Ask Gizmodo: What Thin, Cheap TV Should I Buy?

Hi Gizmodo, my fiancée and I are about to move into our first home, and our current TV is too big and bulky to mount in the house on the wall where we want our TV. We're not TV connoisseurs and we don't need all the latest and greatest features, we simply want the thinnest TV we can get with adequate image quality. Ideally the TV will be between 42 and 47 inches and $750 or less. I'm aiming for 2 inches or thinner, though we could go up to 2.5 inches. Used/refurbished TVs are okay with us. What should we get and where should we look? Thanks! Josh.

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Hey Josh,

Now is a great time to get a good deal on a TV, especially for a buyer as pragmatic as you. You're in the enviable position of not necessarily wanting or needing a TV that is:

  • Large (over 55 inches is where things start to get pricy)
  • Smart (although most TVs these days are, it's an extra expense)
  • Really, really ridiculously good looking

Throw any two or three of these together and you'd have to start upping your price significantly. February and March is when retailers like JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and even Harvey Norman find themselves shifting more units at lower prices, as their suppliers like Samsung and LG shift their existing stock before updated 2016 models hit the market. Now, in your case, you don't need a newer model — yearly advances these days are almost all about the internal smarts, which you don't care about.

With that said, your goal for a TV that's two inches thick is going to be... interesting. A TV that thin is going to be an edge-lit LED screen, since any kind of OLED will be way out of your price range. As a benchmark, Samsung's 50-inch Series 5 LED TV is about 2.6 inches thick (67mm), but it's $1100-plus.

If you're OK looking at a TV that isn't necessarily from a top-tier company like Samsung or LG or Sony, then you'll find something appropriate, if not perfect, within your price range. Just about the right compromise in depth, size and price comes in the form of the $786, 43-inch LG 43LF5100, or maybe the $800, 50-inch TCL L50E3800.

If it was my money, I'd spend a bit more. $1000 out the door will get you a 43-inch Sony W800C, one of the better mid-range LED TVs to hit the market in 2015, with great integrated Android TV software and an excellent overall design. Or, for a larger screen, the $900 55-inch Hisense 55K220PWG is just over three inches thick.

Personally, I don't think you have to buy a used TV within that price range, although if you're able to find a perfect condition eBay or Gumtree special, you may find something slightly larger — although likely an older generation — within your budget. In my experience, anyone selling a TV second hand is likely to bump the price up significantly to near what they paid, not knowing that the model they're trying to sell has already been superseded and outpriced by a newer, more energy efficient screen. You also have to deal with dubious warranty conditions.

A refurbished last-gen screen is also likely to suffer the same fate, and won't be as steeply discounted as a new run-out model. JB Hi-Fi's Factory Scoops, although usually only on its Soniq house brand, are about your best bet without resorting to eBay or a cut-price seller like Grays Online. This 40-inch Samsung Series 5 might be a bit too small, but it fits your criteria otherwise.


Comments

    Or, for a larger screen, the $900 55-inch Hisense 55K220PWG is just over three inches thick.

    Just bought this TV and I can already highly recommend it! I had an old 50" flatscreen and this new one is easily half the weight.

    Now I just need some wireless headphones for it so I don't wake up the little one. Thoughts?

    Last edited 01/02/16 1:47 pm

      Sennheiser's RS headphone line-up is always my go-to suggestion for anyone looking for something to watch TV with, although they're a bit pricy. $149 at Good Guys at the moment.

    I got the LG OLED TV 55EC930T and I absolutely love it. Crazy thin. Video games and blu-rays look amazing on it.

      I've actually got one of those myself! Circa $3000 price is maybe a bit much for Josh, though :)

        This is true. I picked mine up about 2 months ago for $2,400 from memory. Greatest TV I've ever owned. All the LG TVs I've owned over time have always been fantastic. Never had an issue with them *touch wood*

    How would the Sony W800C go as a computer monitor? I'm looking to upgrade my monitor, and was thinking at the same time I could replace the 32" ye olde flatscreen sitting next to it. On the surface, that looks like it will do the job

      I'd say it'd be pretty dependant on whether you could turn alot of the image processing stuff off, I've had some TV's which look incredible but have up to a 1 second input lag because they put so much effort into making the picture better.
      Can't say what this model would be like but if it sits around the same level as my old HX800 then I'd say it would be pretty alright, just be prepared for some minor input lag (enough to make a difference in a game like CS/BF/CoD).
      Funny enough I've always found the lower end TV's to be better as computer displays as they don't have that image processing, sure it doesn't look as pretty but if you want a big reliable PC display then they aren't a bad (or expensive) choice.

        I'm fine with minor lag, I don't play twitch games. I just don't want a 20ms refresh is all. The sony looks like it's a decent gaming rig from what I can see, at least from a console pov but that should mean it handles motion blur well which is all I'm really after.

    Why do articles about TVs never mention game mode. =/

    Low quality TVs sometimes skip on the "game mode" settings, such that games are unplayable due to screen lag. If your existing TV is decent (you might not even need game mode for games to be responsive), you might not even realise this is a factor until you've bought a low quality one that is 500ms behind the input.

      +1

      I went looking for reviews of the Sony W800C, and a good one (on rtings from memory) did point out the gaming side of things. Got a pretty good rating for that.

      As you say, its a mode that seems to get ignored, when in this day and age its going to be a factor. I want a tele that can double as a monitor. I dont care TOO much about lag, but I want a refresh of at least 10ms, and thats a number that seems to be quite hard to pin down for most teles.

        I think you meant to write less than 10ms? :P

        FYI a great way to measure the delay is hook your computer up to your monitor and the TV, mirror the display and then run a stopwatch program that includes milliseconds (3 decimal places). Take a picture with your phone of the setup, and you'll see the difference in response time based on what time the stopwatch is showing on each screen.

        10ms is insanely good for a TV though, and overkill. My Sony Bravia is 4 years old, and in ideal settings it seems to have about a ~30ms delay, which is a nigh invisible delay to the human eye. In my tests I could "sense" the difference in delay on my TV (very barely), but not enough to glimpse the stopwatch difference in my test.

          Yeah, 10ms or better. I meant "at least" in terms of that or better, but yeah, it reads wrong.

          I know 10ms is overkill for a tv, that's more of a goal. Mentally I just convert the hertz to milliseconds as a rough guide and while they mean two different things from what I have found it's usually close enough. Except for the cheapest of teles.

          Issue is as much about that side of refresh being somewhat hard to track down, and while it's overkill for a tv, they serve multiple services these days. With HDMI that includes potential as a PC monitor.

          So why is it such a little reported spec? You buy a monitor, the reverse is true - they don't show hertz ratings all the time - though they rarely serve as a tv.

    Not that any one asked but: don't get a hisense 42 inch ultra hd tv (the one that upscales to 4k but isn't 4k, sorry i can't remember the res). It was only 600$.
    The hdmi input lag in 1080p directly from my gpu to tv was terrible.
    Then in upscale mode with hdmi (30fps in hdmi in that res) the input lag was atleast 1 to 2 seconds, and that was unplayable.
    Long story short inreturned it and got a samsung 42inch tv for 900$
    Gues cheap tvs arnt so good for pc gaming.

    @campbellsimpson what could you recommend as a tv for a bedroom hooked to a streaming pc or laptop for running stuff like netflix and plex? something around the 40 inch range give or take 6 inches. preferably not a smart tv, preferably full HD.

    cheers ears.

      I think you'll struggle to find anything that isn't a Smart TV in some sense, but I swear by anything in the Sony Bravia range.

      Rather than Getting a smart TV, you could instead get a cheaper non smart TV, And then get a cheap secondhand PS3 and use that to run Netflix and Plex

      Last edited 01/02/16 4:11 pm

        He already said he didn't want smart, it was goign to be hooked up to a pc or laptop, but in any case, rather than buying a ps3 for netflix and plex, surely chromecast would be better?

          Sorry misread, But no, PS3 plays local media a lot better and easier than a Chromecast. Last i heard google broke local media playback on the chromecast. Plus if he is using Plex, A PS3 is much easier to use/Set up with Plex than chromecast. I use a cheap ps3 i got second hand for my media. Runs all files fine and works with all the major streaming services fine.

            last time I used it, plex was having no problems at all with my chromecast. I had it serving off my media PC in another room, just use plex app on the phone, and cast to chromecast, away you go. I guess if you wanted to take the phone out of the loop, then yeah, a more fully featured device would be better, but I never had any problems with.

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