For would-be television buyers, the most wonderful weekend of the year is almost here, thanks to extra-special deals available from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.
Top-tier makers — Samsung, Sony, and LG — will wow bargain hunters with rock-bottom pricing on really big screens in leftover and less costly models built in mass quantities for Black Friday consumption. These "offer a substantial value but lack some of the features of today's top-end sets," noted Greg Tarr, a veteran TV product reviewer for HDGuru.com. One ripe example is the 60-inch Sony KD60X690E, marked down temporarily to $600 from an "everyday" price of $999.99.
Second-tier brands — TCL, Sharp, Element, Insignia, and Polaroid — will celebrate Thanksgiving and Black Friday with truly insane prices. Think $89.99 for a 32-inch Polaroid High Definition TV at Target, and a Sharp 50-inch 4K TV for $180 at Best Buy. The latter, in the estimation of CNET TV tester David Katzmaier, "is perhaps the best deal of 2017 Black Friday so far," with a price per diagonal inch of just $3.60.
Maneuvering through mounds of merchandise should not be done impulsively, pouncing on price alone, however.
The bigger, the better. First, measure your space and compare it to a desirable TV's posted dimensions. As the picture frame (bezel) of current sets has been greatly reduced, it's often possible to fit a 60- or even 65-inch TV into a location formerly occupied by a flat-screen 50. And though not an issue if you're going to wall-mount it, the positioning of the television's "feet" is critical when it's being plopped on a piece of furniture. With a heavier, center-mounted base — as is found on many Sony, Samsung, and LG TVs — the edges of the screen can "float" over the sides of a tabletop.
Also take note of inputs and apps. Some Black Friday specials have only two HDMI connectors. Three or four is better. And leftover "smart sets" often lack on-board access to Amazon Prime Video.
Ultra-high-def and HDR. "Unless you're buying a screen that's 70 inches or bigger, you won't really appreciate the improved resolution offered in a 4K ultra-high-definition TV unless you sit right on top of it," Tarr said. With my much-loved LG OLED 65-inch, a sofa spot nine feet from the screen is still sweet. Any farther back wouldn't be.
What can be noticed from a distance, said Tarr, is the added brightness and wider color range of a 4K set that offers true HDR (high dynamic range). "Less costly 4K sets — the majority of what's being promoted for Black Friday — don't have sufficient light output [measured in `nits'] and a wider color gamut to show the spectral improvements in 4K content encoded with HDR." Enhancements you could pull from 4K Netflix and Amazon Prime originals and Ultra-High Definition Blu-ray discs.
The above-mentioned Sony 60-incher doesn't claim to deliver HDR. Nor is there an HDR mode in otherwise fine leftovers such as the 55-inch 4K Samsung UN55MU6290 offered by Kohl's for $500 (with an instant return of $150 in Kohl's cash) or the 65-inch 4K Samsung UN65KU6290 Best Buy will have for $750 (spotted on Amazon for $1,047.90). The 65-inch LG 65UJ6300 online door-buster Dell will offer at 11 a.m. Nov. 23 for $800 with a bonus $150 Dell gift card boasts "Active HDR." Tarr translated: "Accepts HDR signals and posts an on-screen HDR bug but can't do the full-range enhancements."
How about deals on sets with full-blown HDR? We found a few, such as the Samsung 65-inch UN65MU7000 that will pop up at $990, a Vizio 80-inch 4K home theater display (lacks a broadcast tuner) slashed to $2,499 at Costco, and much-praised LG OLED B7A models price-cut for the weekend in 55-inch ($1,499) and 65-inch ($2,299) forms.
Consumer Reports said BJ's Wholesale Club will offer deals on top-shelf Samsung QLED models Tarr noted are "uniquely optimized for best viewing in rooms with some ambient light. Most high-end sets look their best in a darkened room."
Smarts count. How has China's TCL gone from "Who?" to second place in U.S. market share? (Samsung has a formidable lead.) Extra-sharp pricing and good performance are key. So is inclusion of the Roku smart TV operating system — "the best of the bunch," in Katzmaier's estimation. A cable-cutter's dream, Roku's screen guide lets viewers tune almost every imaginable internet streaming service (including the cable alternative Sling TV) and over-the-air TV channels (requiring an antenna connection). The Roku OS is likewise an equalizer for Chinese makers selling sets here under the licensed Sharp and RCA brands. "Also really good," said tester Tarr, "is the Android TV OS in Sonys, the Tizen OS in Samsung sets, and the webOS in LG TVs."