Flat Panel Flu

Like a whole lot of other gadget freaks (this one included), the Blogfaddah has come down with a serious case of Flat Panel Flu. He’s been shopping around for a medium-sized screen, and asks,

But my main sense is that this is a purchase where waiting a few months is probably likely to lead to big improvements on the price-performance curve. Or are we past that phase now? Any advice?

I’ve been following plasma and LCD screens since the first time I saw one (on sale for $15,000, if memory serves), and I think the answer to Glenn’s question is still, “If you can stand it, wait a while longer.” Cheapskate guru Clark Howard is on record predicting that large flat-panel television prices are going to drop by as much as 50% by the end of this year, and there are industry analysts who agree with him.

Personally, I’m still waiting it out. The price-for-screen-size I’m looking for isn’t here quite yet, but I think I’ll be taking the plunge before 2006. Ed Driscoll has written quite a bit about this technology profesionally, and anybody interested could do worse than checking out Ed’s archives.


20 Responses to “Flat Panel Flu”

  1. Webster Says:

    These are the times that try men’s souls.

  2. Frank Martin Says:

    Never pay more than about $1000 for any technology that has a shelf life of less than 24 months. Plasma and flat panel technology can be said to be “new and improving”, not “old and maturing”. No matter what you get, in two years you will be outclassed by something that does twice what you have today at half the cost.

    ( Once upon a time,I watched people willingly pay 1000 dollars for a “Compact Disk” player because it was “sooooo coool” now they give practically them away. The same is true of DVD players. It just goes to show you how the mighty do fall…)

    For the main room, I have a sony HDTV rear projection screen, it works perfect, it cost 1100. In the office I use an Infocus projector, it cost $800 and after work hours it serves as an HDTV projector. It also works perfect and since its “dual use” its easier to justify.

    I do crave a big screen plasma flat panel screen, but as long as the content I’m watching is the same 25 cent tv shows that are made today,Im in no hurry, it will get here, and in the not too distant future, 56 inch plasma HD will be available for “about a thou”.

    My biggest complaint about the flat panel HDTV isnt the screen itself or its cost, its that there is not enough content out there that actually makes the screen worthwhile. Spending 5,000 dollars to watch black and white reruns of twilight zone doesnt seem to make a whole lotta sense.

  3. armchairgenius Says:

    I would definitely wait. First, prices will come down significantly in the next year or so. Second, and more importantly, most people don’t know that flat panels/plasmas have significantly poorer quality of pictures. So you are basically paying more for a lower quality of product.
    I guess if you really need that extra foot of space it might be worth it, but personally I am a big believer in projection and tube televisions until the quality of flat screens goes up and the prices goes way down.

  4. Joel B. Says:

    In any event it might not be a bad idea to “invest” in an ATI HDTV Wonder card, or a ATSC STB. If you have the space (like a media niche) a CRT RPTV are almost always going to be the way to go. Cheaper better blacks. Typically a good lifespan (if you avoid burn-in). You just have to have the space…wouldn’t work nearly as well in a bedroom. Then a LCD or Plasma makes more sense.

  5. Will Collier Says:

    First of all, everything Frank said regarding “buy now, regret later” is completely correct. That understood, I’ve just never been a big fan of projection sets of any technology. Yes, DLP looks really good compared to traditional rear projection, and it’s definitely better in price terms compared to the “flats,” but to my eyes, even DLP still has that washed-out projection look, and the limited viewing angle drives me nuts.

    Thus, I’m still in the direct-view camp. My next “major” set will be some flavor of flat panel, since I’ve already maxed out on CRT size, and I’d rather have all that extra space back. I’m not as worried about making the transition from “regular TV” to an HD screen, because all my SDTV comes in digital now and gets routed through my ReplayTV (740 x 480 resolution), and in theory should look as good as a standard DVD when played back through the component inputs of a newer screen (I’m using S-video on a 10-year-old Toshiba now, and it looks great)–but I’ll certainly be testing that theory before I buy anything.

    But like I said above, I haven’t found anything in Flatland that’s hit my price-spot yet, so…

  6. William Young Says:

    I’m guessing that it’s not a real money issue for Glenn, and what he’s really looking for is advice on which panel to purchase.

    If it gets better and cheaper by the end of the year, Glenn isn’t going to be weeping he wasted his money. Rather, he’ll move the old panel TV to the guest bedroom and get a new one for the main viewing room.

    Most people don’t have the visual skills to notice the difference in performance of these products, so telling them to wait until something “significantly” better and cheaper comes along isn’t a real help.

    Someone just tell Glenn which one is better and let’s move along.

  7. Michael Tinkler Says:

    You just said magic words – “Clark Howard.” I’ll wait.

  8. dan Says:

    I think its more of an “lets get a lot of Amazon referral links in fron of the Punditers.”

  9. Mike Says:

    A few months ago I spent $1800(Good Guys were selling them at cost) and I bought a 42″ plasma tv. By the end of the first night a pixel had already burned out. The sound was the worse I had ever heard from a TV and for watching normal TV, which is about 90% of my TV use. Coming in from a coax there was no increase in picture qualty over a regular TV, though it was nice to see Laurie Dhue’s face on a screen that big. I also bought it for ease of moveability, which being a college student I tend to do a lot, but then was told I can’t lay it down flat, so that plus went out the window also

    Hence I returned it the very next day. Went to Costco and got a 36″ Toshiba TV and it has been the best purchase I’ve ever made. As long as you don’t run your cable through a cable box/satelite receiver then this thing is loaded with such cool picture in picture features that it makes it extremely worth it. It also has enough connections in the back that it allows for any sort of connection that you want to set up for your home entertainment system. I have my satelite receiver connected with Monster Componenet cables and the picture looks great.

    So maybe I just had a bad experience with Plasma TV’s but until I can be assured that screen won’t likely burn out right away or any of my other gripes will be dealt with I won’t be getting one anytime soon.

  10. michael Says:

    HDTV is like computers used to be – much better equipment at the same price *real soon now.* The difference is that with HDTV, you can see one of the end points – resolution. 1080px1920 screens will be where most sets settle and then it’ll be a matter of what technology can deliver the best image for the buck.

    This past January’s CES showcased a lot of different 1080p solutions, DLP being the front runner. Those sets should be hitting the market within the next few months.

    The washed out look of current gen DLP chips that Will dislikes is supposed to have been addressed with TI’s new DLP chip which boasts a fivefold improvement in contrast ratios. But DLP is still going to be a tech that has a narrower viewing angle than CRTs do. So for some of us, 34″ will be enough in which case CRTs will be the model of choice simply because it delivers the absolute best image. For some of us who want bigger screens, I’m betting DLP will end up taking the lion’s share of sales.

  11. richard mcenroe Says:

    Joel B

  12. jmaster Says:

    There are some major LCD plants ramping up now that are going to change the dynamics of this market drastically. Plasma folks are dropping their prices now in a pre-emptive mode. LCD manufacturing is progressing a little more slowly than some predicted, but it

  13. Mike Daley Says:

    Who cares, the Australian Grand Prix is on live at the Speed Channel.
    Get with what’s important!

  14. Joel B. Says:

    Yikes! I meant cheaper sets, and far blacker black projection, that’s the washed out affect people complain about(usually). CRTs usually look bad at Big Box retailers because they are given the worst floor space and lighted improperly. This is logical because the CRTs have less margin on them. Generally a CRT, however, will give you the best picture, and definately the best picture at best price.

  15. Frank Martin Says:

    I have to say I too was skeptical about projectors in the beginning. In fact, my biggest issue when I bought one was what the return policy would be. Once I was satisfied that I could “try before I buy” it made the experiment that much easier to take. I went through 4 vendors offerings before settling on the Infocus. Infocus has a reputation in the field as a good traveling projector for presentations. Since I bought mine last year, they have both upped the number of lumens and increased the bulb hours, and yet managed to lower the price of the units.

    Now that I have a projector, Id never go back to a traditional monitor. Theres just something about banging code on a 72 inch wide screen that is too nice to pass up.

    My only real complaint is that they kick up a lot of heat and the bulbs have a definite lifespan. Also most vendors tend to ship with a low hour bulb in the machine,so sure enough the first bulb dies at 1000 hours. The replacement bulbs all seem to go 4000 hours or more and for some reason are even brighter than the original bulb. Buy your replacement bulb at the time you get the initial machine. Why do they ship with an inferior bulb? My guess is to keep the projectors in the same price range as the larger LCD monitors.

    The other issue is that the projectors are often best when they are wall or ceiling mounted, which makes for a big ass long monitor cable. I personally hate visible cables, so it took quite a bit of work to figure out a mount that allowed the monitor cable to be hidden. The long ass monitor cable is another hidden expense but in the end its worth it.

    What having a wall projected monitor allowed me to do was to remove the traditional office desk set up and replace it with a reclining sofa and a wireless keyboard and mouse. In my work, its almost all on keyboard input, I almost never write anything by hand. As it turned out the only thing my desk was holding up was my monitor, and once that was gone, it made little sense to keep it. So, once the office desk was gone, the office became an office by day and a home theater after hours.

    My best advice is to try one for awhile and see how it works. The technology gets better and cheaper every day.

  16. Don Bear Says:

    I seems to me that from what I’ve read, when a plasma or lcd goes bad, it is not repairable. Seems like a lot of money to spend for something which may be quickly “disposible”. My Sony 36″ flat screen is a great set.

  17. MtViewGuy88 Says:

    While prices of LCD flat panels _might_ come down, the increasing price of crude oil could cancel those savings due to higher raw material costs and shipping costs down the road. 😦

    I do think that DLP is the way to go, especially now with the latest DLP improvements (especially from the Mitsubishi models). Yes, their viewing angle is a bit narrow but the picture quality is outstanding, especially in terms of sharpness.

  18. ErikZ Says:

    Um, Crude oil just hit 55$ for a 55 gallon drum.

    Even if you needed a whole barrel to make a fancy HDTV set, and they passed the price increase directly to you, you’re out maybe, 15$.

    The falling American dollar has FAR more impact on the costs of things that are made overseas.

    And finally, if you’re buying an HDTV set, decide what you budget is, and then buy the best set for your money. The tech is always advancing, so waiting for the best set or the best price will be an infinite wait.

  19. ArtD0dger Says:


  20. Amani S Says:

    We have a Panasonic flat screen. We paid 3,000 euros for it with the stand. My husband just told me that the viewing hour life is about 10,000 hours. I figure we can watch 4 hours a day and we will only get about 4 years out of this TV. Think about how often you watch. How often do you watch C-span, the Sunday talking heads? How many movies do you watch a week? Are you going to want to do a marathon of Star Wars?

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