If you’re thinking of buying a new TV, you might want to wait for this year’s Black Friday TV deals. That’s when retailers drop TV deals to the lowest price of the year. A longtime staple of Black Friday deals, TV sales haven’t gone away, even as retailers have extended sales to nearly every other type of consumer tech product. This year TV deals are expected to be better than ever.
As retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart gear up for Black Friday 2019, we’re keeping a close eye on upcoming sales to help you find the best Black Friday TV deals of the season.
Where Black Friday used to mean steep discounts on TVs (but usually on brands you’ve never heard of), the new approach relies more on brand recognition, giving you a chance to score some awesome bargains on some of the best smart TVs and 4K sets.
There will still be some off-brand models on sale, but if you keep your eyes open, there should be some great deals on TVs from Samsung, Sony, TCL, and Vizio, and you may even be able to score an LG OLED TV for $999 or less. (Already we’ve seen 55-inch LG OLEDs hit that price point).
And remember, Black Friday deals are as popular online as they are in-store. That means you’ll be able to score some excellent Black Friday deals without having to brave the winter weather. You may not even have to wait until Thanksgiving, as many retailers start offering sales as early as November 1st.
Black Friday TV deals to watch out for
Black Friday deals are designed to generate excitement and sales, so don’t get lost in the hype. The basics of buying a great TV on sale are the same as regular-priced models: Know what features you should expect, what extras you may want, and read up on reviews to get a feel for what’s good or bad about specific models.
Our favorite brands are probably the names you already recognize: LG, Samsung, and Sony offer the top premium models, while Hisense, TCL, and Vizio deliver excellent quality at more affordable prices. Last year’s sales saw price cuts of $500 or more on some top models, and we expect similar sales this year. Look for Black Friday Target deals since the retailer tends to discount brands like Vizio and TCL.
We’ve seen some great TVs this year, and all of them can expect some sort of price drop for Black Friday.
The LG C9 OLED and the entry-level LG B9 OLED offer fantastic value at normal prices, thanks to LG’s superb OLED displays and robust smart features. Last year’s model saw price drops of $300 or more, so these are definitely worth watching out for.
While Sony’s prices tend to run a little higher than we’d like, there’s no doubt that Sony TVs are among the best on the market, making Black Friday the perfect time to score some of the best TVs at more reasonable prices. LCD TVs, like the Sony X950G 75-inch Android TV, will often be found for $200 to $300 off their regular price, especially at the larger sizes.
And Sony’s Master Series OLED TVs, like last year’s A9F OLED and this year’s A9G OLED, don’t often see price drops, but Black Friday tends to be the exception. Last year’s A9F OLED, for example, dropped below $4,200 one of the few times it sold for under the $4,500 MSRP.
And you can expect to see more QLED sets from more companies this winter. While Samsung might be the best-known seller of quantum-dot enhanced TVs, other manufacturers are getting in on the action, and QLED sets from Vizio, TCL, and Hisense put this premium technology into some pretty attractive and affordable packages.
Our favorite QLED sets include the Samsung Q90 QLED TV, which is Samsung’s best 4K TV so far, but also the Vizio M-Series Quantum, which has the same QLED technology without the higher price.
Finding the best Black Friday TV sales
In general, we recommend buying a TV with 4K resolution, since it’s the current standard, and will serve you well for old and new content alike. Stick to smart TVs, since nearly all current TVs include smart features giving you everything from free content to cable-free premium content, and compatibility with a whole house full of smart gadgets.
It’s also a good time to bone up on some of the basics of current TV technology. The difference between OLED and QLED, for example, can not only deliver different picture quality, but it can also mean a price difference of hundreds of dollars. And features like high-dynamic-range (HDR) support and HDMI 2.1 connectivity are premium touches that are worth paying a little extra for. The best Black Friday TV deals won’t just have low prices, but great overall value.
And watch for sales on bundle deals. The holidays are a great time to score a TV that comes with extras like HDMI cables, wall mounts or even soundbars, often for less than the regular price of the TV alone.
Black Friday Cheap TVs: Bargain hunters beware
Watch the fine print on those deals, though. You may see some TVs selling for $100 or less, but they all have some pretty severe limitations. Small sizes are common, and 32-inches is pretty small compared to the 65-inch models we usually review. (Check out our guide to choosing the right TV size to find the best size for your home.)
Most are lacking smart features or rely on off-brand software with limited app selection. But the biggest gotcha you’ll see on Black Friday is a low resolution some don’t even offer full HD, opting for 720p resolution. While you may see TVs listed for amazingly low prices some for less than $100 don’t expect any of the smart functions or 4K panels we see in the best TVs.
Retailers also see the big sale as an opportunity to clear out slow-moving stock, and that includes sets we usually recommend against buying, like curved TVs. While the curved screen is an eye-catching feature, it’s not a good choice for anyone that wants to watch a show with someone else.
The curved screen warps the display in a way that produces terrible viewing angles, not only distorting colors for those viewing from an angle but sometimes making entire portions of the screen unviewable.
The one exception to this rule is if you want a dedicated 4K TV for gaming: For single-player gaming, a curved display can offer better immersion than a flat panel. But for most users, curved screens are something to avoid, even at a discount.
The other thing to watch for is refurbished and open box units. These can be a source of enormous savings, but they come with wear and tear before you ever set it up, and warranty coverage may not be as robust as a new model will offer. Refurbs are a good way to save a buck during the rest of the year, but as we get into the holidays, the best deals are on new units.
Just remember the old saying about things that look too good to be true. Not all Black Friday cheap TVs are great deals, even when the prices are enticing.
Here’s a guide to which television features and specs are most important, and how to buy the right size TV for your expectations and budget.
Smart TV. LED. OLED. 4K. HDR. The world of TVs is looking better every day, but also more confusing. Today, there’s a ridiculously wide array of high-definition (HD) and 4K Ultra HD sets in stores, from bargain big screens to the high-end displays that distinguish the best TVs available.
We’re here with our TV buying guide to help you decide.
TV Buying Quick Tips
If you’re in a hurry, here are the most important things to consider before you buy a television. We explain each of these points in greater detail in the text below:
Don’t buy a TV with less than 4K resolution (i.e., avoid 1080p sets) if you want a future-proof set.
You can skip 8K TVs (for now): The next jump in resolution isn’t a must-have yet. 8K TVs are super expensive, and you can’t even get any 8K movies yet. It’ll be at least a year before 8K TVs are even something you should consider.
Expect to pay about $500 for a solid 50- to 55-inch bargain 4K TV and at least $900 for a 65-inch model.
Don’t buy a TV with less than a 120 Hz refresh rate.
Look for an HDR-compatible set, which offers more realistic colors and better contrast.
OLED TVs look much better than a typical LED LCD, but they are considerably more expensive. For a more affordable middle ground, check out quantum dot displays from Samsung, Vizio, and TCL.
Ignore contrast-ratio specs: manufacturers fudge the numbers. Trust your own eyes.
Look for at least four HDMI ports, and opt for the newer HDMI 2.1 format if you can.
Most TVs are “smart TVs” these days with easy access to Netflix and other online apps. Don’t be tricked into thinking this is a big deal.
Plan to buy a soundbar. TV speakers are worse nowadays because the screens are thinner.
Avoid extended warranties. Your credit card company may already provide purchase protection.
1. Screen Size: Finding the Sweet Spot
Whether you’re looking for a basic or high-performance TV, the biggest factor in your decision will probably be screen size. Consider how many people in your family typically watch at once and where you’re going to put your new set.
Then pick the largest screen size that will fit comfortably into that space and your budget. The sweet spot today, considering price, performance and the typical living room, is between 55 and 65 inches.
Screen size also depends on how close you sit to the TV. If you can see the individual pixels of the screen, you’re too close. A good rule of thumb is that you should sit at a distance from the TV that is three times more than the height of the screen for HD and just 1.5 times the screen height for 4K Ultra HD. In other words, you can sit twice as close to a 4K UHD TV.
Here’s a more in-depth guide to calculating the proper TV screen size based on the dimensions of your room, as well as the resolution of the TV.
If you have the opportunity, go to a store (and maybe bring your family) and look at the TVs. Even though 4K content is still rare, you may want that higher-resolution technology if you plan to sit close to a very large screen.
Bottom Line: Choose a screen size and resolution appropriate for the distance you will sit from the screen. We’d start at 55 inches unless you’re in a small apartment or dorm.
2. Screen Resolution: 8K, 4K or HD?
Resolution describes the number of pixels that make up the picture on a display, described in terms of horizontal rows and vertical columns. More pixels translate into the sharper picture and finer details, so higher resolution is (almost always) better.
For many years, the 1920 x 1080 resolution, also called full HD, has been the standard and is still the most common resolution in TVs across the globe. However, TV manufacturers are rapidly shifting to Ultra HD sets (also called 4K). These 4K models have four times the number of pixels as current HDTV screens. We’re talking 2,160 horizontal lines or 3840 x 2160 pixels.
The biggest benefit of 4K TVs is that small objects on the screen have more detail, including sharper text. Overall, images appear richer and more life-like than on an HDTV, but the benefits can be subtle. The sharper picture also has the added benefit of letting you comfortably view the screen from a shorter distance, making larger TVs more comfortable to view in a regular-sized home.
Ultra HD video looks great, and it’s getting easier to find. Several streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Video and even YouTube have started offering 4K content, making smart TVs and streaming sticks your best bet for easily finding 4K movies and shows.
While Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are becoming more common, they’re still less common than standard 1080p. Live TV hasn’t fully embraced 4K yet, but DirectTV, Dish Network and Comcast Xfinity have all started offering 4K movies. Although Ultra HD sets can upscale existing HD content, the results can be mixed and do not look as sharp as original 4K programming.
The first 8K TVs are just now coming to market, with Samsung’s Q900 8K TV arriving first, and now LG’s 88-inch Z9 OLED. These displays quadruple the resolution seen on 4K sets, offering a giant leap forward in picture quality, but finding content to fully take advantage of that higher resolution is extremely limited. It’ll be at least a year or two before 8K sets are recommended for anyone but the earliest of adopters, so we recommend sticking to 4K.
Bottom Line: Ultra HD resolution, also called 4K, is increasingly becoming the standard, and it’s a better choice if you want to future-proof your investment. Higher-resolution 8K TVs are coming to the market, but it’s not worth buying yet.
3. HDR: Get It If You Want the Most Colors
HDR is a new feature of 4K Ultra HD sets and it stands for high dynamic range, a reference to its ability to deliver more colors, more contrast levels, and increased brightness.
HDR is essentially an upgrade of the 4K, or Ultra HD, format (it does not apply to 1080p HD sets). For this new feature, TV makers are christening new monikers for the sets to distinguish them from standard 4K Ultra HD TVs.
The basic standard for high-dynamic-range content is called HDR10, as set forth by the UHD Alliance, an industry trade group. Dozens of companies are supporting this basic minimum specification for HDR compatibility, so you will see “HDR10” or “Ultra HD Premium” on a growing number of sets this year.
Dolby Vision is a more demanding version of HDR, created and licensed by the folks that brought us Dolby noise reduction and surround sound. In theory, a Dolby Vision set has to meet a stricter set of criteria to display HDR content, and our testing seems to bear this out. So far, Dolby Vision has led the industry in terms of proprietary HDR formats.
There continues to be some HDR confusion. Every HDR-enabled set on the market is currently HDR10-compatible, but Dolby Vision is only found on sets that both meet Dolby’s technical standards and pay licensing fees for the standard. Nonetheless, Dolby Vision has quickly become the industry standard for HDR content and can be found on premium models from most brands (including LG, Sony, TCL, and Vizio).
Samsung has introduced its premium HDR format, called HDR10+, for all of its smart TVs. (Yes, Samsung’s naming makes things very confusing.) While the HDR10+ format offers a great viewing experience, it’s far less common than Dolby Vision, with HDR10+ content offered on Amazon Prime Video and a handful of UHD Blu-rays.
Even more troublesome, many UHD Blu-ray players don’t support HDR10+ at all, so your options are even more limited if you want to go all-in on Samsung’s proprietary HDR format. You’ll still be able to enjoy the more basic HDR10 format through any HDR-capable player or TV, but HDR10+
Both Technicolor and IMAX have also brought their proprietary standards to the market, called Technicolor Advanced HDR and IMAX Enhanced, respectively. It’s still far too soon to know if either of these newer formats will have much impact on the market.
There’s not much HDR programming available, but it’s starting to look a bit better. There are a few dozen movies in the new 4K Blu-ray disc format, with a growing number of HDR shows available via streaming services, like Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Some new 4K Blu-ray players also promise to be upgradable to handle the new HDR discs but check before you buy. Finally, cable and satellite have their form of HDR, called Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG), so you should start seeing HDR pop up now and then for movies and even live TV.
Bottom Line: Don’t choose a set just for its HDR support because the standard has not yet been settled. However, if you want the best, buy an HDR set that is compatible with Dolby Vision, as that format seems to be gaining momentum.
4. Refresh Rate: Faster is Better
The refresh rate, expressed in Hertz (Hz) describes how many times per second a picture is refreshed on the screen. The standard refresh rate is 60 times per second or 60 Hz. However, in scenes with rapidly moving objects, a 60 Hz refresh rate can make things look blurry or jittery, particularly on LCD HDTVs. So, to create a more solid picture, manufacturers doubled the refresh rate to 120 Hz (and in some cases up to 240 Hz).
Since there aren’t that many per-second images in original video content, TVs handle the faster refresh rates in different ways. One method is to simply insert black images between the original pictures, tricking the viewer’s eyes into seeing a less blurry, more solid picture.
Another technique is to generate and insert new images showing a state of movement in between the two adjacent pictures to display more realistic-looking motion. However, depending on how the video-processing is done, it can make a movie or sitcom look flat, or as if it were a poorly lit, old-time soap opera.
Some new models are boasting High-Frame Rate (HFR) support, which means that they have both a higher refresh rate and added support for content with higher than 60 Hz frame rates. With HFR content set to come from both movies and live broadcasts, HFR will be especially good for live sports it’s a feature to watch for in 2019.
Gamers will be especially keen to get higher refresh rates, but if you’re using a gaming console, 60 Hz is the sweet spot. Most gaming consoles top out at 60 frames per second, and even the best 4K TVs for gaming offer the best performance well below the 120 Hz we suggest for other content.
A word of caution: beware of terms like “effective refresh rate,” which means the actual frame rate is half the stated rate (e.g., a “120 Hz effective refresh rate” is a 60 Hz refresh rate).
Bottom line: Gamers will get a lot from a 60Hz TV, but most TV shoppers shouldn’t buy a TV with less than a 120 Hz refresh rate.
5. HDMI and Connections: Go for More
It may seem like an afterthought, but pay attention to the number of HDMI inputs a set has. Manufacturers looking to shave costs may offer fewer HDMI plugs on the back. These ports can get used up quickly: Add a soundbar, a Roku or Chromecast, and a game console, and you’ve used three ports already.
If you have decided to take the plunge and get a 4K Ultra HD, make sure the set’s ports support HDMI 2.0 to accommodate future Ultra HD sources. Many TVs on the market have only one port that supports the 4K copy-protection scheme known as HDCP 2.2 (high-bandwidth digital content protection).
The newer HDMI 2.1 format has started cropping up on TVs in 2019, and while the biggest benefits of the new standard will be seen in delivering 8K content, there are still plenty of goodies coming to 4K sets. The biggest improvement is the variable refresh rate (VRR) support, which introduces the same sort of frame rate matching seen in Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync technologies.
By matching the TV refresh rate to the frame rates of your content source – in this case, the graphics card inside your game console or PC – you’ll get smoother action and zero screen tearing. It also adds higher frame rates for 4K video and richer HDR data that will allow adjustments at the scene level for more-precise backlighting control.
As of now, we’ve seen HDMI 2.1 capability popping up on LG’s 2019 TVs, such as the LG C9 OLED, which uses the faster standard for all four of its HDMI ports.
Bottom Line: Look for at least four HDMI ports, and opt for the newer HDMI 2.1 format if you can.
6. TV Types and Jargon Explained: LCD, LED LCD, OLED
Aside from projection sets, there are only two types of TVs on the market: LCD and OLED. Unless you have a lot of disposable income, you’ll probably be buying an LCD TV.
LED and LCD Sets
The lion’s share of televisions today are LED LCD. These HD and Ultra HD sets use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the LCD screen and can be extremely thin. Many of these TVs can dynamically light up specific portions of the screen and dim other parts to better represent a mix of light and dark areas in a scene a feature known as active dimming or local dimming. No-frills LED LCD sets can be had for as little as $200 for a 32-inch screen, while a top-of-the-line 90-inch model can go for $8,000.
Most LCD sets use LEDs on the edge of the screen. The better of these models support active dimming, but it takes some digital sorcery to do this by merely manipulating lights along the edge.
Full-array LED sets to have light-emitting diodes directly behind the screen, in a grid of “zones” that can be lit up or darkened individually. Such an arrangement makes the backlight more precise and allows a more-detailed picture regarding contrast. Full-array backlighting was once reserved for top-tier models, but with more Ultra HD sets appearing at lower prices, this feature is becoming more common on modestly priced sets.
Another LCD technology, called quantum dots, is becoming more common, spurred on by the requirements of HDR to produce a wider array of colors and more brightness. An LCD that uses quantum dots has another layer or added “rail,” of different size nanocrystal dots that light up when the LED backlight hits them. The result is a wider color spectrum and increased brightness.
Be aware that some brands offer confusing labels. The biggest offender is the name “QLED”, featured prominently on Samsung’s premium sets and coming to TCL’s 2019 models this fall. These are quantum-dot LCD TVs with LED backlighting not to be mistaken for OLED.
And while quantum dot displays still can’t match the true black levels of OLED, the gap is narrowing as manufacturers work to improve the technology. For an affordable middle ground between basic LCD and pricey OLED displays, quantum-dot enhancement is a smart way to go.
Pros: Wide array of prices, sizes, and features; Some affordable Ultra HD 4K models; Bright screens visible even in a sunny room; Image quality steadily improving with full-array backlighting and quantum-dot technology.
Cons: Exhibits imperfections when displaying rapid motion, as in sports; Loses some shadow detail because pixels can’t go completely black (even with full-array backlighting); Images fade when viewing from the side (off-axis).
OLED TVs go one better than full-array LED-LCDs with a few dozen lighting zones. In place of a backlight, OLEDs use a layer of organic LEDs, controlled at the pixel level, to achieve absolute black and stunning levels of contrast. (Footage of fireworks against a black sky is a favorite demonstration of OLED technology.)
LG isn’t the only company actively pursuing OLED technology in large screen sizes, with Sony offering premium OLED sets as well. The best-in-class display technology is seen exclusively on 4K sets (and higher, with the introduction of LG’s 8K OLED), and range in size from 55 inches on up to 75 inches or larger. But OLED has also gotten much more affordable, with 55-inch models selling for less than $2,000, and 65-inch models selling in the $2,000-3,000 range.
Pros: Best TV picture, bar none; Colors truly pop, deeper blacks and better contrast and shadow detail than LCD TVs achieve; Retains image quality when viewed from the side.
Cons: Premium prices; lower peak brightness than some LCD sets, uncertainty about how screens will fare over time, including whether they will retain “ghost” images (also known as burn-in) from displaying a static picture for too long.
7. 8K Resolution: Hold Off
If you thought the jump to 4K resolution was amazing, you’ll be floored by 8K, which ratchets up the detail even further with 7680 x 4320 pixels. It’s amazing to see, and it’s the next big thing in consumer TVs. But it’s not worth spending your money on just yet.
TV manufacturers are betting big on 8K displays, and there’s no doubt that it’s the next big thing in TVs. But all that eye-popping detail is still missing an essential element: Content. There are no 8K movies available for purchase, and streaming in 4K is already more taxing than many people’s internet connection can handle.
So far, companies are hoping that fancy AI-powered upscaling will make everything look good enough to justify prices that far outstrip the cost of premium 4K sets. The 8K models on the market are several thousand dollars more than the top 4K models, like Samsung’s 85-inch Q900R QLED 8K TV, which has a MSRP of $14,999(US)/£14,999(UK), or LG’s 88-inch Z9 8K OLED, which sells for $29,999(US)/£29,999(UK).
Bottom Line: You can leave the pricey 8K TVs to the early adopters. Until the content is available, you’ll just wind up paying a lot of money for an upscaled 4K video.
8. Smart TVs: Most Already Are
An increasing number of sets come with built-in Wi-Fi for connecting Internet-based services like Netflix for streaming videos or to run apps for watching special-interest programs, downloading on-demand movies, playing games or even posting to Facebook. The latest models can even search for content across streaming services and live to program on cable and satellite.
The interfaces are generally getting better. Vizio, LG and now Samsung use a handy bar of icons at the bottom of the screen. Roku offers its famously intuitive interface in budget TVs from Hisense, TCL and other inexpensive brands.
Google provides its Android TV platform to companies such as Sony and Westinghouse, and Amazon has jumped into the mix with Amazon Fire Edition TVs from Toshiba and Insignia (Best Buy’s brand). While most smart TVs include the major services, such as Pandora, Hulu, and Netflix, check to make sure the TV you buy has the options you want. Our guides to common questions about smart TVs and comparison of smart TV platforms are good places to start.
Streaming apps available on smart TVs are also one of the best ways to find and enjoy 4K and HDR content. With movies and shows offered by services from Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, it’s quick and easy to find both 4K resolution and HDR-enabled content easier than finding Blu-rays with the desired formats. The only concern is whether your internet connection can provide enough bandwidth.
But not all smart TVs are created equal. Many budget-friendly brands will offer smart TV functionality without naming the actual platform that they use. In these cases, expect to run into limitations. Off-brand smart platforms frequently suffer from severely limited app selection, sub-par performance, and gaping security holes.
In the past, you could have bought a less expensive “dumb” TV and made it smart with a streaming device like the $50 Roku Streaming Stick. But nowadays, it’s hard to get a TV that isn’t smart, even if you’re going for a small bargain model. Find out more about the functions and features in our guide to smart TVs.
Bottom line: Smart capability is becoming a standard feature in TVs, so it’s less and less of a factor in your buying decision.
9. Contrast Ratio: Unreliable Numbers
The contrast ratio describes the range of brightness levels a set can display. Better contrast ratios display more subtle shadows and hues, and thus better detail. However, the way manufacturers measure such ratios varies widely. Indeed, the specification has been so thoroughly discredited that if a salesperson uses it as a selling point, you should shop somewhere else.
We use the same method for examining contrast ratios in all the TVs we test, so we can say roughly how well they compare to each other. Nevertheless, it’s still best to see for yourself how a TV displays shadow detail by finding a movie with dark scenes and seeing how well it reveals detail in the shadows of, say, a Harry Potter movie. Experiment with the TV’s brightness, sharpness, and other picture settings before making a final judgment. (Hint: select “movie” or “cinema” mode on the TV.)
The best TVs will have deep, dark black levels while less expensive displays glow with a dark gray, even when they should be showing black. These grays are called “elevated black levels” and are a common problem on less premium LCD TVs.
Bottom line: You can ignore manufacturers’ contrast-ratio specs since they are not comparable across brands. Instead, look for deep black levels and minimal haloing around high contrast objects.
10. Audio: Get a Soundbar
Even the finest, most expensive HDTVs have an Achilles’ heel: poor sound. It’s a consequence of the svelte design of flat panels there’s not enough room for large speakers that produce full, rich sound. So, you have three choices: Use headphones (which can make you seem antisocial), buy a surround-sound system (which can be a hassle to set up and produces clutter) or get a soundbar.
Soundbars are popular because, for $300 or less, they can significantly improve the cinematic experience and yet be installed in minutes. Check out our top soundbar picks. Newer models are thin enough to fit under a TV stand without blocking the bottom of the picture. Most can also mount under a wall-hanging TV. Several companies also offer sound boxes or stands that can slide under a set.
Some TVs and soundbars also support Dolby Atmos, a newer audio standard from Dolby that includes overhead sound for a fuller listening experience. While you can get the Atmos effect using in-ceiling speakers, many soundbars have Atmos audio processing and upward-firing speakers built-in to create more realistic sounding audio that doesn’t require the multiple speaker placement that you’d have with 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound.
And don’t stress about additional cable clutter. Nearly all current TVs feature at least one HDMI port with Audio Return Channel (ARC) capability. This standard HDMI feature provides lets you use HDMI as both an input and an audio output, letting you not only send audio to the TV from your external media devices but also out to your soundbar. That ARC connection means that you get great sound for all your devices, with no special receiver needed.
Bottom Line: Movies and sports benefit from the addition of a soundbar.
11. Extended Warranties: Save Your Money
One of the biggest revenue generators for big-box electronics stores is the extended warranty. Why? Because they are so rarely needed, especially for a flat-panel LCD set. Most of the components in an HDTV are remarkably resilient; even the LEDs used to light the picture are virtually shockproof.
So, if you do get a lemon, it’s likely to be apparent immediately or at least within the first 30 days of ownership a period usually covered by a regular store-return policy. Beyond that, most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty. Credit card companies may offer additional automatic coverage on purchases, so check with your provider.
Bottom Line: Save your money and contact your credit card company to see if it has a price protection policy.
Pay the Right Price: Bargains are Out There
While you’ll always get the latest features and best capabilities by paying full price, a lot of shoppers are holding off because they think current TVs are too expensive. The reality is that TVs have not only never been better, they’ve also never been this affordable.
While premium models can easily run upwards of $2,000, there are plenty of great TVs complete with all of the 4K resolution, HDR support and smart features we recommend for much less. You can still get a solid bargain on a 50- to 55-inch TV for under $500, and 65-inch models can be found for under $1,000.
Even better, there’s almost always a great sale coming up, and if you’re willing to make some small concessions, you can save thousands of dollars when you buy your next TV.
With Black Friday fast approaching, anybody and everybody in the market for a new laptop would be well advised to have their mouse finger primed. There are very serious savings to be had on such a big-ticket item as a laptop on Black Friday and its Cyber Monday deal-busting sibling.
But knowing you want a new laptop is a far cry from knowing what model and specification you should buy and where you can find the best deals. This is where our guide on how to buy a laptop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes in.
So, let’s start by covering off the former. How do you begin choosing a laptop?
On the one hand, that’s a veritable ‘how long is a piece of string’ question, such as the huge array of form factors, price, and features on offer. On the other, there are a few rules and tools you can use to home in on the most suitable systems.
Choosing a laptop that’s right for you
For starters, if you’re doing anything resembling serious work, choose a laptop with at least four processor cores. They can be Intel cores or AMD cores, it doesn’t matter much, even if Intel very much dominates the laptop market currently.
That stricture includes some very thin and light laptops these days, so you’re not giving up portability. Dual-core is fine for web browsing, text editing, and content consumption. But if you’re doing serious work, you’ll appreciate at least another pair of cores.
As for graphics, we’ll cover off gaming laptops in a separate piece. For non-gaming laptops, the spec of the graphics chip isn’t hugely critical. What’s more, ever since Intel’s 7th generation of CPUs (we’re now on generation 10), support for hardware decode of the latest video codecs has been included with its integrated graphics. So, a 4K YouTube video on a cheap laptop, for instance, is no problem.
The one related worry involves video output rather than graphics performance per se. We’re of the view that a modern laptop should include USB Type-C connectivity with support for at least one external 4K screen running at 60Hz.
Speaking of USB-C, you should also look for support for charging via that interface. So, you could hook up to an external display with a USB-C port, and both charge and drive the display with a single cable.
It also makes for wider charging support. In other words, you can often head out without lugging a power supply around, safe in the knowledge that you can hook up to generic power sources via USB-C. USB-C also enables really fast transfers to external drives and all manner of further features, so it’s very much something to look out for.
Next up is storage. These days it absolutely has to be solid-state and preferably an M.2 SSD. SATA SSDs are acceptable, but we’d turn our collective nostrils up at the likes of an eMMC drive. Yuck. Capacity wise, we’d prefer 256GB minimum on any system. But if you genuinely use very little storage, 128GB may be acceptable.
As for the operating system, it’s almost always going to be Windows. Apple’s excellent MacBooks are somewhat a world unto their own and Chromebooks are likewise a very particular proposition.
In short, if you’re in any doubt at all whether a Chromebook is what you need, it probably isn’t and you should buy a Windows laptop.
Think about the form factor
In terms of form factor, that’s a rather subjective choice. It’s your call how you want to compromise on screen size versus portability. But we’d make a few observations.
First, anything less than 13 inches really is a very small screen for doing anything but casual web browsing and the like, while anything larger than 15.6-inches pretty much kills portability.
We’d also recommend you pay attention to the size of the screen bezels. Smaller bezels mean a larger screen in a given form factor and also ensure a contemporary appearance. Fat bezels are ugly and make for a bigger and heavier laptop.
But what about screen resolution? Treat 1080p or Full HD as a minimum requirement, regardless of screen size. For screens larger than 13-inches, favor resolutions beyond 1080p in order to ensure crispness and sharpness.
As for the question of conventional laptop form factors versus 2-in-1 machines, that’s a very personal judgment. Just bear in mind that 2-in-1 systems are pretty bulky in tablet mode, compared to normal tablets. Visit our best 2-in-1 laptop guide for our pick of the best convertible laptops.
Speaking of form factor, it makes dictating battery capacity rather tricky. Really roughly, for very thin and light laptops, look for a battery of around 40Wh capacity, 60Wh for a mid-sized model and 80 to 90Wh for larger models.
90Wh, incidentally, is the largest allowed on many international flights. Battery life claims are notoriously unreliable. But claimed endurance of 10 hours or more is preferable if you’re expecting to use your laptop away from the mains regularly.
What laptop brand should you go for?
But what of brands? Choosing the right brand will get you a long way towards ensuring a good quality laptop. Among the best laptop brands are Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, Huawei, HP, Microsoft, Lenovo, Razer, Samsung, and Sony. Among those brands, there are few absolute dud laptop models, though obviously, compromises have to made at the cheaper end of their product families.
If this is all a little overwhelming, one way to ensure you get a good system is to buy a laptop that qualifies for Intel’s Ultrabook standard.
Ultrabooks must comply with a wide range of minimum specifications and capabilities that essentially ensure you’re getting a very portable laptop with good battery life, a decent screen, and solid performance. Pricing for Ultrabooks starts around $500/£500.
Set your budget
Since we’ve mentioned money, we reckon you’re probably looking at around $400/£400 to get a proper, full-featured system (there may be some stellar deals that break that barrier), the aforementioned $500/£500 to slip into Ultrabook territory and around $700/£700 of Black Friday money to get into true premium notebook territory.
If that’s what you should be buying, where the heck should you get it from? The simplest and best answer is right here on TechRadar. We’ll have a veritable army of experts trawling the web for the very best deals, both leading up to Black Friday and on the day itself, and you’ll find the deals presented in neatly categorized and easy to scan lists.
So, it’s a bit of a no brainer to start your search here. That said, if you want to do a little DIY searching, the best options in the US are Amazon, NewEgg, Walmart and Best Buy.