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HDTV Buying Guide 2008
High-End HDTVs Have Fewer Problems
HDTV reliability has improved markedly, analysts say. Doherty notes that most HDTV problems occur in pre-2006 sets, although owners of new rear-projection models will still have to replace expensive bulbs over time. (In our survey we asked readers to rate sets that were less than three years old.) Just a few years ago, "plasma's fan noise was an issue, as was plasma's burn-in," says IDC analyst Eric Haruki. "Neither is an issue anymore." (Burn-in refers to ghost images that stay on the screen.)
In addition, LCD TV backlights "disintegrate at a different rate over a period of time," says iSuppli's Patel. "So you might start to see some sort of shading if one backlight isn't performing as well as the others surrounding it."
Some shoppers don't mind spending more for a high-end set. Bob Mariotti of Marlborough, Connecticut, bought a 40-inch Samsung LCD set a year ago. He had anticipated paying $1000 to $1400, but wound up spending $2200 after seeing a Samsung at Best Buy. The picture quality "absolutely blew us away," says Mariotti, a bank executive. "Buy the best you can afford, and most times it'll pay for itself in satisfaction."
Vizio, unlike other vendors that fared well in our survey, doesn't sell high-end HDTVs; it focuses on affordable, if unremarkable, sets. Vizio offers "a compelling value," says Haruki. But he notes that Vizio's low-price advantage is eroding as top vendors such as Samsung and Sony reduce their prices to compete.
Vizio's partnership with Costco has helped. If Costco customers have problems with their Vizio TVs during the first three months of ownership, they can return them, no questions asked.