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Our correspondent studies how slowdown,other factors have made LCD TVs affordable. Is it the end of the colour TV?

Written by Shambhu Sahu | Published: February 8, 2009 3:21:56 pm

Our correspondent studies how slowdown,other factors have made LCD TVs affordable. Is it the end of the colour TV?
IF YOU have been denying yourself the joys of owning an LCD TV fearing a bigger dent in you pocket in the times of the slowdown,take a round of electronics stores and see how prices have fallen through the roof in the recent past,with or without the recession. The Indian market is stocked with LCD TVs of various sizes,brands and prices that makes the regular colour TVs (or CRTs) actually look like an idiot box,considering its bulky size and average picture quality.

LCD sales have already recorded a steep rise,making the one-time sign-of-affluence an “affordable” household item. “Prices of LCD TVs have fallen many times. That’s why half the buyers are now preferring them to CRTs. A good 21” flat-screen CRT is available under Rs 9,000. But add another Rs 4,000,and one can get a branded 21” LCD TV ,” explains Gaurav Mehrotra,manager of the Delhi store of a leading electronics chain.
“If we sold five LCD TVs a month last year,we are selling 50 now,” he adds.
“It is true. LCD TVs which were earlier considered a luxury are now more affordable,” says a senior representative of Moser Baer,which recently forayed into the LCD space with a range starting at Rs 19,900 for a 22-inch. The company soon plans to launch two more series with its smallest model,a 16-inch,costing just Rs 14,900.

The slowdown may not have affected the market directly,but it sure has had an indirect effect,say industry insiders. While some dealers say it has led to further reduction in prices,there are those who disagree.
“The prices are not governed in India,but outside and are also influenced by the US Dollar. So,if panel manufacturers,mostly based abroad,reduce their prices worldwide,it is going to impact the Indian market too,” he says.
There are some who believe the slowdown may have led to a drop in the prices,but it has had no negative impact on sales. “The huge service class in India is not as affected by the slowdown as businessmen. So,the slowdown doesn’t affect a large section of buyers,” says Manoj Jain,manager,Marketing & Promotions,E-Zone,one of the major players in India’s electronics market.

Kirti Vasan,category manager (Consumer Electronics) at Jumbo Electronics,says the slowdown has played a role in pushing up sales by building a favourable mindset. “LCD TVs are an aspirational product. So those who have the money,think this is the right time to buy,” adds Vasan.
Jain seconds the thought: “The ‘best-time-to-buy’ psyche is prompting many to avail offers on LCD TVs. So,more people have been upgrading,choosing small LCD TVs for their bedrooms and bigger ones for drawing rooms. This trend is similar to the one seen around 2002 when people started converting from conventional TVs to flat screens.”

Fierce competition in the segment has also led to the reduction in costs. The market is stocked with LCDs of various sizes and brands priced as low as Rs 12,999 — for a 20-inch from Sensei,an in-house brand of E-Zone. In the Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 price bracket,one can easily buy a branded LCD sized between 19” (Sony) and 32” (Sharp),with many options thrown in between.
While Vasan says it is the 32” segment that is recording maximum sales,Mehrotra gives credit to the 21” segment. The latter also attributes price cuts to a recent four per cent cut in sales tax. “Besides,every week there’s a fall of Rs 500-Rs 1,000 in the prices,” he adds.

Another major factor is technology. “As technology gets upgraded,the old stock becomes cheaper. Also,since these are high-value items with bigger profit margins,companies want to reach more homes and are now producing in bulk,” says the Moser Baer representative.
But,price is not the only reason for the switchover. Compared to CRTs,LCDs take very less space due to their ultra slim shapes and can even be mounted on walls. Moreover,most satellite DTH services have started offering high definition (HD) pictures,which can only be enjoyed in HD-ready or Full HD LCD TVs. “More people are looking for the multiplex experience at home. Sales of home theatre systems and the popularity of movie rental sites hint towards this,” adds Jain. Besides watching movies with great picture quality,LCDs can also be used as computer monitors and can give a full 3D gaming experience.

Dealers believe the CRT segment has already begun to crumble and a phase-out has begun. “LCD TV is the future. They will fetch more sales and slowly phase out CRTs,” predicts a dealer with an electronics chain.
“With branded 32” LCDs being available for about Rs 23,000,the CRTs will go away in the near future. Companies also have exchange offers where people can get a discount of up to 1,500 in lieu of their old CRTs,” Mehrotra agrees.

However,there are some who say the CRT won’t die so soon. “As per estimates,seven lakh LCDs are sold annually,while 11 million CRTs are sold every year. It is still a huge gap. LCD penetration started about two years ago. No doubt they are getting popular and have hit CRT sales. But for those who still cannot afford an LCD TV,ultra slim TVs are a good substitute. CRTs will die their own death,but it may take up to a decade in India,” says the Moser Baer representative. However,he adds that the 29” CRT segment has taken the biggest hit. “That’s because of the almost comparable price range in LCDs.”

Some tips before you swipe the card

*Since LCDs are very thin,they can be either wall or table mounted. If you are using the table mount,make sure the unit fits the space you have. Also leave at least an inch on each side for ventilation and connection access.
*LCD panels have a fixed number of pixels on the screen surface. The key is to get as high a native pixel count as possible. Most LCDs offer at least a 1280×720 (720p) or 1366×768 (768p) native pixel resolution,this is the minimum pixel count you should look for.
*The ability to display fast moving objects has been a weakness of LCD technology. Though things have improved,it is better to check the specifications for Motion Response Time (ms = milliseconds) before you buy a unit. A good LCD TV should have a response time of either 12ms or 8ms,with 8ms being optimum. Be wary of companies that do not list their motion response time.
*Another important point is contrast ratio,the degree of variation of the whitest and darkest parts of the image. If the LCD TV has a low contrast ratio,dark images will look muddy and gray,while light images will look washed out. An ideal ratio is 1,500:1 or higher.
*Without sufficient brightness your image will look muddy even in a dark room. Viewing distance,screen size,and room lighting will affect the brightness capability. A brightness rating of 550 cd/m2 or higher is good,however,it’s better to make sure the screen is bright enough for your needs.
*Make sure you can view the image from the sides as well as the from the prime viewing area. If you find the image fading within 45 degrees from either side of the centre,then it is better to look for another unit.
*The unit should have at least one HDMI input for connection of HD sources such as HD-cable or satellite boxes,upscaling DVD or Blu-ray Disc players.

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