Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.
Column #32 (06/13/02)
Unauthorized Dealers, 27" TVs, Projectors, Screens
Editor's Note: Due to server changes and the Home Entertainment 2002 Show, there haven't been any AskAvi columns in a while (and the peanut gallery has noticed - stop emailing me!). To make it up to you, here are four of the questions I've gotten over the past month.
I recently purchased a Klipsch speaker from an online retailer at a significant discount from a local brick and mortar retailer's price. At first I thought the discount was due to the lower overhead costs faced by the online retailer. However, after some research it appears that the lower price is the result of my buying from an "unauthorized dealer". What is it about this unauthorized status that enables them to sell at such discounted rates? Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
I touched on this briefly in Column 30: Authorization Denied: Dealing with Sales Channel Management. It could be one or a combination of several things:
Your unauthorized dealer may have bought the merchandise from a "friend" who "found" the merchandise after it "fell off a truck."
Right now Iím looking at buying a 27 inch TV because that is the best size for my room and the best bang for my dollar. Which brand would you recommend the most? I know thereís Panasonic, JVC, Samsung, Philips, etc, the guy at [big box retailer] also told me Avirex is also good. I am looking for something 27 inches, in the 250-300 dollar range, I found a phillips 27 inch for 300 would you recommend that? My roommate has a nice 27" RCA thatís selling for 260 right now, but Iíve heard from people that its a really [censored] TV. There really is no difference to me between 260 and 300 dollars if the 300 dollar TV is much better then the 260 one. Also, i got a Sony Playstation 2, so I will be using my TV for gaming and DVD's alot, not just regular TV watching, so I donít know if that matters. [The writer is also hard of hearing] So what do you think?
For a 27" television used in a dorm, absolute picture quality isn't paramount, as you aren't going to be using it in a way where that matters (lights out, calibrated by an ISF technician, etc., etc.). In general, I stay away from brands I've never heard of, as their reliability is suspect. Philips makes excellent products; in Europe, they're a premium brand like Sony. Here in the United States... their brand image needs some work, but their products are usually good. In terms of quality pictures on direct view sets, I'm a fan of Toshiba and Sony, then Panasonic and Hitachi, then everyone else. For your application, you may simply want to review Consumer Reports and go on their recommendation. They last reviewed 27" TVs a year and a half ago. Their ratings are tied to the specific sets they looked at: they liked Sony, Toshiba, and an RCA; they didn't like the Panasonic and didn't test any Hitachis. They rated the RCA and GE models last in reliability, though - that's not tied to those specific sets, but to the brands as a whole.
But no matter what you do, turn down the brightness control when you get the set home - factory defaults are way too bright/blue. The brightness (and sometimes contrast) controls are turned way up to make the set stand out on the showroom floor. You won't notice anything amiss unless you already know what a good picture looks like for comparison Ė in my experience, most people don't. The factory settings won't damage your eyes, but can and will damage the TV. If you need to turn the brightness up to see the action on your video game (Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II is impossible to play on my Nintendo GameCube without turning the brightness insanely high - otherwise, the light gray Tie Fighters merge into the dark gray Death Star), make sure you turn it down immediately afterwards.
Also, make sure to buy the Sony DVD remote control pack ($20) - watching movies using the PlayStation 2's wired game controller is darn near impossible Ė especially if you need to fiddle with subtitles.
I have an InFocus LS110 projector and I am wondering which type of screen material is best and does a progressive dvd player improve the picture. I get a good picture with a matte white screen and non-progressive dvd player,...just wondering what level of improvements a new screen and dvd player would give. Thanks
I expect to be reviewing the InFocus ScreenPlay 110 in the near future. However, the screen question is easy: if you can afford a Stewart Firehawk, get one. This material was designed for digital projectors like yours: it's a gray screen material that has a positive gain and rejects some ambient room light. I saw an LS110/Firehawk combo at The Home Entertainment 2002 Show, and it performed extremely well; it makes a noticeable difference in your black level, and boosts contrast somewhat without hurting brightness or color fidelity.
Using an interlaced vs. progressive DVD player shouldn't make that much difference - the LS110 has excellent deinterlacing from Faroudja. It is theoretically better to do the deinterlacing in the player (before the signal is converted to analog), but in the real world I doubt you'll see it, and you could make things worse by using a progressive scan player with deinterlacing quality inferior to what you've got in your LS110. However, if your interlaced player is a first or second generation deck (3 - 5 years old), you may want to upgrade to a higher quality recent-model unit (interlaced or progressive) - the improvements made in the digital-to-analog conversion circuitry should be noticeable on a big screen.
I was wondering if you have the chance to take a look of the new Plus HE 3200 Piano Home theater projector, I was on the process of buy the old model HE 3100, but I just read it is coming out this new model , but seams to me that the only big changes are the zoom Lens and the HDTV connection, The HE 3100 price has gone down to $2699. Can you please help me out to make a decision? Get the HE 3100 or wait for the new one.
Both the 3100 and the 3200 have identical DLP chips, light engine, light output, contrast ratio, and virtually identical image processing chips, aspect ratio capabilities, user interface, and external case design.
I find the zoom lens the most significant addition, though the downconverted HDTV capability is also nice to have. Are these changes worth $600? I ceiling mounted my HE-3100 Piano on a track (solves the aspect ratio / screen width problem) and I can't get HDTV, so I personally would probably use the $600 towards a better screen. But if you need the zoom or limited HDTV capability, even at $3,299, the PLUS HE-3200 is one of the best values in home theater front projection.
matte white - "plain" white. Some screen materials concentrate light before reflecting it back to you; a matte white screen doesn't.
positive gain - when the screen material reflects more light back than you'd see on a non-reflective surface, you have "positive gain," which makes the image brighter (and can help with perceived contrast). Most gray screen materials soak up light, or, have "negative gain."
progressive scan DVD player - progressive scan means drawing each line on screen sequentially, like a computer monitor. Its opposite is interlaced - drawing each odd line, then doubling back to draw each even line to make a whole picture. Regular analog televisions are interlaced, while digital televisions - and all digital projectors - are progressive scan. To display an image on a digital television or projector, somewhere along the line, the image has to be deinterlaced - the lines need to be matched up and drawn sequentially. There are a lot of different techniques for how and when (in the DVD player? in an external box? in the display device itself?) to do that.
720p - 720 = 720 by 1280 pixels; p = progressive scan, meaning the image is made up of lines displayed one after the other, like a computer screen. 720p is the HDTV format used by ABC for their HDTV broadcasts.
1080i - 1080 = 1080 by 1,920 pixels; i = interlaced, meaning the image is made up by first drawing even lines and then going back to add the odd lines, like a regular television. 1080i is the HDTV format used by CBS, NBC, PBS, HBO, HDNet, and Showtime.
480p - 480 = 480 by 720 pixels; p = progressive scan, meaning the image is made up of lines displayed one after the other, like a computer screen. The PLUS HE-3200 Piano and the InFocus LS110 ScreenPlay have 480 by 848 pixel arrays, this displays 480p content with full resolution and without vertical scaling. On a 480p device, HDTV is -
downconverted - your display uses a sophisticated computer chip to throw away the image information that won't fit on the 480p panel, and sequence the image progressively by guessing at what image information stays the same frame-to-frame, and what changes. 1080i HDTV looks good to very good at 480p, sometimes looking like an "average" DVD, sometimes looking like a "stunning" DVD.
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