Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Buying a TV

OMG, buying a TV, right? We had made the decision to switch from Time Warner to AT&T because of the sweet package they were offering in our area. Three TV hook-ups for the master bedroom, the living room and, finally, the kitchen. I mean, in one shot we were going to go from only the 32" in the living room to three independently tuned sets in the most important rooms of the house. Sweet!

We already had the 32" and there was a 19" high-def left over from a previous address so all we needed was to decide what size of television to get and then with what features. We set our budget at no more than $700 and then had to decide whether or not to get the biggest TV we could for the money or the best picture quality. Hoping for a decent compromise between the two we set out for Best Buy believing that something in the 40"-47" range would work. Anything bigger can come later but definitely a step up from the 32" in the living room, which will get moved to the bedroom in favor of the new TV we hoped to bring home.

As the cable guy was setting up the new network we verified a few simple things we needed to know before heading to the store. The refresh speed is measured in hertz and the higher the number the faster the speed. Ok. Nearly every TV on offer is "HD" (High-Definition) so did we want a plasma, an "LCD" or thin profile "LED." Plasma is supposedly better in darker rooms and for sports and action films but run hotter and at higher refresh speeds. Hello, electric bill. We agreed to stay away from the new 3D sets as being too faddy and annoying having to wear those glasses at home.

TVs in show rooms are set to the highest possible "brilliance" to grab your attention walking through the door. The brighter the better goes the trend but those brighter ones tend to be the cheaper models. At the same time all the different makes, models and sizes simply overwhelm the novice shopper with choices, images and other features. How to pick one TV from nearly 100 on the walls and shelves all around you? Does anyone remember going in, buying a Zenith, RCA or maybe a Curtis Mathes, taking it out of the box, plugging it in, pulling the on knob and then simply fiddling with the rabbit ears? Remote control? That's what the kids were for!

Heading in to the store we knew the size range we wanted and the features we were interested in. We started at a 42" Panasonic plasma, made it all the way up to a low-end 55" LCD made by Insignia, the house brand and then settled back down to three 46" (measured diagonally) options by Insignia at the low end, Samsung at the top and Westinghouse in the middle in terms of our perception of picture quality. The Westie and the Insignia were the same price but only offered a one-year manufacturer's warranty where the house brand offered two years. The Samsung was $300 higher than the other two and therefore out of budget and the running.

We settled on the Westinghouse and were ready to wrap up the deal in about 30 minutes of total time in the store until they threw the "calibration" curveball at us for an additional $200 to get the best picture. What? Why aren't the TV's set to optimum out of the box? Why so much over the cost of the TV? Why the scare tactic of voiding the warranty if the customer does something wrong? Why not just fiddle with the brightness and color balance options at home the way most of us have been doing these many years?

In truth we were "just looking" anyway and not expecting to make a purchase the same day we'd decided to go looking. Calibration, huh? Thanks for the "out." Time for some more homework.
Gotta go.

1 comment:

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