Flagship TVs get a lot of press but for most of us, while we love the idea, the reality is we don’t all have £1000-plus to splurge.
This is why you’ll likely be looking at a cheaper mid-range or below model when picking your next TV.
Even a few years ago this would have been a shame, as it would have meant you’d have to miss out on some of the market’s top technologies and perks - jump back in time to 2015 and you’d see most of the sets featured in our best TV page were fairly expensive.
But fast forward to 2023 and all this has changed. In the past couple of years, companies including LG, Sony, Samsung, Hisense, and more have made great strides in bringing their flagship TV technologies to more affordable sets.
This is why you’ll now find key things, like OLED panels, which based on our testing offer much deeper blacks than the LCD offerings on most cheaper sets, reliable audio, and even decent smart functionality appearing on cheaper TVs at the moment.
As an added perk, if you don’t need a huge screen, most small TVs retail for less than their larger siblings, making them a great choice for bargain hunters, as well as people short on space.
Here to help find the right set for your specific needs we’ve created this guide detailing the best cheap TVs you can currently buy that we've tried and tested.
How to choose the best cheap TV for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
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.
The best cheap TVs you can buy
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
TCL’s Roku TVs have finally arrived in the UK and the TCL 55RP620K is at the tip of the AV spear. It’s a 4K HDR TV that sits firmly in the affordable category of TVs, but don’t be fooled into expecting something that is feature-light. This is a Roku TV and they are nothing if not smart.
Until now, the only Roku TVs available in the UK have been from Hisense, and they have certainly been good, with two five-star reviews on the bounce. The 55-inch TCL 55RP620K offers something one step closer to mid-range, though, with a greater bit-depth in terms of colour processing and Dolby Vision support too.
It's certainly not the TV equivalent of fine dining, but the RP620K is much better than its low price suggests. For those after an app-happy and exceedingly user-friendly experience, and a good panel size without having to spend too much, this TV from TCL and Roku is a winning combination.
Read the full TCL 55RP620K review
As a relatively new brand to the UK, Chinese outfit Xiaomi appears to have figured out that it will help it establish itself as a household name (it’s pronounced shau-mee, lest you were wondering) if it brings to market something unusual, officially ‘endorsed’ by one of the most established brands in the western world, and eye-catchingly cheap. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the Xiaomi F2 Amazon Fire TV.
Despite some frustrating colour issues that find pictures sporting a confusing mish-mash of hyper-extended colours (especially where reds are concerned) and rather muted ones (especially where blues and greens are concerned) that can leave some shots feeling unnatural and ‘off’, the Xiaomi F2 is still a surprisingly solid TV for its price.
Contrast from the VA panel is decent, sharpness is excellent, sound is above par for a budget TV, particularly in terms of clarity, and brightness, while limited versus the TV world at large, is actually pretty solid for the money. So if the idea of having Fire TV built into your TV sounds irresistible to you, the Xiaomi backs up those Amazon smarts with better picture and sound than you really have a right to expect for so little money.
Read the full Xiaomi F2 Fire TV review
How we test TVs
How we test TVs
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.
How to choose a TV
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.