Up until a week ago, I used a standard definition television set for just about everything. I’ve always been what you could call a “late adopter.” I rarely spring for the newest and best. My computers are crumbling, my mp3 player is scratched on every surface, and my is phone brick-like. Yet, all of these will last me well into the future. I figured I would take the dive into the world of high definition. It wasn’t a necessary transition, but one I wanted to explore as my taste in cinema expands.
My first testing of the water was a year and a half ago. I got a smaller HDTV at a flea market. It was an impulse buy at $30, but had a slew of problems that prevented me from wanting to use it every day. There were vertical lines of “seemingly” dead pixels that would eventually return to full form if you happened to be watching for a few hours. The antenna jack didn’t work. The audio was shaky. It wasn’t even as big as my clunky, second-hand CRT. In all, it turned out to be a fun little 20 inch tv that could be whipped out for some gaming if I felt like treating myself to something different.
After finally deciding I wanted my own HDTV, I embarked on the process of research. I feel like this has been lost on the general public. Go to any big box electronic retailer and linger near the more expensive devices. The majority of people will basically have the decision of what they want to buy made by someone working there. That isn’t for me. I like to pour myself into Amazon and Newegg reviews, sifting through pages for days in my downtime. I finally decided on a Panasonic Viera, the S2 series to be more precise. I played the waiting game, to see if the price would drop, but it seemed to hover steadily a few notches below the MSRP. When I finally decided to spring for it a month or so down the road, finding it proved to be the most difficult task. Now, what I learned about these televisions is that when they new models are close to rolling around, different stores approach this situation in different ways. I noticed about a week before going out to buy that many stores had them taken down from their online websites, but said stores may still have them available. Visiting these stores turned out to be a bust. They had them listed for sale, had a demo unit, but no stock. Clerks informed me they were on closeout, and would not be able to get new stock. Calling other stores in the chains turned up no televisions hiding out in other store rooms, so I turned to Best Buy. Now, the clerk there informed me that the televisions were still in stock and could be ordered for at least another month. This confused me a little bit, but started to make sense considering most stores would not want to be left with stock when the new models come around. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I snagged it, bagged it, and toted it home for a quick setup.
The first thing I did was go through all of the settings, and I mean all of them. It amazes me how much can be packed into the menus on a modern television. The second thing I did was plug in the Xbox 360 to play some Halo for an hour or two. When the menu popped up on screen, I was sold. It was exactly what I wanted from gaming that I lacked with a standard definition set. The next thing I did was pop in a DVD. That impressed me almost as much as the game did. It wasn’t high definition, but you could have easily fooled me. The picture popped, the detail level was high, and I found myself noticing stuff I never did before. It was an experience.
Now, at this time, I was using the Xbox 360 through component cables. I, according to Wikipedia, have the only model of 360 lacking an HDMI port. A bit of a bummer, but one I can live with. I didn’t bother buying any HDMI cables for my other devices locally. I checked around Amazon and found nicely rated ones for four dollars a pop, so I ordered three and they got to me in about a week. So upon getting them, I hooked up my DVD player and my DVD recorder and went to town setting all the picture options and adjustments. I have to say, I’m really impressed. If you did the math, you might notice I ordered an extra cable. Hopefully, this will facilitate a Blu-ray player at some point in the near future, but that is another story.
When it came to all of my other components, they hold up nicely. My original Xbox (sporting XMBC) looks very nice when using it with the component cables. The Wii also looks pretty nice via component, but is not much of a step up from the classic composite connection. My VCR looked surprisingly good. A lot of people go on about how the image quality of a VHS tape looks awful on a big screen, but I noticed no difference between that and your basic television. It might have even looked better, but that could be stretching things a bit.
Considering my love for IPTV, I might be seeing some more bandwidth and hard drive space being gobbled up now as I could start jumping on the high definition video train. I’ve streamed a few high definition XviD’s through the Xbox 360, but it seems to have problems with some of the more popular formats. So having said that, if anyone can recommend a standalone player or something that does network streaming and can play basically any HD format, drop me a line. I’d love to get more high quality playback, and am somewhat limited with my current setup. And yes, I know the PS3 can stream, and I know there are some Blu-Ray players that can handle a wide spread of formats, but they respectively cost a bit too much and don’t seem to review well.
When I got the television, I had a bit of a fear. I love the warmth of analog. There is something that feels cold about digital that I just cannot place. Even through this, I get a great feeling from this television, and feel that nothing has been lost.
If anything, I don’t feel like I’m being pushed from my ways. Instead, I feel like I’m being supported in them through some odd, unexpected twist.