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Olde tymer needs a new TV - advice

  1. Jul 23, 2008 #1

    DaveC426913

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    OK. Our TV died rather abruptly. Time to get a new one.

    I haven't been keeping up much on the technology so I'm turnin' to yall.

    - Probably going to get a flat-screen.
    - Doesn't need to be huge, though it won't hurt to get one larger than my current ~31" tube.
    - We do watch DVDs though not that often anymore. We're not technophiles or anything but I wouldn't mind keeping up with the times tech-wise.
    - Wife is expecting somewhere in the $700 range, I'm thinkin' that's kind of low.
    - There's LCD-flavoured and plasma flavoured? What's the diff? What do I want?
    - Does the type of cable service I have play in? Currently, we just have regular old cable. I don't really see the advantage in digital cable, except for the usual better pic, etc.
    - Do I have a choice any longer about whether I get a HD set versus a regular set?
    - I assume it will still hook up to my stereo with only the usual amount of heartache.
    - Waht about brands? What brands should I avoid? Should I stick with name brands and avoid the derivatives?
    - Is a warranty is good investment?
     
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  3. Jul 23, 2008 #2

    mgb_phys

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    For anything over kitchen counter size you probably don't have a choice.

    Remember how big your room is and how far back you have to sit. 32, 37in are cheaper than 42in.
    DVD are only around 640x480 resolution, well below any flat panel display.

    Keep an eye on dell, I got a 37in LCD from $500 6months ago.

    Pretty much LCD now, plasma aren't available ( or are very expensive) in higher resolution. They were popular because big ones were cheap for people who just cared about the number of inches.

    The set top box will plug into anything, any set sold today will have a digital RF tuner.
    Actually check this - if it looks like they are dumpling old sets that won't do digital off air.
    You can still buy a separate set-top box or watch cable and you might get a bargain.

    check the small print. TVs are sold by the number of vertical pixels,
    720p = really the minimum - and is the HD standard in most places
    1080i = avoid, it means interlaced 1080 - so actaully only have this number of pixels but shows alternate fields like an old CRT TV
    1080p = full 1080 vertical resolution, still expensive
    For comparison, old style DVDs are 480 pixels and blueray are 1080


    Yep, mine has stereo and even digital audio out, but annoyingly no headphone socket.
    Unless you are buying top end Sony/Philips look at korean brands like LG.
    Most of the no-name ones are made in the same assembly line so are all the same.
    Remember that there is a lot of software in a modern TV so a half decent brand like LG can still do a better job than a no-name, even if they use the same actual panel.

    Whichever you buy expect lots of annoying probnlems trying to get normal/widescreen sources to display properly.

    Never.
     
  4. Jul 23, 2008 #3

    DaveC426913

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    True. Our living room is wider than deep so viewing angle is a big factor. I think this alone is pointing me toward plasma.


    Looks like standard scren size is 40-42" or so. Are you saying I'm gfonig to have a hard time finding a plasma that size?

    In the little bit of reading I've done so far, plasma seems to be somewhat superior.

    I'd rather spend the money and get something I don't have to fiddle with.

    I don't really get this. I can see pixel rez being important for video gaming but I don't really know what to do for TV. I guess just get the biggest number I can afford?


    I worry about the no-name ones crappinng out. I've had bad luck with buying technology from Best buy and then having it crap out after only a year. I'm terrible with warranties and stuff. I'd just go replace it.

    So what do I do if it craps out?
     
  5. Jul 23, 2008 #4

    mgb_phys

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    Plasma's are almost gone. They were popular because large 42-50in units with low resolution were cheap to make. People with really small apartments buy 42-50" plasmas because they are a bargain, then find they can't actually watch them comfortably.
    Now LCD is about the same price, you can get a 42in LCD with 1080p resolution for $1000 and a 37" 720p unit for $500.

    The pixel resolution is the most important factor, it's quoted in number of vertical pixels to match how TV used to be quoted in vertical lines.
    Broadcast/Cable HDTV (depending on where you live) will be either 720p or 1080i, so a set described as either 720p or 1080i will be perfect. DVDs are lower than this at 480p.
    You only need the most expensive 1080p if you want BlueRay or for future proffing.
    You can still watch higher resolutions on a lower resolution screen but it will have to rescale and reduce the quality.

    Games are generally run at lower resolutions because the number of frames per second is more important for the realism. Since the limit is the rate at which the computer can calculate and push pixels out the back and resolution*frame rate is a constant.

    Fair enough, there are also issues as I said about no-name ones have limited features and software bugs. But remember that a lot of the 'names' you remember (like GE/Westinghouse) are really just no-names rebadged they don't make TVs in america anymore!
    Bigest makers are probably Sony, Philips and LG. You might be better off with a mid range LG than a bottom of the range Sony which might really be just a no-name rebranded model.

    Like most electronics they have a bathtub failure curve. If it doesn't fail in the first 6-12months while in warranty it's not going to fail in the next 3. The 3year extended warranty will typially cost 50% of the price of the set, and in 3years they will cost 50% of what they do now. The reason BestBuy etc push the warranty is that they are pure profit - they make almost nothing on hardware.

    One last tip, ignore which have the best picture in the showroom. The people that work for BB etc are not exactly experts, the sets on display are very badly setup with the colour and contrast turned way up to show how 'good' they are. the lighting in their stores is also very different from your home.
     
  6. Jul 23, 2008 #5

    DaveC426913

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    Really? I'll need corroboration of this. Or maybe I'm just reading older articles.


    This is usually my logic, yes. Repair costs on electronic appliances are rapidly approaching replacement costs. Though I'm not sure I feel that way about a $1000-$1500 appliance...
     
  7. Jul 23, 2008 #6

    Kurdt

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    I'd Avoid LG like the plague and go for Sony or Panasonic. I have both and they're Excellent.
     
  8. Jul 23, 2008 #7

    Mech_Engineer

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    Seems like a good choice, you can find pretty good deals on 37"-46" LCD TV's these days. 720p (1366x720 resultion) will probably be ok if you just want to watch DVD's, but 1080p (1920x1080) is "full resolution" HD and would take advantage of HD content from cable or satellite, as well as Blu-Ray movies if you upgraded from DVD's in the future.

    Well, it all depends on what you're looking for. It would probably be possible to find a 32" 720p TV for around that price, but once you include tax and warantee (a MUST) you're probably getting closer to $1000. You can find very nice 37"-42" 1080p name-brand LCD's for around $1200-$1500. It all just depends on what you're interested in, but $700 would be the low-end limit of what's available IMO.

    The age-old question, Plasma vs. LCD. There are many more LCD's these days, and large manufacturers like Sony have gone all-LCD, so it's likely you'll be able to find a much large selection of LCD's. Both Plasma and LCD have similar life spans, and resolutions. Plasma TV's have historically had much higher contrast ratios due to their operation, but modern high-end LCD's are approaching them. From what I've read, it seems that LCD will be the best choice for you.

    It depends on what content you're most interested in, but I have to say that once you see the Discovery Channel and ESPN on a nice 46" 1080p TV, you'll never want to go back. HD Digital cable will be pretty expensive, so if you don't watch much TV I'd say just stick with regular cable and maybe buy a Blu-Ray player if you're interested in some TV shows in HD (like Planet Earth, for example). 3-4 months of high-end digital cable bills would pay for a Blu-Ray player these days (HD cable is around what, $70-100 a month?)

    Not really, but in large TV's a low resolution display will look pretty poor. 720p displays are available in 32"-37" displays, but once you pass 40" only 1080p is available from what I've seen. I have a 720p 37" LCD TV and love it for watching DVD's and over-the-air HD channels (I also use it as my computer monitor :cool:).

    Should be fine. Keep in mind the next-generation plug that Blu-Ray players and many other video sources are using these days is called HDMI. It carries both the HD video signal and a digital audio signal in it, and nice flatscreens should have at least 2 HDMI inputs, if not more. The flatscreen will then probably have a couple of legacy video and audio inputs, and a couple of audio outs that you should be able to use with your stereo. Its never a guarantee though, so check the back of the TV and its specifications sheet for number/type of inputs and outputs.

    Sony, Sharp, LG, and a few others I may be forgetting make very nice mid to high end TV's, but may have a price premium to them. I wouldn't completely rule out "generic" brand TV's, but look at them very critically, and make sure to get the extended warantee on them! Compare specs and look at picture quality side-by-side to decide, never decide based on box-specifications alone.

    The biggest things you need to look at in an LCD TV are resolution (720p vs. 1080p), contrast ratio, and refresh rate in either milliseconds or Hz (you'll probably want to aim for ones in the 140-200Hz or 5-7 ms range). For contrast ratio, high-end TV's from Sharp and Sony advertise contrast ratios in the 10,000:1 or higher range, but in my experience anything over about 6,000:1 nets very nice image quality.

    When shopping for a TV, always insist on seeing the same thing on both TV's (maybe plug a blu-ray player into them if they can) and play with the settings on each TV. Some times salesmen will turn the contrast, saturation, and/or brightness settings down on some mid-grade TV's to help make the high end TV's look better, so check for that to make sure you're getting an apples-to-apples comparison. Pay attention to fast-motion scenes and ones with lower contrast and look for ghosting, wierd color speckling or tearing, as well as overall color reproduction and contrast; this can tell you a lot about the quality of the image processor in the unit. High-end displays will probably look great, but sometimes there is a large difference in mid to low end TV's.

    Pay for resolution over contrast ratio every time, and as long as refresh rate is around 5-6ms (200-166 Hz) you're fine. Overall, only you can decide how much TV is enough for you.

    YES! If you buy from a large retail manufacturer (Best Buy, Circuit City, Sam's Club, etc.) always get their extended warantee for the longest available timeframe, as long as it covers failures and will replace your TV for free (minus the cost of the warantee). If your warantee covers the TV for 4 years, and it fails in three, you'll end up getting your money back and in 3 years TV's will have cheaper, better technology so you'll end up being able to get an upgraded set for about the same price.
     
  9. Jul 23, 2008 #8

    DaveC426913

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    Looks like some powerfully competing opinions on the issue...
     
  10. Jul 23, 2008 #9

    jtbell

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    The prices on the budget brands like Vizio, Westinghouse, Element, etc. are tempting, but I've read horror stories about service if something goes wrong. Basically, they are very difficult to repair because parts are difficult or impossible to find. If something goes wrong during the warranty period, expect to have the whole set simply replaced by the dealer. Afterward, you'll probably have to just buy a new set.

    The major brands like Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and Sharp, on the other hand (not sure about LG), have authorized service centers and maintain stocks of spare parts, so you have some chance of getting things fixed.

    That said, LCDs in general seem to be pretty reliable according to surveys by Consumer Reports magazine. My 32" Panasonic LCD will be three years old this fall, and I haven't had any trouble at all with it. (and now something will probably burn out tonight. :yuck:)

    I got a 32" because that gives almost the same viewing area on standard-definition material as our old 27" CRT TV. The extra widescreen area comes into play with high-definition material. If your old set was 31", a new 37" will maintain the status quo with SD.

    You may be disappointed with the picture you get with analog cable, though. I can't speak to that from personal experience, but I've read comments that analog cable often actually looks worse on a modern plasma or LCD than on a standard-definition CRT.

    I use only over-the-air (OTA) TV myself. The digital versions of my local broadcast channels all look better than the analog ones, even comparing standard-definition material on both, so I haven't watched the analogs in about three years except to check for interference and other reception issues.
     
  11. Jul 23, 2008 #10

    DaveC426913

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    This is a whole nother ball of worms I haven't opened up.

    Here in Canada, they're about to shut down all broadcasting. I believe this simply means antennae won't work anymore (not that I've had that in years & years). My regular (Rogers) cable will still work fine, right? And that's got nothing to do with digital cable, which is a separate optional upgrade, right?
     
  12. Jul 23, 2008 #11

    mgb_phys

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    Not quite, analogue broadcasts are due to be switched off February 17, 2009 in the United States and August 31, 2011 in Canada. After this you either need a TV with an ATSC tuner or a set-top box. Cable TV doesn't change - except Rogers will somehow use it as an excuse to raise prices!

    Digital/analogue and standard/high definition aren't the same thing. There is a lot of confusion - mostly spread by idiots in best buy and cable channel salespeople!
    Digital TV will stil show the same standard def shows, after all they aren't about to re-shoot all of MASH or Seinfeld. Although they will look better, or at least might not suffer from horrible NTSC colour.
    Some new shows that were originally shot either on high def or on film and where the quality might make a difference (like BBC wildlife shows) will also get premium priced HD showings on cable. It's not clear if cable companies will get to show movies in HD, the studios don't want to damage DVD/BluRay sales. The highest resolution you can transmit over digital TV is only 1080i, which is about DVD quality.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2008
  13. Jul 23, 2008 #12

    jtbell

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    Eh? :confused: I don't see anything about that on Wikipedia's page about Canadian television. It does say that analog broadcasts are to end by 31 August 2011, but many or most of them will be replaced with digital broadcasts, like we're doing down here. I think I remember reading somewhere that there's some question about whether there will be replacement digital broadcasts in some rural areas, because of the cost involved versus satellite service.

    For us the analog shutdown deadline is at midnight between 17 and 18 February 2009, and TV stations are now running regular announcements and features advising viewers what to do about it, if anything. Just last week one of my local stations "pulled the plug" on its analog OTA signal for thirty seconds during its 6pm news show, so people could see for themselves whether they would be affected. Only about 12% - 15% of people here rely on OTA broadcasts; the rest use cable or satellite services.
     
  14. Jul 23, 2008 #13

    DaveC426913

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    OK. nuff said about that then.

    So, warranty or no warranty?
     
  15. Jul 23, 2008 #14

    Monique

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    Talk to the store sales man, ask which brands have good plasma and which ones have good LCD TVs. Observe the TVs that they have on display, don't pay attention to the actual picture (they have high-definition pictures on display, the signal coming from your cable will be much worse). Pay attention to the viewing angle and the overall impression you get from watching the screen.

    I bought a 42" Panasonic plasma TV, I liked the display of the plasma better over the LCD, and I'm satisfied. I encountered a problem two months after the 1-year warranty expired: one of the lines of the display died. I called the supplier and they're fixing it for me without costs (this will probably mean I'll get a brand new TV). A television is supposed to last longer than a year, so basically you don't need extended warranty (but the law may be different in the US).
     
  16. Jul 23, 2008 #15

    Kurdt

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  17. Jul 23, 2008 #16

    mgb_phys

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    Depends on your attitudeto risk!
    Typically a three year warranty (which is really only 2 extra years since it includes the makers 1 year) costs 30-40% of the unit price and covers the time in which the TV is least likely to fail. For large heavy TVs it may include accidental damage but this migth also be covered on your house insurance.
    Make sure any warranty includes pickup/return, so it doesn't cost you $100 to ship the TV off for repair. The part that is most likely to fail is the PSU which should be repalceable.

    The standard warranty in the EU is now 2years, so unless you figure that Philips makes less reliable sets on a spearate production line for the US you can rely on the set being built to last at least that long!

    I generally work on the principle of only having insurance against things that would financially kill you. And the more a car-hire place or store wants to sell me extra insurance the more suspicous I am of the deal!
     
  18. Jul 23, 2008 #17

    Kurdt

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    A good idea from mgb-phys there is to check your home and contents insurance (if you have any) and see what it covers wrt TV's. Also as Monique has said, most manufacturers will repair a product just out of manufacturer warranty for free anyway because its bad PR if their products break within the first three years. My father got his car fixed 3 months out of warranty for free.
     
  19. Jul 23, 2008 #18

    Mech_Engineer

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    For what its worth, extended warantees I have purchased in the past usually hang out around 5-10% of the purchase price of the product (take for example my digital camera which was about $850, the 3-year extended warantee was $70).

    I can see how I wouldn't be a fan of an extended warantee if it was 30% or 40% of the purchase price, but 10% is worth it IMO. This is especially true if it will be a heavily used item. If you only watch TV 1 hour a day, maybe it's not worth it; if the TV's on 5 or 8 hours a day, it could be worth it.
     
  20. Jul 23, 2008 #19

    jtbell

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    Remember, companies wouldn't sell extended warranties if they didn't make a profit off them! They take in a lot more money by selling them, than they pay out for repairs. That means the people buying them pay a lot more money overall than they get back in the value of the repairs. So in most cases, if you can afford to pay for repair or replacement yourself, you're better off doing that when you need to.

    I've bought a lot of electronic equipment over the past several years (DVD players, DVD recorders, hard-disk based DVRs, digital TV tuners, an LCD TV, a couple of fairly expensive cameras). I haven't had anything crap out on me yet. All the DVD players I've bought still work; I've bought new ones only for improved performance or new features, not because old ones died.

    My old CRT TV was about to go belly-up on me, and was losing its picture occasionally, but it was seventeen years old!
     
  21. Jul 23, 2008 #20

    DaveC426913

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    No way. That's an excellent way to end up with the model that the manager gets the highest margin on.
     
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