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The 6 rules of shopping for an HDTV this Super Bowl season

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Next weekend Peyton Manning will lead the Colts to a victory over the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Hot new commercials will run and there will be remembrances a-plenty about Katrina. Retailers are hoping that you witness all this on a brand new HDTV. And you might want to think about it, too. After all, right now is the best time of year to buy a high definition TV — as long as you follow these six rules.

Don’t pay the price on the tag

This is an important time of year for retailers and most will bend over backwards to get a sales. Smart negotiation is your friend. Most of the time all you need to do is say “Will you match Sears’s price? They said they would give it to me for $xxx.” Keep the statement simple and free of any stipulations like “if I take it today” or “if I pay for delivery.”

You must pre-shop for the model you want and sound like you know what you’re talking about to make this work. If the TV you want is already on sale, state a price 5% lower than what’s on the tag and 15% if the TV isn’t on sale. Don’t be greedy.

The key is to do this very early in the sale before you’re pitched accessories or the warranty. Otherwise these high-margin items will be used as leverage. You might still get the lower price, but the manager will probably tack something on as a requirement. You don’t want that. Just make sure you have a backup plan if this little game doesn’t work.

Buy for your room

Sometimes bigger isn’t always better. That 65-inch HDTV might look awesome hanging on Best Buy’s TV wall, but do you really want that monster in your livingroom? Often buyers are conned by the retail store’s high ceilings and excited salesmen into buying too much TV.

Consider how far away you’re sitting sit, the height of your ceiling, and the quality of the set you’re buying. A good rule is that if you sit eight feet or less away, buy a 46-inch or smaller TV. If your ceilings are higher than the norm, you could probably get away with a slightly larger set. Unless you’re considering buying a cheap HDTV with a sub-par picture: then you should probably go a bit smaller to compensate.

If you simply must have the largest possible set that will fit through your door, make sure it at least has an ambient light sensor that automatically dims when the room is darker. Otherwise your new HDTV will induce all sorts of headaches while making your house strobe like a laser light show at night.

Brick and mortar stores have great return policies

TVs get returned for all sorts of reasons and stores generally understand. Most do not even have restocking fees on HDTVs. So this opens up all sorts of possibilities for-the-less than honest person. There really isn’t anything stopping someone from borrowing an HDTV for Super Bowl Sunday. This isn’t something we’re encouraging here. We’re just simply pointing out what some people do…

Plan ahead if you want to wall mount the TV

Don’t expect to walk into Best Buy next week, plop down a good chunk of change, and have your TV hung on the wall by the big game. Most of the time it doesn’t work like that. Sure, some stores might be able to provide that service, but many cannot. Besides, you don’t want this done improperly, right?

Consider where all of your equipment will be located. Right now they are likely resting comfortably directly under the TV on a stand. But you’re mounting the TV on the wall, right? Do you still want a stand in your living room? If so, why not just put the TV on the stand and save the hundreds of dollars?

There are few options. First, keep the stand even though that seems a bit foolish. This is the least expensive options as the cables need to connect the TV and equipment can be relatively short. Use the top of the TV stand to display photos or flowers. Whatever.

Or you could stash the equipment somewhere else in the home like a bedroom or linen closet. They can really be placed anywhere as long as you have a remote that works on radio frequency instead of line-of-sight infrared. You really should invest into a good universal remote anyway. But this option can increase the installation cost dramatically depending on the cost of the remote and how long of a cable is needed to connect the TV to the set-top boxes. Just plan ahead.

Get your HDMI from your cable company or online

Please don’t help brick and mortar stores by buying an HDMI cable from them. They often sell the cables with a 2400% markup. It’s a dirty racket. Many times your cable company will provide an HDMI cable when you subscribe to their service and you always have the option of buying one online. Monoprice.com is a good spot.

But the cheapest option might not always be the best bet. New technology like 3D Blu-ray are often too much for some HDMI 1.3 cables to handle. If you’re planning on running this cable in the wall, opt for the more expensive and somewhat hard-to-find HDMI 1.4 certified cables. This way you won’t have to tear that cable out of the wall later down the road.

All you need is an antenna to watch the Super Bowl in HD

The Super Bowl is always broadcast on a major network. That means only an antenna is needed to pick up the HD feed. In fact, many find that over-the-air signals offer enough content that they don’t need cable or satellite. Plus, OTA HD offers a higher-quality picture than anything subscription TV can offer.

Most of the time a table-top antenna will do the trick, just don’t buy the cheapest option. Look for one that plugs into the wall for power and use this website to help fine tune its reception. Even the old aerial antennas many people still have on their houses will work.

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