Cheap TVs That Aren't Worth the Money

An inexpensive TV is no bargain if the picture quality disappoints you. CR tells you which sets to avoid—and what to buy instead.

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TV Illustration: iStock

It can be hard to resist an ultralow price on a new 4K TV set, but as Consumer Reports’ TV ratings show, not all cheap TVs are great deals. You can often get a better set by spending just a little more money—or sometimes even less.

The low-rated TVs listed below don’t cost a lot, but they lag behind most of the 300 or so other models in our ratings in terms of picture quality.

None of these cheap TVs are from major brands, such as LG, Samsung, and Sony. But don’t write off a lesser-known brand just because one of its models landed on this list. Some of these brands also offer better-performing models that might be worth considering—and we even recommend a few.

We buy every TV we test at retail. We don’t accept freebies or hand-picked models from manufacturers, so every tested model is just like one you might take home.

More on TVs

In our ratings, you’ll see separate scores for high-definition and ultra-high-definition (UHD, or 4K) picture quality, as well as high dynamic range (HDR) performance. We also judge a TV’s viewing angle, motion blur reduction, and sound quality, and consider ease of use and versatility.

We’ve also recently added scores for other important attributes, including reliability and satisfaction, as well as privacy and security, which is becoming increasingly important to consumers.

Here’s our list of TVs you can skip—starting with the largest screen sizes—as well as some alternatives for you to consider instead.

RCA RWOSU7049, $550

The RCA RWOSU7049 TV is getting hard to find—and that’s probably a good thing. This 70-inch set has the lowest Overall Score of any TV larger than 28 inches in our ratings, thanks to subpar overall picture quality, ineffective HDR, a narrow viewing angle, and below-average sound. You might also want to avoid the Philips 75PFL4756, a 75-inch 4K Roku TV that didn’t do any better for the main components of picture quality.

What to choose instead: The Hisense 70A6G, a budget 4K Android TV, is about the same price as the Philips. Or if you spend just a bit more, you can buy the Vizio V705-J03, a 70-inch entry-level 4K smart TV. Either will do a better job on both high-definition and 4K picture quality, though not on HDR performance. Another option is the LG 70UP7070PUE, which offers a slight bump up in the HDR experience for a slightly larger increase in price.

Hisense 65R6E4, $448

Hisense sets typically do fairly well in our ratings, and some of its top-tier models offer a lot for the money. The Hisense 65R6E4, though, is an exception, earning it the lowest Overall Score in our ratings in this size category. (To be fair, several other sets did no better for picture quality and HDR.) It’s a 65-inch Roku TV that had middling scores for picture quality—among other things, black levels were overly bright—and its HDR was ineffective.

What to choose instead: If you’re on a tight budget, consider the TCL 65S446, a 65-inch Google TV that costs less than the Hisense and offers very good overall picture quality, though only a very limited HDR experience. For a bit better HDR experience, consider the Toshiba 65M550KU, a slightly more expensive 65-inch model that uses the Amazon Fire TV smart system.

Vizio V555-J01, $385

Vizio sets typically offer a nice balance of price and performance, but we suggest skipping this 55-inch model, the Vizio V555-J01. It has below-par overall picture quality and ineffective HDR. It’s one of Vizio’s entry-level 4K sets from 2021.

What to choose instead: One good slightly lower-priced alternative is the Amazon B08P3QB66R, among Amazon’s first branded TVs (which use the Amazon Fire TV smart TV system), which are sold only through Amazon and Best Buy. It offers very good overall picture quality and somewhat better HDR. Or consider the Hisense 55U7G, a feature-laden, albeit pricier, 55-inch Android TV with satisfying HD and 4K picture quality, plus a better, though not great, HDR experience. To get both high-quality overall picture quality and an exciting HDR experience, you’ll have to splurge a bit for the TCL 55R635, a Roku TV. It’s the only 55-inch set in our ratings that can deliver an effective HDR experience, and it has very good sound to boot.

RCA RWOSU5047, $258

Like its larger sibling, described above, the 50-inch RCA RWOSU5047 has the lowest Overall Score in its screen size. It earns that designation thanks to below-average overall picture quality, ineffective HDR, and subpar sound.

What to choose instead: You don’t really have to spend more to get a better-performing set. Our picks include the Vizio V505-J09 and the LG 50UP8000PUA. While the Vizio doesn’t improve on the ineffective HDR, it does offer top-notch HD and 4K picture quality. The LG has very good overall picture quality, and at least some level of an HDR experience. It also provides very good sound. Plus, it’s selling for $380 on LG’s website right now.

Hisense 43A6G (and 43A6GX)

To be really fair, there are a number of sets in this screen size that offer subpar overall picture quality and an ineffective HDR experience, but someone has to come in last. The Hisense 43A6G is an Android TV mode, while the 43A6GX is one of a new series of TVs that use Comcast’s XClass TV operating system. These two 43-inch sets are at the bottom of our ratings in their size category. (The Vizio M43Q6-J04 has a lower Overall Score, but its picture quality is better.)

What to choose instead: Very few TVs in this size do a very good job with HDR. One low-priced alternative is the Onn 100012584, from Walmart’s house brand for electronics. Others include the TCL 43S435, a 4K Roku TV, and the Insignia NS-43F301NA22, an Amazon Fire TV from Best Buy’s house brand. All have very good overall picture quality at relatively low prices, but ineffective HDR.

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.