A 13-inch iPad costs the same as an 86-inch TV with the same capabilities

An iPad Pro costs between $1,100 and $2,200 (plus $350 for a keyboard), depending on precise configuration. It features a 12.9-inch LCD display and weighs about 1.4 lbs., making it inexpensive to pack and ship. It runs a Unix-based operating system and a bunch of apps to decode streaming digital video and paint pixels on the medium-resolution (less than 4K) screen.

What about an 86″ TV? It runs a Unix-based operating system and a bunch of apps to decode streaming digital video and paint pixels on a full 4K resolution screen. Here’s an example LG 86UN9070AUD from a recent Costco trip:

In addition to its prodigious 7′ diagonal size, it weighs 100 lbs. (130 lbs. when packaged) and therefore consumes substantial shipping and warehousing costs.

An obvious answer is that LG competes with other TV manufacturers and Apple is the only place to get a device that will run all of the apps targeted to iOS, but it still surprises me that these two items could have roughly similar prices.

18 thoughts on “A 13-inch iPad costs the same as an 86-inch TV with the same capabilities

  1. Yes, but that LG doesn’t have that little logo on it…
    LG doesn’t have transparent retail stores made of glass…
    LG didn’t have Steve Jobs running it from 1997 until 2011….
    LG isn’t perceived as a “cutting edge innovator” brand…
    LG is a big, faceless South Korean conglomerate that also makes dishwashers and microwave ovens…
    LG doesn’t have the iPhone…

    Here’s a fun story: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I built a website for a law school. At the time I also dabbled in reading various things written by some Smart Guy named Greenspun who also traveled quite a bit and did a lot of film and digital camera reviews…in addition to writing about mundane things like databased-backed websites. But I digress…

    At this University I worked for, the Law School was “different” insofar as the Dean, my boss, was a bit of a micromanaging control-freak (I’m using the term in its best sense) and therefore she wanted to keep the entire development and marketing operation for the Law School in house, including the website. Other Colleges at this University worked through University channels to get their websites built, but the Law School stood apart.

    Still, it was necessary and important for my survival to interoperate with University folks, just so everyone was on the same page in terms of branding and nobody did anything too “crazy.” So I went to meetings with some of those folks, and met one of the guys who did graphic design for the University. Of course, he was a “Mac Person” in a world of PCs and PC clones. I, of course used a PC clone running Windows NT4 and up….

    Anyway, our initial meeting was kind of brusque and semi-confrontational because everyone at the University was suspicious of this effort by the Rogue Law School to have its own website development and marketing people. So I did my best to assuage their fears and reassure them that it wasn’t anything “evil” that we were trying to “pull.” And I remarked to this fellow: “You know, I’d really like to have both at home, a Mac and a PC.”

    He looked at me like I had two heads and had just told him I ate crushed abalone shells and paste for breakfast: “WHY would anyone EVER want to have BOTH?” Like I was DISEASED. I said: “Wouldn’t that be cool?” and he basically walked away from me.

    Anyway, I suspect that legacy has something to do with the prices Apple can still charge for most things they sell.

  2. “An iPad Pro … It runs a Unix-based operating system and a bunch of apps to decode streaming digital video and paint pixels on the medium-resolution (less than 4K) screen.

    Apple did manage to mainstream unix for the proles with some fashion sense. Before then unix / linux was more the domain of nerds without fashion sense who did tedious things in bash, X11 and sometimes a C compiler.

  3. The demand is probably equal for a pad & a large TV nowadays. In hindsight, the only reason lions had any interest in large TV’s 40 years ago may have been japanese cartoons. The largest greenspun photos are 2560×1920, not even enough to fill a 4k TV.

    • lion: The demand for bottled water is much higher than the demand for a large TV and yet bottled water does not cost as much as an 86″ TV…

    • @philg: Hey, wait a minute here. Something’s wrong with that comparison. At the risk of sounding like Charles De Mar from “Better Off Dead”: The demand for oxygenated air to breathe is even higher than the demand for bottled water, and yet…air is totally free!

      Why isn’t Nestlé in the bottled air business, too?


    • Speaking of bottled oxygen…. at our airport we have a communal oxygen farm. We use welding oxygen which is the same exact thing as both medical oxygen and aviation oxygen but it’s like 1/100th the price. It’s not FAA approved but usually we fill portable bottles which do not require approval.

  4. I don’t know much about the latest so called smart and big screen TV with glorifying pixels. I’m still using my 15+ year old 46″ flat screen TV that I got on Black Friday from my local Micro Center for what I think was about $600 back than (and that was a lot of money).

    Now that I got this out of the way, isn’t the reason for iPad being expansive has to do with: a) only Apple makes them, and b) unlike TV, you can carry the iPad around and run applications on it. Can today’s 86″ TVs run Office, Photoshop, FireFox, et. al.?

    • TVs do run web browsers!

      A TV’s internal processor is probably comparable to what you would have had in a mid-priced laptop five years ago. That old laptop can run Office and Photoshop so the TV could too!

      Here’s a low budget Hisense 2015 TV for which I found the specs. It has a 4-core ARM CPU with 2 GB of RAM. Clocked at 1.2 GHz. https://www.displayspecifications.com/en/model/036755b

  5. I have another riddle, too: Why did the terrible Chip Shortage not affect TV, Smartphone and iPad/Tablet manufacturers anywhere nearly as bad as the automotive industry?

    • It is true. You can buy as many TVs as you want and also as many smartphones. A car doesn’t need more processing power than a TV and yet we are told that cars can’t be produced for want of chips.

    • @philg: I’m sure it’s a “complicated, nuanced answer” but I haven’t seen any really credible accounting for it. I know that all modern cars contain dozens of “modules” that communicate over the car’s internal network. In my FEH 2010 Hybrid it’s the CAN Bus and with some other protocols. But there’s big difference between the ECU that runs the engine, the transaxle and the Battery Control Module, and the and the module that controls the automatic interior light dimming switch (and it’s a separate module!)

      They’re not all created equal in the world of car network modules. So which chips go into what modules that can’t they get? I haven’t seen anyone come up with a good, solid multipage article that details it using an example vehicle.

      You’d think one of the intrepid journalists at Car and Driver would have investigated this problem and done an expose.

  6. With regard to the car chips I have read they were impacted more than high end chips because the chip manufacturers had shifted production away from the comparatively very simple and cheap chips used in cars to more complex/expensive (read higher margin) chips. So the automakers are at the back of the line when it comes to getting chips.

    • Anon: That’s a convincing story, but if you go into Walmart there is no shortage of coffee makers, toasters, and other small appliances that also need the simple microcontrollers.

  7. I wonder if the devices cost the ~same because they each involve difficult physical labor, just different forms.

    It’s true the TV will require multiple burly folks to load/offload and lifting it is tiring. On the other hand the big size probably makes assembly a less fragile process – wiring the screen to the board will not require much dexterity. Also the board can be larger, less thermally efficient, making it a bit cheaper.

    Consider an iPad. Yes it’s trivial to load/unload a single unit. But assembly must be a nightmare. I imagine people with dexterous small hands wearing little magnifying glass headgear and maneuvering tweezers with gloved hands. And I have to imagine they lose a fair number to assembly error. So there is probably a big labor cost to building small and light tablets. (Last time I checked apple out out an annual supplier report disclosing among other things how many children their contract manufacturers accidentally hired, oops. I bet some get very good at this!)

    As for real estate costs, presumably any location with a Costco is discounted sufficiently that they are a rounding error. If it makes sense to sell/warehouse jumbo toilet paper, peanut butter, etc the tvs are surely earning their keep!

  8. The Amazon Fire tablets are good cheap alternatives to Ipads. My kids have several of them, with cushioned cases.

  9. I think the reason is your obvious answer (LG has competitors, but Apple fans think that only Apple products are the road to happiness). Additionally, “smart” TVs are full of spyware, which sells your viewing habits at best and your speech inside your own home at worst:


    (I generally dislike flat screen televisions, the colors are unnatural. High end CRTs were superior, but in the past 20 years the quality of life has deteriorated in that area, too.)

  10. I admit almost total ignorance about the inside workings of very large flat screen TV/monitors, but I will note that during my recent 6+ day hospital stay, my room had a fairly large (at least 50″, maybe bigger) flat screen and while it was nice for watching Turner Classic Movies, the colors and images looked *heavily* over-processed, almost to the point of turning some of the images into a BeFunky cartoon.

    To show what I mean, in exaggerated form, take a look here:


    That’s a photo of some bald eagles before and after being run through the BeFunky “Cartoonize 1” filter:


    The flat screen panels in the hospital were big and bright, but they were also doing a *lot* of image processing, which tended to cartoonize the details. I didn’t catch the brand/model # so I don’t know how expensive they were.

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