Help Me, Tom's Guide: Buy a TV Now or Wait for New Models?
Buying a TV in the new year always brings up a tough decision: Is it better to get last year's model for a lower price or to wait for the newly announced models to reach stores? It's an age-old question for shoppers, probably stretching back to the creation of the wheel. (Should Throg buy last year's wheel, or get new 3,600 B.C. model with fancy features?)
Credit: Tom's GuideTom's Guide reader gaurav71189 is stuck in just this dilemma, considering whether to buy the Sony X930E 4K smart TV from 2017 or to wait and get the new X900F series that Sony announced at CES.
I'm planning to upgrade my television of 10 years to a 4K TV.
I was looking at the Sony X930E, as the price was slashed. Considering the fact that Sony announced X900F series in CES 2018, should I buy the "E" series now or wait for the "F" series? I don't find many differences between the two, since both of them support Dolby Vision (future proofing). Also, is it worth waiting for HDMI 2.1?
Even though gaurav71189 is focused on specific Sony models, the basic question applies to all TV models at this time of year: Is it better to save on an older model or hold out for the latest and greatest?
Now Is the Time to Upgrade to 4K
First things first. If you've been holding off on buying a 4K TV, it's safe to say that now is a great time to bite the bullet and get one. UHD sets have never been more affordable, and with the addition of HDR and smart TV functionality, current TVs are miles beyond whatever 1080p set you've been using for the last decade.
It's also the right time of year to score some excellent deals. January and February bring Super Bowl sales and steep discounts, as sellers clear out the old 2017 inventory to make room for the 2018 models coming in March and April. As a result, this is the best time of year for bargain hunters, offering price cuts that are even better than some of the best on Black Friday.
Buy Now or Wait for the New 2018 Models?
In consumer tech, the next thing is always just about to come along. Take Sony, which just announced its new X900F series at CES. Those sets will arrive in stores this spring. As always, though, the decision of which to get comes down to two factors: improvements and price.
The newly announced X900F series offers two key improvements over the 2017 models. The first is improved picture processing. The new models will feature Sony's X1 Extreme processor, which offers better overall picture processing, specifically in motion processing and backlighting.
Sony's new sets will also support Dolby Vision HDR, arguably the best HDR format on the market. The current X930E only just got a firmware update for Dolby Vision support, and it appears to support the format only from streaming sources, with owners reporting no support for Dolby Vision-capable sources over HDMI or USB. The new X900F models should have no such limitations.
The other big difference is screen size, because the new X900F line will include an 85-inch model, a size not previously offered. If you want maximum screen real estate, I'd wait for the 85-inch model. If you're more interested in a 55- or 65-inch model, then you've got one less reason to hold off for the 2018 models, as you'll find 2017 sets in those sizes.
Aside from offering better processing and a larger screen, however, Sony was pretty conservative with its new models this year. The general viewing experience — from the display panel to the Android TV operating system — will be extremely similar to last year's.
That said, other manufacturers are pushing the envelope a bit harder than Sony. New sets announced by LG and Samsung boast innovations that might persuade some shoppers to hold off until the 2018 models arrive in stores.
Credit: LGLG, for example, has added its ThinQ AI to most of its new 4K sets, offering a smarter smart TV than in years past. The new features include rich voice interaction for everything from searching through content to ordering a pizza right from your couch. It's a huge improvement over the smart functions offered in 2017.
Samsung has also stepped up the smarts in its 4K sets, bringing the same Bixby voice assistant to the TVs that the company offers on its current phones. But Samsung has also promised dramatic improvements to its QLED TVs with new filtering and backlight technologies that bring the enhanced LCD technology much, much closer to the industry-leading quality of OLED sets. In these cases, it may be worth waiting for the new 2018 models.
Pricing Highs and Lows
And that brings us back to price. The original question from gaurav71189 was specifically about the Sony X930E, because that set recently dropped in price. The original list price for the 65-inch X930E was $2,999, but with recent price drops, you can pick one up for $1,999. With the Super Bowl coming up, you may see prices drop even lower in the next couple of weeks.
If you're considering the current X930E because of the lower price, it is worth remembering that the new Sony model won't be as affordable. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, though a new 65-inch X900F will likely be in the same $3,000 neighborhood where we saw the older model start, and a brand-new model won't see many price drops in its first few months on the market. In fact, I wouldn't expect the X900F to drop to similar pricing until this time next year, at which point you'll have this same dilemma over the inevitable X900G that Sony will surely announce for 2019.
If price is a major consideration for you, I would definitely recommend going with the older E-Series. The same will be true for other manufacturers; new models command top prices, while discounts are used to move older models. The time to get a new TV for the lowest price is in the gap between the past and upcoming model year, when people are most likely to hesitate and consider waiting for the next big thing.
Is It Worth Waiting for HDMI 2.1?
This is a trickier question to answer, since the new HDMI standard arrived late last year, but as of right now, no HDMI 2.1 sets have actually been announced. I don't expect to see any 2.1-equipped TVs until the second half of this year, at the earliest, and it's likely we won't see the 2.1 standard fully implemented on consumer TVs until 2019. If you plan to wait for HDMI 2.1, you'll be waiting for several months, at least.
HDMI 2.1 will have some major improvements over the current standard. Bandwidth will be increased from today's 18 Gbps to a whopping 48 Gbps, allowing resolutions of up to 8K and even 10K. It's also better-suited to high frame rates, allowing 120-fps content where we currently see 24 fps for most movies and 60 fps for some content and games. While 8K resolution may very well supplant 4K, that won't happen for several years yet.
As a forward-facing standard, the 2.1 format will also allow for other new features, like variable-refresh-rate support for gaming, or improved support for data-heavy formats like dynamic HDR and Dolby Atmos-style audio. That's all good, but the really cool stuff hasn't been figured out yet. You will definitely see new capabilities come to TVs thanks to HDMI 2.1, but the standard is brand-new, and it will take a few years before the industry really explores what sort of new tricks they can make it do.
All things considered, I'd recommend jumping into the current crop of 4K TVs instead of waiting. The new features offered by upcoming models don't look compelling enough to justify either the wait or the extra expense, and this year's deals look too good to pass up. Unless you're holding out for a specific feature, there's more to lose by waiting than by buying when prices are low.