Looking for the most bang for your buck in LCD TVs? Focus on 42”.

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Looking for the most bang for your buck in LCD TVs? Focus on 42”.

Pricewatch – If you’re in the market for a new LCD HDTV, you may get the best value in the mid-sized, 42” range, our latest Pricewatch analysis of popular models reveals. Prices for smaller TVs have not gone down proportionally to bigger models, and larger TVs are more likely to continue to come down in price. We took a look at six LCD HDTVs from top manufacturers in the industry to provide a clearer picture on HDTV pricing trends.

Now that we (almost) have sorted out the HD confusion with 720p, 1080i and 1080p TVs and the market is made up of mostly 1080p models (which it should have been anyway from the beginning), which TV should you buy? If you aren’t keeping an idea on the market on at least a weekly basis that may be a tough question to answer and few of us may actually know how far the dollar stretches in LCD segments.    

To find out we took a sample of six popular LCD HDTV models and looked at their price history and trends. Our brief analysis focuses on two 32″ TVs as well as two 42″ and two 52″ models. What we found is that 32″ and 42″ TVs have tapered off in their price declines. However, it appears that 32″ TVs have hit a plateau in a price arena that doesn’t match up favorably to the 42″ models.

The charts above show the price history of two 32″ LCD 720p HDTVs, one from Vizio and one from Sharp.  The numbers are based on average daily prices from Pricegrabber.com. 

Both models have remained fairly constant in their pricing over the past few months.

The Vizio VX32L price has been more volatile on a week-to-week basis, but it has largely shifted only between the range of $500 and $600.  Meanwhile, the Sharp Aquos LC-32D43U has remained at around $600 since last Thanksgiving.

The 32″ segment has always been a popular entry-level HDTV size.  High-def sets with smaller screens are increasingly scarce, and for anything under 30 inches, the increased resolution almost becomes a moot point.

It is apparent that 32” market has hit a point at $600, where it has stayed for a while while larger sizes have continued to come down in price. Comparable SDTVs are around $200 – $300, and that’s the price range they’ve been at for years.  At least, there is still a premium to be paid for HD in the marketplace and we don’t expect LCD TVs to half their price points anytime soon. 

Above 32”, there is a heated battle and a healthy competition that is pushing prices down.

In the span on less than half a year, both of the 42″ sets we looked at had dropped significantly, dropping from above the psychological $1000 barrier to $900 or less.

The Toshiba Regza 42HL67U 42″ 720p LCD HDTV has gone from around $1100 when it launched last November to around $800 in a fairly short period of time.  That puts it at just $200 over the 32″ models.  That’s 33.3% more money for a screen that’s 31.3% larger. If we compare the November 16 price of the 42″ Regza to the November 16 price of the 32″ Vizio, the price premium for the Regza has come down from 67.7% to 33.3%.

The Sharp Aquos LC-42D64U, which is a 1080p set, is currently about $1000. The $200 difference between the Regza and Aquos 42” can be justified through the Aquos’ higher resolution, but the argument against 32” remains the same: For the added cost over a 32” set, the added value is convincing.

Overall, we found that 42″ HDTVs are priced at levels right now that tend to offer much better value than 32” models.

Quite clearly, prices of 52″ HDTVs have come down the most of all the models we monitored.  Given this fact, it might look like a good time to buy a 52″ set.  However, given the current trend, we believe that a plateau has not been reached yet and prices will continue to fall.

The Sony Bravia KDL-52W3000 52″ LCD HDTV, for example, was around $4000 last July, but is now selling for about $2300.  That’s a price cut of nearly 50% in less than a year. There are no signs that the average selling prices are not coming down even further. The Sharp Aquos LC52D64U 52″ LCD HDTV has seen a similar drop, from just over $3000 in August to around $1900 today.  

If we look at the price of the 52″ Aquos compared to the 32″ Vizio, the 52″ is priced 101.6% above a screen size that’s 62.5% bigger.  Compared to the 42″ Aquos, the 52″ model is 90% more expensive for a 23.8% bigger screen. Clearly, these numbers are much less favorable than in the 42″/32” scenario.

Yes, brand recognition as well as feature sets impact prices of TVs, but we deliberately left these factors out of consideration to get a consumer view on the market. What we found is that going from 32″ to 42″ will cost you an extra $200 or $300, but going from 42″ to 52″ will set you back around an extra $1000 in general.  Obviously, there is still quite a bit of room for 52″ models to come down.

If you are working on a budget and are looking to get the most out of your dollars, a 42” TV may be your best bet at this time.