Of Plamas and LCDs – bigger isn’t always better

A colleague of mine recently told me of the experiences of her good friend, whose contractor had painted her house the wrong colour and was not only asked to repaint the house but also asked to pay for damages. That she says is the power of the consumer.

I recently made a bad television purchase and ex-changed it for another TV. In this case, my colleague says, since I was the one who chose the TV, there was no fault on the part of the shopkeeper and so I had no right to ask for a TV change. Somehow having made a choice, consumer power was lost.

There was clearly consumer disatisfaction in both cases but to my colleague, the former warrants the power of the consumer whereas the latter does not. So to my colleague, consumer dissatisfaction means nothing. The consumer is not entitled to alter his or her choice simply because he or she is dissatisfied. So having entered a restaurant on her own accord and given bad service, my colleague would simply accept the bad treatment than ask for something better.

There are of course vast differences between the first and the second case. When it comes to painting the house, there is nothing complicated that the eye cannot see. A colour is a colour, there is no reason why the consumer would have difficulty seeing a colour as it is, unless she is colour blind. Since colour of a house is so easy to choose, the contractor does not have expert power over the consumer and therefore cannot possibly influence the consumer’s choice.

On the other hand, a television is a complicated purchase and many things are hard to discern even upon scrutiny. For example, how do you know that the colour of a TV is inherently better and not due to settings? How do you know one TV is sharper than the other if they are all playing beautiful images in the showroom? So advice from the salesman becomes important in helping you make a purchase. So does our reliance on the salesman’s advice reduce our final rights as a consumer?

This leads us to another argument by another colleague. Why did I trust the salesman? Why didn’t I do my homework? Why didn’t I ask my friends and fellow colleagues instead?

The salesman is the expert in his field and can provide much information and knowledge that would be difficult for layman like us to acquire. For example, we may have read that plasma TVs respond better to fast motion compared to LCDs. But how much better? Can we see the difference? That’s where the salesman comes in. He tells you to curl your hand into a funnel and focus on one spot on the LCD. When there is sudden and abrupt changes in the scene, you can actually see blurring during the transition where the pixels become reconstituted. This does not happen for plasmas.

You go home and verify the salesman’s advice from Internet sources such as CNet Asia, which are authoritative sources of information. Most websites when making a comparison between plasma and LCD, give the thumbs up to the former when it comes to image quality.

Finally, what about friends and colleagues? The colleague chastised me for not seeking advice from our fellow team mates who all seem to know that LCDs are better than plasmas. But their so-called knowledge turned out to be mere preferences. One colleague dislikes plasmas because of the reflective glass, which I know and don’t mind. Another colleague figures that plasma is an older technology compared to LCD and therfore inferior. But older technology can mean that it is more mature and hence more stable and cheaper. In any case, none of my colleagues knew what I found out eventually.

Be it plasma or LCD, the bigger the screen size, the less sharp it becomes. Websites give it a passing remark, the salesmen do not think it is a problem let alone mention it, even friends and colleagues are bewildered when I say that smaller TVs have sharper images. So who would have suspected otherwise?

It is only when you place a 32″ TV next to a 37″ TV and play the same programme on both would you actually see the difference, especially in the substitles. From the subtitles, you can see that the smaller TV is sharper and more crisp. The difference between a 32″ and a 42″ is even more pronounced.

It is like buying a $5,000 diamond ring believing it would shine brighter than the $2,000 diamond ring you have at home. But lo and behold when you compare them side-by-side, the cheaper ring actually shines better. Wouldn’t you have felt shortchanged spending so much more to buy an inferior ring?

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2 Responses to “Of Plamas and LCDs – bigger isn’t always better”

  1. Blogter Says:

    I had this feeling your post was not just about plasmas, LCDs. Then when I thought again about the relatively inexpensive diamond shining brighter than the much more expensive one… I suspect I know what you’re driving at. Good metaphor.

  2. trulysingapore Says:

    Dear Blogter, I apologise if the original title “consumer rights” led you to believe this post to be of greater importance than it really is. I have since changed the title to reflect the nature of its contents.

    Thank you

    Yours Truly Singapore

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