Last updated: January 2018
Of course we’d all love to play our console games on a massive $4,000 OLED 4K TV, but for most of us, that’s just beyond our budget. In fact, many consumers balk at spending even $1,000 on a new TV. Even if you’re not that price-conscious, there are plenty of reasons to be in the market for a cheap TV. Maybe it’s a secondary TV for the kid’s room or den. Maybe it’s a stopgap until you move next year. Maybe you just don’t use a TV that often and can’t justify spending much money on it. Spending more money on a TV your whole family will use isn’t necessarily a bad idea—you often get better color reproduction, viewing angles, brightness, and contrast.
Whatever the reason you have for wanting a cheap TV, we’re here to help you find one that will still deliver gaming greatness without breaking the bank. These are the best TVs for gaming under $400.
4K or not 4K?
Before we get to our picks, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss whether or not you should buy a 4K TV. Even if you only have a console capable of 1080p gaming (a PS4 or Xbox One S), there are a couple benefits to buying a 4K TV. First, there’s High Dynamic Range (HDR), a feature found almost exclusively in 4K TVs. Increasingly, games are starting to support HDR on the PS4 and Xbox One S, and it can make a big difference in image quality. These games will look a lot better on a 4K TV with HDR support than on a 1080p TV without it.
Second, there’s future-proofing. You may not have a console capable of 4K gaming right now, but do you really want to buy a new TV when you buy a 4k console down the line? The downside is, of course, 4K TVs cost a lot more. If you want to go for it, check out our picks for the best 4K TVs for gaming. We’ve got a budget 4K TV suggestion in this list, but the rest are 1080p TVs.
Best Overall – TCL 49S305
TCL is the king of low-cost TVs, offering better overall value than nearly every other brand while still maintaining respectable quality. This model is a perfect example: A 49-inch 1080p TV for only $350! It must have bad picture quality, right? Actually, it’s quite good for a budget TV. You won’t get some of the advanced features you find in expensive TVs like local dimming, but you do get built-in Roku smart TV software. And the input lag in game mode is pretty low for a budget TV, too.
Another Good Option – LG 49LJ5500
Coming in right at $399 is a nice-sized 49-inch LG 1080p TV that has been well-received by customers. It’s a little pricier than the TCL set of the same size, but offers marginally better picture quality. Most of LG’s recent TVs, with the latest firmware and in Game mode, offer very low input lag. The TCL is probably the better buy, but if for whatever reason you can’t get that one or want to stick with LG, you won’t be disappointed with this second choice.
Best Cheap 4K TV – TCL 55S405
As we mentioned in our best 4K TVs guide, at $399 this is an absurdly low price for a giant 55-inch, 4K TV set. There’s one catch: its peak brightness isn’t really high enough to make HDR content really shine. So, while HDR is technically supported and will work with your HDR-enabled consoles, it won’t look all that much better than SDR. That’s just a fact of life right now: you can’t get really good HDR quality without spending around $650 or so.
But in every other way, this is an amazing deal. Huge size, great picture quality, low input lag, and built-in Roku software.
Better Image Quality – Samsung UN49M5300AF
This Samsung 49-inch 1080p TV isn’t quite the stellar value that the TCL S305 is, but it has significantly better color reproduction and brightness. And Samsung’s custom Smart TV software is pretty good, too. It used to cost about $150 more than the TCL, which isn’t worth it, but you can now easily find it for $399. At that price, if you’re a stickler for image quality, it might be worth spending just a little more.
Really Low Budget – TCL 32S305
What’s that? You want something really cheap? Like… really cheap? How does only $150 grab you? Of course, you give up some size (it’s 32 inches), but that’s to be expected. Also expected, the limited 720p resolution. On TVs 32 inches and smaller, that’s pretty common. You can get 1080p in a 32-inch TV, but you have to pay almost twice as much as this TCL set. And unless you sit really close, you won’t notice the difference that much. Not on a screen this size.
Input lag is only so-so and image quality isn’t the greatest. After all, we’re talking about a TV that costs less than some video game collector’s editions. You’re just not going to find super-low input lag and pristine visuals in this price range. As ultra-low cost TVs go, TCL punches way above its weight here, but be aware of its drawbacks.