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How to buy the best TV on Prime Day: 4 things I consider when shopping deals

Consider these tips to help you navigate major shopping events like a pro and ensure you get the best TV for your money.
Written by Chris Bayer, Editor
65 inch TCL QM8 Television
Adam Breeden/ZDNET

With Amazon Prime Day underway, you have ample opportunities to upgrade your television at a great price. To give you a starting place for these momentous sales, I've put together a guide to buying a TV during Amazon Prime Day.

Prime Day, exclusively for Prime members, usually has the steepest discounts on Amazon devices, including Fire TVs. Many retailers though -- like Walmart and Best Buy -- are competing with offers of their own. These early sales can sometimes match or even beat Prime Day prices, so it's worth keeping an eye on them.

Also: The best Prime Day deals: Live updates

TV manufacturers usually announce new models during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, and these new models start hitting store shelves between March and June. As retailers stock newer products, prices on older models often drop. Enter the summer sales routine.

To help you narrow down your options and avoid overspending, consider factors such as screen size (e.g., 48" or 65"), resolution (4K, 8K), display technology (LED, OLED, etc.), smart features, and connectivity options. 

1. Key terminologies you should know

To clarify some of the terminology surrounding modern TVs, let's look at the types of display technologies available today:

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display TVs use cathode fluorescent lamps in their backlighting to offer solid brightness and color accuracy, but at the lowest cost. LCD TVs are generally affordable, energy-efficient, and have no risk of image retention (burn-in).

LED: A more advanced form of LCD that uses Light Emitting Diodes for its backlight to provide better brightness, contrast, and energy efficiency. LED backlights are thinner and lighter than fluorescent backlights, allowing LED TVs to be slimmer and more lightweight.

QLED: The 'Q' in QLED stands for quantum dot technology. Samsung created it to improve color accuracy and brightness, but this tech still relies on LED backlighting. QLED TVs can achieve higher brightness levels than standard LED TVs, making them suitable for brighter, well-lit environments. This feature is why QLED TVs look so impressive on showroom floors.

Samsung Neo QLED 8K TV at CES

Samsung's Neo QLED 8K TV demoed at CES 2024.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Mini LED: Uses smaller LEDs for its backlight, resulting in enhanced contrast, deeper blacks, and more precise local dimming. Due to their enhanced picture quality and potential cost-effectiveness, more and more manufacturers, like Samsung, TCL, Hisense, and Roku, are already offering Mini LED TVs.

OLED: Organic Light Emitting Diode TVs have self-emissive pixels that each turn on and off, offering the deepest blacks and superior contrast. Most notable about OLED TVs is how they maintain their picture quality even at extreme viewing angles, ensuring everyone in the room can see what's playing.

MicroLED: This next-generation display technology uses tiny, self-emissive LEDs for each pixel, combining the best parts of OLED (deep blacks and high contrast) with better brightness and durability. The technology promises intense contrast, faster response times, and higher energy efficiency. It is also quite pricey, and most often available in large screen sizes.

2. What is the difference between 4K and 8K resolution?

A 4K TV has a resolution of 3840 pixels x 2160 pixels, providing a total of approximately 8.3 million pixels. This is four times the resolution of a standard 1080p high-definition TV (HDTV), which has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (about 2.1 million pixels).

Since not all content is available in 4K resolution, 4K TVs often include upscaling technology that enhances lower resolution content to better fit the higher resolution display. This ensures that even non-4K content looks better on a 4K TV. Many 4K TVs also feature technologies such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG), which enhance color accuracy, contrast, and brightness.

Also: One of Samsung's best TVs of all time is available for a big discount on Prime Day

8K TV is the latest generation of television technology, providing a total of 33.2 million pixels. This is 16 times the resolution of a standard 1080p HDTV.

While 8K TVs also include advanced upscaling technology to better accommodate their high resolution, native 8K content is currently scarce. This is expected to change as the technology becomes more widespread. 8K TVs can be expensive, and the difference in image quality may not be noticeable unless you have a behemoth screen or sit very close to the TV.

3. Which size TV screen is best for me?

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to TV size. It's more about finding the Goldilocks Zone in your viewing space, often determined by how far you sit from the screen. You also want to ensure that the TV doesn't overwhelm the room or require excessive head movement to take in the entire screen.

To determine an ideal screen size, measure the viewing distance (in inches) between your TV and your sofa or couch. Divide that distance by 1.6 for a ballpark recommendation. For example, if you sit 10 feet away (120 inches), a 75-inch TV is ideal (120 inches ÷ 1.6 = 75). If you sit closer -- say, six feet away -- a screen size of around 45 inches would be suitable (6 x 12 = 72 ÷ 1.6 = 45). For larger screen sizes, it's preferable to opt for higher resolutions like 4K to ensure vivid and lifelike detail within images.

Also: This Sony Bravia is one of the best TVs you've never heard of - and it's on sale for Prime Day

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers recommends that a TV should take up at least 30° of your field of view. Ideally, the TV should be parallel to your eyes, with no more than a 15° angle up or down and no more than a 40° angle to the left or right.

4. Prime Day isn't the only sale in town

The summer sales of 2024 certainly include solid deals offering medium-sized UHD (ultra-high definition) TVs for less than $200, like the 50-inch Insignia F30 Series Smart Fire TV available at Amazon. If you're not an Amazon Prime member, consider signing up for a free 30-day trial before Prime Day. This trial will give you exclusive opportunities, such as Amazon's Lightning Deals, which can score you the best TV bargains.

While Prime Day is an Amazon event, many other retailers run competing sales. Best Buy, for example, hosts a "Black Friday in July Event" (July 15 to July 17). Some TV offers may include extras like free streaming subscriptions, extended warranties, or bundled soundbars. Keep an eye on these events, as they can offer substantial savings, but often sell out quickly.

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