Sunday, June 18, 2006

That's Widescreen, Baby!

Our good old Magnavox 27" TV started to die two weeks ago. It was developing some floating bars at the very bottom of the picture.

I did a good job ignoring it until the picture starting collapsing together from the top and bottom by several inches. Repeated power on/off's sometimes got it stabilized, but other times not.

We've had it for at least 8 years so I guess it's been good.

Time to begin considering a replacement...

My only criteria was that it had to be under $500 and be a no larger than 27". We don't have a large living room so this is a good size that balances viewability with decor. Other than that I was pretty open.

The price and size constraints put a damper on looking for flat-panels. That's ok. I wasn't really wanting all those bells and whistles. We watch quite a bit of TV/DVD for our entertainment but I'm not feeling the pressure to adopt HDTV quite yet.

While surfing the BestBuy site for TV's I noticed that tube-units were being made in the 16:9 ratio format. Cool. That would be nice. I always have envied the widescreen format. After much looking I had pretty much picked out Toshiba's 26DF56 unit. It was in our price-range, size and even was a wide-screen format. Nice. Lavie agreed.

We got to the store and started trying to find the unit. The labeling was kinda off from the displays as they had been doing some unit reshuffling. Lavie found one we thought was it and was happily awed. They spun it around for me so I could check the inputs on the back had way too many for the model we wanted. What was up?

Turns out it was Toshiba's 26HF85 model we were looking at. It was pretty much like the other one, but it was HDTV ready (meaning you had to hook it to a HDTV receiver to get the HD signal). Because it was HDTV ready, it had the higher 1080i picture resolution and a ton of extra bells and whistles for signal upgrade, conversion, etc...Lavie loved it. I was impressed. But this would be way outside our budget right?

Well....we took it home for about $350. It ended up being on clearance (and a floor model) and was actually cheaper than the one we were looking at, even with it being HDTV ready. Wow.

Now I am not an audiophile--I just like sound that is good for my ears. Same way with TV technology. I love a beautiful quality picture, but I am not deeply discerning when it comes to TV technology. Seemed like a good deal. Being a floor model could have it's pluses and minuses. Minus: Could have been abused or already had a lot of tube-hours on it. Had a small scratch on the front frame. Pluses: Already broken in, good value, and still covered under the store warranty as if were bought new.

It took me about two hours to get it fully programmed and set up. I still need to do a little bit of work getting my DVD player settings tweaked for outputting to the 16:9 format TV. It has lots of options to accommodate that pairing. What I've gotten worked out so far looks incredibly crisp and clear. Wow. I had been feeding my DVD signal to the TV via S-Video input, but this thing came with component video inputs so I am using those for the DVD to TV signal. It is really incredible.

I always wondered about how the 4:3 standard signal got stretched to fit the 16:9 screen format. Know I know! This model handles it one of 5 ways: "normal" with grey bars to the left and right sides and the "square" picture in the center, three wide-screen views with it stretching the picture horizontally in a proportionately greater spread from the center outward, stretching by clipping the top or bottom, or "full" which stretches it vertically and horizontally to fit. I've found that depending on the show we are watching, you will want to pick the best one. For news and sports shows that have "crawler" feeds at the top or bottom--"full" mode is best, even though it seems to throw the proportions off a little. Shows that don't have those the first wide-screen option works best as it looks the most natural, but clips some of the top and bottom image off in the process.

And those widescreen DVD movies? Wowsers. Who wants to go to the noisy, sticky theatre now? Forgeddaboudit!

So, time will tell if we got an awesome bargin or not. But in perspective, we paid over two times as much for the Magnavox that is going out to pasture than we paid for this one. I hate to think about "big" TV's being disposable, but it seems the price has come down so much on them, especially the tube models, that it is cheaper to replace them than repair them.

I have it on a surge protector along with the other A/V items, but I am trying to decide if putting on my spare UPS unit might be a good idea or not. (In my mind) the UPS should clean up the power-signal and maybe help the TV's power supply unit last longer. Don't know. Maybe I should drop Dan a line.

That's Widescreen, Baby. Sweet!

(And that wasn't even my Father's Day gift! That turned out to be the Eureka Seven anieme collector's box set--with DVD/manga/t-shirt and 2-disk CD soundtrack. Score. My girls are good!)

See you in front of the TV this week!

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