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Archive for June, 2015

Kogan – just cheap rubbish?

You know, I’ve shared my views on Apple, Google, Microsft, and others that rip us Aussie’s off by not paying taxes – in Apple’s case they also refused to honour consumer guarantees – and in Apple and Google’s cases also sell in-app purchases designed to elicit high spending through the use of operant conditioning (see Hopson, J., 2001. Behavioral game design).

Kogan TV’s are another thing altogether. I know some people that have been duped into buying them – some have regretted it. First let me take you back a few years to 2009, at this time Kogan prominently advertised the manufacturer of the LCD or Plasma panels in their TVs (as either LG or Samsung) – as if it made the Kogan TVs of equal quality to a genuine-branded product. Kogan eventually stopped doing this. Also, Kogan kept advertising the TVs as representing a typical saving of 60-70% when compared with buying from a retailer (see ACA interview on Youtube). Furthermore, Kogan claimed to be the manufacturer of Kogan TVs and that consumers could “cut out the middleman” by buying direct (see the ACA interview on Youtube, link in previous sentence). In 2010 Gerry Harvey labelled Kogan a ‘con’ and called his products ‘unbranded shit’. In 2010, Chris Ruggles of Choice magazine said “the quality of the picture is determined by the panel, the processor, the factory settings, the backlighting – there are a lot of factors in there, and just having a [brand name] panel is not a guarantee of a good picture. That said, there is no reason why a Kogan couldn’t turn out a decent TV. There’s no reason why a major brand other than Kogan couldn’t turn out a not very good TV – and we’ve seen it. It’s really down to looking at the image yourself and saying do I like it or do I not.” (See previous link to The Age).

I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. When I bought my Samsung TV in 2011 I thoroughly researched the quality of the products to ensure I go the value I was expecting. I had the opportunity to go into several stores and compare different models against competing brands – although do keep in mind that the settings in the store and not the settings you will use at home – in particular the brightness and contrast is always dialled right up. Someone I know bought a Kogan around 2009 or 2010 and said to me “it’s the same quality as a Samsung”. Well I don’t know for sure how he came to that conclusion – probably from the misleading claims that Kogan made – however it was pretty clear to me that it was not the same quality as a Samsung. Kogan TVs are not sold in stores, so there’s no way for a consumer to fairly decide its quality compared to say a Soniq, Palsonic, Hisense, or other cost-cut brands, or to the better brands of LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung. However, that doesn’t mean that professionals don’t do it – in July 2014 Choice magazine included the KALED55UHDZA model Kogan TV in a review against other large TVs. It came second last with only a TEAC model doing worse. “Its image quality is borderline except for broadcast HD where it’s OK” (see Whirlpool thread).

In the ACA interview a “tech expert” is asked to identify the Samsung against the Kogan and another no-brand TV. He says “watching TV the difference is very slight …” this itself is just a misleading ploy from ACA; the thing that all budget TV’s do best is display high-definition television. High-definition broadcast material does not contain the level of detail that a high-definition Bluray or other source (like console gaming) can deliver. Because it’s a lower quality source, but also one that doesn’t need much image processing (de-interlacing etc) the quality is usually very good even on budget TVs. The things budget TVs do less well is standard-definition TV, and video from DVD, Bluray or consoles. Standard definition TV is a mixed bag on budget TVs – it can look good if the program is from a progressive source and doesn’t really need to be de-interlaced, but it can look bad if it’s a TV show shot on video that needs de-interlacing. A “very slight” difference in the quality of HD broadcast would translate to a very large difference when it comes to something like gaming or watching a Bluray movie. The ACA interviewer then asks the tech expert “this one here is a Kogan … he buys direct from China, so it could be a Samsung or it could be an LG could it not?” The answer the so-called tech expert gives is that it could have components from all different manufacturers. The problem with that answer is that it’s wrong – NO it can’t be a Samsung TV or a LG TV. It may have a panel that is manufactured in the same factory and it may have other components that are similar or even the same in genuine top-brand product, but it isn’t a Samsung or a LG, nor is it the same quality. And as I will discuss shortly, I do actually know who the manufacturer of most Kogan TVs is and it isn’t Samsung, LG, or Kogan.

So what are my thoughts then? Well firstly, the quality is poor – no better than that of other budget brand TVs, and in some cases most likely worse. Their up-scaling chip is shit. Their de-interlacing chip is shit. Their displays suffer from motion-smearing/ghosting. Audio quality is frankly terrible. I don’t think they’re very good value, and I think even if you want to buy a budget TV instead of a quality one that you should view them in a shop where you can compare the quality – take a DVD with you (not a Bluray, a DVD) and ask to play it on some of the TVs. Ideally use a DVD of a TV show made in the 1990’s or earlier in either Australia or the UK.

Virtually all of the claims made by Kogan are either misleading or outright false. And I’ll go through them – firstly Kogan TVs are not 60-70% cheaper when compared with comparable budget brand TV sets. Secondly, the panels are not genuine LG or Samsung. They may be made in the same factories, but they are what is referred to as “B-grade” stock. They’re the panels that aren’t good enough for name-brand TVs, and instead get used in all kinds of different budget-brand TVs. And as I’ve already mentioned, you need more than just a good panel for a good TV, you need the chipset to go with it, which Kogan TVs do not have. Kogan claims to be cutting out the middleman – rubbish. Kogan is not the manufacturer of their TVs as the company claims: they’re just re-branded budget-level foreign-brand TVs – namely Konka and Canca. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it, here are two links on kogan.com.au to TV manuals one for KALED463D1A and one for KALED553D1A. View the document properties and you will see the title reads “39036624 KDL46MS95AD 澳洲亚太 KONKA 1BOM 说明书”. Furthermore, Kogan owns the domain konka.com.au (as you can see here), which redirects to kogan.com.au. So much for being their own brand – perhaps Harvey is right, Kogan is nothing more than a con. Do you remember back at the start I mentioned how in 2009 though to around 2011 or so Kogan advertised their TVs as having “LG” and “Samsung” panels? Yet they’ve never advertised the fact that their TVs are re-branded Konka and Canca TV sets – in fact they’ve always claimed (and still claim) to be the manufacturer of their brand TVs! Seems like clear deceit to me.

Finally there are two more reasons I wouldn’t deal with the company. The first is that they have terrible customer service as reported over on the Whirlpool forums. Secondly, unlike most “manufacturers” they are unable to repair “their own” TVs. They are able to get parts for TVs they currently sell and arrange to have them repaired, however as you probably know all products in Australia come with a set of consumer guarantees that last for the expected life of the product. This means it’s a consumer right to have a product repaired, replaced or refunded (the retailer/manufacturer has the option to chose not the consumer). For most companies this means your TV can be repaired and returned to you (for a nominal fee). For Kogan it means their TVs are sent straight to landfill and you are either given a depreciated refund or a replacement. Not exactly an environmentally friendly solution, if you ask me.

In summary, Kogan’s business model is to cut-corners and advertise budget products away from the fair and open competition of a shop, whilst overstating their quality. You should always be sceptical of a product that you cannot see in a shop, because it means you can’t compare it directly to competing products. If you want to buy a new TV you should select one by comparing them in a shop – you will get better value than a Kogan for the same money. And, the TVs that Kogan sells are not “manufactured direct” from Kogan, but are re-branded TVs that aren’t even designed for the Australian market (they’re designed for the Chinese market) – they’re re-branded TV models of brands that even JB-HiFi doesn’t sell in Australia.