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

John Archer
28 Mar 2023

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

While many things in life seem to be getting more expensive by the day, there’s one essential piece of your home entertainment kit that’s actually getting more affordable with every passing month: the humble television.

Ever-increasing competition in the entry-level/lower mid-range TV world as new brands enter the fray is driving prices lower and lower. And 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. So far has this “cheaper but better” trend come that 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: Our favourite TVs for every budget

Best TV under £500: At a glance

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), although TCL has shown already with its C735K that 4K/120H and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) gaming really is possible for so little money.

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 really 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

The best TV under £500

1. TCL 55C735K: The best TV under £500 overall

Price: £529 | Buy now from Hughes

Yes, we realise it looks like we’ve cheated right out of the gate with the TCL 55C735K by including a TV which, at the time of writing, costs £29 more than our £500 cut-off point. However, this TV did sell for £499 during Black Friday 2022, and we’re confident it will hit that level again during the next big sales period, or as TCL gets closer to launching its 2023 range.

Even as it stands now, the 55in TCL C735K is ridiculously good value. Particularly outstanding is its support for the latest cutting-edge gaming features of 4K at 120Hz and VRR. There’s no other TV at anything like this price level that offers these features. Picture quality is also impressive for the money, benefiting from more contrast, richer colours and better sharpness and motion handling than the vast majority of similarly affordable rivals. It even supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, for that extra bit of pop from compatible material.

Sound quality – delivered in conjunction with audio brand Onkyo – is also much fuller and cleaner than the usual wimpy, congested fare typically found on sub-£500 TVs. The Google TV smart system is a plus, too, though we couldn’t find the BBC iPlayer or All4 catch-up apps. With external streaming sticks so affordable these days, this is far from a dealbreaker given the 55C735K has so much to offer for so little cash.

Key specs – Screen size: 55in; Screen type: Direct-lit VA quantum dot LCD; Resolution: 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 120Hz; Dimensions (WDH): 1,227 x 51.9 x 711mm; Weight: 19.4kg; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision; Connectivity: 2 x HDMI 2.1, 2 X HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB-A, digital optical audio output, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, RF tuner port

2. Samsung UE43BU8500: Best TV under £500 for smart features

Price: £389 | Buy now from Amazon

Samsung has long been the leading force in the mid-range and budget LCD world, and the 43in UE43BU8500 is a cracking example of what you can get if you’re willing to sacrifice a few screen inches.

Its greatest strength is the breadth of smart functionality and features on offer. Every streaming service we can think of is present and correct, and if a service is capable of 4K and HDR picture quality, you can be sure the BU8500 will be able to deliver them in all their glory.

Its pictures are natural and detailed, revealing the “4K difference” despite its relatively small screen size, and its Crystal Colour system delivers an unusually refined and well-balanced palette of more than a billion colour tones. Especially when you feed it HDR10+ sources. Contrast is above average, too, despite the screen being edge-lit, and it delivers its superior pictures and smarts from an exceptionally trim “AirSlim” chassis.

The UE43BU8500’s audio is a little underpowered and some aspects of its interface can be sluggish and confusing. The rewards in both performance and smart terms, though, make these niggles easy to live with.

Read our full Samsung BU8500 review for more details

Key specs – Screen size: 43in; Screen type: Edge-lit VA LCD; Resolution: 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 50Hz; Dimensions (WDH): 966 x 26 x 560mm; Weight: 8.4kg; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+; Connectivity: 3 x HDMI 2.0; 1 x USB-A, digital optical audio output, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, RF tuner port

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

Price: £349 | Buy now from 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; Dimensions (WDH): 733 x 78 x 442mm; Weight: 4.9kg; 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

Buy now from Currys

4. Philips 55PUS7906: Best TV under £500 for design

Price: £473 | Buy now from Hughes

The 55PUS7906 looks attractive enough when it’s turned off, thanks to an exceptionally slim and nicely finished silvery screen frame that sits atop a pair of support feet so narrow when viewed straight on that you barely notice them. It’s when you turn the 55PUS7906 on, though, that its full majesty is revealed, as LEDs ranged around three of its rear sides explode into life, bathing the screen in a spectacular halo of colour and light.

This unique-to-Philips feature, called Ambilight, can even match both the tone and position of colours in the pictures you’re watching, adding a level of immersion to the viewing experience other TVs can only dream of. Especially with so little screen frame to sit between the on-screen action and the Ambilight effect.

The 55PUS7906 also delivers richly coloured and detailed 4K pictures (despite some contrast limitations associated with its IPS screen), especially if you can feed it Dolby Vision or HDR10+ sources, both of which it can accept. Its audio is no rival, inevitably, for premium Philips TVs that feature speaker systems designed with hi-fi brand Bowers & Wilkins, but it still sounds more powerful and well-rounded than most of its sub-£500 competition.

Its Android TV smart system may be a bit sluggish and buggy, but it provides a wider range of apps and streaming services than many of the other smart systems found in the sub-£500 TV zone.

Key specs – Screen size: 55in; Screen type: Edge-lit IPS LCD; Dimensions (WDH): 1,231 x 79.4 x 710mm; Weight: 14.2kg; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision; Connectivity: 4 x HDMI 2.0 ports, 2 x USB-A, digital optical audio output, headphone output, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, RF tuner port

5. TCL 55RP620: Best TV under £500 for value

Price: £299 | Buy now from Currys

We could probably get away with just writing “this TCL TV gives you a 55in screen and a Roku smart TV system for just £299” and still have made enough of a point to send swathes of you running to your laptop or nearest TV store to snap one up. Remarkably, though, the 55RP620’s attractions run deeper than that. The picture quality from its direct-lit 4K VA panel is colourful, contrasty and sharp enough to embarrass many TVs costing significantly more.

It supports Dolby Vision too, and although it inevitably doesn’t support the latest 4K/120Hz and variable refresh rate gaming features, it does provide a very generous four HDMI ports. Its sound is a bit light on bass, but still has enough power to deliver a surprisingly consistent, distortion-free and loud soundstage that again has no right emerging from a TV as cheap as this.

We really need to finish by stressing just what a borderline miracle the Roku TV smart system is. Its interface might not be as glamorous as some, but it’s exceptionally easy to follow and customise and, best of all, despite carrying an enormous number of apps, it runs more slickly and stably than any other smart system we’ve seen at such a ridiculously low price.

If you like the look of the RP620K but want a newer model with an improved QLED screen, check out our TCL RC630K review. The 55in model costs £100 more than the RP620K but the step up in picture quality is noticeable.

Key specs – Screen size: 55in; Screen type: Direct-lit VA LCD; Resolution: 4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160); Refresh rate: 60Hz; Dimensions (WDH): 1,234 x 55 x 720mm; Weight: 11.6kg; HDR format support: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision; Connectivity: 4 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x USB-A, digital optical audio output, headphone output, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, RF tuner port

Buy now from Currys

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