Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 

 

 

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.

Question 1:

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!

AskAvi replies:

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:

  1. Authorized dealers are sometimes contractually obligated by the manufacturer to maintain a minimum advertised price (usually in order to get advertising kickbacks from the manufacturer).  An unauthorized dealer may be willing to accept a lower profit margin by selling below this price.

  2. An unauthorized Internet dealer may have lower costs due to being an Internet retailer - much lower rent, warehousing costs, potentially reduced advertising costs, and limited sales force salaries (or none at all).

  3. An unauthorized dealer may have lower costs due to not training their staff on the products, or by hiring less knowledgeable sales staff.

  4. An unauthorized dealer may have lower costs due to not providing after-sale support.

  5. An unauthorized dealer may charge less initially, but won't absorb the cost of returns (by charging you a 15-40% restocking fee, or not accepting returns at all).

  6. An unauthorized dealer may have bought the merchandise from an overseas distributor where the cost of goods are lower due to exchange rates and/or lower prices in that market.

  7. An unauthorized dealer may have bought the merchandise from an authorized dealer which bought more inventory than they could sell. The unauthorized dealer then passes along part of the savings to you.  Why would an authorized dealer buy more than they need?
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    They misjudged demand.

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    To get a bigger volume discount from the manufacturer

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    The manufacturer pressures them to take on a lot of inventory to goose earnings.  The dealer bows to this pressure for these goods in order to get favorable treatment with other low-supply/high-demand items.  

  8. Your unauthorized dealer may have bought the merchandise from a "friend" who "found" the merchandise after it "fell off a truck."

 -avi

Question 2:

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?

AskAvi Replies:

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.

-avi

Question 3:

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

AskAvi Replies:

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.

-avi

Question 4:

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.

AskAvi Replies:

I reviewed the PLUS HE-3100 (original review here, follow-up here), and I expect to do a full review of the PLUS HE-3200 in the near future.  With the HE-3200, PLUS makes a few changes:

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You can now use a progressive scan DVD player.  Since a progressive scan DVD player hardly costs more than an interlaced model, if I was buying a new DVD player anyway I'd probably get a Panasonic RP56, which includes the Faroudja chipset with DCDi. DCDi is a bit better than the Piano's native algorithms in eliminating jagged lines when -- and only when -- you're watching video-based material (most sports and some concert DVDs).  But if you already own a recent model DVD player, keep it - the content on most DVDs was originally film-based, and the Piano's deinterlacing is superb.

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You can now input 720p or 1080i HDTV signals.  If you can get HDTV in your area, this may be a consideration, but keep in mind that the signal will be downconverted to 480p (the Piano's resolution).  In my limited demo of the HE-3200 at the Home Entertainment 2002 Show, I wasn't terribly impressed with downconverted HDTV (see my Show Wrap-Up on the Secrets site).  Still, it's noticeably better than regular TV.

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There is now a zoom lens.  This is a big plus if a) you need a few feet of extra flexibility in placing the projector, or b) you want to use a 16x9 screen and maintain the exact same image width for both widescreen anamorphic (enhanced for widescreen TVs) DVDs and letterbox (not enhanced) DVDs without physically moving the projector.

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There is now an RGB-15 input.

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Buttons on the remote control now glow in the dark.

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The HE-3100 now costs $2,699; the HE-3200 costs $3,299.  The products are sold direct from PLUS (or via dealer showrooms with fulfillment direct from PLUS), so you shouldn't expect any discounting off these prices.

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.

-avi

Glossary

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.

Please note: All submissions to AskAvi@Greengart.com become the property of Greengart.com, and Greengart.com retains all copyrights of both questions and answers. (Don't send us anything you intend to copyright or patent.) Not all submissions will be answered.

 

© 2001, 2002 Avi Greengart