Ask the guy who just bought an HDTV

My technical knowledge is limited, but I can share our experience with you, including the research that we did and where it led us. I can tell you about the buying experience as well, including the first one, which failed. I can tell you pretty much anything about the Sony KDF-55WF655 55" Grand Wega™ High-Definition rear-projection LCD TV, which is what we finally decided on. I can tell you about the viewing experience, including the differences among various broadcasters and some of the cool things Time-Warner does.

If you’re in the market or just curious, maybe our legwork can save you some time and money.

Hey, Lib, do you have satellite or cable? My wife and I are starting to look into this as the prices keep dropping.

We have Time Warner cable. (There is a good quality competitor in our area, so the prices are very reasonable.) One very cool thing they do is broadcast the side-bands for old 4:3 shows in different shades of gray with slight hues of random color. This all but eliminates the possibility of burn-in.

My understanding is that with satellite you have to purchase the HDTV adapter box, which runs about $300. And I see you went with the LCD vice the plasma. Was that because of the LCD replacement cost or the picture quality?

It was really for a lot of reasons. The best plasma sets have the best picture overall, especially the blackness. But they are very expensive, extremely sensitive to burn in, don’t last as long as LCD, deteriorate in picture quality over time, and cost a lot to repair. The picture quality of the middle range plasma sets was no better than ours to us. Our picture is frankly amazing. We can see individual hairs blown by the wind, and so forth. My wife was amazed to see all the zits and imprefections on Brad Pitt’s face. Old blurry TV had made his skin appear to be smoother than it is. I noticed that Stockard Channing has freckles on her nose.

Here are some consumer reviews of our set: http://reviews.cnet.com/Sony_KDF_55WF655/4505-6484_7-30787703.html

As to the box, watch for whether the set says it is a monitor. A monitor doesn’t have the built-in HDTV tuner. But we needed the box anyway for the DVR.

My mother purchased a Samsung high-def, with DLP, big screen a while back to replace her aging Sony rear projection big screen. Her major complaint is that she can’t tell a difference in picture quality. Flipping back and forth between the HD and regular channels I don’t see much difference either, even on sporting programs(where is it supposed to be a big deal). I haven’t watched any golf(to be able to track the ball, which I could never do on a regular TV) on her set, but I haven’t been impressed so far.

Can you tell a difference switching between HD and regular channels? She has a satellite feed from one of the new small dishes versus cable and the channels are all supposed to be digital and high quality. I just don’t see much difference between her multi-thousand dollar TV now and her previous multi-thousand dollar TV.

Enjoy,
Steven

I’ve been considering buying a DLP for a couple of years, but am hoping the prices drop more. And since I’ve seen the LCD’s, it’s made it that much harder. I can find your Sony online for around $2300 with shipping, which is still cheaper than the Toshiba DLP I was looking at. And the Sony is a few inches bigger. Is there any reason you stayed away from DLP? I know the lamps can burn out, but that’s the only problem I’ve heard about them. May I ask how much you spent and why the first one failed?

An incredible difference. The HD channels are almost lifelike in stunning detail and quality. Breathtaking. Even my wife, who is a Phlegmatic, is positively wowed by the HD broadcasts. In fact, we don’t even watch our old favorite shows much anymore (like things on Bravo). We’d rather watch a Discover HD special on Utah. The picture is that good.

Here are some things to look for and consider that possibly could account for what’s going on with your mother’s set:

  1. There’s a big difference in the quality of connecting cables. We use a 24-karat gold HDMI connector. It was expensive (about $150), but it gives uncompressed signal. Not all providers offer HDMI connection. Time Warner does. If the signal coming into the TV isn’t good, the picture won’t be either.

  2. There are different qualities of broadcast signal. Some providers might broadcast a lower quality, like 720i. Time Warner broadcasts its HD channels in 1080i, a very high quality (in fact, the highest).

  3. Some networks, like Fox, don’t send a true HD signal. For the best HD quality, you need the best HD channels, like INHD and HDNet. What these people provide will knock your socks off.

  4. A digital channel is not the same as an HD channel. If, for example, you’re watching a football game on CBS that says “In HD where available”, that doesn’t mean that the HD signal is coming in on that channel. You have to switch to the CBS High Def equivalent to get the HD signal.

  5. The video settings make a huge difference. Most TVs come from the factory set in what they call “torch mode”. Full color saturation. Sharpest possible contrast. Brightest possible gamma, and so forth. These settings look great in a bright flourescent-lit showroom but horrible at home. Some TVs give you more control than others over fine-tuning the picture. Some are so difficult to set that a professional has to do it. Ours is very simple and comprehensive. The difference between the original torch mode and our tweaked settings is remarkable.

  6. Not all sets are equipped internally to handle higher res broadcasts like 1020i, and might use software interpolation that would be inferior to true resolution.

  7. DLP sets are extremely sensitive to viewing angle, especially vertical. It could be simply a matter of the TV being too high or too low from the floor.

  8. Some DLP sets are extremely sensitive to ambient lighting conditions. See whether pulling the shades and turning off lights helps.

Those are all I can think of off the top of my head. But hopefully it illustrates how so many things have to come together for best picture quality. That’s one area where our pre-purchase research helped a lot.

It’s not so much that we stayed away from DLP, although I have to admit that the notion of all those mirrors working together just right did make me squeamish about the technology as a whole. It’s just that this particular set was so outstanding in almost every category (except blackness level). Lamps burn out in LCDs too, but in our set, it’s as simple to replace as a bulb in a table lamp. We spent $2900 on our set, but we wanted to buy locally because of possible delivery and return hassles. The local service was important to us, plus they set everything up and made sure it was working before they left. They did the whole set-up thing, like channel searching and showed us all the features. We have an unconditional 60-day guarantee. They will replace the set at their expense (including delivery) or exhange it for another (and either refund or charge the difference) if we are not satisfied for any reason during that time. The first purchase didn’t work out, not because of the set, but because of the seller. They didn’t take Visa. Honestly, it was lucky for us, because we really had not done sufficient research. We would now be stuck with an inferior brand bought from people with poor customer service.

Thanks for posting this thread Lib, it’s been very informative so far. BTW, what’s DLP?

Digital light processing