Sharp 52″ LED-backlit television for $1100

Ah, I love 4th of July weekend. Not necessarily because of anything intrinsic about it, but I loved this one and I loved the one two years ago, so it’s becoming a trend.

Today I got up early and ran in the Tortoise and Hare 5k in downtown Ann Arbor, hung out at home and finished editing a paper that I was unable to finish last night, and went out to lunch at ABC with Dave. Lame-ass Theresa and Rich didn’t join us, but that’s okay, they probably didn’t feel well or have time. Since I had no particular thing to do or place to be, and I didn’t want to go back home and sit in my hot, stuffy apartment for 6 hours, I decided to drive around to a couple stores and look for furniture or electronics that I could buy in the future (after I move next month or next summer). I headed for Art Van, the furniture store, to look at coffee tables, end tables, night stands, and couches. I saw lots of good ones, probably plenty of things Kathy and I would like, but it felt kind of pointless without her there (for her knowledge of home design and her opinion of every piece, as they will be joint decisions), but then I saw the TV store that existed in an annex in the back of the store: Paul’s TV. It is like the “home theater” section of Best Buy, just a medium-sized room in the back of the store, and it operates as an independent store. I’m sure they have plenty of TV/furniture deals in coordination with Art Van, but other than that, they’re separate.

I went back to Paul’s TV and sat down in an armchair to watch a plasma TV (Panasonic P50S2) and an LED-backlit Sharp (LC52LE700U) that were set up perpendicular to each other. I had a good angle to watch the Tigers game on both, though it was closer than I’d typically sit at home. The reason I sat down to watch those two, mainly the Sharp, is that the local appliance store ABC Warehouse had given me a guaranteed price of $1500 for the Sharp, to be delivered in August after I move, if I paid a down payment on it, but I saw that Paul’s TV had it for $1197. THAT…is insane. Paul’s TV never charges for shipping, whereas ABC Warehouse would have charged $50.

Naturally, my first thought was that this was too good to be true, but I double-checked the model number and size. I had been keeping track of many TV prices in a spreadsheet over the last year (yes, total loser-geek), so I had gotten good at memorizing model numbers and was already familiar with this one anyway. It was definitely the same TV, for $350 cheaper. Its MSRP is $2000. My second thought was also along the lines of, “This is too good to be true,” but referring to the picture quality&#8212maybe this TV isn’t all that great, despite great reviews (at both Amazon and Newegg, which is a ringing endorsement, considering the tech-savvy videophiles who populate Newegg). It is that great. I thought that its colors might have been a little too bright or washed out compared to the plasma, but, first of all, that’s adjustable, and I don’t believe that the Sharp’s colors will be the slightest, remotest bit sub-optimal after I adjust them. One strong point of the Sharp LEDs according to reviewers is the color accuracy. The motion of the ball and players seemed nearly identical to the S2, with the edge probably going to the S2. I don’t know if that’s a by-product of the colors being turned up too bright, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The big advantage of the Sharp LED was, surprisingly, its black levels (and other dark levels). They were better than the plasma’s. Its blacks were blacker, and it was easier to distinguish a few details in dark places than on the plasma. This is despite the incessant claims by videophiles at CNet and everywhere else that plasmas’ black levels are so superior to LCDs’. Not these two. (Nor any plasmas in ABC Warehouse, which is the very thing that swayed Kathy and me towards the Sharp in the first place.) In and around the backdrop of Comerica Park, which is the dark, empty part behind center field that enables the hitter to see the pitched ball, more detail was distinguishable. It was July 4th, so the Tigers and Mariners were both wearing these special “patriotic” caps (here’s the Tigers one). Before the start of one inning, the camera zoomed in very close to a Tigers hat that was sitting in the dugout or in a shaded part of the stands or somewhere; I guess the Fox Sports crew had set it up there for the purpose of zooming in one inning. The LED-backlit TV was far, far more detailed and accurate in showing the lines of the Tigers’ English D and distinguishing the navy-blue textures of the middle and left side of that logo from one another. It was a mess of navy blue on the plasma, and a clear English D on the LED-backlit screen. Sold.

To make the end of this story rather shorter, I took this price to ABC Warehouse to challenge them to beat it, but I had no documentation, so all they could beat was the website’s price of $1497 (the $1197 was a special 4th of July sale). I went back to Paul’s TV, paid a 10% down payment on my credit card, got the receipt, brought it to the ABC Warehouse manager, who eventually told me he would not only match it but beat it by $100. I don’t know if he mistyped, misspoke, or miscalculated, but he actually gave it to me for over $160 less than Paul’s TV: $1102 after tax and shipping, compared to $1268 in total from Paul’s TV. That is INSANE, people.

When Kathy and I had first picked out the Sharp LED-backlit TV in June, I walked out of there telling her it wasn’t quite a steal, but it was a very good or great deal on a great, long-lasting, highly reviewed TV that we both witnessed outperforming every TV in the store with a remotely similar price. But $1100, THAT is a steal. It’s unbelievable. I am ecstatic. This has made my month.

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