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Survey notes low repair rate for LCD, plasma TVs

Posted: 07 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:plasma panel? LCD TV? flat panel display?

A study by Consumer Reports found that LCD and plasma TVs require few repairs during the first three years of use and warned buyers they would be wasting their money this holiday season if they bought extended warranties for the devices.

The consumer review firm's Annual Product Reliability Survey found that the flat-panel sets overall had a 3 percent repair rate. Rear-projection TVs, on the other hand, were found to be much more repair-prone than its two rivals.

Panasonic's 50-inch TH-50PZ700U plasma model was named Consumer Reports' best flat-panel TV ever tested and the company's LCD and plasma sets had a 2-percent average repair rate.

Among LCDs, Dell, which recently stopped selling its own brand of TVs, and Hitachi were among the less reliable brands, as were Philips plasma TVs. Aside from Panasonic, other brands with low repair rates included Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and JVC in LCDs; and Pioneer and Samsung in plasmas.

Among the tiny percentage of sets with problems, most repairs were free, presumably because they were covered by the manufacturer's standard warranty. The few respondents to the survey who paid for repairs spent an average of $264 on LCD sets and $395 on plasmas. "This new reliability data reinforces Consumer Reports long-standing advice that consumers skip the extended warranty when buying a flat-panel TV," CR said in a statement.

Among rear-projection TV vendors, Toshiba and RCA had the most repair-prone sets that were based on digital light processing technology. Hitachi had the worst record for repairs on sets based on LCD technology.

The report also found about a quarter of the repairs involved replacing the bulb, with many failures occurring early in a set's life and covered by the standard warranty. Respondents who paid for repairs spent $300 on average. Rear-projection sets overall had an average 18 percent repair rate.

Skip the extended warranty
Despite the relatively high repair rate, Consumer Reports still advised consumers not to buy the often expensive extended warranty and service contracts. Nevertheless, consumers who insist on buying an extended warranty for a rear-projection set should consider one if they want to buy a repair-prone TV because of its low price.

In addition, an extended warranty might be considered if the person plans to use the TV for 5,000hrs within the time covered by an extended warranty and it covers bulb replacement. Many bulbs have a life expectancy of 5,000hrs.

Finally, the warranty should not cost more than the $200 to $300 it costs for a new bulb or 15 percent of the TV's price, whichever is less.

Meanwhile, the survey also found that prices for HDTVs are expected to drop about 30 percent on average this year than in the 2006 holiday shopping season. Plasma TV prices are expected to shrink the most, with 42-inch models falling below $1,000 by the end of the year, and some 50-inch models selling for less than $1,500.

- Antone Gonsalves

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