6 Great TVs at Great Prices
If you're in the market for a good deal on a new television, it's time to go shopping. Retailers are discounting stock that didn’t sell during the holidays and must be cleared off the shelves before 2014 models arrive. Plus retailers are tempting Super Bowl fans with special offers on big-screen HDTVs.
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What’s the best deal for you? We asked CNET's David Katzmaier (Kiplinger’s contributing tech writer Jeff Bertolucci calls him a foremost expert) to help us narrow down the options. Then we compared Katzmaier’s choices with picks from the deal experts at dealnews.com and PCmag.com's best TVs list. Finally, we compared manufacturer data and cost data from retailers.
Here are our recommendations for six great TVs at great prices now. They aren't the cheapest sets available, but they all offer the most bang for the buck in terms of quality and capabilities. These discounted 2013 models range in size from 32 inches to 70 inches. Most offer smart features such as built-in Wi-Fi, Web surfing and video streaming, as well as 3-D viewing. Prices listed are the lowest we could find at major retailers as of January 28, 2014.
32-inch: Samsung UN32F5500 ($348, Amazon). This is one of the best 32-inch HDTVs at this price level for several reasons, says Katzmaier, who developed CNET’s TV test procedure. It offers solid picture quality and has a higher display resolution than many of the cheaper models (1080p versus 720p). This LED model also has Samsung’s Smart TV suite, whereas the similar but cheaper UNF5000 series does not. The “smart” designation means that it has built-in Wi-Fi and allows access to on-demand video streaming from services such as Netflix as well as access to social media, music and more. Dealnews.com senior editor Louis Ramirez says that 32-inch TVs generally don’t come with as many features as this model. Even better, he says, it has three HDMI ports, which means you can connect more components to it, whereas cheaper TVs in this size category typically have only two HDMI ports. The current Amazon sale price is about 40% lower than its list price of $579.
47-inch: Vizio E470i-A0 ($558, Best Buy). This HDTV series comes in a range of sizes, and Katzmaier says that they all are great bargains considering the level of picture quality they deliver. Best Buy is offering the Vizio 47-inch LED TV for 11% below its list price of $630. Similar models from several competing brands are still selling for $600 and up. Although this Vizio smart TV is missing sports apps such as MLB.TV, it has a good selection of on-demand services and social media including Netflix, Vudu, Skype, Facebook and Pandora. For a similar-sized TV at a much lower price, the 42-inch Sharp LC-42LB150U is on sale at Best Buy for $350. This is the best price dealnews.com has seen for a brand-name 42-inch LED LCD TV. However, this TV doesn’t have the smart features that the Vizio does.
51-inch: Samsung PN51F5500 ($798, Amazon). Amazon has lowered its price on this 3-D plasma TV by 40%. Its excellent smart TV package and great picture quality (in all but the brightest rooms) make this Samsung a good buy, Katzmaier says. It comes with two pairs of 3-D glasses, voice interaction, a touch pad remote, and multiple connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth.
55-inch: Vizio M551d-A2R ($998, Amazon and Walmart). This 55-inch Vizio 3-D HDTV, originally priced at $1,200, is a steal below $1,000. PCMag.com lists it as one of the top ten best TVs because of its quality and price. Katzmaier calls it one of the best-performing LED TVs for the money. It’s a thin 1.75 inches, has sleek styling, built-in WiFi, and eight pairs of 3-D glasses, which is rare for any 3-D TV, Ramirez says. And it is selling at $700 less than all but the best 55-inch TVs from Samsung and Sony.
60-inch: Panasonic TC-P60VT60 ($1,800, Best Buy). This Panasonic costs as much the 70-inch Sharp listed below, but it’s one of the best TVs CNET has ever reviewed, Katzmaier says. PCMag.com also says that it’s one of the best plasma TVs Panasonic has produced and places it on its top-ten list. Talk about bells and whistles: This 3-D HDTV has a built-in camera, built-in media player, voice control and built-in Wi-Fi so you can stream movies and browse the Web. It’s the picture quality, though, that makes this plasma TV stand out from the pack, Ramirez says. Panasonic has stopped making plasma TVs. So any bargain you can find on one of Panasonic's highly rated plasmas is a good deal, he says. It’s on clearance at Best Buy, which has marked down the price by $500.
For $1,000 less, dealnews.com found a quality Vizio E601i-A3 marked down to $800 from $1,000 at Best Buy. You won’t get the same picture quality as with the Panasonic, but you’ll get a big TV for a much smaller price. .
70-inch: Sharp LC-70LE650U ($1,748, Amazon). This Sharp 650U, originally priced at $2,500, strikes the right balance between cost and quality, Katzmaier says. Like other smart TVs, it has built-in Wi-Fi so you can stream movies, listen to Pandora or other music services, browse the Web or check Facebook and other social media sites. You can link your smart phone or tablet with it to share content and use your smart device as a remote. It also has a wallpaper mode that allows you to display artwork or photos from a USB drive so you don’t have to stare at a big black screen when you’re not actually watching TV. The slightly smaller 60-inch Sharp 650U also is a good deal now ($939 at TVSuperStores.com, down from $1,799) and is on PCMag.com’s top-ten best HDTVs list.