With its promise of lower-than-ever prices, the Black Friday holiday shopping period, which typically kicks off early in the morning after Thanksgiving, can send some shoppers into a buying frenzy. But when it comes to TVs, many of the ultra-low sale prices are for lesser-known brands, or for special "derivative" major-brand models that disappear soon after Black Friday is over.
Based on a report from HD Guru, many of the TVs that will be part of Amazon's Black Friday TV sales this year will be from some of these lesser-known brands, or from brands that have name recognition, such as RCA and Westinghouse, but are no longer associated with the company that originally built the brand.
Citing industry sources, HD Guru reports that Amazon's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals will focus on TVs from Coby, Haier, Hiteker, RCA, Sceptre, Seiki, TCL, and Westinghouse. HD Guru recently updated its story with pricing for some of the Black Friday models. This year, $750 will get you a 55-inch LCD TV from either Haier or TCL, and a 48-inch TCL will be just $500. For those looking for a major brand, HD Guru says that a 51-inch 1080p Samsung plasma will be $578, while a 55-inch LCD with a direct-lit LED backlight will be $898.
In a previous post, we noted that cheaper, off-brand TVs aren't always a good deal, especially as a primary TV. Consumer Reports recently tested TVs from several of these brands, including Coby, Haier, RCA, TCL, and Westinghouse. None of sets from these manufacturers have fared particularly well in our TV Ratings.
A 55-inch Haier was the lowest-rated TV in that screen size, primarily because it was the only TV that didn't earn at least a "very good" score for high-def picture quality. In the models we tested with 46- to 51-inch screen sizes, the RCA and Coby sets were the lowest rated, with picture quality that, although good, was below that of almost all the other sets. We also felt the Coby TV, a 50-inch LCD model with an LED backlight, was relatively expensive for a secondary brand of this size. Other Haier and Coby models we tested, in different screen sizes, didn't fare much better.
One Westinghouse LCD TV we evaluated—a 48-inch model with an LED backlight—did a bit better, with very good HD picture quality, and it was comparatively low priced for its size. But the picture quality on another Westinghouse LCD—a 37-inch set with a CCFL backlight—was only good, below what we now expect from an HDTV that will be used as a primary set.
We also have a few TCL-brand TVs in our Ratings. Though not highly rated, both sets—a 39-inch LCD with an LED backlight, and a 32-inch CCFL set—have very good high-def picture quality. We're currently testing a larger 55-inch model, but we haven't yet completed our evaluation.
While we're familiar with Sceptre-brand TVs, we don't have any in our current TV Ratings—but we now have two models in our labs for testing. And Hiteker, a brand we've only recently noticed, seems to be sold primarily at Walmart.com and via an Amazon affiliate seller. The parent company, Ambiance Technology, has its main office in The Netherlands, but appears to make its products in China.
If you'll be looking for a TV on Black Friday, let us know if you'll consider a lesser-known—or licensed—brand if one is offered at an attractive price. And if you do decide to buy one, let us know the price and how happy you are with your purchase.
—James K. Willcox