OT: Seeking HDTV/Blu-Ray opinions

12 Dec

I don’t like to go off-topic on the blog, but I figured that this would be a good place to get some advice due to the male-oriented readership (or at least male-skewed commentariat).

Here’s the sitch:

My DVD player of almost 10 years died this past week.  (Sony, you done good.)  My television is a 28″ tube TV going on 12 years old.  Because the TV is so old, and because TVs have really advanced beyond where they were even a few years ago, I decided that it might be time to upgrade everything instead of just buying another DVD player to replace the old one.  I’ve been researching options for both HDTVs and Blu-Rays and would love to get further opinions.

My needs/desires:

  • I am looking to stay in the 40″-42″ range and not break the bank.  (Breaking the bank is what husbands are for.  …KIDDING!)
  • Picture quality matters – I will notice if something looks flat, pixelated, etc.
  • Sound doesn’t have to be top drawer, but I would like it to be robust.  Will not be hooking it up to a stereo system.
  • I do not have cable and just use OTA signals with an antenna.

If you have any advice/personal experience you would like to share, please do.

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26 Responses to “OT: Seeking HDTV/Blu-Ray opinions”

  1. Toz December 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Nice, you can now tell which posters have an inner beta in them. My personal opinion… It’s very difficult to tell between Plasma/LCD/LED, 1080P/720P, 60Hz/120Hz/600Hz. I’ve owned several of each and I still can’t really tell the difference. Pixelation, etc, usually is the result of the signal, not the TV. And believe it or not, you can make a really good HDTV antenna with 6 wire hangers (look up the vid on youtube).

    So my advice: get the cheapest flat-panel TV in the size range you’re looking for, or if going from a budget, get the biggest TV you can for the money you have budgeted. slickdeals.net is your friend.

    I can’t very well finish without making some analogy to the whole dating scene. It’s easy to think you know what you want (great sound, better “inner” quality, etc), but in the end, you won’t know until you try. So maybe getting a TV from Costco for a month as a trial period would serve you better.

  2. Aunt Haley December 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Toz–
    Nice, you can now tell which posters have an inner beta in them.

    But I thought gadget size was a metaphor for…never mind. ;)

    Do you find glare to be an issue with plasmas? When my parents and I were shopping for a TV for my grandmother while I was home for Thanksgiving, the guy at the store mentioned that this can be an issue for people.

  3. Simon Grey December 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Samsung, LG, and Sony are your best bet for BluRay players. I would recommend Sony BDP-S570 as an affordable option. I’m assuming that you’re main concern is reliability/long-term use.

    Toz is right about TV picture quality, so focus on price and reliability. CR speaks highly of LG,Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. Glare is only an issue if you’re TV will be in a room that will be well-lit when you’re watching TV. Also see if the TV you want has a built-in tuner as well. I’ve found this tends to expedite setup.

    BTW, it’s engine size that’s a metaphor, not gadget size.

  4. JG December 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    I like my Samsung, it’s been a great TV, nice picture with plenty of connectors for peripherals such as players, game systems, etc. And they’re cheaper than two years ago when I bought mine.

    Absent a stereo system your audio quality won’t be that great in my experience. How robust a speaker can a manufacturer put into a very thin TV? Not much.

  5. y81 December 13, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    My advice is to sign up for Consumer Reports. It costs money, but it’s worth it for a purchase this large. Then you have access to their reviews of the products in this space. After a month, you can cancel your membership, so you won’t have spent that much. That’s what we did when we bought a flat screen, and we have been perfectly happy with it. (Unfortunately, I don’t actually remember what brand it is. Maybe Samsung?)

    This is, obviously, advice from a middle-aged married person, not a cool tech dude.

  6. Toz December 13, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    #1 rule of buying electronics. DON’T LISTEN TO SALESMEN. They’re about as useful as the single 3-times-divorced 60-year-olds that write dating advice columns in giving dating advice. They’ll say anything to get you to buy something expensive and barring that, anything at all. If it’s a big problem, believe me, manufacturers that have millions to lose will correct them. Is glare a problem on plasmas? I haven’t noticed on mine. I’m guessing it might have been true 5-7 years ago, but this guy probably hasn’t caught up with all the new technologies that have cropped up since then.

    I’ll stick by my advice. Go get something from costco, see what drives you crazy about it, and return the model and get something else that better suits your needs. Not everyone needs 240Hz LED TV’s that are an inch thick from a brand-name. Many are happy with the cheaper thing that costs much less. In other words, find what makes YOU (not other people) happy and go get it.

  7. The Man Who Was . . . December 13, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Your preference on Plasma/LCD/LED.
    Get 1080p.
    Refresh rate on LCDs isn’t that big a deal.

  8. CAB December 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    At 40″-42″, you’ll want 1080p. I’d take LCD or LCD/LED over plasma, but that’s up to you.

    I’d recommend checking what Newegg.com has (even if you’re buying it from Best Buy or something), and narrowing it down to a handful of options as you filter by the features you’re looking for. Once you’ve done that, see what the more knowledgeable-seeming reviewers have to say about the different models. That can help you get an idea of reliability, picture quality, and the like.

    Also check the manufacturer websites if you’re really curious about comparing technical details — contrast ratio, for example, is one of the more important stats (higher is better).

    You may be able to save a little if you don’t need a lot of inputs, but obviously check that if you’re gonna be hooking up more than a DVD/Blu-Ray player. Sometimes it’s worth paying $20 more for the TV rather than needing to get a $50 switchbox in six months.

    I have a 32″ / 1080p / 120Hz model from LG which I bought in late January, and I’m very happy with it. Samsung HDTVs usually get solid reviews as well.

    Oh, and if you need to buy HDMI cables: they’re digital, so don’t let anyone tell you that you need expensive cables. Monoprice.com is your friend.

  9. y81 December 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Research (i.e., coming home from work and checking) reveals that our flat screen is a Panasonic. We have been very happy with it and it hasn’t broken or anything. I don’t know what a Blu-Ray is. (On the other hand, we have cable.) So my advice, FWIW, is to buy Panasonic.

  10. Aunt Haley December 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Man Who Was–
    Get 1080p.

    Why? Toz and Simon Grey are both saying the difference between 720p and 1080p is negligible.

    y81–
    This is, obviously, advice from a middle-aged married person, not a cool tech dude.

    Middle-aged married guys can still be cool tech dudes (or at least tech dudes). All men have a mania. If it’s not professional sports, outdoor activities, cars, music, or SCA/fantasy role-playing, it’s probably tech.

    Also, now that all OTA signals are digital, antennas will give just as beautiful a picture as cable/dish (provided the signal is strong enough, of course).

    Other questions:
    – Do plasmas still get hot, or has that mostly been solved?
    – What do Blu-Rays look like on a 720p screen?
    – How well do various Blu-Ray players upconvert DVDs?

  11. ExNewYorker December 13, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    At 40″-42″, 1080P will tend to be the default resolution. At that size, 1080P will be slightly better, if you have 1080P blue-ray discs, or you use the screen as a computer monitor or play console games (PS3 or Xbox). At smaller sizes, the 720P might save you some money (and you won’t be able to see much difference), but at 40″-42″, you’re probably not saving much money, so 1080P is probably a good bet.

    LCD/LED have a couple of advantages over plasma. They’re a lot lighter, so it’ll be easier to hang or move around if you need to. The LED TV’s were still a premium over LCD, so they may not be worth the extra price. I bought a 42″ Samsung LCD two years ago, and I’ve been pretty happy with it.

    I have a Playstation 3, which has a blue-ray player, and all blue-ray players will play DVD’s. The PS3 is a pretty good upconverter, but there are other blue-ray players that can do that more cheaply ($300 for a PS3).

  12. Toz December 14, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    I have to disagree with you ExNewYorker, price matters a lot when you go from 720p to 1080p.

    42″ plasma 720p ($380): http://www.walmart.com/ip/RCA-42PA30RQ/15185906?dest=9999999997&sourceid=27005918662714725819&wmlspartner=lw9MynSeamY

    42″ lcd 1080p ($470): http://www.buy.com/prod/hannspree-st42dmsb-42-lcd-hdtv-1080p-15000-1-dynamic-4-5ms-120hz-4/q/loc/111/216496390.html

    42″ led 1080p ($870): http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_05771512000P?sid=IDx20070921x00003h&srccode=cii_5784816&cpncode=24-119739248-2&aff=Y

    These are the cheapest I could find in about 2 minutes of searching. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference among these models and I’d think about 95% of the population can’t either.

    BTW, Haley, why aren’t you using this as a nice excuse to get to know some guy?

  13. y81 December 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    “All men have a mania. If it’s not professional sports, outdoor activities, cars, music, or SCA/fantasy role-playing, it’s probably tech.”

    That’s probably true, but when I was young and single, I was interested in all these things. Now that there’s no “reward” in the offing for hooking up (as it were) my girlfriend’s stereo and computer, I gave up the tech stuff.

  14. Aunt Haley December 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    Toz–
    BTW, Haley, why aren’t you using this as a nice excuse to get to know some guy?

    Who says I haven’t?

  15. Badger Nation December 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    “Now that there’s no “reward” in the offing for hooking up (as it were) my girlfriend’s stereo and computer, I gave up the tech stuff.”

    What?!? I make sure I get a reward when I fix my lady’s electronic systems… ;)

  16. Badger Nation December 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Haley,

    I have a 42″ Sony Bravia HDTV which I love. I think it was a grand, give or take. I also lack cable, bought a powered HD antenna for $30. It is worth knowing that Samsung and Sony screens are the same part (made in the same factory, they just use different user interface electronics).

    I have a Samsung Blu-Ray player that also does NetFlix streaming, Pandora and a bunch of other Internet applications. Don’t have the model # handy, the features are great (I highly recommend the NetFlix streaming) but the user interface is a bit difficult to use. I’d probably shop for a different model knowing what I know now.

    You can also plug your computer video card into modern TVs but that’s mostly useful for gaming or surfing the Net while sitting on the couch (with wireless keyboard and mouse).

  17. Aunt Haley December 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Badger–
    That’s interesting about the Samsung and Sony parts. I have read in other reviews that Samsung’s Blu-Ray user interface isn’t the best.

    What is the resolution of your TV?

  18. Badger Nation December 15, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    “What is the resolution of your TV?”

    Twelve inches.

    WAIT, wrong question…whoops! It’s 1080p, which looks great. Strictly speaking, 1080p is probably more of a differentiating factor the larger the screen is (sports bar TVs are huge and have to have the best) but if you’re under 36″ it’s probably not worth the price.

  19. CAB December 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    …but if you’re under 36″ it’s [1080p] probably not worth the price.

    Yeah, I should point out that I only went with it on my 32″ because I use my TV as a computer monitor.

  20. Lover of Wisdom December 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    I would suggest the 1080p, Haley. If your eyes are as keen as mine, then you will be able to tell the difference.

  21. Lily December 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    Have you looked at Tv with internet? I have a Sony bravia in the bedroom which has a wireless dongle and is not connected to the aerial. It gets all the catch up tv players as well as access netflix type service. A lot is free but some stuff is premium. I was supposed to be getting a blue ray player for it but haven’t felt the need yet.

  22. Aunt Haley December 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Lily–
    I have a large enough DVD collection that internet/streaming TV wouldn’t be enough.

  23. The Man Who Was . . . December 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Why? Toz and Simon Grey are both saying the difference between 720p and 1080p is negligible.

    They’re wrong. Most people will notice, especially with anything above 30″.

  24. Aunt Haley December 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Blu-Ray adventure update: I ordered a player from Amazon that had great reviews (Panasonic DMP-BD65); I’ll let you guys know what I think after I’ve had a chance to use it.

  25. Lover of Wisdom January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    I just got the same Blu-Ray players a few days ago and am watching the Pillars of the Earth on it. Both the player and the series is fantastic. I’m sure you will enjoy yours (and you should watch the series if you haven’t).

  26. Aunt Haley January 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    LoW–
    Glad you like the Blu-Ray player. I haven’t had a chance to test mine out yet, but that’ll change after tomorrow when my new TV finally arrives.

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