Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2017.
In late 2012, the first 4K TVs from LG and Sony went on sale in the U.S. Both were 84 inches and exceeded $20,000. So while desirable — 4K TVs have four times as many pixels as standard HD TVs (3840 x 2160 versus 1920 x 1080) and can produce a much more clear and beautiful picture — people basically had to choose between buying a top-notch TV and sending their child to college. Thankfully, that’s changed. Every major TV manufacturer makes at least one 4K TV, and they all come in myriad display sizes and price points. If you don’t want to break four digits on a 4K TV, you no longer have to.
TCL’s US5800 line is made up of inexpensive and easy-to-use 4K Roku TVs. They’re great for streaming 4K content from various services; however, they are not HDR compatible, meaning that the TVs can’t upscale the image quality of non-4K programming. That said, they’re probably the most affordable 4K TVs you’ll find.
Screen Size: 55 in
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Refresh Rate: 120Hz
Other Size Options: 65 in for $992
Sony makes some of the most beautiful 4K HDR TVs on the market, but most cost well over $1,000. The X800D line, however, features some of the company’s nicest budget-friendly TVs. Each set runs Android TV and features Sony’s signature Triluminos display, which boasts a wide color spectrum.
Screen Size: 49 in
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Other Size Options: 43 in for $630
Vizio SmartCast P-Series
New in March 2016, the Vizio SmartCast P-Series features an ultra HD display decked out with Dolby Vision’s high dynamic range, creating colors as rich and lifelike as the theater. The P-Series is also changing the way people watch smart TVs: instead of scrolling through apps, as you would with Roku, the P-Series comes with a six-inch Android tablet/remote and utilizes Google Cast. Basically, everything you used to do on the TV with Chromecast is now done on this new tablet. And you can watch TV, movies, or streaming apps like Netflix on the tablet alone, without using the TV.
Vizio M-Series 4K Ultra HD TV
Vizio’s 2016 M-Series 4K HDR TVs are beautiful and powerful, and they don’t have the hefty price tags commonly attached to Sony and Samsung 4K TVs. They also come with a six-inch HD display tablet. With it, you can change channels, stream apps like Netflix and HBO GO and adjust settings like brightness and contrast. And you can use the tablet to do non-TV-related tasks, like checking Facebook or playing games.
The M-Series is a GP100 winner, named as one of our Best Tech Products of 2016.
LG UH7700 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Available in three sizes, LG’s UH7700 sets come with Dolby Vision, an elevated HDR — so colors are richer, deeper and brighter. It also comes with webOS 3.0 software, making navigation between apps simple enough for even your parents. They also have the 4K-standard 120Hz refresh rate to decrease motion blur.
Samsung KU6300 4K Ultra HD Smart TV
This 2016 Samsung is a straight-up solid investment. It comes with full 4K resolution and a high refresh rate (perfect for watching sports); plus, with Samsung’s UHD Dimming, the picture contrast is as clear as any other TV you’ll find, especially in this price range.
Sharp N7000U 4K Smart TV
Sharp was recently bought by Hisense, the Chinese manufacturer, and 2016 was the first year that that partnership produced TVs. The N7000U is an affordable entry point into 4K TVs and features Sharp’s proprietary Revelation Upscaler technology, so you can upscale normal HD channels for the TV’s higher-resolution screen.