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Video Is It Time to Replace Your First HDTV? (Video) 418

Millions of Americans bought their first HDTVs between four and seven years ago, because that's when prices for 40" - 50" sets started dropping below $700. Those sets are obviously between four and seven years old now. Are new ones so much more wonderful that it's time to get a new HDTV? Not necessarily. Alfred Poor, long-time display technology expert and senior editor for aNewDomain, has some insight here, which he shares with us in today's video. There's obviously a lot more to discuss about TV technology advances (such as 3d) that we didn't get to today, so look forward to another discussion on this topic in two or three weeks.

Robin Miller: This is Dr. Alfred Poor known to most Slashdot readers as Alfred, and he is an expert on high-definition televisions and televisions in general. Today we’ve rounded him up to talk about televisions and high-definitions televisions. If you’re one of the many people who bought a high-definition television when they first got reasonably priced around five years ago, is it time to look at another TV. Alfred is it? Should we look at new TVs or just stick with what we have?

Alfred Poor: Well, the first thing is getting a lot of attention these days is the new higher definition sets that have come out.

Robin Miller: Right.

Alfred Poor: CES wants us to call them UHD for Ultra High Definition, but everybody is calling them 4K because that stands roughly for 4,000, which is roughly how many vertical lines of resolution they’ve got. In other words, they’re roughly 4,000 pixels across. And that compares to roughly the 2,000 that you have in a standard 1080p television that we have already.

So essentially, if you have a 50-inch 4K display, it’s the same as taking four 25-inch 1080p displays and gluing them together to make a bigger one. So it’s really just a question of having more pixels. There’s a bunch of problems with this; the most important one of all is that there is not all that much content available yet in 4K resolution. There’s tons in standard HD, the 1080p HD resolution.

The movie theaters are using 4K, a lot of stuff is being produced for the movies originally in 4K, but not that much of it is available to consumers. Sony has started by selling a little box that it has some movies in 4K installed in it and you hook it up to the Internet and they’ll be able to download or you’ll be able to buy and download more movies in that resolution, but that’s a pretty narrow stream of content.

The second big problem is as the Sony box demonstrates, there’s not a big infrastructure to deliver this. You can’t get 4K over any cable systems at this point, there may be some experiments going on with satellite, but again your standard channels are coming through in 1080 at best. A lot of cable systems end up compressing the signals so badly that you’re not even getting a good quality 1080 out of it, there’s no way they’re going to be able to send four times that number of pixels and get you a good image quality.

Robin Miller: Mine is giving me a 720p actually, that’s what I get from my cable provider.

Alfred Poor: But again, just like MP3, you can adjust the amount of compressions, and you can squeeze it so hard, you now limit the amount of bandwidth required that you start getting artifacts, and MP3 sounds bad, with some cable systems you actually can see visual artifacts as a result of all the compression.

Robin Miller: I actually can if I’m watching – I live in Tampa Bay Bucs territory, but if I’m watching a better football team that moves faster than Bucs.

Alfred Poor: So delivery of the content is a problem and also storage, I mean we’ve got Blu-ray which can do 1080p, but there’s no 4K Blu-ray definition systems available at this point. They’re in development, but we don’t have them yet. So to buy 4K in order to get the higher resolution and the better looking image while it’s going to be tough to find the source material, it’s going to show you the better image.

Now a lot of people talk about how good the up-scaling is on some of these sets, and that’s certainly true, but Robin when I can give you $2 and you can up-scale it and give me back $8, then I believe in up-scaling.

Robin Miller: And here is the thing though too and another thing, I’m old, I really am, I’m ancient, I get social security, but still, I’m not that old, I have a TV, I have a small living room, it’s not huge, I watch a 42 inch TV from about eight feet away, and I will tell you very bluntly that I cannot personally tell the difference between really high quality, well-shot 480 and 720, I can’t tell.

Alfred Poor: Right, at that distance you shouldn’t be able to, the minimum screen for a high definition – minimum size screen for high definition at about eight feet is it really needs to be 47 or 50 inches before anyone with good eyesight is going to be able to tell the difference. So if you’re not going to get a big enough screen, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference. So if you’re sitting more than five feet away, I mean eight feet away I’d say, and you want to get a 50 inch screen, well just physically you are probably not going to be able to tell the difference between a 4K screen and 1080p HD screen.

Robin Miller: And because of my room layout and the way it’s designed, there is no real room for – before I bought it, I measured it and I said, the maximum I can put here comfortably and look good is a 42 inch. So, you know what the real big difference I see or have with Blu-ray when I get a Blu-ray piece or good high def, sound.

Alfred Poor: Well, there is that, yeah

Robin Miller: I have a – now I don’t have a $1 billion sound set, I have a Logitech front and rear speaker and center, and sub woofer piece that I bought refurbed from Newegg for $40.

Alfred Poor: Wow.

Robin Miller: Yeah, and I have friends come over and say, wow, your home theater thing is wonderful, and the answer is, it’s real 7.1 because I hooked all the wires up and most people don’t.

Alfred Poor: Right, most people don’t. Now the other thing here is the problem with the 4K is again, the majority of people out there are watching DVDs on their HD televisions and think they look great.

Robin Miller: They do.

Alfred Poor: We forget that DVD is old fashion 480p standard definition, it looks so great because it’s digital and eliminates all that analog noise that we get with the VHS tapes, but the fact is that the average consumer is not screaming for more resolution. They’re very happy with the low-res DVDs that they’ve got.

Robin Miller: I’m right there with them, I mean, I’ve gone up, I have a Blu-ray player and I’ve gone up to the redbox thing and I’ve paid the extra for the Blu-ray and a couple of times I’ve gotten the same movie, Blu-ray and DVD, and I brought them and like I said I can’t tell the difference.

Alfred Poor: Yeah, well that – again, with your screen size and the viewing distance, it’s unlikely that you would be able to tell the difference. Now there are somethings about the new TVs that are available now, that weren’t around five years ago that might give you a reason to buy a new one. And one of that is the whole smart TV, Internet connected TV kind of thing.

Robin Miller: You mean like that little Google, little tiny device I have stuck on the back that cost me $40.

Alfred Poor: Right, so a lot of people are adding those functionalities to their existing television with the Chromecast or buying one of the local boxes or Western Digital has got them and lot of people offer these boxes that will add the Internet connectivity, but it gives you access to Netflix and Hulu Plus and Youtube and a whole bunch of kind of online sources that a lot of people want to watch. I know in our house we watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu Plus streamed right to our television.

Robin Miller: Yes, a long time ago a friend of mine in Boston said you don’t have a Wii, you need a Wii and he gave us one as a gift because he had gotten a bunch of those, and so he gave us a Wii, and that gave us Netflix.

Alfred Poor: Yeah, the Wii will do that, the Xbox also is a platform for streaming. It’s funny, some studies have shown that people spend as much time or more watching Netflix and other online streaming content on their Xboxes than they do playing video games.

Robin Miller: We do on our Wii.

Alfred Poor: Which is – well, the Wii is more of a family kind of device in the first place, but it’s

Robin Miller: Well, we’re a family people

Alfred Poor: Right, I know, but I’m thinking a lot of people think of the Xbox as being more of a hardcore gaming platform and yet people are using it to watch a lot of video content as well. So yeah, we do have the option of adding a low cost box to your existing television and getting a lot of that functionality at the same time.

Robin Miller: Well, the Chromecast thing, I’ll tell you and I’m going to do a review shortly for Slashdot of it, and here is a teaser for you folks. It’s nice but it hasn’t changed my life. It hasn’t done much that I couldn’t already do with the Blu-ray, the $85 on sale, whether we buy at Target or something because I don’t even remember Blu-ray little box.

Alfred Poor: Yeah, a lot of Blu-ray players also include the Internet connectivity, so that’s another way you can get it. But again, if you don’t have it through one of those channels, getting a new television is one way to get it. Another reason for getting a new television may well be, especially if you bought one five years ago, is you’ve probably bought one that was too small. And so now today the 47 inch models are from good brands are under $500. I saw a 60-inch set for $800 advertised today. So the really big ones have come down so far in price that if you bought one that’s too small for the viewing distance that you have, you might think about migrating the smaller ones to some place where the viewing distance would be more appropriate or doesn’t matter so much like a guest room and getting yourself a proper sized one for your viewing space.

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Is It Time to Replace Your First HDTV? (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @02:57PM (#44810897)
    Why replace perfectly fine 1080p HDTV? Newer ones often simply have more crap and more complicated UI with lots of "value-added" bloatware.

    Oh, and my _phone_ has the same resolution as these 50" panels. Why the fuck he's talking about "image quality"? Until we get 4k displays the quality differences are non-existent.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:02PM (#44810961) Homepage

    Why replace perfectly fine 1080p HDTV?

    Because we're in a recession and need to stimulate pointless consumer spending, that's why! Now, are you in favor of spending all your money on stuff that will not appreciably improve your life, or are you a Communist?

  • Easy answer... NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by funky49 ( 182835 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:03PM (#44810979) Homepage

    Five years ago I invested in a Samsung television. It's been great and I don't want to replace it. It has the features (120hz) and size (52") I want plus looks nice on the wall. I made sure to get LCD versus plasma to help keep electricity costs down. I held off on buying a DLP because I knew I would grow tired of the volume it would take up in the living room. Research showed that the LCD panel was from a Samsung/Sony plant in South Korea with units having a 3% failure rate versus 5% for its competition. Who looks for an excuse to replace their main television frequently? Not me. If you bought something with the intention of replacing or demoting it after a few years of ownership, by all means spend your money.


  • Single-use? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:03PM (#44810981) Journal

    Single-use as in what, viewing pictures on a large medium suitable for multiple persons?

    Cable TV might be going downhill, but televisions as a whole aren't going away. Yes, portable devices exist, but just as the walkman co-existed with the home-stereo (and the discman as well), so can the TV with portables.

    For movies, broadcast, video games, or even as large computer monitors... televisions may change somewhat but aren't likely to go away any time soon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:05PM (#44811027)

    "Hell no" for me as well, but for a different reason -- WHY??? I'll get a new TV when the one I bought in 2002 dies. By then I can probably get a 100 inch TV for $300.

    I'm not going to just spend my damned money for the sake of spending it.

  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:05PM (#44811035) Homepage

    To me this sounds like a question asking, "what are you going to do with your Walkman?" TVs, and TV-viewing, are quite obsolete. The device you watch anything on now is irrelevant. When you can watch anything you want, any time you want, anywhere you want, why would anyone spend money on a single-use device like a TV to conform to a very outdated form of media consumption?

    Because I want the football players on my television every Thursday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night to be near life size when I watch them. And not being so selfish, the rest of my family also wants to be able to see the same thing when they watch the same program.

    Not a sports fan? Same thing applies for movie buffs.

  • by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:10PM (#44811091)
    We have a fairly large CRT that's at least a dozen years old which works fine for us. If I were to sit with my nose a foot or two from the screen I might consider coughing up for an HDTV, but my eyesight isn't good enough to notice the difference from across the living room. Why bother? It's the same reason that I drive an 11 year-old truck; it's good enough for my needs.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:23PM (#44811307)

    Give. Me. A. Break.

    When you can watch anything you want, any time you want, anywhere you want, why would anyone spend money on a single-use device like a TV to conform to a very outdated form of media consumption?

    Because sometimes anything, any time, anywhere, isn't optimum.

    Quality requires exclusivity. That's not an absolute rule, but pretty close.

    You don't go around a race circuit fastest in a minivan, so if you like racing you should get a vehicle that does it better. It may be shit for all other uses but the quality of the exclusive experience makes it worth the investment.

    Even if my girlfriend wanted to fuck me anywhere, any time, the quality of the experience would be enhanced by taking some time off and going to a nice, peaceful, private place where I can concentrate on her, exclusively.

    Music can and is enjoyed anywhere, any time. But NOTHING compares to actually disconnecting from the wired world and sitting in a good concert hall, listening to an orchestra do what it does so well.

    I could go on with a hundred more example. Just like all of them, TVs have a place. Yes, I can suck down media content anywhere, any time, but sometimes I actually like to FUCKING PAY ATTENTION to the movie on a big screen in a dark room with a superior sound system, sitting in a comfy chair with no interruptions.

    What sort of distracted ass would ask "Why have a TV?" Is there nothing you think is worth doing well? Or is a half-assed look all you need?

    People who ask this question would be just as happy with a poster of a Picasso thumbtacked to their wall as with the experience of seeing it in person. I feel sorry for them. No matter what generation they're from or what generation they feel entitled to insult, they need to learn to appreciate art...not just consume it willy-nilly, without thought, without quality but happy as a clam because they can accomplish such consumption while simultaneously washing clothes and updating Twitter.

    You don't know what you're missing. Please, no matter what your age, grow up and figure it out.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:25PM (#44811339) Homepage Journal

    If only they made a tape...opaque... []that could be used to cover up the cameras - then we'd only have to worry about the microphone - which might befall an accidental exposure to superglue. Microphones don't work when the little inner bits don't vibrate anymore. :D

    Yea, I dunno about you, but I don't like to pay a several-hundred-dollar premium for hardware I'm going to intentionally break as soon as I open the box. That just seems stupid.

    I'll take a dumb display for half the price any day of the week.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @03:42PM (#44811577) Homepage Journal

    Why would I want to spend money on a new TV whose primary new feature will be disabled within minutes of setting it up? Why not skip the whole thing and use the old TV till it dies?

  • Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @04:05PM (#44811943) Homepage Journal []

    Incidentally, my LCD monitor from 2004 is still great for HD video.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.