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Best TV under £500: Top televisions that won’t break the bank

An engaging home entertainment experience needn’t cost the earth – here’s our pick of the best TV under £500

As manufacturers push to stay ahead of each other with ever more dazzling features on their high-end TVs, their cheaper models keep inheriting a trickle-down of previously premium features. While many of our favourite TVs cost well over £1,000, you’ll be genuinely amazed at the capabilities of the best TVs under £500.

At this point, we do need to stress that while the quality (and size) of TV you can get for under £500 has improved tremendously over the past few years, you still have to accept a few compromises along the way. So, while a particular sub-£500 TV might excel with its picture quality, it might struggle to sound decent. Or while it might offer a content-rich smart TV platform, its operating system might be sluggish or buggy.

The options we’ve selected as the best TVs under £500 do a better job of balancing the many elements that go into a good TV than most in their price range, but we’ve highlighted any compromises a set makes to ensure you pick the right telly for your particular circumstances.

READ NEXT: The best TVs

Best TV under £500: At a glance

Best selection of appsTCL RC630K (~£299)Check price at Currys
Best Samsung optionSamsung CU7100 (~£289)Check price at Amazon
Best for small roomsSony KD-32W800 (~£349)Check price at Amazon
Best Fire TV optionAmazon Fire TV Omni QLED (~£450)Check price at Amazon
Best Android TV optionTCL C645K (~£299)Check price at Currys

How to choose the best TV under £500

Before casting your eye over our favourite TVs under £500, it’s worth considering a few key questions to help you narrow down your search.

What connections do I need?

TVs under £500 vary when it comes to the number of HDMI inputs they carry. Some offer as few as two, and some offer as many as four. So count how many HDMI-based sources you have and make sure, if possible, that the TV you choose has enough HDMI ports to support them.

If you’re a keen gamer, it’s also worth spending time finding out which of the latest HDMI 2.1-related gaming features a prospective TV supports. In truth, for less than £500 you’ll be lucky to find support for anything other than Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM), but if you’re willing to spend a little bit more, the TCL C745K offers 4K@144Hz and VRR for around £600.

Should I prioritise picture quality or screen size?

While it’s not as clear-cut as it used to be, the sub-£500 TV category can still feel like it’s full of big screens that don’t offer much quality or many features, and smaller screens that provide better specifications and performance. So, at this level of the market, it’s sometimes better to think smaller to get a more satisfying performance level overall.

READ NEXT: Sky Glass TV review

How important is the panel type of a TV under £500?

There are no OLED TVs available for less than £500 at present, but there are a few different types of LCD technology and it’s worth having at least a basic understanding of what these are.

The most obvious distinction to draw is between LCD TVs that use Vertical Alignment (VA) and In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels. While IPS panels (used by LG and scattered through the ranges of numerous other brands) can give you a slightly better viewing angle before contrast reduces, their native contrast tends to be lower than that of VA panels. VA panels, on the other hand, lose contrast and colour saturation from narrower viewing angles.

It’s also worth being aware of the difference between edge and direct lighting. Edge-lit LCD TVs illuminate their pictures using lights arranged around the screen’s sides, while direct-lit LCD TVs light pictures using LEDs positioned directly behind the screen. Experience suggests that direct-lit TVs often deliver better contrast than edge-lit models.

READ NEXT: Sky Stream

Do HDR formats matter?

Some sub-£500 TVs support either the Dolby Vision or HDR10+ formats of high dynamic range picture technology. One or two models even support both.

These so-called “active” types of HDR send extra scene-by-scene picture information to compatible screens to help them deliver more accurate and dynamic pictures. While cheaper TVs typically don’t hit high enough brightness levels to truly take advantage of HDR, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ can actually benefit picture quality more on relatively affordable TVs than they do on premium models.

READ NEXT: The best 8K TVs

How we test the best TVs under £500

Our in-house process for testing TVs is the same regardless of whether a television costs £200 or £2,000 and involves using an X-Rite colorimeter in conjunction with Portrait Displays’ Calman colour calibration software.

These tools allow us to gather data relating to the SDR and HDR performance of a display, including colour gamut coverage, peak brightness, colour accuracy and screen uniformity, and some of our freelancers use them, too. Other contributors have their own bespoke tests, all of which involve watching a great deal of content on the television they’re testing.

We test every different picture mode extensively while consuming content from a wide range of sources that make use of specific HDR or audio formats such as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Netflix is primarily used for Dolby Vision material and various genres of content are viewed to see how they’re all handled. For HDR10+ performance we often use Prime Video or a 4K Blu-ray, and we spend plenty of time watching content on terrestrial channels too, gauging how effectively 4K upscaling is implemented if it’s something the TV offers.

Like picture performance, audio performance is evaluated while viewing content across a wide range of types and genres. From blockbuster films with booming soundtracks to dialogue-heavy soaps, we try to expose a TV to as varied a selection as possible in order to determine its strengths and weaknesses. This includes pushing it to maximum volume and playing around with whatever audio settings may be available.

Our final areas of focus are design/build quality, operating system/smart platform and gaming performance. The former involves a level of subjectivity regarding aesthetic appeal, but we pay close attention to the materials used in the construction of a TV and whether it feels sturdy, well-built and durable. TV operating systems are tested by using them extensively and navigating around the various streaming and app options provided. We also put supported voice assistants through their paces using a series of commands to see how well they respond and how accurately controls are implemented. Gaming, meanwhile, is undertaken on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X current-generation consoles, though most TVs costing under £500 don’t support fancy features such as 4K@120Hz or VRR.

The best TVs under £500

1. TCL RC630K: Best selection of smart apps

Price when reviewed: From £299 (43in) | Check price at Currys

Despite not being that bright, the TCL RC630K delivers impressive picture quality for the money and benefits from support for all four major HDR formats. Input lag in Game mode is very low, making it a solid pick for gamers on a budget, but the television’s biggest draw is its Roku TV operating system.

The platform supports a huge range of applications, including popular streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime, Freeview Play is present and correct, and apps are quick to load and easy to navigate. The whole smart experience is a very intuitive one and, given its eminently affordable price tag, the RC630K is hard to fault.

Read our TCL RC630K review

Key specs – Screen sizes: 43in, 50in, 55in (tested) and 65in; Screen type: Direct-lit VA LCD (QLED); Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 60Hz; HDR format support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision; Connectivity: 3 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB-A, optical digital output, 3.5mm audio output, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi

Check price at Currys

2. Samsung CU7100: Best entry-level Samsung TV

Price when reviewed: From £309 (43in) | Check price at Amazon

Best TV under £500 - Samsung CU7100The CU7100 may not have the bells and whistles of more expensive Samsung TVs but is a capable 4K performer offering excellent picture quality and a great range of features. Colour accuracy is impressive in Filmmaker Mode, motion performance is good, and effective tone-mapping helps the CU7100 deliver HDR content effectively despite its panel’s limited brightness.

Samsung’s Tizen OS is another strength. It’s responsive, provides access to just about every streaming app you could ask for and finding content is very simple. Samsung’s TV Plus ad-supported television service is included too, as is support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, meaning you’re covered where smart functionality is concerned. The CU7100 is available in a wide of screen sizes, although only the three smaller models can be picked up for under £500.

Read our Samsung CU7100 review

Key specs – Screen sizes: 43in, 50in (tested), 55in, 58in, 65in; 70in, 75in and 85in Screen type: Direct-lit VA LCD; Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 60Hz; HDR format support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG; Connectivity: 3 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB-A, optical digital output, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 5

3. Sony KD32W8000PU: Best TV under £500 for small rooms

Price when reviewed: £349 | Check price at Currys

Despite 32in TVs still selling like hotcakes (predominantly for second-room use), most manufacturers have started taking an increasingly price-led, homogeneous approach to them. Significant differences between different models are getting harder to find, while picture and sound quality are increasingly being put on the back burner in a race to the price-based bottom.

Happily, Sony’s KD32W800PU is the exception to the rule. Despite its rather unassuming design and mere HD Ready rather than Full HD resolution, the KD32W800PU delivers where it counts, with levels of picture and sound quality you can’t get anywhere else in today’s 32in world.

Its pictures have the brightness, colour and even contrast to make a much more potent spectacle out of HDR sources than many much bigger and pricier rivals, while its sound is detailed, crisp and well-rounded, avoiding the thin, hemmed-in, crackly quality so common with other 32in models.

It has all the smart features most users will need, too, courtesy of an Android TV smart system backed up by Google Assistant voice control. The Android TV system can be a little confusing and buggy, but the occasional reboot doesn’t feel like much of a price to pay for so much excellence elsewhere.

Key specs – Screen size: 32in; Screen type: Direct-lit VA LCD; Resolution: HD Ready (1,366 x 768); Refresh rate: 60Hz; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG; Connectivity: 3 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB-A, digital optical audio output, 3.5mm audio output, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, RF tuner port

Check price at Currys

4. Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED: Best Fire TV under £500

Price when reviewed: From £480 (43in) | Check price at Amazon

Best TV under £500 - Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED

Few affordable TVs support full-array local dimming and this gives Amazon’s Fire TV Omni QLED a distinct advantage over many of its competitors. Its Mini LED backlight with FALD allows for much better contrast control, while the panel’s quantum dot filter helps facilitate rich and punchy colour reproduction. It’s important to note, however, that the 43in model does not use FALD so is inferior to the larger options in the picture quality department.

Away from PQ, the Fire TV Omni QLED performs well in most areas. It’s got an extensive set of features, including built-in Amazon Alexa, a pleasingly minimalist appearance, a solid selection of connectivity options, and the Fire TV OS provides access to just about every app and streaming service you could wish for.

The panel is limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, which takes 4K@120Hz gaming off the table, but this and a simply perfunctory sound system are understandable sacrifices made to keep the Omni QLED’s price down.

Read our Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED review

Key specs – Screen size: 43in, 50in, 55in and 65in (tested); Screen type: VA-style quantum dot LCD with Mini LED backlight; Resolution: 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 60Hz; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ Adaptive, Dolby Vision IQ; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB-A, optical, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

5. TCL C645K: Best Android TV under £500

Price when reviewed: From £299 (43in) | Check price at Currys

Best TV under 3500 - TCL C645KAndroid TV is a very popular television operating system and you won’t find a better option running it for under £500 than the TCL C645K. The quantum dot-powered LED panel lacks local dimming but picture quality is perfectly watchable, with colours reproduced naturally and shadows rendered with a decent amount of detail. Sound quality is surprisingly good given the C645K only uses a pair of downward-firing speakers with 15W of amplification and there’s support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X, which is a bonus.

Those who can’t live without UK TV catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer will require a streaming stick to access them as they’re not built-in, a frustrating omission, but not one that damages the C645K’s budget credentials too severely given how much else it does well.

Read our TCL C645K review

Key specs – Screen sizes: 43in, 50in, 55in, 65in (tested) 75in, 75in and 85in Screen type: QLED; Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 60Hz; HDR format support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision; Connectivity: 3 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB-A, optical digital output, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Check price at Currys

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