Looking for further evidence that the economy has even big-screen TV buyers pinching their pennies? According to market research firm iSuppli, budget-conscious consumers have made Vizio the top-selling brand of LCD TV in North America for the first quarter of 2009.
Vizio made its mark selling sets typically priced well below comparable sets from major brands such as Samsung and Sony. More recently, the company has offered step-up models with features such as 120Hz refresh rates and sophisticated video-processing circuitry, also at prices well below its major-brand competitors. For example, iSuppli says, a 40/42-inch Vizio with 120Hz technology costs about $1,000; that’s about $400 less than a similar model from Samsung or Sony.
Vizios, sold at mass-market retailers such as Walmart and Costco, often do well in our Ratings of LCD sets (available to subscribers).
However, comments to a 2008 blog on the brand, as well as our discussion board on LCD TVs, include many complaints about the reliability of the brand’s sets, particularly after its one-year in-house repair warranty has expired. Some also complained about Vizio’s customer service.
In fact, our most recent reliability survey data (available to subscribers) shows that the rate of repairs for Vizio TVs has beens quite low, and comparable to its competition. The survey, which covered more than 168,000 LCD and plasma TVs bought between 2005 and 2008, showed that the repair rate for Vizio LCD TVs was 3 percent, the average for all 16 LCD brands covered in the survey. Perhaps just as important, Vizio was one of a small number of companies that stood out for ease of repair, meaning there were few, if any, issues getting the set repaired in a timely fashion.
The bottom line? We see no evidence of a reliability problem for Vizio, nor that the brand’s customer service is lacking when sets do break. Rather, even reliable TV brands have some sets that fail, and their owners are understandably disappointed, especially if they fail after the warranty has expired.
Then why so many Vizio complaints on our site, compared with those for other brands? With anecdotal reports, it’s hard to say. In this case, owners of broken Vizios might have reached our blog when they searched online for information on the brand’s reliability, and left comments on their experiences. While these comments provide rich and interesting reading, they also leave an impression of unreliability that our data does not support.
But brand reliability is something we monitor regularly; we’re collecting new data on TV reliability now, and will publish it later in the year. Stay tuned for the results. —James K. Willcox and Paul Reynolds