CHOICE has tested thousands of products over the years. To celebrate our 50th anniversary, this award is given to our most consistently recommended brand over the past 50 years. Several companies have delivered consistent quality, performance and ease of use across a range of household and entertainment products.
During our 50 years of serving consumers, we've confidently recommended many products to our members. The shortlisted companies for this award, Sony, Panasonic and Philips, have earned their place because of the number of products included in our 'What to Buy' or 'Recommended' lists over the past five decades.
TVs are among our most popular tests, and just one of the home electronics products where our shortlisted companies have been fighting for prime position. When colour arrived in Australia in 1975 we tested the latest massive 63cm colour TVs and all three brands scored well. As the decades progressed, Philips, Panasonic and Sony jockeyed for top brand, with Sony's Trinitron CRT TV enjoying some dominance in the 1990s and Panasonic scoring well in the 21st century with its plasma TVs.
Panasonic has the highest number of recommended models across a wide range of products over the past 40 years, and was among the top three brands in the 1960s and early 1970s when trading as National.
Runners up: Sony and Philips
Sony and Philips have become part of the Australian home landscape since the introduction of home hi-fi entertainment in the 1960s. In the 1970s, CHOICE testers identified the effect companies such as Sony and Philips were having on the Australian home entertainment landscape since the arrival of TV, as they marvelled at the emerging concept of devoting entire rooms in new houses to watching TV.
Back to the future: 1979
There was a time when free-to-air television was not only the dominant form of visual electronic entertainment at home, it was the only choice. Back in the 1970s, viewing options were Channel 7, Channel 9, the ABC (Channel 2) and the fledgling Channel 10. With only four channels to choose from, consumers were desperate to watch as many of the few available shows as possible.
A test of VCRs by CHOICE in 1979 revealed how much consumers were willing to pay to exercise their right to watch what they wanted, when they wanted. All three of our shortlisted Heritage Award companies - Panasonic (National at the time), Sony and Philips - were represented. At the time, the CHOICE tester said that "although still expensive at $1000 to $1500, video cassette recorders or VCRs that can capture TV programs off the air have also captured the imagination - and discretionary income - of consumers everywhere".
VCRs had only been on the Australian market for little more than a year, and already our tester saw trouble brewing about which format to use. While most of us are familiar with the BETA/VHS format war of the early 1980s, some may not know that early users of VCRs had a third tape format to consider. The Philips VCR used the Philips 2000 tape format, while Sony used Betamax and Panasonic/National used VHS tape. While we all know which tape won out in the end, our tester suggested it might be a good idea to hold off buying a VCR until the companies had decided on a common format.
Finally, our CHOICE tester gazed into his crystal ball and suggested that prerecorded tapes, where consumers could buy or rent movies, may prove popular.