The Best Flat-Screen TVs for Every Budget | BuzzFeed Reviews
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The Best Flat-Screen Televisions

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TCL 5 Series 55-inch TV

$450

  • Smart TV
  • 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
  • Premium picture at a pretty price
Buying Options

Samsung NU8 series 55-inch Smart TV

$848

  • HDR 10+ for amazing images
  • Easy user interface
  • Gaming mode for true a 4K experience
Buying Options

LG C8 series 55-inch Smart TV

$2,499

  • OLED screen for the BEST picture
  • HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos sound
Buying Options

Prices on flat-screen TVs have been falling over the past few years, which is good news if you’re looking to buy one. The bad news is that with so many options, it can be confusing to sort out which one fits your needs. Luckily, we’re here to help. From the budget-friendly to the budget-busting, we’ll get your gorgeous eyes pointed at the right screen.

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TCL 5 Series 55-inch TV

Starting from $450

The Details

49" X 30” X 10.6" Inches (With Stand)

54.6” LED screen

Two 8-watt speakers

Three HDMI 2.0 inputs

4K resolution

Dolby Vision

What / Who It's Best For

  • People with small apartments
  • People who want a TV for a guest room or spare room
  • People who want a decent picture on a budget

Why We Love It

This TV surprised us, and we’re going to get to why it did in a second, but first we need to mention that this review is slightly different than others we’ve done. Usually we have three different price ranges and then test different products in each tier, but with TVs, that wouldn’t work for various reasons. A 55” TCL television, for example, costs the same as a 43” Samsung, which would put them in the same price category even though they are quite different. To give you more accurate results, we need to get some information out of the way. So let’s jump to some facts.

Flat-Screen TV Facts: TVs (as well as computer monitors, etc.) are measured diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner. And that number may not necessarily be what the big bold type on the advertisement says it is. For example, a TV that measures 54.6 inches diagonally will still be placed in the 55-inch “class” of TVs. They’re not trying to trick you (well, maybe a little) — it’s just easier if they round the numbers up.

Also, many TVs are made in a “series” by a single manufacturer, with the basic screen technology remaining the same while only the size varies. This means the price goes up or down depending on how big it is, but the quality of the picture doesn’t substantially change. So a Samsung Q Series 65-inch TV will typically have a picture that’s the same quality as the Samsung Q Series 55-inch version, but the smaller the screen, the lower the price. And both of them might be totally different from the Samsung P Series.

For this test, we looked at the most common 55-inch classes and series made by different brands. The one that immediately jumped out was our top pick for the $ category, the TCL 5 Series. This model has consistently been at the top of many “best budget TV” lists, and when we started testing it, we could see why. To begin with, the LED screen delivers a sharp, vivid image that puts it miles ahead of other lower-priced models. The blacks were dark and inky, allowing the brighter areas to shine through in gorgeous 4K detail with brilliant colors.

In addition to a true high dynamic range (HDR) picture, the 5 Series comes with Roku built in, letting you stream content straight to your TV and even use the mobile app to control it. For gamers, the input lag hovered around 18 milliseconds, depending on certain options. That was similar to higher-priced models and better than every other television we tested in this category. The TCL maintained a fairly wide viewing angle, meaning it looked great whether you were sitting directly in front of it or off to the side. This makes it a solid option for families, viewing parties with a lot of people, or even just oddly shaped rooms, because it will still provide a good picture no matter where you sit. Other cheaper models lost quite a bit of brightness and color saturation due to off-angle viewing, but the TCL’s LED screen held up.

So what’s the catch? Where did they cut the corners to offer such a great TV for less than 500 bucks? We’re not gonna lie: the speakers were… not great. The two 8-watt main speakers just didn’t have the power to shake the walls, but with the money you’re saving, you could easily find a decent speaker option. Also, much of the casing is plastic, especially on the back — but that’s not where the picture is, so does it really matter? The short answer is no — not for us, anyway. The only thing that might make your decision harder is the screen’s brightness. If you’re planning to put this TV in a bright room, you might want to move up to the next price band because, while the TCL delivers a rich, detailed image, the peak brightness of the screen can’t compete with tons of sunlight. This was a consistent issue with ALL of the models in this price range, but, y’know, curtains exist. There’s always that option.

If you have a gigantic living room, you’re probably going to want something a little higher up the food chain, but for small apartments or spare rooms, the TCL 5 Series delivers a surprisingly vibrant 4K picture with plenty of features for under $500. But you don’t have to take our word for it.

 

User Reviews

“This is an amazing TV. Not just for the price, but overall, amazing. I just bought an LG that doesn't come close to the clarity and color levels this thing can pump out. Setup was a breeze and the 4K video in Amazon is great. The only thing this series doesn't have that the 6 series has is the individual backlight zones. What you get in exchange for that is an incredibly thin display and $150 to spend elsewhere. You will not regret this purchase!”
— DPD204 From Amazon
“Great TV for the price. When I was caught between choosing this or the Samsung for the price, I asked one of the associates about the TCL. He recommended for the money to go with the TCL, as it holds a lot of similar features to the 2017 Samsung model and saved me $200. Input lag is incredibly low and good for video game users. The picture quality is top notch (little to no glare), and the Roku user interface is crisp, easy to use, and has all the applications you could need. I recommend a soundbar to improve the quality of sound, but overall, good product.”
— deboss From Best Buy
“I'm not a big fan of the Roku platform, but I bought this for my mom and she uses an AppleTV, so I just hooked that up too. This way, if there is an issue with the AppleTV, she can just use the built-in Roku platform. The TV itself has a good picture. It's not like our OLED TV, but for a mid-range it's pretty clear. Of course Amazon delivered it in two days, which made buying this TV well worth it.”
— MattReader From Amazon

TCL

Picture Plus Price

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Samsung NU8 series 55-inch Smart TV

Starting from $848

The Details

31” X 48.4” X 2.2” (Without Stand)

54.6” LED screen

Four HDMI ports

40-watt speaker

Built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet

HDR Plus

What / Who It's Best For

  • Serious gamers
  • People looking for a solid home-entertainment option
  • People who want plenty of smart-TV features

Why We Love It

If you take your entertainment a little more seriously than a budget TV can handle, you’ll want to move up the ladder to the next price point, and Samsung’s new NU8 series offers several improvements over last year’s MU model. Smart browsing with voice control, ultra-high-definition (UHD) picture, and the simple OneRemote all come standard, but where the NU8 really blew our minds was the support for HDR 10+.

Flat-Screen TV Facts: Let’s talk about HDR 10, 10+, and Dolby Vision. Have you ever been watching a DVD when the movie goes from a brightly lit scene to a darker one, and all of a sudden you can’t see what’s going on because it’s too dark? Well, now there’s a fix for problems like that. HDR10, or the newer HDR 10+, and Dolby Vision allow for metadata to be included in the DVD or streaming content that automatically calibrates your TV from scene to scene as you watch the movie. Not only does it brighten that darker scene so you can see it, it also ensures that the color correction the filmmakers wanted actually shows up on your screen — because what’s the point of having a million colors if they’re the wrong ones? That’s what HDR is supposed to be about, after all: lots of color and clarity. At the moment, Dolby Vision has a slight edge, but HDR 10+ is still a vast improvement on the older HDR.

Samsung is sticking with HDR 10+, which is what the NU8 series supports, and when you see it in action, you’ll just… probably not even notice it, to be honest. But you’re not supposed to, and that’s the point! It works behind the scenes to present the movie the way the director intended, and as far as you know, it will just look like a really good picture. HOWEVER, if you put it beside a TV that doesn’t have dynamic mastering, like we did, you will most definitely notice the difference.

Netflix and Amazon both have HDR content, but Amazon claims that its entire catalog is now available in HDR 10+. We put that to the test and watched several episodes of Game of Thrones Seasons 6 and 7 on Prime (yes, we love our job) just to see how it handled all of the color palettes. The results were stunning. Comparing the images from the sandy dunes in Dorne, for example, on TVs without HDR 10+ skin tones shifted quite a bit toward the orange end of the spectrum. On the Samsung NU, however, skin tones were spot-on, without changing the overall tint of the picture. And when the scene changed from those sandy scenes to the bluer hues of snow, without HDR 10+ they seemed to be a bit TOO saturated, but on the NU series they looked perfectly washed out, like they’re supposed to.

For gaming, the Samsung NU8 comes with an “auto game mode” that optimizes the picture for a true 4K gaming experience with super-low input lag. You probably won’t notice it with the naked eye, but you’ll almost certainly die fewer times in Call of Duty, and when you DO die, it’ll look awesome.

The 40-watt speakers were good enough for regular viewing, but for something like Jurassic World, you’d probably want to get a sound bar — especially since this TV is better for larger living rooms because it still looks incredibly vibrant, even from wider viewing angles. For a mid-range TV, the NU8 delivers on all categories and will definitely deliver a cinematic experience to satisfy just about any movie fan.

User Reviews

“Great all-around TV, especially if you’re a gamer. This could be the best gaming TV on the market for Xbox One X and S users. It now supports FreeSync. With FreeSync selected in game mode on my Xbox One X, I've noticed an improvement in an already impressive response time with this TV. The Nu8000 also has a great picture. The upscaling is great for streaming TV, like Sling. Excellent for sports.”
— Sean K. From Amazon
“I recently received my Samsung NU8000 4K smart TV. The smart remote and voice assistance make using the TV a breeze. The no-gap wall mount and clean cable solution make for a very clean finished product. The 4K ultra HD makes watching sports or gaming an even better experience. I am so happy with my new Samsung, I can't wait to watch some football. You can't go wrong with the NU8000.”
— Benjamin G Schoepf From Amazon
“It took a while to get used to the motion of the TV. It has so much clarity that it feels like you’re on the set of the shows. It was really distracting at first, but you get used to it. The remote is a little touchy to navigate. I prefer the functionality of our cable remote over the TV remote.”
— mimi From Best Buy

Samsung

Millions of Colors Under a Grand

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LG C8 series 55-inch Smart TV

Starting from $2,499

The Details

48.4” wide x 29.8” high x 1.8” (Without Stand)

54.6” OLED screen

Four HDMI ports

Four 10-watt speakers and two 10-watt woofers

Built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet

Dolby Atmos Sound

HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision support

4K Cinema HDR

Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant

What / Who It's Best For

  • Movie lovers
  • People with large living rooms
  • People looking for an AMAZING picture

Why We Love It

Hey there, big spender. You skipped those other categories, didn’t ya? No budget TVs for you. You’ve got bags of money and wanna throw some at a television. But where to start? That new Samsung TV that looks like a picture frame? It’s nice. Neat concept. And it looks good hanging on the wall. Or how about the LG wallpaper TV? Come on, that’s pretty cool. It’s thinner than Trump’s hair and looks WAY better. Or are you just a thriving billionaire with an extra $20,000 sitting around? There’s this thing. Those are all good options. However, if you’re looking for a TV with an image so sharp you could cut yourself on it, the LG C8 series is the one to beat.

Not content with the standard LED televisions, LG has put its energy into OLED screens, which can produce blacks darker than the devil’s shadow and make the millions of colors almost pop out of the screen. OLED is the next evolution of the LED screen and offers several improvements over both those and LCD televisions. Those improvements come at a higher price, but if you’re looking for the absolute best image money can buy, you’re going to want an OLED. Trying to write about this screen is like trying to describe colors to someone who has been blind since birth. You really do just have to see it to truly understand.

 

Flat-Screen TV Facts: What are LCD, LED, and OLED? LCD (liquid crystal display) screens have a distinct disadvantage, in that they need to be lit by another panel in order to produce an image. It’s like, if you had a picture on a clear piece of plastic and wanted to light it up, you’d have to put a light source behind it. This makes them thicker, brighter, and bulkier — but also cheaper. That backlighting panel is made of LEDs, and this is why some makers call their LCD models “LED” in their advertisements. The UK actually doesn’t allow this, because it is misleading.

LED (light-emitting diode) screens, on the other hand, do not need a light source since they can, y’know, emit light. This makes them thinner but also more expensive. It also gives them those deep, inky blacks that are necessary for producing sharp, crisp 4K images. OLED (organic LED) screens are LEDs made from an organic compound much smaller than the one used in the standard LED. An OLED screen is thinner, more flexible, and capable of richer blacks but are not quite as bright as LCDs. This is not to say that they are dim — they’re not — it’s just that LCDs can achieve a higher brightness peak, provided you stand right in front of it.  If you move too much to one side, though, the LCD screen will get darker and the colors will desaturate. An LED or OLED, on the other hand, looks great from almost any angle.

The LG C8 is one of the best OLEDs on the market, if not the best. That combined with LG’s incredibly smooth user interface pretty much makes this a television straight out of the future. It comes with its own artificial intelligence technology, which LG calls ThinQ, as well as built-in Google Assistant. This lets you control your television with voice commands; you can give it simple instructions like “Turn on the Xbox” or even “Show me pictures from my trip on Google Photos.”

LG supports Dolby Vision as well as HDR 10+, making it more flexible in terms of options. The C8 looks less like a TV and more like a magic window into another world. The LG C8 is an incredible TV that should stay relevant for years to come, but if you just HAVE to have a TV that doubles as a picture frame, you should know that the C8 can do that, too.

User Reviews

“I have never seen anything like this TV before. It not only has an amazing picture and makes 4K content look ridiculously great, but it also does an incredible job of upscaling 1080p content. This also has great sound, with the Dolby Atmos sound system built in, and it has to be the smartest smart TV available today. I really enjoy having Google Assistant built into the TV and being able to give the TV voice commands, to do things like control home automation devices around the house and also ask the TV any question that pops into my head. If you have the opportunity to get this TV, do not hesitate. It is by far the most amazing TV I have ever seen.”
— moeleyton From Best Buy
“I'll keep this short and sweet. It's definitely worth the investment. It's an amazing TV that covers everything you need. The picture quality is unbeatable, and it handles everything from regular TV to 1080p movies to STUNNING 4k content. I recommend, if you want to showcase the TV, throwing in the original Blade Runner to see the power of what this TV can do to even an older movie like Blade Runner. I'm waiting to pair this with the Panasonic UB820 to utilize the full spectrum this TV has to offer, but I suppose the Sony x700 will do until then. The only issues right now appear in software — Netflix and Amazon can be a bit wonky at times — but these will be remedied eventually, so it’s not a big deal. Also works flawlessly with my Sony HT-ST5000, and I can even use the stock remote to control everything, so that's an added bonus.”
— Moviefan From Best Buy
“I had the 2018 version and still do, but this 2019 version with upgrades to the sound and features is amazing. If you like watching movies, it’s a must-have for the price.”
— Tvfan From Best Buy
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