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More perilous than snark hunting is the annual search for the best big screen deal. The good news? You can ignore Black Friday and Cyber Monday (those sets are usually cheap clearance models). The bad news? There's scores of sets out there vying for your dollars and telling the difference between them in a box store can be nearly impossible.
So I've broken out some standout models to pay attention to, plus some advice on what not to buy.
What to ignore:
Stop worrying about Ultra HD, 4K, and OLED. In the first place, you can't afford these sets. In the second place, the higher resolution Ultra HD or 4K format is a better-than-HD standard for which there is virtually no available programming or movies at the moment.
Conversely, OLED or organic light-emitting diode HD TVs do offer a stunning picture, but at a stunning price. There are only two models available so far from Samsung and LG, both 55-inch sets costing over $9,000 (don't forget about sales tax). OLED technology is relatively new to the big screen, so I'd recommend waiting to see how they perform over time, and more OLED models will follow next year, with lower prices.
Plasma is dead, long live plasma:
For movie and sports fans, plasma HD TVs offer the best picture (besides OLED). Unfortunately, one of the biggest proponents of plasma--Panasonic--is getting out of the business of making the sets at the end of the year. That means you should be able to find some excellent deals on these sets, which deliver deeper blacks, better contrast, and nearly blur-free motion. An excellent value here is the $1,600 Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT60, a 60-inch set with a built-in camera for video calling and smart TV services such as Netflix.
Go big at home:
If a Brobdingnagian picture is what you want -- and you can fit a larger set into your abode -- there are some values to be had in the 70-inch LED LCD category. A standout here is the Sharp Series 6 LC-70LE650U, available for $2,000 or less. The set doesn't have all the cutting-edge features of more expensive models (it does not support 3-D programs, for example) but it delivers a better-than-average picture, faithful colors, and smart TV services.
Get a quality deal:
Most of us are on a budget and have limited space for a big set, which puts Vizio's M501d-A2R M-Series Razor smack in our sweet spot. This 50-inch LED LCD can be had for $800 or less and offers a bright picture with solid color and better detail in shadowy scenes thanks to a local-dimming LED feature. It also has all the requisite smart TV features for online streaming media and a backlit remote control.