Cheap HDTVs for Black Friday and Beyond

Are You a Name-Brand Buyer? Here's What to Look For

Those of you who give your TV manufacturers cutesy nicknames (yes, some people do refer to their Samsung, Panasonic, or LG TV as "Sammy," "Panny," or "Algy," respectively) can still find plenty of good buys during the holiday season.

The price wars will be fiercest among plasma TVs, as relatively economical sets from Samsung and LG (like the LG 50PK950 and the Samsung PN50C490) pressure lower-cost plasma specialists like Panasonic to drop their prices even lower. If that happens, you'll likely see a healthy mix of 50-inch sets in the $700-to-$1100 price range, with varying combinations of features.

You might find such sets equipped with 1080p or 720p, 2D or 3D, Internet-connection, ten-point white balance or a THX-certified color preset mode, and so on. Ideally, you'd be able to pick a set that has all the features you want without having to pay full price for a high-end model that has a bunch of features you'll never use.

If you want to stretch your dollar to the limit, however, ask these questions before committing to a TV purchase.

Are 3D glasses included? Some 3D TVs include glasses with the set, while others don't. At $150 per pair, the glasses are not a trivial expense. After you roll the cost of the glasses into the purchase price, you might find that it makes more sense to buy a pricier TV that comes with the extras included in the base price.

Do you need the streaming services? TV manufacturers have been racing to add support for a whole host of streaming services (Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Video on Demand, and Netflix, among others) as well as apps like Twitter and Yahoo Gadgets. But you can also get those services on your TV with external set-top boxes like the Roku HD for about $100. You might be able to save a few bucks by buying a cheaper set with weaker Internet features and then buying a connected set-top box separately.

What's the right size/resolution for your room? The difference in image quality between a 720p set and a 1080p set depends in large measure on the size of the set and on your physical distance from the set. Buy a larger TV, and 1080p will look significantly better than 720p. Sit farther away from the set, however, and you won't notice the difference as much. And of course, unless your source media is 1080p (Blu-ray discs, newer game consoles, and some Internet video sources), it won't matter nearly as much. So before you buy, look at what you watch and where you watch it, and at how much you want to future-proof this purchase.

In Video: How to Fine-Tune Your HDTV

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