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Your time in college won’t necessarily be measured entirely by the hours spent studying—you’ll also look back on learning how to live independently among your peers, watching movies, hosting PowerPoint parties—the list goes on. If you or someone in your life is headed off to college this fall, you’re likely stocking up on dorm room staples like bathroom caddies and desk lamps, but you may also be on the hunt for things to liven up your space, like a TV.
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While you don’t necessarily want to bring the most expensive items to college (things break, after all), you’ll want to bring items that will work for the duration of your time there, and potentially for your life after, too. The TVs we’ve rounded up below won’t break the bank, but are also of high enough quality that your weekly Mario Kart tournaments or screening of the new Lord of the Rings series won’t suffer for it.
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1. TCL 3-Series Smart TV
The TCL 3-series consistently ranks highest in our roundup of the best 32-inch TVs—as a bonus, the line is very affordably priced. Complete with built-in Roku (our favorite streaming technology) and a sleek design, the TCL 32S335 is available in 720p resolution (though you can find similarly priced 1080p versions) and comes with solid black levels, excellent color accuracy and well-integrated streaming software.
It’s a bit more expensive than some of the less features-heavy options on this list, but if you’re on the hunt for a TV that’s not only on the cheaper end, but will last you a while in college and beyond, the TCL 3-series is a great bet.
2. Vizio 32-inch Class D-Series
Vizio makes affordable smart TVs, and the D-series offers smart technology in a cost-effective package. The 32-inch D-series TV comes with 720p HD resolution, the Vizio SmartCast streaming platform and good visual quality. You can also invest in a 1080p version for a slight increase in price, if high resolution is your goal. It gets the number two slot on the list (despite being cheaper than the TCL) due to the fact that our reviewer mentioned that the TCL is “worth the bump in price.” If you want a model under $150, though, the Vizio is a great move.
3. Vizio 43-inch Class V-Series
If you’re looking for a larger TV for your dorm or shared living space, that’s on the cheaper end but still has great features, the Vizio 43-inch V-Series smart TV may do the trick. We ranked the Vizio V-Series smart TV fourth in our lineup of the best 40-inch TVs of 2022; our reviewer noted that it’s a “budget-friendly smart TV that will satisfy the needs of anyone looking for a low-cost, no-frills 4K experience.”
4. Insignia 32-inch F20 Series Smart Fire TV
While not necessarily the most elegant of TVs, the Insignia F20 series smart TV has enough features to make it a great addition to a dorm room, with built in Amazon Fire capabilities that can pair with Alexa. It’s also truly affordable, if you’re looking for a barebones option that still has smart capabilities. Plus, it has over 8,500 5-star reviews thanks to its high quality sound and streaming capabilities.
5. TCL 5-Series with Roku
If your college dorm shopping list includes a high-quality QLED 4K TV, this is our best 4K pick under $500. With admirable color brightness, built-in smart streaming and excellent features for gamers, it’s a great model that will give you incredible quality at a relatively low cost. You can save $30 on it right now if you purchase it at Best Buy.