01-12-10 - HDTV RFC

I guess I'm gonna buy an HDTV. I've stayed pretty intentionally uninformed on the whole HDTV/Blu-ray/etc. issue. My current desired spec is :

I. 1080p (I would consider 720p TV's , but they all seem to be non-native res ; real 720p is 1280x720 ; the LCDs that claim to be "720p" all seem to be 1366x768, which means they do some awful scaling; OTOH the 1080p TV's seem to actually be true 1920x1080 , and 720p scales into that pretty neatly (it's exactly 1.5X)

II. 120hz (I can't see any point to 240hz , 120 can show 24 fps without pulldown/judder).

III. No fucking "touch of color" ; WTF are you thinking Samsung. Also I'd really like the bezel to be thin and matte black like a monitor, not fucking glossy (this seems impossible to find. fuckers).

IV. LED backlight ; I'm not sure about this one, but LED backlighting on laptops is the Mother Fucking Win, so I assume it would also be awesome on TV's.

V. 32 or 37 inches. I'm tempted to get a 32 since I feel like the Dell 30 inch monitors are fucking huge and I can't imagine wanting anything bigger, but 37's are the same price and I wonder if I would regret getting the 32 somewhere down the road.

There appear to be only two TV's that fit this spec : Sharp AQUOS LC32LE700UN (gets some bad reviews for image quality)

Samsung UN32B6000 (has touch of color so I guess that's out)

If I relax the LED requirement I get a lot more, such as : Sony Bravia XBR9

LG LH40 (bad black level?)

TV's seem to be in an arms race towards fucking suckitude. They're adding shit like "virtual surround sound" and RSS feed streaming and built in Netflix playing and garbage like that. I'm tempted to just get a monitor to avoid all that shit, but so far as I know there's no monitor that does 1920 x 1080 x 120hz native. (1080 -> 1200 scaling is balls). I'd like no fucking speakers at all, no network pork, no USB, no fucking automatic media readers, just show damn pictures well.

Many of the manufacturers are now not providing their top of the line models in small formats; that's annoying. The last time I looked at LCD monitors in detail they were pretty much all the same panels anyway (LG or Samsung) so it didn't much matter what brand you bought; not sure if this is still true.

BTW : Against Big TV's :

I hate big TV's, always have, always will. Sure, if you have a real theater room, go for a giant TV or a projector, but in a living room I hate them. Why?

A. The TV should be off 80% of the time. That means its behavior when its off is just as important as its behavior when it's on. A huge TV is a crass eye sore when it's off. Unless you have a brown plaid couch and wood panelling on your walls, then by all means, accessorize with a giant TV.

B. Huge TV's might look great with very good input signals, but so often we still drive them with shitty signals (eg. DVD's) , and then they look really awful. Even from good HDTV or Blu-ray sources you still get tons of compression artifacts, and blowing those up big is painful. I'd rather have a smaller image that looks really good than a huge one where I can see all the flaws.

C. They're too powerful. It lords over you. It demands that you watch it. It eats up your whole brain. It's so big you can't see anything else. I like to watch TV while I'm on the computer or reading a magazine or stretching or something; I don't want the TV to dominate my eye-scape. I want it to sit in the corner and let me look at it if I choose to. A huge TV is sort of like having a stereo that can only play at jet engine volume levels - it's always dominating, it can never be subtle and inobtrusive, it can never just be background.


Tom Forsyth said...

> No fucking "touch of color" ; WTF are you thinking Samsung.

Before that particular "innovation", they put a big glowing blue button on the front of their TVs. Fortunately you can turn it off completely, or reverse the sense so it glows when the TV is off, and turns off when it's on. Much better.

240Hz is important if you want 24 fps without 3:2 pulldown in alternate-frame stereo, according to the latest new marketing hype.

The good thing about a big TV is you can put it all the way over in the corner and it's still a decent size. If you only buy a medium-sized TV, then either it or you has to be in the middle of the room, or you have to have a small room and then not many people can watch TV together.

David said...

My biggest problems with all this new shit is they all seem like broken PC's underneath. My $250 Sony S350 blu ray player says "Powered by Java" on the UI somewhere (don't remember), it can get software updates over the Internet, it seems to have to "boot up" before a disc can be ejected, it takes 20 seconds for a blu ray to "load", it takes 10 seconds to shutdown. On top of all this it came with a composite cable (and no HDMI), so I had to order one off Amazon for HOLD IT ..... $3.

The Samsung A630 TV I have is no better, it makes a stupid sound when it starts, sometimes the UI on the TV is slow responding to input, sometimes it randomly removes channels from the favorite channels list, and once in a blue moon it decides to drop the picture until I restart it. The picture is really nice though.

On the other hand I have a 27 inch Sony Trinitron I got in 2003 and a $90 Pioneer DVD player from 1999 which don't exhibit any of these "PC" behaviors and have worked flawlessly.

Completely ridiculous..

Aaron said...

Still be vigilant with LED. There are different types (side-lit LED vs back-lit LED) and not all LED backlight implementations are better than CCFL. There are artifacts to those 'local dimming' back-lit LED technologies that can give you weird halo's. The contrast ratio numbers are pretty much bullshit. You really gotta just go look for yourself. At the SonyStyle in U-Village it's pretty much impossible for me to tell the difference between 50000:1 and 1000000:1 dynamic contrast ratios.

Maybe you should get a giant TV and have it cycle between a few great artworks while it's 'off'.

cbloom said...

Ugh, David, that just scared the shit out of me. I love simple consumer electronics that just work.

cbloom said...

"Maybe you should get a giant TV and have it cycle between a few great artworks while it's 'off'."

Or I could play a video of a fireplace.

Actually it would be kind of cool to wall mount a TV and put a video camera on the other side of the wall with a direct feed so it was a one-way window.

It wouldn't have the right geometry or FOV at all though and the view wouldn't change as you walked.

Aaron said...

"I love simple consumer electronics that just work."

Yeah, you gotta be pretty careful. Gotta go to a store and run it through it's paces. Startup time is a killer. Annoying UI sounds you can't disable. And you gotta download and carefully study the manual to try to predict all the nasty gotchas it could have.

Almost enough to make you wanna go live in the woods and be a hermit. Except then you gotta go read the book on how to do that, too.

cbloom said...

I'm tempted to get a monitor that does 1920x1080 native :

There's a 27" LG for example :


but 27" is a bit too small; if I could get a 32" that did 1920x1080 native that might be the win.

I currently have 27" in 4:3 which makes it 16.2" tall ; to get the same height in 16:9 I need at least a 33" , so even a 32" would actually be slightly smaller for 4:3 sources.

cbloom said...

HP makes a 27" too :


but it's fucking reflecto-screen finish which is FTL

Aaron said...

Is 400 cd/m2 bright enough to watch during the day? I've tried to watch movies on computer monitors before and it just doesn't "feel right", which I think was just down to lack of brightness from across the room. Granted, that was 5 years ago, and that monitor was probably way less than 400 cd/m2. I can't seem to find much brightness info on hdtv's though to compare, though google answers says modern hdtvs are like 1000 cd/m2. I'd definitely want to see a computer monitor in practice from across the room to be sure it looks right for watching movies.

cbloom said...

Looks like good TV's are mostly 500 or 550 cd/m^2

Brian said...

It is pretty easy to get used to a large tv. I have a 52" Samsung, I highly recommend the picture quality. Broadcast and DVDs mostly look very good even at that size. The occasional old school, low-res television program doesn't look great.

Software running on TVs is more than a bit flaky. Mine is supposed to play videos streamed over the network through DLNA, but is incredibly picky about format and neither FF or REV really work correctly. And configuring MythTV to stream video to my TV was more than a little unfriendly --- it required fixing the source code. The really annoying thing is that after your TV isn't the current year's model, no more bug fixes!

It does work quite well as a large monitor though. That might be the way to go --- just bypass all of the TV's features.

Thatcher Ulrich said...

In favor of a larger TV: widescreen TVs are deceptively small when showing 4:3 content, coz of those big black bars on the side. Though it's true that 4:3 content is also usually lower resolution. But -- TV shows these days tend to be framed to be viewable at 4:3 even if you are watching them at 16:9, so it doesn't hurt to have a bigger image.

We have a 40" Samsung 1080p which I think is about the perfect size for our modest-sized living room. With Blu-ray source, I literally can't see the artifacts unless I get really close (a couple feet away, at which point the artifacts are egregious, but I never get that close for real viewing). DVDs look pretty great to me, just a bit softer than Blu-ray or hi-def over-the-air. When we used to have digital cable, it often looked shitty, but I cancelled the cable so that problem is solved.

The UI etc is pretty good though it has a few modern annoyances, like it takes several seconds to warm up when you turn it on, during which it doesn't listen to the remote. Stupid. Also, the fricking shape of the remote seems highly optimized for sliding off furniture onto the floor.

old rants