Evaluating Your Next Television Purchase
Whether it's a brand or off-brand option, the following items should
definitely be on your checklist.
When assessing television picture quality look for: color depth,
sharpness and overall clarity.
Make sure it’s the television quality and not the settings
that are making the difference.
No two people see color tones and color depth in the same way;
I have some friends whose televisions I cannot bear to look at;
they are sooo… orange!, or green! to me. So find one that
can be adjusted to your eyes. Sony appears to be the benchmark for
many in picture quality, so line it up side by side.
Checking in store how easy [or how difficult] it is to adjust the
settings is an important part of evaluation. Remember, when you
get your set home and hook it up to VCR’s, DVD players, set
top boxes and cable, you WILL need to make adjustments. Check there
is also a good range within each setting.
Test the blacks – this is where the quality really shows.
LCD screens have typical black fade in the corners. Others are not
even black, but barely gray. Look for detail in dark parts of the
For higher priced models, ask if you can do a home check. Unfortunately,
most stores won't let you do that for lower cost models, but $2000+
investments warrant a test drive in situ.
If they don’t ask them to note on the purchase that they
warrant that you will see exactly as you do here and if you are
not happy you can return it within 14 or 30 days, for a full refund.
Make them stand up to their claims.
Consistent Quality Over Multiple Configurations
Check the unit with various configurations – A typical multimedia
configuration would be:
- HD Digital Cable ATSC tuner box provided by a cable company
- Blu-ray Disc Player
- Region free standard definition DVD player
- DVD Recorder
- HD DVD Player
- Media Center PC
and you should still have free slots to add more stuff.
A 1080i HDTV gives great quality high definition images on HD digital
cable, with ATSC tuner used to get HDTV signals, HD DVD, Blu-ray
Disc, up-converted DVDs.
Standard definition digital cable channels look a bit washed out
though. This is because the contrast ratio is low at 550 to 1.
AV Feature Set
At a minimum look for the following:
- SD digital comb filter
- 1080i maximum HD resolution through two sets of HD component
- D-sub 15 pin VGA
- DVI with HDCP
- RF input to a built in NTSC tuner.
- D-sub PC anolog sound input
- Individual sets of composite audio inputs dedicated respectively
for the 2 HD
- Component Video Inputs
- 2 S-Video Inputs
- 2 Composite Video inputs
- 10 watt side stereo speakers
- Composite audio output for external left and right channel
- A powered subwoofer.
Make sure the television supports new HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.
Be realistic though with technology compatibility; televisions
built for HD will not display analogue to the same quality.
Make sure all your software versions are compatible.
Test the television in the configuration you will be using, even
if it means taking your hardware into the store.
Technology Compatiblity Case Study:
One customer had an extremely irritating problem with A TH50XP600U
50" Panasonic television “humming” in the television
speakers when connected to DVR. The problem did not occur playing
DVD through a cable box, but on DVR. It appears fine connected to
a HD box that was not DVR and to a DVD player which causes no hum
when playing DVD's. The humming will only stop when the DVR is unplugged.
Replacement cables and DVR box made no difference. Other readers
- Try isolating the TV speakers, by hooking up a surround sound.
- Check the TV software version, it may need an upgrade to accept
the DVR signal.
Find out who actually makes the generic brand. Many are made by
the same big brand makes, or use use the same components.
Many off brand televisions have the same warranty as well known
ones. For instance, ILO Plasma [Available at Wal-Mart] has a picture
quality better than some well known brands, and a warranty that
equals brand names.
In the USA, Lemon Law
applies in most states to goods other than vehicles. More information
on Lemon Law can be found at Lemon
Check for Three Strike clauses in manufacturers warranties. Most
extended warranties have them. This version of
Lemon Law means the manufacturer gets three shots to resolve
your problem. If the problem recurs after repair attempt #3, you
get a full refund.
Make sure the warranties are long enough. In some countries like
NZ, the length of the warranty is overpowered by Consumer Law, which
states that the unit must be fit for purpose. That is, it must last,
problem free for a reasonable time. Good luck defining what that
period is in Court, but you can be assured it will be longer than
the six months many manufacturers offer.
A 32 Vizio flat screen LCD purchased mid 2006 from Sam's Club
for $999 didn’t fare well. Two weeks after the warranty expired,
the sound and picture started cutting off randomly for about 3-5
seconds, then come back again. Sam's Club would not take the television
back because the one year warranty had expired.
Westinghouse, on the other hand offer a 5 year – In Home
To many, a 42 Samsung Plasma TV exemplifies the best in TV technologies,
but in this instance, Samsung appear to have assembly quality issues.
Poor assemby results in many common and not so common failures
for the customer. It is how it manages those instances that upholds
or kills a good public perception.
Support Case Study 1:
A Samsung customer who bought a 42" plasma television found
that after a couple of month, he had problems with the cable terminal.
When trying to connect the cable to the terminal on the back, the
terminal came undone.
- Calls to Samsung sent him to the "Warranty Company"
[ cost an extra $160 at the time of purchase] only to be told
that it wasn’t covered, as it was considered as caused by
"abuse" and not malfunction.
- So back to Samsung, who now sent them to an Authorized Repair
Center. The Repair Center said it will cost about $300 to $400
- Emails and faxes to Customer Satisfaction went unanswered.
Now it could be fair to claim that this is an isolated incident,
very badly managed by a good brand [ they make fantastic cell phones,
that never seem to fail!!]; but with the media available today,
these instances can badly damage brand image.
In this case, the disgruntled customer immediately set up a new
One would expect more from Samsung and perhaps they need to be
stricter in the outsourced selection of their Warranty Companies
and Authorized Repair Centers. In this instance the problem was
eventually fixed, after the second attempt by the repair center,
but at a cost more than the $$$ cost to the customer.
After a most insistent trail of attempts all the way to the executive
suite, this customer eventually got a partial refund[about 50%]for
the repair cost from Samsung. It probably cost Samsung 10 times
that in personel time and processing costs, than if they had validated
the complaint in the first instance.
But Samsung are not the only quality brand to come under the spotlight
of poor customer service.
Support Case Study 2
One review we read claimed that “JVC has the worst Customer
Service”. A JVC DVD-R recorder broke soon after purchase,
and they had a “tough time getting help from JVC over the
Another with a Sony SXRD break down was sent to a Sony Authorized
Service Provider who “were incompetent to the error message
that my TV was displaying”.
Fortuanately the vendor, Crutchfield.com, was a little more quality
conscious and sent a brand new SXRD with no questions asked in exchange
for the broken one.
The lesson here is to only deal with honest, experienced independent
dealers. Even if it costs you 10% more for real service, it may
end up being a bargain.
Where possible ALWAYS try to get a return/exchange from the retailer,
not the manufacturer. If you order online, use one that has superior
customer support such as Crutchfield.com or Vanns.com
If the manufacturer does not support the unit locally, check that
the vendor will ship it back for you. For example, a 32" Tatung
widescreen flat panel HD ready TV can be purchased from Wal-Mart
for < $900.
Tatung, make parts for other Korean brand televisions like Samsung,
but only recently entered retail flat panel TV. Servicing requires
shipping the unit back to their Texas factory at your expense. Wal-Mart
will provide a box to send the TV back to them at their expense
and then once they received it, they sent me a new one. The immediate
replacement by Tatung and shipping handling by Wal-Mart proved a
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Home Entertainment Resources