I haven't had TV since the first season of Survivor
August 15, 2009 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me buy a cheap, flat-screen, non-HDTV?

I haven't had a TV for the past seven years, but I'm sick of watching movies on my 12" ibook. I am a total techno-newb, and my boyfriend, parents, best friends, and roommates (obviously) don't have TVs so I am on my own. I want to buy a TV. Here is my wishlist:
1. Flat-screen
2. 20-30 inches
3. Less than $200, preferably less than $150.
I don't care about HDTV, but all of the TV's I've seen for sale online are HDTVs. I have an inkling this is a silly question, but do non-HDTV flat screen TVs exist? My thought process is that they would be cheaper than an HDTV. If they do exist, is my price range reasonable?
posted by pintapicasso to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Since you don't care about HDTV, just don't worry about it. Go into the store and find the one that meets your other criteria and is the cheapest. That will probably end up being "half" HD, eg 720 instead of 1080. Unless you're looking on craigslist, you're not going to find a flat TV bigger than 20 inches that is not HD of some sort.

For less than $200, you're probably going to want to think about getting one used, as you'll be able to get a better TV. Stores often sell used models or "display" models. Or you can check out your local craigslist.

By the way, some TVs are called "Flat Screen" but it just means that the surface isn't curved, so they are still box-shaped and huge. To make sure you don't accidentally get one of those, you might want to specify that you want an LCD TV or Plasma TV (though plasmas tend to be like 45" or bigger)
posted by brenton at 12:55 PM on August 15, 2009

You can't really find any new non-HD resolution TV's any more.

In your size range you can find LCD monitors with HDMI input and speakers for under $200. No TV tuner, but will hookup to your iBook.

I picked up a Samsung 21" 1080p LCD monitor for $135 last week.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:55 PM on August 15, 2009

You can still get non-HDTVs but they are gettng scarcer. And it won't be flat screen if by flat-screen you mean the rectangular 3-4 inch thick TVs since you're looking at plasma or LCD technology. A non-HDTV will be cathode ray tube tech. Even then you're looking at a new 20" television running $200 or so, new.

You can get a 13" television for less than $150 but that will be a worse experience than watching on your iBook.

I think you'll have to compromise on either price or buying new. You can almost certainly find a used HDTV in your size and price range on ebay or craiglist or whatever. I really rather strongly recommend buying an HDTV. Deliberately buying an old CRT television at this point is like buying an eight-track in 1983.
posted by Justinian at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2009

How essential is the flat-screen thing? Because based on my last television shopping experience, which was fairly recent (but not based on a whole lot of research, just a little shopping around) your price range is somewhat unrealistic for a flat-screen (the cheapest 19" LCD TVs I found were pushing $200) - you'd be more likely I suspect to get the picture and size for the price you are looking for in a CRT (I went out intending to enter the modern world and came back with a big clunky new CRT for under $150)

I also found that I got a substantially better picture than the most nearly available same-size LCD TV, which was still like $100 more than what I paid for a Memorex CRT. The cheapest LCDs I looked at looked like ass, frankly. My television lives on a piece of furniture where the size of its back end is irrelevant, though.

I would absolutely not buy a TV if I couldn't look at the picture in person, by the way. I was really surprised at how crappy the picture was on some of the low-end LCD TVs I looked at.
posted by nanojath at 12:59 PM on August 15, 2009

wongcorgi makes a good point: If all you want to do is stream movies from your laptop to the TV you may want to consider buying a 21" LCD monitor instead.

Frankly, I'd completely discard the idea of getting a non-HDTV. Do you remember watching movies on a non-HDTV? 'Cause if you've been watching movies on your laptop you are not going to like watching it on a crappy 4:3 ratio pan-n-scan special television.
posted by Justinian at 1:01 PM on August 15, 2009

Deliberately buying an old CRT television at this point is like buying an eight-track in 1983.

I do have to disagree with that. I'm very confident that non-HD content is going to be available via all the major sources for the lifetime of the CRT set I bought. Something much better and much cheaper in an LCD or equivalent technology television will be available when it's time to replace it.

Of course this is coming from someone who owns a working 8-Track...
posted by nanojath at 1:06 PM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

> but do non-HDTV flat screen TVs exist?

Nearly all HDTVs downscale. That's why you can still watch regular TV and HD shows on an HDTV. Some HDTVs give you the option to stretch the regular shows to fit the screen, but I find it's just fine to watch it with black bars on the left and right.

Also, +1 to getting an LCD monitor. Newegg has lots of choices (link) for well under $200, or you can try Costco for some good deals too.
posted by gchucky at 2:26 PM on August 15, 2009

This might be a tremendously minor point to you, OP, but are you planning on moving anytime soon? My last CRT TV was 24" as I recall, and it was the single biggest pain in the keister to move out of any of my possessions. By the time I had gotten to the 4th floor of my walk-up with it, I swore then and there to ditch it for an HDTV flat panel.
posted by CRM114 at 2:28 PM on August 15, 2009

We recently bought a new TV. We didn't have a vast set or criteria (or really, any criteria) other than "not broken" since our faithful old CRT died.

It's a good thing we wanted a flat screen because that's all that was available to buy. CRT was no longer an option, which is actually nice as they weigh so much more than the new tellies. But the flat-screen monitors were all so much cheaper I kept wondering why we couldn't just magically make one of those work like a telly.

Honestly, if you're watching TV shows on your iBook then I would seriously look at the idea of hooking a nice, rich, portable LCD monitor up to your laptop and doing it that way. You can still play DVDs and stuff, plus the whole iTunes thing - it would be really nice.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:55 PM on August 15, 2009

yes, they make non hdtv flat screens. and people were dumping them right & left on craigslist earlier this year. that's slowed down quite a bit, but you can pick up a cheap one there.
posted by msconduct at 7:03 PM on August 15, 2009

If you can go up to $300, woot.com has a 32" today.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:31 PM on August 15, 2009

DarlingBri -- non-"TV" LCD monitors are cheaper in part because they typically lack the expensive-to-license "HDCP" encryption / decryption handshake system that Hollywood uses to protect its HD intellectual property -- i.e., they cannot display at full resolution (720p / 1080i / 1080p) typical signals outputed by an HD cable or satellite box or a Blu-Ray player. They typically can display content at that resolution when either not digitally protected (e.g., over-the-air network HD content) or else protected with a system (like Quicktime HD) designed to work with standard non-HDCP computer monitors.
posted by MattD at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2009

I don't think that's correct MattD - non-tv LCD monitors are cheaper because they don't include a tuner / digibox / freesat or speakers or a remote. Many non-tv monitors can handle HDCP - my dell can for example.
posted by JonB at 2:13 PM on August 16, 2009

I agree with the 20" flat-screen monitor and watching them with the computer hooked up. Otherwise, wouldn't you also be looking at, say, a DVD player to attach to the TV? That's another bundle of money, and a lot more cords to fiddle with.
posted by iarerach at 3:41 PM on August 16, 2009

According to bensbargains, newegg's had a couple 32'' HDTV's for $300 recently.

If your budget won't stretch that far, for $100-$160 you can get a 19''- 23'' LCD monitor (no tuner).

If bought through Microsoft's bing cashback program, you can shave off a few bucks more.
posted by unmake at 8:04 PM on August 17, 2009

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