While flagship TVs spend a lot of the time in the spotlight, it's easy to be put off by how expensive they are. Top-tier models from LG, Sony and Samsung may include the latest tech like OLED panels and 4K 120Hz support for gamers, but they cost upwards of a thousand dollars.
Thankfully, cheap TVs have been getting better each year, with technology once reserved from those flagship models trickling down to the more affordable models.
While they won't be on the cutting edge of design or have the latest features, many budget TVs are adopting 4K, HDR and even advanced panel tech like Quantum Dots (QLED). Cheap TVs are also often smaller, meaning if you don't need a screen in the 55 to 75-inch range, then you'll be in luck.
This is ideal for those tight on space and budget alike and the good news is you don't have to compromise with an inferior model. Just take a look at our picks for the best cheap TVs, and you too will see that you can still get a great TV without breaking the bank.
Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. In that time he's had more TVs than can easily be counted pass through his test room, making him the best source of advice on which to get.
The quick list
The table below offers a quick look at all the cheap TV's we recommend in this article. Every TV in it has been thoroughly tested by our team of experts in one of What Hi-Fi?'s viewing rooms, so you can trust our advice.
The UE43AU7100 offers a robust feature set and better picture quality than you'd expect from TV its price.
With a large 55-inch screen, solid picture quality for the price and a low RRP this is the best big screen cheap TV we've tested.
The best cheapTVs of 2023
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Still need some convincing or more information? Scroll down and you'll see a detailed breakdown of why we recommend each TV in this list based on our direct experience using it in our dedicated test rooms.
Look up ‘unassuming’ in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of the Samsung UE43AU7100. This 43-inch LCD TV doesn’t flaunt a particularly flamboyant design, doesn’t sell for a particularly outrageous price – either high or low – and its features list is certainly no Lord Of The Rings-style epic.
You don’t have to spend long in the UE43AU7100’s company, though, to realise that a TV doesn’t have to be an extrovert to stand out from the crowd. Solid processing and a thoughtful, balanced picture that actually seems to have had some care and attention lavished on it can be more than enough.
While inevitably for its money it is not without its limitations, the UE43AU7100 delivers an impressively balanced, consistent and immersive picture. Particularly great to see at this price point is how deep its blacks are. Dark elements of mixed light and dark images enjoy rich and deep black tones, while full-on dark scenes appear with startlingly little of that grey or blue wash over them that so often blights such scenes on relatively affordable LCD TVs.
Good black levels are often accompanied by good colour, and so it proves – mostly – with the UE43AU7100. Colour blends are delivered with impressive subtlety and practically no ‘banding’. And while the set isn’t bright enough to drive colours off the screen with particularly spectacular volumes, there is still an agreeable sense of daylight lustre to the tones of sun-drenched HDR woods, vibrant blue skies and busy city streets.
The UE43AU7100 even proves a little more tolerant of wide viewing angles than most budget LCD TVs, wrapping up a picture performance that trades showiness and aggression for immersiveness and consistency in a way we wholeheartedly endorse.
The AU7100's sound is only passable, with a lack of volume and projection that makes for a presentation without much impact. That said, while it's hardly cinematic, the presentation is certainly good enough for everyday TV-viewing – just don't expect a rousing rendition of action movie soundtracks.
Ultimately, while the UE43AU7100 certainly can't hold a candle to a top OLED or QLED, it's superb for its size and price.
Read the full Samsung UE43AU7100 review
|Picture||A top performer for the price||★★★★★|
|Sound||Ok, but not immersive for movies||★★★☆☆|
|Features||Decent app selection but it could have more connectivity for gamers||★★★★☆|
Finding a TV as well featured as the TCL 55C735K for roughly £500 (around $600 / AU$900) is pretty ridiculous. Usually with 55-inch TVs this cheap you’re firmly in bog-standard, no-frills territory where the best you can hope for is some half-decent picture quality.
The 55C735K, though, gives you much more than you’ve any right to expect, from both a hardware and software perspective. In particular, its Quantum Dot colours and impressive set of gaming features humble the specifications of pretty much all similarly affordable rivals. And many sets that cost hundreds of pounds more, come to that.
The 55C735K marks a watershed moment for TCL’s fortunes in the European market as it finally sees the brand managing to combine a feature count that embarrasses many much more expensive TVs with some properly decent picture and sound quality. All at a price that will have more established rivals quaking in their boots.
Read the full TCL 55C735K review
|Picture||Great for gamers and regularl TV||★★★★☆|
|Sound||It's not the best for sound||★★★☆☆|
|Features||Solid for gamers and a reasonable app collection||★★★★☆|
Best super cheap
If you’re completely strapped for cash but want a TV that’s just about big enough for a standard lounge the Hisense 43A6GTUK is the best we’ve tested.
It’s main standout feature is that, despite being undeniably affordable, it supports a number of features you’d normally have to pay a lot more for. Chief of these are its Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos sound, and 120Hz gaming support. The latter of which make it a compelling option for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S gamers looking for a new TV to take advantage of the consoles’ high refresh rate support on a very tight budget.
The fact the set’s three HDMIs support eARC lossless Dolby Atmos pass-through is another atypical addition to a set this price.
As far as picture quality goes it is very good for the price. Max brightness levels are particularly impressive and let it deliver good, for the money, HDR performance during our checks. There are always compromises at this price though, and we did notice some banding in HDR. Colours are also slightly pale, even for a TV at this price. But if you’re on a very strict budget, you won’t find a better TV this cheap.
Read our Hisense 43A6GTUK review
|Picture||Solid for the money, though colours are a little pale||★★★★☆|
|Sound||Fine for casual viewing||★★★☆☆|
|Features||Surprisingly developed for a TV this price||★★★★☆|
How we choose
There's a huge amount to consider when choosing a new TV, but the biggest things are the money and space that you have available.
Size really does matter with TVs. At this level you're unlikely to find a genuinely huge TV but, as you'll see, 55 inches isn't out of the question. But should you go that large? You might find you can get an even better performance and feature set if you opt for a smaller model.
OLED and QLED TVs haven't dropped down to this level yet, though QLEDs are getting closer. In the meantime, you're looking at LCD sets with LED backlights. There are two types of LCD panel in play, though – IPS and VA – and they can perform quite differently to one another. You can click here for our full IPS vs VA explainer but, broadly speaking, IPS-based TVs tend to have better viewing angles while their VA rivals often have deeper blacks and better contrast.
4K is a must but also a norm, even at these sorts of prices, and you can expect to get HDR in at least the HDR10 and HLG formats, too. Some models may also support the more advanced HDR10+ format, but Dolby Vision is rarer.
Very few TVs sound genuinely good and that's unfortunately even more the case at this sort of price, so you should consider also buying a soundbar if you can. You needn't spend loads: our best cheap soundbars page features a number of recommendations under £100. If you are determined to keep things neat and rely on the in-built speakers, though, check our reviews to make sure that they're at least decent – there's no point in a great picture if the accompanying sound is rubbish.
How we test
Testing a TV is a long and complex process because a modern TV simply does so much. Not only does it need to handle a variety of content resolutions – standard-def, 1080p, 4K and sometimes 8K – and both standard dynamic range and high dynamic range (the latter in a number of formats), all of which need to be specifically tested, it also has a sound system with various advanced settings and a full smart platform. A TV is an all-in-one device in the best sense, but that also makes it a challenging review proposition.
As part of our testing process we manually check that every major app – from Netflix to All 4, Prime Video to Spotify – is not only present, but also outputting in the video and sound formats that it should. Just because there's a Disney+ app doesn't necessarily mean it's working in Dolby Vision and/or Dolby Atmos. In fact, in many recent cases it hasn't been.
We also connect both a PS5 and Xbox Series X in order to establish which advanced gaming features are and aren't supported, and on which of the TV's HDMI ports. Is 4K 120Hz supported? How about VRR? Is there a Dolby Vision game mode? Is there an HGiG preset for more accurate HDR tone mapping? We check all of these things, and measure input lag using a Leo Bodnar device.
We then test the TV's picture quality using a huge variety of content, from old DVDs to the latest 4K Blu-rays and plenty of streamed movies and TV shows in between. Every TV is tested against the best model at its price and size – we have a stockroom packed full of Award-winners for this very purpose.
We don't accept the out-of-the-box settings that a TV comes in either. While we intentionally don't go down the route of professional calibration (you shouldn't have to have your TV professionally calibrated in order to get the best out of it), we do spend hours adjusting settings using a mixture of test patterns and real-world content until we are sure we're getting the most out of a TV so that it has the best chance to shine.
While we almost always advise that a new TV is combined with a dedicated sound system such as a soundbar or AV amplifier, many people still prefer to stick with their flatscreen's built-in speakers, so we thoroughly test these too, using a wide variety of movie and music content and with great attention spent to the TV's many processing modes and individual settings.
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in Bath and Reading, where our team of expert reviewers do all of our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. What's more, all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you are getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
What size TV should you buy?
While it might be tempting to think that bigger is better, the size of set that’s right for you is closely dependent on how close to the screen you’ll be sitting, and the resolution of the source material you’re watching.
Luckily, an organisation called SMPTE (which stands for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) has published detailed guidelines on exactly how far you should sit in order to optimise the performance of your TV.
If you’re sitting the correct distance from your TV, you’ll see lots of detail, good edge definition and smooth, clean motion, but if you’re sitting too close to the screen, then you’re going to see more picture noise and artefacts.
On the other hand, sit too far away from the TV and you’ll struggle to pick up all the picture detail your TV has to offer.
The following distances are a good place to start:
- 65in - minimum 2.5m (Full HD) or 2.1m (4K)
- 50-52in - minimum 2.2m (Full HD) or 1.7m (4K)
- 46in - minimum 1.9m (Full HD) or 1.5m (4K)
- 40-42in - minimum 1.7m (Full HD) or 1.3m (4K)
- 32in - minimum 1.3m (Full HD)
Should you buy a 4K or Full HD TV?
This question is pretty much moot now, as the vast majority of TVs are now 4K. It's actually rather hard to find Full HD (1080p) models, even at relatively small sizes.
If you're buying a TV below 32 inches and can save a lot of money on a Full HD model, by all means go for it (4K won't be a huge benefit at that sort of size anyway), but otherwise 4K is both worthwhile and, in all likelihood, your only option.
Should you buy an HDR TV?
High Dynamic Range is without a doubt a much bigger deal than 8K, and certainly something you should consider before buying your next TV.
Essentially, the higher the dynamic range (brightness and colours), the more lifelike the picture. HDR offers greater subtlety and depth of gradations of colours, plus stronger contrast.
There are various types of HDR out there, and with different TV brands backing different variants, it can be a minefield trying to find the best option. Allow us to explain.
First up is HDR10, which is essentially the core HDR format that every HDR TV should support.
HDR10 is a static HDR format that applies the HDR values on a scene-by-scene basis (i.e. whenever the camera cuts to a new scene). Dolby Vision, on the other hand, applies this image information (called metadata) on a frame-by-frame basis. This dynamic form of HDR, when implemented properly, has the potential to improve upon the standard HDR10 presentation.
HDR10+ is a rival format to Dolby Vision. Created by Samsung, it also uses dynamic metadata but, whereas Dolby Vision is licensed, HDR10+ is a free, open format that any company can deploy as it sees fit.
Of these two 'dynamic' HDR formats, Dolby Vision is by far the most prevalent, both in terms of TVs and content, and if you have to choose between one and the other, that's the one we'd recommend. That said, you can now buy TVs from the likes of Philips and Panasonic that support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
Finally in our rundown of HDR formats is HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), which was developed specifically for broadcasting by the BBC and Japan's NHK. It's used to deliver all of the HDR content offered by the BBC and Sky, so can be considered very important. Luckily, it's now almost as common as standard HDR10 in TV spec lists, so you should have little problem finding a model that supports it.
What inputs and outputs does your TV need?
These days, it's all about HDMI, which is used to connect everything from set-top boxes to video streamers, Blu-ray players to games consoles. Thanks to ARC/eARC (Audio Return Channel / Enhanced Audio Return Channel), a single HDMI connection can even be used to output sound to an AV receiver or soundbar at the same time as it receives a video signal.
Currently, three HDMI connections is standard on budget and mid-range TVs, while four is the norm for premium models.
The specification of the HDMI connections tends to differ depending on the price of the TV, too, with premium models now commonly getting at least one or two HDMI 2.1 sockets. These have greater bandwidth than their HDMI 2.0 counterparts and can support advanced formats such as 4K@120Hz and 8K@60Hz. Fancy gaming features such as Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate are often supported via HDMI 2.1 sockets, too, though not always. It's sensible to check the specs thoroughly if there are particular features you're after.
After HDMIs, USB ports are the most abundant on modern TVs. You can use these to keep devices charged (often particularly useful for stick- or dongle-style streamers), and some TVs allow the connection of flash drives and hard drives for the recording of live TV content.
On the subject of live TV, you can expect practically every TV to have an aerial socket via which it can receive Freeview broadcasts, but many also have a satellite connection. Be warned, though; the presence of a satellite connection doesn't guarantee that there's a Freesat tuner on board. Without one, you'll receive only a patchy and disorganised selection of satellite TV channels.
Other useful connections include optical and stereo outputs, which can be used in lieu of HDMI ARC to connect legacy audio equipment. Headphone outputs are still fairly common, too, though Bluetooth is also supported by most TVs now and Samsung TVs in fact now feature the latter but not the former.
Lastly, while some TVs feature composite inputs (often via an adapter), most – even at the budget end – have phased out legacy connections such as SCART. So those clinging on to old video cassette recorders, for example, should be aware of that.
Which TV smart features and streaming apps do you need?
As with 4K, it's now hard to buy a TV that doesn't have a smart platform packed with streaming apps. Almost every TV will have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on board, and Disney+ is fast approaching a similar level of ubiquity. Apple TV (which is great for pay-as-you-go movies as well as the Apple TV+ subscription service) is becoming increasingly common, too.
You'd have thought that BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5 would be present on every TV available in the UK, but there always seems to be one brand that's lacking (it was LG in 2020 and Sony in 2021) so do check before you buy if any of those are important to you.
Other apps that are less common but potentially worth looking out for include BT Sport, Now, Britbox, and music apps such as Spotify and Tidal.
Should you buy an OLED, QLED or LCD TV?
LCD TVs, which require a backlight usually made up of white LEDs to show a picture on the LCD panel, are available in a wide variety of screen sizes and, thanks in part to the technology's low cost of production, at affordable prices.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a panel technology that uses self-emissive particles – so there's no need for a backlight. This allows OLED TVs to be unbelievably slim, while also offering convincing pitch-dark blacks, strong contrast and superb viewing angles. LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips are the big brands with OLED TVs in their line-ups and, broadly speaking, they're excellent.
QLED (Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode), meanwhile, is Samsung’s response to OLED. A QLED TV is an LCD TV but with a quantum dot coating over the backlight. However, the quantum dots (tiny semiconductor particles) in current QLEDs do not emit their own light. So QLED TVs, like conventional LCDs, rely on a backlight. The advantages of a QLED TV? You tend to get brilliantly vibrant colours, plus bright, sharp and crisply detailed images. Samsung's QLEDs have got better and better over the years, existing as a fine alternative to OLEDs TVs. Interestingly, though, Samsung has now launched its own range of OLED (QD-OLED) TVs.