Need help buying a new TV

My girlfriend’s parents are preparing to buy a new TV. Theirs is on the fritz and it’s time to spend some money. They live in a rural area and do not have cable or satelite - it’s only broadcast signals that they recieve. So they’re looking for a unit with a “strong” reciever. A repairman who looked at their old TV several years ago remarked that it didn’t have a very strong tuner, and that in fact, the tuner in their VCR was stronger.

I’m wondering if there are some good websites (free) where comparisons of TVs can be found? (not willing to shell out for a subscription to Consumer Reports website) They’re looking for a 27" model, and as I said, the top priority is a strong reciever, so some measurement or ranking of that feature should be available.

I know my fellow Dopers can help me out on this…

A local library should have CR issues as well as the annual Buying Guides. (Which have indices for the most recent reports.)

CR does not test for tuner capability however. “In store testing” would probably be the way to go for checking that. See if the store will let you view the set off of an actual indoor antenna.

As a general rule, find the model that seems reasonable for the price and get the next better model by the same maker. Don’t cheap out, it will only hurt in the long run.

If they’re out in the country, an antenna rotor and signal amplifier will make a much more dramatic improvement than the relatively small differences between tuners.

The terminology of the repair person was poor. The VCR tuner, being digital, was simply more accurate with regard to locking onto the correct frequency of the signal. People like me who live in the middle of bohunk use roof aerials, rotors, and I also use the VCR tuner instead of the set. Antennas come in a wide range of sizes/prices ranging from I live next door to the transmitter to the nearest tower is 100 miles away. Compare them with one another by looking at specifications of gain. Increasing elevation of a given antenna may also result in improved reception, along with upping the size of the downlead, ensuring all connections are clean and tight, etc.

They do have a roof antenna as well as a rotor to “aim” it…

I don’t think they’re willing to make changes to that setup.

So you’re saying that the difference between tuners in the TVs is nominal?

That depends on the age of the TV in question. The first TV sets I worked on had mechanical tuners with a fine tuning control. Contacts would develop oxidation, requiring a squirt of ‘Tuner Cleaner’ and a burnishing tool.

Assuming your set to be less than 10-15 years old, it likely has a digital PLL tuner, and you’re really not able to ‘improve’ over that circuitry.

Was the picture once very good, but has deteriorated over time? Bring over a known good set and see what you get with their antenna connected directly. Starting with simple things and working through low cost fixes may remove the need to spend big $.

Well, their need to get a new set is because of problems with the picture tube, not with tuning. But they know that becuase they only have the outside antenna, that the tuner will be an important part of the new set and would like to get a good one if there was some way to “score” the differences in various models.