It could be a steal, or it could be a disappointment. Performance among budget TVs varies wildly, and trends toward the mediocre. You'll find a few very good deals, like the TCL P-series that manages to combine excellent picture quality with a low price. You'll also find a sea of cheap TVs that don't measure up. Don't count on big names to be reliably high-quality in their budget lines, either.
While companies like LG, Samsung, and Sony can make some incredible flagship TVs, their inexpensive models generally aren't any better than baseline models from more budget-centric brands like Element, Hisense, and TCL—and they're usually a bit more expensive. As always, our reviews and the picture quality tests we perform can help you find a screen that doesn't trade quality for price. Plasma TVs were the only flat-panel models available when they were first introduced more than a decade ago. They're now a dead category, and you won't see a major television manufacturer offering a new plasma television any time soon.
LCD panels themselves aren't lit, so they need to be illuminated. There are further differences in the various designs. LED TVs can be either edge-lit or backlit. Edge-lit TVs light up their screens with arrays of LEDs along the edges of the panels, allowing the set to be thin and light. Backlit TVs use a large array of LEDs directly behind the panel, making the screen a little thicker, but allowing it to more evenly illuminate the panel and, for high-end screens, adjust individual LEDs to enhance black levels in scenes. Very good edge-lighting systems can produce excellent pictures, though, and TV manufacturers are making backlit LED arrays smaller and thinner, so the distinction means less than it used to.
No matter the technology, an LED TV's thinness and brightness will be roughly proportional to its price range. OLED organic light-emitting diode displays are a rare and very expensive technology for TVs, and despite their name are drastically different from LED-backlit televisions. In fact, they're closer to plasma screens in how they work.
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Each diode generates both color and light, like in plasma screens, but they can be much smaller and thinner than even LED-lit panels, and can produce some of the best black levels possible. A big TV that's too close can be just as uncomfortable to watch as a small one that's too far away, so don't assume that the biggest screen available is the best choice. There are a few different rules of thumb regarding TV screen size based on your distance from it. Generally, the distance of your couch to your TV should be between 1. So if your couch is six feet away from your screen, you can comfortably watch a TV between 42 and 60 inches.
If your couch is five feet away, a to inch screen should work well.
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Most televisions have flat screens. Curved screens were a more prominent fad a few years ago, when several TV manufacturers Samsung in particular pushed curved televisions as premium products. Some manufacturers claimed that curved TVs offered some form of visual benefit. This doesn't reflect in our testing.
Performance-wise, there is no reason to opt for a curved television screen. Whereas a smaller curved gaming monitor can provide a more immersive viewing experience for a single viewer, a curved TV can make it harder for large groups to get consistent picture quality. Those looking at the screen from an off-center angle may experience distortion. Design-wise, curved screens might look visually striking, but they certainly don't justify an increase in price over a similar flat TV. One of the biggest problems with narrowing your choices to a single TV is the sheer number of specs.
To make your job a little easier, two of the biggies, refresh rate and contrast ratio, are safe to ignore. Refresh or response rate, the speed at which your TV's panel refreshes its image, is expressed in hertz 60Hz, Hz, Hz, Hz, or Hz.
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The theory is that a faster refresh rate results in a smoother image. But in reality, there are several reasons this simply isn't true, and it's not worth paying more for a set with a faster response rate. In many cases, 60Hz will do just fine for films and Hz will be plenty for video games and sports though you should probably turn off those higher refresh rate modes when watching most shows and movies, or else you'll get that jarring soap opera effect. Contrast ratio, meanwhile, is the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white a panel can display.
In theory, the highest contrast ratio possible is desirable since dark blacks and bright whites contribute to a high-quality picture. There isn't a standardized way for manufacturers to measure this spec, though, so Samsung's numbers aren't directly comparable with, say, Panasonic's or Sharp's numbers. And, as you might imagine, vendors are vying to come up with the highest ratios, so they can charge more.
Ignore any claims of contrast ratios in the millions or infinity; with the exception of LG's OLEDs which are the only TVs we've tested to actually produce an "infinite" contrast ratio with a perfect 0 black level , the best TVs tend to have just five-digit contrast ratios. Almost all TVs now offer web apps and built-in Wi-Fi. Many also integrate social network services like Facebook and Twitter, and many manufacturers offer entire downloadable app ecosystems with other programs and games you can use on your TV.
These apps are also available in most Blu-ray players, all major video game systems, and even on inexpensive media streaming devices, so they're not vital. But a friendly interface and the services you want to use available directly on your TV adds some convenience, and doesn't require you to buy any additional devices. Your ideal TV should provide enough video connections not only for now, but for the foreseeable future as well. The most important input is HDMI, which supports all major forms of digital video sources including Blu-ray players, game consoles, set-top boxes, cameras, camcorders, phones, tablets, and PCs through a single cable.
It's the best way to send p video from your devices to your screen with one cable, and will be the main way you connect your main sources of entertainment to your TV. It's the latest standard that supports 4K video at 60 frames per second; older HDMI ports can only handle 4K up to 30 frames per second, at best. As for cables, unless you have a huge home theater system and plan to run cables between devices at distances longer than 25 feet and that's being generous , brands and prices don't matter. We've compared the performance of high-end cables and inexpensive ones, and found that they all carry digital signals similarly.
More expensive cables might have a better build quality, but you won't see any performance advantages from them. Don't shop for HDMI cables at retail stores, and ignore and clerks who warn you of "dirty electricity" or "viruses" that can come with cheap cables both claims I've witnessed. Hop online and find the least expensive cable at the size you need and snap it up. Once it's all hooked up, you might want to get it calibrated. We can guide you through some of the adjustments yourself, and some TVs have a built-in calibration wizard you can access in the menu.
If you have a high-end TV and want the absolute best picture possible, you can spend a few hundred dollars to have your screen professionally calibrated, but for most viewers, it's an unnecessary expense. And, of course, don't forget to turn off motion smoothing the effect that makes everything look like a soap opera.
TVs have built-in speakers that function well enough in the sense that you can understand dialogue, but beyond that they're typically pretty underwhelming. With few exceptions, you can improve your movie and gaming experience greatly by getting an add-on speaker system, like a soundbar or a dedicated multi-channel home theater system. If space is at a premium or your budget is limited, a soundbar is your best bet.
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Soundbars are long, thin, self-contained speakers that sit under or over your TV. Small and simple to set up, they're less expensive than multi-speaker systems. Soundbars generally don't separate the channels enough to accurately place sound effects, but they've become quite good at producing a large sound field around you.
Products & Packages
Here are some of our favorite soundbars. As a rule, TVs aren't rugged and you shouldn't use them outside. They aren't built to handle extreme temperatures or any significant amount of moisture or dirt. If you want a TV to put on your porch or deck, you need a specialized one designed for that location. Companies like SunBriteTV make rugged TVs that can function in a much wider range of temperatures than most consumer TVs, and are protected against the elements. They're built to be left out in the rain and snow, with a heavy chassis and shielded connection bays. That extra protection will cost you, though; most rugged TVs cost at least twice as much as comparable indoor TVs.
For more buying advice, see our TV Product Guide for the latest reviews. Accurate, wide color gamut. All-in-one projection system. Harman Kardon speakers with included wireless subwoofer. Cons: Expensive. Not particularly bright. Lackluster smart interface. Pros: Perfect black levels and excellent contrast. Wide color reach. Powerful smart TV platform with Google Assistant.
Colors are slightly cool out of the box. Limited selection of streaming services. Pros: Very wide, accurate color. OneConnect box adds flexibility for wall mounting. Smart TV platform with voice assistant and smart home controls. Samsung's Bixby is no Alexa or Google Assistant. Pros: Protected against dirt, water, and extreme temperatures. Slightly brighter panel with wider color range than previous model.
Relatively affordable. Cons: Frustrating remote. Few features beyond weatherproofing. Somewhat muddy shadow details and blown-out highlights. Poor input lag. Pros: Affordable. Excellent contrast and color.
Plenty of streaming apps and services on Roku TV. Cons: Power hog. Only three HDMI ports. An intuitive interface gives you easy access to more than 4, streaming channels as well. You can also easily search top streaming channels by title, actor, or director. Wi-Fi-enabled voice search is available using the free Roku mobile app, but you can also use the HDMI inputs to plug in directly.
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The inch Polaroid 50T7U 4K TV it lets you experience movies and shows in breathtaking cinematic quality with built-in streaming — all for an incredibly competitive price. Chromecast gives you access to a full array of streams like Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and much more, while the Wi-Fi connectivity makes it simple to sync the television with your wireless home network.
With more than 8 million pixels and four times the resolution of p Full HDTV, it displays every scene in breathtaking detail and clarity. This model has digital sound from two built-in speakers although with a TV this big, you definitely want to consider setting up a surround sound system and all the ports you need for both modern and legacy input devices, including three UHD-ready HDMI connections.
With a sleek, modern design complemented by a slim frame, this Vizio big-screen HDTV is the perfect base for any home theater. Sony makes some of the best 4K televisions around, and this beefy inch smart model offers a lot of big-screen bang for the buck. The Ultra HD resolution, Q Color, Q Contrast, and MotionRate technologies combine to bring cinema-quality video right into your home with deep colors and sharp contrast.
Looking for the best tech deals? Samsung and Vizio have a great inch and inch deal going on right now. You can also find iPad deals , Laptop deals , Prime Day deals , and much more on our curated deals page. Follow dealsDT. Share on Facebook Tweet this Share. We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and choose what we cover carefully and independently.
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If you find a better price for a product listed here, or want to suggest one of your own, email us at dealsteam digitaltrends. Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers. Don't Miss. Posted 3 days ago — By Josh Levenson. Posted 4 days ago — By Josh Levenson. Networks all around the world are churning out 4K content at warp speed and prices of 4K TVs are on the decline, like this inch LG. Posted 5 days ago — By Josh Levenson.
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