With the Black Friday/Cyber Monday 2018 shopping period now clearly in our sights, Consumer Reports has been thinking about the types of TVs consumers are likely to see during these annual days of deals.
There’s always a fair amount of guesswork with any Black Friday predictions, but one thing that seems certain is that we’ll see new low prices for TVs at various screen sizes, especially 4K models with high dynamic range (HDR) capability. That could be a real bonus for TV fans: When done right, HDR boosts a TV’s brightness, contrast, and color, making the pictures on the screen look more like real life.
"We've already seen 4K TV prices drop significantly in recent years, and we are expecting new lows for Black Friday 2018," says Phil Dengler, co-founder of the BestBlackFriday.com Black Friday website. "As it has done in previous years, Best Buy is likely to lead the charge, with an in-store-only doorbuster or two for a premium-brand 4K TV."
At the BFAds.net Black Friday website, manager David Varble also believes that 4K TVs will play a bigger role in 2018.
"I do expect to see a lot more 4K TV sets this year, including some true HDR sets," he says, meaning TVs that can actually do a decent job presenting HDR images. "Every year there are a bunch of 50- or 55-inch doorbuster televisions that are priced around $200 to $400, but what changes year to year is the quality of set you'll get."
Though the very low prices of doorbuster specials can be enticing, Dengler says, they’re typically available in limited quantities, and sometimes only for a short time period. And most of the time they’re from lesser-known brands. As we’ve previously noted, such really cheap TVs aren’t always a great deal.
This year, though, we also expect rock-bottom deals on TVs from major brands, including LG, Samsung, and Vizio. Sometimes major brands will introduce special models, called derivatives, at this time of the year.
Derivatives (which are similar to existing models) and new-for-the-holidays TVs can make it tough for consumers to judge the quality of what's being advertised. It can be difficult to compare prices, too. After all, if a set is being sold at only one retailer, you can’t shop around or ask a store to honor a price-match guarantee.
Here’s a breakdown of what Consumer Reports thinks you’ll see during the 2018 Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period.
TVs in this size tend to be popular Black Friday doorbuster promotions, offered at below-$100 prices. Though these TVs are usually from lesser-known brands, and haven't been tested by Consumer Reports, they can be decent choices for secondary rooms of the house, such as a kid’s bedroom.
For the past two years, Amazon has offered a no-name 720p 32-inch set for $70, turning TVs into an impulse purchase. Best Buy and Target have typically responded with their own sub-$100 32-inch sets.
This year, we think you’ll see a wider choice of sets in the $70 to $85 range from more retailers as doorbuster specials, both in store and online. Possible entries into the mix will include Roku TVs from several brands, including Element, Hitachi, Insignia, and Magnavox. But this year we expect some competition from Amazon Fire TV Edition sets, possibly from Insignia and Toshiba, as well as very low-priced 32-inch models from secondary brands such as Polaroid or Sceptre.
39- to 43-inch TVs
This category could get more interesting this year because these are the smallest screen sizes where 4K resolution starts to take hold. And with more 4K TVs available this year, there should be added price pressure on 1080p models, which could hit new lows.
Last year Target had a 43-inch Polaroid 4K TV for $230, but most of the low-priced action was still on 1080p models, in the $150 to $200 range. An example was a 43-inch Vizio 1080p smart TV at Walmart for $198.
This year we're expecting to see more 39- to 43-inch 4K models in the sub-$200 price formerly occupied by 1080p models, though they'll still be from secondary brands.
Right now, the cheapest 43-inch 4K TVs are selling for about $250 to $350. Overall, we're seeing fewer 39- and 40-inch models, and the majority of the ones we've tested have been 1080p sets.
49- and 50-inch TVs
We expect this size category to be especially hot this year, as the action moves from regular HDTVs to 4K models, in a screen size that’s large enough to be a main TV for many people. Last year Amazon offered a 49-inch 4K TV for $160, which was among the most aggressive prices we saw. No brand or model was mentioned, though. Although prices probably won't go much lower than that, there could be a wider range of deals in that sub-$200 price band. Last year the best deals hovered around $200.
"Quantities will be limited, but we expect to see a premium-brand 50-inch 4K TV for around $180, which matches the deal we saw last year at Best Buy for a Sharp 50-inch 4K LED Roku TV," Dengler says.
Dengler also believes that the absolute cheapest 4K TVs may be online-only specials on off-brand sets from Amazon. "A 49- or 50-inch 4K TV for only $150 is a real possibility this year if you are willing to settle for a lesser-known brand like Avera, Insignia, or Westinghouse," he says.
One of the cheapest 55-inch sets we saw last year was a Westinghouse 4K TV priced at $250 at Target. The store also had a 55-inch 4K Toshiba set for $280. Several other retailers, including Best Buy, Kohl's, and Walmart, had 4K sets in the $280 to $300 range.
This year you'll probably find most retailers offering at least a few 55-inch 4K TV deals in the $225 to $250 range during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday time frame, from brands you may not recognize, such as Atyme or Silo. For Black Friday 2018, you're likely to see some 4K sets from bigger brands in the $300 to $325 price range.
Last year we saw prices for 60-inch and larger 1080p sets drop significantly; one of the better deals was Walmart’s $398 price on a 60-inch Vizio. We also saw a Vizio 4K smart TV on sale for $548 at Sam’s Club and a 60-inch 4K Sharp for $550 at Best Buy.
So how low could prices for 60-inch 4K TVs go? Don’t be surprised to see 4K sets move to the $475 to $500 level. And prices could go as low as $300 for a 1080p set from some of the lesser-known brands.
Just a year ago, a 65-inch set still seemed like a giant TV to a lot of people. But that screen size has become more common during the past 12 months. That’s why we're expecting to see a lot of action on 65-inch 4K models with HDR this year, with this category possibly showing the biggest year-over-year percentage price drops.
Last year, the least expensive 65-inch 4K smart TVs started at about $550, and there was a lot of action at the $600 level.
This year we think that $500 will be the floor for a new 4K smart TV, though if you step up to $550 you'll find a bigger mix of brands, including Hisense, Sharp, and Vizio. Be cautious, though, if HDR is important to you—and check our ratings if you're a CR member. Although all these TVs will claim HDR capability, our lab tests of cheaper TVs with HDR showed that most couldn’t provide the brightness needed to deliver effective HDR performance.
70-Inch and larger TVs
Once you move beyond a 65-inch screen, you’re paying a premium. Last year, the best deals we saw on 70-inch 4K TVs were Vizio models selling for just under $1,000. This year we expect prices to drop another $150 to $250, but we don't think there will be a lot of sets in this size. Vizio, and perhaps Sharp, are likely to be the promoted brands. And if you do see an especially low price, just make sure the set isn't a leftover 1080p model—the difference in resolution is noticeable on TVs with screens this large.