The big wind-up to the big game is also one of the biggest shopping seasons for new TVs. No matter your fan profile — ardent fantasy player, Sunday football-oholic or Super Bowl-only viewer — there's a set out there to fit your budget and level of passion.
Making the right choice will make for a more successful super Sunday party (and pay dividends in the off-season for movies and binge-watching Game of Thrones). Before choosing the best TV from our list of super Super Bowl sets, consider the following shopping tips for sports fans buying a new set:
Do's and Don'ts
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1. Don't go smaller than 50 inches. Prices have descended sufficiently to the point where you shouldn't have to go smaller. During a football game, many of the camera shots now take in the most of the field to show defense and offense before the snap, so any set smaller than 50 inches will make the players look tiny. CBS also plans to use 36 cameras at the Super Bowl to create wild 360-degree replays, which will definitely look better on a larger screen.
2. Do look for a set with good off-axis viewing. It means people can still get a good view of the action when they're off to the side of the screen or on the edge of the couch. Our picks all have reasonable off-center viewing, but OLED sets provide the best off-axis views with little color fading.
3. Don't worry about 4K — but go for 4K. The Super Bowl will not be broadcast in 4K ultra-HD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels). However, televisions are rapidly adopting the higher resolution format and the sets with the best picture, even in standard HD, are ultra-HD sets. So if you can afford it, opt for a 4K ultra-HD set so that you won't have TV envy a year or two from now.
4. Do switch off the "standard" or "sports" mode. All sets come with several preset picture modes. Most start up in standard or vivid mode out of the box, which will destroy jersey colors and blow out graphics. The preset "sports" modes can look even worse. So unless you're watching TV on a sun-drenched patio in Florida, go into the picture settings menu and choose a preset "movie" or "cinema" mode for the big game (Vizio calls it a "calibrated" mode). It's a long game, and your eyes will thank you for it.
5. Do look for deals. It's the last big push from retailers on big screens before the new models begin appearing in April. So expect to see some serious discounts, even offers that include a smaller set for "free" when you buy your big screen. In addition, if you have a credit card that offers price-matching, don't forget to check prices after the game — you may be eligible to get some money back.
6. Don't forget about sound. Super Bowl 50 will include 16 sideline and goal-line cameras with built-in mics for more of a live "you-are-there" feel. Plus, there are all those bone-crunching hits to appreciate and the halftime Coldplay and Beyoncé performance. At least one TV set here from Sony delivers big audio dynamite; for the others, consider getting a soundbar for sonic support.
Best Budget 50-inch TV Under $500
The Good: Price
The Bad: Not 4K compatible
If you are on a limited budget, you can still get a big screen for a reasonable amount of money. The only drawback is it won't be a 4K ultra-HD model. Vizio has cut its teeth on delivering inexpensive big screens and the E-Series is its current value line. The 50-inch E-Series model includes built-in Wi-Fi and basic smart-TV features for streaming services such as Netflix. Its most noteworthy feature is full-array LED backlighting, which divides the screen into 12 separate zones that can be dynamically dimmed or brightened. It generally makes for better contrast, something you'll appreciate during halftime — and when the game is over.
Best 55-inch TV Under $1,000
The Good: Top-flight color accuracy
The Bad: Lacks deep blacks
Getting into the 4K ultra-HD game now means you'll be ready when there's more 4K programming available in the future, especially from online sources such as Amazon and Netflix. The Samsung 55-inch UN55JU6500 is a relatively affordable 4K TV (3840 x 2160 pixels) with a crisp, bold picture. It delivers a bright image, doesn't have excessive motion blur (which can ruin game-watching), and sits at a sweet-size spot for many living rooms (not too big, but not too small). For a bit more money, consider the 65-inch version, the Samsung UN65JU6500.
Best 65-inch TV Under $1,500
The Good: Great contrast and deep blacks
The Bad: Tiny sound
If you're planning to host the neighborhood Super Bowl party, the bigger the set, the better the bash. Fortunately, you don't have to blow out your budget to get a good 65-incher. The Vizio M Series, our choice for the best 4K TV value in the 65-inch screen size, includes an advanced remote control with a built-in keyboard and a fast Wi-Fi (802.11ac) connection. It's a bold set with bright colors, yet it also has excellent contrast for revealing picture details in dark scenes. The latter feature is thanks to the TV's full-array LED backlighting, which puts the lighting directly behind the screen (rather than along the edges) and divides the image into 32 separate zones so it can enhance one area while simultaneously dimming another.
Best Stadium Sound, for Under $3,500
The Good: Expanded color (HDR) support
The Bad: Quite heavy
Most sets, even expensive models, shortchange the audio side of things. Not the 65-inch Sony Bravia X930C, whose side-mounted speakers deliver full, rich sound. It's perfect for immersing you in the roar of the crowd or a musical performance. The X93C is also a 4K ultra-HD set that supports the forthcoming generation of programming that takes advantage of high dynamic range (HDR) colors and brightness — aka Ultra HD Premium. The only caveat for getting ready for the game is that this big set weighs more than 104 pounds.
Best TV at Any Price
The Good: The best off-axis viewing
The Bad: Top-notch price
No set will be better at reproducing the halftime show of fireworks and pyrotechnics than this OLED set. The 65-inch LG 65EF9500 uses OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology, versus LCD sets with LED backlights that currently dominate the TV market. It translates into truly deep blacks and degrees of contrast not possible using competing technology, so you'll be able to pick out faces in the crowd that aren't visible on other models. It also boasts one of the most attractive designs to grace a tabletop. The downside? At $6,000, the LG OLED is double what some similarly sized (but inferior) 4K LCD sets cost today.