December 15, 2006 11:39 AM PST

A big-screen TV with a not-so-big price

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Upstart Vizio says it can take some of the sting out of high-definition prices and has a 47-inch LCD TV to prove it.

The rapidly growing plasma and LCD TV producer will price its 47-incher with 1080p for less than $2,000, CEO William Wang said Thursday. A 1080p television is considered to offer the best high-definition viewing because it combines the smooth image of progressive scan and sharpness of 1,080 lines of resolution.

Televisions with the same resolution and screen size from other manufacturers now sell for around $2,500 to $3,000 at mainstream retailers. Some independent dealers advertise lower prices.

"Before, 1080p wasn't affordable," Wang said. "We don't believe anyone can call $3,000 affordable."

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The TV is slated to come out sometime before the Super Bowl in early February, but the release date may be accelerated so the TV comes out before year's end, Wang said.

Bob O'Donnell, an analyst with IDC, said he's impressed with Vizio's pricing.

"That's a good price," O'Donnell said. "They have done a good job of coming from nowhere to play a big role. Hell, I bought one of their TVs."

O'Donnell added that the forthcoming set doesn't have all the extra features that other manufacturers might include. "It is not the best quality (TV), but it is good quality for the money," he said.

The new set is the latest salvo in the TV price war from this small company making a name for itself in the TV world. The Southern California company started selling TV sets under its own name in 2003. Now, it is the seventh-largest digital-TV company in the U.S., according to statistics from market researcher DisplaySearch. Vizio is expected to pull in about $800 million in revenue this year.

On Thanksgiving weekend, it offered a 42-inch plasma TV for $999--below a similar set from Panasonic that went for $1,299.

Vizio's basic strategy is to undercut the major manufacturers in price, but also to emphasize customer support. The company has around 55 employees, and a good proportion of them work on the support desk.

Consumers who buy a TV measuring more than 30 inches in diagonal get free in-home support during the warranty period.

"We focus a lot on customer satisfaction," said Wang, who has been in the LCD business for some time and founded monitor maker Mag Innovision. For manufacturing, Vizio relies on contract manufacturers in Taiwan and China.

Most of Vizio's TVs have been sold in outlets like Costco and Sam's Club so far, but they have now expanded into Circuit City. More retail outlets are expected to follow.

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Vizio, 1080p, LCD TV, TV, LCD

 

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