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Costco 4K TV models vs. mainstream 4K TV models: What’s the difference?

by on September 13, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – September 13, 2016

For those of you who have walked into your nearest Costco retail location in the U.S (and possibly other markets), you may have noticed that many of the 4K TVs on display, while looking very similar or pretty much identical to models you know well from online browsing or checking them out at Best Buy locations, in fact have partially different model numbers.

Thus for example (and these are actual examples from Costco’s retail website and in-store locations) In a Costco, you might see a TV which looks virtually identical to Samsung’s KS8500 2016 SUHD TV but when you look closely at it, you find that its model number is denominated as KS850D. More specifically what looks like a UN65KS8500FXZA model that you’d find denominated as such on Amazon.com, Best Buy’s retail locations or on the Samsung USA website itself might look the same at Costco but come with the model number UN65KS850DFXZA. This same change in model numbers applies (at least currently) to all Samsung 4K TVs sold on Costco’s website and, presumably, in many of their warehouse locations.

For LG and Vizio 4K TVs we’ve seen on sale with Costco, the model numbers are the same as they are in the regular retail outlets for these models. However, the changes in model name for numerous different 4K TVs from assorted brands go back a long way and have been the case for years. The key questions consumers might have for this are first: Why is this the case? And second: Is there any difference in the quality or specs of these Costco models?

We’re going to cover the answers to both questions here and as simply as possible.

Is there any difference in the quality or specs of these Costco models?

In basic terms, there is virtually no effective difference between the odd-numbered models sold by Costco and their mainstream counterparts that are sold in other retail locations, on Amazon or on a TV manufacturers website itself (in this case we’re confining ourselves to Samsung TVs because they’re the only models currently sold by Costco with the model number variations in effect for all models sold by the company). For all practical purposes as far as core display specs for color, contrast, black levels and high dynamic rang are concerned, the Samsung mainstream models are the same as the Costco variations.

Thus, to name one example, the UN55KS8500FXZA that you’d find on Amazon’s website, or Best Buy or Samsung.com is in all real performance terms the same TV as the Costco version numbered as the UN55KS850DFXZA. This applies to all of the Samsung 4K TV models on sale at Costco and for the most part, all of them are denominated by a D at the end of their number instead of a numeral, with the KS8000 being the KS800D, the KU7500 being the KU750D and so forth.

This has also applied to previous 4K TV models on sale with Costco in past years or in select locations. For now however, as we’d said above, the different model numbers seem to affect only Samsung TVs, with LG’s superb OLED model from 2015, the EG9600 having the same model number at Costco and Vizio’s  M-Series and E-Series 4K TV models all also keeping their original SKUs.

However, there is a bit of a catch here, though it’s slightly confusing as well. We’ve spoken to Samsung itself about the off-numbered 4K TV models that we’re focusing this post on and reps of the company did state to us that in their properties, the Costco models do diverge in a few small ways, two of which might have particular importance to performance-hungry consumers. For one thing, the Costco models such as the KS850DFXZA TV and the KS800DFXZA versions are superficially different, with stands and bezels whose color is darker than it is in their silvery mainstream KS8500FXZA/KS8000FXZA versions. Secondly, according to at least one Samsung USA source, the Costco versions of the 2016 SUHD TVs (he was referring specifically to the KS850D/KS8500 model in this instance) are actually slightly better in their access to online apps through the Tizen smart TV platform and in how vibrantly they present color saturation.

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Shown above: the first TV is Samsungs KS8500FXZA and below it the Samsung KS850DFXZA. The only phyiscal difference is the bezel and stand coloring.

This claim is made all the more interesting by the fact that Costco actually sells their versions of the major Samsung TVs and especially of the SUHD TVs at prices which are ever so slightly lower than those of the retail models. Thus, if you want the quality of the KS8500 but are looking to shave off about $30 dollars in direct retail cost, as of this writing it’s Costco variant, the 55 inch KS850D is selling for $1,379 while the Amazon and Samsung.com versions retail for $1,399.99 plus shipping costs.

Since we’ve not yet reviewed a single Costco variation of the SUHD TV’s we’ve covered in our site reviews, we can’t vouch for either of these differences firmly. However, having looked at the content displayed on Costco versions of these TVs after having reviewed their mainstream model variants, we can’t honestly report noting any difference in color vibrancy that’s visible to the naked eye. Any readers who have had a chance to compare both TV versions side by side or in some sort of close proximity are welcome to let us know what they’ve experienced in the comment section though.

Furthermore, all close examinations of even the minutest on-paper/manufacturer specs between a mainstream Samsung model and a Costco version also show no difference whatsoever in any single spec. This includes features, audio power, power consumption, High Dynamic Range standards, connectivity and all other performance metrics that manufacturers publish. From what we know this case been the case for all other major 4K TVs from other major brands and previous years’ models released at Costco when they were compared to their mainstream versions.

To summarize, the Costco TVs are basically the same as the mainstream models. And even if the Samsung claim of slight superiority in content access and visual performance is true (which we think may be the case but to a virtually unnoticeable degree), buying either the mainstream models or their Costco versions will make no practical home entertainment difference for you as a consumer.

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Shown Above: KS8000FXZA mainstream model and KS800DFXZA Costco model below with only a darker bezel/stand to differentiate it.

 

Why are there different model numbers?

This second question is a bit less important than the above issue but it also has its own slightly convoluted answer.

Basically, Costco, as a major bulk retailer get special pricing deals from Samsung and other manufacturers for selling off their major TV models and in exchange for their sales volume and selling power, the company has managed to get itself special model number designations so that neither consumers or other retailers can easily price match the Costco TV versions of the major models with their mainstream versions. This gives Costco a competitive edge especially during major sale events such as Black Friday and so on. This would also partly explain why there are very tiny superficial differences between the two model types of TVs, in order to superficially distinguish them in consumers’ eyes and further confuse buyers. Sure, this sounds a bit dishonest but if the essential quality of the TV you buy in a Costco retail location is the same as that of its mainstream version, the final purchase deal is as good it would be elsewhere for a mainstream model version, possibly even slightly better given Costco’s small extra discount margins.

One of the Costco KS800D variant models on sale at a warehouse outlet

One of the Costco KS800D variant models on sale at a warehouse outlet

Interestingly, Samsung itself does list the Costco versions of its TV models on its own USA website, however their prices aren’t provided and visitors are only given a button for checking out “where to buy” the TV in their area sell the off models listed on the manufacturer’s website itself. Almost invariably it seems that these third party retailer locations are Costco locations, though we have also seen the websites of other small electronics resellers offering the Costco models on their websites as well.

Quite simply, it seems that the reason Costco has the major Samsung 4K TVs with non-mainstream model numbers is because the company gets special pricing and product numbering treatment from Samsung in a way that’s beneficial to both companies.

Story by 4k.com

 

13 comments
 
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  • Mark
    September 14, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    It very well could have to do with the “panel lottery”. IF Costco Samsung models are only made up of specific higher performing panels as opposed to other stores which are shipped all the different types of panels (some reported to be of much poorer quality) then it would not show variations in the specs, however the difference can be quite significant. In the 2015 models their were even reports that certain panels were 10bit and others 8bit depending only on which company manufactured them housed in the same model number of TV.

    Reply

  • Bob
    December 9, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    The difference between Costco and BJ’s “D” models and the models at other retailers is purely cosmetic (difference in bezel color as noted). I tried both the 60″ KS800D and the 65″ 800D from Costco. Both were excellent sets. The panel version numbers on the 65″ KS800D at Costco this year were either AA02 (made by AU Optronics) or FA01 (which are made by Samsung). The panel version on the 60″ was EA01 which is made by Sharp I checked a local Best Buy and at the time they had version 65″ AA02 models on the floor. Amazon.com was reported to be shipping FA01. There would appear to be no significant difference I could see between AA02 and FA01 panels whereas the EA01 panel from Sharp did have a slightly narrower viewing angle as noted on rtings.com. All 60″ sets had the EA01 panel whether they were Costco or other retailers. So the panel version number accounts for more of the difference than whether it was a Costco unit or not.

    Reply

  • John Morabito
    February 3, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I spoke to Samsung tech support today regarding the difference between the un65ks9000 and the un65ks900D (Costco version). They told me and I quote, “the Costco Samsung TVs have the exact same hardware and circuitry as the non-Costco models however those internal components can be refurbished!” They also stated that Samsung isn’t the provider for the refurbishment but it’s performed by an authorized service station.

    I can’t believe that Costco can technically and legally sell these TVs as brand new. It’s crazy but I’m not risking it and will likely buy it at Crutchfield which is only $20 more. I’m very interested to hear others feedback on this… Bestbuy told me the same thing about Costco.

    Reply

    • Steve
      February 18, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Spoke to Costco HQ and they said that’s nonsense. The TV’s a numbered differently for competitive reasons only, and are brand new, unused components.

      Reply

      • Cathy
        April 4, 2017 at 8:27 am

        Steve,
        of course Costco would say that’s nonsense. That would be very bad press for them. If a SAMSUNG employee said the internal components could be refurbished, I’d believe the Samsung employee over Costco. And since I was just reading several recent 2017 – 1 star reviews last night about Costco Samsung UHD tvs, which are in stark contrast to the reviews on CNET (and other individual user reviews), I’m seeing the Costco product is inferior.

        Reply

        • Stephen
          Stephen
          April 4, 2017 at 10:52 pm

          I am not entirely sure this is always the case Cathy. It may be at times, it’s difficult to know for sure for all TVs sold by Costco but we’ve examined some budget and mid-range 4K TVs from Costco and often with excellent results, comparable to those seen in identical models from other major retailers..

          Reply

        • Rich
          April 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm

          One factor worth mentioning is the Costco warranty. 90 day returns, no questions asked. Plus, 2 additional years on top of manufacturers warranty period. This certainly doesn’t impact the grade of internal parts, but it definitely adds value and a peace of mind to your purchase.

          Personally, I have been Costco member for many years, but never bought a TV at the warehouse. No particular reason, but most likely because their didn’t carry the brand I targeted. However, knowing a little bit about branding, the Costco business model and its corporate practices, I would be shocked if they were jeopardizing their reputation by selling products with any refurbished components. Again, just my personal opinion.

          Reply

          • Gene
            July 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm

            I don’t think this is the case. Costco would be risking “business suicide” if this was indeed true.
            I have been a member of Costco for many years, have bought several Tv from them, and have been satisfied every time.
            With additional warranty, 90 day return, and Cheaper price, I will continue to take my chances with Costco


    • Yuan H. Lee
      August 20, 2017 at 11:42 pm

      “John Morabito”: your comment is total BS. I have worked as an EE for Samsung and have a corporate associate that works at the US Costco purchasing department. ALL TV’s sold at Costco are completely “BRAND NEW” and always have been. Moreover, no Samsung customer service rep would EVER make such an absurd statement; therefore, either you have a “grudge” against Costco or you are a Crutchfield/Bestbuy/etc. schill or you are a “nuisance troll”. The model number variants are common within large retailers on many big ticket items, especially electronics and home appliances – and have been so for MANY years. The reasons are exactly as this 4K.COM article very clearly explains. Please reread Stephan Jukic’s expertly written article. Best Regards.

      Reply

  • Anthony
    April 13, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Costco also gives a two-year warranty instead of one, plus an extra two years if you buy with their Visa card. 90 day return policy and great service give them edge, provided that they have the model/selection.

    Many vendors sell a refurbished models online, including Amazon. I doubt that Costco would risk their reputation selling them as new. In fact, it would really fall on Samsung for not labeling them as refurbished.

    Reply

  • Bob UPSguy
    April 14, 2017 at 8:25 am

    I just bought the Costco 65 inch 800D 8 series after so much reviewing. Best Buy keep trying to tell me that are slightly different but I can not find any proof of this what so ever. So I used my Costco Visa and got 4 years warranty ( 3 more then BB ) without spending a penny extra. I will also consider the extra Square Trade 3 year warranty for $89 which I have time to add from Costco and that gives me 7 years of warranty. I have 90 days if I change my mind as well so I have a lot of comfort when making this purchase from Costco. It must kill BB because they all try and scare me not to buy. The warranty is bogus…..the Square Trade doesn’t cover much but I could not find proof for any of it. Did Square trade on my son’s phone and he broke his phone the allowed 4 times and they took care of it every time. A couple small bumps to do so but it was taken care of.

    Reply

  • John
    April 25, 2017 at 5:38 am

    So are we supposed to think that Samsung would stiff one of its largest sellers and run more or less a separate assembly line to stick in a few refurb parts and run the risk of discovery? After the exploding battery fiasco?
    More likely an urban myth created by competitors.

    Reply

  • Al
    June 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I have bought many TVs from Costco for myself or for family members – 6 tvs in all over the years. 2 vizios and 4 Samsung. Never had any issues with them and they are still in use and working beautifully.

    Reply

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