People buy TVs all the time. Shops wouldn’t be full of them otherwise. Still, I’m drawn to the conclusion that right now is a woeful time to be TV buying. I’ve been sat staring at the Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A that I reviewed yesterday for a while, pondering on my written conclusion.
As a side note, no, I don’t get to keep review products all that often. It’s rare — and it never happens for expensive stuff like TV panels. I’d frankly be worried if it did, not to mention up to my neck in TVs. I just haven’t boxed up the Panasonic for its return yet. Anyway, I wrote in that piece that it was a great TV, but arguably not one that you should buy, and I’ve been thinking about why that is so.
Why it’s not the right time to buy a television?
Ultimately, it comes down to technology. There’s an old axiom that states that there’s never a good time to upgrade your technology, because there will always be something faster and better along in just a short while. In the case of mobile and PC technology, I think there’s still some truth in that, or at least some veracity in the idea of running your existing gear for as long as it is feasible to do so.
For televisions, though, I think the picture is a little different. It’s not that the next great bit of technology is just around the corner, because in many ways it’s already here. You can, if you’ve got a lot of cash to splash around, already head to a store and buy a frankly beautiful UHDTV panel that’ll handle not only today’s full HD content, but tomorrow’s 4KTV as well, presuming we can ever work out a way to easily transmit that kind of data.
I could put some kind of half-hearted gag there about spending 20 billion on compression technologies, but I won’t.
I’ve reviewed LG’s 4KTV recently, but in order to not show particular favour, there are plenty of other vendors offering 4K panels in the Australian market as well. The thing is, they’re still at the kind of price points reserved for the exceptionally wealthy, or at least those who don’t worry about credit card bills much. You get a good TV, but you pay an absolute premium for it.
Actually, the same is true for OLED. I adored the screen quality of the LG 55EA9800 Curved OLED TV but there’s absolutely no way that I could afford one. Tech journalism doesn’t pay that kind of money, to put it plainly, but I don’t think that I’m all that alone in not being willing to drop more than $10,000 on a TV set.
The issue is that the technology is there, and we can see that it’s only going to get cheaper. As it does, the quality of screens will improve in those lower price brackets. I might not be able to afford a UHDTV or OLED TV right now, but in 3-5 years time, panels of that quality will be sitting more comfortably in the $1,000-$3,000 price range. For a device that you use every day for multiple hours of entertainment, that’s a fair more attainable kind of price — but it’s a couple of years away.
Meanwhile, you’ve got TVs like the Panasonic.
A great TV — I have no qualms in saying that. But at a mid-premium price point, it’d be like settling for a second best that you’d have for five to ten years, at which point it’d be a seriously dated TV. You’re getting the best of technology that in many ways belongs to the previous generation of premium TV devices.
But what does that leave you? It leaves you the cheap and cheerful TVs. The budget models. They can be worthy in a stopgap sense, but they’re often very basic, cheaply built, oddly calibrated TVs that don’t really do their source material justice. You could buy one of those to cover that 2-5 year gap, but what do you do with the TV by then? If it’s one of the really cheap makes, it might not even last that long.
As I said at the top of the article — it’s a terrible time to buy a TV. Maybe we should all just go outside for walks instead.