How to Buy a Great TV

Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said. Credit Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said. Credit Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
TT

How to Buy a Great TV

Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said. Credit Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
Two important features to look for in a television are local dimming and high dynamic range, a Wirecutter tester said. Credit Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

You know how it is: Every Black Friday, you are bombarded with lousy shopping deals that do not offer as much of a discount on an item as you think. But there is a bright spot: If you are shopping for a television, it really is the best time to buy one.

To stoke sales, electronics manufacturers typically slash prices of popular TV sets during Black Friday to the lowest all year. This week, you will be able to buy high-quality televisions for $500 to $1,500 after discounts of 15 percent to 30 percent. That’s a deal considering that typically, many TVs in the $500 range are just O.K. and high-end sets cost upward of $2,000.

But as always, there will be duds to watch out for. Many TV brands take this opportunity to sell sets with exaggerated features that have subpar picture quality. And inside stores, TVs often look different from the way they would at home, because you probably don’t have gigantic lights in your ceilings like the showrooms at Best Buy.

“A lot of Black Friday marketing is designed to get the consumer interested in something, sometimes with not a lot of facts but a gut feeling of ‘I need to buy this,’ ” said Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate, a consulting firm that studies TV and smartphone screens.

So we did some research ahead of time. To help you scout for great TV deals, I interviewed experts on TV technologies and teamed up with Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews products. Here is our guide to picking out a TV you will be happy with this Black Friday, advice that may also come in handy if you are shopping for TVs over the rest of the holiday season.

Viewing Conditions

To narrow down your search, the first rule of thumb is to assess the ambient light in your living room.

If your living room gets lots of sunlight, you will want a very bright TV with vivid colors that can overcome some of that ambient light that washes out your TV, Mr. Soneira said. In this situation, you would probably go for an LCD TV, which can produce very bright and sharp images.

If your living room has lower ambient light or if you have a dark theater room, go for a TV with more lifelike colors. In this case, you could go for televisions with so-called OLED screens, which can be made thinner and lighter with more accurate colors and contrast. In general, OLED TVs look better than LCD sets, but OLED TVs are not as bright, so their colors and shadow details can be washed out by bright sunlight.

And then there is content to consider. If you watch a lot of movies, you would benefit from an OLED television to get a picture that more closely resembles what the director intended you to see. But if you mostly watch sports or broadcast television, a good LCD television would be sufficient to get a clear, bright picture of the ballgame or your local news coverage.

In the end, your budget may drive your decision. Good LCD televisions cost as little as $500. A nice OLED television tends to cost $2,000 and up.

A Few Important Features

After you have decided on a type of TV, there are two important features to look for: local dimming and high dynamic range, said Chris Heinonen, a writer and TV tester for Wirecutter.

Local dimming is a technology that uses a backlight embedded inside the TV to make bright parts of the screen look brighter without washing out shadow detail. It also helps improve contrast and produce a more vibrant image.

High dynamic range, or HDR, is a software feature that enhances the contrast and color profile of a picture. In bright colors, you will see brighter highlights; in dark colors, you will see more details.

Most television sets today come with 4K high-definition resolution, also known as ultrahigh definition. But 4K videos won’t look very good if the TV lacks local dimming. In addition, the expanded color gamut from high dynamic range makes a big difference when watching videos in 4K, Mr. Heinonen said.

Buyer, Beware

Here’s the tricky part: On Black Friday, many companies exaggerate the features on their TV sets to make them look more attractive. Here are some things to look out for.

■ Fake contrast ratio numbers. Contrast ratio is the difference between a TV’s peak brightness and lowest darkness. All you need to know is that a high contrast ratio helps make a picture look good. Manufacturers enjoy pumping up the contrast ratio of their TVs by listing results in unrealistic test settings, Mr. Heinonen said.

■ Unknown TV models. On Black Friday, TV brands also enjoy releasing obscure television sets with model names that are similar to popular sets but with inferior features. “They all do it,” Mr. Heinonen said.

For example, Samsung could hypothetically sell a TV set called MU8020, which sounds similar to the Samsung MU8000, a well-reviewed television. But the unknown TV might lack important features like local dimming.

■ Misleading display technologies. TV makers use confusing terms that may mislead you. LED televisions, for example, sound similar to fancy OLED televisions — but they are just LCD televisions with an LED backlight, Mr. Soneira said. In addition, companies advertise TVs with high dynamic range, but some sets are not even powerful enough to display HDR properly, Mr. Heinonen said.

The New York Times



Apple Kills off Its Buy Now, Pay Later Service Barely a Year after Launch

An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
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Apple Kills off Its Buy Now, Pay Later Service Barely a Year after Launch

An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)
An Apple logo adorns the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store on March 14, 2020, in New York. (AP)

Apple is discontinuing its buy now, pay later service known as Apple Pay Later barely a year after its initial launch in the US, and will rely on companies who already dominate the industry like Affirm and Klarna.

It's an acknowledgement from a company known for producing hit products that building a financial services business from scratch as Apple has been doing for several years is difficult and highly competitive.

Apple Pay Later launched with fanfare in March 2023 as a way for iPhone customers to split purchases of up to $1,000 into four equal payments with no fees or interest. The service was Apple's answer to the growing popularity of buy now, pay later services globally, and considered a sizeable threat to companies like Klarna, Affirm and others.

But Apple Pay Later was only available where Apple Pay was accepted whereas the other buy now, pay later companies had deeply integrated themselves into millions of merchant websites.

In an acknowledgement of how popular buy now, pay later services had become, Apple said at its developer's conference this month that it would start allowing banks to offer buy now, pay later plans to their customers through Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. Affirm would be integrated directly into Apple Wallet, and Apple customers would be able to open an Affirm account directly.

“With the introduction of this new global installment loan offering, we will no longer offer Apple Pay Later in the US,” Apple said late Monday. “Our focus continues to be on providing our users with access to easy, secure and private payment options with Apple Pay, and this solution will enable us to bring flexible payments to more users, in more places across the globe, in collaboration with Apple Pay enabled banks and lenders.”

Apple executives as recently as this month had indicated that the company still had plans for Apple Pay Later despite announcing plans to integrate Affirm directly into Apple Wallet.

Apple Pay Later was unique because Apple needed to create its own bank to offer the loans. The Apple Card is issued by Goldman Sachs, which means Goldman ultimately decides who gets approved and what spending limits are for each customer.

Apple has discontinued any new Apple Pay Later loans, but customers who have existing Apple Pay Later loans will be able to manage them inside Apple Pay.