Looking for an excuse to finally buy that big-screen TV you've been coveting? A certain upcoming football game is the perfect justification.
And now is the perfect time. Prices on many sets are at their lowest levels yet as manufacturers and retailers tackle 2016 inventory in advance of incoming 2017 models. If you want a new TV now, and don't want to wait until the 4th quarter when prices fall again, it might be time to pull the trigger.
Unfortunately, like the box against a 3rd and 1, the TV market is packed with contenders for your dollar. It's not easy to pick a winner without some help. That's where I come in. Think of me as your TV buying coach, with less yelling.
Here are seven of my favorite TVs, all available in sizes of at least 55 inches, arranged from cheapest to most expensive. I listed the lowest price I found at Amazon, Best Buy, WalMart or Vizio.com as of press time, but pricing and availability may vary depending on when you read this.
Let's kick it off!
70-inch price (model E70-E3): $1000
65-inch price (model E65U-D3): $800
60-inch price (model E60-E3): $680
55-inch price (model E55-E2): $530
Why it's on this list: The Vizio E series delivers superb image quality for a budget TV, outdoing other cheap TVs and many midrange models. The secret is local dimming, a technology that increases contrast especially in dark scenes. Don't worry, it still looks great for bright football games too, especially at this price. Just be sure to check out the full review to get the full story on all the various model numbers--not every Vizio E is created equal. I've listed the model numbers I like best for every size above.
65-inch price: $1,300
55-inch price: $900
Why it's on this list: Because it's the cheapest Samsung I tested in 2016, and some people would rather have a Samsung (or maybe an LG or Sony) than a Vizio. Especially when all their friends come over for the big game. The KU7000 is cheaper and has a better picture than either the Sony X850D or the LG UH8500, as well as great style and plenty of smart features, including an innovative Smart TV system complete with device control.
70-inch price: $1,900
65-inch price: $1,300
55-inch price: $700
50-inch price: $650
Why it's on this list: Here's where the list starts to get really good. The M series represents the best bang for the TV buck of any model we tested in 2016. It earned an "8" in our picture quality tests thanks again to local dimming, and while it's not as good as some of the higher-end TVs below, it's still excellent. And no, the inclusion of a free Android tablet did not in any way figure into our awarding the M series a CNET's Editors' Choice award.
65-inch price: $1,500
55-inch price: $1,000
49-inch price: $900
Why it made the list: This time it's about more than just the Samsung name. The KU8000 doesn't match the overall image quality of the cheaper Vizio M, but it does excel is in bright rooms and with bright material -- perfect for football afternoons when the season starts up again. In the meantime great looks and that same innovative Smart TV system, miles better than Vizio's included tablets, sweeten the deal.
75-inch price: $3,000
65-inch price: $1,600
Why it made the list: I swear this is the last Vizio on the list, but what can I say, these TVs are great for the money. The best non-OLED picture quality I tested in 2016 belongs to the P series, which has the best local dimming implementation on this list and a brighter picture than the other Vizios. I'm not listing the 55-inch version because it uses an IPS-based LCD panel, which delivers worse picture quality than the others.
65-inch price: $1,800
55-inch price: $1,300
Why it made the list: Because aside from the Vizio P series, the X930D delivered the best overall picture quality of any non-OLED TV we tested this year--and the two were damn close. Both scored a "9" in our picture quality tests, and the Sony has an advantage over the P series (and every other TV on this list) in bright rooms with its prodigious light output.
65-inch price: $3,000
55-inch price: $2,000
Why it made the list: Nothing will impress your friends more on big game day, or impress your eyes afterward, than an OLED TV. The B6 is the least-expensive of the breed but it still delivers the same image quality as even-more-expensive models--quality that just happens to be the best we've ever tested. And if you're worried about buyer's remorse after the 2017 models come out, check this out.
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