Earlier this week we shared a high-end home cinema system that's about as dreamy (and yes, expensive) as they come. But you don't have to spend tens of thousands to upgrade your home entertainment; a soundbar and decent TV picture alone can do wonders to evenings binging Netflix, providing you buy the right equipment, of course. Which brings us to this relatively budget TV and soundbar pairing.
This is about as simple as a home cinema system can get – unless you count a TV on its own as a home cinema system. That is something we would urge you not to do: the addition of great sound to a fine image will enhance your enjoyment of pretty much everything you watch, from movies and live sport – even, dare we say, to TV presenters reading the evening news.
The budget AV system
TCL 55RP620K 55-inch Roku TV
The TCL is a 55-inch set that uses the Roku platform, an excellent system that provides pretty much all the streaming smarts you could reasonably wish for – especially at this basso-profondo price.
There are no app gaps from the top tier services, with Dolby Vision and 4K support on Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and Apple TV. None of the four HDMI inputs is 2.1 (for all the latest gaming standards) but the Auto Game Mode claims a 15ms lag time, so it shouldn’t be an issue for all but the most hardcore of gamers.
As far as picture performance goes, this TCL holds its own against sets costing a fair bit more than its modest price tag. It’s a natural-looking image, capturing skin tones with a realism that is hard to match at anywhere near this budget. And, again for the price, this set has a fine ability to convey colours with nuance when compared with some rivals. As we say, for the money you are likely to invest, you will really struggle to better this TV.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 Dolby Atmos soundbar
The Award-winning Sonos Beam Gen 2 may seem overkill on the face of it, but we are happy to spend the extra on the sound here – the television can hold up its end of the bargain.
We were fans of the original Beam, of course, but the Gen 2 brings a lot more to the sonic party. The headline feature is Dolby Atmos – and it is surprisingly effective here, especially considering there are no upward-firing drivers. The Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related transfer function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical. When listening to Atmos films there is tangible motion, depth and space, which heightens the drama and sense of immersion. The soundstage is expansive and genuinely enhances the cinematic scale and viewing experience of the 55in TV.
And, as we say in our review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, it sounds incredible not using Atmos too, with more refinement, a warmer treble, and wider dynamic range than its predecessor, consistently resulting in a richer, more nuanced and varied listening experience.
What’s more, if you ever feel the need and find the funds to upgrade, you can easily add a couple of Sonos One SL as rear speakers to make a more conventional surround sound system that will sound great – or even a Sub Mini, if you want to boost the bass.
While quite a few soundbars are available for less than the outlay you will require for the Sonos Beam Gen 2, we believe the extra investment is well worth it. Especially as this bargain TV (a Curry’s exclusive in the UK) is often available for less than the price shown here, so you may have a bit more in the pot to spend on sound. If you want a larger or smaller sized screen, we have more tried-and-tested budget sets in our best cheap TVs buying guide for your perusal, as well as lists for the best 40, 42 and 43-inch TVs, best 55-inch TVs and best 65-inch TVs.
The option to add to the Sonos soundbar to create a more conventional surround sound system when/if you so choose makes this a stunning bargain system for years to come, too.
These are the best budget TVs you can buy
Read our review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2
These are the best soundbars you can buy