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The Best TV under $500

by on November 07, 2016
in TVs & Video Players, News, Music and Video, Blog, Money Savers, Top Picks :: 7 comments

Techlicious Editor's Pick

Best TV under $500:
TCL 55US5800

TCL 55US5800

Looking for the best TV under $500? The 55" TCL 55US5800 is the way to go. Beyond its large screen size, the TCL 5800 offers 4K resolution and built-in Roku TV, making it one of the easiest to use and most fully functional  smart TVs on the market.

The TCL lists for $699, but it's currently available for only $499.99 on Amazon, making it an absolute steal.

Why the TCL 55US5800?

If you have thousands to spend on a set, there's no shortage of excellent choices in a large screen TV. But that list drops significantly as you go below $1,000, and is basically non-existent below $500. In this price range, there are two brands worth considering - TCL and Vizio.

Vizio is offering its 50" E50u-D2 for $499.99 through vizio.com and is available for roughly the same price through other online and brick-and-mortar retailers.  It too provides a 4K picture and local-dimming, which, on the surface, is a more advanced backlight technology than TCLs. However, that local-dimming feature has received mixed reviews.

The Vizio also doesn't have smart apps incorporated into the TV. Instead, you must use the SmartCast app on your smart phone or tablet to cast content to the TV - a major drawback. And the Vizio doesn't have an integrated TV tuner for receiving over-the-air broadcasts.

At the same time, Vizio is in a period of transition, having just been acquired by Chinese TV electronics manufacturer LeEco. LeEco will be bringing their own brand of value-focused TVs to the US market later this year, so what this means for the future of Vizio is unclear. There have been complaints in the past regarding post-warranty support for Vizio sets, and if LeEco phases out the Vizio line, this may be a concern for future purchasers.

In contrast to Vizio, the TCL 5800 offers a larger screen size for the money - 55" versus 50" - and built-in Roku TV streaming and search. Having used many smart TV platforms, I can tell you that Roku is better than any of them. While you can certainly buy a separate Roku box and connect it to the Vizio (or any other TV), having it built into the TCL saves you $50 and makes for a more seamless experience. For someone who is looking for a simple to use, yet incredibly functional smart TV experience, you will be very happy with the TCL.

As far as image quality, the TCL is on par with other models in this price range, which means very good overall, with some compromises. Many reviewers found it to have picture quality on par with the Vizio E-Series. On the upside, the TCL has less motion blur than the Vizio (both are 60Hz sets), making it more suitable for watching fast moving scenes and sports. On the downside, it's not as bright as the Vizio, though still fine for most situations.

Owners have also been fond of the TCL, giving it 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Many praise the image quality and features for the price. A few report on technical issues with freezing or uneven light levels. However, I'm encouraged  to see TCL customer support reps reaching out directly to these customers on Amazon to help them resolve their issues - I wish many other tech companies would follow this lead.

In short, the TCL 55US5800 offers an amazing combination of features and value, which makes it our choice for the Best TV under $500.

Sub-$500 Alternatives

If you don't care about 4K, you can save even more by going with the 1080p version, the TCL 55FS3750, for $50 less ($448 on Amazon). Unless you sit closer than about 7 feet, you're unlikely to notice much difference between the 4K and 1080p sets. Other than resolution, the core technology and features are the same.

Beyond these TCL options, the Vizio E50u-D2 is really your only other viable option. But given its issues with motion blur, complicated smart TV setup and uncertainty about its future, it's hard to recommend it over the TCL.

(UPDATED: 11/7/16 with new picks. Prices accurate as of date of publication.)



Discussion loading

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vizio

From forza on April 22, 2016 :: 11:21 pm

WHHHHH

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Vizio M43-C1 vs E50-C1

From Armand on April 22, 2016 :: 11:32 pm

Concerning the picture quality difference between the Vizio M43-C1 and E50-C1: granted 4K is irrelevant, more importantly the M43 has 28 active LED zones compared to 12 for the E50 and a dynamic contrast ratio of 20 million to 1 compared to 5 million to 1 for the E.

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TCL?

From Hank Arnold on November 10, 2016 :: 12:12 pm

Sorry, not agreeing this story.  Go to a store and compare this TV to any major brand and you won’t be buying the TCL unless you’re really strapped for cash.

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My research says otherwise

From Josh Kirschner on November 10, 2016 :: 1:04 pm

I reviewed what options were available from all the major brands at this price point, numerous professional reviews to build an overall consensus of the options, as well as reviews from actual owners on Amazon and other sites. While there are certainly many TVs that you can buy from major brands that will give you a better, sometimes a far better picture, there simply wasn’t anything else out there near this price point that offers anywhere near the value you get from the TCL.

To get under $500 with Samsung, you would need to go with the 50” J5200. It gets lower picture quality ratings from Rtings than the TCL, doesn’t offer the Roku smart TV interface and has a smaller screen size than the TCL. It’s also not 4K, though that doesn’t really matter. Anything else worth considering would be at least $200 more.

LG’s 49” UH6100 again gets slightly lower picture quality ratings, has a better smart TV system than Samsung, but still not a good as the Roku, and is a smaller display than the TCL. Though LG’s IPS displays offer better off-axis viewing than the TCL and the LG is also brighter. However, the LG 6100 is $600, putting it out of the price range.

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Westinghouse?

From Jewely on November 20, 2016 :: 12:51 am

Did you look at the Westinghouse 50” that’s selling at Best Buy for $298? I don’t know much about tvs, but that seems like a good deal - especially if you’re not a gamer or totally obsessed with extreme picture quality (honestly, a 4K and 1080p look pretty close to my eyes)?

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Wouldn't be our pick over the TCL

From Josh Kirschner on November 21, 2016 :: 10:17 am

We didn’t look at that specific Westinghouse model. Checking around, I don’t see any professional reviews for it, though Westinghouse is not a highly-regarded TV brand in terms of picture quality. Reviewed.com has given previous models of Westinghouse TVs poor ratings. With the TCL, you’ll get a larger screen plus the excellent Roku smart TV features (the Westinghouse has no smart TV built-in, so you’ll need to spring additional money for a streaming device). Even at $200 more, I would opt for the TCL. And I now see the TCL on sale for only $399 on Amazon, which makes it a no-brainer over the Westinghouse.

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not there anymore

From Micki on November 28, 2016 :: 8:06 pm

It must have been a good pick, because now, not quite a month later, the link leads one to a TCL 65US5800 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV (2016 Model) with the price listed as $849.99.  That’s quite a difference.  I tried to find the correct model number on Amazon but they only list 3rd party sellers.

I guess I shouldn’t be so far behind on my reading, right?  grin

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