When it comes to TVs, while big brands like Sony and Samsung capture the lion's share of the public's attention, less is known about some of the lesser known brands sitting alongside. Especially those offering big panels at a fraction of the price.
One such brand that's caught our attention is Soniq, which is sold exclusively at JB HiFi outlets nationwide and is best known for their incredibly low cost televisions (and now a plethora of other electronic products including set top boxes, iPhone docks and speaker systems).
Question about Soniq make popular discussion topics in numerous online communities including Whirlpool, and online forums are often filled with questions wondering about how brands like Soniq can maintain quality standards if prices are so low.
Case in point: a 40in Full HD 1080p LCD TV (1920 x 1080) that is advertised for sale on the JB HiFi site for $798. For that money, you get 3x HDMI inputs and a built-in HD tuner. Interestingly, Soniq also says this model uses a Samsung panel.
There's even a very cheap 42in plasma TV advertised for $698 on the JB HiFi site - though the resolution is only 1024 x 768.
With such amazing prices, these are the kinds of deals that you make you wonder: what sort of backing do these products have? We met with business development manager Ziad Yaacoub to find out a little more.
It turns out Soniq has six years of retailing experience in Australia, though the products are sold all over the world, including the Middle East, China and New Zealand. The parent company is the Chinese-based Quatius, though they are known as Soniq in Australia.
Little is publicised about Soniq's manufacturing process. Here are some of the more interesting points we learnt about Soniq TVs:
- Soniq uses LG or Samsung panels in their LCD range. Panasonic panels are now being used in their plasma range.
- Each panel is one generation behind the current manufacturer's mainstream panels. So if you like the latest Panasonic panel now, wait till next year and Soniq may be using it.
- The price of panels fluctuates a lot, depending on various factors including exchange rate, manufacturing and material costs. Now is a good time to buy a LCD or plasma, argues Yaacoub, because Soniq reckons the current panel supply is insufficient to meet demand. A deflated Australian dollar has a negative effect on panel prices.
- One of our major concerns for a company offering prices this low is service and support. Soniq says they have an in-home warranty service, which started this year. Soniq say they'll happily cart your flat screen off to the closet repair centre and provide you with a replacement loan TV while it's being repaired.
- Soniq have their own factories in China (though as we previously explained, the panels themselves use other brands' technology). A new factory is currently being developed that will push out 1 million panels a year.
The company obviously wants to be seen as a player in the local TV market. Not only are they pushing the above models at JB HiFi, but in our meeting they told us that by the middle of this year they want to introduce an LED TV (starting at 32in) using LED Edge technology. Also on the drawing board is a streaming media device (comparisons were made with the WD TV Live) with onboard hard drive.
With the likes of Palsonic (commonly confused with Panasonic), Tyagi and Hisense, and more recently Kogan, all vying for the entry level TV dollar, expect to see a race to see how cheap these brands can push entry level TV prices in 2010.