The buying group says holiday shoppers may regret buying a lower-end HDTV.
When high demand for HDTVs meets tightened consumer spending, the result is huge sales figures for cheap brands of flat panel televisions. But holiday shoppers should be cautious when considering purchasing a low-end HDTV to save a few hundred dollars this season says, David Berman, director of training and public relations for the Home Theater Specialists of America.
According to Berman, the primary methods low-end manufacturers use to cut manufacturing costs are to remove key technologies and features that reduce performance, reliability, and service. They install lower quality processing engines, pair them with displays that can’t handle a full HD signal, and offer a warranty that makes it nearly impossible to repair the TV or have it replaced, even at a reasonable cost.
Like the engine of a car, the power behind the processing engine determines the level of the TVs performance, measured by the quality of the picture. Processing engines take every incoming signal that is not the same type as the native display of the TV, and converts it to the TV’s display type. For example, a standard DVD player outputs at 480i or 480p. The processing engine upconverts that signal for compatibility with a TV that shows 1080p. This upconversion process requires a superior processing engine which does cost more money. Put a cheaper one into a TV and manufacturing costs drop considerably. Berman advises that when looking at price tags, remember that you’ll get what you pay for.
HDTV in its best accepted standard has a pixel count of 1920 X 1080, producing a 1080p picture with 2,073,000 pixels, approximately. That’s techno-speak for a drop-dead gorgeous, lifelike picture. Many of the TVs being dumped this holiday season are limited to 1366 X 768, producing a picture with approximately 1,000,000 pixels. That’s less than half the pixel clarity of a true HDTV and only about 10% of all HD programming comes across in this format.
Warranties on many cheaper HDTV models make repairs nearly impossible. Limited warranty periods may mean your TV can’t be repaired after the warranty period without substantial cost. Some manufacturers require you to pay to ship the TV back to the warehouse, in the original box, which could cost as much as $400. If you don’t have the original packaging, you’ll have to buy it from them. In the end, it might be more economical to buy a new TV altogether.
“To get the experience most people are looking for when they decide to buy an HDTV, they should expect to spend a little more,” says Berman. “You simply cannot get high quality and high definition for half the price that trusted manufacturers charge. Each element of an HDTV is vital to the quality of the picture, and to skimp on any one piece of the equation will compromise it.”
To help consumers, HTSA has published a list of their favorite flat panel models for this holiday season:
* Limited Edition Sharp Aquos LCD
* Pioneer Kuro
* Sony Bravia XBR7 and XBR8