Reader Question: Buy Now?

Q: I’m looking to buy a 32″ LCD HDTV within the next six months. The model I’m considering costs about $1,600 in stores and $1,200 online. What will it cost six months from now? Should I wait for a higher resolution 32-inch model?

A: I also would like to know what that LCD will cost in six months. If I knew for sure, I could parlay that one fact into enough to fund my retirement. It is true that prices have fallen a lot in the first half of this year. I would expect a flattening of prices, were it not for the widely discussed inventory backlogs and production slowdowns experienced by most LCD manufacturers these days. Instead, I expect that the manufacturers won’t be able to wait until the holiday buying season for sales to pick up, so I think we’ll see some price cutting in September or possibly even next month. The industry may undercut their holiday sales as a result, but I don’t think most will be able to live with the lack of cash flow, and even the successful companies will have to cut prices to remain competitive. So I’d look to September as a good time to evaluate prices; it is true they still could drop again at the holidays, but then you’d also have to miss two or three months of HDTV, and you have to consider what that’s worth to you.

As for waiting for a higher resolution model, the key question is how far you will sit from the screen. The one you’re considering is a 720p model (or a Wide XGA model that is slightly higher than 720p). If you wait for a 1080p 32-inch TV, you’d have to sit less than four feet from the screen in order to see the difference between it and a 720p image. I suspect that you’re not planning to be that close, so you might want to go ahead and get the 720p version.

Uncertain about what size or resolution HDTV to get? Professor Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV has all the information you need to be sure.