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Cheap LCD TVs Buying Guide
For many consumers, their long and passionate affair with television hit dizzying new heights with the introduction of high-definition LCD TV and its vibrant, crystal-sharp images. But trading up to a slim, flat, good-size hi-def TV was costly.
These days the market is flooded with cheap LCD TVs from numerous manufacturers, including Sony, Panasonic, Vizio, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp, and Westinghouse. You'll have no trouble finding a cheap LCD TV, whether it's a smaller model in the 26- to 37-inch range or a larger 40- or 42-inch model, all with starting prices that max out at $600.
We've identified several best, cheap LCD TVs. The model we're most impressed with is the Vizio E3201-A0 (starting at $258, Amazon), a Smart TV with very good picture quality and LED backlighting that you can buy for a song. The LG 32LM6200 (starting at $550, Amazon) is another solid 32-inch entry that's loaded with features, including LED backlighting and 3D TV and Smart TV functions, that retails for less than $600. We also found a pair of larger LCD TVs worth considering. The Toshiba 40L5200U (starting at $490, Amazon) is remarkably cheap for a 40-inch LED-based TV and has few extra features but includes three HDMI ports, which matters to buyers who want to connect several devices to one TV without an adapter. The Samsung UN40EH6000 (starting at $563, Amazon) is another affordable 40-inch LED TV with very good picture quality that hovers near, and sometimes above, the top of our price range. Then there's the LG 32CS560 (starting at $329, Amazon), a model that displays poor black levels and judders when playing movies; for the price, you can find better alternatives.
The specs on cheap LCD TVs vary from model to model, but the feature set is straightforward. Almost all LCD TVs these days come with the standard 1080p resolution, although a few budget models top out at 720p. The preferred refresh rate is 120Hz, but many cheap LCD TVs feature 60Hz, which is perfectly fine for most programming. Inputs and outputs, including HDMI ports, component ports, and USB ports, are must-haves. A few entry-level models now sport Wi-Fi connectivity and Smart TV functionality that provides access to apps offered by the TV's manufacturer, and the best cheap LCD TVs incorporate LED backlighting technology, which generally improves picture quality. 3D capability is a growing trend.
Perhaps the one feature consumers actually agonize over is the size of the cheap LCD TV they plan to buy. The general rule of thumb is that viewing distance from the television should be roughly 1.5 times the screen's diagonal measurement, so be sure you know how far away you'll be sitting before making your choice.
In terms of quality, one performance criterion towers over the rest: the picture should look fantastic. The color should be sharp and bright, the movement on-screen should be fluid and free of lag, and the black levels should be dark. Although the best cheap LCD TVs deliver what could reasonably be considered an exhilarating viewing experience, expert reviews note that lower-end models typically fall short on black levels and color saturation.
This is not to say that the average consumer will be disappointed, just that a $600 LCD TV can't deliver the stunning image quality displayed by a $2,500 LCD TV. High-end models are generally larger than their budget counterparts and have much faster refresh rates, very high contrast ratios, and deeply saturated colors. Not surprisingly, they also outdo budget models with more inputs and outputs, LED backlighting, and frills such as built-in Wi-Fi and lots of Internet widgets.
Even the best cheap LCD TVs tend to be slightly flawed in one way or another, but the current crop hold their own in terms of features and performance. And remember, for a bargain price you still get a wide-screen, high-definition display that beats the old standard-definition tube TV any day. Just be sure to follow the advice of the experts: Don't settle for the pre-set, out-of-the-box settings. Take the time to calibrate black levels and white levels, sharpness, color saturation, and color tint to suit the viewing environment and your own visual preferences.
Best Cheap LCD TVs
The Vizio E320i-A0 combines excellent picture quality, Smart TV functionality, and a very low price point in this 32-inch set. Its only drawback is a 720p resolution rather than 1080p, but at this price that's not much of a sacrifice.Read more »
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Good Cheap LCD TVs
Toshiba's 40L5200U is light on features, but users are thrilled with the three HDMI ports and impressive picture quality. If you need a cheap LCD TV for a smaller living room, this 40-inch set is a compelling option.Read more »
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Vizio E422VLE Review
LG 32CS560 Review
Toshiba 40L5200U Review
Samsung UN40EH6000 Review
Vizio E320i-A0 Review
LG 32LM6200 Review
Sony Bravia EX400
Sony Bravia XBR-55HX929
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