Why I think Sonos Beam is the Black Friday soundbar bargain of the year
Matt Bolton – Managing Editor, Entertainment
In the past, you were lucky to find any big Black Friday offers on Sonos products, but this year there’s a great range of Black Friday Sonos deals, including on its super-popular soundbars.
There’s a bunch of really tempting stuff there, but what really impresses me are the deals on the Sonos Beam (2nd Gen), the company’s smaller and cheaper Dolby Atmos soundbar. You can get the latest Sonos Beam for just $359 at Amazon (down from $449) in the US, or in the UK you can get the Beam for for $349 from Amazon UK (down from £449).
The Beam is small enough to use with TVs from 43 inches, but its sound is big and powerful enough to pair with TVs up to 55 inches, no question – I’ve even used it with a 65-inch screen, and it doesn’t feel out of place as long as your room isn’t huge.
It delivers impressive bass for a small soundbar without using a subwoofer, and although its Dolby Atmos support is virtual (there are no upfiring speakers), it adds great height and width to the sound. In our Sonos Beam 2nd Gen review, we gave it a glowing recommendation – and I recently re-tested it alongside all of Sonos’ soundbars with the new Sonos Sub Mini, and it seriously impressed me all over again.
Battle of the streamers: Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV Cube
Here at TechRadar, we’re fans of the Apple TV 4K streaming box, a model that just recently got upgraded to a new version with more and better features at a lower price than its predecessor.
Amazon, too, has a new flagship streamer, the Fire TV Cube, and though we haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, judging on specs alone it’s a very impressive box.
The new Apple TV 4K costs $129 for a Wi-Fi-only version with 64GB of storage, and $149 for a Wi-Fi and Ethernet version with 128GB of storage. Amazon, meanwhile, is charging $139.99 for the new Fire TV Cube. How do these two premium streamers stack up and which one is the better deal?
First, the video specs. Both models support up to 4K 60Hz video output and Dolby Vision and HDR10+ high dynamic range. The Apple TV has an HDMI 2.1 output, while the Fire TV Cube has both an HDMI 2.1 input and output. That HDMI input on the Fire TV Cube is a useful feature in that it lets you connect a cable or satellite tuner or game console directly to Amazon’s box and route it to a connected TV.
Now for the data connections. The Apple TV 4K supports the Wi-Fi 6 wireless standard, while the Fire TV Cube supports Wi-Fi 6E, a new, faster extension to Wi-Fi 6 that requires a new router and access points (but is backward-compatible with Wi-Fi 6). Both streamers also provide Ethernet connections (128GB version only for the Apple TV 4K).
And now for smart features. Both models come with a remote control with a built-in mic to activate voice assistants – Siri on the Apple TV 4K, and Alexa on the Fire TV Cube. But the Amazon box takes things a step further by adding a built-in far-field mic for hands-free voice commands, and it also has an IR extender output, which lets you use Alexa commands to control other devices.
What about gaming? The new Apple TV 4K features a Bionic 15 chip that the company says delivers up to 50 percent faster CPU and up to 30 percent faster GPU performance – both good news for gaming via Apple Arcade. Amazon’s new box has an octa-core 2.0 GHz processor, and is said to be the company’s “fastest streaming media player ever,” an advantage when playing via its Luna cloud gaming platform.
Both streamers support external Bluetooth-linked gaming controllers, and Amazon even sells its own Luna controller for $70.
Which box should you buy? Prices for both are comparable, but the Amazon Fire TV Cube is the more feature-packed streamer, though not all of those features are ones you’ll be likely to use. The Apple TV 4K is also a fantastic streamer, and one that’s now even better in its new gen-3 incarnation. So, ultimately, the decision should come down to whether you’re most at home in Apple’s ecosystem, or if you’re all in on the Amazon-verse with its Prime services and Alexa voice control.
This deal on Polk Audio’s Magnfi 2 soundbar is music to our ears
Polk Audio knows a thing or two about good sound having been in the speaker business for more than four decades. The company’s Magnifi 2 soundbar system is now selling for just $219.06 at Amazon, a 57% price reduction and one of the best Black Friday soundbar deals we’ve seen so far.
This isn’t a Dolby Atmos soundbar – you’ll need to pay a few hundred dollars more to score one of those. But it does deliver virtual “3D sound” from its 6 total drivers, while a wireless subwoofer adds an extra bass kick. Notably, it has four HDMI ports (one of those is an HDMI ARC connection), which is way more than enough to accommodate most systems. It also features Chromecast built in for wireless music streaming and supports not just Dolby Digital but DTS soundtracks as well.
A soundbar system with an included wireless subwoofer, multiple HDMI ports, and built-in wireless streaming capability at a price this low is a deal you definitely don’t see every day. Highly recommended if you want to up your TV audio game without spending too much!
Buying tips: what is QLED and do I need it?
When TV shopping, you’ll find that some sets are labeled as “QLED,” “QNED,” or “ULED.” These terms basically all mean the same thing, and they indicate that the TV has an LCD display panel with a quantum dot layer.
Quantum dots are nanocrystals that emit a certain color of light (red or green, for example) based on their size. A key advantage they bring to TVs is an enhanced color range, along with improved brightness, over regular LCD TVs that instead use filters to generate color from the set’s white backlight.
Quantum dots are also used in some new QD-OLED TVs from Sony and Samsung, where they similarly help to boost the brightness level and color range of those sets. But while OLED TVs with quantum dots are fairly pricey, there are plenty of affordable LCD TVs that use the tech from brands like TCL, Hisense, Vizio, and others. Even Amazon has introduced quantum dots to its Fire TV line with the Fire TV Omni QLED series, which is available in 65-inch and 75-inch screen sizes.
So, now that you know what quantum dots – or QLED – is, the question remains of if you need it or not. If you’re going to use the TV for streaming movies and shows in 4K with HDR from services like Netflix, Amazon, and others that offer it, the picture quality boost that QLED provides will be worth it. But if you’re mainly using the TV for casual viewing of shows that aren’t in 4K/HDR, you don’t necessarily need it.
Get this awesome 4K portable projector for 33% off at Amazon
XGIMI is known for its exceptionally well-designed portable projectors. We’ve favorably reviewed the company’s Halo+, and while that model is getting a 15% Black Friday discount on Amazon, we’re more excited about this deal: 33% off the Horizon Pro, the big 4K-resolution brother of the Halo+.
This deal, which cuts the cost of the Horizon Pro down to $1,275, starts on 11/23 and runs through Cyber Monday. What you’re getting here is a sleek-looking portable projector that beams 4K images with HDR at a rated 2200 ANSI lumens light output. That’s bright for a portable!
The Horizon Pro also has a built-in Harman Kardon-designed audio system that delivers clean DTS and Dolby Digital sound. An Android TV smart interface is used for streaming (no Netflix app support, sadly), and there’s Chromecast built-in for wireless casting from a phone or tablet and Google Assistant voice control.
Perhaps the best thing about the Horizon Pro, which I had a chance to live with for a while, is its auto-setup and calibration. You simply aim the projector at a screen or wall and it almost magically adjusts the image to be perfectly rectangular and crisply focused. That’s the kind of feature we like to see in a portable, especially a 4K one!
HBO Max gets in on the act
Tom Power, Entertainment Reporter
Hulu isn’t the only big-name streamer offering a hefty discount on an ads-tier subscription. From now until Cyber Monday (November 28), you can get an astonishingly good 80% off HBO Max’s ad-based plan, which is an absolute steal at $1.99 per month for such a titan of the streaming industry.
Our best HBO Max shows and best HBO Max movies guides are regularly updated with the sheer amount of grade A content that launches on Warner Bros Discovery’s main streaming platform. House of the Dragon, Succession, Euphoria, The Batman, Dune… you name it and it’s almost certainly on HBO Max. Well, if Warner Bros. had a hand in developing it, anyway.
You should be aware that this deal is only available for a period of three months. Once it ends, you’ll be paying the full amount – $9.99 a month – for an HBO Max ads-based subscription. Still, for less than $6 across that three-month period, you should seriously consider snapping this offer up.
Art of the deal: save 33% on Samsung’s 55-inch The Frame 4K QLED TV
Amazon is now selling the 55-inch version of Samsung’s The Frame for just $997.99. That’s a full 33% off this artfully designed TV, and a record-low price.
Samsung made a major overhaul of its The Frame line for 2022, expanding the range of size options and adding a highly effective anti-glare screen. The new screen lets you admire digital artworks – either a selection of pre-loaded still images or one of 1,400 and counting digital artworks available for download from Samsung’s Art Store.
Beyond that, The Frame 2022 TVs are QLED models with a quantum dot layer for enhanced color and support for the HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range formats (no Dolby Vision, alas). They’re also PlayStation 5-friendly, with HDMI 2.1 inputs that support 4K 120Hz video input.
Amazon currently has deals on all sizes of The Frame, which impressed us when we did a hands-on review back in early 2022. But this one for the 55-incher and $1,000 off the 75-inch model (now $1,997.99) are the best Black Friday The Frame deals we’ve seen.
HDMI cheat sheet: how many ports do you need, and what cables are best?
Matt Bolton – Managing Editor, Entertainment
It doesn’t get talked about very much, but when you’re looking at getting a TV bargain, one of the things you should check is the HDMI ports it comes with. HDMI has massively simplified TV connections in the HD/4K age… except like all the best-intentioned stuff, it got more complicated over time. So without getting to into the technical gritty stuff, here’s what you need to look out for.
Vizio’s 65-inch M6-series TV is now just $460 at Target
Just a few years ago, scoring a feature-laden 65-inch TV for under $500 would have been unimaginable, but during this Black Friday season we’re seeing stupendous deals like this Vizio 65-inch M6-series TV for $459.99 at Target. That’s 36% off the regular price and a $260 total savings.
For that low price, you’re getting QLED TV with quantum dots for enhanced color plus a local dimming backlight for deep blacks. It also supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ high dynamic range, has built-in AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in for streaming, and works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s HomeKit.
Any downsides to this deal? Vizio M6-series TVs have a 60Hz display panel, not the 120Hz preferred by gamers, though the company specs input lag in Game mode at an impressive 10ms. The best 120Hz 4K TVs for gaming typically cost twice as much or more, so that’s one area where this set reveals its budget-TV nature.
You’ll also get a $25 Target gift card when you take advantage of this deal, so do check it out.
Hulu comes out swinging
Tom Power, Entertainment Reporter
Hulu‘s 2021 Black Friday deal was one of the best when it came to streaming service discounts – a 12-month subscription to the Disney-owned streamer being made available for a ridiculously low $12.
This year’s deal isn’t as good, but Hulu’s 2022 Black Friday offer is the streaming deal of the year. Right now, you can buy an annual ads-based subscription for just $1.99 per month, meaning you’ll spend less than $24 for one of the best streaming services around.
Given the surprisingly fantastic content on Hulu, that’s excellent value for money. This year, we’ve added top-tier films and TV series, such as Prey and The Bear, to our best Hulu movies and best Hulu shows list – and there are plenty of other highly-rated offerings to stream if you sign up to Hulu ASAP.
This Black Friday deal brings Samsung’s stunning projector to $599 – a record-low price
Samsung made a big splash on the projector scene when it introduced The Freestyle in early 2022. You can now buy this ultra-cool projector for just $599,99 at Samsung, a 25% savings on one of the most innovative portable models we’ve yet laid eyes on.
Black Friday TV deals may be a main draw when it comes to Black Friday deals, but we’re also starting to see a few good ones on projectors. Of these, this Samsung deal is the best we’ve seen yet, and one that brings The Freestyle to its lowest-ever price.
The Samsung sits at the top of our list of the best portable projectors, edging out even much more expensive models. As we noted in our The Freestyle review, this portable is feature-packed, with Samsung’s Tizen Smart TV interface built-in plus automatic calibration that makes the picture look good wherever you set it up. The Freestyle can project full HD images up to 100 inches, making it a perfect option for a movie night.
What kind of HDR do you need?
Matt Bolton – Managing Editor, Entertainment
HDR is a great addition to the world of TVs, adding more depth and richness to the colors and contrast of movies and TV shows. But there are four different kinds of HDR, and some are in competition with each other, so it’s needlessly confusing to navigate. So let’s make it simple. First, let’s talk about the two basic HDR types that any HDR TV includes:
- HDR10: all HDR TVs have this. It’s the basic form of HDR used on Blu-rays or streaming services. Easy!
- HLG: This is a form of HDR designed specifically for live broadcasts, such as sports. Pretty much all HDR TVs support it – it’s very rare for one not to.
Okay, now let’s talk about the complicated ones: Dolby Vision and HDR10+. These are more advanced versions of HDR that enable how the TV is handling dark and light tones to be adjusted on a scene-by-scene basis, and are designed to better represent the original high-quality versions of films that come straight from the editing suite. Basically, they look better than regular HDR.
That’s not the complicated bit; the complicated bit is that many TVs only support one of these two formats, so you have to pick.
- HDR10+: this format is used mainly on Samsung TVs. It has very little support from streaming services, but content is available from Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus and some 4K Blu-rays.
- Dolby Vision: this is slightly more advanced visually than HDR10+ (though not enough for most people to notice), but more importantly it has better support on streaming services. It’s used on Apple TV Plus, Netflix, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus and more. It’s supported on TVs from LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense and more.
As you can tell from the above, Dolby Vision is really the winner here – but there are more reasons than HDR to pick a TV. So what happens if your TV only supports HDR10+ and you watch a movie in Dolby Vision, or vice versa? The HDR falls back to being in the basic HDR10 format. So you still get HDR, just not the fancier type – nice and simple. Sort of.
A great gaming TV deal
2022 was the year that more inexpensive TVs gained HDMI 2.1 features like 120Hz display and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) along with Nvidia G-Sync and FreeSync Premium Pro support. Among them is Samsung’s Q80B series sets, which are the company’s top QLED models with a standard LED backlight.
In our Samsung Q80B review, we noted its full suite of gaming features, which includes the company’s new Game Hub, which serves as a portal to cloud gaming services from Xbox, Utomik, and Twitch. Just add a wireless controller and you’ll be ready to go! Beyond that, the Q80B offers good overall image quality for the price, which is now $200 off in this Best Buy Black Friday deal, bringing the price of a 65-inch model to $999.
A Samsung TV this feature-packed for under one grand is a deal you don’t spot everyday, so make a point of checking it out. You will get better brightness by stepping up to one of Samsung’s mini-LED backlit Neo QLED models, which sit at the top of our list of the best Samsung TVs, but you’ll also pay quite a bit more, even with current Black Friday deals.
Buying tips: does mini-LED matter?
An LED backlight in a TV was a high-tech feature at one time, but now even mainstream sets use LED backlights. What’s less common is mini-LED backlighting, where an array of tiny lamps are used to illuminate the TV’s LCD display panel.
As with quantum dots, different TV brands use different terms to indicate the presence of mini-LED backlighting in their sets. Samsung, for instance, calls its mini-LED models “Neo QLED,” while LG, Sony, TCL, and Hisense all just use the term mini-LED.
A key advantage mini-LED offers over regular LED TVs is that the smaller lamp modules used in the backlight allow for finer control over local dimming. That’s a process where the individual modules are grouped in zones and dimmed according to the brightness level of the onscreen image. For example, the LED zones in shadowy parts of the picture will be dimmed or shut off completely, while bright highlight areas get a full blast of light.
With a higher density of LED modules spread across the backlight, mini-LED TVs can also deliver higher overall brightness, with some sets like Samsung’s QN95B having twice as much or more measured light output as regular LED-lit TVs. That Samsung model is the company’s top-of-the-line Neo QLED offering, but even more affordable mini-LED TVs like the Hisense U8H series can provide almost as high peak brightness.
Where that extra light output will matter is if you’re going to be watching in a well-lit room – daytime sports viewing, for example. But it can also help bring out the full level of highlight detail in HDR sources by reducing the need for tone mapping, a process where the TV scales the brightness range of programs to accommodate its maximum light output capability.
To sum up, mini-LED can make a difference when viewing in rooms with bright lighting conditions, and it also adds a welcome level of visual punch when watching movies and TV shows with HDR. It’s a feature you’ll pay extra for, but for some folks it will be well worth it.
Do not miss this 65-inch LG C1 deal!
This is one incredible Black Friday OLED TV deal, especially for gamers, but also for movie lovers. You can now get the 65-inch LG C1 OLED TV for just $1,197 (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab) at Amazon, which is the lowest it’s ever been priced.
Amazon has listed its previous price as $2,499, which is not really correct – that was its launch price. Most recently, it cost about $1,500, which was the lowest it had even been before, so we’re still getting a 20% drop here from its previous best.
The LG C1 is a model from 2021, and when we reviewed it we gave it five stars and raved about its image quality and future-proofed technology. There’s now a newer version (the LG C2) that improves image quality further… but does it for a higher price. At just just $1,200, this catapults the LG C1 back into being excellent value.
Welcome to Black Friday, TV lovers!
The big deals day is here! Thanks for joining our live coverage of all the latest Black Friday TV deals.
We’ve been following the deals all month, so we’ve been keeping track of great deals that are still live, and new deals that have launch for Black Friday itself.
Our team of AV experts has been doing the combing through the sales, looking for discounts on TVs we rate the most (or that are just so big and juicy we have to tell you about them), and we’re bringing them here to you today.
And don’t forget streaming services too! There are some great deals going on there too, so we’ll explore those too, and why we think they’re worth buying now.