46″ LCD HDTV Under $550

I know. Posts about “Look at this incredible HDTV deal!” are dime a dozen and I really try to avoid doing them because I don’t think that they really tell you much that you didn’t know already. And it’s an immediate invitation to play “Top This” where everyone wants to chime in with an even better deal that they have found. But from time to time, I think it’s worth pointing out a deal or two, if only because it can raise some interesting issues with broader consequences.

Best Buy has the Dynex 46

It is in that spirit that I present the Dynex DX-46L150A11. This is a 46″ LCD HDTV that is available on sale from Best Buy for just $549.99. Maybe it’s because I’ve got an eye out to replace our existing 46″ set, but this deal jumped out at me. This is a price that would have been remarkable for a 42″ model just a year or two ago, so I decided to look into it a bit further.

Dynex is an OPP (opening price point) house brand for Best Buy, so you should not be surprised by the modest specifications: 60 Hz refresh rate, no network connectivity, no memory card slots. It is pretty much a bare bones model, though it does have 3 HDMI connectors. I have not seen the display in person, so I cannot comment on the image quality.

My question is this: two years ago, you might have been thrilled to pay twice this amount for this television with this exact feature set. What has changed, aside from the price being cut in half? Yes, it’s true that 120 Hz helps reduce motion blur for LCD HDTVs, but how much are you willing to pay for the improvement? Internet connectivity is great, but you can add that at essentially no extra cost if you replace your DVD player with a Blu-ray player to get high definition movies. (Many Blu-ray players now include network features.) 3DTV is appealing, but we’re still a couple years out from when there will be enough content to make it worthwhile for most people.

It could be that this is an adequate set for most people, and some of its shortcomings can be solved with other parts of your home entertainment system. On the other hand, if you spend 50% more to get a better set, it would only cost you about $275 more which should be enough to get 120 Hz and a network connection. If you’re going to use this set for only five years, it will cost you $55 more a year to get the better set now. That’s about $1 a week. Are those other features worth $1 a week to you?

I don’t have an answer for these questions; maybe that’s part of the reason that I’m still looking. I do think that consumers tend to focus on the short-term appeal of a lower purchase price rather than consider the long term return of spending more up front to get a better experience for years to come. The fact is that the absolute price of these larger HDTVs have fallen to very low levels, which makes the incremental cost of a premuim model over time so low that it borders on trivial.

Or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into getting a better set than an entry-level model.