Should I buy a floor-model TV? (Morrison's Mailbag)

Reader Peter Haluszka wonders if it's worth buying a Pioneer floor model. Geoff Morrison helps him out.

CNET reader Peter Haluszka from Cleveland writes:

I would like to buy a new plasma and ideally would like a Panasonic VT30 series but they're very pricey. I would like your opinion about the Pioneer 55" PRO-FHD1. I was thinking of buying one from the local high-end store for maybe $1,000 to $1,500 if I can get it for that price, based on the fact it was a floor model. Do you think it's worth buying? I have cable and surround so no problems with it being a monitor. Otherwise, my choices are either the ST30 or GT30 60-inch models, and if I can get it for under $2,000, the VT30 55 inch. I value your opinion probably more than anyone else.

Thank you,
Peter Haluszka
Cleveland, Ohio

Excellent question, Peter. There's no easy answer, honestly. The PRO-FHD1 was a fantastic TV in its day, originally scoring an 8.7 rating here on CNET. It isn't, however, one of the later lauded Kuro models.

Looking back on the measurements I did when the FHD1 came out, I wouldn't be surprised if the new Panasonics outperform it. Honestly, I think $1,000 to $1,500 is way too much money for a nearly 5-year-old television. My guess is the store is looking at the original list price ($8,000!) and perhaps hoping to cash in a bit on Pioneer nostalgia. In either case, it's too much money when you can get many excellent brand-new TVs for around $1,000.

If it were one of the last Kuro models, that would be a different story. Those still look better than most of what's out there now.

To speak in a broader sense, is it worth it to buy a floor model? Depends.

If it's a plasma, are there signs of burn in? If it's an LCD that's been used as a static display, it, too, could have burn in.

If it's been used a lot (and any 5-year-old TV has likely been used a lot), it's going to be dimmer than it was when new. And it will only get dimmer. It will still be brighter than any CRT, but it's something to consider. Are you really saving money when you're getting a TV already well into its life? I'd lean toward no.

Related links
• Is LCD and LED LCD HDTV uniformity a problem?
• What makes a good HDTV?
• Geoff's HDTV and Home Theater Resource Center and Infotacular

The truth is, TVs are advancing at such a rate that older models just aren't really worth much. It isn't like cars where a 10-year-old model can still get you around just as well as a new one. Ten, or even five years of TV development is a loooooooong time. Modern TVs perform better, have more features, are more energy efficient, and are new-price-to-new-price, way cheaper than older TVs.

Now if you can get a great deal (less than $500, I'd say, for anything but a Kuro), and you're not worried as much about picture quality, plasmas and LCDs are fantastically reliable. So it's not likely you're going to get something that will just up and break on you. Well, probably not, anyway.

Gary Merson has a great article over on about buying a refurbished TV, which is a whole different thing.

Got a question for Geoff? Click the "E-mail Geoffrey Morrison" link below to e-mail, wait for it...Geoffrey Morrison! Put "Morrison's Mailbag" somewhere in there. If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. I can also offer stylish hair advice. I cannot, however, tell you what TV to buy.

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