A Tale of Two HDTV Buyers – Part I

Microsoft TV

If there’s one thing that I find incredibly off-putting, it’s when folks (often sales clerks) try to sell you a product that isn’t quite right for you, usually with the intention of getting you to spend more money. Years ago, my parents, both in their late 60s at the time, were looking for a TV for their living room. They browsed at the local big box stores (there were still three retailers in this category at the time) and received some advice that made me cringe.

Mom and Dad have a living room in which the optimal position for the TV would be in the “short” part of the room. Using the room lengthwise in the very rectangular space would have meant sitting a great distance from the TV, which would have required a very large set be placed there for even a decent viewing experience. As they had already decided long ago that the couch would be on the wall to the right, with the television about 10 feet away on the left side of the room, they wanted a TV no bigger than 43 inches.

Their window shopping had left them more confused than informed, with new terminology like Smart TV, pixels, and resolution now serving only to make themselves doubt any choice they might have made. Though both of my parents are intelligent people, they really had no interest in learning new terms. They simply want a TV with a nice picture. And because they had been frustrated by their “HDTV field trip,” they asked me if I could find them a TV that would fit in the chosen spot and “look good.”

And so we looked around, finally deciding on a 42″ from Panasonic. The main factors in our decision were very simple: Get the best picture in the size range we were looking for; Buy from a trusted brand. The reviews were excellent for this particular model (we won’t mention it because it’s no longer available for purchase) and I had seen it at the now mostly defunct local Circuit City.

Basically, we had eliminated the specs we thought would be insignificant for mom and dad. Had they listened to the salespeople, who are trained to say things that make you buy an HDTV, as opposed to actually telling you how it will fit your needs, they would likely have spend hundreds more than the $250 or so we found this excellent set for.

The purchaser in this case wanted a great picture, something we all should aim for when shopping for ANY HDTV. But what they didn’t need was considerably more important. They didn’t need Smart TV, mainly because they didn’t spend enough time watching television to justify it, and had no interested in learning anything about how to use it beyond turning it on and heading to their favorite channel.

The Panasonic we found them was a 720p model. Why not 1080p? Because this particular HDTV shined like no other when we saw it on display. Set near some more expensive models with the higher resolution, the Panasonic was more vivid (we played with the settings on number of the) and offered a very high amount of detail. The only thing near the price we paid were more budget conscious sets from new brands which had yet to build enough of reputation for us to know much about.

In the end, the HDTV we chose for mom and dad was a winner. It still sits in their living room, hooked up via HDMI and looking great whether we watch Wheel of Fortune or the Jets game. The true winning “review” is that neither has ever complained about it, and has received nothing but high praise from the more vocal, rest of the family.

In our opinion, the first rule of buying an HDTV is rule out anything you don’t want or need. If you pay for features you won’t actually take advantage of, you’ve paid too much.