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