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Big Box vs. Independent? 1st time plasma shopper...

by RVDigital / May 21, 2006 2:57 AM PDT

I've been shopping around for my first plasma t.v. to have installed on my wall above the fire place. A friend referred me to an independent dealer who quoted me $5k for the following (including intall):

50" Toshiba 50HP95,
wall bracket,
Pioneer receiver VSX-816,
Polkaudio Towers Monitro60,
Polkaudio HT Satellite
Polkaudio Subwoofer PSW 10
Universal LCD Remote MX-350
IF RF Repeater

The written quote was about $700 more than the verbal quote he gave me when he visited my house - which concerned me.

Since then, I have gone to the big box stores: Best Buy and Circuit City. I've read on several posts that people say be careful and avoid doing business with the big box stores. Why is that?

The following quote from Best Buy seems like a better deal than the original quote. For $5k with about $150 in gift cards as a gift:

50" Panasonic Plasma - TH-50PX60U
Yamaha Receiver - 630W 6.1
JBL 6.1 - Channel Home Theater w/wubwoofer SCS180.s
wall bracket
Universal Remote

I don't think the JBL speakers would be as nice as the Polkaudio, but the Panasonic is much better than the Toshiba.

Do you have any reasons why I should avoid these Big Box stores when I feel I have a better deal from them vs the independent?

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by Dan Filice / May 21, 2006 7:26 AM PDT

IMHO, the Polk speakers you mentioned will blow those JBLs away. Not even a fair comparison. I like JBL speakers, but those JBLs are meant for one thing: Someone looking for a HT-in-a-box solution. I would gladly spend $700 extra for real speakers. Speakers are THE most important audio component in an HT set-up. I'm not supporting the independent over the Big Box, just the speaker choice.

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by Riverledge / May 21, 2006 9:58 AM PDT

FROM the same retailer. It might be more convenient, but somewhat of a compromise. Speakers are very important, DON'T SKIMP. Also, look at KLIPSCH and ENERGY systems.


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i'm from bby(so i'll try not to be bias)
by masterying01 / May 21, 2006 1:05 PM PDT

both deals are great. keep in mind the 50hp95 is quite old (and VERY VERY VERY VERY HEAVY). since its old, they will be trying to get rid of it for the replacement (50hp66). also, since its sooooooooo freaking might not be the best for a fireplace.

now to your discount at bby. i can't recommend those jbl's. here's what i would look at.

th-50px60u - $3500 retail, (most will do it for $3000).
Install - (i didnt see you mention install in your list). depending on what you want goes from 199.99 to 899. i'll assume you just want to mount the tv and hook up everything. that will be $499.99 (can't discount).
Surround sound - Klipsch quintet III (499.99) with 10inch SUB-10 (399.99) plus a good receiver from yamaha(htr-5960).

thats $5k right there. with the high margin they'll make on the speakers...feel free to ask for a discount on the wallmount. our cheapest good wallmount is $250 (100 off each speakers, 100 off sub, 50 off receiver = free wall mount). the remote can easily be worked into the deal.

at the end, $5k will get you a brand new tv, professional install, and a great surround sound system without going crazy. plus you'll still get the $145 in giftcards (with their rewardzone program) and possibility 2 years no interest.

basically, big box stores are really not so bad if you can find someone who is willing to help you out and is knowledgable enough to tell a speaker from a tv. tv's have changed so much from the old generation (6 months ago) to the new generation. some old gen' ones are good...but make sure it has the essentials for your needs(2 hdmi, weight, pc input if you want a computer, etc).

if you have anymore questions, feel free to ask and we'll help you out. >:)

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Install charges
by RVDigital / May 22, 2006 5:49 AM PDT

The independent dealer has now said he will put me in the newer model - 50hp66 - at the same price but I keep reading that the quality is questionable on that t.v.

The original quote from BB included installation but they said it would cost $799 if I wanted all the wires for the surround sound hidden. Can you tell me what exactly the difference is between installation charges at $499 vs $799? I'm no expert at installing myself so I'll need them to do the work.

I really appreciate your help - I thought those speakers he recommended weren't the quality I was seeking and everyone on this site confirmed that to be the case.

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by masterying01 / May 22, 2006 6:42 AM PDT
In reply to: Install charges

install prices for magnolia bby's are different from regular bby's. so i'll just tell you the REGULAR price of installs for regular bby's.

$499 is basically them comming out to your house, mounting your tv on the wall, concealing all the video cables behind the wall (so you dont see it)...but not the powercord because that'll be a fire hazard. they will also hook up everything for you and teach you how to use it.

$699 will get you what $499 will get you...but they will also mount and conceal 3 speakers for you.

$899.99 will get you up to 6 speakers mounted and concealed plus everything else the $499 install will get you. the 799 they quoted you was the price for a 29inch or smaller tv....not a 50 inch plasma.

installs are not discountable....but everystore is willing to work out an amazing deal for you to match places like cc or your privately owned stores.

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by RoadRunner6 / May 21, 2006 1:42 PM PDT

You have some apples and oranges here.

First the JBL system is a cheap entry level HTIB speaker system, forget it. The quality of sound here is not even close to the Polk system.

The Polk is a very good system but the models you listed have one problem. The surround ''HT Sat'' does not ring a bell. Might be an old model. With the PSW-10 sub and the Monitor 60 you should also have a CS1 center channel and two Monitor 30's for a well matched 5.1 system. See here under recommended systems:

Both the Pioneer and the Yamaha receivers are both one level up from the entry level models with the Yamaha being a slighly better choice in my opinion. I am guessing here that the Yamaha receiver which you didn't list a model number is the HTR-5940 (or HTR-5840, last years model). They are quite close in performance.

The last info I had, the Toshiba plasmas are made by Panasonic. However, the model you listed, the 50HP95, is apparently last years model (not necessarily bad). It might possibly be the Panny TH-50PX50U (in Toshiba clothing). The new Toshiba model I believe is the 50 HP66. Go to Toshiba USA/electronics to find the details specs.

The MX-350 remote is an excellent remote, I presume that includes them programming it for you.

The pro installation might be well worth it if you are not into that type of work.

So you have a mixed bag here:

The two plasmas are about equal
The two receivers are fairly close
The Polk speakers are way better
You don't specify the remote from BB

I would check any system they quote you very carefully and come back here and list any changes they might make.

I went online and priced out the top system with the Toshiba plasma, this year's model and the correct Polk speakers and Pioneer reciever, MX-350 remote and wall bracket at: $4204 from reliable dealers.

Of course that is all at online prices. A fair price at a local dealer would seem to be in the $5000-$5500 range (figuring a 15-25% discount). This of course does not include installation, setup and programming of the remote. I am not an expert on installation and would expect at least $500 or more?

Hope this helps rather than confuse things even more.


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Online suggestions
by RVDigital / May 22, 2006 5:43 AM PDT
In reply to: Comments

Do you have a suggestion for a website that is reliable and sells equipment at a discount?

What sites were you referring to when you did the online comparison?

Thanks again for all your help.

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Online Shopping
by RoadRunner6 / May 22, 2006 11:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Online suggestions

I didn't say it but I thought the quotes you got especially from the independent dealer (if he used the newer Toshiba and sold you the correct Polk models for the center and surround) sounded quite fair. The problem with the BB qoute was the cheap speakers. The online prices at first sound great until you figure, in your case, all the work you have to do.

Masterying01 gives you great info straight from the horse's mouth since he is works in the business. We have others here who either work at dealers or are professional installers.

I would consider the dealer's installation service unless you feel comfortable with the carpentry and hookup work. However, unlike one poster said, there is absolutely no problem hanging any 50'' plasma as long you are able to accuractely locate the studs. You use lags and they will not fall down if installed properly.

There are many ''comparative shopping'' websites that give you prices from many online dealers. One of my favorites is To find others and many prices just go to your search engine like Google or AOL, etc. and enter the model number such as ''Toshiba 50HP66'' or for review info enter ''Toshiba 50HP66 review'' (hard to get reviews on very new models).

With sites like pricegrabber just enter the brand and model number or something more general like ''Pioneer receiver'' and then narrow it down further. You will normally find many prices including shipping and any applicable tax after you enter your zip code. Only buy from dealers with at least a 4 or 5 star ratings with at least 200 ratings.

When I got those prices I just did a quick check and grabbed prices from different dealers that I know are reliable. You will find that there are excellent dealers that seem to sell mainly at list price such as Crutchfield, Vann's, etc. Many prefer to deal with these rather than local dealers because they are very knowledgeable, have great return policies and usually charge no tax unless you are in their state.

Other dealers tend to discount more and might possibly not be an authorized online dealer and thus offer their own warranty. Remember that quality speakers and receivers are extremely reliable and almost never have repair problems. Some of the dealers that I have bought from or know to be reliable are, in no special order: NewEgg, B&H Photo, J&R Music World, OneCall,, Etronics, Abt, to name just a few. I just went to pricegrabber and entered Panasonic 50'' plasma (because I couldn't remember that exact model numer) and found the 60U model you mentioned, which is a great choice along with the Toshiba. I found 29 prices, including 5 prices in the $3158 to $3185 range from dealers with a 4.5 or 5 star rating with over 1000 ratings. I have saved lots of money over the years buying online, however, you must buy with a credit card only and be prepared for an occasional problem like with any dealer.

Many people are hestitant to buy a plasma online but those who follow the advice above have had excellent results. Many also feel more comfortable buying an extended warranty especially for their plasma. I only buy top brand plasmas and never buy any extended warranties for any product, sort of the self insurance stategy. It pays out bigtime in the end but you have to be a longterm stock market type for this plan.

If you are a complete newbie then be prepared to do a lot of research if you buy online, read all the owner's manual and come back here and ask lots of questions. Also you will have the problems of the DIY installation.

BTW, you will be hit if not already from the dealers with a strong push for extended warranties and expensive speaker wire and audio/video cables and power conditoners/surge protectors. These are big profit items and will be pushed hard. Expensive Monster brand cables are not necessary in my opinion. A quality surge protector is necessary.

Good luck whichever route you take and come back here and ask as many questions as you like.


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Service or Price they dont come together.
by gabereyes / May 21, 2006 1:51 PM PDT

You sayed the independent dealer came to your house, Im sure he is the sales man and the installer, so you only have to talk to one person, you will be suprised when you deal with more then one person what can get mixed up, the bigger the company the more people and hands that things have to go through.

The dealer is showing you a better system too, the polks are great, I would say there softer and more accurate sounding then the JBL with better internal design, second Toshiba plasmas are made by panasonic and panasonic went down in picture qaulity from last year and the only down fall on the toshiba is the red is push to hard but can be adjusted out by the installer.
Pioneer vs yamaha is pretty much the same the pioneer might be a little better for the same price but not sure what Yamaha you are looking at, and finally the remote by Universal is a better remote with more options but it is harder to set up then a logitech harmony so it might cost more to have a installer set it up.

Its all about the service, but most people dont care about service anymore thats why walmart is so big, I prefer to have the service but not everone thinks the same, I also worked for 4 big box electronics store and I can tell you the bigger the store, the lower the service gets, but Its your money and choice so do what you want to do I hope this helps.

Good luck.

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by kena10 / May 21, 2006 10:00 PM PDT

I would call CC and inquire about their install services. A friend of mine bought her 40" Sony bravia and cc has an install package that for 699, they'll come to her house, mount the lcd, install her polk rm6900's she bought (running the wires inside the walls and with the wires included) and connecting her equipment. She didn't buy the sony from CC (she ordered it direct from sony) and they didn't care.

Just a suggestion.

Also, shop around for the best prices on equipment. Just because somsone's giving you a package deal, doesn't mean that everything is state of the art or that youshould go with it.

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by Mark H / May 22, 2006 2:59 PM PDT

I would definetly look into definitie technology speaker like a pro cinema 60 or 80 both are excellent. Also HSU has a great system check them out. Oh yeah cc has a much better return policy i had two televisions break and they came and got and brought me new ones witin 20 min great customer service compared to bby.

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