HDTV Holiday Pricing: How Low Can It Go?

Missed out on HDTV Black Friday door buster deals? It's not too late to get a great deal. HDTV prices are dipping even lower in the run up to Christmas as retailers try to extend the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Right now, Tiger Direct has a 32-inch Toshiba LCD 720p HDTV for $380, or try a 32-inch 720p Honeywell Altura from NewEgg for $300. Not to be outdone by the little guys, Amazon has a Samsung 32-inch 720p LCD TV for just $400. Wal-Mart is offering a 1080i 32-inch Vizio HDTV for $400 (currently Wal-Mart says the model is out of stock).

Those are some tempting offers, and the prices look great, but the truth is not all HDTVs are created equal. There are tons of things you should consider before buying including resolution, contrast, video cables, refresh rate and more. You can learn everything you need to know about HDTVs from PC World's HDTV buying guide and shopping tips. But I've assembled a quick HDTV primer below, as well as some great deals on bigger and better HDTVs.

720p versus 1080p

High-definition video is all about the resolution, which is determined by the number of pixels your set can fit onto the screen. The higher the number, the clearer the resolution. Most high-definition content is displayed at 1080p resolution (including Blu-ray discs), not 720p. So 720p televisions have to scale down your television image from 1080p resulting in a picture that is not as sharp, and may include imaging artifacts (boxy-looking pixels).

The best price I saw for a 50-inch 720p 60Hz set was $698 at Wal-Mart. But as you'll see below, you can get a 50-inch 1080p set from Wal-Mart for just $200 more. The whole point of getting a high-def television is for the image quality, so why not fork over a little extra cash for a 1080p set?

Refresh Rate

Another thing to consider in buying an HDTV is the refresh rate for LCD TVs. This is the number of images the television displays per second. The standard refresh rate is 60Hz or 60 images per second. But once you increase that number to 120Hz or more the TV images get much clearer, and usually motion blur (unnatural, jerky movements on screen) is less of a factor.

[see related: Does 120hz or 240hz Really Make A Difference?]

Shipping

Make sure you also check out shipping rates to ensure you're getting the best deal possible. Most sites are offering free or almost-free shipping at this time of year, especially for high-end purchases like HDTVs. Don't settle for anything less. One common Web shopping gotcha is a site charging a low upfront cost on a product and charging an exorbitant amount for shipping.

Searchers Beware

It's easy to find cheaper prices than those detailed below just by searching for them with your favorite search engine. But this is an easy way to get into trouble. Sometimes those deals will come from sites you've never heard of, and when you get there you may find the promised product is out of stock.

You should also keep in mind that lower-priced sets might be used or refurbished. That's not necessarily a bad way to pick up some tech on the cheap, but usually these products come with limited warranties or no warranties at all. You may also come across televisions that are being sold for parts, so make sure you don't buy a non-functioning set by mistake.

Trust Your Brand

There are lots of no-name televisions out there being sold for a very cheap price, but often these devices are poorly made or destined for the trash heap within 12 months. When it comes to televisions, it's worth it to go with a brand name you know and trust.

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