Top 5 Black Friday TV deals under $500

By James K. WillcoxLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

It wasn't all that long ago that $500 would get you a decent 32-inch LCD TV. But this year during Black Friday, that same amount of money could see you carrying off a 60-inch 1080p set, albeit from a secondary brand.

As we looked for the best Black Friday TV deals so far, we focused mainly on medium to larger sets offered at very low prices; there are also bargains on smaller-sized sets priced well below $500 that we'll report on separately. But if you're in the market for a TV 40 inches or larger, these are models to consider. And remember that last year, online prices changed a number of times each day, so to get the lowest price you'll have to keep checking back with the retailers' websites. The good news is that if you do find a set selling for less at a competitor, more retailers this year are willing to match online advertised specials.

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Before you head out shopping, 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. Now, drum roll please—here are our top TV deal picks.

1. Yes, we're starting off with a tie for what we think might be the best TV deals this season, mainly because the two sets seem comparable and are only $1 apart in price. We already reported that Best Buy will have a 50-inch Panasonic 1080p LED/LCD TV (TC-50A400U) for only $200. But Amazon has countered with a 50-inch Toshiba 1080p LED/LCD set for $199. There's little info about this set right now, but we expect to hear more soon. Panasonic and Toshiba LCD TVs have done well in our Ratings, but neither brand has scored especially well in terms of sound.

2. A 60-inch 120Hz 1080p Element LED/LCD TV for $498, at Walmart. This is a great price for a TV this size. We haven't tested this set so we can't comment on its picture quality, but other Element sets we've tested haven't done all that well in our Ratings. Still, it might be fine for less-discriminating viewers, or as a secondary big-screen TV in a den, bedroom, or kid's play room.

Check our Holiday Planning & Gift Guide for suggestions of top-rated gifts and expert shopping advice from Consumer Reports.

3. A 40-inch Element 1080p TV for $119 at Target, Amazon, and probably Walmart. No specific model has been named, but we think it might be the Element LF401EM5. If so, we expect that Walmart will try to match this price, or beat it by a dollar or two. Amazon also has an unnamed 40-inch set for this price. We don't expect it to be a top performer, but it's hard to believe you can buy a 40-inch TV for less than you'd pay for an 8-inch tablet.

4. A 50-inch Samsung 60Hz 1080p TV (model UN50EH5000FXZA) selling for $478 at Target. Samsung worked with several retailers to offer "Black Friday special" models that we haven't seen at other times of the year. But Samsung has been among the top brands in our TV Ratings, so we expect these sets to perform well. For just $20 more, Walmart has a step-up 120Hz model with smart TV features—the UN50H5203 for $498. This may actually be a better deal, and it still falls within our budget cutoff.

5. A 55-inch Vizio smart LED/LCD TV for $478 at Amazon. No model name was given, but it could be the Vizio E550i-B2, which was selling for about $650. We tested this TV, which is in Vizio's entry-level E series, and it has excellent high-def picture quality and a good number of features, including a full-array LED backlight and Vizio's smart TV platform.

Honorable mentions

Here are a few other deals just too good to leave out.

  • A 55-inch Westinghouse 60Hz 1080p LED/LCD, model DWM55F1G1, for $395 at Target
  • The 55-inch LG 55LB5900, a 1080p 120Hz priced at $480, at Best Buy
  • A 50-inch Sharp 1080p LED/LCD TV, model LC-50LB261U, for $400 at Best Buy
  • A 60-inch LG 1080p plasma TV for $488 at H.H. Gregg
  • A 48-inch Westinghouse 1080p LED/LCD (model DWM48F1G1) at Target for $235 as an online-only special

As you can see, the action is getting fast and furious as we get closer to Black Friday, and several retailers are already gearing up for Cyber Monday, which is now looking more and more like Cyber Week. We'll continue to evaluate all the deals we see, leading up to our absolute top TV picks for the Black Friday weekend, so keep checking back for all the latest updates.

—James K. Willcox

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