Got the HD Shopping Blues.

Garrett Lundy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
3,763
Went to SEARS/
To buy some gifts/
So I browse the TV isle/
And they all look pretty bad/
Got them HD shopping blues.

OK, none of that actually works musically, but I'm sure someone with more talent than me could write a pretty good blues song about the asspain that is shopping for an HDTV.

Heres the story: Go to SEAR to buy some Nintendo games. They are in a locked case, and theres only one salesman in electronics, so I have to wait for a few other customers, to kill time I browse the TVs.

*The Blu*Ray demo: A Samsung player connected to a Sony Bravia TV. The demo-disk was a BRD Demo that played clips of movie trailers. If I had just watched that I would never touch a BRD player again: everything was fuzzy, there was dot-crawl, it was bad. The other HD tvs displaying SD commercials had the same look to it. I'm an informed consumer, so I know bad BRD transfers are suspect, not the machine, but I imagine the average Joe won't bother with wanting to go "Beyond HD" anytime soon. This, BTW, is the first time I've ever actually seen a BRD player or movies (No other stores carry any HD stuff around here that I've seen).

*The HD-DVD demo: A Toshiba HD-A1 (on sale, 'cause the A2 just came out) connected to a Toshiba flat panel, about 40 inches or so. The demo was clips of Willy Wonka and The Chronicles of Riddick. The picture quality from this display was excellent. I could stand less than 12 inches from the screen and not be bothered with artifacts of any kind. WW looked amazing throughout, but Riddick had super-sharp CGI and kinda-soft real actors. It was an odd effect.

*The wall of The Devil Wears Prada: I think that this entire row of Tvs was hooked-up incorrectly, or maybe they were all showing stretched SD material. The pictures looked universally "chunky", and of course the salesdepartment made sure that every TV had different settings, ensuring that going to the store and seeing for yourself became useless. The Samsung TVs looked absolutely horrible. Evey line was composed of jaggies, and the color was so off on one model that Ann Hathaway looked like she was wearing whiteface pancake make-up. Seriously, she looked like the boy from The Grudge. Depending on the particular set Meryl Streep had skin color ranging from gaunt to orange soda. The Samsung models were so bad that I honestly think SEARS uncalibrated them purposely to push more people to the more expensive SONY models.

*The isle of misfit CRTs: This sad little isle contained the TVs that nobody loves; direct view glass-front CRTs. They all played ESPN HD, and as a whole, these TVs looked the least bad. The brightness was reasonable, no serious jaggies. There were two stand-outs here, the SONY 34" XBR, and a 30" Samsung slimfit. The Sony ($999)had muted colors, while the samsung ($699)had the color cranked-up all the way to eyeball melting. If I were seriously considering a CRT TV I'd bring my own calibration disk and make the salesman let me adjust the pictures first. As they are there are 'Do not touch the TVs!' placards every 5 feet. Regardless these two models had the best picture of the bunch.

*The wall of RPTVs: On the long wall a dozen oversized TVs (all DLP & SXRD that I remember) played a loop of HD commercials. And videogame commercials that were clearly SD. None of the models had particularly good image quality that I could remember. I'm guessing this is from SEARS not hooking everything up correctly, ho-hum cable feed, to the fact i was comparing 50 - 65" TVs from less than 2 feet.

*The super-TV: a 61" Samsung 1080p DLP. This is the only Tv with an individual feed (The Chronicles of Narnia), and produced an image so eye-popping that I have to assume its running its own HD player, and wasn't using the daisychained signal everything else had. From 2 feet away is was merely OK (as all jumbo TVs are), but from across the store it looked amazing. I'm sorry my apartment isn't big enough to fit this monster. This TV was the only one that sucked-in wandering customers, which I'm guessing is because its the TV with the best signal, and was the only TV where the color and skin-tones were not obviously wrong. I'm assuming SEARS calibrates just this set because it has the highest mark-up.

*The 'surround sound': Whatever SEARS used to sell for audio equipment they have downsized to one (1) working display model (there were also 4 or 5 unpowered, un hooked-up HTiB in the $300 range), a Sony DAV-X1 home theater system with DVD Dream®. Its two satellites and a "bass module". The satellites, when you look through their mesh-metal grills, contain 2 woofers, about 1&1/2 inches in diameter, each. These look exactly like the speakers built-into the screen of my eMac computer. The subwoofer thingy was turned all the way up. all three parts were on the same shelf 'satellite, subwoofer, satellite'. and all packed maybe 2 feet wide. Despite the claim of "spacious surround sound with surround speakers!", the poorly mis-placed system instead produced a very loud mono listening experience. Directly in front of you.

*The salesguy: The customer ahead of my was also eyeballing the 61" Samsung and got the whole pitch:

"What about plasma Tvs."

"yeah, those are no good. You see in winter it gets cold and all the plasma gas leaks out of the screen. Then we have to send the TV back to have the plasma filled-up again. Its a big hassle so we try to get people to buy the DLP sets. They're laser-powerd and don't break down."

It was funnier than watching a 5 year old try to explain where babies come from. I wasn't expecting much when i went to the store, I finally saw a BRD machine for the first time, so I guess I learned something. I also cemented my opinion that buying an HDTV is something to be avoided until 90% of my TV shows are available in HD, the whole HD experience is just so hit-or-miss (mostly miss that I've seen). Maybe something will come along to change my mind for christmas 2007.

PS: They didn't even have the game I went there to buy
 

Bob McElfresh

Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 22, 1999
Messages
5,182
Hey Garrett. Nice review.
You echoed my feelings about department stores selling things they are not setup nor trained for.

But dont let your Sears experience make you wait on a HDTV. Find a more specalized store, and call your cable company to see if they offer HD. (I have Dish network, but I use cable for my HD channels: PVR and 8 channels of HD goodness for $24).
 

Garrett Lundy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2002
Messages
3,763
I currently have Time-Warner cable's Digital cable/DVR/broadband/telephone combo package ($150/month). The 'basic' HD package won't cost any more, but only includes the 4 major networks, and DiscoveryHD.

Since 90% of what I watch is SD only, I'm hesitant to buy an HD tv since it will make all my regular shows look worse.

Besides, while I'm waiting for Sci-Fi HD, the price of HDTvs will continue to drop
(and maybe the HD format war will have ended).
 

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