03.30.2005 12:00 AM
As HD Set Prices Decline, Beware of Finance Schemes
The March edition of Consumer Reports magazine has an unbiased review of large-screen monitors and receivers. The issue also has some buying tips that call for the liberal use of basic common sense more than anything else, (carefully consider size of screen versus the size of viewing room, type of technology preferred and size of budget, but CR has some timely warnings for those now actively seeking to upgrade to HD sets).

In an effort to drive sales of higher-priced TVs, some retailers now offer so-called zero-interest loans for up to 24 months, according to the magazine. Unfortunately, for some consumers this could mean signing up for credit cards that carry annual interest rates of nearly 30 percent. In a lot of these cases, if the loan is not repaid in full before the term expires, consumers will be charged interest back from the date of purchase.

CR has long subscribed to the belief that for most products, extended warranties aren't worth the cost. But the publication said it may be worthwhile for new owners of plasma and LCD sets--and rear-projectors using LCD, DLP or LcoS--because the technologies are too new to have any long-term track record for reliability. (Although CR didn't mention it, a potential problem here may be that extended warranties often don't go much beyond five years, and even technologies that eventually could prove to have a shorter lifespan than direct view, for example, will almost surely last for up to five years.)

If consumers want to save some money and don't mind a downgrade, CR says a lot of the public who purchase the less-expensive enhanced digital plasma sets may not notice the difference between ED and HD if they are not seated too close to the screen. Many consumers have a tendency to sit too far from their screens anyway.

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