Recommendation for a simpler newer TV
May 9, 2020 9:24 AM   Subscribe

My mom is 90 and the new Samsung we got for her is so newfangled even I can barely figure out its set up and functions -- especially related to SOUND as there is NO headphone jack, no Bluetooth -- only the new optic sound hookup for a wireless headphone arrangement -- which is constantly failing and needs resetting -- which she is clueless about.

Do there even exist nowadays televisions that are not so computer-modern high-maintenance 2001-Space-Odyssey delicate?

We're constantly having to go over to her house and f_ck with the set to get things functioning again as she can't hear without the headphones -- only for her to hit the wrong button on the remote while alone, and all is lost.

posted by zenpop to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few questions, what size tv, is she streaming anything on wifi, using any kind of antenna, hooked up to cable or fios ...?, is she entirely listening to the tv via headphones or does she also watch without headphones? A bit more info. on the setup would be helpful.
posted by gudrun at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2020

Thanks Gudrun, that makes sense.

The set is connected to Comcast cable.

And she needs headphones CONTINUALLY due to hearing issues. But I need to find something with an old-fashioned headphone jack, and then she can use headphones with a long cord. The wireless thing is constant problem with dropped connection, etc.

The set she has now is a Samsung around 43 inch I believe. It's a Smart TV -- and -- oy -- it's TOO smart.

I'll have to get a senior-friendly universal remote, the slim modern remote is impossible to use, even for me -- it's just a button with just two thin raised edges you are supposed to intuit how to navigate. Who designs this shit?
posted by zenpop at 9:41 AM on May 9, 2020

I think you want something like this. It is an optical output on most new TVs, and converts it to analog and can plug headphones into it. If this isn't the exact thing you want, you want something similar. No need to buy a whole new tv.
posted by AugustWest at 9:56 AM on May 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thanks AugustWest -- that is PERFECT.

The problem I just discovered while tooling with the set just now is that THE SET ITSELF is showing an internal error re the optical function. It's NOT her headphone set up.

The sound works great if set is played normally, but trying to use the wireless optical headphones brings a sound icon error up on the screen. Ugh.

Naturally, Samsung is in a COVID spiral -- so I can get anything but a bot interacting with me online. Logging into my account throws an error on their site too -- amazing. And the set fell out of warranty two days ago -- you can't make these things up -- lol.
posted by zenpop at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2020

Might be worth trying an ARC extractor. In theory it does exactly the same thing as the optical out, but if there’s a problem with the optical out it may bypass it.

Or not. It’s a coin flip at best.
posted by doomsey at 10:33 AM on May 9, 2020

trying to use the wireless optical headphones brings a sound icon error up on the screen. Ugh.

Is it by any chance this issue with bitstream vs PCM format? Also note and note.

Smart TVs are just the latest in a long line of examples of IT industry usage of the word "smart" to mean "incredibly stupid and maximally aggravating".
posted by flabdablet at 11:42 AM on May 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure whether roku will work for you or not (I think it's the best of the smart tv OSs, but I can't claim it's completely simple). But I recently got this TCL TV which is pretty good, well-priced, and has a very normal headphone jack. You would be able to set it up to just start up with the cable input selected and bypass the roku main menu.
posted by advil at 12:27 PM on May 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some Roku variants come with remotes that also have a headphone jack, so you plug your headphones into the remote and listen that way.
posted by aramaic at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seconding that advil says. We recently (last week) also just got a similar (slightly smaller) TCL roku TV and so far so good. I thought the setup was actually pretty easy, and using it has been a snap after doing the setup (it was helpful to get the full manual online and read through it first). It also has a remote with actual buttons. We do some streaming so kept the main Roku interface/first menu screen, but also use it to access Comcast/Xfinity via a dvr cable box, and it is super easy to do both, and yes, it has a normal headphone jack, though we have not used that.
posted by gudrun at 1:34 PM on May 9, 2020

These wireless Sennheiser headphones worked well and with no fuss on basic tvs. You can adjust the volume on the headset and the volume on the TV separately. They're handy for letting someone with a hearing loss watch TV with people without hearing loss. You can connect them to RCA jacks. The only fiddly bit is that the volume control is on the headset.
posted by jointhedance at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2020

I just want to empathize that Samsung TVs are horribly designed. My roommate has one of their early smart TVs and I could never figure out the UI. It started lagging a lot when it got old so I got an Apple TV and my TV watching has gotten so much better. When my dad needed a new TV I told him not to get a Samsung but he ended up getting one anyway, and he hates it. I personally like LGs.
posted by radioamy at 6:58 PM on May 9, 2020

Seconding that last point. Every product Samsung makes with a screen larger than 15 inches has had a notably worse user interface than almost all competing products for decades now; their smart TVs are continuing a tradition that started with the ill-conceived organization of the on-screen notifications and control button menus in their computer monitors. Which is a pity, because they tend to use really nice panels.

Can't really sheet the impoverished remote control home to them specifically, though; removing useful buttons from things is an industry-wide trend that I personally blame Apple for kicking off.
posted by flabdablet at 9:29 PM on May 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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