The best budget TVs and streaming gadgets for students

The best budget TVs and streaming gadgets for students

There’s no such thing as a watch party with a laptop screen. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys watching movies and TV shows with friends, then it’s worth nabbing an inexpensive TV for your dorm room. And if you’re living alongside other students with too much time on their hands, you’ll want a TV for impromptu Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sessions. (If you need another justification, or just a way to sell it to your parents, TV sets can easily be repurposed as secondary monitors for any computer). Below, we’ve gathered some of the best TV and home entertainment options for students — ones that provide a great experience without emptying your wallet.

TCL

A television with Roku or Google TV built-in is one of the easiest ways to start streaming content, making them ideal for most students. This 4-series TCL model sports a 4K screen (with upscaling from lower-res sources) and HDR, for better dynamic range. But best of all, you can usually find it under $300. It’s not the most feature-packed TCL TV (the 5-series costs around $200 more and adds Dolby Vision), but it’s one of the best options at that price. And at 43 inches, it’s small enough to fit in most dorm rooms, while still offering enough screen space to immerse you in a film.

$330 at Amazon

VIZIO

Vizio has spent decades cornering the cheap TV market, and while Chinese rivals like TCL and Hisense have quickly encroached on its territory, Vizio still manages to deliver excellent TV sets that don’t break the bank. This M-Series Quantum Q6 set is one example: It’s a 43-inch system with most of the mid-range features you’d want, including quantum dots for richer colors, Dolby Vision HDR support and AMD FreeSync to make games look silky smooth. Its Wi-Fi 6E connectivity also means you’ll be able to enjoy streaming movies (and games!) without much trouble.

$348 at Amazon

TCL

If you’ve got room for something slightly larger, and you want the Google TV experience, TCL’s latest Q6 Q-Class sets are worth a look. Its QLED screen features quantum dots, Dolby Vision and AMD FreeSync with support for simulated 120Hz gaming. And since it’s running Google’s software, the Q6 also offers built-in Chromecast support alongside tons of apps. Best of all, you can often find the 65-inch model for under $500. If you’re looking for a slightly higher quality screen, TCL’s Q7 series typically cost a few hundred dollars more, but you’ll get a native 120Hz refresh rate, which could be useful for some PC games.

$370 at Amazon

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If you’re a heavy Google user, there’s no better streaming device than the Chromecast with Google TV. Unlike previous versions of Google’s puck, it has an interface of its own, along with a suite of streaming apps to choose from. And yes, you can still cast video from Android devices or the Chrome browser. The Chromecast is a great option if you’re buying a cheaper TV, but be sure to check if your set already has Chromecast streaming built in.

$48 at Walmart

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If you own an older TV, or you just want something a bit zippier than your set’s onboard apps, Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K is worth snapping up. It’s just $40 (and often less), supports 4K (with HDR and Dolby Vision), and it gives you access to Roku’s entire app library. Best of all, though, it’s so tiny you can easily bring it along when you’re traveling. The Streaming Stick 4K also supports Apple AirPlay, giving you a way to cast video from iOS devices and Macs. Roku’s bundled voice remote also makes it easy to search for things without pecking away at an onscreen keyboard.

$39 at Amazon

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The Streambar is an unusual device. It’s both a decent soundbar and a media streaming box. That’s just so Roku. Honestly, if you’re picking up a TV, you should really consider a soundbar of some kind. (We have a whole guide dedicated to that.) But we’re recommending the Streambar here because it’s a relatively simple and inexpensive solution that solves two common pain points: getting streaming apps and better sound. It’s also a nice thing to have around to play a bit of music when you’re not watching anything. For even bigger sound, you might also want to consider the slightly pricier Streambar Pro.

$129 at QVC

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So hear me out: There’s room for the Apple TV 4K in your budget entertainment setup, especially if you’re going to save money by picking a cheap TV with slow apps. At $129, the Apple TV 4K is only slightly more expensive than the Roku Ultra, and it also plays nicely with iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. If your TV doesn’t support AirPlay, an Apple TV is also helpful for projecting content from your phone. There are also plenty of apps on the Apple TV platform you won’t find on TVs, including a large library of games.

$130 at B&H Photo

Soundcore

A great pair of headphones is essential for late night studying and movie-watching. The Soundcore Space One proves you don’t need to spend a ton to get great sound quality and powerful active noise cancellation (ANC). The $100 headphones offer 40 millimeter dynamic drivers and 40 hours of noise-canceling playback (or 55 hours without ANC). If you have a supported Android phone, you can also take advantage of detailed Hi-Res Audio using the LDAC codec. While the Space One doesn’t have the cultural cachet of a pair of Sony or Bose premium noise canceling headsets, you can take the money you’re saving to get Anker’s Space A40 noise-canceling buds as a companion device.

$100 at Amazon

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