Looking for a great deal on a TV? Super Bowl time is the right time

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon offers thoughts on when to get a bargain on a TV and why this year in particular is likely to offer some great deals.

I'd guess that few people associate the Super Bowl with a great time to go shopping. But if you're in the market for a big-screen, high-def TV, you might want to top off the big game with a visit to the mall.

Everyone already knows about Black Friday deals. But TVs in particular often hit the lowest prices of the season right before and after the Super Bowl. Even if you're not a football fan, you may want to pay attention to your local sales circulars to get the best deal on a new television. With more people looking at 4K Ultra HD TVs, there are even better deals to be had.

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I explain why.

Dear Maggie,

I just moved into a new house and need a really big TV. My first question is, How big should I go? Can you ever go too big? I've also seen lots of good pre-Super Bowl sales on TVs this year. Is now a good time to buy a 2015 model? Are the new features announced at this year's CES really worth waiting for and spending more on? Or can I get better value buying a 2015 model post-Super Bowl?

Lost in TV Land

Dear Lost,

If you're in the market for a new TV, especially a really big one, this is the perfect time to buy.

If you thought Black Friday deals were good, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Last year's TVs were discounted an average of 20 percent in many Super Bowl sales. But if you can wait until after the game, you're likely to see even deeper discounts, in the 30 percent or more range. This can mean huge savings on a big-ticket item.

The Vizio M series is one of the most highly rated TVs on CNET for 2015. And savvy shoppers are likely to get great deals after the Super Bowl, when prices have historically been the lowest of the year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why? TV retailers need to clear the shelves to make room for the 2016 models hitting the market in April, so they try to make prices as enticing as possible to get shoppers to buy.

There's even more good news for people looking for a new big-screen TV, though. Last year was the first year that 4K Ultra HD TVs really went mainstream. This meant that all the major TV manufacturers were putting all the picture-quality enhancements, such as local dimming and better color, into 4K TVs, leaving the older 1,080-pixel TVs in the bargain bin with only mediocre features. That means savvy bargain hunters will get their first crack at a 4K Ultra HD TV with a big discount. The bigger the TV, the bigger the savings you'll likely get.

Should you wait for something even better in a 2016 model? Going for the latest and greatest features in your TV isn't always the right move, considering how much manufacturers jack up prices on the latest technology. For instance, the increased resolution of a 4K Ultra HD TV is an improvement over older, 1,080p resolution. But until prices fell on 4K TVs, CNET editor David Katzmaier didn't place them at the top of his list for offering a mix of the best experience and value. Now he does.

"HDR" was the big buzzword in TVs at CES 2016. That stands for "high dynamic range." HDR significantly expands the range of both picture contrast and color, which means bright parts of the image can get much brighter, so the image seems to have more depth, and colors expand to show more bright blues, greens, reds and everything in between.

Katzmaier believes HDR benefits may be more visible than improvements from 4K resolution and more broadly appealing than 3D. But is it worth spending lots more money on that now? Probably not.

"For all but the most high-end buyers, I recommend not waiting for next year's models to get a new TV," Katzmaier told me. HDR "simply isn't important enough on mainstream-level TVs to be worth holding out for."

As for which size to get, Katzmaier says it's tough to go too big in terms of the experience and immersion. But he cautions that some people don't want a TV dominating the room.

"Getting the right size, assuming you have a normal suburban living room (8-12 feet or so between the couch and the TV), is basically a balance between an aesthetically large THING in the living room, and a great, immersive experience," he said.

The sweet spot for most people looking for a large TV is between 60 and 70 inches. Katzmaier said he has a 65-inch TV in his living room, with a 9-foot seating distance, and it "feels perfect."

As for which TV to buy? Katzmaier recommends the Vizio M series. "It's an excellent performer and outstanding value," he said.

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

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