Will You Pay a Price By Purchasing a “Tier Three” HDTV?
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 50Ã¢â‚¬Â 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 VizioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã‚Â 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.Ã‚Â WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seen on comparable name brand 2008 modelsÃ¢â‚¬â€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 thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not suggesting that you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t buy a tier 3 HDTV. We simply donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 VizioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Latest One Year Limited Warranty (with bold highlights added by HD GURU). For the complete VIZIO warranty go to (Vizio):
Ã¢â‚¬Å“During the one-year limited warranty period, VIZIO will provide, when needed, service labor to repair a manufacturing defect.Ã‚Â Repairs required on displays which are thirty (30) inches or larger will generally, but not always, be made Ã¢â‚¬Å“on-siteÃ¢â‚¬Â where the display is installed. However, the decision to perform and on-site repair is dependent upon the manufacturing defect and is at VIZIOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Repairs may be made with new or recertified parts, or the entire unit may be replaced with a new or re-certified unit, at VIZIOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“MAIL-IN WARRANTY REPAIR PROCEDURE
Mail-In Warranty Repair generally is performed on displays which are smaller than thirty (30) inches.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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, VIZIOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
WARRANTY REPLACEMENT PROCEDURE
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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to a Vizio spokesperson, if Vizio decides to replace your unit as per the warranty,Ã‚Â Ã‚Â VIZIO will, at its discretion, send you either a new or a Ã¢â‚¬Å“recertifiedÃ¢â‚¬Â unit. Re-certified units are ones that are used, refurbished to VIZIOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 ToshibaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s HDTV warranty. Toshiba sells aggressively priced HDTVs designed to compete with Tier 3 HDTVs. ToshibaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 26Ã¢â‚¬Â 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 26Ã¢â‚¬Â 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 TACPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
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