Owning an HDTV: My Journey Into The Twilight Zone
Installing our HDTV
In December my kids bought me a 46” HDTV Flat Panel TV as a birthday and retirement gift. They believed they were bringing me into the 21st Century, and they were, but what they didn't know was that is when we entered the HDTV Twilight Zone. Oh, it began simple enough. We had to go and get an HD (High Definition) box to hook up to the TV so we could get all the new HD channels, no charge for the first box. My son came over and did all the connections for us in our TV room because in addition to the box, we had a surround sound system and DVD player to be hooked up. It didn’t take him long before everything was working correctly, if my husband or I did it without him we'd probably still be trying to figure out which wire went where. After all you have an S-video cable, digital audio cable and you have to make sure you have an HDMI cable connected to the box and the TV, then there's a splitter for the multiple components we had (as already mentioned) certainly confusing. After calibrating the TV (another new adventure) the picture was great! It was huge to us and we loved it. But the Twilight Zone began its creep. When we left the TV room and went to another room to watch TV the difference was just plain horrible. Nowhere near the clarity and of course half the channels weren't available because we didn't have a box. Doodoo doodoo.
Buying a new TV
Our bedroom TV was a 19” regular old TV without a box. Now the wonderful new channels and gorgeous picture did not go to bed with us. We couldn’t watch HBO or get those close up clear cut pictures from HD. Okay, it was time to buy another TV for our bedroom anyway. The Twilight Zone beckons further. We go shopping for an “inexpensive” TV for our bedroom. The myriad of HDTV’s available is mind boggling. First you decide between Plasma and LCD. Plasma has better definition because it has blacker blacks but LCD is more common and therefore cheaper. Okay, we’ll go with LCD. But wait, now there’s LED LCD. LED is brighter and clearer and supposedly cheaper to operate. So we start to look for an LED LCD HDTV – it is beginning to sound like a mantra. Using our income tax return we begin the hunt. There aren’t many appliance stores in our area so the pickings are slim. We decide to be frugal and head for Sam’s club. What size should we put in our bedroom? Obviously we want one bigger than 19” but how much bigger? it's hard to decide since you can't compare a regular TV screen to an HD TV screen, the format is entirely different. After looking at tons of LED LCD HDTV’s we decide on 32” which, by the way doesn’t look as big in the store as it does in your house, kind of like a Christmas tree. Now, narrow that down to a brand that is affordable and has a good picture. What a lot of people don’t realize is the picture you see in the store is not the picture you will see at home. The store has an in-store retail cable hook up that makes every TV image look picture perfect. Ever notice these TV’s only show movies or promos that's because of the retail cable. It will not look like that at home, believe me, you have a regular cable (or Direct TV.) So we finally decide on an inexpensive Phillips 32” LED LCD HDTV. Realizing we have a small amount of money left we think, hey, why not replace the kitchen TV too? The kitchen TV is a 19” LCD but its 10 years old and not HD. Moving right along we purchase a 19” Hitachi LED LCD HDTV. Doodoo Doodoo Doodoo
That was the easy part. Now we get these two new TV’s home and begin the set up and hook up process. We figure we’ll start with the little one first. Be aware, the little one is mounted on the wall in the kitchen and the wires are snaked through the wall so you can’t see them. Simple enough you say? Not when you’re trying to get the wires back out of the wall. We have to pull out a cabinet to access the electric plug which is attached to a wire snaked through the wall. Next, un-snake and detach the cable wire and electric wire from the TV. Oh, did I mention we bought a new mount for the kitchen TV too so it would mount closer to the wall? So we take down the old mount and put up the new one. Wires all detached. Hang up the new TV and attempt to reposition the wires in the wall. A few @#!’s later the TV is hanging on the wall. Each new HDTV has to find channels when it’s first hooked up. We try to run through the set up process but nothing is happening. Try this button – Air, try this button – cable. Nothing in the manual. Wait, what is source for? That was the magic button. TV working. OMG! The darn thing is miniscule! I mean you can see it but the screen is sooo small. Okay, this one’s going back for a bigger one. Slowly we’re easing further into the Twilight Zone. Remember, we now have to un-snake wires, disconnect cable, etc. again.
We take it back to get a bigger TV. How big should we go? We can’t break the budget so let’s go for a 24”. Hm, that one looks good. So we open the box and it seems someone had this TV before. The batteries are in the remote. Okay, we’ll give it a try (Twilight Zone.) We go through all the hook procedures we did before and the channels are all programmed oh well, lo and behold the picture is terrible and unadjustable. No matter what we do everyone has a red face and there is no clarity. Now we know why the person who had it before returned it. Move out the cabinet, un-snake and unhook all the wires and take it down to return it. Doodoo Doodoo Doodoo DooDoo. We’re now into full blown Twilight Zone! Return the Hitachi. No more TV’s from Sam’s club. Let’s change our luck and try another store. So, we go to Target. Some okay but still not quite. We head to Best Buy. A very helpful sales person leads us to buy a 24” Dynex. Home we go. We attach the screws to begin the mounting process when low and behold, the screws are in different places on this TV. We looked at the back of every TV but this one and they were all in the right place, but not this one! So, now we have to move the screws in the wall. Re-set the bracket screws on the wall. Okay, now we’re ready to un-snake, re-snake, mount and whatever. The TV works! It’s not connected to an HD box so we know the picture will never be “picture perfect” but it’s a good picture.
On to the bedroom TV. This is the easiest one to hook up. We’re not reconnecting the VHS player so there’s only two wires, the cable wire and the HDMI cable. Remember, each new HDTV has to find channels when it’s first hooked up. That goes well too. Breathe a sigh of relief. When you first hook up a new HD cable box it takes 24 to 72 hours before On Demand channels become available. So, we watched TV the first night and it was great. Two days later I decided to check and see if HD was available yet. I turned the box on and then the TV and there, on the screen, right before my eyes it says “unauthorized cable box.” Now I know I’m in the Twilight Zone and my nightmare is not yet over. I reset the cable box and now the TV says “no signal.” I call the cable company and the lady from the cable company resets the cable box. Still, no signal. She supposedly checks everything but still no signal. Nothing more she can do but she’ll check and call me back, which of course she never does. So, I disconnect the cable box and plug the cable directly into the TV. Okay, that works so it has to be the box. I take the box back to the cable company and, you won’t believe this, when the lady checks she says the box is unauthorized, it was never turned on!!! The lady I spoke to last night should have known that but obviously didn’t. She gives me a new cable box just to be safe and I go home with my new cable box in tow. I head straight for the bedroom and hook up the new cable box. Again a lot of #@! because the TV isn’t recognizing the box. Ah, the Source button. I change the source to HDMI l but still nothing. I move the HDMI cable to #3, change the source to HDMI 3 and it finally works! Picture good, but no On Demand channels. We wait. Two days, no On Demand. Three days, no On Demand. DooDoo DooDoo, DooDoo DooDoo. Call the cable company. Now the story is the cable company is having problems with the cable in our area for the past several days, that’s why we’re not getting the channels. Am I really in the Twilight Zone now? He tells us to wait a few days and try again, if the channels still don’t work, call back. By some miracle the gods have decided to bestow upon us, three days later all channels are working and all cable boxes are working on all TV’s. We have left the Twilight Zone!
Differences between LED and LCD televisions
Since we have quietly left the Twilight Zone, I had to learn the difference LCD vs LED and thought some facts might help you:
One of the major differences between LED and LCD televisions is the environmental effect. LCD televisions use mercury in the manufacturing process versus the LED tv which does not! Mercury is very bad for the environment. Mercury is also used in making solar cells but that is off topic. An LED hdtv will also use about 40% LESS power than the same size LCD tv. Power usage is the dark secret of all the new line of HDTVs. An LCD or plasma television cost between $10-15 per month to operate. That is quite high particularly if you have more than one. The tree hugger in me comes down firmly on the side of LED televisions.
The thickness and therefore the weight is the last major difference of LED vs LCD tvs. LED televisions are about one third the thickness of the same size LCD tv. Correspondingly, the weight is about half. This could come into play when deciding how to mount your new HDTV. Whichever you choose, I hope you enjoy it for years to come!
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FAQs about LED and LCD televisions
State of the Art Picture Quality
About 40% Less Energy usage than a same sized LCD TV
Mercury Free and a VERY Thin Design
Currently LED TV's Cost about 20-30% more
Good Picture Quality, but Images may "burn" in
DisplayEnergy Costs run Between $150-200 per year to operate an LCD
Mercury IS used in Manufacturing Process
Cost is the Cheaper of the Two Choices