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12/17/2004 Archived Entry: "How Much For Just The TV?"
Posted by CKL @ 11:14 AM PST

Here's your sticker shock moment for the day. Maybe you should sit down first. Are you sitting comfortably? Right.

It will cost at least six thousand dollars for me to upgrade to HDTV.

Not going to happen anytime soon, obviously, but I did some research this month because I was shopping for related home theater accessories (an A/V receiver; I chose the Denon AVR-2805). And I can now report, with confidence, that HDTV is still way too freakin' expensive.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Here are the criteria I used for my research:

  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 widescreen. This may seem obvious, but there are 4:3, direct-view (CRT) HDTVs out there. Why you'd want one of these, I don't know.
  • Screen size: At least 40" diagonal. My current set is a 40" widescreen (but not HDTV), and I'm not willing to downsize.
  • Native resolution: 720p == 1280 x 720 pixels, progressive (non-interlaced) scan. This immediately eliminates any CRT-based rear-projection sets, since they convert everything to 1080i (1920 x 1080 pixels, interlaced scan). Dude, if I'm going to go HDTV, I'm not going to settle for an interlaced display. Motion artifacts really bug me. (There is one 1080p set on the market today, made by Mitsubishi, but it's huge-- 82" diagonal-- and the list price is-- are you still sitting down?-- $20,000. Not a typo: TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. That's insane.)
  • Display type: DLP microdisplay. No screen door or burn-in effects like LCD, and not as ridiculously expensive as plasma. My life doesn't revolve around black levels. Newer DMDs reduce rainbow artifacts significantly.
  • Tuner: Don't need one. I just want a monitor. Input will come from TiVo, DVD player, Xbox, or VCR, and HDTV signal tuning/decoding will eventually happen upstream, probably in a satellite receiver box. By the same token, I also don't care about built-in speakers-- I'll use my own audio setup, thank you.
  • Services: Professional, ISF-certified calibration by Robert Busch of Busch Home Theater. He's worked on my last two primary televisions, and is worth every penny. If you're going to spend thousands of dollars to get a big-screen TV, you can cough up a few hundred more to get it calibrated by a professional.
  • Accessories: DirecTV HD receiver with TiVo. I don't watch live TV, so this is a necessity. I'd probably want more storage, too, so why wouldn't I get the 600GB unit from Weaknees? Well, maybe because the box itself costs $1,500, not including any subscription fees. Or because it won't do HMO. Or because I'd have to endure the hassle of switching from Dish Network to DirecTV. Sigh.
  • Other: Of course, once we have an HDTV in the house, I'll want to upgrade the secondary, bedroom TV, too...
Okay, so maybe it'll only be around $4,000 if I don't get a second HDTV for the bedroom, and stick with my standalone Series2 TiVo. That's still an awful lot of money.

The funny thing is, I emailed the aforementioned Robert Busch to ask his opinion of some sets that looked good to me-- 50" DLP HDTVs that retail for around $3,000-- and he suggested I look at the InFocus ScreenPlay models instead. Price? Starting at $6,000.

Definitely not going to happen anytime soon.

Replies: 3 comments

Here's a new wrinkle: while searching the web for more information about the InFocus ScreenPlay 50md10, I found this tidbit in a CEDIA 2004 report:

"Identical models are also available from RCA Scenium in their Profiles line (HD50THW263 & HD61THW263). RCA provides manufacturing prowess and InFocus provides the light engine technology. Each company offers the models in different markets so they donít compete with each other..."

I searched some online stores, and darned if the RCA sets didn't look exactly the same as the InFocus sets! Still, appearances (especially product images on yahoo stores) can be deceiving. So I emailed the manufacturers, and here's what InFocus customer service said:

"InFocus and RCA were in partnership in designing our SP50MD10 and SP61MD10. Theirs is the RCA Scenium PROFILES W263 Series. I do not know what their model numbers are. We both are selling the product, but the TV's themselves are exactly the same."

So it looks like I can get the same set from RCA for $2,000 less than from InFocus. Too good to be true? Well, not really, since it's still four thousand freakin' dollars. But it is getting closer to reasonable. (Thought I was going to say "fine," didn't you?)

Posted by CKL @ 03/01/2005 11:08 AM PST

An interesting new development: InFocus has lowered the *list* price of their ScreenPlay 50md10 to $4k.

The 61" version of the same set has also dropped to $5k. Does this mean they're preparing to launch a new and shinier successor product? If so, when will that happen, and will these older models drop even lower in price then?

Even with the price drop, I can still get the RCA HD50THW263 (which InFocus swears up and down is the same hardware; see previous comment) for about $400 less than the InFocus SP 50md10. Am I going to do it? Not yet. Maybe after we get that new car we've been talking about.

We need the car more than the TV, but it's just so much *easier* to shop for a TV. It's even more money-- at least $20k, probably, if we go for a new hybrid like the Prius-- which means bank loans and other hassles.

I sometimes dream of just walking into a car dealership with a suitcase of cash. But they probably wouldn't be so amused.

Posted by CKL @ 04/12/2005 12:13 PM PST

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