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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Brad Moon, Contributing Writer
| January 19, 2018
Super Bowl 52 will be played on February 4, and if you’re hosting a party for the big game (and all the commercials), you’re running out of time to make sure your TV is up to the task. Not just any TV will do. The TV that friends and family want to gather around must be big, with wide viewing angles, packed with features that enhance on-field action… and did we say big?
Fortunately, the weeks prior to the Super Bowl happen to be the second-best time of the year to buy a big-screen TV. Expect to save about 20% off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. (The very best time of year to buy a new big-screen TV? That’s Black Friday, according to Consumer Reports.)
When comparing models, make sure you’re getting 4K (for the sharpest possible picture) and HDR (for more realistic colors) functionality. (Fortunately, most current big-screen TVs include these capabilities.) Another key feature that sports fans must be aware of is refresh rate – look for at least 120Hz. Because sports action is so fast (much more rapid motion than your typical sitcom), you want a TV with a fast refresh rate to avoid blurring.
My picks are the result of hands-on testing as a product reviewer, consultation with other reviewers and analysis of user feedback across the internet. Take a look.
My pick: 70-inch Vizio SmartCast E-Series
When you go for a truly big-screen TV, prices have a tendency to shoot up fast. Big panels are more expensive to produce, and manufacturers aren’t exactly aiming at the budget-shopper crowd when they design big TVs. But you can still find good value if you look, and my pick is the 2017 version of the 70-inch Vizio SmartCast E-Series TV.
The "SmartCast" part of the name reflects the built-in Google Chromecast support, which means you can stream video, music or web content from an Android device such as your smartphone. But what really makes this Vizio TV a value standout is the high-quality 4K/HDR display with 12 active dimming zones that enable deeper blacks while keeping the rest of the picture bright. The result is a big, crisp, high-contrast picture that impresses for this price range. Sports fans are set with a 120Hz refresh rate and wide viewing angles.
If you want to go even bigger, Vizio also offers a 75-inch and even an 80-inch version of this TV, but expect to pay a steep premium (the 80-inch version retails for $3,399) to get that extra screen real estate.
My pick: 55-inch TCL P Series Roku TV
TCL isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S. -- at least not yet -- but the Chinese manufacturer is growing fast and building a reputation for delivering high-quality, big-screen TVs at extremely low prices. The 55-inch TCL P Series Roku TV offers 4K resolution with Dolby Vision HDR (and HDR10), a 120Hz refresh rate for crystal-clear sports action and even built-in Roku streaming functionality.
CNET named this TV the best in its size without an OLED panel, calling it "ridiculously good."
It may not have the screen size to dominate a room, but 55 inches is enough for many people and perfectly suitable for Super Bowl viewing. And with the money you save, you can afford to put out an impressive spread of halftime snacks.
My pick: 43-inch Sony X800E 4K UltraHD Smart TV
Not everyone has the room or the budget for a gargantuan big-screen TV. If you’re looking for something relatively small, the 43-inch Sony X800E is a great value.
With this TV, you’ll get the 4K resolution and HDR support you’re looking for. In terms of "smarts," it’s an Android TV and has features such as voice search, Google Play access and Google Chromecast support.
The refresh rate is 60Hz, which is low for sports, but Sony’s Motionflow XR 240 technology enhances that for blur-free viewing. In addition, 4K X-Reality PRO sharpens images in real time.
For a small, relatively inexpensive TV, the Sony X800E offers a lot in an attractive package.
My pick: 50-inch Vizio SmartCast E-Series
There are a number of competing smart-TV platforms, so picking a best-value TV for the category means first picking from those smart-TV platforms. Android TV, Roku TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen are the big players at the moment.
For most people, Android offers the most options. That means Google Play and Chromecast support (which makes it easy to stream content from an Android smartphone). For the accompanying TV, it’s back to the Vizio SmartCast E-Series again. The 50-inch model gets you built-in Chromecast (with access through your mobile device to thousands of apps, plus the ability to voice control the TV using a Google Home speaker), great 4K picture and a game-worthy 50-inch display -- all for a sub-$500 pricetag that makes it a real value.
My pick: LG 77-inch Signature OLED TV W7
LG’s Signature OLED TV W7 won a bunch of awards at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and, in terms of TVs on store shelves now, the 77-inch version is the one to beat if you have deep pockets.
This big-screen TV features an incredible OLED panel with eye-popping colors, intense blacks and 4K resolution. Any game is simply going to look stunning on this TV. It mounts flat to the wall and includes a soundbar with Dolby Atmos audio for complete immersion in the event.
My pick: 55-inch Samsung MU 7000
Your new TV will have a long life after the big game. A big-screen TV is great for watching sports, but chances are you’ll be watching movies and TV shows as well. You also might want to connect a console and do some gaming. Some people even connect a laptop and use their TV as a super-sized computer monitor.
If you’re looking for the best value in a multipurpose TV -- one that can do just about anything quite well -- my pick is the 55-inch Samsung MU 7000.
The TV offers a 55-inch LED panel with 4K resolution, HDR support and a 120Hz refresh rate. That means a reasonably big, bright, detailed picture with no worries about sports being blurred. It also boasts an unusually low input lag of 12ms, which makes it ideal for gaming. There are three HDMI inputs, so there’s room to plug in a video streamer, cable box and a PC if someone wanted to use this as a monitor. Sound is also good, with a 20W amp powering downward-firing speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio.
My pick: Samsung 65-inch Class the Frame 4K UHD TV
Everybody’s got a big-screen TV these days. So how can you really impress your Super Bowl audience? I mean, make their jaws drop.
There are few TVs that can pull this off the way Samsung’s 65-inch Class the Frame 4K UHD TV can. It hangs flat on the wall, and Samsung offers a variety of picture frames (including walnut and oak) that combine with its Art Mode to disguise this TV as a painting or a super-sized framed photo.
When your guests arrive, settle in for the game and wonder where you’re hiding the TV, flip The Frame into TV mode. . . and the painting on the wall instantly transforms into a standout 65-inch 4K big-screen TV. Oooooooh.
My pick: Vizio SB3621n-E8
In the process of making flat-screen TVs as thin as possible, audio can suffer. There’s just not that much room for drivers in an enclosure that can be under an inch thick. Manufacturers of ultra-thin TVs solve this by mounting speakers in a separate box that also includes the inputs, but value-priced models don’t have that feature.
Not all big-screen TVs suffer from weak audio performance, but if yours does, a soundbar is a much easier solution than setting up a multi-speaker home theater system. You don’t get quite the same audio experience since all the drivers are in a single box instead of placed strategically throughout the room, but they can do a pretty good job of virtual surround sound.
When it comes to soundbars, it’s tough to beat the value of the Vizio SB3621n-E8. You get impressive Dolby Digital audio, DTS Surround at up to 100 dB volume, and an included subwoofer. The Vizio offers multiple connectivity options including Bluetooth, optical and 3.5mm AUX. The stylish soundbar can be wall-mounted, or positioned on a TV stand.