If you’re looking to buy a TV, you’ve likely been thinking that Black Friday is the best time to shop. But with shipping delays, supply chain issues and port congestion, Black Friday sales are starting early this year. There are already deals worth considering online at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and more now.
This week, Best Buy’s featured TV deals include the 75″ Samsung 7 Series 4K TV for $850 (save $250) and the 58″ Insignia F30 Series 4K TV with Fire TV built in for $350 (save $230) — you can shop both those deals now. Amazon, meanwhile, has deals: The newly released 50″ Amazon Fire TV 4 Series is just $330 (save $140) and the 40″ TCL Roku TV is $229 (save $120), while Samsung TVs are up to 30% off right now.
Apart from wanting to find an amazing deal, you may be wondering where to even start when it comes to picking out a new TV. Is Amazon’s new 4K Fire TV Omni Series a good option? Or should you be looking at something more along the lines of the Samsung’s 8K TVs?
Frankly, shopping for a TV online can be tricky. Because there are so many specs and bells and whistles on televisions, even the research process for buyers can be daunting. That’s where we come in: We’re here to help you sort out how to buy a TV online, without making a trek to the store and fitting a 5-plus-foot-wide screen in the back of your car.
First things first: Before you go hunting for the internet’s best TV deals, you’ll need a tape measure. You’ll save yourself a fair amount of hassle by understanding the size limits of your space. Another important top-line thing to consider when TV shopping is what you’ll be watching. Are you planning to host friends for a Super Bowl watch party? Sports fans should be on the lookout for a television large enough to see from anywhere in a room.
Are you more of a cinephile, hoping to stream movies on Netflix and HBO Max? Movie nuts should keep their eyes peeled for high-resolution (4K) models and HDR and OLED technology. These features help maintain the richness of colors and contrast in your favorite movies.
Here are five important questions to ask when shopping for a new television, as well as some of the best pre-Black Friday TV deals worth checking out.
TV prices: What is your price point?
A new TV can run you anywhere from $100 to $10,000 — or more. Naturally, the lowest-price options will have some trade-offs: Size, resolution and display tech are all common places you’ll make compromises in the name of cost savings. On the other end of the price spectrum, the luxury options have all the latest bells and whistles, like built-in surround sound and the most impressive color-retention features. Here’s what you can get at three price points, so you have an idea of the features available at each.
Bargain TV: 32-inch Toshiba set (720p) with Fire TV: $160
At just 32 inches, this budget-friendly Toshiba TV is suited for small spaces like bedrooms or offices. It runs Amazon’s FireTV platform, so you can stream new shows from Hulu, Netflix and more without plugging in extra equipment. You’ll trade a fair amount of resolution for the tiny price tag, though. This unit has a 720p display–that’s technically high definition, but not the 1080p HD you’ll find on many modern televisions.
TV $500-$600: 50-inch TCL 5-Series with 4K resolution: $500
For just $500, your options open up quite a bit. This highly reviewed 50-inch TCL set has QLED (quantum dot LED) technology, 4K resolution and Dolby Vision. All those features together improve the sharpness, brightness, color and contrast of an image.
TV under $1,500: 55-inch Samsung 4K Neo QLED: $1,098
Once you get into the four-figure price bracket, like with this Samsung 4K Neo QLED, you access even more top-of-the-line features such as a built-in Alexa assistant and a premium piece of audio technology called object-tracking sound (OTS). With OTS, your television analyzes the action on screen and tries to replicate a surround-sound experience without any external speakers.
TV size: What’s the right size television for your space?
Size matters when you’re shopping for a TV, and not just the size of the screen. The size of the room and your intended viewing distance can help you triangulate the best option for your space. For example, experts say the ideal viewing distance for a 32-inch 1080p television is between 4 and 6.5 feet. A larger TV at that same resolution would have a longer ideal viewing distance. And higher-resolution models, like 4K and 8K TVs, have shorter viewing distances than HD sets of a given size. Here are some examples.
Small TV: TCL 32-inch 1080p TV with Roku: $219
Smaller sets, like this Roku model from TCL, give you more wiggle room in terms of resolution, since each individual pixel covers less surface area. With a screen this small (32 inches), you don’t need more than 1080p resolution: The benefits of 4K don’t become obvious unless you’re sitting very (and we mean very) close to the screen. Again, the ideal viewing distance for a 32-inch 1080p TV like this one is between 4 and 6.5 feet.
Medium-sized TV: Amazon Fire 4-Series TV 55-inch 4K TV with Alexa built in: $380
A mid-size television, 55 to 65 inches along the diagonal, is large enough for many living rooms. The ideal viewing distance for a 55-inch 4K TV, such as this model, is between 4.5 and 7 feet.
Big-screen TV: Samsung 75-inch 8K QLED TV: $3,499
If you just need more screen, this 75-inch Samsung should fill up your space. It has 8K resolution, too, which, depending on your viewing distance, your mortal human eye may or may not be able to discern, compared with a 4K display. (Of course, there’s very little content available in 8K right now, so the costly upgrade from 4K may not be worth it.)
It is a very large television, so if that’s your endgame, this is a well reviewed option.
HD, 4K and 8K TVs: Which resolution is right?
Now that we’ve sorted out the size issue, we’ll tackle the resolution. These days, 4K TVs are more affordable than ever, so the temptation to bite the bullet and invest in the upgraded image quality is strong. But, if you’re planning to view your mid-size TV set from 9-plus feet away, the added benefit may not be noticeable. Higher resolution is more important if you’re planning on watching sports and movies, and less important if you’re watching news and reality TV.
Here’s what each option looks like.
Basic HD TV: 43-inch 1080p Hisense with AndroidTV: $260
Here is where we’ll mention that, in 2021, most TV channels still broadcast in 1080. This 43-inch Hisense set has 1080p resolution and built-in AndroidTV. For many shoppers, the sub-$300 price tag will far outweigh what this set sacrifices in pixels. As we mentioned before, the smaller your screen is, the less noticeable the benefits of Ultra-HD resolutions (like 4K and 8K) are at a given viewing distance.
4K TV: Amazon Fire TV Omni Series 55-inch: $410
This model of Amazon’s new Fire TV Omni Series measures 55 inches along the diagonal and has 4K resolution. Like many 4K models, this television will automatically upscale 1080i broadcast content to 4K. If image quality is of the upmost importance, the additional cost may be worth it. This TV also comes with a far-field microphone for true hands-free control. That means you can change the channel without talking to your Alexa remote.
Luxury TV with UHD 8K: Samsung 75-inch 8K Neo QLED TV: $4,498
UHD 8K televisions have four times as many pixels as their 4K brethren, but whether you can perceive the difference in quality depends heavily on your viewing distance and the size of the screen. Samsung says this TV upscales all source material to “8K,” though results may vary based on the content’s native resolution.
Eventually, there will be 8K content available to watch, but for now, 8K resolution functions mostly as a very expensive future-proofing option.
What is your preferred smart TV interface?
Roku, Fire TV and Android TV are all popular platforms for organizing your viewing experience and taking your enjoyment on television well beyond what’s available on the cable box. LG and Samsung also have their own proprietary systems, so if you’re devoted to their interfaces, you’ll want to buy one of their TVs. If you primarily use an Apple TV, you can skip over this section, as this probably won’t matter much to you.
If you don’t have experience with smart TV interfaces, Roku is an apt, easy-to-use option for beginners and smart TV pros alike.
TV with Roku built in: TCL 55-inch QLED 6-Series with 4K resolution: $700
If you’re already used to a certain interface, switching can be tough, especially if you’re not particularly tech savvy. Fans of the super-simple Roku platform should look for a TV–like this TCL model–with a built-in Roku system. (Plus, the picture quality of this 6-series model is stunning for the money.)
TV with AndroidTV built in: TCL 50-inch: $360
Similarly, Android users can keep all of their tech in the same universe with a television that has on-board AndroidTV.