Extended Warranty & Murphy

We have all been there.  You are standing at the checkout counter making a large electronics purchase and they ask, “Would you like to purchase an extended warranty?”  That’s right where I was on October 21, 2004.  I was buying a 60″ Sony rear-projection TV (model KF60WE610) that cost over $3500.  Adding a 5-year warranty was just $350 more.  So I did it.

Now jump forward to the present day.  My extended warranty ran out 14 days ago (although the company I purchased it from filed for bankruptcy in 2007).  So just two weeks post warranty, I now have two problems:  blue blob and pink fingerprint.  I didn’t make those terms up.  It seems that is the common language used by owners experiencing problems (and there are lots of people with problems).  The blue blob problem was so common that Sony offered extended warranty coverage to replace the defective part through December, 2008.  That ship has clearly sailed.

The problem is with a part called the “optical block” (part # A1606010A).  A new one costs $670, and if you want it installed by a field technician – that will cost $190 and hour.  Based on the steps I have seen online, I can count on a two hour minimum.  So we are talking about a cool $1000 to fix a 5 year old TV.  Of course I could save a little money if I wanted to tackle the install on my own.

The next logical question is how much is $1000 towards the purchase of a new TV?  I think that is worth pursuing.  Let’s establish the criteria and see what my friends on the Interwebs can recommend:

Size – 55″ to 60″
Type – LCD (although a friend says I should consider LED as well)
Res – 1080p is strongly desired
Price – Max $2500 (maybe $3000 if you have a compelling argument)


  1. Ryan S said,

    November 4, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

    Check out the new LED-lit LCD tv’s


  2. Ryan S said,

    November 4, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

    Seems to be a really good deal…


  3. mom said,

    November 4, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

    Our copy of the 2010 Consumer Reports Buying Guide just arrived in today’s mail…here are some excerpts that might be relevant for your search:

    For large LCD units, they recommend the Toshiba REGZA 55ZV650U as a CR Best Buy at $2,000. It is a 55-inch model “has a wider viewing angle than many LCDs, and its quasi 240Hz technology does a good job reducing motion blur.”

    However, CR also says “Plasma TVs are well worth consideration, especially in 50-inch and larger sizes, where they offer a strong alternative to LCD sets. In fact, when you factor in their unlimited viewing angle and the generally superior black level and shadow detail of the better models, plus their ability to handle fast motion with virtually no visible blurring, plasma displays offer meaningful advantages over LCDs. The plasma TVs we tested did very well…Given the overall high quality, it’s hard to go too far wrong with any of the TVs in the Ratings.”

    That being said, they check-rated 4 of the six 54-inch and larger models they tested:

    Samsung PN58B650 (58″ for $2,700) – “excellent picture quality, great menu system and remote, and it includes Samsung’s [email protected] internet service, which uses Yahoo widgets to access internet content.”

    Panasonic Viera TC-P54V10 (54″ for $2,300) – “excellent picture quality, despite a minor quibble. It’s a pricier, flagship model (that replaced the old PZ850 series) with extra features, such as THX certification, access to the Viera Cast online service, and an SD card slot with the ability to play high-def AVCHD video files.

    Samsung PN58B850 (58” for $3,400, poor sound quality) – “This ultraslim (1.5-inch deep) flagship set…excellent picture qualtiy, though you pay a premium for its design. Like its 650-series sibling it has the widget-based [email protected] internet service to access internet content. But its sound was among the worst in our ratings – we’d recommend pairing it with an external sound system that can do justice to its excellent images.

    Panasonic Viera TC-P54G10 (54” FOR $1,900, fair sound quality) – “delivers excellent picture quality at a competitive price, though like its S1-series brandmate, has below-average sound. The set is part of a step-up G10 series, which has THX certification and the company’s Viera Cast internet service. It also has an SD card slot with AVCHD video playback.

    All have 1920×1080 native resolution. All but the last Panasonic have 4 HDMI inputs (it only has 3). All but the second Samsung have 2 component-video inputs (it only has 1).

    Despite the “fair” rating for sound quality, the last Panasonic was rated as a CR Best Buy as offering the best combination of performance and price.

    All these LCD and plasma TV companies have much better than average repair histories.

    That’s all I could find. And, as you know, your mother herself knows zilch about electronics. Oh, by the way, your dad and I have a 32″ LCD Panasonic Viera and have been very satisfied with it over the last year.


  4. mom said,

    November 6, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    Me, again. I found some updated info in the Consumer Reports Buying Guide (another location in the mag). There’s lots of general stuff (LCD prices going down, etc.), but also some comments that might be of interest in your decision making.

    “Our tests have shown that LCDs using LED backlights give plasmas a run for their money in producing deep blacks, great contrast, and accurate colors. While LED backlighting now commands a signifcant premioum over models with the traditional flourescent backlights, we expect prices for LED-based sets to fall as the technology becomes widespread.”

    [for sports watching] “Look for at least a 50-inch screen…plasma sets are great for sports, thanks to an almost unlimited viewing angle and the ability to display fast motion without visible blurring.”

    “Recent LCD innovations include LED backlights and 240HZ refresh rates designed to reduce motion blurring more than 120Hz does; we’ll test such sets and report on them.”

    “The biggest trend is Internet connectivity. Most major brand have sets with direct access to online content, usually from specific partners. They require an internet connection near your TV.”

    “Front-projector TVs offer the largest picture available, but are not ideal for everyday use. You may still find rear-projection and picture-tube television models, though both these types are disappearing from the market.”

    “You might be aboue to talk your way to a better price, especially for higher-priced TVs. See what a TV is selling for at reputable online retailers and in local stores, and use that information in negotiating a price. Once you’ve chosen a set, ask for a break on installation or delivery costs, or for free HDMI or component-video cables.”

    “You’ll see some HDMI cables in the 6-foot-range seling for $100 or more, and longer cables that cost several times that. We’ve found that modestly-priced brands sold at most consumer electronics stores for half that price or less should be fine for typical use. Avoid inexpensive cables at dollar stores; those migh have flimsy connectors or inadequate shielding on the cable itself.”

    “Shop where you’ll get a price guarantee” [match or beat]

    “Skip the extended warranty…Our survey data from thousands of TV buyers show that sets of both types [LCD or plasma] from most major brands have had a very low rate of repairs for the first three years of use, and most repairs cost less than $200….use credit cards that double your warranty, or shop at a retailer like Costco, which adds one year to the standard coverage.”

    “Beware of burn-in…Most new plasma TVs have screen-saver features and use other technologies to minimize the risk of burn-in, but don’t push your luck by leaving static images onscreen for prolonged periods.”

    “You may have seen reports suggesting that plasma TVs might not last as long as other TV types. Ignore them, as there is no evidence to that effect.”

    Not sure if you need any of this info, but there it is. Good luck on your hunt for a TV, John.

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