The run-up to Super Bowl Sunday isn’t just about football. For many of us, the days leading up to Kansas City Chiefs versus San Francisco 49ers (and those freshly minted commercials) is about finally buying that brand-new television you’ve been putting off.
Along with Black Friday and the holidays, the Super Bowl is one of the most popular times for doing just that, and all things being equal you will likely get both a very good TV at a very good price.
TV prices are generally low year-round, in fact, and beyond the big game, you’ll appreciate being able to binge on all the new streaming content coming your way.
As you shop around, you’ll see discounts from some obscure brands, but bargains can also be found among the manufacturers you’re most familiar with.
Either way, the basics of TV buying largely boil down to factors that have always been critical: budget, picture quality, and screen size, as well as lesser considerations, such as their built-in apps or whether you can control the TV with your voice.
Some of you will also want to pay attention to the aesthetics: TVs with narrow borders or bezels, or that do a good job of hiding cables and that lay flat against the wall.
Let’s start with what is probably the most common question:
How big a screen do I need?
The answer ties directly to the dimensions of the room you’ll be putting the TV in and its purpose. Will the TV be anchoring your home theater, or is it a spare headed for a bedroom or dorm room?
What kind of space constraints do you have in that room? That is, must the TV fit into an entertainment center or other pieces of furniture, or do you have an entire wall at your disposal?
Assuming money and space are no object, go as big as you can, 55 inches as a minimum, though you’ll end up thanking us if you choose 65 inches or higher.
For a rough idea, Samsung recommends investing in a screen size that is half of your viewing distance (in inches). In other words, a 60-inch TV if you sit about 10 feet from the screen.
If you do have to fit a TV into a tight cabinet, remember that in measuring dimensions you’ll need an inch or two on both sides of the TV to comfortably access HDMI ports and other connectors.
You can hunt for deals online at all the usual places. Best Buy, for instance, is advertising a 65-inch Hisense smart 4K UHD TV with HDR for about $400, or $100 off its regular price. A 65-inch TCL Roku TV 4K UHD HDR TV is going for about $450 at Target. If you need to go cheaper, you can find a 50-inch Samsung 4K TV on Amazon for $295.
TV for Super Bowl: Is 4K the way to go?
You bet. 4K TVs, sometimes expressed as 4K Ultra High Definition or Ultra HD, are by now mainstream, especially TVs with screen sizes of 50-inches or above. 4K has four times (3840 x 2160) the resolution or picture sharpness of full high definition (1080p) or Full HD TVs.
That higher resolution makes it possible, for example, to sit closer to a 4K TV than an HDTV. If you plan to play 4K games or watch 4K videos on Netflix, Amazon, Apple, or via your TV provider, or on a 4K Blu-ray, that might be a consideration.
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The truth is, HD screens still look perfectly fine to most consumers, and the sharpness and clarity that you’ll notice on a larger 4K TV are far less visible on smaller screen TVs meaning you can save money if you don’t need a ginormous TV. But HDTVs have all but disappeared among larger size TVs.
Can I watch the Super Bowl in 4K?
“It’s not a myth. The added detail in the 4K picture can’t really be appreciated on a small screen,” says “The TV Answer Man!” Phillip Swann, who publishes the website The TV Answer Man! .
Moreover, even now there’s not a whole lot of 4K content to watch from the broadcast networks, though you do have a few more choices coming at you from streaming services. And Fox Sports will be broadcasting the Super Bowl for the first time in 4K UHD, though you’ll need a compatible Roku or Amazon Fire TV streaming TV or device to experience it.
4K is certainly the way to go at least for those larger screens, and it can’t hurt even on a smaller display, especially since you’re no longer breaking the bank to own one. And you can count on 4K content continuing to increase.
But should I get 8K?
LG, Samsung, Sony and other TV makers were showing off handsome 8K models at the recent CES trade show in Las Vegas, but you can safely avoid this next-generation format for now, which promises four times the number of pixels of 4K. If you think there isn’t an abundance of 4K fare to watch, 8K is comparatively non-existent, save for a few thousand videos on YouTube and Vimeo.
And while a few 8K models are currently out on the market – Samsung has even dropped the price on a 65-inch Class Q900 8K Smart TV to around $3,000 – most of you shouldn’t even entertain buying an 8K TV for at least another year of two, if then.
“I don’t think 8K is in the `good deals’ territory at this point,” says Myra Moore, president of Digital Tech Consulting in Dallas. “Many 4K UHD sets are a really good value and offer most of the latest features (including HDR) that people can really appreciate. For football and any other fast action, having a set with the fastest-available refresh rate is one box you want to check off.”
During CES, even Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida admitted that “for average users, if you have, say, a 50-inch or 65-inch TV, it’s quite difficult to find the difference between 4K and 8K.”
Am I really getting a bargain?
That’s difficult to say, since the quality of the TV you’re buying and the price you pay can vary so much and depends on all the aforementioned features. As a rule of thumb, the old cliché about getting what you pay for applies. Pay attention to what customers and reviewers have to say.
Swann advises folks buying a TV larger than 40 inches to stick to the “tried-and-true TV manufacturers (that) have devoted years developing a reputation for reliability and quality and, consequently, are more likely to invest the extra time and money to ensure that the set is top-shelf.” But he adds that a lesser-known brand can manufacture a very good TV as well, and many do.