4K? OLED? Here's everything to know before buying a television online this Cyber Week, plus where to find the best deals.
If you're in the market for a new TV, there's good news: Cyber Week is the perfect time to shop. This year, you have no shortage of options for finding a great new TV today.
If you see a TV you like, you don't want to wait too long. This year, the country is affected by supply chain issues -- ports are congested, shipping deadlines are pushed up and there's a very real possibility that stores will run out of certain items earlier than usual this year. (Some of the most popular toys of 2021 keep going out of stock at Amazon.) Plus, prices may rise as we get closer to Christmas, especially if store shelves are looking bare.
Start with a tape measure to figure out what TV size will look good in your space. And then consider what you'll be watching. Are you planning to host friends for a Hallmark Christmas movie party or a football game? 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 the newest movies on Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+? 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.
Ahead, five important questions to ask when shopping for a new television, as well as some of the best Cyber Week 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.
32" Toshiba (720p) with Fire TV: $150
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. This unit has a 720p display -- technically high definition, but not the 1080p HD you'll find on many modern televisions.
50" TCL 5 Series 4K Roku TV: $450
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.
65" TCL 6 Series 4K Roku TV: $898
This 65" TCL 6-Series just dropped to its lowest price of the year. For only $999, you can enjoy the features of a $1K television for an all-time low price. This TV boasts 4K resolution, Dolby sound, mini-LED technology, THX Certified Game Mode, and easy voice control that works with your Alexa or Google Assistant. With 4 HDMI inputs, you can connect all your favorite devices, including 1 eARC to easily sync audio and video sources for your convenience. And at a whopping 65", there's nothing else like it in its price point.
55" Samsung 4K Neo QLED: $1,600
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: 32" TCL 1080p HD Roku TV: $218
Smaller sets, like this Roku model from TCL, give you more wiggle room in terms of resolution. With a 32-inch television, you don't need more than 1080p resolution: The benefits of a 4K TV don't become obvious unless you're sitting very close to the screen. Again, the ideal viewing distance for a 32-inch 1080p HDTV like this one is between 4 and 6.5 feet.
Medium-sized TV: 55" Amazon Fire 4 Series TV with Alexa: $520
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: 75" Samsung 7 Series 4K TV: $930
Looking to go big with your Black Friday TV? The 75-inch Samsung 7 Series 4K television features the Tizen operating system and works with Alexa and Google Assistant. This relatively affordable model, now $250 off at Samsung, is well-rated by reviewers.
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" 1080p Hisense with AndroidTV: $250
In 2021, most TV channels still broadcast in 1080p. 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: 55" Amazon Fire TV Omni Series: $560
This model of Amazon's new Fire TV Omni Series measures 55 inches along the diagonal and has 4K resolution. 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: 75" Samsung 8K Neo QLED TV: $5,000
UHD 8K televisions have four times as many pixels as their 4K brethren. 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 Amazon Fire TV: 43" Toshiba 4K TV: $280
With the voice-activated, Alexa-powered remote, you can switch between channels, search for movies by genre and even check the weather using this TV. Fire TV is a good choice if you've already built an Alexa-based smart home.
TV with AndroidTV: 50" TCL 4K TV: $360
Similarly, Android users can keep all of their tech in the same universe with a television that has on-board AndroidTV. This 50-inch TCL model is $90 at Amazon right now.
TV with Roku: 55" TCL QLED 6 Series 4K TV: $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.)
LED, QLED or OLED: What display tech is right for you?
If you've shopped for a TV in the past five years, you've probably seen the terms LED, QLED and OLED mentioned in the product descriptions. Here's what all those display tech terms mean and how that applies to you.
LED TV: 50" Samsung 4K smart TV: $530
One way to cut costs when shopping for a TV is to search for an LED, or light-emitting diode option. The matrix of small lights behind your screen shine through an LCD layer, combining to create the color and brightness you see from your couch. If you don't feel strongly about the accuracy and saturation of your TV's colors, you can save a bit of cash without sacrificing much by choosing a set like this 50-inch Samsung.
QLED TV: 55" TCL 6 Series 4K Roku TV: $700
QLED TVs have a quantum-dot layer sandwiched between those LED lights and the LCD layer. This middle layer filters the light to produce more vibrant and accurate colors. If you're looking to get the richest color out of your set, a QLED model, like this 55-inch TCL 6 Series, could be a good option.
OLED TV: 65" LG 4K smart TV: $1,797
OLED TVs such as this one don't have a backlight layer. Instead, each pixel is it's own teeny-tiny LED light that can independently change its luminosity and even turn off completely. Because each pixel functions independently, these TVs have elite image quality and the darkest shadows. OLED televisions also tend to be ultra thin -- this particular set measures just 1.8 inches thick.