Modern myths about wide screen TV

21 Sep

September 21, 2006

By Geoff Meeker

Since I started as a technology columnist, I have purchased several new gadgets, including a computer, iPod and videocamera. In all cases, I summarized what I learned through that process and shared it on these pages.

However, one thing I won’t be buying soon is a widescreen TV, since I acquired my latest model – a 50” Sony Grand Wega  XBR – just three years ago.  For those of you who may be considering such a purchase, I have retraced footsteps and updated my knowledge, to help make sense of your imminent TV purchase. A widescreen TV will set you back $1500 and easily more so do your homework before buying.

There is so much to learn about widescreen – and so many myths – that I have decided to share my findings in two parts. Next week, I will give you the straight facts on the different widescreen formats, including plasma, DLP, LCD, as well as front and rear projection.

This week, I will debunk some common myths about widescreen TV, plasma screens in particular. My source is Dave Budden, Sales Manager at West End Electronics and someone whose opinion I have come to trust over the years.

“There are a whole bunch of urban myths about widescreen, particularly about plasma,” he said. “I spend a fair bit of time clarifying them for people.”

Myth #1: When plasma or LCD break, they are gone

“No,” says Budden. “Not true. As with any piece of electronics, things can go wrong. But these can all be serviced locally now, right here in St. John’s. So can LCD.”

Myth #2: You need to recharge plasma

“It can’t be done. There is no such thing as recharging a plasma television. It is a sealed unit. You cannot get anything inside of it.”

Myth #3: Plasma fades quickly

“People compare them to shooting stars, in that the colours are very bright at first but, according to myth, they get dull real quick. That’s false as well.”

Myth #4: Plasma wears out quickly

“This is also false. Plasmas are generally rated for about 60,000 hours of use. That’s 20 years at 8 hours of viewing a day. LCD screens are also rated for 60,000 hours.”

One final point: if you are considering the purchase of an older cathode ray tube TV, that’s okay, especially if you want a smaller TV for the kitchen or bedroom. (The magnificence of high definition is best appreciated on larger screens.) Because the sun is going down on the tube, there are some remarkable bargains to be had. I just saw a TV at the local supermarket, with a 20” screen and built-in DVD player, for just $160. Now that’s cheap.

However, the days of the tube are numbered.

“As of last fall, we no longer sell tube TVs,” said Dave Budden. “They’re gone. We don’t have any in the store. We only sell flat panel… We may be a couple of years ahead of the curve but that is a decision we have made… One of our suppliers has done that as well. Panasonic no longer manufactures tube TVs. The simple fact is, once you go widescreen, you never go back.”

Next week: The facts about widescreen

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