Twenty years ago, if you spent a $1000 on a TV, you would expect it to last twenty years. To the TV manufacturer’s credit, many of them lasted even longer. Eventually, a component (capacitors most likely) would fail and the unit would head to the landfill. TV broadcasts in the USA went fully digital on June 12, 2009. In the two years since, LCD TV sales have exploded (3 million in 2009, 26 million in 2010), their sizes increased, and their prices dropped. In 2009, 40″ panels cost a little over $1000; 46″ and 55″ LCD panels were running between $2000-$3000 dollars. Prices have since dropped to almost half that. Many households, when they upgraded their analog sets to digital, spent a little extra and got the larger panels.
However, all is not rosy in the high-def world of flat panel TVs. While companies like Sony, Samsung, and Visio are battling it out on the specs front with ever brighter LED-backlighting, ever higher screen refresh rates, and ever increasing screen sizes, reports are starting to come in from customers about cracking screens, premature LCD panel failure, and power supply issues. Internet sites devoted to customer complaints are filling up with angry owners of $2000 TVs that are unwatchable after just a few years.
Our Sony Bravia (Model: KDL-46V3000) developed an issue which has gotten progressively worst. When the display works, the picture is stunningly gorgeous. However, more often than not, it now looks like this. Apparently, this issue is well known for the Sony Bravia line. YouTube has plenty of examples of the problem across the entire line.
Sony’s help line, SonyListens, while sympathetic, has not been very helpful. They were happy to open a case file and take down all of our information, transfer us around a bit, but as far as providing a resolution for the problem…not so much. All we have gotten to date after spending an hour on the phone with Sony Support is a number for their local authorized service center…like we could not have found that on our own. The big problem people will have is bringing the TV in to the service center for a diagnosis. A 46″ panel is not the easiest things to transport. It is clearly not a practical request for those with even larger screens. We remember when Sony Trinitrons were the best tv you could buy. Most people who purchased Sony Trinitrons never had to deal with Sony Support because they never needed it. Doesn’t look like that’s the case any more.
We are well aware that expensive does not equal not breakable (ex: Porsche replaced our Boxster engine for free after 33K, Apple fixed our iMac for free even though the warranty had expired). We understand that manufacturing problems for new products take time to sort out. We are not concerned about the reliability of large LCD screens in the future. We are certain that television manufacturers will improve the reliability of their LCD panels over time. The issue is how companies like Sony and others respond to the problems their customers are having now. It is how they take care of their current customers that will determine who those customers will look to when it is time for their next upgrade. Lower cost TVs such as Vizio are a lot more attractive to us now if there are no quality difference between them and the perceived high-end company like Sony. Why pay more if you don’t get more?