The real price of low cost TVs

by Jan 12, 2019

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The big game is coming and maybe you are thinking it’s time to upgrade the old flatscreen. This past holiday season had flat screens at some incredible prices. I recall seeing ads for 43” TVs going for as little as $300 dollars. This is an amazing price for a TV that offers good to very good picture quality, and “smart” features like Roku, or digital streaming capabilities.

Before heading out to Best Buy to grab the latest deal, consider this piece from Business Insider explaining why some low cost TV’s are low cost.

Google, and almost every social media service, share a feature that allows them to keep their products free. That feature is user data. You will never be charged to use Facebook simply because they use all your posts, images, memes, and videos to build a profile about you. This data can then be sold to third parties to market ads, or as we’ve seen in the news recently, psychological profiling and political posts that fit your profile.

Well, Business Insider is reporting that TV manufacturers are now in the market of collecting and selling personal data.

The article calls out TCL and Vizio as makers of products that collect user data and resell it to marketers and other third-parties. According to the article, TV manufacturers no longer need to make a profit off every TV they sell. Business Insider notes a Verge podcast where Vizio’s CTO Bill Baxter stated, “It’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.”

What Mr. Baxter means is Vizio can generate more revenue per TV from the sale by selling you digital services and selling your personal data. Which I interpret as, to Vizio, the TV is now the razor, the money is in the blades. However, in this scenario, the money is your data.

So, if you want to buy a TV, but don’t want to sell your soul, what are your options? Look to “digital signage displays”.

What is a digital signage display?

Digital signage displays (I’ll call them DSDs for short) are what you see popping up in restaurants, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, government offices, and other service business that need to display menus, business hours, or the freshest property listings.

DSDs are nothing more than a dumb TVs. You won’t find services like Roku, Google TV, or other streaming apps built-in. A DSD won’t have the ability to download apps like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, games or news channels. Additionally, DSDs will not have a tuner so you won’t be able to connect your antennae or a cable box using RF cables.

How to I watch anything on a DSD?

DSDs have many of the same inputs you would find on a regular “smart” TV such as HDMI, DVI, VGA, and the ability to connect a component/composite signal from older devices like a VCR.

My recommendation would be to connect an AppleTV to the HDMI port, but you can connect your existing streaming box to the back or simply connect your cable box via to the HDMI port. For over-the-air watchers, you can find TV tuners with HDMI out. As for audio, most DSDs include an audio out port allowing you to use your existing sound bar.

Who makes digital signage displays?

Most of the major TV manufacturers sell a line of DSDs. You can find products from Samsung, Panasonic, and NEC on sites like Amazon, CDW, and other online outlets.

How much do digital signage displays cost?

Because their prices are not offset by services, a DSD does cost more. On average they are two to three times more expensive than low end “smart” TVs. One example is a 55” Samsung LED that offers VGA, HDMI, DVI, USB, component, and composite, video inputs, for $1,125 (discounted from $1,654).

Samsung Dc55E Dce Series – 55″ Led Display $1,111.55
That’s not a bad price if you consider that an entry level 46” Samsung LCD TV went for $1,200 (discounted from $1,700) just ten years ago. You are getting a larger display, with a higher efficiency rating, and improved image quality, for less.

What is the takeaway?

So there is a decision to be made about your next TV purchase. Are you willing to forego your personal data for a low cost TV? I certainly can’t tell you what the answer to that question is, but know that you do have options. Regardless of your decision, have a great time watching the big game!