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LCDs Sell on Misinformation

by July 22, 2008
Ill take the one on the left. It seems the most blu to me...

I'll take the one on the left. It seems the most blu to me...

JD Power and Associates reported today that salespersons recommend LCDs more frequently than plasmas based on old, outdated, or untrue information. The report summarized the data gathered by more than 2,000 trained mystery shoppers that visited big-box electronic stores (Circuit City, Best Buy, etc.), specialty television retailers, mass merchants (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.), and warehouse stores (Costco, Sam's Club, etc.) over the last 6 months.

To say their results are shocking is probably not all that true for the common Audioholics reader or AV Rant listener - more like disappointing.

Salespersons, overall, are pushing LCDs over plasmas at a rate of over 3 to 1 (which is up from last quarter's over 4 to 1). Mostly the salespersons seem to misinformed about how well plasmas work especially in regards to to how long they last (they are still suggesting that LCDs have a longer lifespan though they are about equal) and burn in.

On top of that, salespersons didn't know about some of the advantages of LCDs such as less power consumption, they tend to be lighter, and they produce less heat than plasmas. While they recited that the glass screens on plasmas can cause glare, even JD Power didn't mention that the newer (and larger) LCDs are also starting to come equipped with glass.

Plasmas have some distinct advantages over LCDs especially in black levels and (for now) costs. While LCD panels are creeping up in size and down in price, the larger screens still command a premium over a similarly sized plasma. While faster refresh rates and newer 120Hz enabled displays have helped LCDs,  plasmas have none of those drawbacks and is still considered superior by many for fast rendering motion.

A change may be in the works, however, as salespersons that recommend LCDs do so "less emphatically" than 3 months ago. Plasma brands most recommended were Panasonic (37%) followed by Samsung (14%)  and Pioneer (12%). Samsung topped the LCD list at 35% followed by Sony at 27%. Vizio sets were the only other LCD recommended above 2% at 7%.

As you'd expect, levels of service differed from nonexistent (Costco) to crappy (Wal-Mart) to inconsistent (Best Buy) to good (specialty stores). Of course, they used nicer language than that to describe it. Essentially, you get what you pay for. If you are shopping for the cheapest possible set, you are going to have to do the research yourself. Hopefully, people shopping at a warehouse store aren't expecting a sales associate to be able to delineate the differences between plasma and LCDs. Most of them are just forklift drivers anyhow.

What was probably most interesting in the report was that pricing of models across retailers is very similar. When it isn't, many retailers have price matching programs. This gels with the rumors that we've heard that the margins on displays are about as tight as they can get. When displays are significantly cheaper, it is usually because it is an off brand. Customer perceptions may be that shopping at the big-box stores is somehow getting them a deal but it doesn't seem to be the case. All they are getting is less knowledgeable advice.

With manufacturers trying to make all their displays look like thin, black, bevel-less boxes, it is often hard for consumers to tell them apart. If you are not willing to do the research yourself, you should consider shopping at a location where you are the most likely to get knowledgeable help.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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