These days, television is all about streaming your favorite shows and movies whenever you want. And while you can stream on your phone or tablet, the best way to appreciate the seemingly limitless content out there is with a nice big screen — which is why you're going to want a smart TV.
A smart TV has integrated software that allows it to access different apps, mainly streaming services, without the need for an additional device. You can download a streaming service such as Netflix or HBO Max directly to your TV, and enjoy all films, TV shows, stream music, rent films and stream fitness classes. Some smart TVs even come with voice-activation features, so you can forget the remote and just ask Siri or Alexa to play the latest episode of Saturday Night Live.
Unless you have a pretty old TV set, a device like Roku can get your media center hooked up to the internet. However, you might want to upgrade your television entirely, whether it's to get better resolution or a much bigger model. In that case, getting a smart TV with included streaming capabilities is a great option.
While devices with all the bells and whistles go for the highest prices, there are quite a lot of inexpensive smart TVs out there. To help you figure out what smart TV will meet your needs and offer the best value for your money, we asked some technology experts for their recommendations. But first, some background on where and when to buy a TV if you're looking to pay the absolute lowest price possible.
Best Smart TV Deals: How to Shop Smart
What are the best smart TV deals? And what's the best place to shop? The answers to both of these questions can change on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis.
There are new smart TV sales launching every week of the year, and it can be hard to tell whether the latest discounts are true bargains or merely meh. To evaluate deals wisely, you must learn a bit about the best smart TV brands and models in your price range, and then figure out how much they really cost on a typical day. Neither task is as simple as you might hope.
The first task is complicated because electronics brands feature an astonishingly diverse range of device series and models. VIZIO TVs, for example, come in V-series, M-series, P-series and OLED varieties, and each line offers models in multiple different sizes and different model numbers. Sometimes, a specific smart TV model is sold exclusively by one retailer, though other similar — or completely identical — model numbers are often available from multiple stores.
As for the second task, you'd think it would be easy to find out how much a TV normally costs. Just look at the list price, right? Even this can be annoyingly complicated because retailers sometimes use different list prices — or cite varying "original," "regular" or "compare to" prices — to confuse shoppers into thinking that the sale price at the moment is a great deal.
What can shoppers do to make smart decisions? First, when browsing TVs and evaluating deals at Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Target, Walmart or other stores, do your best to make apples-to-apples comparisons. Look at brands and TV sizes, obviously, but also specific model numbers. If it's impossible to compare prices at different retailers for the same exact model, examine the TV's capabilities and specifics, including the model year, screen pixels (a higher rating means it has a higher definition and better picture), how many ports it has for plugging in game consoles and Blu-ray players and so on.
When it comes to researching how much a TV really costs, check out a price-tracking site such as CamelCamelCamel or Keepa, where you can view how prices have fluctuated at Amazon over the course of months. These services only track prices at Amazon, but Amazon often has good prices and matches competitor deals, so these sites can give you an indication of the market overall.
Finally, it's certainly worth looking for smart TV deals at strategic times of the year, like major shopping holidays. The Black Friday season — yes, it's an entire season now, with weeks of deals — is particularly known for amazingly cheap TV sales.
In other words, if you shop strategically, you could pay much less than the prices for the smart TVs below — which are already pretty good values, even without extra discounts.
Interested in learning more about what to consider when buying a TV? Check out the video below.
The Best Smart TVs
1. Best overall: Samsung QLED UHD Smart TV Q60T Series
List Price: $719.99
Jayant Gosain, a technology journalist and the founder of the blog The Tech Toys, says it's worth the extra money to go with the well-known brand name, and he likes the Samsung Q60T series in particular.
"I always recommend Tier-1 brands because it really affects the experience. You can easily get a $200 smart TV but what about the panel quality? You get dull colors, low brightness and a poor contrast ratio. A TV is all about the display and a poor display is not worth the money."
If you're happy with a 43-inch television, Samsung has one for around $530. (I like the smaller sizes, since they are more versatile for use as both a TV or a second computer monitor on work-from-home days.) If you're willing to throw down some serious cash for a gigantic 85-inch set, that runs more in the neighborhood of $2,500. Gosain says that either way, you'll be getting a lot for your money.
"We all know the quality of the display panel delivered by Samsung and this is no different. Accurate, bright and vibrant colors on a 4K display look absolutely stunning. On top of that, it comes with Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby built-in. Simply ask Alexa or any other Voice Assistant to play your favorite movie, TV show or even music and you are all set to have the best time with your family and friends," he says.
- Excellent size range from 43 to 85 inches
- Dual LED backlights for enhanced contrast
- Next-gen apps and an easy-to-use interface
- Voice control with built-in Alexa
- Only three HDMI ports
- Remote may be tricky to use initially
2. Best for gaming: Hisense Class H8G Quantum Series LED 4K UHD Android Smart TV
List Price: $596.00
If you're a big gamer, then Darshan Somashekar, New York-based tech entrepreneur and CEO & founder of the online game FreeCell Challenge, thinks you'll enjoy a Hisense smart TV. This is the brand of TV I have at home and it's great on both the gaming front and just for binging whatever show I'm into.
"When it comes to deep blacks and vivid colors, you get more than what you pay for with this budget option. That's one of the perks of a good VA panel, though the trade-off here is a narrow range of viewing angles. HDR10 and Dolby Vision pops relatively well thanks to a wide color gamut and full-array local dimming," he says. "Gamers and enthusiasts will appreciate its black frame insertion feature, which reduces motion blur. Despite a 60Hz refresh rate, folks can expect smooth and responsive gaming thanks to the H8G's very low input lag. Android TVs like this one provide native access to the Google Play Store and Google Assistant. But don't worry if you're an Alexa fan – that virtual assistant is also compatible."
- Ideal for gaming with low input lag
- Built-in Google Play Store and Google Assistant
- User-friendly voice-controlled remote
- Ultra-bright 4K resolution and superior HDR experience
- Only 60Hz refresh rate
- Limited Wi-Fi range
3. Best for Roku: TCL 6-Series 4K UHD Dolby Vision HDR QLED Roku Smart TV
List Price: $1,558.70
Before smart televisions became popular, many people used a Roku device to connect their set to the internet to check out this thing called "Netflix." But these days, Roku comes standard in many TVs. "There's no shortage of Roku TVs on the market," says Somashekar. "Roku is technically still a platform-agnostic streaming option, making it a neat alternative to the less-neutral Amazon Firestick and Apple TV. The TCL R635 offers excellent picture quality on a QLED display. It has a number of features that will float many gamers' boats, including black frame insertion and a variable refresh rate for reduced screen tearing."
- Mini-LED technology for excellent contrast and brightness
- THX-certified game mode for reliable response time
- Dolby Vision HDR ensures crisp, lifelike image
- Four HDMI ports for versatile use
- Built-in sound system could be louder
- Remote may wear out after extended use
4. Best picture quality: VIZIO M-Series 4K UHD HDR Smart TV
List Price: $599.44
This VIZIO series is equipped with Dolby Vision High-dynamic-range imaging, which makes it great for cinephiles with high standards for picture quality. I've owned a Vizio TV in the past and appreciated the level of quality for its reasonable price. The M Series from VIZIO "sports a whole host of features that can launch your own home theater," says Oleg Deneka, the founder of TechPriceCrunch. "With a great contrast ratio and dimming features, you can kick back and enjoy the show."
- Compatible with Bluetooth devices
- Quantum LED and customizable dimming settings
- AMD FreeSync certified for a quality gaming experience
- Sleek and thin frame and base
- Operating system may lag
- Remote volume buttons may stick
5. Best for low prices: TCL 4K UHD Roku Smart TV 4-Series
List Price: $499.99
Smart TVs are sometimes viewed as a luxury item, but you can still stream your heart out on a budget with TCL. "If at the bottom line, price is what is most important for you," then the TCL 3- and 4-Series lines offer very solid options, says Deneka. "It has all the smart features that you will expect from a modern TV, but it’s lacking in the support functions and video quality that higher-end models can provide. If you’re willing to make that sacrifice for a decent screen, this option is up for grabs." This sentiment is exactly why I went with a TCL in college — the brand has options that are decently functional and nice-looking without the price tag of big-name models.
With a reputation for decent quality and such low prices, it's no surprise TCL often dominates Amazon's bestselling TV list.
- Wide size range from 43 to 85 inches
- Simple home screen can be personalized
- Ultra HD 4K resolution with 4K upscaling
- User-friendly remote layout
- Must create a Roku account
- May not provide optimal color contrast
People Also Ask
Q: What factors should I consider when choosing a smart TV?
A: When choosing a smart TV, consider factors such as screen size, display technology (like OLED or QLED), resolution (such as 4K or 8K), smart features, connectivity options, audio quality and your budget. Some other features to look for in a smart TV include a user-friendly interface, a robust app store with popular streaming services, built-in Wi-Fi, multiple HDMI ports, USB ports and support for HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. Additionally, voice control and smart home integration can enhance your viewing experience. It's important to prioritize the features that matter most to you.
Q: How do I determine the appropriate screen size for my smart TV?
A: The appropriate screen size depends on the viewing distance and personal preference. A general rule of thumb is that the viewing distance should be approximately 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal screen size. For example, if you sit about 6 to 9 feet away from the TV, a 55-inch screen would be suitable. However, it's always a good idea to visit a store and see the TVs in person to determine the size that feels comfortable to you.
Q: Which operating system is best for a smart TV?
A: The best operating system for a smart TV depends on your specific needs and preferences. Some popular smart TV operating systems include LG's webOS, Samsung's Tizen OS, Android TV and Roku TV. Each has its own interface, app selection and features. Consider the availability of the apps you use, ease of navigation and overall user experience when choosing an operating system.
Q: Are there any specific connectivity options I should look for in a smart TV?
A: When it comes to connectivity options, it's important to have multiple HDMI ports (preferably HDMI 2.0 or higher) for connecting external devices such as gaming consoles, Blu-ray players or soundbars. Look for built-in Wi-Fi (preferably dual-band) to ensure seamless streaming and internet access. Additionally, an Ethernet port can provide a more stable and reliable internet connection if needed.
Q: What is the importance of display technology when selecting a smart TV?
A: Display technology plays a crucial role in the picture quality of a smart TV. OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) and QLED (Quantum Dot LED) are popular display technologies known for their vibrant colors, deep blacks and excellent contrast. OLED TVs offer individually lit pixels, providing true blacks and wide viewing angles. QLED TVs use quantum dots to enhance brightness and color accuracy. Consider your budget and desired viewing experience when choosing a display technology.
Q: How do I know I've selected the right audio quality for a smart TV?
A: While the built-in speakers of smart TVs have improved over the years, they may not provide the best audio experience. If you prioritize audio quality, consider a TV with built-in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support. Alternatively, you can connect external sound systems like soundbars or home theater systems via HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) or optical audio ports. This will enhance the overall sound quality and provide a more immersive viewing experience.
Why Trust Us
Our commitment to the consumer begins with product selection and ends with the last word we write in each article. Each smart TV is carefully vetted quantitatively through star ratings and the number of reviews qualitatively through careful examination of reviews and the features each one has to offer. Leveraging our team of bargain hunters, we’re always sure to keep your budget in mind while finding the best smart TVs on the market. Our team of experts is dedicated to accurately depicting the pros and cons of each smart TV, translating technical product specifications into information you can understand. Our mission is to make sure you get the most bang for your buck…or, in this case, the highest-quality smart TV for your buck.