Budget TV Comparison @ LTT

Yesterday’s unexpected yet perfectly timed video from Linus Tech Tips was a solid view after events that unfolded here. An unexpected failure of a TCL 40S305, which was purchased in 2018, manifested at a family member’s house. Multiple individual reviews from customers who had purchased this product highlight a rather noticeable defect rate on the LED controller board. The extended service plan purchase at Best Buy was (and continues to be) the pro move; this specific model is marked as “not serviceable” in their system as per the Geek Squad representative that serviced our scheduled appointment. A cursory search for a replacement board didn’t indicate that the part would be restocked in the future.

While it’s frustrating to experience any failures related to appliances or electronics which should last for five or more years, the reality is that the race to the bottom from a pricing perspective can come at the cost of durability or longevity. The ability of a vendor, re-seller or third-party service plan to aid in restoring services or operation of a malfunctioning device plays an important role in mitigating unplanned expenditures. It was unfortunate that a net addition to the e-waste repository occurred for what was ultimately a fully functioning panel, LED back lights and power supply. However, the lack of replacement parts from the supply chain resulted in the requirement of acquiring a new set.

The outcome of the tests in the video aligned perfectly with our experiences. The LG won overall (even with its menu/UI idiosyncrasies) and the TCL effectively came in second place while impressing Linus from the value proposition perspective. The more expensive Samsung was deemed to be overpriced for what it offered. As we’re still unwilling to toss Samsung a bone after the C34F791 support debacle, the result did not surprise us. Unfortunately, Sceptre’s panel performance and user interface led it to a last-place finish.

When shopping the budget end of a manufacturer’s product line, we continue to recommend accounting for the cost of a service plan as part of the acquisition. Coverage for two years may add 10-15% to the total cost while scaling up to five years of coverage can increase the initial cash outlay by up to 25% more for a set costing $400 or less. Although this may seem steep or may increase the costs just enough to warrant considering the next tier of models in a given manufacturer’s line, it’s far less costly than having to buy a brand new unit when a failure occurs.

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