As we've said before, the best time to buy a new TV is usually around the holidays. That will hold true again, but the discounts won't be as steep this year as last year. Why? Many popular sizes are already at their floors, like 42" and even 46" LCD HDTVs. Also, retailers are being stingier with their discounts — 52" LCD HDTVs and 50" plasma HDTVs are actually more expensive now than they were last November. That's never happened before for HDTVs. But don't be discouraged! dealnews has identified which TVs will be much cheaper than last year.
Before we begin, let's get some conventional wisdom out of the way.
- Don't buy a 3D TV. There is virtually no 3D content, 3D glasses are an expensive nuisance, and it costs up to twice as much. (See our review of 3D TV.) Buying a TV now and upgrading to a 3D TV in two years or so will cost about the same as buying a 3D TV now. Plus, you'll have two TVs!
- Don't worry about whether you should buy a TV that streams Netflix or YouTube. A slew of new TV gadgets are either available (Roku) or coming (Google) that will do the same but cost $100 or less. Buy the best TV you can, and if it's missing this feature, add a cheap media streaming box.
- Experts advise you to buy the biggest TV you can afford. Penny pinchers look at such advice with skepticism, but in this case, the conventional wisdom is right. Have you ever heard a friend complain about his or her new TV being too large?
- You don't need to see a TV to judge its picture. The bright overhead flourescent lights at a Best Buy or Costco — and we've all seen those lousy, grainy signals those stores send to 20 TVs at once — make it nearly impossible to discern differences. Rely instead on reviews and your social networks.
- LED-Backlit LCD HDTVs are more expensive than standard LCD HDTVs. However, some LED models offer a superior picture (deeper blacks and truer colors) and thinness (down to 1"-thick). These benefits vary by model and manufacturer, so we suggest doing a little bit of research before jumping on a deal just because it's for an LED-backlit LCD HDTV.
Onto the predictions. There will be plenty of HDTVs on sale, but the best bang for your buck will be a budget 55" 1080p LCD TV. Prices are down 25% from one year ago. In fact, 55" LCD HDTVs are now cheaper than 52" LCD HDTVs, and have been since May. Expect to see a 55" 1080p LCD TV for $799. It should have a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rate (useful for sports) and come from a name-brand like LG, Toshiba, or Vizio. (It won't be from a Sony or Samsung, though ... expect those to cost more.)
How we did last year with 52" LCD HDTVs? We nailed it to the dollar. ;-) There was no prediction for 55", it was too new a size.
A budget alternative to 55" is the 46" or 47" 1080p LCD HDTV. We're predicting that you'll find one for $499, down 20% from one year ago. We've actually already seen this price once before, back in June. For 2010, we think that's the floor. And by the way, unlike last year, 120Hz or better is pretty much a standard nowadays. You'll find it for most 55" and 46" HDTVs.
How we did last year with 46" LCD HDTVs? Within 6% of prediction. ;-)
40" and 42" 1080p LCD HDTV prices are also on the floor. Expect to pay $399, a price we've already seen several times this summer. Retailers just aren't likely to drop prices much further.
How we did last year with 40-42" LCD HDTVs? Within 10% of prediction. :-/
If you can afford it — and fit it in your home — we recommend 55" LCD HDTVs over all other sizes. For 60% more money, you get 43% more screen than a 46" LCD HDTV, and pretty much every expert says that you should always buy a bigger TV than you'll think you'll need. (For comparison, 60" LCD HDTVs generally cost almost twice as much than 55", for a modest 19% gain in real estate.)
What about other TVs? 60" LCD HDTV deals are too rare to generate a prediction. 50" 1080p plasma HDTV prices have been higher than 2009's Black Friday prices all year long. (Ouch!) What about 32" 1080p LCD TVs? With few exceptions, they aren't much less than 42" 1080p LCD HDTVs, which are much bigger (72% more screen, in fact).
Before you buy a TV on Black Friday, consider this: for the last three years in a row, the best time to buy a good TV wasn't on Black Friday. It was either in December (2007 & 2008) or January (2009). High-end, name-brand 55" LCD TVs were far more plentiful in December than in November. The general rule is, Black Friday is the best time of the year to buy no-name TVs. The following weeks are the best time to buy high-end TVs. You'll know it's a big deal when dealnews' own cheapskate editors bring out their wallets and start buying TVs ... keep an eye on our Twitter feeds to see what we buy.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for HDTVs
- 40"-42" 1080p LCD HDTV for $399
- 46"-47" 1080p LCD HDTV for $499
- 55" 1080p LCD HDTV for $799