HDTV shopping; You'll get what you pay for

When most consumers go shopping for a new HDTV they have one thing on their minds: price. Sure the specs are important to some extent, but for the masses, cost is the deciding factor. But shopping for an HDTV on price alone is a major mistake, as many other factors should play into your decision.

Take a look at this recent PC World survey, which asked owners to rate the reliability of HDTVs. Sony sits at the top of the list with above average marks in every category, except ease of use, where it ranks only average. These high marks don't come without a cost; Sony HDTVs are amongst the highest priced units on the market. The extra cost brings more than reliability in this case it also brings a higher quality picture.

As you move down the list, you'll find plenty of brands which are ranked as average for reliability. Many of these, including my current go-to budget brand, Westinghouse, offer a great compromise between price, quality and affordability. Another budget brand which received good marks this year is Vizio, which has surprised me by offering a relatively high-quality unit at a very low price.

If you've been searching for a new HDTV, you'll quickly notice that this list is missing several names you've seen in store circulars. Store brands and other manufacturers are noticeably absent from the reliability list. This makes sense, however, since the lowest priced HDTVs often sacrifice on both quality and reliability to keep prices down.

Our current HDTV, a Soyo, is a good example of the price-to-reliability trade-off. We got it as a warranty exchange a year ago and have had issues with it ever since. We went through three sets before we got one that even merited going in our entertainment stand. Each of these had enough dead pixels to field a football team, and our current set has one HDMI input that only works 50% of the time.

So if a new HDTV is on your holiday list, remember that cost is never the only factor to consider. The headaches and costs associated with repairing an unreliable TV are often higher than consumers anticipate. Personally, I plan to spend a little more upfront the next time I purchase a TV, simply so I can avoid the hassle associated with our cheap Soyo. On top of the peace of mind and reliability, the extra $200 will also get me a TV with a better picture!
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