With Black Friday 2015 less than 50 days way, it is time to revisit our favorite question: what is the best deal on an HDTV? We got asked last Black Friday, we got asked leading up to the Super Bowl, we got asked for March Madness and we will get asked for Black Friday 2016. What people are really trying to ask is, “what is the lowest price on a Black Friday HDTV?” What you savvy shoppers want to know is what is the best value on a TV.
TV deals are one of the things that Black Friday is known for. We are predicting some great ones this year, and we want to make sure you get the best deal. What TV should you buy this Black Friday? Our answer is always, “it depends.” Some folks want the latest set with the best features, while some folks are just looking to spend a couple hundred dollars so their grandkids can watch a movie when they visit.
The good news is that we have an extensive HDTV Buying Guide that will tell you everything you need to know to get the best value for your hard-earned money when you purchase a new TV. It is a little long, so we put together this TV deal primer to help you get ready for Black Friday.
There are a few things to look at when looking at a tv deal: type, size, price, features, and brand.
In the past, there were two competing types of competing high-definition televisions: LED-LCD and plasma. Most of the time, LED-LCD is just referred to as LED, and there are some people who get the impression that LED is new technology. LCDs used to be backlit with a fluorescent light, but now they use an LED. It gives you a sharper, crisper picture than with a fluorescent light. LED-LCD TVs are the clear choice for a brightly lit room with natural light where glare might be an issue. LED TVs also tend to be lighter, so if you know you will want to mount it on the wall, LEDs are your best bet. The downside to LEDs is that there may be a slight loss of picture sharpness when viewing it from more of an angle. If you know you want a TV big enough to put 15 people around it, know that the larger the angle of viewing, the more picture quality may suffer.
Plasma TVs, on the other hand, had a uniform picture brightness over the whole screen and didn’t suffer from viewing angle changes. They tended to be a little bit cheaper, but did suffer “screen burn-in.” LED TVs also lasted a little longer. You may notice that we are referring to plasma TVs in the past tense. That is because it is a dead technology. Like Betamax and HDDVD before it, the technology just isn’t manufactured. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), only one manufacturer was making plasma TVs: LG, and they only had one model. Samsung stopped manufacturing what some call the “last great plasma TV” in July of last year. Plasma sets are still an excellent product if you happen to run across one, but we don’t think there will be any in this years Black Friday ads.
When checking out a Black Friday TV deal, consider how big of a screen you need. Ever sit in the front row of a movie theater? If so, you know putting a giant, expensive screen in a small room where people will be near the screen isn’t the most comfortable proposition. Sit too far away, and you miss out on the high def detail you paid for. This was another area where LED beat plasma, as plasma screen sizes were more limited, ranging from 42-inch to 65-inch, where you can get 19-inch to 80-inch LEDs. This handy chart will help you decide what size TV is best for your room.
Now that you know your size and type, it is time to start narrowing down your options. Decide how much you are looking to spend. We suggest coming up with a price range. Keep expectations realistic. While this 50-inch Panasonic on page one of Best Buy’s 2014 ad was only $199, a good rule of thumb from last year was $10 an inch. That means a 40-inch TV would be around $400, and a 50-inch would be around $500. The smaller or larger a TV gets, the more it will deviate from that rule of thumb, but those are decent baseline prices. This, of course, is the price range we are trying to do better than. Better than that price is where we start to look closer at a TV to see if it is a deal.
This is where the real decision to buy a TV is made. You’ve selected a size, type and price range. If you take a look at the Black Friday 2014 Panasonic linked above, a 50-inch LED is perfect for a living room with a lot of natural light with a viewing distance between 6 1/4 and 12 1/2 feet. $199 is less than half of our realistic price expectation. The only knocks against it are the 60hz refresh rate and two HDMI ports. If you also have a Roku, cable and a Blu-ray player all hooked up with an HDMI cable, you would have to switch things around to use different devices.
This 55-inch Westinghouse might be another option. It has all the necessary HDMI ports, hits about the same viewing distance, is 5 inches bigger and is still $150 cheaper than our expectation. The features you are going to want to look at are the HDMI ports, other hookups and the refresh rate. HDMI ports are self explanatory; you know what you need. Refresh rate is irrelevant for a plasma TV, so don’t be fooled by the marketed 600hz refresh rate or think there is a comparison to be made with the 60, 120 or 240hz rates of an LED TV. CNET has an excellent resource on what exactly refresh rate is if you are interested. For this guide, know that 120hz is worth the money, but the 240hz is a more modest improvement.
4K, 3D, Curved and Smart HDTV Features
TV deals for Black Friday 2015 are also likely to include Smart, curved, 3D and 4k TVs. When evaluating this year’s Black Friday ads, consider the amount of 3D content that is being generated for consumer use. Production on such content has slowed and is minimal at best. For that reason, we think that 3D TVs will go the way of the Fox Glow Puck, a gimmicky technology no one but me still talks about.
4k describes a resolution of 4,000 pixels wide. Based on CES 4K TV deals are what we will be seeing in 2016 and beyond. 4K TVs are a source of confusion for consumers for several reasons. The first is that 1080p, the current dominant resolution, describes the number of vertical pixels, resulting in a resolution of 1920 x 1080. The switch to describing HDTVs in terms of width instead of height makes it sound like 4k sets are four times better than 1080p HDTVs. When in fact 4k resolution is 4096 x 2160, or roughly twice the resolution. Still impressive, but when buying a TV it is important to make sure you are comparing the numbers correctly.
Another reason is the existence of the UHD resolution. UHD stands for ultra high definition to distinguish it from full high definition or FHD. FHD is the 1920 x 1080 resolution. UHD is a resolution of 3840 x 2160. The confusion comes in when TVs are described as being 4K UHD but are still that 3840 x 2160 resolution and not the 4096 x 2160. Sometimes these UHD TVs are just called 4K. YouTube and the television industry have adopted the UHD standard, so content above 1080p is being created and makes purchasing a UHD TV worth the cost. The full 4K content might not be there yet, so take that into consideration when comparing TV deals.
Curved TVs are unlikely to be worth targeting this Black Friday. I wonder if curved TVs will continue to even be produced. The problem with a curved TV is that it creates a more immersive viewing experience, but only for those sitting “inside the curve.” Unless you are going to get a TV that is the size of a wall, the curve is a cosmetic gimmick.
As far as smart HDTVs, we expect to see them for the same price we saw standard TVs last year. If the money is in your budget, being able to stream Netflix and other online content right from your TV is nice, and by 2017 all Samsung TVs will be Smart, and we believe other manufacturers will follow suite. You will be able to get a bigger, dumb version.
In today’s day and age, there are only a handful of companies that make TV components, so the insides of your TV are largely the same from brand to brand. Don’t discount a TV just because its not a brand you’ve seen advertised. The cost of marketing is reflected in the price. Unless you really love a brand, this isn’t as an important part of the decision as the other factors.
Black Friday 2015 TV Deals
If you are in the market for an HDTV this Black Friday, we think your best value for money spent will come in the form of large, non-smart FHD TVs. We believe snagging a 60-inch or larger HDTV will be possible for around $300 for lower-end brands. 4k UHD TVs around 40 to 50 inches will be worth a look this year, but if you really want a deal on one, next Black Friday will be your time. Avoid curved and 3D TVs; their practical uses do not justify the extra cost. As always, if you want additional advice, you can always post in our forums. You can also check out the TV Deals Page for TV-specific deals and the Stores Page to see which merchants will supplement great TV deals with cash back.