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Author: progmtl Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 10514  
Subject: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 12:50 PM
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Hello home theater gurus,

I've had a standard 27" TV for a while now and am looking to upgrade to a larger TV, possibly widescreen.

My TV use breaks down about as follows:
70% regular TV (DirecTV)
20% DVDs (many widescreen format)
10% Gaming

I'm looking to spend around $1000 and would like a TV which is high-def compatible for future possible use.

My initial thinking is that widescreen would be very cool, especially for watching that special edition LotR Two Towers DVD that just came out today. However, I realize that for normal TV and game viewing I'm not using some of the screen area.

Can anyone help with:
1. Pros/cons for the widescreen format vs the traditional format
2. Specific brand/model recommendations in the $1000-$1200 price range

cheers!
-progmtl.
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Author: TMFUberman Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 484 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 1:40 PM
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Hey, progmtl.

I was in the same boat about a year ago. My TV watching is pretty minimal, but I watch a lot of movies and play PS2/XBox a fair amount. I knew that the widescreen format was going to be the way things would be in the next couple of years (ok, FCC, let's get on with it!)...but I didn't have a huge space for a really large TV either.

We looked at a lot of sets, and eventually went with the Toshiba 34" HDTV, Cinema Series, which was just under $2000 from a local specialist. The Toshiba has 4 modes of viewing in widescreen. One puts gray bars on the sides of the picture and retains the 4:3 ratio (ick, plus risk of burn-in). One goes full screen and stretches the picture (actually not so bad once you get used to it, but not ideal except for maybe football). Then there are two "zoom and stretch" modes. The one we use zooms in slightly, so you lose maybe an inch, top and bottom, and then it stretches the edges. Sounds awful, I know. But it looks really good, and the only time you can tell is if you are watching CNN or something with a news ticker.

The problem you will run into, I think, is finding a TV for your price range. Prices are coming down, but the only set I recall in widescreen at that price point was a 30" Samsung HDTV widescreen, and the picture quality was unimpressive (your mileage may vary).

Hope this helps!

TMF Uberman

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Author: jennynoel Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 485 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:16 PM
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I have a Samsung widescreen HDTV. We watch it in "panorama" mode all the time, even for normal TV. It stretches the picture in an interesting way: more on the sides and less in the middle. The result is that people look normal 95% of the time (someone standing at the edge of the camera view looks like they could use an introduction to Atkins.) I got used to it very quickly.

Still, if you mostly watch regular TV you might want to stick with 4:3.

-jennynoel

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Author: progmtl Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 486 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:38 PM
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Thanks for your quick responses TMFUberman and jennynoel.

While I do mostly watch regular TV, I don't care so much about having a huge picture for sitcoms and such. I'd rather have the optimal viewing experience for DVD movies - hence my preference for widescreen.

It sounds like you both endure some "stretching" of the normal TV picture in order to utilize all of the widescreen real estate. How bad is the risk of burn-in? Is it really not an option to just have gray/black bars on the sides and watch the TV in 4:3?

thanks,
-progmtl.



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Author: jennynoel Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 487 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:40 PM
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The grey bars just bug the heck out of me. I don't know if burn in is really a problem or not... supposedly it's worse with black bars.

-jennynoel

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Author: iamdb Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 488 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:50 PM
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With your price restriction, I'd stick with the largest and best regular TV I could find, and forget about widescreen and HDTV. Better yet, review your price restriction. There are some good looking large rear projection sets for under $3K. Widescreen presentations don't look so narrow on a large screen. Still, I'd forget about HDTV unless you're willing to spend considerably more. I do enjoy HDTV with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.

db

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Author: GusSmed Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 489 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:56 PM
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supposedly it's worse with black bars

This is subjective, but I think black bars are better than gray bars. I have a 51" rear-projection HDTV that uses gray bars to frame 4:3 material. I hate them.

Recently, I got a progressive-scan DVD player. One of the interesting things about progressive scan is that the TV refuses to mess with the format if the image is in 480p instead of 480i. So it's the DVD player's responsibility to frame 4:3 material on DVDs. The DVD player uses black bars, which I much prefer, and find far less distracting. And incidently they don't run any risk of burn-in.

- Gus

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Author: TMFUberman Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 490 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 2:57 PM
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Jennynoel is right--it's is INCREDIBLY irritating to have the bars up there. Like her, we go with the mode that stretches the edges, and it really isn't noticeable.

I have to question the wisdom of not buying HDTV/widescreen if you are spending a large amount of money on a new TV now. The way we looked at it, the standard broadcast format will be widescreen and HDTV within a couple of years. My TV died, so I didn't have a choice whether or not to replace it...but I didn't want to be buying a new one in another year or so. Buying a 4:3, standard-def box was akin to buying obsolescence.

Now, there are good arguments to NOT getting an HDTV, that's just the argument I came up with to justify my purchase ;)

Next step: shell out for Comcast HDTV digital cable.

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Author: FoulWeather Big red star, 1000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 492 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 3:12 PM
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Recently, I got a progressive-scan DVD player. One of the interesting things about progressive scan is that the TV refuses to mess with the format if the image is in 480p instead of 480i. So it's the DVD player's responsibility to frame 4:3 material on DVDs. The DVD player uses black bars, which I much prefer, and find far less distracting. And incidently they don't run any risk of burn-in.

Careful here - when people refer to burn-in, what they really mean is "uneven phosphor wear," meaning that a bright picture in the middle will cause the middle phosphors to wear out more quickly than the dark bars on the sides. That is why gray bars are used - they better approximate the brightness of the picture in the middle of the screen, thus less chance for uneven wear. I do agree that black bars look a lot better than gray.

This is just one of the things you have to be aware of when purchasing a widescreen set. CRT based sets are affected, rear projection CRT much more than others. I don't like stretching, so I went with an LCD rear projector. There are a number of choices out there, so choose the one that best fits what you want.

-Daniel

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Author: GusSmed Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 494 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 3:30 PM
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I have to question the wisdom of not buying HDTV/widescreen if you are spending a large amount of money on a new TV now.

If you're talking about spending a lot of money, yes. In a more general sense, though, I disagree.

In electronics, there's always a price / performance break in the curve. Below that, you get a lot less without saving much money. Above that, you pay a lot more before you get an improvement.

Right now, the optimum seems to be around 27" for around $200. You pay 50% more for a 31" set than for a 27" set.

Widescreen and HDTVs are definitely up in the bleeding edge area still where you pay a significant premium, and prices will continue to fall for a while as economies of scale and improvements in manufacturing set in. They're cheaper than they were, but right now it's like when DVD players were $300-$400 and dropping in price.

Interestingly, there's a different curve if you're restricting yourself to projection TVs rather than TVs in general. Right now, that break seems to be around 51"-52". You don't pay that much less for significantly smaller sets, and larger sets cost a lot more.

For example, the successor to the RCA widescreen HDTV I own, the 52" D52W19, is $1400 right now from Walmart. The next size down is 47" for $1300, or 20% less viewing area for 8% less money.

Again, in the larger sense, paying $200 for a set makes a lot more sense than paying $1400. If you're going to shell out that kind of money, though, the best buy seems to be a 52" widescreen HDTV from any reputable manufacturer.

- Gus

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Author: GusSmed Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 495 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 3:40 PM
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CRT based sets are affected, rear projection CRT much more than others. I don't like stretching, so I went with an LCD rear projector.

Yeah, but LCD rear projectors run twice the price of a comparable CRT based rear projector. Depending on your viewing habits, it might actually make more financial sense to buy a CRT RPTV today and buy a LCD RPTV in about 5 years, when they've dropped to less than half what they cost now.

I personally bought my widescreen TV for watching DVDs almost exclusively. I watch maybe 1 hour of broadcast TV a week, though obviously I occasionally get DVDs with 4:3 material, like HBO movies.

I unexpectedly developed a habit of playing games on it, which is also 16:9 format for both the PS2 and the Gamecube. When I purchased the TV, I didn't own a console, but I found that I really enjoyed playing games on the big display.

I know, RPTVs warn over and over about "burn in" when playing video games, but I've been using mine this way for about 9 months without any noticable effects. I'm careful about turning it off if I have to pause the game for any period of time (i.e. making dinner).

- Gus

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Author: FoulWeather Big red star, 1000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 496 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 3:55 PM
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Yeah, but LCD rear projectors run twice the price of a comparable CRT based rear projector. Depending on your viewing habits, it might actually make more financial sense to buy a CRT RPTV today and buy a LCD RPTV in about 5 years, when they've dropped to less than half what they cost now.

Absolutely, it all depends on what you want and what you are willing to pay.

I know, RPTVs warn over and over about "burn in" when playing video games, but I've been using mine this way for about 9 months without any noticable effects.

My previous TV was a 4:3 53" CRT rear projector, and console games were played on that for 6 years with no adverse effects. I had run through the Video Essentials DVD to set the pictures levels, and from what I could tell that really helped. Others who had the picture levels too bright experienced problems, although todays games generally have fewer static screen areas compared to the old Atari 2600 days. In general I would actually be more concerned about side bars on 4:3 viewing on a 16:9 CRT than video games.

-Daniel

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Author: GusSmed Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 497 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 4:17 PM
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I had run through the Video Essentials DVD to set the pictures levels, and from what I could tell that really helped.

I bought the AVIA DVD, thinking that I'd fiddle with the levels, and suprisingly the factory default median settings, which I hadn't changed, were correct.

The West Wing (the only broadcast show I watch) still looks much too dark on it, though.

although todays games generally have fewer static screen areas compared to the old Atari 2600 days.

Now there's an understatement. Modern consoles (PS2, Cube, XBox) are 3D rendering machines, where static displays are very rare. You still get status displays which don't move, but they tend to be somewhat dynamic, and bright single-color bars are a thing of the past.

- Gus

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Author: FlyingDiver Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 498 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/18/2003 5:28 PM
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1. Pros/cons for the widescreen format vs the traditional format

If you plan on using this TV for more than a year or two, get the widescreen. Most TV programming will be transitioning to widescreen over the next few years. Just about all DVDs already are (unless you specifically get the "fullscreen" version). You can either have the problem with watching "normal" TV on a widescreen now, or have the problem of watching "widescreen" on a normal TV for the future. The former is self correcting as the programming catches up to the technology. The latter will just get worse.

joe


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Author: HedonistiX Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 527 of 10514
Subject: Re: Large TV vs Widescreen Date: 11/22/2003 2:56 PM
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I've had a standard 27" TV for a while now and am looking to upgrade to a larger TV, possibly widescreen.

My TV use breaks down about as follows:
70% regular TV (DirecTV)
20% DVDs (many widescreen format)
10% Gaming

... 2. Specific brand/model recommendations in the $1000-$1200 price range

cheers!
-progmtl.

---------

progmtl:

This is the Samsung 30" widescreen HDTV compatible mentioned within this thread (going for $950 in Bestbuy, but you can always do a price comparison when you get the serie #):
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1051806314231&skuId=5362314&type=product&cmp=%20%20

Make sure you are aware that 30" widescreen can actually look somewhat 'smaller' than your 4:3 27" tube.

The next popular size for widescreen tube is 34", one of my favs. when shopping around early last year was this serie of Toshiba, but the price (at that time) was dramatically higher around $2,400 since Samsung was the only one with 30" widescreen tube at that time.
This Toshiba has gone down in price to around $1,800 today:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1060606072639&skuId=5936311&type=product&productCategoryId=cat03002

We ended up with a 42" widescreen projection instead, their Cinema Series from the previous version of this one:
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1051826206626&skuId=5341793&type=product&productCategoryId=cat03006

Paid about the same price early last year (but now you can get 51" instead of 42") and are very happy with this unit.

From my couple months of research before decided to go for the Toshiba: Sony seemed to command $300-500 premium on same size/features, Mitsubishi didn't have that many options then (they do have some very nice units now), while Toshiba and Hitachi are roughly of similar price for comparable units. There is one type of Panasonic (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1051826204783&skuId=5335871&type=product&productCategoryId=cat03006) at a lower price but when compared side-by-side with the Toshiba, the Toshiba blew it away.

One more worthy competition at the same price range is this JVC
(http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1051826204887&skuId=5336228&type=product&productCategoryId=cat03006) that if I'm not mistaken only comes in 56" and 46" instead of the more traditional widescreen sizes of 42" and 51". At that time, the price for our Toshiba 42" are similar with their 46" but again, the pic. of the Toshiba seemed better and the charcoal color of the Toshiba unit matches our decor better than the silver JVC.

Those are basically entry level units for widescreen 42" or higher from the more traditional Japanese brands (IIRC, prices will be lower for GE or RCA) at that time we were shopping around, they are slightly higher than your projected budget of $1,000-1,2000. For the price range, IMHO you'd be better off going for the widescreen 42" rear projection instead of the widescreen 34" tube (around $500 more?) or 4:3 32" tube (around $500 less?) with similar features and comparable brands.

Widescreen 42" just fits in perfectly for our room size, not too big/bulky but quite a decent size for widescreen DVD viewing. You may want to take your room size into serious account before deciding on the size. Another downside with rear projection is finding the matching entertainment center (probably it's easier today than early last year as more and more brands are producing rear projection widescreen). After purchasing the TV, we spent another 3-4 months tracing for a (NOT customized) matching entertainment center/bookcase. If you do go with a rear projection, I'd probably suggest you to keep your 27" tube for gaming (don't know the detailed technicalities but just read/heard that lots of gaming are not good for TV).

And finally, when you have decided on the model, do internet price comparison (again and again and again). Prices actually fluctuated on a weekly basis when I was researching. We bought our unit in a small local chain who was willing to match the lowest price we found from an online vendor (local sales tax vs. online shipping delivery can be offset). Prior to this buying experience, I didn't even know that retailers can match prices (didn't try it at bigger retailers such as Best Buy or Circuit City, though).

Happy shopping!


--H

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