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Budgeting for the Next Television Revolution

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When I started this blog in 2006, I was an early adopter of flat-screen televisions. Most personal finance bloggers seemed to be against such purchases. Even in 2007, when I mentioned that they can save space in your home I had to go "Suze Orman" on readers writing that they need to be sure if they can afford it.

Today, it's hard to find a television that is not a flat-screen. That's great progress in less than a decade.

You might think that the days of consumer running out to buy expensive televisions is over. I don't think so. In the next couple of years I think history is going to repeat itself.

Why? The 4K OLEDs are coming.

If you aren't technology nerd, that was probably a weird sentence. There are two technologies coming down the pike that will significant change the television game.

The first is 4K or what is called Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) by some. These televisions are already out there. I can even get one at my local BJ's Warehouse. However, as experts have written, 4K televisions don't make a lot of sense - today. The operative word there is "today."

There are two main reasons why 4K doesn't make sense. The first is that there isn't much 4K video out there to watch. However, more and more video is being added an in the next 2-3 years, that will likely change. The second is that 4K doesn't matter much when you are far enough away, unless the screen is significantly large. The expert I linked above didn't find much difference of 1080P video on 65-inch television screens. However, he noted that with 4K he could tell the difference. With the trend being larger televisions are smaller price points, it's probable that at a reasonable distance a 70-inch 4K television will look much better than a 70-inch 1080P television with 4K content.

The next revolution is OLED screens. I remember Sony showing off these screens in their Sony Style stores almost a decade ago. (Here's a smidgen of evidence of that for doubters.) Those tiny 11 and 27 inch models looked incredible... by far the best picture I've ever seen on a television. To this day it is still the best I've seen. It was almost impossible to describe it other than do say it looked like liquid color melting to make the images like the most vivid painting possible. A video of a flower looked as real as any flower I've seen in real life, just two dimensional.

With this in mind, CNET declared a new 55-inch OLED television the "Best. Picture. Ever." I particularly like the Amazon review that says, "Ok, those of you who are impatient may click the 'Buy Now' button." Yes it is $3000, but that's a "bargain" compared to the $15,000 it cost last year.

The only two flaws for me in this television are the lack of 4K and the price. The price is more of an issue with my income level than the comparative value of the picture. If you have a smaller size room where a 4K would be a waste and a high-income it might be worth buying that television now (Amazon seems to have the best price).

I'm holding out for the 4K version. It looks like that is coming this month and it will be 65 inches for $7,000.

It will probably 2-3 years before that television gets to the $2,500 price point. This is perfect. It gives the industry time to upgrade their video streams to 4K. Not only that, but it gives me time to put some money aside each month as the technology gets cheaper.

Perhaps just as importantly, when I bought my last television four years ago, I went cheap. I purposely avoided spending $2,000 on the 55" Samsung that I was look at to get a 55" Element at Wal-Mart for $699. If I had spent the $2,000 I would have felt locked into it for 10 years to get great value for my money - $200 per year. Instead, in three more years, I'll have paid around $100 per year and feel in a position to upgrade. Plus, one way to look at it is that I already have $1300 in "savings" from not buying the Samsung television.

Saving money on technology can be difficult. I look for features that are revolutionary. At the time of making the decision between the Samsung and the Element, the televisions were both 55" and while the Samsung had a much better picture, it wasn't anything like OLED. When I make the decision to buy again next time around, the television will be larger, have OLED, and have 4K... three features that will dramatically differentiate it from what I have today.

Can you tell that I'm excited?

Last updated on October 21, 2015.

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Spending, Technology Tip

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4 Responses to “Budgeting for the Next Television Revolution”

  1. Big-D says:

    As someone who is looking to upgrade now .. but not upgrade now (my TV still works), I can sympathize. I have a 52″ 1080i projection as my primary TV. It doesn’t have an ATSC receiver and also does not have any HDMI ports. I loved the picture back in the day, but with plasma, LCD, LED all coming down in price, it is really making me tempted to pull the trigger. I also might just wait for the 4k to come down in price. I don’t know. I can watch Blu-Rays and show antenna TV (with a separate receiver), so I am not looking at it and crying .. but it is that nagging feeling of “I want” which is pulling me every day.

  2. oxide says:

    Cost is obviously a big factor in deciding a purchase like this however, even if the cost was lower, I personally don’t think it makes much sense given there is really no content out there to take advantage of this technology. Sure, there may be an increase in content sources over the next few years, but I can’t see cable companies streaming 4K given there likely isn’t much more the naked eye can really appreciate. I’m not saying this will necessarily never happen, but I can’t see the rush.

  3. […] Thus with my current spending, it looks like it might be a wash. However, in a couple of years, BJ's might have have my dream television. […]

  4. […] last year, things have changed dramatically. It was just last September when I wrote that I was, budgeting for the next television revolution (4K OLED). Here is how the pricing has dropped on OLED televisions in the last 3 […]

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