Looking for the best TV under $500? The Vizio E-Series 55E-F1 55-inch 4K UHD TV ($499.99 on TCLUSA, $458.00 on Walmart) is the way to go. It’s the only TV in this price range to offer full-array local dimming, which gives it an advantage over the competition’s edge-lit panels when it comes to contrast, color uniformity and dark scene rendering, especially when viewed in dimly lit rooms. Plus, the Vizio E-Series supports three types of HDR – HDR 10, Dolby Vision and HGL – as well as voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Best TV under $500:
Why the Vizio E55-F1?
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 – Vizio and TCL.
TCL’s 5 Series 55S517 55-inch 4K UHD TV provides some stiff competition. In tests by Rtings.com, it out-performed the Vizio E-Series in reproducing HDR content. The TCL 5 Series is faster, with less lag than the Vizio E Series, which will make a difference to gamers. But the Vizio E Series has less perceived flicker when it comes to video games and sports.
The TCL 5 Series has Roku built-in with voice control. So out of the box, you have a great streaming experience with the widest range of channel options plus the ability to pull in searchable local listings if you attach an antenna (we like the Mohu Leaf, $22.49 for a 30-mile range). The Vizio E Series has Vizio SmartCast and Chromecast built-in, which between the two support many services, including all of the major players, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. There is no native voice control, but if you have an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device, you can control the TV and discover content.
In contrast to the TCL 55S517, the Vizio E55-F1 has superior picture quality. In particular, it has better black uniformity and performance in dark rooms, thanks to its full-array panel with 10 local dimming zones. It also supports three different HDR formats – the two most popular HDR10 and Dolby Vision, plus HLG, which The TCL is edge-lit. It’s also nearly flicker-free when watching sports and playing high-frame-rate video games.
CNET calls it “the best picture quality of any budget TV, period.” And Rtings.com ranks it number one in the under $500 category. Owners have also been fond of the Vizio, giving it 4.1 out of 5 stars on Walmart. Many praise the image quality and features for the price.
In short, the Vizio E55-F1 offers an amazing combination of features and value, which makes it our choice for the Best TV under $500.
If you're willing to spend an extra $150-$200, you can take a big step up in picture quality with the 55-inch TCL 55R617 ($649.99 on TCLUSA, check price on Amazon). The 55R617 has local dimming, like the Vizio E55-F1, but with 96 zones versus the Vizio’s 10 zones, for better picture quality. It has higher peak brightness for better viewing in bright rooms, a better motion handling for high-frame-rate video games and sports. It's widely acknowledged by reviewers as the best-quality low-cost TV on the market – just over $500.
If you’re looking to spend less, go with the TCL 55S405 55-inch 4K UHD TV. It has great picture quality and Roku built-in, and at just $350 on Amazon, it’s a steal.
(UPDATED: 1/30/2019with new picks. Prices accurate as of 1/30/2019.)
[Image credit: Vizio]