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Low-Rated TVs That Aren't Worth the Money

They might be cheap, but you can get higher-performing TVs for nearly the same price

Everyone likes to get a great deal on a new TV set, but as Consumer Reports’ TV ratings show, not all cheaper TVs represent great deals. Often, you can get a better set by spending just a little more money.

The low-rated TVs listed below don’t cost much, but they lag behind most of the 220 or so other models in our ratings in terms of picture quality. 

You’ll notice that none of these TVs are from major brands, such as LG, Samsung, Sony, or Vizio. Models from these companies typically do well in our TV ratings.

But don’t write off a lesser-known brand just because one of its models landed on this list of low-rated TVs. Most of these brands also offer better-performing models that might be worth considering, especially if you see them at an attractive price.

You should know that every model in our ratings goes through a battery of both objective measurements and subjective evaluations designed to push a TV to its limits. In our ratings, you’ll see separate scores for high-definition picture quality, UHD performance (for 4K models), viewing angle, motion blur, and sound quality. We also consider ease-of-use and versatility.

Like all of the products that Consumer Reports tests, every TV we test is purchased at retail. We don’t accept freebies or hand-picked models from manufacturers—so every tested model is just like the one you might take home.

Along with the TVs with low CR ratings, we’ve listed alternatives for you to consider. These televisions cost about the same but have done better in our testing.

Insignia NS-50D510NA17

Insignia NS-50D510NA17

The 50-inch Insignia NS-50D510NA17, a 720p model from Best Buy’s house brand, has earned the lowest overall score in our TV ratings. The main issue we had with this set, which sells for about $330, was that all the content we played had a “stuttering” effect, or jerkiness during motion. That can be very distracting, especially on sports programs. We purchased a second sample of this TV just to make sure, and it, too, had the same problem. Because we don’t keep these TVs for extended periods, it’s possible that the issue has been addressed via firmware update. In fact, the 39-inch version we also tested didn’t have the same problem. Additionally, the TV’s sound was only fair, and its motion-blur performance was poor, even for a basic 60Hz set.

What to choose instead: The LG 49LJ5100 is a $350 set with very good HD picture quality and a wider-than-average viewing angle for an LCD TV. Costing just a bit more—about $380—the Vizio D48f-E0 has very good HD picture quality and the company’s VIA smart TV platform.

    RCA RTU4921

    RCA RTU4921

    The 49-inch RCA RTU4921, a 4K UHD TV found mainly at BJ’s right now, carries a very low price for a 4K model: $300. But that can’t overcome the set’s ultimately disappointing performance, thanks to very aggressive oversharpening that we couldn’t adjust. The result is ho-hum HD picture quality and UHD performance that was below that of most other tested sets. Also, its sound was only fair.

    What to choose instead: The hard-to-beat Hisense 50H6D, $400, has very good HD and UHD performance, plus internet capability. Another option is Vizio’s E48U-D0, which also sells for only $300 or so at Target. It’s a 4K smart TV, but it doesn’t do quite as well as the Hisense set when it comes to UHD performance.

      RCA RLDEDV4001-A

      RCA RLDEDV4001-A

      This 40-inch 1080p TV is the second RCA set on our list. It’s also something of an anachronism—a TV/DVD combo. That’s an arrangement that used to be more common. Unfortunately, the $250 RCA RLDEDV4001-A is among the lowest-rated TVs in our ratings, with disappointing HD picture quality, a narrow viewing angle, and only fair sound. You could buy one of the sets below and add a cheap DVD player for about the same total cost.

      What to choose instead: The Vizio D39hn-E0 or the Element ELST4316S is a better choice. Both are 1080p sets with very good HD picture quality that sell for about $230. The Vizio is a basic 720p set; the Element is a 1080p model with a basic smart TV system.



        Sanyo FW40D36F

        Sanyo FW40D36F

        This 40-inch 1080p LED LCD TV from Sanyo, found mainly at Walmart, has a low price ($270), but its picture quality doesn’t measure up to most sets this size. Among the issues our testers saw were poor contrast that made images look flat and lacking in depth, and below-average color accuracy.

        What to choose instead: The LG 43LJ5500, $300, and the Hisense 40H4C1, $285, are better options. Both are 1080p smart TV models with very good picture quality. The LG did a bit better overall, with a wider viewing angle. The Hisense is a Roku TV model, meaning that it incorporates the Roku streaming platform.

          TCL 32D100

          TCL 32D100

          TCL, a leading Chinese manufacturer, has had some great and some not-so-great sets in our ratings. The TCL 32D100, a 32-inch 720p model that sells for about $150, falls into the latter camp, with HD picture quality below most sets its size. One reason: too much over-enhancement on the edges of objects.

          What to choose instead: The TCL 32S301, $150, and the Insignia NS-32D220NA18, $120, both have very good HD picture quality. The TCL is a Roku TV with access to online content, and the Insignia isn’t a smart TV.


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            James K. Willcox

            I've been a tech journalist for more years than I'm willing to admit. My specialties at CR are TVs, streaming media, audio, and TV and broadband services. In my spare time I build and play guitars and bass, ride motorcycles, and like to sail—hobbies I've not yet figured out how to safely combine.