Whether you’re watching the latest blockbuster or Sunday night football with your friends, it’s always better in glorious 4K. Now, we’ve rounded up the best 4K TVs that look great and don’t break the bank.
Televisions with 4K resolution, otherwise known “Ultra High-Definition” have steadily usurped 1080p TVs in the market over the last few years due to increased competition driving the prices down. While only the very well off could afford the best in home entertainment just a few short years ago, there’s now a bevy of stellar options for under $800; and we’ve picked the finest around.
In our research, we wanted to determine the best affordable 4K TV based on a level playing field. We chose to look at 50 to 55-inch televisions exclusively to get the fairest price comparisons on the market. If you’re looking for the home theater experience, all of our options are available in larger sizes. Also, since there’s no shortage of exquisite 4K tellys on the market ranging upwards of $5,000, we capped our budget well under $1,000 to weather the competition down to only the most economical choices.
Best overall – TCL Roku TV 55US5800
Pound for pound (or pixel for pixel), the TCL Roku TV 55US5800 is simply the best bargain we found on the market. For a 55-inch 4K television being sold for a measly $500, this TCL display is remarkable all-encompassing, including one of the best smart TV interfaces of any price range. Let’s dive into the specifics that make this Roku TV from TCL stand above the rest as our top pick.
Of course, picture quality is a paramount component to your 4K television. Can a $500 TV even come close to matching the clarity and power of its big-ticket competition? While its picture quality can’t compete with the upper echelon of luxury TVs, it still exhibits a remarkably clear and vivid picture that is nothing to scoff at. Out of the box, the TCL requires a bit of tweaking to get the best picture possible, but once you’ve fiddled with it for a few minutes it boasts a picture that’s worthy of whatever 4K Blu-ray you can throw at it.
While the picture quality may not be as pristine as other 4K screens, the true selling point for the TCL Roku TV is in the name: Roku TV. With full integration of Roku’s intuitive and gorgeous interface, this bargain television blows virtually every other smart TV out of the water. The remote included is virtually identical to the typical Roku remote and offers simple and straightforward browsing between thousands of 4K enabled apps, videos, and top-rated streaming services, including Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu.
The smart interface effortlessly integrates your connected devices (gaming consoles, cable box, etc.) and puts everything in the same spot, allowing the user to customize the icon tiles to fit their preference. It also allows you to cast your photos, videos, and music from your tablet or smartphone, as well as casting from Netflix and YouTube on your mobile device. In an age when video streaming is rapidly taking down traditional cable, the smart TV prowess of the TCL Roku TV 55US5800 established its hold at our top spot.
On the technical side, this TCL offers a 55-inch LED display with a refresh rate of 120Hz. It’s a standard backlit LED screen that unfortunately doesn’t feature HDR (high dynamic range) compatibility or local dimming. It does however brandish the TCL Creative Pro 4K UHD Upscaling Engine that makes for some very effective upscaling of 1080p visuals. Other miscellaneous technical specs include dual-band WiFi, an ethernet port, 4 HDMI inputs, 1 USB port, an antenna input, and an optical audio output.
- Top-notch smart TV interface
- Roku built in
- Good 4K picture quality
- Effective upscaling
- Thousands of 4K apps and videos sorted under “4K Spotlight”
- Casting from mobile device
- 4 HDMI inputs, 1 USB input, ethernet port, optical audio out
Head-to-head, this TCL may not contend with an upper-end TV, but for a paltry $500, this unit packs a wallop. The 55US5800 boasts one of the best smart TV interfaces on the market, bypassing clunky native software that other companies offer for Roku’s top-notch design. While the picture quality may not be awe-inspiring, it still features an impressive and dynamic display that accommodates this television’s strongest assets. If you’re looking for a true budget TV with unbeatable smart capabilities, the TCL Roku TV 55US5800 is unmatched.
Best picture quality – Vizio E-Series E50u-D2
If pure picture quality is chief on your budget 4K TV wish list, there’s no better telly than the Vizio E-Series E50u-D2 (catchy name, right?). This 50-inch unit from Vizio is the same price as our top pick at $500, making them an equal bargain, albeit for different reasons.
While the TCL shone the brightest in unparalleled smart capability, the Vizio E-Series makes a name for itself with incomparable 4K power. The secret to its superior picture quality lies in its local dimming feature — meaning the full array LED backlighting can dim certain parts of the screen that should be dark while keeping the rest of it bright. The end product is a picture with deep blacks and striking colors that can’t be attained by normal contrasting alone. Although most upper-end 4K TVs come with local dimming, it’s rarely seen at such an affordable price point.
Vizio ditched its suffering native smart TV software in favor of a simpler, more practical integration of Google Chromecast, called “SmartCast.” This certainly has its advantages and its drawbacks. For starters, you have to use the Vizio SmartCast app on your phone or tablet for anything more advanced than switching HDMI inputs, which can be a hassle if you’re not into tying up your mobile device while you watch TV.
Once your connected, you can use it like you would a Google Chromecast. In other words, if you want to watch the latest season of House of Cards, you’ll have to open the Netflix app on your phone and “cast” it to your TV. While this is certainly less convenient than TCL’s Roku integration, it’s leaps and bounds better than Vizio’s previous smart TV setup.
Other various specs for the Vizio E-Series E50u-D2 include the Spatial Scaling Engine for quality upscaling, a 120Hz refresh rate, DTS StudioSound speakers, 4 HDMI inputs, 2 USB ports, an ethernet port, and an optical audio output.
- Excellent picture quality with local dimming
- Vibrant and true color palette
- Google Chromecast integrated
- DTS StudioSound
- 4 HDMI inputs, 2 USB inputs, ethernet port
Just like the TCL, the Vizio E50u-D2 is an incredible TV at an unbeatable bargain that nearly worked its way to the top our list. Although the Vizio is a smaller TV with less comprehensive smart capabilities, it makes up for it with stellar picture quality and vibrance thanks to LED local dimming. In the end, choosing between our top two picks is a matter of preference; if superior picture quality is firmly at the top of your checklist, we would recommend the Vizio E50u-D2 over TCL’s Roku TV.
Best curved TV – Samsung 55-inch KU6600
Whether it’s a cosmetic gimmick or a true TV revolution, curved displays have altered the television market over the last few years. Although they’re typically much more expensive than old humdrum flat screens, the Samsung 55-inch KU6600 (another catchy name!) is an excellent bargain for anyone looking to try out the whole curved TV experiment.
Samsung is one of the leading pioneers in the curved television explosion, claiming that the display can increase viewer immersion and enhance the overall experience over traditional displays. While the jury is still out on the extent of the benefits of a curved screen, Samsung’s bargain curved TV is an overall excellent television that is both affordable and aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, the main selling point here is the value curved display; but does it look any good? It doesn’t match up to Samsung’s luxury line, but the KU6600 looks exceptional, especially for its price range. The sharp 55-inch screen is LED edge-lit and offers Samsung’s “UHD Dimming” feature that enhances the color, contrast, and detail of the image. This TV supports HDR content in HDR10 format, paving the way for authentic and vivid color replication through Samsung’s proprietary PurColor that outshines the TCL Roku TV, but falls slightly short of the Vizio E-Series.
Other assorted visual attributes include an impressive upscaling engine and the Auto Depth Enhancer, which gives more depth and immersion to an image by applying varying levels of contrast to an area of the screen. All in all, it’s a first-rate display at an extremely affordable price that offers much more than a curved screen.
Samsung’s Smart Hub is an intuitive upgrade to the company’s past smart TV forays, exhibiting its “Smart Hub” with quick and easy access to all your streaming apps and live television. Although it still falls short of the TCL’s Roku integration, it’s an exceptional smart TV design that is amongst the best of any brand. The remote control that comes with the Samsung KU6600 is of sleek, tech-savvy design, with a touchpad and wireless integration all built in.
The KU6600 has a refresh rate of 120Hz and includes 3 HDMI inputs, 2 USB ports, an ethernet port, an antenna input and an optical audio output. It’s loaded with WiFi and Bluetooth onboard and can be easily integrated with Samsung’s SmartThings.
- Authentic and striking color replication
- Great 4K picture quality
- Sleek, slender curved design
- Samsung’s Smart TV incorporated
- Samsung SmartThings enabled
- WiFi and Bluetooth onboard
- 3 HDMI inputs, 2 USB ports, ethernet port, optical audio output
The Samsung UN55KU6600 is an altogether well-made television. With a sleek curved design, accurate 4K display, and smart home integration, this Samsung is certainly a premium television for a budget. The only real drawback is that it will run you around $300 more than our top two picks. Still, if you’re interested in a curved display and have a little extra money to play with, you can’t really go wrong here.
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