The best budget TV in 2021 – The highest picture quality and performance for less
The best thing about buying a TV in 2021 is that you have so much choice in the budget category. For $1000 or even $500, you can purchase a screen providing the best bang for the buck. The only things you are missing for the price are the OLEDs and 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. The best budget TVs in 2021 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.
|TCL R646||[email protected]||65″||2xHDMI 2.1|
|SEE ON BESTBUY|
|Hisense U8G||[email protected]||65″||2xHDMI 2.1|
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense 43R6090G||[email protected]||43″||3 x HDMI 2.1 |
1 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Vizio M series||[email protected]||70″||4 x HDMI 2.0 |
1 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense U6G||[email protected]||55″||4 x HDMI 2.0|
2 x USB 2.0
|SEE ON AMAZON|
|TCL R646||SEE ON BESTBUY|
|Hisense U8G||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense 43R6090G||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Vizio M series 70||SEE ON AMAZON|
|Hisense U6G||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 them to show you all the details. Buying a 43 “4K TV only to watch it from six feet away 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 above average in this category, which is very important for HDR performance. However, some TVs are so bright that it impacts color reproduction, and we need to avoid that.
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 does just about everything!
Includes HDMI 2.1
Wide color gamut
HDR10+ and Dolby Vision supported
Limited viewing angles
It doesn’t support G-Sync
TCL TVs are regular on my list, as R635 was my favorite for under $1000. While that one was an excellent value, R646 brings some key improvements, which turns it into the top choice. One of the first enhancements you’ll experience is the minimalistic metal feet that leave enough space for a soundbar. Yet, the back is rather bulky, so keep that in mind if you want it on your wall.
TCL offers R646 in three sizes, including 55″, 65″ and 75″ models. While I recommend the 65″ version, Best Buy occasionally drops the price of the 75″ model, selling it for only $100 more. Of course, you would want that deal! The good news is that all sizes use the same panel type, showing no visible differences.
Unlike the R635, R646 has two HDMI 2.1 inputs, with two HDMI 2.0. Other connectivity options include a tuner, ethernet, digital and analog audio out, and two USBs. You’ll have to buy an adapter if you need composite in, as it’s not in the package.
Exceptional brightness and HDR performance
Unfortunately, many budget TVs often have an average brightness, which limits their use in daytime conditions. Yet, R646 is incredible even in SDR. If you want a TV in a room that receives plenty of light, this is the one. Additionally, this TV is terrific at handling reflections and has excellent contrast, with decent black levels. The only negatives come from average viewing angles, which is typical for a VA panel. While the default color values are decent, I recommend the calibration, which will improve it a lot.
Massive brightness translates well to HDR, so the compatible movies and games will have that easily visible extra shine. TCL didn’t want to be a part of format wars, supporting Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Both still have a minimal presence, with Dolby Vision having a slight advantage. As for the upscaling, it’s excellent, unless you go down to 480p, which has aspect ratio issues.
I already mentioned that R646 includes two HDMI 2.1 connections, which is great news for gamers with the latest consoles or high-end gaming laptops. This includes [email protected] fps gaming (in supported titles) but also VRR and Freesync. This makes it completely compatible with the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Finally, the 14 ms input lag isn’t the fastest on the test, but it’s still more than enough, even for the most intense games.
The R646 is the best TCL TV ever, but more importantly, it’s also the best TV overall with a price only slightly above $1000. With massive brightness, excellent colors, and improved gaming performance, it will handle any content at a high level.
The best under $1000 TV is an excellent value for gamers
The best budget gaming TV
HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
Excellent default colors
Not as bright as TCL 646
Hisense currently has a solid presence in the TV market, offering devices for very attractive prices. This is the case with U8G, which replaces H9G while improving over it for below $1000. These two TVs look almost identical, with U8G offering above-average build quality, despite mostly being made of plastic. The stand is excellent and not very wide.
The U8G comes in two sizes only, including 55″ and 65″. These are currently the most popular dimensions, so it’s not a massive surprise that Hisense made this decision. Yet, these two models aren’t the same. While the 55″ variant has 132 local dimming zones, the 65″ is significantly better at 360. This isn’t a deal-breaker for the smaller model, but it’s another reason why I recommend the larger one.
Out of four HDMI connections, two are HDMI 2.1, making the device future-proof. Other inputs include two USBs, digital and optical audio out, tuner, and ethernet. Composite in is also present but via an adapter.
Ready for the next-gen experience
If you want a TV performing great without any calibration, U8G is the best on the test. The wide color gamut looks fantastic by default, while black levels and reflection handling is terrific. The same goes for the SDR brightness and contrast, so you can safely watch this TV during daylight. Of course, the VA panel makes the picture washed away if you look at it from an angle.
HDR brightness is also terrific, even to the point it sometimes goes over the limit. However, maybe you won’t even notice it as Hisense improved the situation via firmware updates. Like TCL, Hisense TV sets support HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, and I wish more manufacturers would do the same. The upscaling does a solid job, but don’t expect much from it. Yet, even DVDs will look good.
Despite being terrific for sports or movie watching, it’s evident that this screen is geared toward gamers. The HDMI 2.1 support is crucial in that segment, as it also includes VRR for smoother gameplay. PC gamers will love this model, as it’s compatible with FreeSync and G-Sync. Gaming on the latest Sony and Microsoft consoles is an enjoyable experience, although the PS5 still lacks VRR.While TCL 646 has slightly better picture quality and is balanced for everyday use, Hisense U8G is the perfect alternative. This device has somewhat lower brightness and HDR quality, but it offers every necessary gaming feature and is the best budget gaming TV.
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 next to 50″, 55″, and 65″ versions. All models have the same 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. Other available inputs are digital optical audio out, analog audio out, composite, tuner, and ethernet.
Deep blacks and low input lag
Like many LED 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 didn’t do much about it. SD content is disappointing, so hopefully, you don’t plan to watch it too much.
One of the best features for gamers is the low input lag, which goes below 13 ms in the gaming mode. This is more than enough, even for fast multiplayer action. Advanced features like VRR or FreeSync aren’t supported, nor is ALLM. Nonetheless, you can toy with Motion Rate 120 technology and see if you like it.
Hisense R6090G is a fantastic choice considering its price, as black uniformity and input lag are better than on many 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 is an excellent gaming TV
HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision
Low input lag
Average peak brightness
Limited viewing angles
Even if you’re on a budget, that doesn’t mean you have to give up TVs with massive screens. Even better, lots of them don’t make huge sacrifices to keep the price attractive. This is the case with the Vizio M-Series 75″ which has a few pleasant surprises. Yet, nothing is unexpected about its relatively simple design. However, I like the ability to adjust the height. There’s also plenty of space for a soundbar, although you’ll need a wide table for this TV.
Vizio wants to cover most of the budget TV space with M-Series, as it offers six different sizes, starting with a 50″ model. The 75″ version is the largest one, but the 70″ one is also a good choice.
What’s strange is that M-Series is advertised as HDMI 2.1. compatible, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. At least we get four HDMI 2.0 inputs with the standard USB 2.0, digital and optical audio out, tuner, and the ethernet. There’s no composite for your old gaming consoles, but the picture quality would be awful anyway.
VRR support for smooth gaming
As M-Series uses VA panels, you can expect a terrific contrast ratio. This includes deep blacks, further corrected via local dimming. Of course, the trade-off is the limited viewing angle, so make sure to take the central or near central position. It also handles reflections just fine, so you can watch it during daylight. While the 50-inch version’s peak brightness is only about 400 nits, the 75-inch model takes this to 700 nits.
Yet, this makes HDR performance only decent, although it’s not fair to expect much more for the price. On the bright side (pun not intended), Vizio TVs support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Even though upscaled 1080p content looks terrific, DVDs have visible artifacts.
With 11.2 ms input lag, M-Series rivals the best gaming TVs. This is more than enough even for competitive online gaming. Yet, there’s even more for the gamers here! ALLM automatically enables gaming mode, but the big surprise is VRR support. This function makes the frame rate buttery smooth, although PS5 still doesn’t have it yet.
As it supports ALLM and VRR with low input lag, the M7-series is an excellent option for gamers on a budget who need a big screen. However, you’ll also enjoy watching movies thanks to pristine picture quality. While I would love better HDR and wider viewing angles, it’s hard to ask more for this price.
The best under $500 TV improves over the excellent H8G for a lower price
Low input lag
Excellent low-res upscaling
HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision
Narrow viewing angles
We loved Hisense H8G, universally acclaimed as the best budget TV you could purchase for close to $500. As expected, the company wants to continue dominating the market, replacing it with the UG6 model. I wanted to know if this is practically the same device with a slight redesign, or we could hope for more. However, it does look striking with thin bezels and a minimalistic stand. Nevertheless, notice that you’ll need a wide table, and even then, the legs aren’t very solid. Yet, they leave plenty of space for a soundbar.
U6G comes in four different versions, ranging from 50 to 75 inches. All models offer the same functionality, although the 55-inch version is our choice for less than $500. However, for $150 more, you can buy a 65-inch version which is also a best-buy.
This TV offers four HDMI 2.0, so you’ll easily connect all your devices. Finally, there are two USB 2.0 inputs, digital and analog audio out, composite in, tuner, and ethernet.
Impressive HDR features
As the peak brightness is only 600 nits, that will remind you that U6G is still a budget TV. However, this doesn’t mean that the picture quality is seriously compromised. On the contrary, contrast radio is excellent, while the local dimming also looks impressive for the price. As this is a VA panel, viewing angles are very limited. Hence, watch it from the central position.
The average peak brightness affects HDR, but you’ll notice the difference when you watch movies or play games when it’s enabled. Luckily, Hisense supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, which is still a rarity. I also need to mention the upscaling, which works wonders on DVDs and similar low-res content.
With 10.8 ms input lag, U6G is an excellent choice even for fast multiplayer games on your PS5 or Xbox Series consoles. One improvement over H8G is ALLM support, meaning that the gaming mode is enabled when needed. As expected, there’s no HDMI 2.1 or VRR needed to experience the current-gen consoles to the fullest. Yet, I’ll remind you once more that [email protected] fps games are still a rarity.
Hisense U6G is great overall TV that delivers fast gaming performance and picture quality to make your favorite movies shine. While some of its features remind us that it’s a budget TV, it also routinely punches above its weight.
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 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, and 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 to notice the advantages of the 4K resolution. Yet, 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 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 their popularity will rise considerably in a couple of years. However, I 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 video, 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 for a couple of reasons. 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. 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 – the 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 integrate 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 wise 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.
With R646, TCL sits on the throne among the budget TVs. This device has the best picture quality on the test, which includes deep blacks and high brightness. HDR also looks incredible, and HDMI 2.1 makes this TV fully compatible with current generation consoles. If you and your family enjoy every type of content, this is the best choice to make.
Hisense U8G is the absolute best TV under $1000, and in many segments, it’s close or even better than TCL 646. While the overall brightness and picture quality are slightly lower, it still provides a terrific HDR experience, adding HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Finally, this is the best budget gaming TV packed with every possible feature, including HDMI 2.1, VRR, and low input lag.
But if you need a giant screen, Vizio M-Series 75″ is the best option. For less than $1000, you’ll get excellent picture quality so that you can enjoy all your favorite movies. However, gamers will be even happier because of VRR support. The VA panel limits the viewing angles, but the massive screen makes it less of an issue.
Buying a smaller TV is getting harder, but you can still get a gem like the Hisense 43R6090G. This is a highly affordable device, as the 43″ and 50″ versions are below $300. This model’s characteristics are pretty similar to the Samsung TU-8000 series, including a low input lag. On the negatives, you have to accept a narrower viewing angle and an average brightness.
Finally, if your budget is less than $500, Hisense U6G is unbeatable. This model has impressive color reproduction, terrific upscaling and supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Gamers will also appreciate very low input lag, combined with ALLM support. Just don’t be surprised by the limited viewing angles.
What is the best budget TV in 2021?
With R646, TLC made a TV capable of handling everything from sports broadcasts to games and movies. It’s also very bright and packed with features. Alternatively, Hisense U8G offers almost the same experience for under $1000 and is the best choice for a regular gamer.
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 757″ Vizio M-Series suitable for gaming and long movie nights.
The 55″ U6G is unrivaled for less than $500, as it visibly improves over the excellent H8G. The VA panel guarantees realistic colors and wide contrast, while the input lag is minimal. This makes the TV suitable for the whole family.