It's Getting Better All the Time

by Brian L. Clark

Tuning Fork

I've bitched on several occasions about the high price of HDTV, particularly flat panel HD sets. Well, the tide finally seems to be shifting in consumers' favor. Earlier this year, the price of flat panels for 32-inch LCD TVs dropped about 10 percent, from $540 to $485. For panels 42 inches and above, the price dropped a little further, from $1,040 to $925, or about 11 percent.



The good news is things are likely to get better. "TV makers are expected to increase their output of large screen LCD TVs in the next few years," says David Narranjo, VP of consumer electronics research at DisplaySearch. "With recent announcements by Samsung, Sony, and Sharp to expand and build new panel production facilities, we do expect significant growth in the greater than 40-inch segments over the coming years."

Indeed, major manufacturers are building plants like their feet are on fire. Taiwanese LCD maker AU Optronics, which announced this week it would acquire Quanta Display Inc., is opening a new plant later this year. Overall flat panel production in Taiwan is already up about 37 percent over 2005, according to Taiwan's Industrial Economics & Knowledge Center. Given he government's declaration that flat panel displays are a developmental priority, downward pressure on flat panel pricing should continue.

Meanwhile, electronics giants Samsung and Sony—which also happen to be the largest LCD makers—announced in early April they planned to invest $2 billion to build a massive new LCD facility in Korea that would focus on panels larger than 40 inches. The plant, scheduled to open in fall of next year, will be capable of putting out some 50,000 LCD panels/month. You can also look for these two companies to use this partnership to develop newer technologies (like Organic Light Emitting Diodes) that yield flatter, higher quality panels for next-generation high-definition televisions.

LG Philips has stepped up production. Even Hitachi is considering building a new flat-screen plant. So what happens when manufacturers ramp up production to meet anticipated demand? "With a growing amount of panel capacity coming online optimized for the 32-inch and larger LCD TV market," says Narranjo, "TV supply and demand should loosen, resulting in further price reductions for the larger screen segments."

What that means is the $1,400 32-inch LCD TV you buy today could well be priced below $1,000 by the end of the year. Folks looking for larger sets are likely to find today's $3,000, 42-inch set drops to less than $2,000. That's a savings of 28 and 33 percent, respectively.

Sometimes, it pays to be patient.

On the other hand, if consumers are really smart, we'll consider the possibility of holding out to drive prices down even further. So, with that in mind, I'd like to call for a temporary boycott of flat panel LCD TVs. Don't buy one until the prices have fallen to a more reasonable level. I myself promise not to buy the 32-inch LCD I want for my bedroom till it drops below $750. If you, dear reader, promise to do the same, I'll have one less thing to bitch about.



Brian L. Clark is a reporter and consultant on all things digital, runs the The Tech Enthusiast's Network, and writes for Money, Men's Health, and Laptop. Read more Tuning Fork here.