At Which? we painstakingly create reviews and advice to help you make the best buying decisions, especially at key periods like Black Friday.
This year, our resident TV expert is looking for a TV of his own, and has been pouring over deals to find out if it’s really the best time to take the plunge.
We couldn’t miss the opportunity to tap into his years of experience first hand, so asked him to document his shopping trip. Read on for first hand knowledge of how an expert researches an important purchase.
When shopping for a new TV, be sure to take a look at our reviews of the best TVs.
Why Black Friday is a good time for TV shopping
This year I’m in the market for a new TV, but I’ve deliberately been biding my time. While the pricing patterns for many products can be fairly sporadic, the TVs market is, fortunately, more predictable, and therefore it’s easier to determine when it’s a good time to buy. The best place to start, is to understand the basics of the market dynamics.
The four major TV brands (Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic) typically refresh their line-ups each year, primarily launching their new models through the spring and early summer. These TVs carry their highest price tag at launch, but as time goes on, that price will drop – sometimes quite substantially in just a few months. We’ve compared the launch prices and the current prices of a selection of 2019 TVs to illustrate this trend.
Once you get to November and the Black Friday sales period, TV prices for that year’s line-ups tend to level out. There will likely be some fluctuation in the months that follow depending on specific retailer sales and promotions, but the prices will generally be much more stable, and you’re unlikely to see the same distinct downward pattern that’s evident between spring launches and November.
So, given that it follows a period of declining prices – and many TVs have already come down to a fraction of their launch price – November and the Black Friday sales period is certainly a good time to be considering that new TV purchase.
Does that mean you should go ahead and purchase a TV in the Black Friday sales? I’d like to have my new TV up and running ahead of Christmas so that I can binge on festive content on a sparkling new set, but I’m not going to spend if I don’t find the right model, at the right price. While prices may see a small uptick following Black Friday, history suggests it won’t be long before they drop again, and perhaps even lower.
Visit our complete guide to Black Friday 2019 for more details on the big day.
Five steps to finding the best TV this Black Friday
Step 1: Work out what you’re looking for
The first step to finding the right TV is always to work out exactly what you’re looking for. For most, this will probably start with the basics – screen size and resolution.
With the exception of a few models that deviate from the unwritten rules of TV screen sizes, the choice in 2019 is generally split into the following categories: 32 inches and below, 40 and 43 inches, 49 and 50 inches, 55 inches, and 65 inches and above.
The big manufacturers’ line-ups are increasingly shifting towards larger screen sizes each year, with many of the mid-range to premium series starting at no lower than 49 or 50 inches. For instance, LG’s range of ‘NanoCell TVs’, which LG says are its best LED 4K TVs, start at no lower than 49 inches. Similarly you won’t find an OLED TV – a screen technology widely considered the best for contrast and motion – with a screen size of less than 55 inches.
Use our TV screen size calculator to measure up a new screen with the size of your room.
For my new TV, as much as I’d like to consider a larger screen size and therefore expand my options into the more premium lines, I have quite a small living area and really cannot stretch to 49 inches. So I’ll be sticking with the 40 to 43-inch category.
If you can, it’s worth avoiding a TV below 40 inches. We have tested several 32-inch models this year, but, as already mentioned, many manufacturers are really moving away from this smaller size. Not only will you find that your choice is quite limited, but you also won’t find any 4K models below 40 inches.
The low cost of 4K sets (they start as low as around £250 now) means there isn’t really any reason to choose a Full HD set anymore. While there may not be much 4K content around yet, our research has found that the best 4K sets are better at displaying video at all resolutions.
Step 2: Create a shortlist
Once you have a decent idea of the basics (for me, a 40 or 43-inch 4K TV), start to work up a shortlist. At this stage, you’ll probably start to consider what features you’re interested in, and what aspects are most important to you. Use the Which? reviews, test scores and advice guides to help you narrow down your selection in the size range that you want.
If you haven’t already started to think about the price, you’ll want to keep this in mind too. Consider a price range you’d be willing to pay, but bear in mind that you may start to feel differently as you do more research and become more familiar with what you’re getting for your money. In my case, I don’t want to spend more than around £600, but I’m keen to get the best picture quality I can in this size category.
I’ve narrowed down my options to the following three models:
- Samsung QE43Q60R: This is the 43-inch model in Samsung’s Q60R series – its cheapest QLED range. It’s the first QLED model Samsung has produced below 49 inches, and I’ve been keeping an eye on this TV since its launch. It was £899 when it first came to market, but is now £579.
- LG 43UM7500PLA: The UM75 series seems fairly low-level when you consider the whole of LG’s 2019 line-up, sitting below its range of OLEDs and NanoCell models. But it’s one of LG’s most feature-rich series for 2019 that includes a 43-inch model. This TV was £600 at launch, but is now £357.
- Panasonic TX-40GX800B: The GX800 series is one of Panasonic’s most premium LCD 4K ranges for 2019, and so I was intrigued when I first saw that this year Panasonic has produced a 40-inch variant. This model was £799 at launch, but is currently £499.
Step 3: Take a trip to the high street
A TV is a long-term investment, so you might not feel comfortable buying one online without having actually seen it in the flesh. It’s worth trying your luck in a few high street stores, such as John Lewis or Currys PC World. You can always ring the particular store first to see if they have your shortlisted model(s) on display to save you a wasted trip.
In my case, I wanted to double-check the appearance of the feet on the models with 2-prong stands, as well as the colour and finish on the bezel. Sometimes it can be difficult to be sure from the description, or by looking at a digital image – and I’m particularly picky!
Remember that you can take the Which? reviews app with you so that you have all our TV reviews, test scores and tech specs at your fingertips in-store. With the app, you can also try out the new augmented reality feature. This will allow you to use your smartphone’s camera to virtually place the TV in your own home.
Step 4: Keep a close eye on prices
Having narrowed down my selection to three models, I’ve been periodically checking several retailer sites to keep an eye on their prices in the run-up to Black Friday. If you’re thinking of buying a new TV, but would prefer to bide your time a bit longer, it’s still a good idea to make a note of the prices of your shortlisted models on Black Friday and then periodically in the weeks and months that follow. That way you’ll know what sort of price is truly a good deal.
You’ll also want to consider where you’ll ultimately buy your new TV. You’ll notice that a lot of the major retailers are quick to track and match each other’s prices, but be sure to shop around online before you make a decision on where to purchase your new TV. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the listings in the following retailers, to name a few: Richer Sounds, Currys PC World, John Lewis, Argos and AO.com, all of which stock a large range and often have models on sale.
It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the price matching terms offered by some retailers. Many will offer to match against other retailers, which you could use to your advantage if you’d rather buy your new TV from one particular retailer, but have noticed it slightly cheaper elsewhere.
Finally, it’s very important to bear in mind that it’s not just price alone that you should factor into your decision. Check the overall level of service that you get from the retailer, from delivery to the aftersales service and product guarantees.
Step 5: Feet up, TV on!
So, if like me you have been waiting until Black Friday to get a new TV, you can rest assured that it is a good time to consider making your new purchase given the nature of this market’s pricing dynamics. But as mentioned, do not feel pressured into rushing into a purchase if you’re not ready.
It can be easy to get the impression that Black Friday is a once-a-year opportunity to get fantastic prices. But in reality it likely won’t be too long before you see similar prices for your shortlisted models again – such as in the January sales.
I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a good price on one of my options over the next few weeks.
For more advice on picking the perfect set, read our guide on how to buy the best TV.