Best budget TVs under £500

Hannspree SL22DMBB (£140)

Best for: out-and-out bargain hunters

No, 22 inches isn’t all that big a screen. No, it doesn’t have high-def tuners. No, there aren’t all that many inputs. But judged on pure picture quality across TV, DVD and Blu-ray, the Hannspree delivers possibly the best value of all these televisions. The full-HD screen is bright and colourful, movement is stable, and contrasts are clean and strong. So forget the thrills (and, let’s be honest, the looks) and the SL22DMBB performs like quite the bargain.

Toshiba 32L6353 (£350)

Best for: online entertainment

There’s a lot to be said for the brilliant performance/price ratio Toshiba has achieved with the 32L6353, and its picture-making ability (especially the vibrancy of its colours and the level of detail on offer) is certainly worthy of praise. But it’s the depth of the Toshiba’s online versatility that’s the ace up its sleeve – Netflix, Blinkbox, Vimeo, YouTube, Deezer, iPlayer, Skype among other are all available, and wirelessly. Plus the Tosh is happy for you to stream from any DLNA-certified device on your network.

Panasonic TX-L32E6B (£380)

Best for: imperious picture quality

There’s something almost unnerving about how accomplished this Panasonic is at the price. Sure, the sound is pretty horrific and it could look better with standard-def TV broadcasts, but in every other respect the TX-L32E6B is an absolute belter. High-def pictures are more detailed than a patholgist’s report, the colour palette is judged just so, and contrasts are punchy. Add in a good control app, decent interface and slim, shiny chassis and the Panasonic’s a steal.

Samsung UE42F5000 (£400)

Best for: no-frills value

Samsung’s range of TVs is extensive (in the same way Nic Cage’s range of terrible films is extensive), and the F5000 is towards the entry level. So there’s no smart functionality here, and only a couple of HDMI inputs. But your £400 buys a slim, elegant 42in LED-backlit screen that serves up beautifully balanced pictures from any and every source. It’s a particularly good bet for gamers, as its response times are impressive in the extreme.

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Panasonic TX-P50X60B (£400)

Best for: maximum screen-size/minimum outlay

Sure, you could dwell on the things the Panasonic isn’t. It isn’t Smart, for example. It isn’t 3D. Heck, it isn’t even Full HD. But that’s to miss the point somewhat. What makes the TX-P50X60B a simply outstanding buy is the huge discrepancy between the Pana’s screen size (massive) and price tag (tiny). When you’re enjoying those big, detailed, colourful and (above all) big pictures, the relative lack of resolution isn’t even going to be an issue.

Philips 32PFL4258T (£430)

Best for: TV enthusiasts

It might seem a strange thing to say, but a lot of new televisions don’t get used as televisions. They get used for watching Blu-rays or streaming from Netflix or for playing games on. And don’t misunderstand us, the Philips is great for those things – but it’s also a really, REALLY accomplished television. Both standard-def and high-def broadcasts look amazingly detailed and stable, and thanks to punchy bright whites and deep blacks it’s an exciting watch too.

LG 42LN575V (£470)

Best for: an all-round experience

If it’s not enough to have a TV – if it has to have some whistles and bells attached – don’t look any further. This LG LED-backlit LCD is packing plenty of functionality, of which integrated wi-fi, USB recording, 3 HDMI inputs, Freeview HD tuner and a wealth of easy-to-access smart features are among the most obvious. And none of these features appear at the expense of picture quality, which is stable, vivid and completely absorbing throughout.

Samsung UE32F6400 (£470)

Best for: straightforward desirability

The list of what the Samsung will do you for you (including provide excellent catch-up TV services, voice control, thoroughly accomplished pictures in both 2D and 3D, and remarkably coherent sound by flatscreen standards) is extensive. What’s less tangible but equally is true is just how desirable the UE32F6400 is. Super-slim, with a really narrow bezel and an elegant ‘claw’ stand, it looks the business even before you turn it on.

LG 50PA650T (£500)

Best for: huge high-def thrills

Yes, this 50in LG plasma’s a fair bit more expensive than the 50in Panasonic plasma in this list. But you’ll find the extra outlay has gone on the right stuff – namely a full-HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. For £500 (or less if you’re dogged), LG will sell you a big, good-looking and well-made plasma TV that can deliver detailed pictures, an easy-to-use EPG and Freeview HD reception. There’s really no arguing with it at the money.

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