How to Buy a Great TV This Black Friday


Viewing Conditions and Budget

To narrow down your search, the first rule of thumb is to assess the ambient light in your living room.

If your living room gets lots of sunlight, you will want a very bright TV with vivid colors that can overcome some of that ambient light that washes out your TV, Mr. Soneira said. In this situation, you would probably go for an LCD TV, which can produce very bright and sharp images.

Photo

Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said.

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Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

If your living room has lower ambient light or if you have a dark theater room, go for a TV with more lifelike colors. In this case, you could go for televisions with so-called OLED screens, which can be made thinner and lighter with more accurate colors and contrast. In general, OLED TVs look better than LCD sets, but OLED TVs are not as bright, so their colors and shadow details can be washed out by bright sunlight.

And then there is content to consider. If you watch a lot of movies, you would benefit from an OLED television to get a picture that more closely resembles what the director intended you to see. But if you mostly watch sports or broadcast television, a good LCD television would be sufficient to get a clear, bright picture of the ballgame or your local news coverage.

In the end, your budget may drive your decision. Good LCD televisions cost as little as $500. A nice OLED television tends to cost $2,000 and up.

A Few Important Features

After you have decided on a type of TV, there are two important features to look for: local dimming and high dynamic range, said Chris Heinonen, a writer and TV tester for Wirecutter.

Local dimming is a technology that uses a backlight embedded inside the TV to make bright parts of the screen look brighter without washing out shadow detail. It also helps improve contrast and produce a more vibrant image.

High dynamic range, or HDR, is a software feature that enhances the contrast and color profile of a picture. In bright colors, you will see brighter highlights; in dark colors, you will see more details.

Most television sets today come with 4K high-definition resolution, also known as ultrahigh definition. But 4K videos won’t look very good if the TV lacks local dimming. In addition, the expanded color gamut from high dynamic range makes a big difference when watching videos in 4K, Mr. Heinonen said.

Buyer, Beware

Here’s the tricky part: On Black Friday, many companies exaggerate the features on their TV sets to make them look more attractive. Here are some things to look out for.

■ Fake contrast ratio numbers. Contrast ratio is the difference between a TV’s peak brightness and lowest darkness. All you need to know is that a high contrast ratio helps make a picture look good. Manufacturers enjoy pumping up the contrast ratio of their TVs by listing results in unrealistic test settings, Mr. Heinonen said.

■ Unknown TV models. On Black Friday, TV brands also enjoy releasing obscure television sets with model names that are similar to popular sets but with inferior features. “They all do it,” Mr. Heinonen said.

For example, Samsung could hypothetically sell a TV set called MU8020, which sounds similar to the Samsung MU8000, a well-reviewed television. But the unknown TV might lack important features like local dimming.

■ Misleading display technologies. TV makers use confusing terms that may mislead you. LED televisions, for example, sound similar to fancy OLED televisions — but they are just LCD televisions with an LED backlight, Mr. Soneira said. In addition, companies advertise TVs with high dynamic range, but some sets are not even powerful enough to display HDR properly, Mr. Heinonen said.

Do Your Homework

The best way to avoid falling into any traps is to figure out what TV you want and keep track of its price leading up to Black Friday. Here’s a good place to start: Wirecutter put together a chart of the best TVs based on dozens of hours of testing. It highlighted sets from Sony, TCL, Vizio and LG.

Wirecutter’s Picks






The Sony X900E offers a better image than even the TCL, but for a higher price.It comes in sizes from 49” up to 75”, has an even wider color gamut and brighterhigh dynamic range highlights than the TCL, and streams content with Android TV.

The TCL P607 offers the best value of any TV, offering 4K resolution with advanced local dimming, wide color gamut and high dynamic range. Integrated Roku streaming is fast and easy to use, but it only comes in a 55” size.

The LG B7, B7A and C7 are OLED instead of LCD, so they offer better image quality, improved viewing angles and an incredibly thin design. They don’t get as bright as an LCD, so direct sun can be an issue, but their image quality is amazing.

The Vizio M-Series offers superb performance with SDR and HDR content, and with Google Chromecast built in can stream from almost any service on your phone. Cord cutters should beware, as it lacks an over-the-air antenna input for local network channels.

The Sony X900E offers a better image than even the TCL, but for a higher price.

It comes in sizes from 49” up to 75”, has an even wider color gamut and brighter

high dynamic range highlights than the TCL, and streams content with Android TV.

The TCL P607 offers the best value of any TV, offering 4K resolution with

advanced local dimming, wide color gamut and high dynamic range. Integrated

Roku streaming is fast and easy to use, but it only comes in a 55” size.

The LG B7, B7A and C7 are OLED instead of LCD, so they offer better image

quality, improved viewing angles and an incredibly thin design. They don’t get as

bright as an LCD, so direct sun can be an issue, but their image quality is amazing.

The Vizio M-Series offers superb performance with SDR and HDR content, and

with Google Chromecast built in can stream from almost any service on your

phone. Cord cutters should beware, as it lacks an over-the-air antenna input for

local network channels.






Some TV makers have already announced Black Friday prices for a number of top-rated TVs. LG, for example, is selling an OLED TV, called B7A, for about $1,500 for the 55-inch set and about $2,300 for the 65-inch model. Originally, they cost $2,200 and $2,700. The $1,500 price is remarkably low for a high-end TV of this caliber and size.

In addition, Amazon is selling a great 55-inch Sony LCD TV with HDR for about $1,000, down from about $1,300. And Walmart is selling Vizio’s M50-E1, a well-reviewed 50-inch budget TV, for about $500, down from $600.

Whatever you do, try not to overspend. Mr. Heinonen said to steer clear of TVs that cost more than $3,000 because TV technologies were rapidly maturing and prices plummet every year.

“Paying a ton right now for the top of the line is really paying a premium when things are improving so fast,” he said.

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