(October 4, 2010) With the leaves beginning to turn to their autumn colors, the HDTV retailers are gearing up for the holiday season. This year, conditions are markedly different. Inventories are higher than anticipated, due to slower than expected sales throughout 2010 while LCD panel production capacity is at an all time high. The set makers heavily pushed LED (LCD) backlit sets over traditional CCFL LCDs, adding many higher priced models to the mix, while recession cautious buyers opted for less expensive TVs. With big screen sizes (50″ and above) plasma continues to offer a very significant price advantage over LCD, shiftingÃ‚Â smart price conscious consumers to plasma over the higher priced LCD and LED (LCD) models.
To combat the overall softness of the HDTV market, Best Buy plans a three-prong approach according to CEO Brian Dunn at last week’s press event. Expect a combination of Ã‚Â lower prices, bundles with services (such as free delivery and installation) and equipment package deals to ramp up sales.
The Plasma-LCD Price Gap
According to industry marketing research firm DisplaySearch the price gap as of August 2010 between 60Hz LCD (1080p) and a 50″ 1080p PDP (plasma display panel) module pricing is a whopping $214. A module is the panel with all required optical filters and power supplies and excludes all other components (signal processing, input board, bezel, back panel, tuner etc.) The module pricing gap between 720p PDP and 1080p LCD is $303.
This translates to retails plasma pricing at the lowest prices ever. Best Buy recently offered its Insignia 720p plasma TV on sale for $399. Sixth Ave Electronics is currently selling (at its brick and mortar stores) the Panasonic 42″ TCP42C2 720p plasma model for $397.95 and the 50″ 720p TCP50C2 plasma for just $548.95. They are also advertising the 1080p LG 50PK250 plasma for $787.95 and the 58″ Panasonic TCP58S2 1080p plasma HDTV for $1198.
By comparison, the lowest priced 52″ LCD we find on Amazon is the Sharp LC52LE810UN for $1480.44.
LED (LCD) backlit HDTVs offer two advantages over conventional LCD (with CCFL backlighting), lower power consumption and (usually) a thinner form factor. Inherently the change to LED lighting does not produce a better picture. The disadvantage of LED was significantly higher pricing, although many LED models include one or more high end features such as 1080p, Internet streaming services and 120 HZ (or higher) refresh rates when compared to a number of entry level CCFL LCDs. Recently, vendors and retailers have made large downward price adjustments to LED HDTVs, especially in the under 50″ screen size category. For example, the LG 32LE5400 retails for $1200 and is now one-half price at Amazon at $599.99.
Best Buy is advertising in this week’s flyer the 46″ 120 Hz Samsung LED model UN46C6300 at $1299.99 a $400 reduction off its regular price. Amazon currently offers the same model at $1149 with free shipping, representing a savings of over 32%. Keep in mind even with these huge price reductions, the difference in price between conventional LCD and LED LCD will likely be greater than the lifetime electricity savings.
For readers on a tight budget, consider a 720p HDTV. We have begun to see 32″ LCD promotional brands such as Coby, Curtis and Spectre drop below the $299 price point. Name brand products are appearing for under $350. For example, the Panasonic TCL32X2 is $349.88 with free shipping from Amazon. This is a savings of over 33% from retail.
If you are sitting at the typical 9 feet distance from your TV, you will not perceive the resolution improvement by choosing a 1080p set over 720p with a 32″ or smaller display. Consult our viewing distance chart to determine of if a 720p HDTV may be right for you
Plasma HDTV offers the best value in large screen sizes and prices have dropped considerably within the last month. LG, Panasonic and Samsung make them. Screens begin at 42″ and are also offered in the 46″, 50” 54″, 58″ 63″ and 65″ sizes (depending on make and model). The 42″ and 50″ are available as a 720p or 1080p display, while all screen sizes are offered as “Full HD” 1080p.
Plasma HDTVs offer a wider viewing angle than any LED or LCD and have excellent contrast with deep blacks and fine color accuracy. They provide full motion resolution, something only the 240Hz LEDs can do. Ã‚Â Image retention called “burn-in” is not a problem or issue (it hasn’t been for years under normal home settings), contrary to what some persons may tell you to move you into a higher priced LCD or LED. Plasma TV also provide excellent motion resolution, an issue with 60Hz and 120 Hz LED and LCD
LEDs are more energy efficient, however the price gap between the two technologies is so large we doubt a typical user will realize payback over the lifespan of the TV (figure roughly a $20-$25 year savings) versus $500 or more price gap. For example, the top of the line 2D Panasonic 46″ plasma, the TCP46G25 is priced at $999.65 with free shipping from Amazon versus the 120Hz top of the 2D line Samsung UN46C6500 LED for $1499.Ã‚Â Both have a full set of features including Internet applications.
3D TV Bundles
The holiday bundling of 3D HDTVs with 3D glasses andÃ‚Â Blu-ray players along with significant price drops began last week and will continue with various promotions throughout the holiday season.
Panasonic just launched its TCP46GT24 bundle at Costco Warehouse club. Priced at $1699.99 the 46″ 3D ready plasma HDTV is identical to the GT25 series sold at retailers, with the only difference is the inclusion of one pair of 3D glasses inside the box, according to a Panasonic spokesperson. The bundle throws in a two more pairs of 3D glasses, Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray discs within the “Essentials Kit” and the Panasonic DMP-BDT105 player at no additional charge. Costco has the 3D player priced separately at $219.99 and the Essentials at $229.99.
Samsung is offering its 55″ 3D LED HDTV UN55C7000 for $2499.97 as a bundle that includes two pairs of 3D glasses, How to Train Your Dragon 3D disc and its BDC6800 Blu-ray player. Separately it was priced at $3980, the bundle represents a savings of $1480 off the “regular” Best Buy price. The bundle is not currently offered on Amazon, with the TV priced the same $2499 as Best Buy.
*Amazon prices are as 10/4/10 and are subject to change.
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