Is now the best time to buy a TV?

CNET tackles timing, pricing, and clearance sales of TVs in advance of the end of football season.

The 65-inch version of Panasonic's S2 series of plasma TVs costs just $2,000 online. It's one of many bargain-priced 2010 TVs available now.

In a word: "probably."

"Now," or less specifically, "after the Christmas buying season, around the end of football season, and before the new TVs come out," is indeed a great time to get a bargain price on many TVs from last year. Retailers are making room for the new 2011 TVs, the earliest of which are scheduled to arrive later in February, by lowering prices on the 2010 models.

My advice: If you've been waiting for the best price on a 2010 TV, now's the time to buy. If you are worried about a 2011 TV delivering significantly better 2D picture quality, don't be, because it probably won't. We saw no major innovations in our 2011 preview that scream "Wait!" to most mainstream buyers.

What about non-mainstream buyers? If you want better 3D picture quality, passive 3D , a crazy-thin bezel, or improved Internet options including built-in Wi-Fi or a Web browser, it's probably better to wait for a new model . Also, if you consider yourself a videophile and have money to burn on a flagship TV, it's definitely worth waiting for reviews of the top new TVs, like the Panasonic VT30 or the Samsung PND8000 /D7000 plasmas, to make the rounds. Just be aware that prices on 2011 TVs will be higher for most of the year until the holiday season cycle starts again.

For everyone else in the TV market, the iron is hot right now. My colleague David Carnoy recently highlighted five of the most popular unreviewed TVs among CNET readers , and there are some impressively low prices in there--including a 50-inch Panasonic plasma for $600, a 50-inch Samsung 3D plasma for $800, and a 55-inch Toshiba LCD for $999.

Since I haven't reviewed any of them I can't tell you whether they're "any good," but from their entry-level places in the model lineup, I feel safe speculating they won't be as good as most of the models we have reviewed, which tend toward the medium- or high-end. That said, they might just be "good enough" for most viewers. If you're shopping for an entry-level TV right now and find yourself confused by differences between advertised TVs (1080p vs. 720p, plasma vs. LCD vs. LED, and so on), one great place to start is CNET's TV Buying Guide.

I can tell you, however, that prices on the numerous TVs we have reviewed are as low now as they've ever been. There are some exceptions--our Editors' Choice-winning Panasonic VT25 series still commands a hefty premium, for example--but for the most part, the TVs on our Best Products lists are "priced to sell."

Excellent prices can be had both online and in stores, but if you buy online remember to include shipping price in your comparison (free shipping is common for TVs) and make sure the merchant has a good return policy on televisions (Amazon.com offers a 30-day policy with free return shipping, for example).

As of press time, you can still buy online with free shipping and receive your TV before this Sunday, although delays caused by the Monster Storm might interfere. Check out Big Screens for the Big Game for some of our plus-size suggestions.

And of course feel free to share any bargains, tips, or other info in comments.

More info:
Best TVs of 2010
Most popular TVs overall
<b>2011 TVs preview</b>
TV Buying Guide

 

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