September price drop for LED TVs

August 16, 2009
By Leslie Meredith
Quad-Cities Online

Regular NFL season starts Sept.13, and if you can't be in the stadium, you want to feel like you are, and that means as big a TV as your living room and budget can accommodate.

For the first time, new TV buyers have a third option to consider along with LCD and plasma--LED.

Introduced by Samsung at the annual Consumer Electronics Show last January, LED TVs are getting the buzz in the world of electronics, despite their high price and our tight times. I was dazzled by Samsung's display at the show. The pictures were noticeably brighter. I also was confused. Was LED a new television technology, equivalent to LCD and plasma?

Luckily I was joined by TopTenREVIEWS TV expert, Brian Thomas, who set me straight, "Samsung may call them LED TVs but this is just to set them apart from standard LCD TVs. LED refers to the lighting technology in an LCD TV. Technically, we'd say LED-lit LCD TV." Perhaps if you're a stickler for accuracy, but the media and consumers have latched on to the term LED, so we'll go with that.

The LED lights used in the back of the screen produce blacker blacks and a much wider range of colors, known as color saturation, than the familiar LCD TVs lit by fluorescent light. Groups of lights can be adjusted with pinpoint precision resulting in an improved picture. Color-wise, LED TV displays are on par with plasma TVs, a benchmark LCD TVs have been unable to achieve. And the differences are not limited to the display.

Because of the LED light source, these new TVs use less energy than LCD or plasma. Tests show up to a 40 percent energy savings with LED TVs compared to their LCD counterparts. LED TVs also last longer, emit less heat and are more eco-friendly because the LED bulbs are mercury free.

And if thin is what you want, LED TV design allows for the thinnest TVs of the three available types and weighs the least for its size. At 1.2-inches deep, an LED TV can be hung within two inches of the wall, just about as close as a piece of art. As a matter of fact, some models are so lightweight they can be suspended on a special steel wire wall-mounting kit, just like a photo frame. Goodbye cabinet.

Downside? No surprise here, it's price. Samsung positioned the LED line at the top of its TV line, a strategy that has been successful so far.

A crack appeared in the strategy when LG shipped its first LED TVs at the end of last month. The 55-inch model came in at $3,200, a modest savings over the Samsung. But a bigger surprise is just around the corner. Vizio will ship its own line of LED TVs to retailers in September, significantly undercutting Samsung's prices. The Vizio VF551XVT, a 55-inch LED model will be priced at $2,200, that"s $1,300 less than Samsung"s lowest priced 55-inch LED model. Bad news for Samsung. Good news for consumers.

Like plasma and LCD TVs, consumer choices in LED TVs will grow and prices will drop. LED TVs offer real benefits over plasma and LCD TVs. They"re worth a trip to your local electronics retailer.

Buying tip: It's tough to gauge screen size in a TV showroom. What looked reasonable in the store, may dwarf your room at home. The best rule to follow is three times the diagonal measurement of the screen equals the distance you'll sit from the TV. So if you're eyeing the 55-incher, know your seating should be about 14-feet from the TV.

If you"re going to join the crowd and spring for a new TV this season, watch the sales. Know the best sized screen for your room. As for technology, I'm an LED fan. With prices coming down, more of us may be able to get off the sidelines and into the LED game.