2013 Black Friday TV Buying Guide

When you’re studying or working aboard, a notebook computer can usually provide all the entertainment you need. However, if you enjoy a large screen and stunning picture quality, a notebook monitor will no longer be enough. When you think about settling down, a TV will likely always be on your shopping list.

You have probably noticed that there are many choices available on the market. Which is the best? What’s the difference between LCD and LED TVs? What about plasma? Which screen size is best for my living room? These are the kind of questions that many of us often ask. Buying a new TV can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many brands, so many features, so many screen sizes, colors, technologies and other options to choose from.

So which one is right for you, your family, and your living space?

Let’s start with the basics:

  1. LCD TVs – Liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are television sets that use LCD display technology to produce images. LCD televisions are thinner and lighter than cathode ray tube (CRTs) of similar display size, and are available in much larger sizes. LCD TVs produce an image by selectively filtering a white light through the screen. The light is typically provided by a series of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) at the back of the screen.
  2. LED TVs - Light Emitting Diode (LED) TVs are actually LCDs, but use a series of LED bulbs to light up the screen, instead of using the CCFLs used by traditional LCD TVs.  LED models tend to be the higher-end models from a particular manufacturer, so often their performance advantages often have more to do with this than the inherent technology itself.

There are two different types of LED backlighting: Backlit and edge-lit. The main advantage of backlit is that it can be used to increase contrast levels by turning selected LEDs off using a function known as local dimming (which increases the black level in parts of the picture). In comparison, edge-lit’s key advantage is that it can be used to make TVs that are incredibly thin–the LEDs are on the side, and not behind the panel. The picture quality of LED edge-lit TVs has improved significantly over the past few years, delivering better contrast and deeper blacks.

There are also two different LED light sources: White LED and RGB LEDs. White LED is very similar to CCFL because LED uses a blue light source that is made to look white by the presence of a sulphur coating on the bulb. As a result, the TV will potentially be more powerful in the green portion of the spectrum. RGB LEDs, on the other hand, are potentially capable of a broader color range because they use three LEDs (red, blue, and green). Its proponents argue that there is less of a green aspect, and the color spectrum is more evenly distributed as a result.

LED TVs can produce a wide range of colors, and some high end LED TVs deliver a very lifelike image with vibrant, vivid hues. LEDs don’t use much power, and are by far the cheapest of any kind of TV to run. LEDs can be very bright, which means it’s never usually a problem to see the action, even if your room is flooded with sunlight. On the other hand, LED TVs struggle with creating deep blacks. Backlight unevenness can also be a problem with LED TVs. Typically, you’ll notice this in dark scenes where it could be brighter along the edge where the LEDs are located, or in the corners. Another issue of LED TVs is narrow viewing angles. LED TVs with poor viewing angles typically lose saturation when viewed from the side, and colors might change completely or invert.

  1. Plasma TVs, often made by Panasonic, Samsung, and LG, range in size from 42 inches to roughly 65 inches. The biggest advantage of plasma in most people’s eyes is the excellent black levels. Since each cell is lit individually, a plasma TV can produce a black image (or small areas of black) by applying no current to those cells. By contrast – no pun intended – LED TVs look much greyer. Even direct-lit LED TVs aren’t lit per-pixel, so cannot match a plasma TV for black levels.

However, plasma suffers from a lack of peak brightness, so while blacks are deep, whites aren’t generally as bright as on the best LED TVs. High power consumption is another problem. Image retention used to be a big problem with plasma panels, but it is not so much of a problem today.

Simple comparison:

Light output (brightness)

Winner: LED LCD

Loser: Plasma

Runner-Up: CCFL LCD

Black level

Winner: Plasma

Loser: CCFL LCD

Runner-up: LED LCD

Contrast ratio

Winner: Plasma

Loser: CCFL LCD

Runner-up: LED LCD

Viewing angle

Winner: Plasma

Loser: CCFL LCD/LED LCD

Energy consumption

Winner: LED LCD

Loser: Plasma

Runner-up: CCFL LCD

Like nearly all TV buying guides say: It’s all about what you want to do with the TV. If you’re a movie buff and you watch TV in a dark room or at night, the added contrast of plasma will be very cinematic. Plasma is also a good choice if you can’t sit directly in front of your TV for some reason.

If you’re considering costs, thinness, and watch a lot of TV during the day, the brightness of an LED LCD can’t be beat.

 

  1. 3D TVs- Many LED LCD and plasma TVs today offer a 3D feature and ship with 3D glasses. However, despite the hype of its “Avatar”-fueled launch and accompanying predictions about a proliferation of made-in-3D movies, sports, and TV shows, 3D is still fairly uncommon today. There’s not much actual 3D content you can watch on a 3D TV. Aside from lack of content, the requirement to wear glasses is still a big sticking point, as well as the possible need to get 3D-compatible gear, such as a new Blu-ray player. And even after they manage to get a 3D movie playing and put on the glasses, many viewers find they simply don’t like the effect. The fact is that 3D might not be as enjoyable to you as watching good old 2D high-def.
  2. Smart TVs. Just like smartphones, most smart TVs come with an app store to download apps. Some of the popular apps are Facebook and Skype, while LG, Panasonic and Samsung have separately developed “all-in-one” apps for users to easily access multiple social-networking portals. These manufacturers are also offering a full Internet browser with Flash compatibility. The primary piece of smart TV info you need to know is that because smart TVs are internet-enabled, you’ll need an internet connection at home in order to use one’s smart features.

Do you really need a smart TV? If you enjoy streaming videos online, a smart TV can be an easy way to bring that experience into your living room. But if you don’t watch a lot of online videos or have never wondered why you can’t use your television to browse the Internet, it’s probably not worth it to pay extra for this feature. Alternatively, you can convert a classic TV into smart TV by simply connecting your HDTV to a computer (using the TV as a large monitor) or by using a media box (such as a Roku).

Specs

Resolution: Ultra HD (4k), 1080p, 720p

The resolution of a television is the number of pixels in each dimension that the television can display natively. You can watch a media that is not in the television’s native resolution. However, watching content in a lower resolution than the television will not increase its quality. Watching 720p content on a 1080p television will not look better than on a 720p television. Inversely, you will lose detail if you watch a 1080p content on a 720p television.

A higher resolution may or may not be worth it for you. The resolution that you need depends on three factors: the size of your television, how close you sit to it, and what kind of content you are watching. If you want a television smaller than 40”, stick with 720p; your eye will not be able to tell the difference at a distance. The 1080p resolution is generally worth it with 40” to 60” TVs. You will only start noticing the difference with an Ultra HD (4k) resolution above 60”. Most televisions are now in the 1080p native resolution. Generally, only the lower end or smaller models are 720p. The Ultra HD resolution is not widely available to the public yet.

Refresh Rate: 600 Hz /240 Hz /120Hz/60Hz

The standard frame rate for TVs used in the United States (NTSC standard) is 30 frames per second. This matches up perfectly to the 60Hz refresh rate of a traditional TV, and thus there are no issues. Movies are recorded at a frame rate of 24 frames per second instead of 30. This presents an issue on TVs that operate at 60Hz because 24 does not evenly divide into 60. Because of this, the 120Hz or 240Hz is helpful to reduce motion blur in fast-moving images on LCD/LED TVs. However, your eyes might not be able to perceive the difference between 120Hz and 240Hz.

“600Hz” is just a marketing term for plasma TVs and should be ignored. Though plasma is indeed better than LCD/LED for motion, there’s no need to play a numbers game between the two.

Contrast ratio

Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest image a TV can create and the darkest image a TV can create. It is the most important aspect of a TV’s performance. It’s true that in general, a higher contrast ratio can indicate that the display produces a deeper level of black, with all of the picture-quality benefits that brings. Unfortunately, there is no standard as to how to measure contrast ratio.

There are two additional aspects of contrast ratio. Most often these are referred to as “native” and “dynamic.” Native contrast ratio is what the display technology itself can do. “Dynamic” works by having the TV sense what content it’s showing, and adjust the overall light output accordingly. If you’ve ever adjusted an LCD’s backlight, the TV is basically doing this in real time depending on the content. The numbers you see on “dynamic” ratio usually go much higher than “native” ratio, but again, there’s no need to play a numbers game between the two.

A display with a high native contrast is the way to go, if that’s what you’re going for.

 

The following is a list of the top 3, based on reviews, popular HDTV models from online retailers.

Best Buy LCD LED Plasma
No. 1 Dynex (DX-32L200NA14): $169.99

32”–720p — 60Hz;  2000:1

Rating:4.3 (789)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:√

Insignia (NS-19E310A13):

$99.99

19” — 720p — 60Hz; 1000:1

Rating:4.3 (822)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Samsung (PN43F4500):

$ 379.99

43”– 720p — 600Hz

Rating:4.6 (302)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

No. 2 Insignia (NS-50L440NA14):

$549.99

50” — 1080p — 120Hz;

Rating:4.3 (39)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Insignia (NS-39D400NA14):

$299.99

39” — 1080p — 60Hz; 3000:1

Rating:4.5 (298)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Samsung (PN51F4500):

$ 499.99

51″ — 720p — 600Hz

Rating:4.5 (225)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

No. 3 Insignia (NS-50L260A13):

$499.99

55”– 1080p — 120Hz; 5000:1

Rating:4.3 (807)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Samsung (UN32EH4003FXZA):

$238.99

32” — 720p — 60Hz;

Rating:4.5 (2028)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (PN51F5300):

$ 649.99

51″ — 1080p — 600Hz

Rating:4.6 (293)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Amazon LCD LED Plasma
No. 1 LG (47LN5700) (LED)

$ 542.62

47” — 1080p — 120Hz;

Rating:4.3 (221)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (UN32EH4003):

$199.99

32” — 720p — 60Hz;

Rating:4.3 (547)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Panasonic-VIERA (TC-P60ST60):

$ 1312.47

60” — 1080p — 600Hz;

Rating:4.5 (177)

Smart: √; 3D:v; PC: √

No. 2 Seiki (SC324FB):

$ 179.99

32” — 720p — 60Hz;

Rating:

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (UN32EH5300):

$279

32” — 1080p — 60Hz;

Rating:4.3 (931)

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC:×

Panasonic-VIERA (TC-P50S60):

$ 623.67

50” — 1080p — 600Hz;

Rating:4.5 (150)

Smart: √; 3D: √; PC: √

No. 3 LG (47LN5700):( LED)

$ 486.55

42” — 1080p — 120Hz;

Rating:4.3 (221)

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (UN40EH5300):

$400

40” — 1080p — 60Hz;

Rating:4.3 (931)

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC:×

LG (60PN6500):

$ 799

60” — 1080p — 600Hz;

Rating:4.6 (53)

Smart: √; 3D: √; PC: √

Walmart LCD LED Plasma
No. 1 Sceptre (X322BV-HD):

$ 189

32″ — 720p — 60Hz

Rating:4.1 (4624)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

VIZIO (E601i-A3B):

$ 698

60″ — 1080p — 120Hz

Rating:4.3 (396)

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC: √

Samsung (PN51F4500):

$ 478

51″ — 720p — 600Hz

Rating:4.4 (37)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

No. 2 VIZIO (E601i-A3B): (LED)

$ 698

60″ — 1080p — 120Hz

Rating:4.3 (396)

Smart: √; 3D:×; PC: √

LG (32LN530B):

$ 241

32″– 720p — 60Hz

Rating:4.6 (115)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (PN51F5300):

$ 648

51″ — 1080p — 600Hz

Rating:4.6 (12)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

No. 3 Sceptre (X405BV-FHD)

$ 278

40″ — 1080p — 60Hz

Rating:4.2 (1998)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Sanyo (DP32242):

$ 217.58

32″ — 720p — 60Hz;

Rating:4.1 (31)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC:×

Samsung (PN60F5300):

$ 948

60″–1080p–600Hz

Rating:4.4 (9)

Smart:×; 3D:×; PC: √

Note:

* PC means TV models that come with a VGA input, which can be easily connected to a PC. Not all models have VGA inputs, such as most of the Samsung models. You can connect a PC to an HDTV with an HDMI cable. Most of the HDTVs have 2-4 HDMI inputs.

* The contrast ratios in the table are “native” ratios, but most models doesn’t provide this info.

* The prices in the table will vary depending on retailer promotions.

Return Policies At A Glance:

  1. Walmart: Televisions can be returned within 90 days. Items must be returned in the original manufacturer’s packaging, so we recommend you keep your packaging for at least the first 90 days after purchase. Items sold and shipped by Walmart.com (NOT from Marketplace Retailers) can be returned, exchanged or replaced (if the item is in stock) at any Walmart store, or returned by mail within 90 days of when you receive them.
  2. Newegg: All television sets sold on Newegg are covered by standard return policy (unless stated otherwise) and must be returned to Newegg within 30 days of the invoice date for this policy to apply. Any television that is returned under this policy must be in new condition, in its original packaging with UPC bar code intact and with all original accessories and manuals. If the television is missing the serial number or UPC bar code, the return will NOT be accepted by Newegg. Any television returned under this policy that is found to be damaged due to the customer’s neglect, abuse or misuse will NOT be accepted. Any return for a refund will be subject to a 15% restocking fee.
  3. Amazon: TVs shipped and sold by Amazon.com may be returned (via the Online Returns Center) up to 30 days from the date you receive the TV. Your TV is not eligible for return or a refund after the 30-day return period has expired. The TV must be in new condition with all original accessories. If possible, return the TV in its original packaging. Amazon cannot accept returns of products missing the serial number or UPC, and will not issue refunds for such items.
  4. Sears: 30 days from purchase, return your purchase in its original packaging, with your original receipt, for a refund or exchange. You must report any visible damage within 72 hours of home delivery to be eligible for a refund or exchange. If delivered items with visible damage are not reported within this time frame, the refund or exchange will not be accepted. A 15% restocking fee is charged on all TVs returned without the original box, used items, or items without all of the original product packaging, accessories, and parts.
  5. Best Buy: The original receipt, gift receipt or packing slip is required for all returns and exchanges. If returning or exchanging an item in a Best Buy store, a valid photo ID is also required. Return & Exchange Period: 15 days for all eligible products; 30 days for eligible products for My Best Buy™ Elite members; 45 days for eligible products for My Best Buy™ Elite Plus members.

Things to Consider:

1. Black spot check: LCD/LED TVs might have black spots. Fixing a black spot can be costly. Accordingly, it is best to check carefully for black spots before the return deadline.

2. Look at the actual pictures: stores are usually displaying many different models at the same time. Check them out before you place an order.

3. Check on Dealmoon.com for discounts before you buy it.

After you’ve got your TV home, don’t forget to adjust the settings. A TV doesn’t come out of the box with its full potential!

 

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