You really don’t need to spend a fortune to own a leading-edge TV – there are some amazing TV bargains to be had right now, even if your budget is limited to £500 or less. While you might think you’re about to sacrifice all the good stuff to meet this price point, manufacturers have other ideas.
Ultra HD image resolution is now very much within reach, as TV makers shift the bulk of their production to 4K panels. But there’s some interesting Full HD models to be had too. If you want a new screen able to make the most of a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, or to sate your binge-watching habit, then you’re in luck.
You can even expect to get some level of network functionality, although in many cases what you’ll encounter is a stripped back platform that mainly offers the most popular streaming services. Still, Netflix is Netflix, right?
And if the smart platform on your chosen TV is limited, it’s really not very expensive to add a streaming HDMI stick (like an Amazon Fire TV or Roku dongle). Going for a separate solution may even offer a better connected experience in the long run.
Of course, when it comes to design and build quality, you can’t expect too much at the budget end of the market. To mitigate against this, our advice is to look for TVs which make a virtue of their thin bezel and simple pedestal. Minimalism is always your (design) friend.
A more contentious area when buying budget is HDR (High Dynamic Range). While many sub-£500 sets will support HDR, what they actually offer is basic compatibility. Cut-price flatscreens simply do not have the ability to display the kind of luminous peak brightness that really eye-catching HDR can offer.
Audio quality is also likely to be fairly routine, with low cost drivers and limited amplification. But again this can be addressed at a later date, with a soundbar or separate audio solution.
Thankfully, you don't have to wade through reams of tech specs to discover the sharpest bargain buys. TechRadar’s guide to the best TVs available for under £500 will point you in the right direction. If you want to sharpen up your image for less, read on…
That said, there are a few other cracking TVs out there for less than half a grand; so here, kicking off with the Toshiba, are the five best TVs under £500, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio…
This high value 4K Toshiba TV may well have you doing a double take. It packs quite a punch when it comes to features. Part of an expansive range from the brand, this 43-incher combines a 2160p resolution panel with Freeview Play tuner and a variety of streaming apps, courtesy of the Toshiba Smart Portal.
The former offers a full range of catch-up TV services, with BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, Demand 5, All4 and UKPlay, with later contributes Netflix and Youtube. You can even Miracast images from a mobile to the screen.
Picture quality is UHD sharp, but there’s no HDR support. The panel isn’t wide colour gamut capable either, but if you’re gaming, watching Sky Q or streaming 4K from Netflix, this limitation won’t make a difference.
The set looks good, if a bit plasticky, and offers versatile connectivity. There are four HDMIs, a SCART, and three USBs. Audio is punchy, with a 20W output, but you might want to consider adding a small footprint soundbar just to improve clarity.
Philips 6-series sets are often a first port of call if you want a high-value flatscreen with an edge. This particular model combines classic lines with a simple pedestal stand and two sided stereo Ambilight.
We’ve long been fans of Philips scene-setting Ambilight technology, and on this range you get to enjoy it with 4K HDR and catch-up packed Freeview Play.
Ambilight, if you've never used it in the past, allows you to wash your walls with the colours of onscreen action, or bathe them in solid hues. When playing music, the set will pulsate its Ambilight LED lights with the beat, while gaming can make your room positively throb with colour.
But this set is about more than a few cheap parlor tricks: Image quality is class-leading. Philips Pixel Plus UHD image processing ensures clarity and a decent level of contrast. The TV’s pixel dense screen brings a pleasing smoothness to both Full HD and UHD sources. The TV is compatible with HDR10, and has the brand’s own own HDR Plus processing on top, but it’s not overly bright. We measured peak white luminance at just over 350 nits (cd/m2), which is comparable to a budget SDR model.
Despite the low price, there’s an effective smart portal here, with 4K Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video available, amongst others.
All things considered, this is a crowd-pleasing 4K budget buy.
This 40-inch Bravia boasts HDR, but surprisingly it’s not 4K. Instead, Sony has grafted HDR compatibility onto a regular 1080p set, with a view to wooing HDR gamers (all PS4s offer HDR gaming). Sony has two models in this hybrid range, the 32-inch RE40 (KDL-32RE403) and the 40-inch RE45 (KDL-40RE453), featured here.
It’s not a bad strategy, not least because at 40-inches and below, UHD resolution is actually quite difficult to appreciate at a normal viewing distance. Small UHD pixels are also less bright than larger HD ones.
Cosmetically, the KDL-40RE453 looks entirely presentable. The thin bezel frame has an aluminium-style trim, coupled to a very stable central pedestal (reassuring if this set is going to end up in a kids bedroom). There are only two HDMI inputs though, which could limit system options. Other connections include twin USBs (one for timeshifting onto an external USB hard drive) and a digital optical audio output.
Picture quality is above average. Detail is boosted by Sony’s X-Reality PRO image processing. As this is a regular 50Hz panel, it only offers basic motion handling (rated Motionflow XR 400 Hz by Sony). There’s no smart platform either.
We reckon the RE45 is well worth shortlisting, especially if you want an above average budget 1080p panel for gaming.
Size matters when it comes to 4K, which is why a 50-inch screen for less than 500 smackers is extremely enticing.
That said, Hisense has a reputation for value, which is typified by this budget beater: A Freeview Play tuner ensures a full raft of catch-up services, including UK Play, while Hisense’s own Vidaa Lite smart portal offers Netflix 4K, Amazon Video, YouTube and Wuaki TV.
Build quality and design are much better than you might expect at this price point, and connections include three HDMIs with an option for component for legacy gear.
There’s no HDR support or wide colour support, but native 4K images are undeniably sharp, and the set does a reasonable job with HD sources too
The set’s audio performance is predictably routine, although it does boast dbx-tv processing technology, which includes a faux virtual surround sound mode. Of course, there’s an optical digital output for a soundbar, if that’s more your jam.
Overall, this big N5300 set should be considered hulking good value.
LG’s sub-£500 hero is the 4K 43-inch 43UJ670V, which offers both a high level of HDR support and a Freeview Play tuner, plus the brand’s own, class leading webOS smart platform. Now in its v3.5 iteration, webOS offers lots of cool functionality, including a Gallery mode and 360 degree video playback. Netflix 4K, Amazon Video, YouTube and Now TV are all integrated.
The UJ670V may be fairly cookie cutter in design, just an ultra thin bezel and curved pedestal, but connectivity is also good, with four HDMI inputs, a legacy AV connection, and a digital optical audio output.
The benefits of 4K resolution will be limited at this size (you’ll need to buy a larger model from higher in the range to really enjoy UHD clarity) but colour vibrancy is high. The set supports both HDR10 and broadcast HLG. LG also employs Ultra Luminance, a local dimming technique, to maximise peak highlights. A contrast booster provides a visual lift to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content.
Off-axis viewing is superb, thanks to the use of an IPS panel. Colour and contrast don’t drain away when you’re not occupying the best seat in the house.
Onboard audio is aided and abetted by DSP faux surround effects. In all, this is a superior budget 4K proposition.
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