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Best TVs under $500

by on November 24, 2014
in TVs & Video Players, News, Music and Video, Blog, Money Savers, Top Picks :: 0 comments

Best 42-inch TV under $500:
Vizio M422i-B1

Vizio M422i-B1

Looking for a new TV but on a strict under $500 budget? Want a large screen model that you don't need to squint at from across the room?

There’s good news. Two recent models from Vizio, the 42-inch M422i-B1 and the 48-inch E480i-B2, deliver an excellent picture and a robust set of Smart TV features for less than $500. Each is an LED LCD set with full array LED backlighting and local dimming, features usually found in much more expensive models, providing darker blacks and great contrast, and less of the light bleed around the edges of standard edge-lit displays.

You’ll also get built-in WiFi and an array of Smart TV apps, such as Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon and more. The M-Series remote even has a full QWERTY keyboard on the back, making it far easier to search for movies or shows by name.

And Vizio doesn’t short you on HDMI ports, either (and annoying problem on so many low-priced sets), with 3 HDMI ports on the E480i-B2 and 4 HDMI ports on the M422i-B1.

Best 48-inch TV under $500:

Vizio E480i-B2

Across the board, professional reviewers have been admirers of both model lines. CNET’s David Katzmaeir gave each 4 out of 5 stars in his detailed evaluations. And said the E-Series, “might be the TV deal of the year.”

And actual owners have also been happy, awarding both the M- and E-Series 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and 4.2 out of 5 stars (E-Series) and 4.6 out of 5 stars (M-Series) on Best Buy.

The main drawback of both the E- and M-Series is the fair-to-middling sound on both models (unfortunately, all too common in most TVs today). For filling out the volume in a larger room, you way want to go with an inexpensive soundbar, such as our top pick, the Vizio S4221w-C4 ($249 on Amazon or Best Buy), or our runner up, the Sony HT-CT260H ($188 on Amazon).

Other TVs at this price point (of which there are few real options) fail to measure up. The 47-inch LG Electronics 47LB5900 gets a strong 4.4 out of 5 star review from owners on Amazon, but is dinged on for its poor contrast ratio and motion blur issues. The 46-inch Samsung UN46H6203 comes close to the Vizio on picture quality, but you get two fewer inches versus the Vizio, sluggish app performance, only 2 HDMI ports and slightly lower Amazon ratings (3.8 out of 5 stars).

The choice between the M-Series or E-Series comes down to whether you value the larger screen for you buck with the E-Series versus a marginally better image along with the convenience of a full QWERTY keyboard on the remote on the M-Series. Whichever way you go, you’ll be getting far more TV than would have been available a year ago for under $500.

And, the value of this line extends to the larger screen sizes, as well. We also selected the Vizio E-Series and M-Series (in the 60-inch and 55-inch, respectively) as our best TVs under $1,000.

(Prices as of 11/24/14)

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