Will You Pay a Price By Purchasing a “Tier Three” HDTV?

December 16th, 2008 · 27 Comments · LCD Flat Panel, Plasma

There are TV manufacturing  Tier 1 companies such as Samsung and Panasonic design and market their own HDTVs. The second tier consists of secondary brands from established TV makers such as Zenith (owned by LG) and Magnavox (Philips). The third tier, including brands like Polaroid, Vizio and TruTech, are marketing ventures that use outside vendors to build their sets.

With a top three flat panel market share, Vizio is the largest and most visible “tier 3 brand. We’ve therefore chosen to spotlight its warranty policies, but they generally apply to the other tier 3 set marketers as well.

Vizio has updated its warranty policy since last year’s HD GURU investigation of tier 3 warranty and post warranty service (Disposable HDTVs pt. 1) (Disposable HDTVs pt. 2). In this post, HD GURU compares Vizio’s current warranty coverage with that of a value-priced Tier 1 Japanese brand and offers his thinking on purchasing a tier 3 HDTV.

You’ll find excerpts of Vizio and Toshiba LCD HDTV warranties at the bottom of this post. Note that while Toshiba simply states it will provide in-home service on any 26″ or larger LCD television during the one year warranty period, Vizio states it will “generally, but not always make on-site repairs on sets 30″ and larger, while smaller TVs service will be performed at a Vizio’s service center. Since last years article, Vizio has expanded its in-warranty service system by hiring an outside network of TV service centers and an independent parts distributors. Toshiba has built a national network of independent authorized service stations that use Toshiba distributed parts.  Read each company’s complete written warranty and decide for yourself, which provides better protection and greater convenience.

Why Doesn’t the HD GURU Recommend Tier 3 HDTVs?

A number of readers have asked that question. There are several reasons, listed here in no particular order.

a)PRICE– The delta (or price gap) between Vizio and a Tier 1 HDTV (i.e. Panasonic, Toshiba etc.) has narrowed significantly, in many cases to $100 or less. For example, during a recent Costco visit, HD Guru found a 50″ Vizio 1080p plasma at $1199, while the adjacent 50” 1080p Panasonic was $1299. For an additional $100 the Panasonic produces better blacks and comes with a better warranty repair policy (check out its Concierge Service at the Panasonic website).

b)QUALITY-All of the name brand tier 1 companies own their own assembly plants where they control the quality of both the parts inside and overall construction. Tier 3 companies outsource both the parts sourcing and manufacturing. Most of Vizio’s sets are built under contract by a factory in Taiwan but it also uses other contract manufacturers in China and Mexico. While this is admittedly an unscientific sample, a number of HD GURU readers report that between the 14th and 30th month of ownership (past the 12-month Vizio and other Tier 3 brand warranty period) the Vizio HDTV they purchased suffered symptoms indicating a failed power supply.  Readers also reported that the repair cost was close to or exceeded the current replacement cost of the TV. One of the most expensive parts within an HDTV is the power supply.  We’re not suggesting Vizio does this, but using a lower quality, less expensive and therefore potentially less reliable power supply is one way to cut manufacturing costs.

c)  COMPARISON– In a recent evaluation of two of Vizio’s HDTVs (Gizmodo) both units significantly underperformed a slightly higher cost Toshiba LCD. Part of the lower performance appeared due to the respective panels Vizio used. The Vizio plasma model had light black levels compared to current (2008) Tier 1 brand units. This Vizio also exhibited visual noise and more burying of black detail than what’s seen on comparable name brand 2008 models—an issue reminiscent of plasma performance from three or more years ago.
The Gizmodo tested Vizio LCD possessed a narrow viewing angle and a purplish cast in blacks when viewed slightly off dead center. I had seen this behavior exhibited on some name brand Tier 1 LCDs produced by the LCD panel makers in models made in prior years. Is Vizio (and other Tier 3 brands) using less expensive, older generation panels bought from panel maker inventory? It would appear so, but there’s no way of knowing since Vizio and other Tier 3 marketers do not disclose the source or generation of the LCD or plasma panels they use.

We’re not suggesting that you don’t buy a tier 3 HDTV. We simply don’t recommend purchasing a tier 3 HDTV because of the small differential in cost, coupled with the (generally) higher performance of the tier 1 brands.

Below are excerpts of Vizio’s Latest One Year Limited Warranty (with bold highlights added by HD GURU). For the complete VIZIO warranty go to (Vizio):


“During the one-year limited warranty period, VIZIO will provide, when needed, service labor to repair a manufacturing defect.  Repairs required on displays which are thirty (30) inches or larger will generally, but not always, be made “on-site” where the display is installed. However, the decision to perform and on-site repair is dependent upon the manufacturing defect and is at VIZIO’s option and sole discretion. Repairs required on displays which are less than thirty (30) inches generally will be performed at a Vizio service center.”


Repairs may be made with new or recertified parts, or the entire unit may be replaced with a new or re-certified unit, at VIZIO’s option and sole discretion. Replacement parts or replacement units provided under the is limited warranty are warranted for the remaining portion of the original warranty or for ninety (90) days from warranty service or replacement, whichever is later.”


Mail-In Warranty Repair generally is performed on displays which are smaller than thirty (30) inches.”
“If VIZIO Technical Support determines that a problem with a display unit may be within the terms and conditions of the VIZIO Limited Product Warranty and that a Mail-In Repair may be performed, the customer will be provided with a return authorization number and mail-in repair instructions. Proof of purchase is required to confirm the product is within the one-year limited warranty period and meets the terms and conditions of the VIZIO Limited Product Warranty.”

“The customer will be provided with instructions for packing and shipping the unit to the VIZIO service center. The original carton box and packing material, or an equivalent as designated by VIZIO, must be utilized. The cost of shipping to VIZIO’s service center is at the customer’s expense. After the product is repaired and tested or replaced, VIZIO’s service center will ship the unit back to the customer at VIZIO’s expense. VIZIO is not responsible for the de-installation or re-installation of the product. Please read VIZIO’s Limited Product Warranty for warranty terms and conditions.”



If VIZIO Technical Support determines that a problem with a display unit may be within the terms and conditions of the VIZIO Limited Product Warranty and that replacement is the appropriate solution based on the type of manufacturing defects in materials and/or workmanship (at VIZIO’s sole discretion), the customer will be provided with a return authorization number and replacement instructions. Proof of purchase is required to confirm the product is within the one-year limited warranty period and meets the terms and conditions of the VIZIO Limited Product Warranty.”

“For displays thirty (30) inches and larger, VIZIO will generally cover the transportation charges to perform an exchange of the original unit with the replacement unit. For displays smaller than thirty (30) inches, the customer is responsible for the transportation charges to VIZIO’s service center. In either case, VIZIO will be responsible for the return transportation charges from the service center to the customer. Please read VIZIO’s Limited Product Warranty for warranty terms and conditions.”

According to a Vizio spokesperson, if Vizio decides to replace your unit as per the warranty,   VIZIO will, at its discretion, send you either a new or a “recertified” unit. Re-certified units are ones that are used, refurbished to VIZIO’s standards.
The representative went on to inform me that VIZIO has supplied an independent parts distributors for warranty and post warranty parts access.

For comparison, the HD GURU checked out Toshiba’s HDTV warranty. Toshiba sells aggressively priced HDTVs designed to compete with Tier 3 HDTVs. Toshiba’s full US name is Toshiba America Consumer Products LLC (TACP). Here is an excerpt of its warranty. The complete Toshiba warranty for LCD Televisions 26” and larger can be found at (Warranty). Caps and bold are as printed by TACP.

Limited One (1) Year Warranty on Parts and Labor for LCD Televisions 26” and Larger

TACP warrants this LCD Television and its parts against defects in materials or workmanship for a period of one (1) year after the date of original retail purchase. DURING THIS PERIOD, TACP WILL AT TACP’S OPTION, REPAIR OR REPLACE A DEFECTIVE PART WITH A NEW OR REFRURBISHED PART WITHOUT CHARGE TO YOU FOR PARTS OR LABOR. During this period (boldface added by HD Guru), TACP Authorized Service Station personnel will come to your home when warranty service is required. Depending on the type of repair required, the service will either be performed in your home or the LCD Television will be taken to a TACP Authorized Service Station for repair and returned to your home at no cost to you.

Copyright ©2008 Gary Merson/HD Guru® All rights reserved. HDGURU is a registered trademark. The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission. The content within is based upon information provided to the editor, which is believed to be reliable. HD GURU is not responsible for errors or omissions.

 HD GURU|Email


27 Comments so far ↓

  • cgbarto

    If Vizio doesn’t make their own components, but tier 1 manufacturers do, then isn’t it safe to say that vizio is buying parts from the tier 1 manufacturers, since I doubt there are companies that just make panels/parts for TV’s that they don’t produce.

  • Devin

    I have been a Sony man myself for the last 8 years, mostly because of the design on their products, but as far as the quality and the reliability is concerned it turns out it does not exist. After 5 Expensive Sony Laptops (all were $3000+), 4 Sony TVs (all were $2000+ All HDTV – 1 LCD and 2 DLP and a Regular TV), 2 Digital Cameras ($400+ 6 – 10 MP) and 1 Camcorder. None lived to be 3 years old besides the regular TV that was purchased about 8 years ago. Some of these had problems while under warranty which was handled horribly by customer service, most of them crapped out usually a few months after the expiration of the factory warranty. All these hard earned cash spent on these products for the last 8 years and believe it or not I have nothing to show for, besides a laptop which crashes twice a week and an 8 year old TV which is extremely out dated. After the last Sony HDTV I Bought at Circuit City about 2 years ago crapped out on me and the experience I had with their Customer service over the phone, my long lasting troubled relationship with Sony have finally come to an end. Even though I was having one of the known Sony Optical Block issues, the only help they offered was phone numbers to the local TV repair shops, like I am incapable of locating one myself. I WILL NEVER EVER SPEND ANOTHER PENNY ON ANY SONY PRODUCTS, and I suggest you do the same if you value your Hard earned cash. After reading some reviews here on HDGuru I went ahead and purchased a 46″ Mitsubishi HDTV LT-46149 online. For the first time I have decided to go with something else.

  • Matt

    I can’t help but laugh when i read posts of people pitifully defending their thriftful nature in saying that vizio makes a good television. Most of the idiots who are impressed with their vizios have no idea what a good HDTV looks like. You are comparing a company who spends ZERO dollars are research and developement. They don’t even make their own parts. They subcontract their parts to manufacturers who will produce them for the lowest price. How do you think they could possibly cost so much less than name brands and still have the advertising budget that they have? Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and LG all spend millions of dollars on research and development. EVERY single film that is made in hollywood is edited on a Sony CRT monitor. Samsung is the the top selling flat panel manufacturers in the world. Samsung makes the lcd screens that goes into their own tvs AND Sony’s. AND Not only could you get an LG for the same price as a VIZIO if you are good at bargaining. LG Makes more LCD screens than any other company in the world. If Vizio doesn’t make any of the products that go into their own TVs then how could they possibly be better than the name brand?

  • Mike

    I have had two Samsungs in less then 3 years both of them have had serious issues. The picture went black on the first one before the year was up. After many calls and emails they replaced with another piece of crap that only lasted a little over a year. I have been fighting with the warranty company for over six months to have it fixed. You call Samsung tier 1? I disagree.

  • George

    The warranty policy is not a significant issue, considering the low rate of failures. ConsumerReports gives the repair history of tv brands, and the failure rate is in the low single digits, between 1 and 7% for the brands they report. This is over the life of the set.

    To see the effect of this on the true cost, take the example given, with a vizio costing 1200 and a panasonic costing 1300. You have a 3% chance of having to replace the vizio, so the expected cost is 1200*1.03 = 1236, which is still less than the base price of the panasonic. The Panasonic’s improved warranty policy is not worth the extra $100, even if it were a lifetime guarantee.

    Regarding the quality argument, I suggest you take a look at the CR repair histories (which is a scientific sample) and see if the differences in repair rates are significant to you.

  • maxnix

    Just viewing the 2nd and 3rd tier displays side by side with Tier 1 manufacturers should be enough for most prospective purchasers.

    If you you go Panasonic plasma, the professional ones are better than all but a few of the best consumer ones.

    Only newbie consumers buy displays with speakers.

  • anon

    brent: how can Samsung charge you for the repair if your LCD was purchased only 9 months old, presumably in new condition?

  • brent

    bought a 40 in. samsung lcd 9 months ago and never had a problem until the picture turned into a flannel striped t-shirt.i called samsung they sent a repairman to my house and it will cost me $1,400 to fix. I threw it out in the road and bought a 47″ lcd vizio ,we’ll see how that goes.

  • Chris

    I see many comments for and against tier 3s, but it’s all personal opinion. ANY tv can look good in your home, even vizio and olevia. My wife knows nothing about tv’s and thinks the vizion looks fine at wal-mart. For a living I install high end residential high end audio video equipment. Unless you know what you are looking for such as, pixelation in high motion (think football games), the x.v.ycc color gamut (1.8 times as many colors), then it won’t matter to you. My parents are the best example…My dad cannot tell the difference between his 37″ Olevia tv and my 50″ Pioneer Elite. If you aren’t looking for the differences or they don’t matter to you..then buying a “third tier” tv won’t matter either. What everyone has to remember is that this guy is the “HD GURU” who looks for the good, bad, and ugly in tv’s…it’s his job. He will notice things quicker than the avg joe.

  • 50 lcd hdtv

    I bookmarked your blog, thanks for sharing this very interesting post

  • tracy

    To HDGuru and who ever:

    All tv,s have problems big ones little ones name brand ones no name ones I picked up a new sony bravia 46″ lcd Model kdl-46xbr6 I dont know why have never like sony as soon as i pluged it in i saw pixels out boxed it up took it back full refund and belive it or not stopped at sears and looked at most of the tvs they had and found the samsung 46″ 850 series had the best pic and only paid 2199.00. The sony cost me 2799.00 so my point is most of the time how much you spend makes a difference but not always. you have a 50/50 chance the tv blows up when you plug it in.

  • John

    This is a response to HDGuru:

    Even the tier manufacture’s have had sets that have ranged Poor, good, very good etc.

    Cnet’s latest ratings in which they have changed their sytesms to star’s instead of numbers you will see it’s XVT 42 inch and it’s new 50 inch XVT Plasma, it’s VO32L and it’s VO37JOF have scored very well garinshe 4.5 stars and a “Very Good” rating.

    Has every Sharp,LG, toshiba scored in the top range on every model? No. but you don’t print that.
    I know you don’t like the company for whatever reason but you seem to skew information to your agenda.

    And I still don’t see why you have nick picked the verbage of Vizio’s warranty when several Tier 1 warranty’s have the same or similiar verbage, such as Samsungs. In their Warranty it clearly states that in house service is not available in some area’s and also clear mentions that the unit may have to go back to Samsung for repairs.
    I do think you have a double standard and for whatever reason Vizio just rubs you the wrong way and I do believe are out to get them.

  • tv guy

    Have to give my vote for Vizio. The 32″ one I own has been rock solid. It just works.

    I can’t say the same for the Sony 27″ I used to own before or with all the horror stories I hear about Samsung HDTVs.

    The panels and PCBs get made in the same factories, and it boils down to the software the manufacturer cooks up and which “batch” of televisions each manufacturer gets.

    Cheap prices tend to equal lower warranties. The same thing happened in PCs, HP makes really cheap printers which only have 90 day warranties instead of being more expensive with a 365 warranty.

  • John

    HD Guru is unbelivable. Samsung who he calls tier one has the exact same warranty policy as Vizio. From the 30 in and over have inhouse to not every set may not be fixable on site. And even goes on to say that in home service is not available in all areas.

    check it out. Now do you think HDguru will call out Samsung on this? Of course not. Vizio actually has a better warranty service and He calls them out on it.

    With Vizio having such an impact on sales and were a large part, before this recession, in the big boys lowering their prices and obivizosly has made the big boys not too happy.
    I’m starting to wonder if HD guru is looking out for us or for the Samusng, Sony’s of the world. He is trying his to best to do his part in hurting Vizio and their sales.

    Please HD Guru call out Samsung on their Warranty policy. Fair is fair or only when if does’t pretain to a “Tier 1” brand.

    This is unbelievable.

  • John

    What is HDGuru’s deal with Vizio, it’s amazing he just has soo much dislike for them. He cherry picks Gizamdo for a review but doesn’t look at Cnet’s or Consumer Report’s or even PC World which has given alot of their sets very strong reviews.

    There warranty is on par with the big boys why he is nick picking them, I have no idea.

    After I wrote the Disposable HDTVs article last year, Vizio revised its warranty, resulting in the article above. Checking all the 2007 & 2008 CNET’s reviews on Vizio HDTVs you’ll see they range from a 2½ to a 3½ star rating.  Samsung (a tier one HDTV maker) comes in at 3½ to 4 stars at CNET. Consumer Reports latest tests consistently rated Samsungs higher than Vizios in the same size class.


  • Kyle

    I have had my Vizio for about a year now and absolutely no problems with it. Thinking about upgrading when the 55 inch LCD comes out. Vizio’s really do offer Tier 1 quality for a competitive price.

  • Jim

    I still say you can get away with a lower tier plasma! But LCD you must buy the best brands or you will not be happy!

  • Nic

    so begs the question…Should we get the store warranty?

  • Josh

    Pioneer, Panasonic or Samsung all the way!

  • Brad Slack

    I have a Gateway Plasma (one of the first), a 37″ VIZIO, and a Panasonic.

    The Vizio is the greatest TV ever invented… It has the greatest bang for the buck, is cheap, easy to install, light weight, and does everything I need it to do.

    I CAN afford just about any TV on the market – but for my money I will go with VIZIO every time. They have earned my business with the performance of the 37″ that I bought.

    The best thing that I love about it is when the Jone’s come over and look down on the brand…. PC magazine rate it as one of the top TV’s in the US market? Sony should be scared.

    And people that are reading this should really appreciate that VIZIO brought down your SONY LCD TV from 15K to 2K.

  • Hammer

    What tier is Westinghouse refurbished? I see their 47″ 1080P set pretty cheap!

  • matt

    Did anyone call out Lou Ramirez, the first post, 20 months is outside your warrenty for your Sony so of course you didn’t get any help. The point was that while under MFG warrenty you don’t get as good of service or workmanship from the teir 3. Hence your Vizio broke in 10 months. You just proved the point about workmanship with your attempt at giving Vizio good comment, and the fact that you got in-home service means you’re one of the luck ones.

  • John V

    A note about the warranty thing. A very awesome part about buying your new HDTV from Costco, which is almost always price competitive to large online retailers, is that they extend your warranty for another year for free.

  • John

    ust purchased the new panasonic 50″ 800u with the thx. I am not all that impressed with the picture quality. I believe I should have went with the 850 series samsung lcd. the 850 lcd was hooked upped with bluray, Wall-e in deep, dark space…..best picture in the whole store!

  • Frank

    I just recently had an issue with my Vizio TV. I had a Vizio HDTVP5010A and upon buying it I was doing your typical “I’m getting just the same quality for less”, well a year later and the infamous Pop of Death occurred. I eventually got a full reimbursement from place of purchase and went with the Panasonic 80U (I know the 85U is out but I couldn’t afford the extra $500).

    All I have to say is, there was a distinct difference in the quality of the TVs. No more banding issues, viewing angle issues, burn in issues (was really bad on the vizio), and more. Not to mention the overall quality of the picture was much better.

  • Jeremy

    I purchased a Panasonic 50″ 1080P 700U model from Circuit City in the Fall of 2007. About 1 month before the 1 Yr. warranty expired the TV started to display yellow streaks cross the bottom 25% of the screen. I setup a service call on Panasonic’s website on a Friday night – I gotta call on Sunday (!) afternoon from a local service center.

    They ended up coming out 3X replacing various boards that improved but did not fix the problem. After which Panasonic simply replaced my 700U with the newer 800U which included 24p and THX modes and a higher contrast ratio. The shocking thing to me was that this was a BRAND NEW unit with a October 2008 sticker on it. Not a penny out of my pocket.

    It took roughly 3-4 weeks from call in, to get the new set but regardless the local service center made it as painless as possibly and were extremely nice. Panasonic also had great follow up.

    I’m sticking with Panasonic for life.

    My 32″ HP 720P LCD I purchased from Best Buy for $700 last year as well is a piece of crap. Horrible ghosting, poor image quality and just an overall horrible TV. $700 today would get me a very nice 32″ and even a 40″. Just goes to show you – research research research.

  • Lou Ramirez

    I have had a couple of LCDs now and I have found the opposite in my experience. My first one was a Sony and it worked fine until 20 months in and it crapped out no warning, nothing. Called them and after much putting me on hold and hanging up – they said they would send someone to my house and that was the last I ever heard from them. They provided lots of promises and delivered nothing. I picked up a 32″ Vizio 10 months ago and had a problem that I called them about. Not only was the person I spoke to informed, but they did actually come to my house fixed it and I didn’t get charged at all. In my book that’s tier 1 worthy.

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