Is this the right time to buy a HDTV?
January 8, 2008 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Is this the right time to buy a HDTV?

My current television is a 27ā€ Panasonic CRT that I bought in 1997. In 2002 the sound and picture started interfering with one another and I paid $200 to have it repaired; and it has worked very well up until recently when the same symptoms as before are occurring (mainly a large buzzing noise on some channels, and/or a slightly degraded picture on others). So now I am faced with the choice of either repairing my old TV or buying a new one. The advantage of keeping the old TV is that I get to hold on to my money, but a new TV will allow me to hook up my PC to it and watch downloaded videos on a big screen, plus the added advantage of high def hockey!

After some research (including here and on avsforum) I have settled between two models should I choose to purchase: a Sony KDL40V2500 or a Sharp Aquos LC42D64U. Both models have excellent reviews, both are 42ā€, they both looked excellent at the showroom, and both are on sale for $1500 CAD at Future Shop. However, before I buy I have a few questions and concerns which I was hoping some knowledgeable mefites could help me with.

First: is this a good time to buy a HDTV? During the post-christmas period most stores have ongoing sales ending soon, so prices are theoretically good. However with the advent of new models and so on, will prices go down or up? Suppose I wait 2 months, would I be able to get a better deal?

Second: the salesman (who seemed to know what he was talking about, based on my limited knowledge) recommended that with the TV I also buy a special interference free power bar (roughly $160) and for my PC hookup he recommended some outrageously priced DVI to HDMI cables (roughly $200 for the 20 ft or so I would need). Are these extra expenses really worthwhile?

Third: I am worried about the quality of non-HD content on my new TV. In my experience most HDTVs pixelate quite a bit with analog content, are there settings which exist that would reduce or eliminate this problem?

Fourth: does anyone own one of the TVs I mentioned? If so, Iā€™d like to hear your comments.
posted by Vindaloo to Technology (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The special power bar and expensive cable are both utter bullshit. They're normal components with more profit margin, which is why he recommended them. Buy a power bar at Canadian Tire or Staples. Buy a decent $20 cable.
posted by GuyZero at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2008

As mentioned above the salesman is trying to gouge you, do not buy anything other than the TV from them, and only if you are sure it's the correct and lowest price, after that stunt I wouldn't even buy the TV there and I'd make a point of telling them why.
posted by iamabot at 11:07 AM on January 8, 2008

I'm completely in the same boat as you, only I'm looking at the 37" version instead of the 42". From what I can tell by reading avsforum, you can't go wrong. From what I understand, you get the best picture via your computer if you can output your signal in the display's native resolution. That's 1920 x 1080, so make sure your graphics card can support that (most newer ones can I believe).

That's ridiculously expensive for a cable, even at 20 feet. Here's a 25ft DVI to HDMI cable at newegg for $35 (with 100% positive reviews).

If you can possibly wait until March I believe the prices will be dropping a bit, but that's just a rumor.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2008

The cables are a scam--but do feel free to get good cables from Monoprice. A HDMI cable cable sold in the shops for $200 is, like, $9.99 at Monoprice, and it is as high (if not higher) in quality as anything you'd find anywhere else, even on the moon.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:12 AM on January 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, the HDMI cables are a total scam. See here.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:18 AM on January 8, 2008

I am worried about the quality of non-HD content on my new TV.

You should be worried. Most of them look worse than your current TV. I don't know the solution... that's why I haven't upgraded yet, because 75% of what I would watch would still be SD.
posted by smackfu at 11:20 AM on January 8, 2008

Everyone else has said it, but he's just trying to up-sell you absurdly priced accessories that you absolutely, positively don't need. I was actually calling around trying to find an HDMI cable yesterday in Vancouver (the LG LDA-831 upscaling DVD player I bought only came with component cables) and almost everywhere was selling them for upwards of $40 (one place quoted me $100!). Monoprice is a US company, but NCIX has cheap HDMI cables too.

HDMI is a digital signal (more in this article) which means either it works or it doesn't. If it doesn't you, you'll know instantly. Otherwise, it's working 100% fine.

If you're concerned about price, you could do what I did and get a cheaper HDTV from Costco (e.g. this one). It's 37", but I imagine they've got something equivalent in 42". Costco's return policy is absolutely amazing, so if this TV looks awful, I can take it back and get something more expensive from Best Buy/Future Shop. But if it's sufficient for my needs, I'll end up paying 30% less than any other equivalent HDTV I've seen.

Finally, in case you haven't seen it, Digital Home is a great Canada-centric home entertainment site. AVSforum is good, but somethings things mentioned only apply to the US.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2008

Doh, PercussivePaul beat me to that link.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:30 AM on January 8, 2008

As far as cables, when I got my HDTV last summer, I bought some HDMI cables from Amazon for literally less than $2 each. I haven't had any problems with them.
posted by jozxyqk at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2008

SD viewing:

First, take a look at avsforums and look for threads about this. There will be some.

Second, what's your main source? I ask because Rogers in North York has nearly everything analog and SD digital. A digital SD picture is going to look a lot better, in most ways, than an analog SD picture, since your fancy hi-def tv won't be trying desperately to render analog snow and ghosting.

The power bar and hdmi cable are ludicrously overpriced. If you need an hdmi cable in a hurry, try an Apple store. In the US anyway, they're about the only brick-and-mortar place to get a reasonable ($20) hdmi cable. They also have a wide assortment of hdmi/dvi connectors in various combinations.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2008

The power bar and HDMI cable are pure bullshit. He's pushing them on you because he stands to reap a huge commission (upwards of 50%) for them. It is the same thing for extended warranties as well. Check to see if your credit card already provides this service.

See this link for more info.

As for now being the best time to buy, that is a dilemma that my gf and I are facing. We have a crap tv and want to upgrade, but prices keep falling...but that is always how electronics goes. These same tvs were $15000 4-5 years ago and 1-2 years from now will be $700.

Keep some things in mind, though. If you want to use your TV for your computer (really fun for watching youtube clips at parties or gatherings), you're better off getting an LCD tv, as plasma can more easily burn in the image. The benefits of plasma (better colour and contrast) are disappearing as LCD TVs catch up.
posted by hylaride at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2008

In answer to your actual question, yes, if you are in the market for a new TV. It's not a bad time, at least, so while everything eventually decreases in price it doesn't seem like there's going to be a big dip again anytime soon.

On the SD issue - we watch primarily standard def broadcast on our 37" Vizio and don't find it to look inferior to our old tube. I'm the kind of person who'd buy a Vizio, however, so perhaps you don't want to take my word for it.

The big thing that's going to kick you in the ass is resolution and screen size in relation to your distance from the screen. We opted for the 37 not just because we didn't think an extra 5 inches was worth 33% more, but also because that 42 would have been the same 1366 by 768.

My point is that this is a situation that actually plays whether you're watching SD or HD stuff but you're going to find it a lot more noticeable when watching SD since it's already upsampling a bit and you're only using about 50% of the total screen area - even more if the show is being broadcast SD letterbox. So look for some online calculators to help you determine what kind of distance you should be based on the resolutions you're looking at. Picking wisely will go a long way towards making you happy in general and with SD in particular.
posted by phearlez at 11:49 AM on January 8, 2008

You should be worried. Most of them look worse than your current TV.

This is an amazing statement, having never seen the current TV or source. SD looks fine on our HDTV, certainly superior to our old, super-bendy 27" CRT. Our main source is a digital cable box from Comcast. It doesn't look as good as my parents' DirectTV box for standard tv, but that's a source issue, not the TV.
posted by yerfatma at 11:54 AM on January 8, 2008

This is an amazing statement, having never seen the current TV or source. SD looks fine on our HDTV, certainly superior to our old, super-bendy 27" CRT. Our main source is a digital cable box from Comcast.

Totally agreed. I have never noticed a difference in SD from my old TV to my new HDTV. Sometimes, usually with nature shows, I'll wonder "is this HD?" and when I check the channel, it's SD.
posted by peep at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2008

"Suppose I wait 2 months, would I be able to get a better deal?"

The answer to this question, for most electronics, is almost always yes. If you're not in a hurry to get a new tv, one thing you can do is follow the forums at Fatwallet or Slickdeals, and just wait for something good to come up. Again, this is only if you're not in a hurry.

As for cables, I agree with what's said above (and recommend monoprice as well). Personally, (like iamabot above) I'd be against buying a high price item from (and giving a commission to) the person pushing those ridiculous priced add-ons.
posted by inigo2 at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2008

Ask if there's a salesperson you can talk to who won't try to scam you. For extra LOL ask for a manager first and ask the manager with the scamming salesman standing right there.
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2008

Best Buy currently has a 60-day price guarantee where they will refund you the difference if the price of the TV drops within 60 days of your purchase. Not sure if it applies in Canada, though.
posted by roomwithaview at 12:38 PM on January 8, 2008

  • Don't ever pay more than $10-20 for a cable. I got HDMI cables from eBay for $1.99. Digital signals DON'T care about the cable (mostly).
  • Your analog picture will probably be noticably worse than on your CRT screen, IMHO they always seem pretty lousy to me.
  • Keep in mind that a 27" 4:3 (squarish) tv is about the same height as a 34" 16:10 (widescreen) tv. Less than 34" and you've actually got a smaller tv vertically.
  • You might want to look at some of the 120Hz HDTVs, they're amazing. Your local London Drugs should have a display setup to show the difference.
  • Did you subscribe to the Futureshop newsletter? They send out emails a couple of days before things go on sale, and list some pretty good prices. Don't bother with BestBuy (since they own Futureshop) their prices and inventory are identical, the only difference is that the flyers are different colors.

  • posted by blue_beetle at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2008

    Have you looked into getting a CRT HDTV? Much better picture than Plasma/LCD especially when viewing SD content. Also the Laser TV that Mitsubishi announced will be on sale towards the end of they year will give you a much better picture than any Plasma/LCD and it's only 10" thick. I'd wait...
    posted by zeoslap at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2008

    However with the advent of new models and so on, will prices go down or up? Suppose I wait 2 months, would I be able to get a better deal?

    Probably. I've been tracking hd prices for some time and its incredible how much the prices have fallen. This suggests that they are very far from stabilizing. On top of this its understood that "Joe Sixpack" won't join the HD revolution until a decent sized HD set is well under 600 dollars. I imagine a 6-12 month wait will deliver not only a better product but a cheaper one. Its up to you on when to take the plunge, but if you want to save a few hundred you should wait.

    I am worried about the quality of non-HD content on my new TV. In my experience most HDTVs pixelate quite a bit with analog content, are there settings which exist that would reduce or eliminate this problem?

    Yes and no. You can buy an upscaling dvd player so your dvds dont look terrible on the big screen. I'm not sure if there's an affordable upscaler for SD broadcasts. I think that if youre going to take the HD plunge you should absolutely pay for HD content from your cable of satellite company. If you cant afford it then buy a smaller screen size and spend the difference on upgrading your setup. The best thing to do with SD is to set your TV to letterbox it. Having it stretch it out makes the picture quality look terrible and makes everyone look a bit pudgy.
    posted by damn dirty ape at 1:12 PM on January 8, 2008

    No matter what, I wouldn't repair the existing TV. You will find a plethora of SD CRTs at every used goods store, and on craigslist, for very very low prices.

    Are we out of the early adopter phase on HDTV? I don't know, but probably not. $1500 is a big investment..

    You should be worried. Most of them look worse than your current TV. I don't know the solution...

    Enthusiasts a few years ago were getting TV tuner cards, then using Dscaler. I don't know if that is still the state of the art, but it is probably a good place to start.
    posted by Chuckles at 11:15 PM on January 8, 2008

    If you're worried about price drops you might want to use a site like this, and look up the models you're interested in.
    posted by blue_beetle at 8:36 AM on January 9, 2008

    If you are buying a TV, it should be able to display HDTVs. IF you can wait, things will only get cheaper/better.

    However, if your main source of TV programming is not HD, then there's not much reason to switch, until you have ready access to HD programming.
    posted by garlic at 9:45 AM on January 9, 2008

    First of all, I want to mention that the Sharp Aquos has a reputation on avsforum ( for "banding" problems, a visual defect where there are horizontal bands of differing brightness. Some people have gone through multiple sets trying to get one that doesn't have it. Different sets have different degrees of problems with it, and depending on the degree and how much of a videophile you are, it may not even be noticeable to you.

    Here is what is good about the Aquos. They have a very low response time compared to most other HDTVs. What this means is that there is a lower delay between the signal being sent to the television and when it is actually displayed. Where this comes into play is on timing-based video games like Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution. Some HDTVs have up to 50ms lag, the experts on avsforum are recommending a TV that has 8-10ms or less if you are a hardcore gamer. HDTV lag is frequently worse when rendering SD content due to processing, and again the Aquos is supposed to accommodate this. Almost none of the other TV manufacturers are selling sets out of the very high end with sufficiently low response time, and other than the Aquos, most sets don't advertise their response time at all.

    I have two things that I am waiting on before I will buy an HDTV. One of them is what I mentioned, an HDTV that can display high-def and SD content without noticeable lag, but the issues people have been having with the Aquos have put me off. The second issue is, I am waiting for the prices to lower on 120Hz refresh rate TVs. The advantage of 120Hz refresh rate is that it's a multiple of both 24hz (the frame rate of films) and 30/60hz (progressive and interlaced television content, respectively.) This will allow rendering of both sources without having to do image processing which causes motion blur. As a matter of fact, the newest Aquos sets are 120hz refresh rate (but not the model you are looking at.)

    So I personally am waiting, but the main reason is that I am a gamer, which may or may not apply to you. the reason I bring it up is that most people aren't even aware of the response time problem with the majority of HDTV sets, particularly with the non-HD analog video signals that all but the newest game systems use. Hope this is useful.
    posted by erikharmon at 1:31 PM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

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