Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Price Trends: 55" 1080p LCD HDTVs

Big screens require a big budget, so if you're in the market for a super-sized LCD, you should expect to pay upwards of $1,000. However, recent deal data suggests relief could be coming in soon. Back in May we saw a 55" 120Hz LG LCD go for $999 (free shipping), the lowest price ever for any brand-name 55" 120Hz set.

In addition, in June we listed a $989 55" 240Hz LCD, albeit from a third-tier brand (ProScan). Still, we hope these manufacturers can push their name-brand counterparts to price these coveted TVs south of the $1,000 mark.

*55" 60Hz sets were not included in any of this data.

Price Trends on 42" LCDs
Price Trends on 46" - 47" LCDs
Price Trends on 52" LCDs

Friday, July 2, 2010

Price Trends: 52" 1080p LCD HDTVs

Unlike their 42" and 46" counterparts, 52" LCDs are currently on the rebound with most prices pointing up. 60Hz and 120Hz sets have been neck and neck for the past few months, but they've recently spiked above the $1,000 mark. On the high end of the spectrum, 240Hz and LED sets are comfortably above the $1,500 mark, although prices on LED sets recently took a dive (and from the looks of our June data, it appears the trend will continue with prices dipping even lower).

It's worth noting that we haven't listed any 52" 3D LCD deals. In fact, we've only listed one 52" 3D TV deal and that was for a plasma TV. The majority of big-screen 3D HDTV deals fall under the 55" category, which we'll take a look at next week.

Price Trends on 42" LCDs
Price Trends on 46" - 47" LCDs

(Best deal for a 50" plasma in May: $599)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Price Trends: 46" - 47" 1080p LCD HDTVs

46" and 47" TVs are quickly becoming the new standard for HDTV owners. Fortunately, that means an abundance of deals on these sets. On the entry-level side, both 60Hz and 120Hz displays are virtually neck and neck price-wise, so there's no reason to settle for a 60Hz set.

If you want to future-proof your TV (and who doesn't), 240Hz and LED-backlit TVs are dropping in price with deals for the past two months comfortably coming in below the $1,000 mark.

However, it's worth noting that the price drop on LED-backlit LCDs is being led by 3rd-tier vendors, particularly ProScan. A set from Vizio, Toshiba, or Sharp still sits in the sub $1,200 range. Meanwhile, 3D LCD HDTVs in this size category have taken a massive drop (all of them from Samsung), although the cheapest 3D TV is still $466 over the price of the most affordable LED TV.

Price Trends on 42" LCDs

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thoughts on Hulu Plus

After countless rumors and leaks, yesterday Hulu finally announced the first wave of its new premium service — Hulu Plus.

The new service will cost $9.99/month and grant you access to a deeper library of content than what the current free version of Hulu offers. In other words, you'll not only get current shows and episodes, but entire back catalogs with every episode from every season. And here's where it really gets interesting, Hulu Plus will be available as a free app for the Apple iPhone and iPad, for the Microsoft Xbox 360 (coming in 2011), and Sony Playstation 3. In addition, it will be built into select Sony and Vizio television sets and Blu-ray players. (At launch, only Samsung TVs with access to the Samsung App Store will be able to download the Hulu Plus App.)

The free version of Hulu will still be around, but for serious TV junkies, Hulu Plus promises hours of TV available any time from a handful of mobile and living room devices. However, I personally think Hulu Plus is a horrible deal. Here's why:

The current version of Hulu has embedded ads, albeit short and not as many as traditional TV, but it's a free service, so you really can't complain. Hulu Plus on the other hand is not free and yet it will also include ads. Now you could say, "I pay for cable TV, and I still get ads," but cable TV gives you access to tons of shows from various networks. Hulu Plus will only grant you access to shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC. (And with ABC wanting to break off and do its own thing, I wonder how that will affect Hulu's content.)

Personally, I think $9.99/month is expensive. Very expensive. That's $119.88/year that you could otherwise pocket. What bothers me the most is that Hulu Plus is not an answer for cable cutters. Like I said above, the majority of content will come from three networks so if you're a fan of Iron Chef, International House Hunters, or Dinner Impossible, Hulu Plus is essentially useless. (And let's not get started on sports, news, or music stations, none of which you'll find on Hulu Plus.)

Furthermore, do you really need access to every episode of 30 Rock, Family Guy, The Office, etc. That's a lot of content and I bet most subscribers won't get the most from their money. Instead, you'll end up paying your monthly cable bill and paying an additional $10/mo. for Hulu Plus. You're being milked for access to content you most likely won't watch. And if you do watch it, do you really want to watch it from an iPhone or iPad (as great as those screens may be)?

Google TV
Hulu Plus will launch with Samsung as its HDTV partner. Interestingly enough, Sony (which is partners with Google on its Google TV initiative) will also get Hulu Plus embedded into its TVs and Blu-ray players. Even the PS3 will get Hulu Plus (late July) beating Microsoft's Xbox 360 to the punch. The difference here is that Google TV will be free, whereas Hulu Plus is not. It's too early to tell which company will offer the better service, but to our wallets, Google TV + the non-subscription version of Hulu sounds a lot better than Hulu Plus.

A lot of the back catalogs that are available on Hulu Plus are also available via Netflix and the latter only charges $8.99/mo. for unlimited streaming (that also includes the rental of 1 DVD out at a time per month). There's no point in having both Netflix and Hulu Plus and cable TV.

That said, Hulu Plus does have some notable features. The fact that most of its content will be HD (720p) is a huge plus. The flexibility of watching content on your TV, computer, or mobile is also very intriguing. Enough to pay $10/mo. — probably not.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Price Trends: 42" 1080p LCD HDTVs

Some good news to report on the LCD front. Prices on 42" LCD HDTVs are all on the decline, with the exception of two categories — 60Hz LCDs and 3D LCDs. The latter is understandable, given the newness of the technology, but it's a bit surprising to see deals on 42" 60Hz LCDs on the rebound. In fact, 120Hz and 240Hz LCDs are cheaper than 60Hz LCDs.

Meanwhile 42" LED LCDs have dropped dramatically, thanks to a push from 3rd tier vendors like ProScan (you can actually buy a 3rd tier LED LCD for just a few bucks more than a name brand 60Hz LCD). But fear not, brand-name LED LCDs are not that much costlier. Missing from the action are 42" 3D LCDs. (The majority of 3D TV deals we see are for screens 46" and up.)

Here's where the prices stand as of May. (S&H is included when applicable.)

42" 1080p LCD HDTVs
60Hz: $635
120Hz: $499
240Hz: $588
LED-backlit: $649
3D: N/A

(best deal for 42" Plasma in May: $469)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swype Review

I've been using Swype for just shy of two weeks now and while there are a lot of things I like about it, there are just as many things I can't stand about it. Here are a few of my likes and dislikes about this virtual keyboard app. (I tested it on a Motorola Droid smartphone.)

* After the first day or so with Swype, you realize you actually do type faster when using it. I'd say I'm at least 25% faster with Swype than my otherwise hunt and peck typing.

* It's fun to use. For me personally, that's a huge plus. The iPad is just a tablet, but it's fun to use. Android is just another smartphone OS, but it's fun to use. Likewise with Swype. Swiping your finger across a virtual keyboard is a lot more fun then tapping along a virtual keyboard.

* It makes typing with one hand simple. Huge plus!

* Your fingers must to be dry to use Swype. While that may sound obvious, let me explain a bit. It's currently summer in NYC with temperatures rising up to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. If your phone's screen (or your finger) is even the slightest bit humid or damp, Swype will be a pain to use because your finger won't glide on the phone's surface. It'll just smudge along. Likewise if there's a mist in the air or if it's slightly drizzling and your screen gets even the slightest drop of rain, Swype will be annoying to use.

* Although Swype supports different languages, you must set the keyboard to that language for it to recognize certain words. This is a huge setback because I text in both English and Spanish and having to drill into the settings and toggle between languages each time I want to type in a different language is tedious and a major drawback.

* Swype is quick when you type words that are already in its database. If you like inventing words or abbreviations as you text, you'll find that Swype slows you down. This to me is the app's biggest flaw. When you type a word not found in its catalog you have to thumb through suggestions the app thinks you're trying to type, but if none of them are correct, you then have to type the word out yourself and save it so that the app remembers it. I constantly make words up, so I found this very annoying. You're essentially typing the word out twice. Once to see if it's in Swype's database, and again to insert it into Swype's database if it's not.

Overall, I like Swype. It's a lot of fun, and depending on how you text, you'll find it does speed up your ability to text. But for me personally, I invent new words with every e-mail I send and having to "save" those words in Swype's catalog slows me down to the point where I might as well just continue with my hunt and peck typing. I'll give Swype a few more days before uninstalling it for good.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Deal of the Day: eBook Reader Edition

Barnes & Noble kicked off the week with a big surprise. The company announced a price cut on its nook eBook Reader slicing the price from $249 to $199. In addition, B&N announced a new Wi-Fi only nook that will sell for $149. Personally, I find that $149 nook very tempting. I got the chance to play with the nook back at CES and although I didn't like the interface, B&N has updated the firmware and I'm hoping it's gotten better (and faster) since then. Regardless, $149 is still a great price for a name-brand eBook reader.

Not to be outdone, Amazon quickly reacted to B&N's price cut with a price cut of its own, slashing the price of its Kindle 2 to $189 (a $70 price drop). Not only did Amazon steal B&N's thunder, but they also managed to undercut them with a $189 3G and Wi-Fi eBook Reader.

Like I said, I personally find the $149 nook reader more appealing and here's why. Both the nook and the Amazon Kindle 2 are entering their silver years and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a Kindle 3 or nook 2 for the holidays. As a result, I'm less inclined to spend over $150 on an aging eBook Reader. Nevertheless, you can compare the two (and some other) eBook readers in our eBook Reader Cheat Sheet.