by David Katzmaier
Looking for an excuse to finally buy that big-screen TV you've been coveting? The big football game is the perfect justification. Here are our top picks and advice for TV shopping in early 2016.
The big game is nearly upon us, and with it an onslaught of TV sales that bring some of the lowest prices of the year.
Unfortunately there are more than just two teams playing this game. The TV market is overwhelming, packed with contenders for your dollar. It's not easy to pick a winner without some help. That's where we come in.
Here are our top three choices for your new big screen TVs for the big game, in ascending order of price. And if you don't like the first choice, check out the bonus pick.
VIZIO E65-C3 65-Inch 1080p Smart LED HDTV">Vizio E series (65-inch for $950): Very good performance and the best all-around value make the E series our go-to choice when money is tight. It comes in sizes up to 70 inches.
Bonus pick: The smartest Smart TV is also an incredible value, and TCL's Roku TV makes a great secondary set if its 55-inch maximum size is still too small for your main TV.
VIZIO M65-C1 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV">Vizio M series (65-inch for $1,500): With excellent picture quality and even better value, the M series is available in sizes up to 80 inches. It's our top-rated TV of the year when you take price into consideration. And yes, it's 4K.
Bonus pick: Don't want a Vizio? Check out the Samsung UNJU7100 series, available in sizes up to 85 inches.
LG EF9500 series (65-inch for $6,000): Money no object? Go OLED. LG's flat EF9500 delivers the best picture quality we've ever tested. It comes in a 55-inch or 65-inch size. And if you're considering the smaller version, the cheaper 55EG9100 is a great alternative.
Bonus pick: Don't want OLED? 65 inches too small for ya? Samsung makes the best LCD TV we've tested so far, the UNJS9500, and it comes in sizes up to 88 inches.
Extra points: When, where and warranties
All of the models above are from 2015, and the 2016 TVs are going to be available soon. So should you buy now or wait for the new ones?
Unless you're shopping for the very highest-end TVs, there's no reason to wait for a 2016 model. Among mainstream-priced TVs the biggest improvement in 2016 is the addition of HDR compatibility, but we don't consider that a big deal since HDR content is so rare (and with mainstream TVs, it probably won't provide much, if any, better image quality).
High-end shoppers have a tougher choice. In the case of the best TVs, extras like wider color gamut, brighter pictures and improved HDR (including Dolby Vision on the 2016 OLED TVs) might be worth the wait. Then again, you'll be paying top dollar if you buy in spring rather than waiting until the 2016 holiday season, when prices will fall again. It's also worth noting that all but the most expensive of LG's 2016 4K OLED sets won't ship until midyear.
You may also be wondering whether to buy it in a store or online. Both have their benefits. Online outlets like Amazon usually have the best prices. You may want to visit a store to benefit from looking at the TV in person first, before you actually buy. No matter where you get your set, it's usually not worth buying an extended warranty.