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Over the course of the past year, I have noticed that the apparent cost differential between wide screen direct view sets in the US and Europe has been an intermittent source of controversy. The underlying concern is that US consumers are being gouged by higher prices for such sets, when compared to what our European counterparts pay.


Well, I just returned from a 10 day visit to Rome, and geek that I am I had to stop at a couple of electronics shops and see for myself what the products and prices were like. Now, when doing a comparison, one has to keep that television screen size measurements are not directly comparable -- in the US, we measure by viewable area, but everyone else uses CRT size. Thus, our 34" set is a 36" set in Italy and elsewhere.


That said, the lowest priced widescreen set that I found was a close out Hitachi 28" model (26" viewable) that was 990,000 Lire -- about $450 US. Now this was a pretty basic set -- no line doubler, curved screen, not loaded with fancy features. At the other end of the price range was a Sony 36" model (34" viewable; the same size as most of the direct view widescreen sets sold in the US)for around 6.6 million Lire or $3000 US. For this price, it was a loaded model with flat screen and line doubler for a 100 Hz picture. This price doesn't seem hugely different from what we might see in the US for such a set.


So really, it seems like a comparable widescreen set isn't necessarily all that different in price between the US and Europe (at least Italy); what is different is that lower priced widescreen sets are available over there that don't make it here. A 26" widescreen set for $450 might make a very appealing companion to a DVD player in a bedroom or other location that doesn't require full HD performance, if we could buy such a thing in the US.


I also noticed that the cost of basic 4:3 sets is higher in Italy. The cheapest 14" set (13" viewable) that I saw was almost 300,000 Lire -- $130 US. In comparison, we can get such a set for under $100.


It was interesting to be able to do the comparison.

 
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