Is 2014 the year of no-name TVs?

This might just be the year you buy an HDTV from some company you’ve never heard of. And we’re not just talking about the Dynexes, the Zeniths, the Emersons, or the other generic brands that have been populating the low end for years. This might be the year you buy a Hisense, a TCL, a Huawei, or any of a dozen other brands you’ve never heard of.

Why? The argument is this: TVs have become commodities. When the middle-of-the-road (or bottom-of-the-line) of anything becomes “good enough” then there’s no reason to be loyal to a brand. Top manufacturers like Sony, LG and Samsung may be falling over each other to show the latest 120″ 4K monstrosity, but stuff like that won’t make it into average homes for decades (if ever.) For the average person looking for an HDTV, the bottom-end stuff looks just as good as the top-end stuff, and it’s often priced very attractively.

Put aside for a moment that the menus may be a little hard to understand and the TV may lack “smart” features, when it comes to watching TV, there’s little difference between the folks you know and the folks you don’t. Everyone has LED backlighting in fairly slender cases and enough HDMI inputs. Everyone has a decent color processor and honestly, all of them have crummy speakers too. So why not try out a brand you’ve never heard of?

Looking at the top-end TV manufacturers, one can’t help but remember the days just a few years ago when high-end PC manufacturers tried to snow the public with fancy designs and high price tags. People began to realize about 2007 that the PC they had was just fine and the next time they shopped for one, it wasn’t glamour or features they cared about, it was price. Even the bottom-end PC was good enough for most things. That’s where TVs are today, and so these TV makers (some of whom make PCs) would be well advised to learn from the crash of the PC industry and find ways to add real value that people care about.

Sure, the real A/V-philes will bemoan the lack of quality in these bottom-scrapers, but they really represent a good value for people who “just want to watch TV” and that’s why those brands you’ve never heard of are such a threat.

Oh by the way, that’s not just our opinion. This article was inspired by a similar piece on Buzzfeed a few weeks back. (Warning: The article is good but the title itself is not safe for work, or for young readers. You’ll know it when you see it, just click on the link.)