Is Now a Good Time to Buy a TV? 5 Shopping Tips

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When it's time to buy a high-definition TV, 3D is the last thing many consider. Price is first – and most prices are at a two-year high.

A recent report from J.D. Power and Associates says the much-hyped 3D feature in new high-definition TVs is the last thing people worry about. Price is first.

Here are the top nine reasons why people choose a certain TV, according to the report…

  1. Price (75 percent say this is a reason)
  2. Brand reputation (60 percent)
  3. Positive reviews (37 percent)
  4. Experience with brand (36 percent)
  5. Quality construction (33 percent)
  6. Availability (31 percent)
  7. Style (29 percent)
  8. Ease of use (21 percent)
  9. 3D capability (11 percent)

The report, which surveyed more than 1,000 people who bought an HDTV in the past year, also ranked brand satisfaction – Vizio, Sharp, and LG did best. But if price is the primary concern, is now a good time to buy?

Actually, no.

What the market looks like

Market research firm iSuppli released a report on July 30 that says the average price for a flat-screen TV is at its highest in 2 1/2 years.

“Pricing for U.S. flat-panel televisions reached $1,224 during the second quarter, up a healthy 3 percent from $1,190 in the previous quarter,” says iSuppli.

And 3D is part of the reason. Even though most people don’t seem to care about it.

“The climb in U.S. flat-panel TV prices is attributed to market gains in retail among new sets sporting advanced technologies, such as 3D, integrated interactivity and light-emitting diode (LED) backlight technology used in LCD TV sets,” said tech analyst Edward Border.

Display Search, another research group, doesn’t expect prices to drop much through the end of the year:  “Average LCD TV selling prices are only expected to decline 4 percent in 2012 compared with 6 percent erosion in 2011 and 10 percent erosion in 2010.”

Firm director Paul Gagnon blames lower worldwide demand and “economic uncertainty” for the stubborn pricing. But the group expects 74 percent more 3D TVs shipping by year’s end than last year, and prices to start dropping afterward.

“After a very slow start in North America, adoption is expected to improve as the premiums fall, availability grows, and accessories like glasses decrease rapidly in cost,” Display Search says.

What if I want to buy now?

If you don’t want to wait until next year or Black Friday to save cash, iSuppli has one idea: Buy a smaller TV.

One big exception to high prices “was the continued price decline of the ever-popular 32-inch TV sector. By the second quarter, the average price of the set was just $435, down from $495 in the first quarter,” says iSuppli. Another: 42-inch LCDs, which “plunged to an all-time low of $761.”

If those sizes won’t do, take these five shopping tips from J.D. Power and Associates…

1. Remember the accessories. Be sure to include in your TV budget accessories such as HDMI and component cables, mounting hardware, adapters, a universal remote control, and a TV stand or cabinet. These items often can add hundreds of dollars to the total cost, and in some cases all together may match the price of the TV itself.

2. Take careful measurements. TVs are available in almost any size, from a screen that fits in the smallest corner of your house to one that covers a large wall. Before you buy, think about and measure where you will display the TV and the screen size you will need based on how far you will be sitting from the TV when you watch it.

3. Consider colors and resolution. Different people prefer varying levels of brightness, contrast, and resolution of the TV screen. Some HDTVs produce unnaturally bright colors, and some viewers may not prefer them. One test of a TV’s picture or color quality is its “black-level performance,” as measured by the contrast ratio (the higher the number, the better). Generally, those that show the blackest blacks are best.

4. Consider glossy versus matte screen finishes. If you are using the television in a room that often has excessive ambient light, then a matte screen may be a better choice, as it tends to cut reflections that can be distracting.  Yet, many matte screens can also mute colors to some degree, compared to glossy screens. Glossy screens are best used in darker rooms where ambient light can be controlled, as they tend to produce more vivid colors.

5. Don’t pay for unnecessary features. Don’t pay extra for “bells and whistles” that you think you may never use. If you’re satisfied with a basic TV, spend your money on size and picture quality, and not extra features. Even plain TVs sometimes have great features.

Stacy Johnson

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