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Can Ultra-Premium Flat Panels Succeed?

Yesterday, I helped Tom Norton unpack and set up a 60-inch Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD LED-backlit LCD TV (shown on the right above) that he will review over the next couple of weeks. (Interestingly, the name Sharp appeared nowhere on the box, only Elite.) Even before setting the basic picture controls—but after selecting the Elite Pure picture mode and Low color temperature—the image looked remarkable, with deep blacks, bright whites, and rich colors. Also, the Sharp is sitting next to Tom's 60-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-141FD plasma (on the left above), so he will be able to do direct side-by-side comparisons to see if Sharp has managed to wrest the flat-panel crown from the Kuro.

In addition to exceptional picture quality, both TVs have something else in common—a very hefty price tag. The PRO-60X5FD lists for $6000, while the 70-inch version is a whopping $8500. (The 60-inch PRO-141FD was $7000 in 2009.) In my opinion, such high prices lead to the demise of the Kuro, because a best-possible-performance, cost-no-object flat panel is unsustainable in today's—or even yesteryear's—economic climate. So I'm concerned that the new Sharp Elite TVs will suffer the same fate as the Kuro.

Do you think ultra-performance, ultra-expensive flat panels can succeed in today's marketplace? Or are they simply too expensive to manufacture and sell in quantities large enough to make business sense?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Can Ultra-Premium Flat Panels Succeed?
Yes
31% (577 votes)
No
57% (1069 votes)
Don't know
12% (227 votes)
Total votes: 1873
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COMMENTS
IvanQz's picture

I am subscribing to the magazine tonight!
I have a 50" 720p Kuro and I have been wanting to replace it for a 1080p. I have returned 4 TVs in the past couple of years. My old Kuro still looks better than anything I tried so far even at a lower resolution. I have yet to try the new Panasonic VT30 because the VT25 didn't cut it for me and I am getting kind of tired of returning TVs.
keep up the good work.
And I love your show Scott!

ZJohnson's picture

I think a lot of us, myself included, have been waiting for the headline "Kuro is back." Darryl Wilkinson quoted a comment he overheard at CEDIA Expo (December 2011 Issue review of Artison Masterpiece On-Wall speakers) that: "the sound quality of TV's today is worse then it was with TV's 20 years ago". How depressed are you that the closest "apples to oranges" competitor for the Sharp Elite is a TV line that's been discontinued for two years?

Ultra premium flat panels definitely have a market but manufacturers have to do it right. I feel they should be priced and marketed to the front projection crowd (80" diagonal is already approaching a modest front projection screen size). In a world where people are affording $8 G's and up for higher end front projectors, I think they would embrace the choice of a television of equal picture quality that is free of lamp aging/replacement, the need for separate screen and projector mounting locations...oh and the ability to stand IN FRONT of the TV.

Quoting Thom Norton from his review of the Sharp Elite, "engineers weren’t limited to hitting any particular price point" is great news for consumers. That's what has to happen in order for REAL innovation to occur. Don't overlook the added bonus of the technology and manufacturing processes that come out of this kind of pricey research will eventually trickle down to lower priced units. So...in about five years, affordable TV's will be AWESOME. Unfortunately, you and I have to be early adopters and drop big coin on the initial tech and let manufacturers know that quality matters to us, and yeah, maybe we're even willing to pay for it. A little.

My question to you: If ultra premium sets found thier own niche and every brand had a flagship model in the $5-$9000 peso range, would you want to see TV's with equally exotic sound like folded ribbon tweeters and electrostatic or planar magnetic speakers? Or would you rather they be "monitors" and have no speakers at all, since the person spending that much is going to pair it with a far superior system?

Stephen Trask's picture

I just got back from one of our local high end audio/home theater stores. The new Elites are beautiful and apparently a very popular item. People see them and want them. I felt that way but have a nice plasma and am spending the money on components right now.

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