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LCD HDTV Prices: Buy now or later?
January 10, 2007 10:35 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about current LCD HDTV prices re: buying a set now or later?

I'm in the market for a new TV, and obviously there's no point in a new TV if it's not going to be an HDTV. I've done enough of my homework to know that for what I can spend (under $1000, preferably under $900; I'm in my twenties in New York City at a low-paying job, what can I say) my options are all going to be sub-32", LCD panels, with more than likely a maximum of 720p HD (which is going to be fine for my needs for the next couple of years; I like movies and games, but my next system's gonna be a Wii not an XBox, and I'm not plunking down the cash for a next-gen DVD drive yet). I am also somewhat knowledgeable about what kind of brightness and contrast ratios to look for, what sort of inputs I'm likely to need, etc. etc.

What I don't know anything about is pricing: prices have obviously gone down lately (especially due to the holidays), but are they poised to drop further? Could the upper end of my price range start buying me a larger or higher-res screen sometime in the next three or four months, or do we look to be at a stable price level right now?

I'm probably looking at name-brand-ish sets here, rather than Best Buy store-only-brand kinda stuff, though I haven't heard any complaints about, say, Westinghouse sets which are consistently cheaper than most brands. If you have any personal experience with brands that give the best bang-for-buck ratio or resellers to track down or avoid, I'm open to that kind of stuff too.
posted by logovisual to Shopping (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have 2 Westinghouse LCD HDTVs one 19" and one 27" I would highly recommend the brand.

From what I have heard prices should continue to drop through this year significantly. However I can't link to a document supporting this. It is just my info culled form news sources such as engadget and cnet over the past few months.

If it is not urgent I would possibly wait until Summer or you see large sales starting up.
posted by imjosh at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2007


Not to sound condescending, but as soon as you buy a TV, the prices will continue to drop.

Personally, I'd go with Samsung or LG, they are the upcoming stars of consumer electronics while Sony and Panasonic continue to outsource their production to ... Samsung or LG.

If you are going HD, you really need 30+". If you can't get a 30+" TV in your price range, don't go HD now.

Also, think about what your HD source will be. Cable, satellite, off-air? If you go with cable or satellite, you don't need an ATSC tuner in your TV, so make sure not to pay extra for it.

That being said, this Samsung 32" at J&R looks like a great deal. @ $979.

The Westinghouse stuff gets good reviews, but I haven't tried one.
posted by Argyle at 11:14 AM on January 10, 2007


Oh they'll drop further.

If you want a brand new tv hold out for a pre-super bowl sale if you are in the US.

If you don't mind owning an open box set, wait until right after the super bowl when lots of people return their fancy pants tvs that they only bought with the intention of immediately returning post super bowl.

I'm holding out for one of these mamajamas this February.

http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=4079125

Oh, another thing is actually happening as we speak to drive tv prices down. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is currently taking place. I have no hard evidence about this but this is basically where all the big electronics manufacturers get together and show the new models they are releasing for 2007. A lot of places will be shipping items from updated product lines as early as February/March and as soon as that starts to happen, last year's models drop a bit.
posted by zackola at 11:30 AM on January 10, 2007


For what it's worth, I've heard rumors about a laser-based system that's supposed to have the same sharpness and intensity as a plasma screen at half the price. I understand it's slated for a release around December '07.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:38 AM on January 10, 2007


Not that I can shed much in the way of details, but I've heard about the laser system as well. It sounds pretty fantastic, but I'd expect it not to fall into the cheap side of things when it first makes its debut. (Its something along the lines of three lasers, red, blue and green, being fired at a mirror or something to that design. I think its supposed to offer even more color resolution, as well as be less of an energy hog).
posted by Atreides at 1:07 PM on January 10, 2007


I bought a Sharp Aquos 32" TV about 18 months ago for $1100. I see that prices have dropped to about $950 on that particular set. That's less of a price drop than I was expecting. The TV itself is great, has 1080i, good crisp blacks, deals with motion very well; I mostly use it for NFL football games and as a computer monitor.

You'll want to see what kind of deal you can get from an out-of-state retailer (I bought mine via Amazon); that way, you can avoid sales tax, which in NYC is very expensive, but the shipping might be expensive.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2007


The longer you wait, the cheaper the set you want will get, that's just how consumer electronics (like most on-their-way-to-commodity items) work; the prices post-Christmas are dropping faster than usual, however, so at least wait until after February. For the same money that would have gotten me a 720p 37" in November, I can now get a 1080p 40" -- and post-Feb I expect that 1080p 40" to match the price of a 720p 37".

Don't get the full hookup yet, though; prices on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are still much too high. Wait for the standards fight to settle and prices to come down significantly. That goes for home theater systems with built-in DVD drives, as well; the upconversion ones are getting quite reasonable in price, but you'll be stuck getting a separate Blu-Ray or HD-DVD unit (or a new home theater with it integrated) later.

Finally: remember that the quality of Standard-definition signals on your new TV will vary significantly based on the source (OTA, Cable, Satellite, DVD, etc.), so do an honest assessment of your programming sources and find a store that will show you the actual picture quality from those sources (as best they can) on your selected TV before you pay for it. Odds are, you'll be so disappointed that you'll elect to wait until (a) prices are even cheaper, to make up for the mediocre SD display, (b) more programming is in HD, or (c) both.
posted by davejay at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2007


Would I be correct to assume, from the responses I've seen so far, that March is a reasonable time to be shopping in earnest? The CES goodies (which I have been ogling) should largely be on sale at that point, driving the price of previous-gen materials down, right?

I've also been getting the impression that Samsung is a good way to go in terms of brand. There seem to be some good refurb'd Samsung deals from reputable-looking resellers on Amazon, too.
posted by logovisual at 2:08 PM on January 10, 2007


What are you all whacked? There is a Westinghouse 37" for under $900.00, a Visco for $800.00, an Emerson for $800, all at Walmart. Granted not the best place for service, but hey the prices!
posted by Gungho at 2:11 PM on January 10, 2007


I just read something recently that suggested that prices for small monitors (say 19") have already gotten near the bottom, but that for 26" and up there is still room to drop this year, with the biggest drops coming to the largest sizes.
posted by caddis at 3:06 PM on January 10, 2007


You don't mention what your primary source material is. This matters if you find yourself watching a lot of SD (Standard Definition) content.

The problem is what to do with the improper aspect ratio? You can either stretch it, which makes everyone look fat, or don't stretch it. If you don't stretch it, your "widescreen" 32" television suddenly becomes a 26" television. Also, if you don't stretch and you go with a plasma, you risk uneven burning of the phosphors. Joy.

The only flat-panel display I know of that does stretch-mode correctly is a Sony WEGA -- certain models have an intelligent stretch mode that stretches the sides more than the middle of the screen. It's a compromise.

Unfortunately, the crystal-clear nature of LCDs and Plasmas reveal all the low-resolution faults of SD source material. There's no "wiggle-room." The best displays for SD material are still (drumroll) old-fashioned CRTs. Just about any reasonably modern CRT will walk all over any flatscreen--LCD or Plasma--in terms of image quality.

They do make HD CRT's--at least, Sony does. I believe they're the last real hold-out (Sharp makes an ultra-flat CRT that is no match for Sony trinitrons). I got a 36" 1080i Sony WEGA CRT after much agonizing over this (more than 50% of my TV viewing is still 4:3 aspect ratio, after all). If you can handle the weight and space required, and don't mind losing some "cool" points, there's no technology out yet that can best a direct-view CRT (not within normal human-budgetary ranges, anyway).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:09 PM on January 10, 2007


Just two quick points that don't really answer your question. I think the laser techonology referred to upthread is SED - Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display, created by Toshiba and Canon.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, I'm not sure I would accept the premise of your question - that there's no point buying a non-HD TV. If you're watching non-HD content, either because you don't want to pay for HD satellite TV, or you don't want to replace your entire DVD collection, it can look worse on an HDTV if you don't have a good upscaling chip in the TV. If you're set on HDTV, I can understand why that would be the case, but all the HDTV formats except, as CD mentions, Sony's CRT HDTVs, have drawbacks compared to CRTs, which after all look pretty damn good playing a regular DVD through component cables.

Sorry if this is a waste of time, I just wanted to encourage you to think about maybe putting off the HDTV purchase a bit, maybe until SED TVs are more available in a year or two. I can see why you wouldn't want to buy a non-HD TV at this point. But it still seems to me that HDTVs are a lot of money for TVs that still have a number of drawbacks compared to CRTs.

Take a look at this article; it sort of illustrates what I'm saying.
posted by Dasein at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2007


Meant to include this link to the Toshiba site about SED.
posted by Dasein at 10:54 AM on January 11, 2007


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