Archive for Friday, January 6, 2006

Many consumers fuzzy on high-definition TVs

Lawrence consultant tuned into equipment needs

January 6, 2006


Mike Jacob knows enough to know that he doesn't know enough about high-definition televisions to set one up himself.

He's in the minority.

Surveys show that most people who buy HDTVs these days aren't equipped - both literally and figuratively - to properly set up the expensive sets in their living rooms, offices or well-appointed home theaters.

Jacob, who's been longing for an HDTV set for more than a year now, plans to keep his relative ignorance from getting in the way of a good show.

"That's why you pay guys to come in and set it up," Jacob said Thursday, gazing at the crisp images on a 61-inch Pioneer HDTV. "You get it done right."

The days of simply buying a TV, tearing away the box and plugging it into the wall are gone, said Paul Erickson, a market analyst for IMS Research, which studies trends in HDTVs and other broadband technologies.

As manufacturers scramble to fill a market that this year promises to ship 20.6 million HDTV screens worldwide, a wide array of technologies are stymieing consumers, Erickson said. More manufacturers are required by government regulations to make ready-to-go HDTVs, but HDTV likely won't be government standard until 2009.

Caught in the middle are consumers who find that they may need to find a special set-top box, or buy an HD card, or use specialized cables or even order dedicated HD services to make their sets live up to their promise. Retailers report that return rates for HDTVs are higher than for analog sets, given their price and unmet expectations.

Mike Jacob and his daughter Kelly Jacob of Lawrence look at High Definition televisions at Kief's Audio Visual, 2429 Iowa Thursday. Amid the myriad of choices of HDTV's there is a minefield of settings and cables that confuse many customers.

Mike Jacob and his daughter Kelly Jacob of Lawrence look at High Definition televisions at Kief's Audio Visual, 2429 Iowa Thursday. Amid the myriad of choices of HDTV's there is a minefield of settings and cables that confuse many customers.

"Right now, because it's in transition, there's chaos," Erickson said. "It will get better. Variables will be taken out, and then you'll buy your TV, get standard TV and eventually it will (all) be HD. : It'll become more dummy proof, if you will."

Until then, though, consumers would do well to keep a few things in mind as they consider stepping up to HDTV, said Dave Nigro, an audio/video consultant at Kief's Audio/Video, 2429 Iowa:

¢ Balance needs, wants and budget. HDTVs can sell from $600 to $8,800 or more, and come in a variety of formats, such as plasma, rear-projection and others.

¢ Choose between "HD ready" and "integrated HD." The first means you'll need a set-top box from your cable or satellite provider, so that you can receive high-definition signals. An "integrated" set has a built-in tuner, but may require an HD card to be plugged into the back, much like a memory card for a computer.

¢ Order service. Check with your cable or satellite provider to be sure you're receiving HD service.

¢ Get connected. Consumers should plan on dedicating 5 percent to 10 percent of their total budget for proper component video and audio cables. And don't skimp, unless you're comfortable missing out on the best signals or amplifying systematic imperfections. "Cables can't make things better, but they can make things worse," Nigro said. "You're not going to buy a Ferrari and put 87 octane in it. You want to have something appropriate."


benm024 12 years ago

Do you even own an HDTV? NTSC (regular tv) broadcasts look fine on a HD box. I'm guessing you are referring to the stretching of the image to fit the screen. If you don't like it stretched then set your tv to put it in the 4:3 (regular tv) aspect ratio and it will be fine.

Like the article states, if you are completely clueless about aspect ratios and HDTV then have somebody come in and explain these things to you, or might be disappointed.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

I don't agree with the FCC requiring everyone to have HDTV by 2009, or I guess they just won't get TV at all. Won't the TV industry love that one. People who resent being told what to do will just sit home and watch all their videos and DVDs instead of TV.

I think the FCC should keep their noses out of people's homes, and let them buy what they want. It's obvious to me that a lot of the higher-ups in government have invested heavily in HDTV.

The whole thing is ridiculous. Just another overpriced toy that a lot of people won't be able to afford.

benm024 12 years ago

crazyks, that's just not true. It's all about technology. We go from black/white to color, 8-tracks to records to tapes to cd's to DVD-Audio/SACD, VHS tapes to DVD's to HD-DVD's, horses to cars, ect. Each one is better (to the vast majority) then the next.

I'm sure some guy said hey, I like my 8-track just fine, why is the industry forcing me to move to records...

If A is better then B, then why would you not want A, if A and B cost the same?

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

I don't recall the FCC requiring us before to buy cassettes instead of 8 tracks, or CDs instead of vinyl, by a specified date...any changes then were left up to consumer demand, as it should be.

Same way with the car as opposed to the horse and buggy...people started buying cars because they wanted to, not because some government agency told them they had to by a certain date.

Whether A is better than B or not is a matter of personal opinion, you know. I happened to grow up in the era of vinyl, and we thought they were great. Doesn't mean that CDs aren't great, too, in fact I have quite a large collection of CDs. But occasionally, I still drag out those old LPs.

Interesting that a study was done once, and people who didn't know what they were listening to preferred the sound quality of an LP over a CD.

You could argue that the old vinyl records were constantly getting scratched...well, so do CDs...and at least when a record got scratched you could still usually listen to it, even if the scratch was who decided the CD format was better?

gamer 12 years ago

Crazy, you have your facts wrong.

HD SIGNALS will be standard by 2009. That doesn't mean that standard TVs won't work anymore, it just means that networks MUST provide HD signals. People with regular TVs will get programming just as normal.

pylon25 12 years ago

1st, Quitbitchn is right about regular programming looking poor on an HDTV. This is due largely to the fact that a regular SD signal has alot of imperfections in it that a regular TV cannot show, so you never see them. An HDTV on the other hand has such a high resolution that the imperfections show up, in the form of artifacts, and grainy picture. The only way around this is to use an input other than Component or DVI/HDMI for watching "Normal" TV and using the HDTV inputs only for watching HD programming. But really, thats a pain in the a$$ and most people couldnt figure out how to hook it up that way let alone operate it properly. If you were to plug the coax from the wall straigt into the TV, the picture looks great, it's poor mainly when using the HD inputs for a non-HD signal. The different aspect ratios dont affect the actual quailty that much, just the proportions. Second, the FCC is not requirng HDTV to be any sort of standard by 2009, they are requiring that all broadcasts be switched to a digital format, which is entirely different. Rather than the picture being sent "Analog" or using varrying frequency waves, it will be sent as 1's and 0's. The issue with that is you must have either a tv with a digital tuner, that can decode those 1's and 0's, or use a set-top box such as a cable box, etc. to decode the digital signal, and make it analog into the TV. The reason this is being done is to free up the frequency ranges that TV currently uses so the FCC can auction them off to the highest bidder. HDTV is just something that is coming along with the change to digital.

benm024 12 years ago

quitbitchin, The conversion you are talking about does not have anything to do with widescreen (16:9 vs. 4:3).... If your HDTV is viewable in native 1080i resolution, and you are watching a 480i NTSC picture (regular tv) then the tv will have to up convert the signal it gets to match the lines it can display. That said, it surprises me that you see a noticeable difference in picture quality. HDTV sets today do a pretty good job with the up conversion. I do know that many of direct tv's channels look like crap regardless of what tv you watch them on, it would not surprise me to hear them trying to blame your HDTV on that. Anyway, not trying to be a d*ck bro :) I have been into A/V and watching HDTV for many many years now (before most people knew what it was), and most of the problems I have seen people complain about are not at all related to the equipment, but rather how it is connected.

crazyks, 1st, The FCC is mandating that we go to digital channels, not HDTV. There is a big difference. 2nd, They are doing this because the fat cats that you hate so much in the television industry do not want to waste their bandwidth on better quality tv as it cuts into their profits. The FCC is looking out for you here and its infuriating those that are used to lining their pockets and delivering sub-standard resolution. Fear not though, if the broadcasting industry gets their way, you will still not see all HDTV. You see, its all about the bottom line, and HDTV is a bandwidth hog. So they can fit several channels of crap resolution into the same space they could only fit 1 HDTV broadcast. You are the type of person they love man! If everybody would think like you they can continue to provide an inferior product getting rich and soaking up the profits.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

Oh, yes, of course after the change I can still watch my old, analog TV if I want...which would require some nice little conversion box from the cable company, which they'll probably charge an arm and a leg for...

What's wrong with making both available, and letting people choose?? Why is it an either/or proposition? How many people are going to be able to afford those fancy new digital TVs?

Somebody is going to be making loads of money off of this deal, believe me. But it sure isn't me.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

Yes, just as computers have come down in price, and cordless phones, and anything electronic. But they haven't become cheap enough for me yet. Evidently you all are in a much higher income bracket than I am.

pylon25 12 years ago

When you try to convert 480 lines into 1080 lines, any imperfections in the picture are going to show up. If you use an RCA input or S-Video or coax input, the TV will process the signal at 480i or 480p depending on the broadcast, and it will look fine. Ben is correct in the sense that it is simply an issue of how the TV is connected. Line conditioners will do nothing for this as its an issue of how the tv is handling the picture you are feeding it.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

Ha, ha...

Nah, I gots me one of them there cordless phones at home...couldn't live without it, though every time the damn power goes off you start appreciating those rotary phones again, though my corded phone has push buttons...gee, I think I still got one of them rotary phones around here somewhere...maybe it's worth money now?

I still haven't gone for a cell phone yet, though. My sister used to work for Sprint, and the things she's told me have convinced me I never want to get one, either.

At least my pocket never rings while I'm having dinner out...damned annoying if you ask me.

benm024 12 years ago

crazyks don't worry. By 2009 HD tv's will by cheap enough for ya. I promise.

Linda Endicott 12 years ago

Oh...I had to use the two tin cans as drinking cups...and the damn cat ate my string...

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