When most people are looking for a new television, they often follow the mantra “bigger is better”, with 50, 60, and 70 inch TVs dominating the store shelves. But if you have a small space available, perhaps the best 32 LED TV will better meet your needs. When we’re considering the top 32-inch TVs, picture quality remains front and center on our list of must haves, with great Smart TV features a close second. And even though these models naturally carry a very low price point, there’s still a pretty significant difference in cost among models in this category, although not quite as large a difference as when looking at larger screens. Also make sure to look at our best 65-inch tvs as well.
A low price and a very good screen quality make the TCL 32S3800 32″ LED TV ($169.99) our #1 choice in the 32-inch TV category. This TCL model includes Roku Smart TV built-in, which is one of the best we’ve seen, offering a multitude of well known apps, including Netflix, Hulu, and Crackle. The TCL 32S3800 32-inch LED TV offers one of the best levels of contrast among TVs in this category, with a ratio of 3419:1, which is great for movie watching. And its extremely fast response rate of less than 20 milliseconds makes it a strong TV for gaming. The biggest drawback to the 32S3800 is that it offers a maximum display resolution of 720p HD, but the unit’s upscaling software nearly perfectly simulates 1080p HD, so you almost certainly won’t notice the difference. To find all of these features in a model that costs less than $200 easily qualifies this model as our #1 pick.
Before we discuss these great – albeit small – TVs, full disclosure: I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I spent four figures plus on a 32-inch flatscreen television a decade ago…and felt like at the time I got a pretty good deal. But today’s best 32″ LCD TV units are going to be available at several hundred dollars less than what I paid, so budget shoppers can rejoice, as these models offer a tremendous bargain versus larger units.
- 1 TOp 32-Inch LED TVs Comparison
- 2 How We Choose the Best 32-Inch LED TV
- 3 Why You Should Buy a New 32-Inch TV
- 4 #1 Pick TCL 32S3800 – Editor’s Choice/Best Smart TV Interface
- 5 #2 Pick Samsung UN32J5205 – Best 32-Inch TV Screen Quality
- 6 #3 Pick Vizio D32-D1 – Best Versatile 32-Inch TV
- 7 What to Look for in the Best 32-Inch LED TV
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 What Else You Should Think About
TOp 32-Inch LED TVs Comparison
|TCL 32S3800||Samsung UN32J5205||Vizio D32-D1|
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Smart TV Interface||#2 Pick - Best 32 Inch TV Screen Quality||#3 Pick - Best Versatile 32 Inch TV|
|Screen Size||32 inches||32 inches||32 inches|
|Maximum Screen Resolution||720p HD||1080p HD||1080p HD|
|Other Screen Sizes Available||28, 40, 48, 50, 55 inches||40, 43, 48, 50 inches||40, 43, 50 inches|
|Ports||3 HDMI, 1 USB||2 HDMI, 1 USB||3 HDMI, 1 USB|
|Refresh Rate||60 Hz||60 Hz||120 Hz|
|Smart TV Interface||Roku||Tizen||Vizio Internet Apps Plus|
How We Choose the Best 32-Inch LED TV
Screen quality is the primary feature to consider with a television, and it played a key role in determining our top picks. One thing to remember with smaller screen televisions, such as 32 inches, is that some off-brand manufacturers offer screens at discount prices in this screen size category, more so than in the larger screen categories. But it’s smart to stick with the best TV brands in this category to ensure that you have the best screen quality.
The number of input ports that are available also was a consideration for the TVs on our list. With smaller televisions, you won’t find as many input ports as are available on larger screens, because there just isn’t as much room available. Having at least two — and preferably three — HDMI inputs is a must these days, even on a screen as small as 32 inches.
Smart TV functionality was an important for the models on our list, as more viewers are looking for the ability to access popular apps and stream content. Each manufacturer has its own Smart TV interface it uses, and there are quite a few strong offerings: Tizen, Android, and WebOS to name a few. And although selecting the best Smart TV interface can be a matter of personal preference, my favorite is the Roku interface, which happens to be included with our top pick, the TCL 32FS3800. The Roku model contains standard popular apps such as Netflix, YouTube, Crackle, and Hulu Plus, but it also has Spotify, HBO Go, Amazon Video, and CinemaNow. And with Roku, you can perform searches of various streaming services independent of the service’s app, meaning you can search multiple services at once for a particular show or actor. This is a time saving feature. The Roku interface just feels natural to use, and in my experience, Roku is a very stable interface, outperforming some other Smart TV options. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, as Roku has been around for quite a bit longer than other options, originally appearing as the navigation interface in some of the first stand alone DVRs.
Another key component we emphasized in our list of the best 32-inch TVs is response time. A 32-inch model often serves as a second TV in the home, aimed at gamers, meaning a unit’s strong response times are important for multiplayer gaming. For example our top choice on this list, the 32FS3800, has a top response time of about 15 ms, which is a top-end performance level for a 32-inch TV. If a smaller TV has a 60 ms or slower response time, it’s going to struggle with gaming. Although TVs with faster response times may cost a bit more than slower performing televisions, serious gamers will definitely want to spend a little extra to receive the best performance levels. If you’re someone who just plays games occasionally or who rarely participates in multiplayer games, you probably can receive the performance you need from a TV with mid-level response times (about 35 ms or slower).
Why You Should Buy a New 32-Inch TV
Although much of the television market’s focus is on the best 55-inch TVs or the best 70 inch TVs, not everyone has the space for such a large television screen. A smaller TV is perfect for a smaller room, where you don’t want to feel overwhelmed with a large screen. If your primary seating area is about 4-7 feet from the TV, a 32-inch LED television is a great choice. Or if you’re a gamer, you may want to sit closer to the screen, which makes a 32-inch model great as a best TV for gaming.
Another great reason to purchase a smaller TV is as a second model (or third model) for the man cave. Perhaps you’re looking for multiple TVs for the NCAA Tournament, so you don’t miss any games. A 32-inch TV will be easy to move around and serve as a good complementary screen to your larger unit, all at a lower price than a larger screen might set you back instead.
And the price point in this screen size category is very desirable. When you can pick up a television that still measures 32 inches diagonally for just a few hundred dollars, you’re receiving a nice deal.
#1 Pick TCL 32S3800 – Editor’s Choice/Best Smart TV Interface
Price: $168.88 | Screen Resolution: 720p HD | Smart TV Interface: Roku
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Extremely low price for a Roku Smart TV interface screen.
At less than $200, it’s tough to argue with what you’ll find on the TCL 32S3800 32-inch LED television. This TCL model is limited to a 720p HD resolution, but its ability to upscale programming to 1080p HD is extremely good, so you may not notice the 720p limit at all.
And while this model doesn’t offer Ultra HD resolution or an extremely bright screen, it’s still in the running for the best Smart TV on the market thanks to the Roku interface. Roku is easy to use, offering all of the most popular apps. Roku has been working on its Smart TV features for many years, and the result is an outstanding interface.
At its low price, it’s nice to find a TV screen that offers such good performance in terms of producing deep blacks. Having good contrast in the screen is especially important in a small 32-inch TV. And this model is one of the best 32 LED TV for gaming options, thanks to an extremely fast response rate of between 12 and 19 milliseconds. Because of these features, the TCL 32S3800 is easy to name as a best 32″ LED HDTV.
#2 Pick Samsung UN32J5205 – Best 32-Inch TV Screen Quality
Price: $227.99 | Screen Resolution: 1080p HD | Smart TV Interface: Tizen
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Maintains Samsung’s traditional strong screen quality, but in small size.
Not many 32-inch LED televisions offer a native screen resolution of 1080p HD, which helps to set the Samsung UN32J5205 apart from most of the rest of the market. And among those 1080p HD screens, the UN32J5205 has some of the best contrast levels and deep black settings you’ll find in this size of television.
This Samsung model does struggle a bit with response time, averaging between 26 and 32 milliseconds, which means there are better TV options for multiplayer gaming and sports viewing. But if you’re looking for a great screen quality for movies and general television watching, this Samsung model’s 32-inch screen fits the bill … especially when you can find this best budget 32-inch TV at less than $250.
#3 Pick Vizio D32-D1 – Best Versatile 32-Inch TV
Price: $251.06 | Screen Resolution: 1080p HD | Smart TV Interface: Vizio Internet Apps Plus
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Versatility is the calling card for this inexpensive TV.
Those seeking a 32-inch television that can meet a variety of situations will find Vizio’s D32-D1 LED TV to be a strong candidate. There really isn’t an area where the D32 does a poor job, making it one of the best all around TV options for those seeking a small screen at a relatively small price.
The D32-D1 has above average performance levels in terms of contrast, deep blacks, and response times, which allows this Vizio model to work well for movies, sports, and gaming. One area where the D32-D1 suffers a bit is in terms of its Smart TV features, but its other strengths are more than good enough to overcome this drawback.
What to Look for in the Best 32-Inch LED TV
Screen Resolution: One thing you’ll notice with 32-inch televisions is that you’ll be limited to HD resolution. So if 4K resolution is your desire, you’ll have to look at larger, more expensive models.
Refresh Rate: The measurement of how often the screen refreshes is measured in hertz. A fast refresh rate, say 120Hz, typically results in better performance for fast moving subjects on the screen, such as sports or gaming, versus a 60Hz refresh rate.
Smart TV Functionality: One of the benefits of going with a small TV is that it still has all of the Smart TV functions of its larger screen counterparts. Smart TVs have Wi-Fi technology or Ethernet ports built into them, allowing for an Internet connection, but each manufacturer offers different Smart TV interfaces.
Ports: If you’re using your 32-inch model TV as a gaming TV, you’re going to need plenty of ports for connecting gaming systems. Having multiple HDMI ports is key to ensuring all of your devices can be connected at one time. All of the units on our list offer at least two HDMI ports, although at least three are better.
Mistakes to Avoid
Placing TV in Wrong Size Room: A 32-inch TV will work well in a small room, as you’ll want the primary sitting area to be about 4-7 feet from the 32-inch screen. If your sitting area must be farther from the screen, you probably will want to seek a larger display to compensate.
Strong Contrast Levels: If you’re going to be sitting closer to the screen than normal, you’re going to notice problems with contrast easier as well. You’ll want the difference between the whites and blacks to be as distinct as possible. TV manufacturers measure contrast in a ratio, where any measurement of 3,000:1 or higher is a good performance level.
Worrying About 1080p HD Resolution: Don’t be hung up on selecting a 32-inch television that has 1080p HD resolution. Because this screen size category is pretty small, you won’t really notice the difference between 720p and 1080p. And many 720p HD 32-inch TVs, such as the TCL model that’s our top pick, are able to upscale to simulate 1080p when such programming is being displayed.
What Else You Should Think About
When seeking the best 32 LED TV, make sure you understand everything you need to know about modern flat screen televisions. If you haven’t shopped for TVs for a few years, it’s important that you look through our TV buying guide to better understand all of the latest jargon around making a television purchase. LED TV review articles on our site can help you find a great model too.
Although some shoppers may initially balk at selecting a small screen, if you choose to go small, you’ll be amazed at the great prices you can find. The TCL 32S3800 32-inch TV will be a best buy at less than a couple of hundred dollars, as long as you place it in a room where your primary seating is relatively close to the screen. And the TCL unit will work well as a best gaming TV, should you be seeking a smaller model as a second television in your man cave!