Top 5 best budget TVs in 2021 – The highest picture quality and performance for less, including OLED screens
The best thing about buying a TV in 2021 is that you have so much choice in a budget category. For $1000 (or slightly more) or even $500, you can buy a screen that provides the best bang for the buck. Actually, the only thing you are missing for the price is 8K resolution, although that will change in a couple of years. Yet, this doesn’t mean that you should wait, as what’s now on offer will satisfy you no matter if you need a TV for gaming, daytime shows, sports, or watching movies. All the best budget TVs in 2021 I recommend are great for all these purposes, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Instead of throwing tons of numbers and technical terms on you, I’ll focus on what everyone understands – pure performance.
|LG OLED55||[email protected]||55″||4 x HDMI 2.1 |
3 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|TCL 6-Series R635||[email protected]|
|65″||4 x HDMI 2.0 |
1 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense 43R6090G||[email protected]||43″||3 x HDMI 2.1 |
1 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Samsung UHD TU-8000||[email protected]||75″||3 x HDMI 2.0 |
2 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense H8G||[email protected]||55″||4 x HDMI 2.0|
2 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|LG OLED55||SEE ON AMAZON|
|TCL 6-Series R635||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense 43R6090G||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Samsung UHD TU-8000||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense H8G||SEE ON AMAZON|
What are the key characteristics of the best budget TV in 2021?
Screen size: The 55″ and 65″ inch options are by far the most popular and should be the best choice for most of us. While we all love big screens, they are also necessary because 4K resolution needs it to show you all the details. Buying a 43 “4K TV only to watch it from six feet distance is pretty pointless, as your eyes won’t see the improvement over 1080p.
HDR performance: Every 4K TV made in the last couple of years has HDR, but they perform differently. When buying a TV on a budget, you have to take extra care.
Brightness: Power without control doesn’t mean much, and that goes for brightness too. All the TVs I’ll review are well above average in this category, which is very important for HDR performance. However, some TVs are so bright that it impacts color reproduction, and that’s something we need to avoid.
Versatility: The best budget TV should let you connect the latest gaming consoles, enjoy 4K movie streaming while also having a respectable upscaling engine.
The best budget TV overall and the best budget OLED
Superb picture quality
Packed with gaming features
Four HDMI 2.1 inputs
Peak brightness is average, although better than most OLEDs
Minor setup issues
LG CX is my favorite TV overall but recommending it as a budget TV was insane until now. I won’t waste your time analyzing why the company made a huge price drop, and it doesn’t matter anyway. What’s important is that the 55″ model currently is an attractive purchase. One look at it, and you’ll know that LG CX is something special, as it’s incredibly thin. It’s also pretty heavy, mostly thanks to its impressive metal stand, making it perfectly stable.
LG CX comes in four sizes, including 48″, 55″, 65″, and 77-inch models.
Luckily, there’s no difference between them, so the 55″ version has all the same functions and picture quality as larger models that are still far beyond the budget category. While in 2021, you don’t need more than two HDMI 2.1 inputs (even if you’re a gamer), LG CX has four! This makes it future-proof, so I don’t see it getting obsolete anytime soon. For all your connectivity needs, you also have three USBs, although they don’t support the 3.0 standard.
The best of OLED technology
OLED screens are superior to any other technology, and it’s not a matter of personal taste. Unlike QLED, mini-LED, and other rivals, an OLED screen can effectively shut down individual pixels, thus creating perfect blacks. As you can imagine, this is very important no matter what you watch, as it establishes practically infinite contrast. I love the colors here, and the only thing that could be better is the brightness, which can’t compete with the best-LED screens. This also means that this TV doesn’t like daylight, but that’s the general problem with every OLED.
This also affects HDR, so some of the highlights might not be at the top level. However, this really is nitpicking, especially when Dolby Vision is enabled in supported games and movies. LG ignores HDR10+, which is no wonder since it’s basically the standard promoted by their biggest rival, Samsung. As upscaling is still very important, you’ll be happy to know that CX uses a top-of-the-line Alpha 9 chipset. The AI engine works wonders with a decent 1080p signal, but it will also greatly enhance SD content.
While LG CX is an excellent TV overall, it’s even a better value if you’re at least a casual gamer and have some of the latest consoles or a high-end gaming laptop. HDMI 2.1 means that you can experience gaming at [email protected], although the current picking is slim. What’s more critical is the support for VRR that prevents frame rate fluctuation, while 13.6 ms input lag is low even for first-person shooters.
I won’t sugarcoat it – LG CX is the most expensive TV on this list, but as OLED screens go, it’s also by far the most budget-friendly. If 55″ is what you need for your home, you’ll love it. While it’s a considerable investment, it will serve you for a very long time.
The best budget TV alternative and the best 65″ under $1000
Very bright screen
Supports Dolby Vision
A strong choice for gamers
Lacks HDMI 2.1
Input lag is among the worst on the test, but it’s still impressive
TCL 6-Series already has an excellent reputation, but the newest generation takes things to another level. There’s plenty to be excited about here, as even the most demanding crowd will find plenty to like. However, don’t expect much when it comes to design. The best thing about it are its thin bezels, while the wide legs mean that you need a lot of space on the table.
Surprisingly, 6-Series is available in only three sizes, but luckily, they should be suitable for almost everyone. The 55″ version is the smallest, but there are 65″ and 75″ alternatives with the same features. Input options are decent, with four HDMI 2.0 and a single USB 2.0. Keep reading to find out why the lack of HDMI 2.1 here is not a big deal, even for gamers.
Mini-LED display – Bright and colorful
TCL 6-Series uses a mini-LED display technology, and there’s plenty to like about it. This TV will impress you as it generates very bright pictures, which is especially important during the daytime. If your TV is in the room with plenty of light, I can already say that TCL 6-Series is the best choice you can make.
The HDR performance is similarly impressive, thanks to a strong display of colors and contrast, helped by improved local dimming. While mini-LED will never match an OLED TV, the difference is nothing to write home about. Traditionally, TCL supports the Dolby Vision camp for advanced HDR performance while ignoring HDR10+. This model uses AiPQ upscaling engine, so assuming you are watching HDTV content with a decent bitrate, the results won’t disappoint you.
Finally, we need to talk about gaming performance. While it’s true that this TV doesn’t implement HDMI 2.1, there’s plenty to like here. First, this is a rare HDMI 2.0 device that supports VRR for smoother gaming on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Secondly, you can enjoy [email protected] gaming, although it currently works well only on Microsoft’s latest consoles. While the 18.4 ms input lag is slower than some other displays on the test, in practice, this is enough even if you prefer fast multiplayer action. Thanks to ALLM, low input lag mode is activated automatically.
Excellent brightness, HDR performance, and gaming features make the 6-Series the top choice you can make if you need a 65″ screen for under $1000. The lack of HDMI 2.1 is the only thing reminding me that this device isn’t in the midrange category, although it beats most of the more expensive TVs.
The best small budget TV under $300 still packs a punch
Excellent black levels
Low input lag
Dolby Vision support
Narrow viewing angle
Limited HDR performance
Not so long ago, 43-inch screens weren’t considered small, but in 2021, it’s getting harder to find anything below 55″. That’s a shame, as you may still need one so you can use it as a bedroom or kitchen TV or maybe as a monitor for your budget laptop. Luckily, there are still plenty of decent models with low prices, and Hisense 43″ R6090G is the one to consider seriously. For less than $300, you can’t expect anything but plastic, although I never felt this model looks cheap. Highlights include mount options for smaller and larger tables and also surprisingly thin bezels.
R6090G comes in four different sizes, with 43″ being the smallest variant, with the rest being 50″, 55″, and 65″ versions. All models are the same when it comes to features, and if 50″ is not too big for you, go for that version since it has the best price per size ratio. Connectivity options are limited, but three HDMI 2.0 should be plenty enough for most. Knowing that, it’s no wonder that you also get a single USB 2.0.
Deep blacks and low input lag
Like many budget TVs, 43R6090G uses a VA panel. On the negative, this means that the peak brightness is limited, so don’t expect to see everything it offers in a room with lots of daylight. However, as the sun goes down, you’ll notice an impressive contrast ratio and black uniformity. VA panel also implies limited viewing angles, so keep that in mind too.
Insufficient brightness affects HDR performance, but again, we’re talking about sub-$300 TV. Wide color gamut isn’t supported, and while Dolby Vision is, keep your expectations realistic. Upscaling feels less important on smaller TVs, and Hisense really didn’t do much about it. SD content is disappointing, so hopefully, you don’t plan to watch it too much.
The Hisense R6090G series uses Roku TV, which is surprising as the company usually implements Android TV. However, Roku is a great choice, as it has a better interface and supports many streaming services. Another surprise is the low input lag, which goes below 13 ms. Advanced features like VRR or FreeSync aren’t supported, nor is ALLM.
Considering its price, Hisense R6090G is a fantastic choice, as black uniformity and input lag are better than on many much more expensive models. If you want a smaller TV which won’t hurt your budget, there’s no better choice at the moment.
The best big 4K budget TV brings impressive black levels
Low input lag
Deep black levels
Average peak brightness/h4>
Only three HDMI inputs
When buying a TV, you should always go for the right size. After all, buying a 55″ 4K OLED only to watch it from eight feet away or more is pointless, as you’ll miss most of the details. Even on a budget, you can have massive screens, and that’s where Samsung TU-8000 comes in. With a figure close to $1000, you have to wonder what compromises had to be made, so of course, I was a skeptic. Well, there’s nothing wrong with the design, as TU-8000 has thin borders, while wide legs are stable and easy to mount, so you don’t need screws.
While the 75″ version is the star of this test, TU-8000 comes in many different sizes, starting with a 43 “inch model. The 85” is the largest, but it’s way too expensive with a price closer to $2000. The first noteworthy compromise I found here is that this TV has only three HDMI inputs, so think about if that’s enough for you. As for the rest, expect two USB 2.0 and composite in, while component connectivity is unavailable.
Impressive contrast and input lag
The lack of dual LED technology is expected, but TU-8000 has excellent black uniformity and high contrast even without it. This makes it perfect for watching movies at night, even though local dimming is absent. This device uses a VA panel, meaning that the viewing angles are limited. Still, this giant 75″ version makes that less relevant than on smaller screens. I need to mention that the pick brightness is just above average, so lots of sunlight does hurt the picture quality.
Therefore, HDR can’t be really impressive, as it needs a brighter screen to shine. As expected, HDR10+ is here to make things better, but again, it’s hard to find the content supporting it. On the other hand, I can’t say anything bad about the upscaling performance. HDTV content looks well enough, and the same could be said for DVD movies.
Samsung TU-8000 impresses with its low input lag, going below 10 ms after a firmware update. Unfortunately, like most HDMI 2.0 budget TVs, this model is left without VRR support, but it implements ALLM. Still, make sure to first enable CEC and Game Mode Auto.
Samsung TU-8000 is the best large 4K TV on a budget, despite its average HDR performance and viewing angles. Gamers will love low input lag, while moviegoers will enjoy deep black levels and contrast.
The best in the $500 category showcases impressive brightness and HDR
A terrific choice for gaming
I already recommended H8G as the best budget gaming TV for $500, but the truth is, you need it even if you don’t have the latest Xbox or PlayStation. Hisense has quickly become the dominant force in the budget category, putting to shame much more respected names, including Sony or Samsung. Thin bezels and a choice of two standing positions set it above its price category, and 3.1-inch depth shouldn’t bother anyone.
This TV comes in four different sizes, but be aware that the 50″ and 55″ inch versions lack advanced audio options. However, the picture quality and everything else is the same. As for the input, H8G has four HDMI 2.0, which is twice as much as Samsung shamefully provides on its rival TU-7000. Next to it, expect also two USB 2.0 inputs and a composite in. Unfortunately, a component option is not available, making this TV unsuitable for older consoles such as Wii.
Advanced HDR features galore
I learned not to expect too much from a $500 TV, but H8G sets the standard for this price tag. A combination of decent local dimming, excellent contrast ratio, and a peak brightness of over 900 nits results in gorgeous picture quality. Also, the predefined settings are fine, but if you can get it professionally calibrated, it’s worth it.
Substantial peak brightness positively affects HDR performance, as well as wide color gamut, though this isn’t the TV that shows the technology at its finest. Nonetheless, this is the only product on the test which supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. I wish more manufacturers would go this route, as both standards have miserable backing. Upscaling won’t wow you, but HD content looked decent, with tolerable blacks.
Even though it lacks HDMI 2.1 and VRR, H8G will handle PS5 and Xbox Series X/S just fine. The 11.5 ms input lag is very impressive, but there’s no ALLM option. This means that you need to manually set the TV to a gaming mode, or the lag will stay at an intolerable 65 ms. Motion Rate 240 technology is included, so try it and see if you like it.
Whatever you spend most time gaming, watching sports, or enjoying movie nights with your family, Hisense H8G is the best choice for $500. For that price, you’ll get more than the essential features, while there’s no single element that’s a huge disappointment.
The Best Budget TV – Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to invest in a sound system?
You really should. Even the best and the most expensive TVs like LG OLEDs need at least a decent soundbar, as the built-in speakers are small and weak. As every TV manufacturer focuses on slimming down their products, that won’t change in the future. A soundbar is still the most elegant solution, especially if your new TV has wide legs with plenty of space between them and you don’t plan to mount it. An average soundbar will be a considerable upgrade even if you primarily watch regular TV, as it’s essential for gaming and movies.
What’s the right size for my next TV?
With 4K screens, you need to sit pretty close to see the improvements over full HD. If you have enough space for 65″ or 75″, then go for it! For example, you should watch a 65″ TV from 5.5-8 feet away as in that case, you’ll see the advantages of the 4K resolution. Of course, if you’re buying a TV to use it as a monitor, even 40″ should be big enough.
What is local dimming, and why is it important?
Unlike OLED screens, LED TVs can’t shut down individual pixels and create perfect blacks. However, many of them support local dimming to improve the situation significantly. With this feature present, TV can control backlighting zones, allowing a higher contrast. This highly benefits dark scenes in the movies but is in effect whatever you are watching.
What is a wide color gamut?
The current generation of TVs is not only about ultra HD resolution but also the color. A wide color gamut or WCG significantly improves the color range and greatly benefits HDR performance. In practice, this means that the number increases from the standard 16.7 million to more than a billion! And yes, the human eye can spot the difference easily! So, what’s the catch? Well, if you are watching regular TV, DVDs, or any SDR content, WCG is not employed. This technology is currently limited to 4K Blu-rays and streaming services like Amazon or Netflix. Usually, if the software supports HDR, it supports WCG.
Should I wall mount my TV?
Wall mounting a TV is an attractive option, although you need to invest money in the equipment and probably a professional who will install it for you. Nonetheless, if you want to do it, first check where HDMI and other inputs are located. Some inputs might become inaccessible in the process, especially if you are often connecting various devices. So, the decision to wall mount your TV is always circumstantial.
What am I missing if I can’t afford 8K TV?
Affordable 8K TVs are coming, and in a couple of years, their popularity will rise considerably. However, I really don’t see the point of buying one right now. By comparing the best 4K and 8K sets, the conclusion is that they are pretty much the same, except for the resolution. However, the problem is the total lack of 8K content. Streaming services aren’t offering 8K content, and 8K gaming is still not a thing. Finally, think about this – if you have a 65″ 8K TV, you need it to watch from only 2 feet away!
When will be the right moment to buy an 8K TV?
The truth is – no one knows, but it will take a lot of time before they become mainstream. I’ll be brave to suggest that the year 2026 is the key one, and there are a couple of reasons for it. First, by that time, the next generation of consoles will be pretty close, or Sony and Microsoft will upgrade their current systems to enable 8K gaming, despite denying this possibility at the moment. Also, while PC gamers can already enjoy 8K gaming, they need super expensive hardware to do it. In five years or so, the current top-of-the-line technology will be obsolete.
Finally, don’t ever forget about one major event in 2026 – FIFA World Cup comes to North America, with 60 games played in the United States. There’s no doubt that all relevant TV manufacturers will do everything to motivate broadcasters to implement 8K technology by then.
Roku or Android TV – Which one is better?
The good news is that both Roku and Android are just fine, as they support almost all relevant streaming services. However, they both have advantages, so Roku also supports close to 2,000 channels, with a lot of them being free. However, Roku was lacking HBO Max and is more often in conflict with content providers.
Yet, if you’re not tech-savvy, then Roku is a better choice. This software has a clean interface that is extremely easy to use while still letting you customize it. However, Android gives you so much more freedom to set it the way you like it. Also, Android is better at streaming content from your mobile devices, so if you use this function, Android is a smart choice.
Buying guide for the best budget TV in 2021
What is the best budget TV to buy in 2021?
When you’re buying a TV, you should have a clear picture of what’s important to you. Even my top choice might be the wrong option if it lacks some features or has what you don’t need. There’s no such thing as a perfect TV, but I’m still sure that one of these devices will work great for you.
OLED screens are bound to reach a budget category, but I didn’t think that LG would do it with their top model! LG CX 55″ is the pinnacle of 2020 technology, as it features everything you need, and probably more. This is an excellent TV for gamers, moviegoers, and everyone else, as you have to adore its perfect picture quality. Still, it’s the most expensive TV on this list, and maybe 55″ isn’t enough for your room.
In that case, TCL 6-Series R635 is the best alternative. For less than $1000, you’ll own a 65″ TV that’s not struggling with daylight, as does LG CX. This is thanks to its very bright display and the use of mini-LED technology. This also dramatically benefits HDR performance while keeping black levels healthy. Despite lacking HDMI 2.1, 6-Series is still a great gaming TV that supports VRR and [email protected]
But if you need a giant screen, Samsung 75-Inch Class Crystal UHD TU-8000 is your best bet. With a price tag slightly above $1000, this device is not all about size. Moviegoers will love it as it offers deep black levels, while gamers will appreciate low input lag. The viewing angles are quite limited, but with such a large screen, that is less of a problem.
Buying a smaller TV is getting harder, but you can still get a gem like Hisense 43R6090G. This is an extremely affordable device, as the 43″ and 50″ versions are below $300. This model’s characteristics are quite similar to Samsung TU-8000 series, as this is an excellent TV for watching movies and has a low input lag. On the negatives, you have to accept a narrower viewing angle and an average brightness.
Finally, if your budget is around $500, Hisense H8G remains the king. Its screen is surprisingly bright, resulting in high contrast and decent HDR performance. This is also the only device on the test supporting HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
What is the best budget TV in 2021?
While its price is still considerably above $1000, LG CX 55″ is the best budget solution for the OLED TV, thanks to its picture quality and features. Skip it only if it’s too small for your room. In that case, 65″ TCL 6-Series R635 is a healthy alternative that still impresses with color reproduction and gaming performance.
If you need a small TV, Hisense 43R6090G comes to the rescue. This product is very affordable while still offering great colors and contrast, even though the brightness is quite limited. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a giant 75″ Samsung TU-8000 that’s still suitable for the latest HDR content and gaming.
The 55″ H8G doesn’t have a serious rival in the $500 category, and the 65″ version also has an attractive price, so go for it if you can afford it. It’s hard to ignore the slick design, great colors, and decent gaming experience, despite lacking HDMI 2.0.