If you’re planning to pick-up a shiny new TV, then the savings offered on Black Friday could prove irresistible. Every year, price tags are routinely shredded as major retailers, e-tailers and AV specialists mark down stock as manufacturers cut deals to shift boxes. Wherever you look there will be cheap, cheap, cheap TVs.
But what separates a great TV deal from a turkey, and exactly what features are worth holding out for?
We don’t need a crystal ball to predict that your next TV will be a 4K UHD model, given that most screen makers have migrated lock, stock and barrel to 2160p panels. But there could still be deals on Full HD models that will pique your interest (more on this down the page).
How many HDMIs?
Always read the small print before you flash the plastic. The first thing buyers should check is how many HDMI inputs a set offers. We reckon three is a minimum these days, unless you’re partnering with an AV receiver. After that, double-check that the inputs are HDCP 2.2 compliant. If they’re not, you’ll have problems hooking up a UHD Blu-ray player, UHD set top box or 4K media player.
Of course, not all 4K sets are equal. Newer models will offer HDR support too. On lower priced screens, this will cover the basic (ie common) HDR10 standard. Don’t however expect any bargain priced HDR set to perform like your mate’s top-end telly. Low cost, edge-lit LCD HDR screens are usually no brighter than Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) models - typically 350 cd/m2 (or nits).
Network connectivity is a given on any 4K TV these days, although smart platforms vary dramatically between brands. They can be elegant (like LG’s webOS and Panasonic’s Firefox-based OS) or a little less so (Android TV). The streaming apps themselves also warrant close scrutiny before you buy.
- Check out our guide to the best smart TVs for a rundown of how each OS performs
To stream 4K or not to stream 4K...
For example, while a Smart TV might be 4K, you should still check that the Netflix and Amazon Video apps actually support 4K streams. And what about streaming HDR? It’s common to find HDR capable Netflix clients on TVs, but HDR-enabled Amazon less so. 4K YouTube is even more unpredictable. Look for support for the YouTube VP9 codec on packaging or literature to be sure the YouTube implementation will support ultra HD content.
There are various types of Black Friday TV deal to be had. Manufacturers negotiate to promote/push/dump stock at prices which can (infamously) lead to brawls in-store; they benefit from moving high volumes on screen sizes or models that have floundered. But there are also bargains to be had on last season models, or screens that simply need to be shifted to make way for direct replacements. It’s here the informed buyer can make big savings.
Best buy OLED...
LG’s 2017 OLED range, those with a 7 suffix, are amongst the best TVs it’s ever made. But its 2016 OLEDs, the ‘6’ models, were pretty tasty too, and it’s worth looking out for Black Friday clearances on remaining stock.
The 65-inch OLED65E6 in particular is still an impressive TV. With its unfeasibly thin picture-on-glass design and Harman/Kardon soundbar, it’s definitely cutting edge. The set boasts four HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMIs, and a full complement of catch-up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix, Amazon and Now TV.
Image quality on this Ultra HD premium model is superb. It supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and if you still have a hankering for 3D there’s passive 3D support and Dual Play goggles for split-screen gaming.
Sony super savers
It’s also worth looking out for savings on Sony’s KD-65ZD9 / XBR65X930E 4K HDR TV. This set may be into its second year now, and is almost certainly destined for replacement come CES 2018, but it remains one of the best performing HDR TVs we’ve ever seen, capable of superbly bright spectral highlights, profound black level and sensational colour depth.
Key to its prowess image is Sony’s radical Master Backlight Drive technology which employs controllable LEDs, able to glow at peak intensity with astonishing precision. The ZD9 also uses Sony’s top of the line image processor, the X1 Extreme, as seen on the highly rated A1 OLED model.
Bargain hunters are also advised to check if retailers discounting Sony’s hybrid Full HD HDR sets. These come in four flavours, starting at just 32-inches. The WE75 is available in 43- and 49-inch screen sizes, boasts a smart aluminium bezel and wide colour gamut Triluminos panel. Sitting beneath it are WE66 (49- and 40-inches), WE61 (32-inch only) and RE45 (40-inch, with no internet connectivity) models.
Samsung on the cheap
Expect tempting price reductions on select Samsung 2017 models for Black Friday too, as these sets originally landed with pretty hefty tickets. Likely super savers will be the mid-range Q7 line, and the 6 Series.
Both 2160p ranges are HDR enabled, and have impressive specs. The QE55Q7F / QN55Q7FAM is the brand’s entry-level QLED model, and boasts high brightest HDR and a wide colour gamut. It’s available in both flat and curved variants. The latter carries a significant price premium, but could well be a bargain buy on Black Friday. Like all Samsung top-end tellies, it uses a One Connect junction box, which offers easy access and the potential of an HDMI upgrade if you need it.
If a mainstream Samsung LED LCD fits the bill, watch for price cuts on the brand’s 6 Series models. Its MU6120/MU6300 4K ranges are HDR enabled and use Active Crystal Colour/4K Color Drive technology to really make colours pop. Design wise they’re top notch too, with a thin bezel and stylised pedestal. Look for key reductions on the 40- to 50-inch screens.
Hot deal Hitachis (UK only)
Finally, expect hot deals on Hitachi TVs. The brand distributes through UK-retailer Argos, which has a reputation for heavy discounts. Hitachi currently has 4K panels in 43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inch screens sizes. The big 65HL6T64U 65-incher looks particularly tempting. All come with Freeview Play, although they are not HDR enabled, which is less of an issue on the smaller models.
Happy bargain hunting!