I have a problem: I want a new HDTV, I have very specific requirements, and I’m not which models match, or even how best to find that out. There’s always the LazyWeb, and it’s showing new signs of life, in the form of Dave Sifry’s Hoosgot. Let’s see if it can help me find the right TV.

The TV Problem · I bought an HDTV setup to watch the 2004 World Series; a Hitachi plasma set with only 480 lines of native vertical resolution. For its original purpose, watching high-def sports broadcasts, it works just fine. Based on what I’ve seen on other sets, even the latest 1080p sets, I’m not sure that the nominal-1080 coming out of the satellite receiver has much more to offer than the Hitachi can handle; and in any case it seems like there’s not much of a case for going past 720p in my form factor (see #2 below).

But there are two apps for which I really want the 1080. First, my video camera shoots 1080i. Second, I want to use the TV for outboard display of my pictures. I grew up in a family where we took slides and sometimes set up the screen and projector for a family slide-show. I liked that and want to recreate it, and the current screen does a really bad job. Also, it looks like 1080p is a technology plateau that should last for a while. So here are my requirements:

  1. 1080p.

  2. There’s only one place in the house to put it, so it can’t be more than about 41 inches wide, which means 42" in whatever units they use to measure TV screens.

  3. Needs to be really shallow, which means either plasma or LCD I guess. When I go to the stores, it seems that the LCD screens please my eye a little better, but probably either would be OK.

  4. Needs to be suitable for watching live sports via satellite (but this seems pretty well a wash with the good modern sets).

  5. Needs to appear to my Mac as a 1920x1080 display, no fuss, no muss, no SwitchResX. They say DVI input is better than VGA, but I’m not sure I can see that.

  6. Multiple inputs is good. Currently we have the DVD player, the satellite, the Wii, and the DVI wire all plugged in, and I have to unplug one to plug in the camera, which sucks. I may have to get some sort of video switcher/receiver.

There you have it. I’ve done some poking around and it’s gonna be laborious to find a box matching all the above. But I bet there are quite a few Mac owners out there who could put up their hand and say “Hey Tim, my Pioneer or Sony or Toshiba or whatever is just the ticket”.

Hoosgot · Hoosgot (About page) scans the Technorati flow (including blog feeds and twitters) for anyone mentioning its name or “LazyWeb” (thus, it includes the article you are now reading), and aggregates short summaries. Obviously, credit is due to Ben Hammersley for the original LazyWeb idea.

If it becomes popular at all, subscribing to Hoosgot will become untenable. I currently follow it on Twitter and even in its pre-announce phase, it’s kinda noisy.

I suppose the notion is that if it gets some traction, it’ll develop good Google-karma and someone like me, looking for a TV (or for an android assistant or blues bassist or chlamydia cure) might turn up the answer on Hoosgot. Anyhow, it belongs at the very least in the “worth watching” category.

Something else interesting; I note that that Dave used WordPress to build the front-end for this new thing. I wonder what other strange and wonderful uses will emerge for well-engineered personal publishing platforms.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matt G (Dec 31 2007, at 02:09)

I'm liking my Westinghouse lvm-37w3. This is a 37" LCD that supports 1080P. I use both as a secondary display for my Mac (via DVI) and as a television. It does not have any tuners at all, so you need a cable box, or a tivo, etc. After experiencing some crappy tuners and remote controls (like the Vizios), I was actually happy to get the simplicity of the Westinghouse. Each input has a dedicated remote button which is handy for using a Harmony too.

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From: Todd Jefferson (Dec 31 2007, at 05:53)

I have a sharp Aquos 42", which I've had for most of a year. It's a great tv, and best of all I managed to buy it at Costco, which had it for $400 or $500 cheaper than the local big box stores.

Of course it's dropped in price by about $1000 since we bought it... :(

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From: Mike Giarlo (Dec 31 2007, at 06:27)

Not sure I have read and parsed your requirements fully, but I just picked up a great new TV that seems to fit the bill. It's a 37" LCD with 1080p, the Sharp AQUOS LC-37GP1U. You can find it for anywhere between $1,200 and $1,700.

Enjoy!

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From: HD (Dec 31 2007, at 06:39)

The best LCDs out there are by Sony and Samsung. The current leader is the Sony XBR4 series. Check out the reviews on CNET as well as forums such as:

http://www.highdefforum.com/index.php

http://www.avsforum.com/

Consumer Reports also rates the XBR4 series as tops.

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From: J. King (Dec 31 2007, at 06:54)

http://digitalhome.ca/forum/ likely has more information about which TV to buy than you can shake a stick at, if you have the patience to -find- the information. It also has a ridiculous amount of useful information about antennas and channels if you want to try pulling digital television out of the ether (I'm told things are not too bad in Vancouver) and save a few bucks. I can't give any recommendations on televisions myself, as I haven't looked at what's available for a while, now. I expect, however, that given your maximum size (42"), a 1080p display is truly not necessary: you're not all that likely to notice the differene on a screen that size even if you can find content of that format.

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From: Josh Simons (Dec 31 2007, at 07:57)

Check out the Sony XBR4/5:

http://www.amazon.com/Sony-Bravia-KDL-40XBR4-1080p-HDTV/dp/B000TAEGMO/ref=tag_tdp_sv_edpp_i

I haven't bought an HDTV yet, but when I do it will be the latest in this series from Sony.

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From: len (Dec 31 2007, at 08:07)

The Samsung is very good. I opted for the 50 inch (that's the diagonal) and 740. It is a bit big for the room not in actual width but comfortable viewing distance. There are enough inputs and ouputs, actually, more than enough. You can use USB keys as well.

You may spend a long afternoon with the remote playing with the settings. There are lots of them. Floating menus have improved. Do note that when watching any program or DVD source originally shot for 4:3 and not 16:9, you will want to switch. For example, if you have any DVDs of old TV programs. Bewitched in 16:9 doesn't do Liz justice.

The Alabama/Colorado bowl game was excellent on the big beastie.

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From: Wes Felter (Dec 31 2007, at 10:24)

I second Westinghouse; I have the 47" model. If you're planning to attach a computer, you should probably insist on 1:1 pixel mapping as well; unfortunately this feature is never advertised by TV makers so you have to check AVS Forum.

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From: Michael Croft (Dec 31 2007, at 15:44)

We're in a similar place on the shopping curve, although our goal is to watch movies on it. I tend to scan DealNews for good prices. It hasn't hit the "that one, now!" moment, so there's no telling if this is a good strategy or not...

Also, you may want to wander in to a local CompUSA, which is going out of business. You won't be able to return things, but you may get a bargain.

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From: Jonathan Porter (Dec 31 2007, at 16:19)

Yeah finding a TV to meet your requirements isn't too hard. I had very similar requirements about a year ago. As others have mentioned I went with Westinghouse. I got a 42”. It should meet all your needs.

They may be a few things to look out for in TVs that appear to meet your specs.

Overscan: On the Westinghouse can choose to have the picture fill (overscan) or not (standard)

1080p Input: Some TVs have 1080p display but not 1080p inputs. The Westinghouse accepts 1080p inputs even on component.

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From: Alexey Maslov (Jan 02 2008, at 05:06)

I've been doing a lot of research on the subject before I buying my Panasonic plasma. The main debate is often LCD vs Plasma.

To my mind both have merits:

- LCD is better for PC usage since it is not susceptible for burn-in

- Plasmas are way better for movie viewing due to much better contrast, more lifelike colors and no ghosts

The colors are especially important when watching movies. While the newest LCD models are shoulders above their predecessors I have yet to see an LCD TV even close to plasmas in terms of color reproduction making certain things look unnatural (people skins, animals, underwater scenes to name a few).

I'm extremely satisfied with plasmas and looking for an upgrade from 42" to at least 65" :)

BTW, Happy New Year to everyone :)

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From: Colin Nicholls (Jan 02 2008, at 09:20)

My experience with a Philips 1080p LCD TV: The only problem with 1080p is that for every video source that is not 1080p (ie 780p HDTV, regular DVD, VCR) you will be watching an inferior picture than you would if you had a 780p TV! The TV will up-convert to fill the pixels and you do notice the difference. The larger the TV screen, the more you notice the difference. The image looks pixelated. Unless you have a real, known need for 1080p (and you have mentioned one) then you might be better off getting 780p, or a screen size less that 42" to minimize the noticable jaggies. Caveat: I'm sure blu-ray and HD-DVD look fantastic on my television and other . I have neither type of DVD player, and a library of 200 DVDs that I have no wish to replace.

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From: Peter Meyers (Jan 02 2008, at 09:40)

My advice: don't faff around with anecdotal advice from well-intentioned commenters whose setup and req's may differ from yours. I happily pay a 10% premium for as much of my electronic shopping as I can at Crutchfield (Crutchfield.com). Their customer service rep know-how and willingness to spend loads of unhurried time advising is unmatched in my experience. For what it's worth my spec's are pretty (though not exactly) similar to yours and I ended up going with a front projector to take advantage of a huge empty wall in my living room. Details at: http://www.oreillynet.com/mmgadgets/blog/2007/04/new_tv_quest_analysis_paralysi_1.html

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From: Ben Bleything (Jan 02 2008, at 10:56)

Expounding upon and repeating some tweets:

It is likely that unless you have a highly trained eye for video content, you're not going to notice the difference between (for instance) 720p and 1080i content upconverted to 1080p from a "normal" viewing distance. The THX spec recommends 2.5x the screen diagonal, but that's rarely reality. I've got a 46" screen and I sit 11 feet away.

Don't worry too much about "PC" inputs. HDMI carries the same digital signal as DVI, so you can get a passive DVI <-> HDMI cable that'll work perfectly. That's what I'm doing to hook my MacBook Pro to my TV.

Get a good upconverting DVD player. Standard definition DVDs (technically enhanced-definition, just like your current TV) are 480p. A good DVD player can scale that up to 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. Sure, you're going to get artifacts from the conversion, but that's life. I have an Oppo, and it looks amazing upconverting 480p to 1080p.

Ultimately, the best advice anyone is going to be able to give you is to go to a good home theater store (that is, not a chain) with some source material you are familiar with, and watch that material on a few different TVs until you find one you like. Don't look at brands or prices, just look at screens.

Find the picture you like the best and buy that TV.

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From: Colin Simmonds (Jan 03 2008, at 13:30)

I'm quite happy with my 40 inch Sony Bravia LCD, and I think it meets all of your requirements.

In particular, for #5, I'm using a Mac Mini connected to it with a DVI to HDMI converter cable, and it natively shows up as a monitor in the correct resolution. But I did have to enable overscan mode for the entire Mac desktop to be visible, including crucially the menu bar.

For #6, the model I have has 8 different inputs with various combinations of different types of connectors, as well as a coax connector for analog TV that it counts separately. My only quibble is that there's no fast way to switch between the various inputs except one-by-one, including the ones that have nothing connected to them, which is time-consuming.

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