't afford anything more expensive. And it comes in large sizes for not much money if you have a big living room to fill.
While the interface might not be quite as good as rivals, there's Dolby Vision support here which is the better HDR standard for sets with lower brightness.
Read our full Toshiba U29 review
8. TCL C715K - QLED on a Budget
This is the best set we've seen from TCL to date, largely thanks to its inclusion of QLED tech for such an affordable price.
There are plenty of other good things going on, too, such as wide HDR support, the inclusion of Freeview Play and the excellent Android TV operating system. It's pretty stylish to boot.
The C715K isn't flawless though and the price means something had to give. In this case, it's namely being limited to three HDMI ports and sluggish performance when using the interface.
There's tough competition at this price point so rivals from the likes of Hisense and JVC can offer a more well-rounded experience.
Read our full TCL C715K review
As mentioned at the top, cheap TVs are better than ever but you will still be missing out on some features and quality compared to more expensive models. Even if the manufacturer or retailer can make it appear not to be the case.
4K and HDR
All the TVs tested here are 4K (aka Ultra HD or UHD) that's four times the resolution of Full HD and if you're looking at buying a TV with the latter then something has gone wrong.
Getting a cheap TV with this resolution is the norm but not all 4K TVs are created equal.
They tend to offer lower brightness and typically don't have local dimming (this means the TV can dim small areas of the panel to make blacks darker). Or if they do, there are not as many zones as high-end models.
Lower brightness means HDR performance is limited as a good backlight is needed. Also, be careful about HDR standards as there a quite a few: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HGL are the most common.
Dolby Vision is favoured by Netflix while HDR10+ is supported by Amazon Prime Video. So check the specs if there's a particular streaming service you use more than others.
It's easy to forget about boring ports when being dazzled by HDR standards, but it's worth checking simple things like how many HDMI ports a TV has.
To cut costs, TV makers might only offer two or three - not ideal if you want to plug in lots of devices.
Also, be aware of HDMI versions as you might be limited to older ones, or typically, only one port is a more recent version.
Ideally, you want HDMI 2.0 for 4K at 60fps (frames per second). If you want full support for next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X for gaming at 4K at 120fps, you need HDMI 2.1 but that's out of reach for budget TVs at the moment. Read more about console TV compatibility.
OS and apps
Things are certainly a lot better than they used to be and all TVs here are 'smart' in one way or another.
In basic terms, they all have internet access via Wi-Fi and operating systems (OS) providing you with a user interface and apps to watch content like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
While some might come with Android TV, others will have a custom OS. Make sure to read our full reviews to find out what they are like and if any major services are missing.
If it is basic, you can always plug in a streaming stick or box to improve things without spending much extra.