Photo of a cheap TV that's been wall mounted.

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

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 cheap 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. A case in point: TCL has a model on this list, but another of its sets made our list of Best Big-Screen TV Bargains.

Every model in our ratings goes through a battery of 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.

More on TVs

Like all of the products that Consumer Reports tests, every TV in our ratings was purchased 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.

Along with the cheap 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.


Go to Consumer Reports’ 2018 Holiday Central for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
 

TCL 65S405, $600

At just $600 for a 65-inch 4K TV, the TCL 65S405 may seem attractive, but it's not an especially good deal. The TV is the lowest-rated 65-inch 4K set in our TV ratings. Plus, it's a leftover 2017 model. 

What to choose instead: If price is your ultimate concern, consider the Hitachi 65R80, which we've seen at Sam's Club for $600. For just a bit more, a different TCL model, the TCL 65S513, does slightly better. Note that we see this set only at Costco, where it's listed as the TCL 65S5, priced at $700. 

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RCA RNSMU5536, $300

This 55-inch RCA 4K TV may wow with its low $300 price, but it won't win you over with its picture quality, which landed it at the very bottom of our ratings in this size category. In fact, it's one of only a handful of TVs to earn just a "Fair" score for HD picture quality

What to choose instead: We recommend the Hisense 55DU6500 or Sharp LC-55Q7030U. Both are 4K sets that perform better, and you can find them for about the same amount if you shop around.

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Element E2SW5018, $300

In a race to the bottom—of our 50-inch ratings, that is—the Element E2SW5018 edged out the JVC LT48MA570. Though they both had the same disappointing Overall Score, the Element gets the nod because at $300, it costs a lot more than the $180 JVC.

What to choose instead: For the same $300, you could get the Hisense 50H6E, a 4K set, or for a bit less, the Insignia NS-50D510NA19, a 1080p set from Best Buy's house brand that costs $280.

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Polaroid 40T2F, $300

This 40-inch 1080p smart TV from Polaroid has the dubious distinction of earning the lowest Overall Score of any TV in our ratings. Plus, it isn't even close to being the least expensive tested model in this size.

What to choose instead: For just $200, you could get either the Insignia NS-39DR510NA17 or the Sanyo FW40D48F. Both are 1080p TVs that offer a much better picture. 

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Sceptre X325BV-FSR, $140

Like several of its disappointing brethren in this article, this Sceptre set holds down the lowest slot in our ratings in its size category. It does have a low price, but you can find a better TV for even less.

What to choose instead: If you just need a basic 720p set, it's hard to beat the Insignia NS-32D220NA18, which costs just $100. If you like being able to stream Netflix and Amazon right from the TV, the TCL 32S301 is a Roku TV that costs $140. Both deliver better picture quality.

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