display technology: The display technology that powers the screen has a huge impact on the quality of the picture. There are two types you will see when looking for TVs at the £500-and-under price point: LED (light-emitting diode) and QLED (Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode). The third is OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode), but that’s still reserved for the higher end of the market, usually costing around £600.
LED is the most common type of affordable TV, and as the name suggests these use LEDs to light up an LCD panel behind the screen. QLED is similar and usually found in TVs from Samsung, Hisense and TCL. While most of us would struggle to tell the difference between LED and QLED, it’s worth knowing that OLED TVs have the best quality – including deep blacks and crisp whites – but these will all be out of reach for our budget of under £500.
Resolution: This is how clear your picture quality will be. The lowest you want to go is 1080p, which is known as Full HD, as anything below will make your favorite shows look slightly blurry or out of focus – especially on larger screens. Luckily, 4K, known as Ultra HD, is now commonplace at the £500-and-under price point. This has four times the amount of pixels compared to Full HD panels, and it makes the picture look much sharper. For the greatest quality always make sure you are watching the HD version of a channel, movie or show. Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ all now host lots of 4K content.
Screen size: How big is the room for your new TV? Don’t buy a 55-inch if it has to squeeze into an alcove in your living room, but likewise, a 32-inch TV in a massive space will only result in serious eye strain. So how can you find the right size for you? First, know that TVs are measured in inches and diagonally – from corner to corner – and it’s generally recommended that your viewing area, like a sofa or bed, is roughly 1.5 times the vertical screen size away from the TV. So, for a 55-inch 4K TV, you should aim to be around two meters away from the screen.
app support: Every TV on this list is a “smart” TV, meaning that it connects to your home wifi and has access to apps such as BBC iPlayer, Spotify, ITV Hub, Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+, but you should always check the compatibility of the TV before buying as not every model lets you download every app. Thankfully you can get around this by picking up a streaming device, such as Roku Streaming Stick 4K or Fire TV Stick.
Smart features: The main smart feature you will have at the £500-and-under price point is built-in voice assistant support – which lets you control the TV and search for content using voice commands, sometimes by hitting a button on the remote. The most common are Alexa and Google Assistant, which are launched using “Hey, Alexa” or “OK, Google” trigger words and save you time searching for your show or changing the volume. Not every TV has every type of assistant, so check the specs to see what’s included.
refresh rate: This is how many times in a second the screen refreshes the image, and you will see it measured in hertz (Hz). There are two common types: 60Hz and 120Hz, with the bigger number usually only found in more expensive models. In general, the higher the number, the smoother the picture on the screen looks to your eyes because the screen shows more frames per second (fps), affecting how motion is shown.
connectivity: Most affordable TVs under £500 will have at least two HDMI ports, which are used to connect other devices such as streaming sticks, consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and set-top-boxes so they show on the TV. Two more common connectivity features are Bluetooth – used to pair soundbars, headphones or portable speakers – and a port that lets you connect to your wifi via an ethernet cable, giving you the fastest and most reliable streaming and download connection.
Wall mounting: While most TVs stand on feet, some let you mount the set to a wall using a bracket. The common standard is Vesa, with popular sizes being 200 x 200 mm, 400 x 400 mm and 600 x 400 mm (horizontal x vertical).
Which wall bracket you need to buy always depends on TV size, so measure the gaps between four pre-built screw holes on the back of your set. Make sure the bracket supports the TV’s size and weight – if the bracket can’t support the TV it will fall – and check that your wall is strong enough to hold the weight of the TV, too.