SID 2008: How to Pick an HDTV

The Society for Information Display (SID) 2008 annual conference really doesn’t start until today (though it gets started early with a 7 AM press breakfast). Yesterday was the SID 2008 Busines Conference, which focuses on the business of the display industry. Participants got to hear many insightful and inspiring presentations, but the one I think that may be of most interest to HDTV Almanac readers was the one by Paul Semenza, who is Vice President for Display Research with iSupply Corporation.

iSupply conducts frequent surveys among a sample of consumers who have recently purchased an HDTV. One series of questions asks about what factors were important in making the purchase decision. The number one factor was “picture quality“, with “price” coming in second. The “brand” was close behind in third place.

Equally interesting to me was the fact that “sound quality” was dead last on the list of factors. I’ve always said that the speakers in almost all flat panel HDTVs are better than those found in most computer monitors, but that is still damning them with faint praise. The least expensive home theater audio system has better sound quality; in fact, most stand-alone computer system speakers with a sub-woofer will sound better than the average HDTV speakers. So it was no surprise to me that consumers don’t pay attention to speaker quality.

A bit more surprising — but encouraging — was the news that “positive reviews” also ranked very low on the list of factors. I’ve long said that nobody can review the HDTV market thoroughly and consistently enough to be able to name the “best” HDTV. In fact, the lack of consist test protocols — and the frequent absence of rigorous testing altogether — makes most reviews of little use to me. The good news here is that most consumers apparently agree with me. They would rather judge the image quality for themselves than rely on someone else’s observations. (Judging the price and brand are also factors that most consumers can handle just fine on their own.)

So don’t let others spend your money for you.