The tendency of technology to trickle down means the best TVs under £500 are liable to surprise you with what they offer. Price be damned: in 2021, these things are packing some serious processing and picture tech. They're also home to some seriously big panels, because the cost of creating them has trickled down in the same way.
We're not saying every cheap TV is fantastic - far from it - but those that have made our rundown of the best TVs under £500 are the models which have really brought that great technology down to a great price point. They're what we would once have dubbed 'smart TVs', something of a redundant label now that just about every TV is offered some level of built-in smartness. Some might even pull in the same smarts or the same interfaces as their far more expensive cousins.
Yes, there's still compromise to be made. These won't always be as sleek or pretty as the absolute best TVs on the market. You're not going to find picture quality that bothers the best OLED TVs. 4K, though? Strong HDR, great contrast, essential apps? It's all here.
You can certainly put your budget towards a bigger screen – some of the best 55-inch TVs and best 50-inch TVs fall into this category – but you may find you get a little more for your monkey if you go smaller, and indeed pick up a screen more suited to the office, bedroom or kitchen. A large number of the best 43-inch TVs (and basically every one of the best 32-inch TVs) come in under five hundred notes.
Going older is also a decent idea. Last year's great TVs may have been superseded but they're still great, and many have seen their prices chopped to make room for the latest model. Sure, some of these have been built to hit that price point, but we wouldn't want you to miss out on a bargain.
While these are all very creditable screens, though, there's something to be said for spending a little more. If you can afford £100 or £200 more, check out our guide to the best TVs under £1000 – and there are plenty of short-term bargains to be found on our guide to the best TV deals!
- Improve your audio with one of the best soundbars
- Meet the best gaming TVs – ready for PS5 and Xbox Series X
What is the best TV under £500?
Right now, our pick as the best buy for a TV under £500 is the Samsung UE43TU8500 – it's the strongest image quality that Samsung offers outside of its QLED TVs, and this set balances a well-sized screen with strong features and a nice design. And an upgrade to 50 inches is only a little more if you prefer (even if it does break our £500 limit slightly).
Though it's not QLED, it has some clever screen tech – a new backlighting system that uses two different hues for richer blacks, particularly – but it doesn't skimp on the features either. Samsung's Tizen smart TV menus are among the best in the business, and a very low level of lag means its among the best gaming TVs for the price.
Sound quality is middling, admittedly, but that's true of all of its rivals too – and our list of the best soundbars has some great budget options to pair it with if you want to upgrade that aspect down the line.
The best TVs under £500, in order
This is the fanciest non-QLED TV Samsung makes, and while no QLED TV fits into our £500 category (just – check out the Samsung Q60T if you're curious), you still get a level of care and attention to match more expensive TVs, and a surprising number of sleek high-tech features.
HDR is catered for, from the live broadcast-friendly HLG to HDR10+ dynamic metadata, and the 4K UHD resolution is augmented by integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 connectivity. The Tizen-based operating system is identical to that sported by the pricier QLED TVs, and a response time of just 11.7ms will appeal to gamers.
Best of all, performance could easily be from a more expensive screen. Samsung is using an innovative new backlight tech this year, with two colours of LEDs in the backlight helping to improve contrast and giving better black levels than you might expect. That's combined with a reasonably bright picture overall, giving things a lovely pop in either SDR or HDR.
It's quite a capable upscaler too, crucially – it takes HD streaming or Blu-ray up to 4K comfortably, and keeps native 4K looking crisp and sharp.
The audio quality is nothing special, but it works perfectly well, and the TV supports passthrough of Dolby Atmos audio, so you could upgrade it with a great soundbar later.
We also thoroughly recommend the 50-inch version, which just about breaks our price limit for this article, but is so close that you can spare a little more, can't you? Perhaps our full Samsung TU8500 review will tempt you… or you can compare it to its close competitors with our Samsung TU8500 vs LG NANO796 guide and our Samsung TU8500 vs Hisense A7500F guide.
This TV doesn't offer the strongest image quality of all the sets here, but it still punches well above its price for visuals, while also letting you put more money into going bigger – it's the best image quality you'll find at 55 inches under £500.
Samsung's dual-LED backlight produces impressively true blacks, and contrast is solid. Crucially, since you're able to go for a bigger size with this TV, it offers really good upscaling, so whether you're watching a lot of native 4K or are streaming a lot of stuff that the set will have to punch up to 4K, it does a great job.
HDR looks good too, and HDR10+ support is good for making the most of its admittedly limited brightness, though we wish it had Dolby Vision support too, since that form of dynamic HDR is more common.
It's also well-equipped when it comes to smart TV, and the interface. Better than most budget TVs, this has the same options as more expensive Samsung TVs, though it's a little less smooth to use. But the important part is the feature list, including Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, and apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV and loads more. It's all presented in an easy-to-understand way.
The gaming mode is fast, and auto switches when it detects a console is connected, so it's among the best options at this price for gamers.
All in all, it's a fantastic-value TV – if you want to go big at a low price while still reaching for pleasing image quality, it's our pick, as our full Samsung TU7100 review explains in more depth. If you're wondering exactly how it compares to the model above, here's our Samsung TU7100 vs Samsung TU8500 guide.
This was the UK's first Roku TV, which means it uses Roku's smart platform (usually found on plug-in HDMI sticks or set-top boxes) as its operating system. And it's brilliant – Roku TV is really easy to navigate, has every streaming service you could want, and has a universal search feature across them all to make it easy to find things in those services.
And that's paired with a TV that really impresses with image quality for its price, especially given that this is a generous 50 inches of screen estate (and you can step up to bigger sizes for really reasonably prices – see below).
It avoids all the pitfalls of budget TVs – the backlight is uniform, colours are realistic, and it upscales from HD to 4K impeccably. It's not so strong for handling motion, but we can live with that. It's also a shame that it doesn't support Dolby Vision HDR, but other HDR types are supports, and look strong.
Between giving you better image quality than its price suggests and having a smart platform that's the easiest to use on the planet, this is a simply brilliant buy. Here's our full full Hisense Roku TV R50B7120UK review.
This is Panasonic's entry-level 4K TV from 2020, which means you get more limited HDR support than its higher-end sets, but that still includes Dolby Vision, so we're off to a good start. You get more basic image processing and lower brightness too, but nothing out of the ordinary compared to the competition – and they're still backed up with Panasonic's usual approach to making cinematic viewing, so it's very watchable indeed, and excellent value at this size.
That said, with quite basic smart TV functions, we'd recommend adding one of the best media streamers to get yourself a better interface with a more comprehensive app selection.
You also don't get Dolby Atmos decoding for a soundbar here, but that's not necessarily a problem if you get a soundbar with HDMI passthrough anyway. Connectivity is really strong, with more HDMI ports than the average budget TV, plus older connections options too. To see how it compares to the Samsung, here's our Panasonic HX580 vs Samsung TU7100 guide.
Got a hankering for a nice big 4K UHD TV (without the nice big price ticket that so often goes along with it) from a brand with proper credibility? Want a big slice of the performance that’s generally associated with more expensive alternatives? LG is ready to sort you right out.
The 49UM7400 is by no means the sveltest or best-specified TV in LG’s extensive line-up. But thanks to its 4K resolution, its support for the HDR basics, its full suite of smart TV apps and its eminently watchable picture, it just might represent the sweet spot of LG’s entire LED range.
There’s no denying the LG’s black tones could be deeper, but that should be balanced against the TV's great screen uniformity and smooth motion handling. Upscaling of sub-4K content is very well handled too, and gamers will appreciate the super-low 12ms response time. It even summons meaningful bass from its little speaker array, even if there’s not much width or separation to its sound.
This is full features, married with strong image quality, making it a great buy if you want a degree of future-proofing with your buy. Four HDMI ports is more than most of the sets here, and means you'll always have room for whatever new thing you need to connect. Dolby Vision support makes the most of HDR videos from key streaming services. Freeview Play and good smart TV app support makes it easy to actually stream those things (with the exception of Disney+, sadly).
Image quality is really good, if not quite excellent. As our full Hisense A7500F review says: "Its imagery is sharp and colour rich. It passes the T3 eye candy test. More discerning videophiles will be less enamoured with its limited contrast and brightness capped HDR performance – although it should be pointed out this is exactly where we’d expect a set with such budget-capped aspirations to sit."
Speaker quality is thoroughly middling – fine, but we'd recommend adding even a budget soundbar to give it an instant improvement – and the only real downside is that off-axis viewing struggles, so it's best in a living room where everyone gets to sit pretty much bang in front of the TV. Our Samsung TU7100 vs Hisense A7500F guide compares it to the closest Samsung model, if you want more on just those two.
Scaling back screen size when you're on a limited budget might not be the thing to do if you're furnishing a living room, but for anywhere else in the home a smaller TV can make a huge amount of sense. Particularly when it's something as neat as the LG 32LM6300, one of the highlights of our guide to the best 32-inch TVs.
You might look at it and think it unspectacular; we prefer 'functional', with a FHD display, a basic but very tidy design equally adept at wall-mounting and living on its stand, and a solid selection of connections including three HDI ports and built-in Wi-fi.
Delve deeper and you find some very solid processing tech, itself helmed by LG's excellent webOS smart platform. There's a quad-core processor which makes use of direct backlighting for some brilliant sharpness and colour reproduction. There's HDR support, covering HDR10 and HLG signals. There's even a low-lag gaming mode, covering what we'd imagine would be one of the key uses of a screen this size.
This is a great screen for streaming content, and it includes Freeview HD and satellite tuners too; the audio rocks, as well, with a virtual surround mode that really pops.
Our tips for buying a cheap 4K TV
So what should you look for when buying a cheap 4K telly, and what compromises can you expect to make?
Screen sizes obviously vary dramatically, depending on brand and price. A growing number of manufacturers are now pushing out smaller (40-43-inch) 4K panels to meet booming demand.
All TVs worth their salt are net connected, via Wi-Fi or ethernet, so check whether they support all the streaming and catch-up services you want them too. But bear in mind that just because a set doesn't include everything, that doesn't have to be a deal-breaker – the best media streamers include a huge range of services, and cost from only around £40, so if you're making a big saving on the TV, you still won't break the bank.
It’s also worth double checking that your shortlisted set has enough HDMI ports for your games consoles, Blu-ray player, set-top box and maybe that extra streamer if it's – this is an area where compromises are often made to get the retail price down.
Freeview Play is a handy bonus as it serves as both your programme guide looking forward and also lets you seamlessly delve into catch-up TV that you might have missed, without needing to load up separate apps.
HDR (high dynamic range) compatibility is a bonus, although these entry-level sets typically won’t be bright enough to dazzle with spectral highlights in the same way an 800-nit OLED panel will.
Another element that is usually majorly skimped on with cheaper TVs is the audio. So if you've got a few quid left over, consider buying a best soundbar or soundbase.