Don't Buy a TV Now

television. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

One of the most frequent questions I get is how to choose a TV that will last, not only in terms of reliability, but one that has the up-and-coming features that will be standard within a year.

LED, 3-D and Internet-connected TVs have all made headlines this year: LED for its better display and energy efficiency, 3-D for a theater experience moving into the living room, and Internet connectivity for making users’ favorite sites accessible from the biggest screen in the house, rather than from their computer or phone. Internet connectivity is the one to look for as you shop for a new television.

Both LED and 3-D televisions rely on hardware to provide new features. Hardware cannot be updated, it can only be replaced. Because both technologies are in the early stages of development, expect improvements and lower prices. Now is not the time to buy.

LED technology can double the cost of a TV, so while certainly desirable for its ability to fine tune the darks and lights of hi-def displays and provide as much as 40 percent energy savings over a standard LCD TV, it is still too expensive. With the passing of new energy requirements for TVs in California, a state that represents the eighth-largest economy in the world, manufacturers will be motivated to find affordable ways to make televisions more energy efficient. Irvine-based Vizio was the only TV manufacturer to support the new energy standards for TVs, stating it was in a position to comply with regulations.

“Technology improvements will keep price increases to a minimum, a few tens of dollars," said Vizio co-founder Kenneth Low.

3-D technology for the home is less developed and little 3-D content is available, making a feasible in-home version at least two years away. Sony announced between 30 and 50 percent of its TV shipments will include 3-D features beginning in April 2012 and that 3-D technology would not add significantly to the cost of manufacturing, but the glasses could run as high as $200 each.

For those of you who have the pulse of the TV industry, you’ve noticed I have not mentioned OLED or organic OLED display technology. Sony is still the only major manufacturer to come to market with an OLED TV, and after more than a year of promises, their only offering is an 11” screen at $2,500. Citing technical problems in producing larger OLED screens, Sony shifted their strategy to 3-D to overcome a six-year operating slump.

Internet connectivity is up and running across TVs from all four major manufacturers — Sony, LG, Samsung and Vizio — with more to come in January 2010. Using the Yahoo! Widgets Engine, these TVs deliver popular Internet sites including Flickr, YouTube and Netflix, plus Yahoo! News, Finance and Weather.

Unlike hardware, Internet connectivity is built with firmware, programmable content that can be overwritten to add new features. Firmware can be automatically updated through the Internet connection at no additional charge to the customer much like a computer software update. Unused widgets can easily be deleted by the user.

The televisions to watch for are the value-priced Vizio Vias, which have been delayed twice, but now are scheduled for delivery in January. The new Vizio Vias will include Netflix, Pandora Radio, eBay and Facebook apps. Best of all, the sets will include a remote with a full slide-down keyboard, similar to the new Droid phone from Verizon, making on-screen selections far easier than with a standard remote.

In addition to an Internet connected TV, you’ll still want the largest screen size appropriate to the room. Although plasma displays have lost considerable market share to LCD displays, plasma offers excellent picture quality and often, the best value per screen inch, especially in larger sized TVs. If you are buying a 50” or larger screen, pay the extra price for 1080p resolution, but if your intended screen is less than 50”, 720p will provide a clear picture with as much as a 33 percent savings.

This article was provided by TopTenREVIEWS. 

Leslie Meredith
Leslie Meredith is a contributor to Live Science. She has a bachelor's degree from UCLA in psychology and has directed tourism and ski publications for the Salt Lake Visitor & Convention Bureau and managed promotions and events for Sunset Magazine.