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August 2007

To complete — at least for now — my living room upgrade, I purchased a Toshiba HD-DVD (HD-A20) from Circuit City. Just looking at the listing now, I see the price has increased since Tuesday from $359.99 to $399.99. In fact, in the store, the advertised price was $399.99, but after showing the listing on the internet from that day, they matched their online price.

Before deciding on this device, I had to face the big question that is preventing other people I know from jumping into high-definition video: Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? For me, the answer is straightforward. Blu-Ray players are often twice as expensive as HD-DVD. It’s a shame that studios are aligning themselves with one format over another; this might prolong the inevitable crowning of one champion, like Beta vs. VHS.

Toshiba HD-DVD HD-A20Once settled on the HD-DVD format, I wanted to find the best value I could. After more online research including Consumer Reports and a number of other communities, I chose the system I mentioned above. No, it’s not built with high-end components, but it delivers a good value.

I also picked up one HD-DVD, Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow. I saw the movie in the theater when it came out. It wasn’t a fantastic movie, but it was visually stunning, a perfect candidate for high definition. Once the HDMI cables arrive today or tomorrow, I’ll have something to pop in immediately to see how 1080p suits me.

The store didn’t have a wide selection of HD-DVDs, but I’ve been finding more options on Amazon.com and adding them to my Wish List for future purchasing.

After my expenditures this week, it’s time to cool down for several months. There are still several components I need in order to make the experience complete, but I will hold off for a while. Here is what is missing in my set-up:

* Television stand or wall-mounting brackets, so I can reclaim my repurposed coffee table
* High definition audio receiver with surround sound and additional speakers, as the television’s internal speakers are not so hot
* Fancy remote control that can communicate with all devices, so I don’t need the variety I use now
* Game system like the Xbox 360 so I can waste more time when I should be blogging

Once I’m ready to spend significant money in this department, I’ll be looking back at this list.

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While I was covering my own responsibilities as well as those of a vacationing coworker today, I missed all the excitement in the markets. Dow up to 13,289, S&P 500 up to 1,463, Nasdaq up to 2,563. [MarketWatch]

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As of Monday, calculating how much I had spent on televisions, DVD players, and other entertainment equipment was fairly easy. I “inherited” a JVC receiver and large JBL speakers from my father when he upgraded. When a friend and roommate of mine moved to Seattle several years ago, I purchased his 27 inch CRT television, DVD player, and entertainment center for $150 or so. Last year, I bought a cheap DVD player for $35 when the first one died. Also last year, or maybe two years ago, I purchased a pair of small Yamaha speakers to replace the large JBL speakers when they no longer functioned properly.

I have wanted to upgrade my entire system for a long time. Knowing that it would be an expensive endeavor, I put this off for many years. While I know that spending a large sum of money now could mean less for me in retirement thanks to the powerful effect of inflation, now that I am able to aggressively save for retirement (25% of my day job salary and I could easily go higher at any time), I decided this past weekend it was time to start the upgrade.

The last few days have been spent reading a large number of reviews of various television sets on Consumer Reports (where I am now a member), forums, and a wide selection of other websites. I solicited advice from friends who are familiar with the technology.

First, I settled on LCD as the appropriate technology for my typical viewing conditions and for its recent advancements in competition with the picture quality of plasma. I went back and forth between several brands, but I eventually decided on Sharp Aquos.

Sharp Aquos 42 inch LCD HDTVThe price on the Sharp Aquos LC-42D62U 42 inch LCD HDTV — the size I determined would be appropriate, large but not overbearing, for my space — was in the range of what I wanted to spend for the best high definition resolution (1080p), and the lowest price I could find was under $1,300 at Circuit City. That didn’t surprise me, having helped my girlfriend purchase a television several months ago.

Unlike that last time, I could not get the sales associates to drop the price. I can understand why; the television is selling well, is not discontinued, and the price dropped as recently as a month ago by $800. Still, Circuit City offers a 30-day price guarantee in case they lower the price or I find an offer in the local competitive area for less. When I shopped for a television with my girlfriend, we spotted a discontinued model and were able to work the sales associate down about 33%. He even showed us a list of all the store’s television equipment, including what would be considered the “invoice price,” or what the store supposedly paid.

Back to my HDTV, a friend assisted me with transporting the television from the store to my living room (and setting up the television) as the box would most likely not fit into my Honda Civic. Another aspect of LCD technology that fits my needs is its weight. Plasma screens are much heavier and difficult to transport. I expect I will be moving again in the next year or two and Plasma screen are fragile.

I was surprised Circuit City offered high definition cables (HDMI) for no less than $100 and up to $140 a piece. I left the store without buying any of the cables that would allow me to completely enjoy the high definition experience. Instead, I opted to order 2 HDMI cables — one for cable television and the other for the HD DVD player I will write about in Part 2 — online through my friend’s wholesale source for $14 a piece.

The television looks great so far. I expect once I receive and install the HDMI cables, quality on standard definition broadcasts will actually decrease, as one negative point of this particular model is that it doesn’t have a strong conversion processor. Nevertheless, high definition broadcasts are consistently increasing — almost everything I watch is broadcasted in HDTV, and my cable service including HD is free for the year.

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Dow down to 13,041.85, S&P 500 down to 1,432.36, Nasdaq down to 2,500.64, Flexo’s net worth down by over $1,500 today. That last statistic is due to a long-overdue upgrade in living room entertainment. [AP]

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Guide to Capital One Credit Cards

by Luke Landes

Updated December 1, 2008. Any indented text is excerpted directly from Capital One’s marketing. Capital One has been in the news recently for two issues relevant to card holders. First, the company reversed their policy on reporting credit limits so FICO scores are not adversely affected. Later, Capital One closed its wholesale mortgage business, distancing […]

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Market Update, August 24, 2007

by Luke Landes

They say this week was a good one for the market. Dow up to 13,379, S&P 500 up to 1,479, Nasdaq up to 1,479. If you sold your S&P index fund at the end of last week when you were nervous, you would have missed an annualized increase of 119.6 percent. [MSN]

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Market Update, August 23, 2007

by Luke Landes

I’ve been busy wrapping up projects at work and not paying attention to the market. My company’s share price is almost back to where I want to send my second-quarter stock. Today, the Dow is down to 13,235.88, S&P 500 down to 1,462.50, Nasdaq down to 2,541.70. [CNN]

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The Second Step to Cleaning Up Your Finances

by Luke Landes

The Dough Roller tagged me to write about my one piece of money-related advice if I had to choose just one. I’m not at advisor, so I don’t consider my ramblings advice, but I can share what has worked for me. Recently, I shared my favorite tip and the first step to cleaning up your […]

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Seven Home Equity Tips, Part 4: Know Your Interest Rates and Terms

by Luke Landes

The most basic piece of knowledge one needs in order to be in control of their finances is the importance of awareness. Many people will go through their lives blissfully ignorant of their own financial details. Why? For one, ignorance is bliss. The more financial trouble you are in, the easier it is to ignore […]

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I Got a Relatively Good Deal on Bedroom Furniture

by Luke Landes

I have been struggling for the past month or two to find decent, basic bedroom furniture for a good price. I’ve tried the department stores (JCPenny, Macy’s and Sears), Ashley Furniture, Raymour & Flanigan, Peir 1, and some other stores, but everything was out of a reasonable price range or was horribly cheap. After expressing […]

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