Buying a Super-Bowl-Worthy TV
Deal of the Day: Prices are better than during the holiday season but experts say not for long
Kelli B. Grant / SmartMoney
Sports fans in the market for a new TV set before the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 may be in luck: Electronics and retail experts say many current TV sales are some of the best ever — even beating holiday-season deals.
This past November and December brought some record lows for TV prices, according to research firm NPD Display Search. Average prices for 32″ sets fell below $500 for the first time and sets up to 46″ averaged less than $1,000. Yet January may prove an even better time to buy as stores look to clear out current models, says Jeff Green, an independent retail analyst based in Phoenix. “You should be able to get at least a third off a typical price, which is probably about 10% to 15% better than at Christmas,” he says.
That said, shoppers who buy now won’t be getting an absolutely cutting-edge television. Manufacturers often introduce models with new bells and whistles at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. It’s those sets that stores are making room for now, says Louis Ramirez, a senior writer for sale-tracking site DealNews.com, adding that sales dry up once the new TVs arrive on shelves in the spring.
But in most cases, retail experts say, the slightly older models are perfectly fine. “Most of what people will buy this season will get them a lot of mileage,” says Kurt Scherf, a principal analyst with consulting firm Parks Associates. For those looking to pick up a new set for the big game, here are three tips to consider.
Sports fans finally have some justification to go with a big screen. In previous years, some of the best prices were on 42″ screens, but as overall prices drop, that sale competition has shifted to 55″ sets, says Ben Arnold, an industry analyst with NPD Group. DealNews.com says shoppers in the market for a 55″ should look for prices reduced to $700 to $800, with premium brands selling at the high end of that range. Go any bigger, though, and plasma may be the better deal, says Ramirez. Indeed, the average price of 60″ plasmas fell 37% in 2011. The best sales right now are coming in around $800, he says, nearly $200 cheaper than comparable LCD sets.
While holiday sales focused on small brands and cheap TVs, current deals encompass a wider range of brands and price points, says Green. That makes it important to check reviews on sites like CNET and Consumer Reports to make sure that an enticing price is for competitive reasons, and not because a set is a dud. Sports fans in particular will want to watch out for slower refresh ratings, which means the set doesn’t adjust as well to fast motion, says Scherf. And 720p resolution, although less expensive, won’t give as good a picture as the more standard 1080p.
Future-Proof with Caution
There’s an undeniable appeal of a set capable of playing 3D movies or connecting to the web: “If you want to talk smack to a friend or family member during the Super Bowl on the TV screen itself, you can do that,” says Scherf. But such sets still sell for premiums of roughly $200 and these features aren’t yet must-haves, says Ramirez. For instance, 3D television content is still limited — the Super Bowl won’t be broadcast in it — and a web connection can be achieved through devices shoppers may already own, such as a Blu-ray player, video game console or web TV box. Shoppers will find Internet connectivity or 3D a better deal if they were already in the market for a top-of-the-line set, says Scherf, Even then, they should proceed carefully: Manufacturers have yet to settle on a standard 3D technology, so there’s the risk that a set could use one that will be obsolete.