After many years of relenting that I didn’t need an HDTV, my roommate and I finally caved and bought one. Our selling point wasn’t the slightly nicer picture or the generally larger screens, but rather the thiner screen that is somewhat less obtrusive in the apartment. This want of ours to have a more slimming television and the fact that both my roommate and I came upon a little extra cash, we decided to treat ourselves to a really nice quality television.
Initially, when I started looking for a new HDTV, I was looking for a future proof television. A TV that I would buy now and would be able to use for years into the future. I didn’t want to buy a TV now only to want to get a new TV in five years which is what I think the electronics industry is now hoping people will do. To this end, I was looking at televisions that had access to Yahoo Widgets. I truly believe that internet televisions have a future. I like the idea of being able to watch anything on the internet on TV without the addition of a set-top box. However, the Widgets seemed painfully slow and not quite ready for prime time. Plus, though I’d like to do things without a box I would still like access to DVD or Blu-Ray and those aren’t really being built into TVs as of yet.
An Alternative to Internet TVs
So in the end I started looking around and decided that finding a decent blu-ray player that had internet connectivity might be a better buy than buying an internet ready TV. After all an internet ready TV cost sometimes more than $500 more than a non-internet ready TV. It wasn’t as fast and also the Samsung TVs didn’t even have wi-fi built in so I’d have to buy an extra attachment for around $100. So in the end I save for buying a separate player and end up with a slightly better quality television. So I decided to upgrade my movie playing functionality to Blu-Ray and bought the LG BD390.
I did this partially because I wanted HD movies, but also partially because it has YouTube and Netflix connectivity. Netflix in particular was a selling point. They also said that there would be Vudu connectivity (which there is now) and I do like that idea if I ever feel like shelling over cash for a quick video on demand but that isn’t huge to me. It also came with Wifi built in to connect to these things so that I could get to them easily (something the TVs don’t have yet). I also heard the video quality of the player was top notch and that it was one of the quicker ones on the market. I have no complaints on the video quality but I do complain about the speed. It might be fast for Blu-Ray but for DVD it is slower than hell. Not that running a DVD is slow, but just the turning on and getting a movie loaded takes much longer than my old DVD player did.
Blu-ray’s Ups and Downs
For Blu-Ray movies I bought The Dark Knight (for me), Kung Fu Panda (for my daughter) and Fast & Furious (for my roommate). Actually out of the three of these the only movie we have watched through has been Kung Fu Panda. We have also since bought Planet Earth and Blade Runner: Director’s Cut on Blu-ray. I feel like I have a good variety here and we have at least watched part of all of the movies. The quality on all of them really is quite nice and certainly an improvement over DVD. I have been thoroughly disappointed in the features for BD though. Part of how DVD won people was the features, and over the years since DVD has gained dominance movies have narrowed down how many features that they have put in because they don’t need to anymore. But blu-ray doesn’t pick it up, and not only that but they generally cost 50% more than their DVD counterpart. So you pay this for quality alone, and while I think the quality is better, I don’t think it is THAT much better, maybe 10%.
Bluray Live has also been a highly touted feature that disappoints, a great idea, content that can be updated on the fly by studios and fans. And Dark Knight should be a good example, they offer video commentaries that fans can submit. However, you can’t fast forward, rewind, or even watch the whole movie. It basically skips from commentary to commentary throughout the movie which is fine as an option, but I was getting confused and then I couldn’t rewind to figure out what was going on. They had their heart in the right place I guess.
We aren’t entirely sold on Bluray, despite buying a number of movies in it. We will be saving it only for the top notch titles, and even then often only when they are on sale. (Dark Knight, Fast & Furious, Blade Runner, and Planet Earth were all on large discounts.) For instance, we recently bought The Proposal, but we actually bought it on DVD instead of Blu-ray. BD cost $10 extra and offered only a single deleted scene as an extra feature and we didn’t feel that a comedy was worth $10 extra for somewhat better picture quality. If they could get pricing under control for Blu-ray I think the format would do a lot better.
The HDTV Itself
Which brings me back to the TV itself. I ended up buying the 47″ LH90 from LG. We actually were looking at the 42″ version of the same TV. We had gone into Best Buy and looked at it and decided that 47″ was just a bit too big for our living room, a factoid we still firmly believe. However, the week following that decision, Best Buy put the 47″ on sale, discounting it down by $600. This was a big sale, and even worse, this actually put the 42″ version at about $100 more expensive than the 47″ and it would have had to be shipped. So we just bit the bullet and bought the bigger TV. However, Best Buy had sold out so we actually bought it from American TV (a local electronics chain) which made me feel happier anyway.
The quality of the TV is much better than our old TV. We still believe the best reasons to buy an HDTV is the smaller profile of the television as well as being wide screen, not the increased quality. Although we did also get the added benefit of being able to get rid of our digital conversion box for over the air television. The quality is better and I’ve never disputed that. I just have never believed that it is worth the extra quality for the cost. However, with the increasing technology on the depth of the TV, the lowered cost, and the internet connectivity, we finally felt the time was right for us. I find it funny though that the “quality” that everyone pushes for HDTV is one thing that we didn’t really take into consideration outside of the effect that we expected a better quality for the price we were paying, it wasn’t a feature, it was a “it damn well better for the price.”