It's almost Super Bowl Sunday -- America's favorite secular holiday, when family and friends gather among piles of nachos and cases of beer. The big game on Feb. 7 begs to be watched on a big screen, and retailers are offering deals to tempt consumers to splurge on pricey TVs. But don't jump at a big discount without considering features and performance. Cheapism.com analyzed reviews and product specifications to come up with four top picks under $500. These cheap TVs not 4K ultra-high-definition, but neither is the Super Bowl broadcast; better to wait until prices drop. In the meantime, the models featured here display images in full 1080p HD. They're all smart TVs with access to online streaming services such as Netflix. They aren't tiny, either: The screens are as large as 55 inches.
Top 4 Budget TVs Under $500 for Super Bowl 2016
Vizio refreshed its popular budget E-Series TVs in 2015, and they're better than ever. The 50-inch model, the Vizio E50-C1, boasts vibrant, accurate colors and better black levels than its competitors in this price range. Reviewers warn that the viewing angles aren't quite as good, a potential damper on a Super Bowl party with people sitting all over the room. But all things considered, the Vizio E50-C1 is a clear winner at this price: It recently dropped $50 on Amazon to $448.
Most Sony TVs are high-end models, and quite high quality. But the 48-inch Sony KDL-48R510C (starting at $463) is a budget model in that tradition. The edge-lit display allows a slim profile, and while most edge-lit models struggle to maintain good screen uniformity and contrast, this one excels. It has great contrast, deep black levels, and impressive color accuracy, reviewers say.
The Insignia NS-48DR420NA16 is a Super Bowl contender at a super price: The 48-inch TV is on sale at Best Buy for only $350. Its color and black levels aren't quite on par with other TVs in this price range, but consumers will be hard-pressed to find a cheaper deal on a TV this size. The 55-inch model in the series (NS-55DR420NA16) is also discounted right now -- to just $500.
Along with Insignia, TCL is one of a handful of manufacturers that features the Roku TV interface, a brilliantly designed menu for managing apps, streaming video, and inputs for devices such as a cable box, game console, and Blu-ray player. The Chinese brand is making inroads in the U.S. by offering big-time bargains. Buyers can find the 50-inch TCL 50FS3800 for just over four Benjamins (starting at $420). That's a lot of screen real estate for the price.