ViewSonic Doubles Down on LCDs

When name-brand 17-inch CRT displays cost $500 — about 10 years ago — ViewSonic’s cheaper models offered a viable, quality alternative to units from Apple and others. When my expensive Apple display died in the 1990s, I became a satisfied customer of a new ViewSonic tube-based model.

Viewsonic LCD

And when LCD technology superseded CRTs, ViewSonic, like so many other CE companies, decided to expand its product line by introducing LCD HDTVs, again competing on price. The company has had a limited number of TV-based products, but this week it introduced a range of six new LCD TVs. But with so many competitors in the TV space, it’s not clear what advantage ViewSonic is offering.

The new sets range in size from a 42-inch model, down to 20, 23-, and 26-inch offerings that the company sees as serving dual roles as TVs and desktop monitors. The 23, 32, 37, and 42 inch models offer 1080p resolution, while the 20-inch is a 1600 x 900 display, and the 26-inch comes in 1366 x 768 resolution. (The company was unable to source 1080p panels in those latter two sizes.) None of the sets offer 120Hz refresh rate.

The TVs come with a full complement of what are now expected (and required) features: multiple HDMI ports, digital and cable tuners, and SRS sound. According to Gene Ornstead, ViewSonic’s director of DTV and business development, the sets offer “a great price, and a great value. They’re lower in price than tier one brands.”

Not necessarily. For example, Amazon’s price on the new ViewSonic 42-inch N4285 model is $917. You can also pick up a Vizio set in that size (with 120Hz refresh rate) for $950. An even better deal is Panasonic’s 1080p plasma set (also with three HDMI inputs) for $807. ViewSonic’s 32-inch VT3245 has a suggested retail price of $649; Samsung’s LN32B530 model is available for $674.

The price comparison holds true in smaller sizes as well. ViewSonic’s 23-inch VT2342 model is listed at CompSource for $301. But Samsung sells its P2370HD 1080p model at Amazon for $310 (although the Samsung has only one HDMI input compared to ViewSonic’s three).

ViewSonic’s smaller TVs might make sense for those looking for a combo TV/PC display. If you’re interested in checking them out, they’re available at Fry’s, Micro Center, VAR channels, and various online stores such as Amazon and Buy.com.

Yet it’s hard to see how the company will attract many new customers when it’s trying to compete against the big, well-established brands, without offering any sharply different features or price advantage.