The Sunday Supplements (05/14/06)
It's been a little more than a month since I covered the big-box Sunday advertising supplements, and one thing has become clear in that time; if you were expecting the recent regulations mandating digital tuners for sets in the 25"-35" range (except for tuner-less monitors) to bring a flood of cheaper widescreen HD sets to market, you can forget all about that for now. The 4:3 digital SDTV is now undisputed ruler of that domain.
There was one fairly cheap HD option; for $280 you could either get a Polaroid 15" 4:3 LCD HD monitor at Circuit City, or a Magnavox monitor with the same dimensions at Target. The cost of actual widescreen HD sets appears to have gone up recently, at least at the lower end. The cheapest tuner-included HD set I saw was $549, but that was 4:3, for widescreen you had to go up another $200 (a Westinghouse 27" model at Best Buy, after $200 instant savings). (Another thing I noticed was that monitors appear to be on a general decline, except for the smallest LCDs.)
What this indicates to me is that HD will continue to be a high-end experience for years to come, even after the transition, unless there's some serious change to this trend. When the average American replaces their TV, that replacement is likely to be an SDTV.