A caveman's adentures in modern TV shopping [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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11-11-2006, 05:07 AM
First off, this all started when a VHS player, hooked up to an old Zenith 19” color TV, died in the guest room/library. I replaced it with a Toshiba VHS/DVD player that I picked up for $69. Well, the boys ever over and wife decided to watch a DVD up there. She was not happy so I went up there what she was biitching about. Well, I can’t blame her. I gotta say, watching a wide screen picture on a 19”, 4:3 set is one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever seen. So, I embarked on a replacement for the TV with an eye on widescreen DVD abilities and HDTV thrown into the mix. It was quite a learning experience.

My initial queries were to these sites and I am grateful for all who chimed in. I took all the advice into consideration when shopping. I tried to apply it all and still had a few surprises.

1) Since when does the term “TV” imply no tuner? I thought these were call “monitors”, no? It seems that “HD-Ready” has the same connotation as well. I’m sorry, but to my thinking “Television” or “TV” implies a built in tuner. That's like calling an amplifier a receiver! Better Business Bureau, are you listening?

2) So, since I wanted to taste the OTA HD offerings, I limited my search to sets with built in tuners. But which type? Well, it seems that there are now three types of tuners. NTSC, which has been around since the beginning of television programming, is what picks up the OTA analog broadcasts we all grew up on. Then there’s ATSC, which picks up these new fangled OTA digital stations. This is a good thing. More on this later. Finally, there’s a QAM tuner which allows one to receive digital cable channels if they are not encrypted. Well, for me this was pretty useless. Comcast encrypts virtually everything. This offered me no benefits overusing the existing NTCS tuner in my old set.

3) Since a lot of my TV watching will entail old fashioned “SD”, or 4:3, programming, and I don’t like the “streeeeeetch” that virtually all wide screen sets offer as an option to fill out the screen. YMMV. As such, I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t incur burn in over time. It looked like LCD was gonna be my choice.

4) Also, I didn’t want to lose the “impact” that that 19" 4:3 set has. That means, that I wanted a picture of a comparable height on a wide-screen set. So, I measured the height of my 19” 4:3 set and found it to be about 12”. Likewise, my 27” 4:3 set is 15 inches, and the height of my 32” 4:3 set is 20 inches. To match those heights, I would need a 16:9 set of 26” to match the height of the old 19” set and a 32” 16:9 set to match the 27” CRT.

5) I had my basic needs narrowed down. The search starts. Initially, I was looking in the 23” – 27”, $500 – $700 range but, as usual, scope creep sets in. I was weighing prices, brands, sizes et al, and decided to see how wide a set I could fit into the place where the old TV was. It turned out that by removing a few chachkis I could fit in a set of about 33” width. I spent a few evenings haunting the big box stores, with tape measure in hand, to get a taste of what’s available that meets my criteria. Oh, did I mention that I also checked their web sites and the Sunday flyers as well?

6) If you read my previous threads, you know I picked up a Toshiba 32HL66 for $884, (http://www.6ave.com/product.jsp?x=32HL66) which fits that empty space perfectly. Now, to play with the available programming. This is where the surprises start. I gotta say, I love this set. I was worried about how it would handle standard TV programs but, so far, I can’t detect any flaws. The picture is clean and edges are crisp. Likewise, DVD’s, using component video, are stunning. I guess that 3:2 stuff really works.

7) First, I connected an outdoor antenna that I put up over thirty years ago. Even then I was into this stuff so it was a decent antenna (RCA somethingoranother). I had the TV scan to see what stations it would find. Now, we have seven VHF stations that I expected to come in with no problems. But, when the scan was done, it found a little over 40 stations, thirty of which came in clear as a bell! I get all of the original VHF stations and, along with them, their HD counterparts and a few others as well. For instance, FOX comes in on VHF channel 5. Their HD comes on channel 5-1 and there’s also different programming on 5-3 and 5-4 as well! Repeat this scenario for all the other VHF stations and several new UHF stations as well and the NTSC/ATSC tuners pays for itself. The HD picture on our PBS station, WNET channel 13-1 is glorious! They seem to specialize in nature, travel and history shows and this channel is a must see for anyone wanting to convince themselves that HD is worth it.

8) Now, I tried hooking up cable to see what’s out there on Comcast. Not much. There are a few duplicate channels on the upper band that exist on the sub 100 channels available on the old TV but nothing to write hole about. Oh yeah, I get ten music only channels. Whoopee!

9) Finally, I bit the bullet and called Comcast about their digital service. They said yews, I must pick up a digital cable box to get HD andthey were running a special. $7 more dollars/month for a year for one of their “HD digital” cable boxes. So, I sprang for it. So far, I get a lot of channels but not as many HD channels as I would have expected. Where via antenna, the network HD feeds are right next to the analog channel, Comcast moves them to other channels, most of which, when I can find them, don’t match the quality of the OTA HD signal. So, the jury’s still out on digital cable. Oh yeah, now I get about fifty music channels, Again, big whoop.

Thanks for listening and, more importantly, thanks for your guidance when I needed it. I hope this helps others in their quest.

11-11-2006, 12:45 PM
Congrats; that's quite an adventure. I too really like the OTA HD signals and here in LA, PBS also has the best HD picture. We had some trouble dgetting DirecTV HD service, the guys said there was this tree in the way, so I can't do a side by side comparison as you have, as of yet.


11-13-2006, 05:22 AM
Great write up and very informative. Thanks for sharing. I learned some stuff about over the air formats. I'm sure a lot of noobs are gonna spare themselves some sweat if they're smart enough to read the thing..

Da Worfster