I just read a story about HDTV consumer backlash over at Engadget. Pretty good story, and I can totally see where the backlash is coming from. And realize, I thought I knew what I was getting into when I bought the darned thing.
To start at the beginning, I decided I wanted a big flat-scren TV on Christmas day, so that night, I spent time on the couch researching what to buy. Based on one evening’s worth of research (I spent about 3 hours reading) I decided that I was fine if I bought an LCD TV, as long as I bought a Sony, Samsung or Sharp, thanks to sites like the LCD TV Buying Guide and a few other sites I found on Google by searching for flat panel TV reviews and LCD TV review.
Then on the day after Christmas, the wife and I, along with our two-year old and two-month old, headed to the local Fry’s here in Austin.
I ended up choosing the Samsung LNS4095DX 40″ HD LCD TV. I bought that one because it honestly looked the best amongst the 3 or 4 40″ models I was interested in, and Fry’s was having a “one per customer, no rain-check, no exchange” sale on these models, and had knocked about $500 off the price of them. It was a great value, and a good TV by one of my three chosen brands.
We also got a free wall-mount for the TV and a Sony DVD upsampling DVD player with an HDMI output, and a 6′ HDMI cable. Since I was at Fry’s, they offered me an extended warranty. I opted for the 5 year extended warranty with on-site service and repair. I figured these things are big LCDs and something might go wrong. Paying an extra 10 percent to have someone come out and fix or replace the TV if 3 or more pixels go dead in the next five years was a bargain, in my opinion. Of-course, I wouldn’t doubt it if these TVs are less than $500 in five years… but oh well, I felt better buying the coverage, just like I do when I buy the extended Apple Care on my laptops. Total bill: about $2,400, and they loaded the car for me 😉
I got the TV home, cleared out space for it in the living room, and then waited six hours while my wife decided whether or not she wanted to rearrange all of the furniture, and to place the TV somwhere other than where the old one had been. Long story short, we moved all of the furniture around a lot over that six hours, only to move it back to where it had been to mount the TV where the old armoir that held our old 32″ tube-type had been. Typical.
I started to actually hang the TV on the wall around 6:00 p.m., and by 10:00 p.m., I had it installed, and had the DVD player hooked up to it (God would have punished me if I didn’t have something for the two-year old to watch while he drank his first cup of milk while sitting in my lap on the couch at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.) With the DVD player hooked up, I dug through the old armoir and found the Dinosaur movie that he loves, and tested the setup.
Wow! Can I say wow again? Wow!!!!
It looked amazing. Truly amazing.
Then I dug the old cable set-top box from Grande Communications (our cable provider) out of the armoir, and hooked it up. It looked like shit. All of the channels were horrible, and none of them were widescreen. So, I turned it all off, and went to bed around mid-night.
The next day, the two-year old and I watched Dinosaur in the morning. He didn’t seem as impressed as I was at the picture 😉
Then I called Grande, and upgraded to the HDTV package. That required a new set-top box, so I took the old one in, and hooked the new one up when I got home.
Side-note: You need to realize because I was using the free ($129 retail value) wall mount that Fry’s gave me the day before, it was a total pain in the ass to hook up cables to the TV (it’s mounted right against the wall, and there isn’t more than about an inch of clearance between the TV and the wall.) The new HD-Cable box has three video-outs and two audio outs. Ugh. At least the DVD is only one HDMI cable.
So, I get the new HD-cable box plugged in, and guess what. Only about 10 channels come in HD all the time, and then, not even those are actually HD all the time… the local NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox channels are generally only HD during prime-time and during other programs throughout the day, but there’s no ryhme or reason to what’s in HD and what’s not… and the on-screen cable guide doesn’t say “this program is in HD” while you’re scrolling through it.
I now have a cable subscription with like 200 channels, and less than 10 percent of those channels are HD. I pay $100 a month for 10 HD channels and a bunch of crappy looking normal channels. Actually, that’s not fair. The non-HD channels look fine on my non-HD TVs, but on this really nice $2,000 TV they look pretty bad… I’m definitely not impressed by regular cable on HD at this point.
That said, HD quality cable looks amazing on this TV. I watched Texas A&M play Cal in the Holiday Bowl last Thursday night, and wow, it was just amazing. Totally the best picture that’s ever been broadcast in my house. And like I said earlier, the DVD player makes movies look amazing on this new TV too.
But, paying $100/month for 190 non-HD channels and 10 HD channels that aren’t HD all the time is annoying. And, those other channels really make me wonder why every network isn’t broadcasting in HD at this point.
Lesson to the networks and cable channel companies: I’ve specifically set all of the HD channels to my “favorites” on my cable-box at this point, and, I’m watching a whole lot of HDNet and the HD movie channels that come with my little HD package. A lot more than the regular local stations, or the other non-HD cable channels.
In summary, I can totally see why consumers that don’t do their research, rely on in-store sales reps to help them buy an HD TV and then get home to find out they need to buy more to enjoy those TVs might be upset. I’m pretty darned literate about gadgets and technology, and I’ve very unimpressed by my HD experience so-far.