Monday, February 13, 2006

Breaking down, and buying a HDTV

Ever since my room mate bought an 27 inch LCD HDTV, I've been a little jealous. Not because of the HD, but moreso because it was widescreen and it doubled as a computer monitor. Funny thing is, that I use two 17 inch monitors for my computer, so the latter factor shouldn't matter. But I figured that it would be great when I get my gaming computer setup (for emulation). I've had to use S-Video up to now, which is decent, but SVGA obviously looks better.

After getting my tax return, I started shopping. My room mate's LCD was a refurbished unit off ebay for about $650 shipped. So I ventured forth to find a similarly priced deal. Although semi-successful, I found that the response times for the new LCD TVs in that range wasn't that hot (15-25ms). Still, I was on the verge of purchasing an AOC or Syntax from Amazon or TechOnWeb.

Then another room mate came home after a morning of hunting. He told me that Walmart has a widescreen projection televeion for $800. However, it wasn't until later that he told me it was by the checkout counters, which means it was a display model for sale. That one was gone by the time I got there. But there were still two options available: an RCA 52" HDTV for $988 or a Magnovox 51" HDTV for $897.

I've always had good experience with RCA, so I wanted to go that route. The problem was that the nearest store with one was 100 miles away. The extra $100 didn't help either. The RCA also had glass/plexi in front of the screen so it seemed to invite glare more than the Magnavox. But that glass also made the image look a little bit nicer.

Here are links to the televisions I was looking into:

RCA 52in Widescreen Projection HDTV

Magnavox 51in Widescreen Projection HDTV, 51MP6100D

Note that the Magnavox says it is out of stock, but for my local store it was in stock, and the RCA was out of stock.

I wanted to get this done last weekend, and the Magnavox was more in my budget, so I bought it instread. Walmart had a 90 day same-as-cash deal on their credit card, so I applied as I was about $350 short. The application process was easy (even though the clerk had never done one before), and I will have it paid off in two weeks.

The television is great, and having wheels on the bottom made moving it around fairly easy. However, I do have a couple of problems with the television. First of all, the colors were not aligned. Thankfully, it has some manual adjustments to fix the problem and even allows you to save your settings. The manual multipoint adjustment can be tedious, but the saving means you shouldn't have to do it more than once. The second problem is that there are no analog stereo outputs. I'm stuck with SPDIF...proprietary Sony/Philips is at it again. Luckily, I have multiple inputs on my cheap surround sound system, so regular television will be the only non-surround sound use. The stock speakers are okay, but can't contend with a good system. The TV also has no DVI or HDMI inputS, although I have no use for those at the moment. I'll live.

Gaming on a 51" widescreen is definitely an improvement. The specs don't call for 720p support, but it displays it anyway. 1080i will do it for now, although the framerate on some of the games I have at the moment is noticeable. I don't suspect this will be a problem in the future.

I don't regret the purchase, and I'm actually very happy with it. The fact that big screen televisions are now available for under $1000 puts them in my price range. This opens up the big screen HDTV market to consumers, so we'll see how they fair in the future.