Info on rear-projection TVs...?
April 5, 2005 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I've got to make a quick decision on whether to buy a used Sony KP 61HS10 61" rear projection TV. I know nothing about large screen TVs and would appreciate any general pointers on purchasing.

The only thing I would use this TV for is DVDs, though I suppose in the future video games are not out of the question. I did a search for reviews online and with only one exception, all reviews I could find were positive (if you can find any more negatives, I'd appreciate it). The only problem is that the one negative review seemed the most informed. (However, I couldn't make head nor tail of some of the stuff in that review).

Anyone know anything about this television or have generic advice on large TVs to help me know what to look for? I haven't seen this tv "in the flesh" yet... what should I bring with me to test it and what should I look for when checking it out?

I'm coming at this from my current setup which is a 10 year old 27" Mitsubushi TV.

Note: I'd be getting it for just under a grand US$, not including paying someone to deliver it.
posted by dobbs to Technology (13 answers total)
How old is it? On a rear projection TV all of the light is produced from 3 7" screens in the bottom of the cabinet. This means the screens need to run much brighter than normal ones, shortening their life. I'd look closely at the screen before purchasing, as those things are expensive to replace (play something bright with lots of movement and see if there are any burnt in stationary patterns visible). Ask how much use it's had.

The main complaint in that review seems to be about the line doubler. If you get/have a progressive scan DVD player, you bypass that completely.
posted by cillit bang at 12:34 PM on April 5, 2005

I am not an expert, I don't have either, but.

In the around-a-grand price point, for playind dvd's only, I'd think *real* hard about getting a front projector like the Infocus 4805. It'll run you $1k--1500 for the projector, more if buy a screen immediately instead of pointing it at a blank wall.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:48 PM on April 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks cb and ROU...

ROU, I've looked into projectors in the past and my main complaint is the cost of the bulbs. I watch a lot of movies and it seems like I'd be paying $400 a year to get a bulb for the thing, which is a little nuts.

That said, I don't know jack about these rear projection things and the hours-rated for their "bulbs" or whatever they use. I couldn't find such a rating attached to this unit, nor if the "bulbs" can be replaced and at what cost.
posted by dobbs at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2005

Not that I've ever purchased a TV anything like this size, but when buying TVs in the past, I've always taken along a tape or dvd I know well and played it on the TV. If you've got a portable DVD player, that's an easy thing to do. That'll give you an excellent idea of the colours the TV will produce, sound, etc. Heck, most digital cameras will plug into a TV so you could even try it with some favorite photos.
posted by humuhumu at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2005

The CRT guns will cost about $700 - $1000 to replace, should you need to replace them.

A good, unabused set should last a long time, say 10+ years. It will slowly dim as time goes on if it doesn't break otherwise.

If it's been abused, it'll get screen burn, or it'll be dim. If it has screen burn, forget about it. If it's dim, a TV technician might be able to resurrect it, but the chances are low.

Checking for screen burn should be pretty simple. Record a DVD with all white, all green, all blue, and all red scenes. The all white scene will let you know if you need to check which gun is burned in.

Another thing which can be annoying, but is usually simple to fix (by paying a TV technician, again) is convergence. You'll need to throw a white on black grid pattern on the screen and check if you can see any colours. If you can, the convergence is off and will need tuning.

Of course, just transporting the TV will likely mean it requires reconverging, so don't worry too much about that. Most sets will give the user some basic reconvergence tools in the menus, but SERIOUS misalignment of the guns will require a TV technician.

One more thing is colour temperature / calibration. Some sets are HORRIBLY off the 6500 K NTSC spec, if you like your shows to come out properly, this will matter to you. The problem is it's next to impossible to find a set that's proper, so you might as well forget about this. :-S
posted by shepd at 1:24 PM on April 5, 2005

Some projectors these days have bulbs rated for 4000 hours - my projector (InFocus X1) is a little over a year old and it says it's only been used for 1200, and it gets used quite a lot every day.

Unless a rear projection TV says it's LCD or DLP, it probably has 3 black-and-white tube TVs (one for each colour) producing both the light and the picture. These are usually rated at about 10,000 hours (vs an ordinary TV which are usually 40,000).
posted by cillit bang at 1:26 PM on April 5, 2005

I would also think about the space that you are going to put the tv in. The TV will become the focus of a room and if you are ok with that you will enjoy it. If, like me, you grow to think that having a giant tv as the center of your living room is a bad thing then you may come to regret buying it. (Alas, my wife loves it and will not let me sell it). You also may find yourself beginning to think about how you now need to upgrade your stereo and speakers as well as optimally arrange furniture for the best movie experience.

That said, we have a Mitsubishi 55" 16:9 hdtv and have had it for about 4 years. It has been a great tv, gets a lot of use and still looks great. Until I got World of Warcraft it saw daily use for movies and XBox gaming (and let me tell you that playing multiplayer Halo 2 is a lot more fun when each view is the size of a normal tv).
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 1:55 PM on April 5, 2005

One of the great things about a projector: not having to lug around something insanely heavy if you need to move it (and space issues mentioned above). One of the bad things: having the hassle of making a room dark enough if you have a few windows. That said, I'd still go with a projector for the money. I personally like a living room that isn't dominated by a giant piece of ugly plastic (like my parents' living room).
posted by blendor at 2:30 PM on April 5, 2005

A 5 or 6 year old 4x3 61" CRT rear projection display is essentially obsolete. The rated life-span on rear-projection CRT's is about 10,000 hours to half-brightness, or approximately 6-7 years given average use of 2000 hours annually. Unless it was calibrated by an ISF certified installer to 6500 degrees Kelvin, its been over-driven throughout it's life.

If a colour gun goes in that thing it will cost you a grand to get it fixed. The problem with such a repair is that the two other guns will be much dimmer than the new one, the picture will never look good.

The depth and weight of that beast makes it really annoying to move, and it sucks up a giant chunk of your living space, as well. A 61 inch CRT projector will be about 30" deep, and probably weigh more than 250 lbs. Conrtrast that with a 61" Samsung DLP, at 17.6 inches depth and about 99 pounds.

Further, 16x9 will become the standard image size in North America over the next couple of years. Those owners with 4x3 displays will have the disconcerting experience of having their resolution go down due to the letter-boxing, while every one else's goes UP as 16x9 HDTV becomes the norm.

If your primary application is for watching DVD movies, the widescreen aspect ratio will result in reduced resolution, especially on 2.35/1 anamorphic transfers. It is also a very bad idea to play video-games on phosphor driven displays as they can suffer image-retention from static images. This display suits none of your applications.

Do not buy this TV. A 16-9 front-projector or fixed-pixel display such as a LCD or DLP makes much more sense for your purposes. The lamp life on DLP's amd LCD rear projectors is about 8000 hr. to half-brightnesss, and the replacement cost of these bulbs is dropping rapidly. With these digital displays replacing the lamp after 4 years or so will result in an image as good as the day you bought it. Anyone can replace the lamp themselves, no techie needed.

To advise you intelligently on this, it is necessary to know your viewing distance, the ambient lighting conditions in the room, number of viewers, hourly usage, viewing habits, budget, etc.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Much appreciated. I'm gonna pass on the system. You probably all saved me hours of frustration (which doesn't mean I won't curse your usernames watching my 27"). Thanks!
posted by dobbs at 4:42 PM on April 5, 2005

Note two things that suck about LCD and DLP systems that keep me away from them:

LCD: Poor contrast and (depending on the design) ability to see individual pixels. I've seen even the latest offerings in the "normal" ($1k - $2k) price range and I don't like them.

DLP: Rainbow effect in all but the most expensive projectors. DLP will always have rainbow effect until consumers decide that paying 3x the price for the machine is worth their $$$ (it takes 3 DLPs to project an image without a colour wheel, the colour wheel causes the rainbow effect).

Personally, if I had plenty of money to blow, I'd get me an expensive CRT front projection system with at least 1080 progressive support. Of course, then we're talking $30 grand, so forget about it. :-D For $30 grand I could probably get a 3 mirror DLP projector and be happy anyways.

One thing no digital projection system will ever realize over an anolog (CRT) system is horizontal resolution. Horizontal resolution of analog TV signals is technically infinite (honestly, it isn't, but it could be). Lucky for me, scan lines have never bothered me (much).
posted by shepd at 5:55 PM on April 5, 2005

You're ability to perceive the "rainbow effect" in DLP projectors is fairly unusual, shepd. 95% of consumers don't suffer from this, but for those rare individuals who do, it's definitely a deal-breaker.

My understanding is that this has to to with the brain/eye interface somehow syncing with the speed of the colour wheel. I sell these things for a living, and of the hundreds of buyers I've shown DLP displays to, only two have ever noticed it. Oddly, one of my sales-staff has a real problem with this; it affects him enough that he can't actually watch the largest displays when he is showing them.

I fully agree with your complaint about low-contrast ratio's and poor fill-factor resulting in noticeable screen-door effect on LCD displays, I wouldn't buy one myself. I was considering the Samsung HLP4663 for my personal use, but am holding off until Samsung resolves the audio-sync and screen-condensation problems.

By then, of course, the new models will be coming on-stream, and the analysis will have to start all over again.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:45 PM on April 5, 2005

Sorry to reply so late, PareidoliaticBoy, but what caused me to sense the "rainbow effect" the most were somewhat slowly moving sharp contrast images (think dark horror movie scenes in black and white). If you track your eye with the moving image, the rainbow pattern will show for anyone (I've tried with probably a dozen people).

The problem seems to be worse for people who tend to focus on the motion on the screen (I think), since of those I demonstrated this effect to, none of them cared/noticed it when watching TV normally. However, I seem to be unlucky that unless I am sitting PERFECTLY STILL I end up noticing it. Oh well. :-) At least I know I'm not seeing things as I did get others to notice it.

DLP is fine for most people, but do TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! If if affects you like it affects me you'll prefer to swap in a 1960's black and white TV instead to save your brain.
posted by shepd at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2005

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