With the first real Black Friday sales now just a week away, it's time to figure out where you'll get the best deals on TVs. We'll be looking at the best buys across a number of retail chains, but we're starting out with two of the country's largest mass merchants, Target and Walmart. Which one will win our first Black Friday deals shootout?
Before we get into the details, check out our Top 10 Black Friday shopping tips article for advice on how to get the best deals now and during the holidays. And to help you narrow your TV choices, check out Consumer Reports' list of recommended TVs, which is available to subscribers.
The retailer with the bull's-eye caught our attention when its Black Friday ad broke with what seemed like a hard-to-beat deal: a 40-inch 1080p Element LED/LCD TV for just $119. As we pointed out when we first saw the deal, that's less than the price of many 8-inch tablets. The ad lists the deal as an online-only special, with limited quantities and no rain checks. That makes it hard to determine whether or not many people will actually be able to get their hands on one of these sets. [Update: Target now says this TV will be available online and in stores as a doorbuster special.—Ed.]
But as we also recently reported, the deal also caught the attention of Walmart executives, who announced that the chain would be matching, or beating, key competitors' prices on a variety of items. Among the listed items: you guessed it, a 40-inch 1080p LED/LCD TV, from a so-far-unnamed brand. Walmart has promised to reveal the info, including the price, for this set—and on specially priced 60-inch 1080p LED/LCD TVs from LG and Sony—on its website this evening. So stay tuned.
Let's look at some other advertised Black Friday deals from Target. They include:
These are pretty aggressive prices, although with the exception of the Vizio, they're on secondary TV brands. The 55-inch Westinghouse, for example, normally costs $550 to $600. We recently tested the company's 55-inch DMW55F1A1 model, which appears to be similar, and it did fairly well in our Ratings. Despite some flaws, including poor sound quality, its high-def picture quality was excellent. But we can't tell if the TV is different from the Target set.
Like many other retailers, Target worked with Samsung to secure some special deals for sets that will be available online and in stores over the Black Friday weekend. They include:
So how do Walmart's TV deals compare?
Some are almost exactly the same, though Walmart has more choices and often the set on sale is a step-up model with more features. One additional advantage to shopping at Walmart is its "1-Hour Guarantee." This program, which covers nine popular in-store Black Friday "doorbusters," guarantees that customers who are in the designated areas of the store between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 will be able to get the promoted item, either immediately in the store or by Christmas.
Among the items covered by the guarantee are two TVs: a 65-inch 1080p Vizio smart TV for under $648, and a 50-inch LED/LCD set, sourced from one or more unnamed brands, for just $218. We've speculated that the Vizio set may be the E650i B2, which normally sells for about $1,100. As we reported earlier, two Vizio models—the 60-inch E600i-B3 ($798) and the 70-inch E700i-B3 ($1,498)—are part of the company's deals leading up to Black Friday.
Walmart will be holding a special electronics event that kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday evening. Among the advertised specials are a 60-inch 120Hz 1080p Element LED/LCD TV for $498, and a 32-inch 60Hz LED LCD TV, sourced from several different brands, for $98. The Element TV model number wasn't printed, but we think it's the ELEFW605. Walmart says that those TVs will be available as long as supplies last, and they told us they bought more sets this year to satisfy demand.
Since Samsung worked with both of the retailers—as well as others, such as Best Buy—it's easier to compare some of these deals.
Both retailers have 32-inch Samsung sets. But Target's UN32EH4003 model is a basic 720p model for $198, while Walmart has the UN32H5203, which is a 120Hz 1080p smart LED/LCD TV, for $248. The Target set is cheaper, but we think the price difference for the higher resolution and integrated smart TV capability is worth the premium. Edge: Walmart.
Both retailers have the same 40-inch 120Hz 1080p Samsung smart TV set (UN40H5203) for the same $328 price, so here it's a tie. Walmart also has a 46-inch set in the same series, for $428, that isn't at Target as far as we can tell.
In the 50-inch Samsung showdown, Target has the UN50EH5000FXZA, a 60Hz 1080p model, for $478. Here again Samsung offers a step-up model—the UN50H5203, a 120Hz 1080p smart TV, for $498. That's only a $20 premium to get the faster refresh rate and Samsung's smart TV platform, so we think this set is the winner. Edge: Walmart.
If you're looking for a larger smart TV, both chains have the same 60-inch set—the UN60H6203, a 120Hz 1080p model, for the same exact $798 price. So once again it's tied, though Walmart also has the 55-inch set in this series, priced at $598.
But if you're looking for one of the newer Ultra HD TVs with a higher-resolution 3840x2160 screen, only Walmart is advertising any sets. It has the 55-inch Samsung 55HU7250 Ultra HD TV, a smart TV with a curved screen, for $1,298 at Walmart.com, plus Vizio's 50-inch UHD smart TV for $698, which we think is probably the P502ui-B1E model that currently sells for $998.
Walmart also said that in-store shoppers on Black Friday (Nov. 28) will be able to save 30 percent on select Samsung TVs and home audio gear. Also, its Thursday TV sale prices will be good on Friday if supplies last.
This year Target is giving Walmart a run for its money, especially with the 40-inch Element 1080p LCD set for just $119. When announced, it was arguably the best TV price we'd seen, certainly at that screen size. But it now looks as though Walmart will be matching that deal; we'll find out for sure tonight. Target also has good deals on several Westinghouse sets, which Walmart won't have.
But we give Walmart the win in this Black Friday TV deals shootout, thanks to a broader assortment of sets from major brands, and for offering step-up models with more features at modest premiums compared to the more basic Samsung sets at Target. Also, we expect the 65-inch Vizio smart TV for $648, offered as a doorbuster, to be one of the hottest TVs during the Black Friday weekend.
We'll continue to evaluate all the deals we see, leading up to our top TV picks for the Black Friday weekend, so keep checking back for all the latest updates.
—James K. Willcox
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