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Should I buy a Polaroid TV? Our guide to the budget TV brand

(Image credit: TechRadar)

There are plenty of good, cheap televisions around – and you may well find yourself checking out a super-cheap Polaroid TV in your local supermarket. Then again, you might be confused about putting those words together – don't Polaroid make, you know, cameras?

Yes, Polaroid pioneered instant photography several decades ago with the invention of the Polaroid camera. After the American brand's heyday, however – when digital cameras bankrupted the business – the Polaroid name is now licensed on a number of audio products, smartphone photography apps, and retro clothing.

It's also now in the business of TVs. And these aren't televisions for budding photographers as much as they are for those on a tight budget.

But with so many variations of TV sizes, smart TV platforms, and picture processing technologies between different sets out there, there are countless televisions you could be taking home. Why should you consider Polaroid?

Should I buy a Polaroid TV?

Polaroid occupies a similar place in the market to Hisense or Toshiba, manufacturing budget LED sets that offer big-screen panels at affordable prices. However, you'll often find Polaroid's TVs are even cheaper.

In the UK, Polaroid sells a number of dirt-cheap displays through the supermarket chain Asda, with a 24-inch Polaroid Series 1 set available as low as £139 – and 49-inch 4K sets for as little as £229 – though you'll need to find one in-store rather than buying online.

In the US retailer Target, you can also pick up a 32-inch 720p television for only $129.

Even Polaroid's 4K sets are very much the lower end of the market – American retailer Kmart sells 55-inch UHD displays for under $500.

(Image credit: Polaroid)

Some Polaroid sets aren't really fully-fledged smart TVs in their own right – watch out for this – but come with a basic Google OS, which relies on you casting content from a smartphone or tablet. Any handy USB port in the back should let you use an actual Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick though, which might be significantly more convenient.

Polaroid also manufactures TVs in sizes some brands barely bother with anymore, like 24 and 32 inch. If you're looking for a more compact television to squeeze into a bedroom, or that can be tidied away in a cupboard more easily, these may be worth a look. The hardware design also tends to be straightforward, with light plastic casing and a stripped-back UI.

When we reviewed the Polaroid P55D600, we praised the brand's first UHD television for its impressive picture quality right out of the box, both in native 4K and when upscaling HD/SDR content. There wasn't much optimization to be found in the set's picture settings, but there was also little need to fiddle.

Polaroid P55D600 55-inch TV review: A capable 4K television for the cost, even if its budget price tag necessitates some compromises.

At this price, corners will inevitably be cut, though – we found the P55D600's dimming zones and backlighting features disappointing and inexact when trying to vary the brightness in low-light content.

But for these low prices you're likely to be getting a decent picture from a Polaroid TV, as long as you don't expect too much from it.

We recommend sticking with Polaroid sets in smaller sizes though, where they don't have as fierce competition from big-name rivals such as Philips or Samsung – and are still cost-effective. The lower-cost panels are likely to show their flaws more clearly on larger screens too, where the processor needs to work a lot harder to get a consistent picture out of all those pixels. But if you want a dirt-cheap 4K TV, you could do a lot worse.

Polaroid TV prices in the US

Polaroid 32-inch LED TV: $159 $129 | at Target
Basic television capability at a basic price. This smart TV will give you access to a smattering of streaming apps with a tidy 32-inch size and 720p HD resolution.View Deal

Polaroid 40-inch LED TV: $219 | at Target
Slightly larger but still compact enough for a small home, this 40-inch set pushes the resolution up to 1080p Full HD – not 4K by any means, but still tantalisingly cheap.View Deal

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