These Are The 5 Best 2018 4K HDR TVs For Under $500
Stephan Jukic – December 13, 2018
As we explained in our recent guide to the best 2018 4K HDR TVs for under $1000, the prices of these televisions have steadily been dropping to incredible new levels for years and this trend only continues. Thus, while it’s still possible to spend thousands of dollars on an ultra-premium 4K TV with blasting high dynamic range and all the best possible TV display technology you can imagine, it’s also still possible to spend very little money on some amazingly good pieces of 4K HDR TV technology that even has one or two premium features packed into it.
That’s what we’re going to cover here. We’re taking the idea of 4K on a budget even further down from $1000 dollar limits and right into a demonstration of the best possible picture quality and decent display size you can get even if your budget is less than half that amount. All of the following 4K ultra HD TVs offer high dynamic range, solid overall display performance and several other important features while costing less than $500. We’ve ranked them top to bottom from best down to least valuable for $500 or less.
Let’s get started.
TCL 55-inch 5-Series 4K HDR TV: $429.99
By far the best of the bunch on this ultra-lean budget listing of best 4K HDR TVs is TCL’s 5-Series S517 4K HDR LCD TV. In terms of display size and general overall quality, the 5-Series is a remarkably good performer for its price and not only does it pull this off, it also manages to throw in some premium technology. For one thing, what you get with the 430 dollars you’ll spend on the 55 inch model is a respectably large screen that’s good enough even for most living rooms. Along with that, the S517 also throws in full HDR support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10, beautiful wide color gamut coverage, superb console gaming performance (due to extremely low input lag) and some very good black levels and contrast ratio. Overall, it’s almost amazing for the price it sells at. Yes, TCL’s pricier and better built 6-Series, which we covered in our “Best 4K HDR TVs for Under $1000” guide is an even better choice but the 55 inch 5-Series is as good as things get at this even lower budget price.
We should also definitely mention this model’s Roku TV smart platform. It’s one of the best in existence today in terms of usability and sheer vast selection of apps and content, and even more importantly, it makes the TV come with a Roku remote that includes the normally premium technology of voice control.
On the negative side, the 5-Series is certainly not HDR powerhouse. Its peak brightness isn’t nearly as high as that of the 6-Series and unlike its pricier sister TV, this model lacks local dimming technology, which leaves more than a bit to be desired. Then again though, even with these defects, the sheer value for price of this model is excellent.
Samsung 40-inch, 43-inch & 49-inch NU7100 4K HDR TV: $377.99/ $489.00/ $499.99
By far the best Samsung 4K HDR TV at this price is the NU7100, That said, for its 40, 43 or 49 inch screens (all three cost less than $500, though the 49 incher manages it on a technicality by only a penny) the NU7100 is a very good 4K HDR LCD TV that covers all the essentials of high quality advanced picture performance. It offers some key HDR display technologies in the form of HDR10 support and 10-bit color and also manages to deliver some very good black levels and contrast ratio.
In addition to these things, this model delivers a decent level of motion handling for its price and status in the Samsung 2018 4K TV hierarchy. The single best feature of the NU7100 though is its capability when it comes to gaming connectivity; the TV offers fantastically good input lag levels and support all sorts of resolution and color settings for advanced gameplay in 4K resolution, HDR or in combinations of the two and different color settings.
In terms of notable negative qualities, the NU7100 has a few even for its low price. For one thing, we wish that Samsung sold the 55 inch version at the price that the 49 inch model goes for and most unfortunately of all, think that this TV doesn’t get nearly as bright as it should for its status as an HDR 4K TV. At its best it underperforms even some of the mid-range Samsung TVs of 2016, such as the KU6300, which is downright unfortunate. One further negative quality of the NU7100 is that it lacks wide color gamut, which the TCL S517 ranked above it DOES come with (along with a notably brighter display).
Samsung 43 inch, 50-inch NU6900 4K HDR LCD TV: $323.23/ $427.99
The Samsung NU6900 is extremely similar to the NU7100 but lacks some of the superior motion handling that its slightly pricier cousin is capable of offering. In most other regards though it performs equally well. This means that it also delivers great overall color performance, excellent contrast ratio, deep, rich black levels and most importantly of all, it comes with a great capacity for handling gaming via consoles or PCs, in both 4K HDR settings and in other resolution and color support formats. The NU6900 is also a nice, lightly designed 4K TV that’s solidly built with a sturdy supporting stand and fairly narrow bezels along its screen edges. Most of all, this model makes for a very decent starter or bedroom/studio 4K TV and as a PC display or gaming screen, it’s nearly perfect for its price.
In terms of negative aspects, the NU6900 is an even dimmer 4K HDR model than the NU7100 and this takes a good deal of the quality out of its high dynamic range display specs. Additionally, because it lacks wide color gamut, the overall color vibrancy that it can create for high dynamic range content is somewhat limited. On a final note, the NU6900 doesn’t throw out the best motion handling performance we’ve seen among budget 4K TVs. In this characteristic it’s fairly weak for fast-paced action content, particularly in 4K resolution.
Toshiba 55LF621U19 55-inch 4K HDR Amazon Fire TV: $399.99
The Toshiba 55LF621U19 is one of Amazon’s Fire 4K TVs and for this reason more than any other, it deserves a spot here. The Amazon Fire 4K “HDR” TVs are famous for offering basic but decent picture quality, great ultra HD content app access and a very, very good user control interface for extremely low prices. In other words, as long as you don’t mind less than excellent picture quality that is nonetheless fairly decent, this model and other Fire 4K TVs like it will deliver some of the best raw smart platform entertainment value for your money.
Best of all, they are dirt cheap for coming with such a large 55 inch screen while also featuring the normally premium feature of Amazon’s truly superb Alexa remote and smart TV platform, which offer excellent access to content apps along with some of today’s most sophisticated voice control technology for smart TVs. Overall, this Toshiba Fire 4K TV is a great value for its sheer low price of just under $400 mainly because of all the smart functionality it comes with. It also offers very decent if basic picture performance and true, full 4K resolution, which is more than we can say for the last under-$500 4K TV on our list.
The Toshiba 55LF621U19 suffers from the simple flaw of being a completely mediocre performer across all key metrics of picture quality. Yes it offers full, crystal clear 4K UHD resolution and this makes it a great TV in comparison to almost any 1080P HD model you could buy but the HDR on this model is extremely weak, its color performance is ordinary and its motion handling capability is only moderately decent. As long as you mind these deficiencies (and many people won’t at all), the Toshiba 55LF621U19 offers robustly good value for its price as a starter 4K TV with a remarkably good smart platform/remote control combo.
LG 49-INCH UK6300PUE 4K HDR TV: $396.02
LG’s 49 inch UK6300 is just about as affordably priced as a 4K HDR TV can get and in exchange for that low, low cost, it delivers a fairly functional but decent package of display performance specs, some limited HDR rendering capability and sharp, clear pseudo-4K resolution. Most of all though it offers excellent viewing angles due to its IPS display panel design and makes for a great 4K TV if you want to use it for gaming through consoles or as a PC monitor. It’s connectivity package is also robust and fully modern with all of the same essential ports and standards that you’d find in some of LG’s best 4K HDR TVs. The same goes for the inclusion of its excellent ThnkQ engine and Dolby Vision HDR support (though it won’t do you much good on this TV due to the weak display specs it delivers) In basic terms, the UK6300 makes for a bare-bones but fairly decent budget 4K TV and a very good starter model if you’re a student who’s just moving out and wants decent-sized home theater display at a nearly rock bottom price.
There are two major reasons why we ranked the LG UK6300 at the very bottom of our list and they both badly affect some aspects of its picture quality. First and foremost, this 4K UHD TV offers mediocre contrast ratios, terrible black levels and mediocre peak brightness. LG’s LCD 4K TVs used to commonly suffer these three highly related problems but some of the higher-priced 2018 and 2017 LCD editions have finally surmounted such issues. Not so for the UK6300: though it’s still a much better performer than comparably priced 2016 or older LG LCD cousins we’ve reviewed.
Secondly and almost as damaging to picture quality, this model is one of LG’s now famous RGBW “4K” TVs, which technically come with full ultra HD resolution in terms of pixel count but which in practice offset some of that native pixel-generated sharpness by substituting every certain number of color pixels with white ones that reduce overall clarity and worsen contrast ratio and black levels even more. You can read in much greater detail about the whole RGBW issue here about some of LG’s cheaper 2017 “4K” TV models and here for certain 2016 editions, We explain the finer details of this major design deficiency completely in both of these older posts on previous RGBW LG TV editions.