With the kick-off of Black Friday sales now just hours rather than days away, we thought it would be helpful to highlight those TV deals we think are especially noteworthy. These aren't the absolutely lowest prices we've seen on TVs in their respective screen-sizes categories—there are cheaper models from lesser-known brands, for example—but they're the sets we'd most like to own.
Note that some of these models may already be selling at these prices online, so check the retailer's website before heading out to a store. (See Top 14 shopping tips for Black Friday 2012 for more shopping advice). And many of these sets may be available in limited quantities, so the prices are good only as long as supplies last.
Here are our top TV picks, in ascending screen-size order:
- 32-inch Panasonic 720p LCD TV, $189, Amazon. This basic 60Hz set, model TC-L32C5, normally sells for $260, but it will be available for a limited time at Amazon at this price. A similar 24-inch set (TC-L24X5) will be $159 at Amazon.
- 40-inch Toshiba 1080p LCD, $180, Amazon and Best Buy. This model, 40E220U, is priced at just $180, down from a regular price of $420. The set is a basic 40-inch 1080p LCD TV with a CCFL backlight and 60Hz refresh rate.
- 40-inch Samsung 3D 1080p LCD TV, $498, Best Buy. This set, model UN40EH6030FXZA, gives you 3D, but not Internet access to online content. The TV—with a 120Hz refresh rate and an LED backlight—normally sells for about $700.
- 42-inch 1080p Vizio LCD TV, $400, BJ's. You get a lot for $400 with this model (E422AR), including an LED backlight, built-in Wi-Fi, and Vizio's Via Internet platform, with access to streaming TV shows and movies from Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Vudu.
- 50-inch 1080p LG plasma, $500, BJ's. We already think there's a lot to like about plasma TVs, and here's one more thing: the price. This set, model 50PA5500, is a basic 1080p plasma. (We've seen it selling for about $50 more at other retailers this week.)
- 51-inch Samsung 1080p plasma, $580, Dell. This basic 51-inch 1080p plasma set (model PN51E530A3FXZA) normally sells for about $700. For those looking for a plasma, Walmart will have a 51-inch Samsung—no model was given, but we assume it's a 720p set—for $478.
- 55-inch Samsung 1080p LCD TV, $800, Best Buy, Amazon.com, and Dell. This set, model 55EH6000, has an LED backlight and a 120Hz refresh rate.
- 55-inch Panasonic 1080p LCD TV, $900, Best Buy. This 55-inch Panasonic passive-3D LCD TV (TC-L55ET5 ) has an LED backlight, 120Hz technology, and four sets of polarized 3D glasses. You can also buy it as part of a bundle with a sound system with a wireless subwoofer, for $1,050. The ad doesn't mention the model number, but we believe it's the Panasonic SC-HTB350, a 2.1-channel home theater system that includes speakers that can be removed from their stands and connected to form a soundbar. That system normally sells for $300.
- 55-inch LG 1080p LCD TV, $898, Amazon. This model (55LS4600) is a fairly basic set with 120Hz technology and an edge LED backlight. It's now available at this price on Amazon, and it's $100 more at several other retailers.
- 60-inch Vizio 1080p LCD TV, $688, Walmart. Who would have thought you could get a decent 60-inch TV for less than $700? This set, model E601i-A3, isn't even stripped—it's got a 120Hz anti-blur technology, an LED backlight, built-in Wi-Fi, and Vizio's Internet platform. And it's cheaper at Walmart than anywhere else we've seen it. It's currently priced at about $950 at Amazon.
- 65-inch Samsung 1080p LCD TV, $1,498, Amazon, Dell. This 65-inch EH6000-series set with an LED backlight and a 120Hz refresh rate, has been available now for a few days at Amazon at this price.
As we mentioned, these are some of our favorite deals on TVs we'd actually like to own. Of course, we have seen some incredibly low prices on sets from several lesser-know brands. (And yes, 50-inch Hiteker LCD TV for $288 and $97 32-inch set from Haier, we're talking about you). If you've been monitoring Black Friday TV prices, let us know which deals are the most enticing for you.
—James K. Willcox