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Upgrading My Living Room Entertainment, Part 1: Television

This article was written by in Consumer, Shopping. 8 comments.


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.

Updated May 26, 2009 and originally published August 29, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Debt Free

Flexo,

Good choice of TV (I have the 46″ version of the same set), but the step up model (D82U) offers a 120Hz refresh rate that combats the motion artifacts that LCD TVs are known for, in addition to a better contrast ratio. Usually the incremental cost is fairly minimal. You got a great price on the set you chose however.

Part of the reason that you were unable to get a discount on the unit is that there was a shortage of LCD panels at the manufacturer level recently. This has kept manufacturers from meeting the quantity demanded that was in part created by dropping flat panel TV prices.

HDMI isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes it does, in fact give better image quality, but not all the time. In addition, HDMI is known to create, uh, issues with synching between display and source, due to either HDCP or distance. In longer lengths, HDMI is extremely sensitive to cable quality. If you are using longer cables (15′+) and are having problems, try using better cables.

If your TV can properly deinterlace (convert it from 1080i to 1080p) the program material, you can still get the compete high definition experience if you are using a 1080i source, such as a cable box or satellite receiver. It’s only when you transition to 1080p sources, such as BluRay Disc or HD-DVD that you need to use HDMI. That being said, you actually get no more information when using 1080p that 1080i for program material that was natively produced using film or 1080i video, as opposed to 1080p video. For film, this is due to the frame rate the film is shot at.

email me with any questions.

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avatar Chris

I get all my cables from monoprice.com. The big box store prices on those things are ridiculous.

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avatar Matt Wolfe

That’s great that you got a new TV. I’ve been wanting to upgrade to HD for quite some time now but haven’t brought myself to spend the money. One of these days I will do it.

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avatar Josh B.

If you put your purchase price and product info into http://www.priceprotectr.com/ it will send you an email you if the price drops in the next 30 days. Pretty slick.

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avatar Josh B.

Oh also: Gizmodo did a pretty interesting test of HDMI cables, comparing the performance of cheap cables to Monster et al.

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/hdmi-cable-battlemodo/the-truth-about-monster-cable-part-2-268788.php

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avatar Leroy Brown

Good call on the cables – monoprice is the way to go. I even ordered an extra one just in case I need it later. BBY and CC are always over $100 for HDMI cables…. simply insane markup. I’m all for making a profit, but there’s a point when it’s simply ridiculous.

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avatar Tim

yeah, don’t get monster cable. they have done great marketing and cc and bb and the like use the marketing very well in order to mark up cable, when the cables themselves aren’t anything special. the issue isn’t necessarily the cable quality more than it is the amplification of the signal that can shoot all the data over long lengths b/c of resistance of the cable. however, just like s-video cables were subject to signal degradation over long lengths too, it can be easily solved by a signal amplifier. there is endless debate over cables. I consider myself an audiophile having a two channel stereo worth over $75k, and there is so much hype over the cable issue.

with that said, the features of the tv will definitely depend on what your needs are. if you are watching mainly standard dvd and cable, then you don’t need 1080p, 1080i, etc. moreover, you do not need any of the conversion features of the tv if you have, and which is the case, external sources like a cable or satellite box which does the conversion for you. that’s why i think it is better to simply get a monitor rather than a tv. however, for the consumer market, companies for some reason like to include everything in the tv when it is not need nor used.

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avatar Mariette

Flexo,

You spoke of the effects of your purchase on your retirement funds and in fact you have offered a perfect example of why the whole saving for retirement thing is a process which is unique to each individual. It’s easy to get caught up in depriving ourselves of everything in order to have “enough” money saved for retirement, frugality means different things to different people. The important thing is not to spend on credit and to spend less than you earn. It’s all about balance. And for some people that will mean splurging on a luxury item now and then.

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