If you've been holding off on that 15-inch flat-panel in hopes of a better deal, you may have waited too long. After years of falling prices, high demand is driving the costs of 15-inch LCDs up, and analysts say they're unlikely to drop anytime soon.
For much of 2003 you could find no-frills 15-inch LCDs for as low as $250 and brand-name units for about $300, says Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research at the ISuppli/Stanford Resources research firm. But by year's end, low-end generic models were selling for about $300, while many branded models pushed toward $350, she says.
Why? Supply and demand. Though panel costs have been going up since the end of 2002, until now LCD vendors had absorbed those costs to keep sales booming, she explains. But the popularity of notebooks and LCD TVs has further strained the supply of 15-inch panels and forced vendors to pass along higher prices to customers.
NEC-Mitsubishi, for example, recently pushed the street price of its 1560NX from $350 to $365, while LG Electronics' L1515S went up $30 to $380.
Other vendors may discontinue rebates, plentiful in the past, instead of technically raising the price of their LCDs.
Alexander says there is some good news: 17-inch LCDs remain a good deal. Although rebates have slowed here, too, prices have continued to fall, with the average price for such units now around $400, down from $545 at the end of 2002.