Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sony Bravia HDTV is so good, I was willing to watch football without being paid

The guys from Tweeter, and my Woofer.

I'm not much of a sports fan, and I particularly can't stand watching football.

The endless stop-go-stop-go sequences drive me NUTS. I have NEVER watched a Stupid Bowl game. I missed the famous Apple Macintosh commercial in 1984, and didn't see Janet Jackson's famous nipple in 2004.

Years ago, if forced to answer a Trivial Pursuit game question about football players, I'd always say "Joe Namath," because he was the only football player I could name. (However, one time, I actually won a game by answering "Joe Namath.")

Each summer, I get a call from the folks at DirecTV, attempting to bribe me with a freebie "NFL Season Pass" if I'll re-activate my lapsed satellite TV service subscription. I tell them that free is not good enough, and they'll have to pay me at least $500 per game to get me to watch.

Anyway, I recently decided to replace the 65-inch Mitsubishi monster-size rear-projection HDTV that has been the centerpiece of our "movie room" for six years. It still works fine, but (a) I wanted 1080p resolution for watching Blu-ray DVDs, (b) I wanted to reclaim some floor space, and (c) -- most importantly -- I wanted to have a TV that I could watch during the daytime, and with lights on, without glare on the screen that wiped out the video image.

Plasma TVs are wonderful, but their shiny reflective glass screens make them inappropriate for my application. I heard that current Panasonic plasmas have solved the glare problem. They haven't.

I could have saved big bucks by getting one of the newer rear-projection HDTVs from Mitsu or Sony or Samsung. They're much thinner than my six-year-old Mitsu, but still not hang-on-the-wall thin, and I've heard bad things about reliability.

That leaves LCD.

I have a Sharp LCD HDTV in my den that I like a lot, and a Philips LCD HDTV in my home office that I love.

So the obvious solution was to replace the 65" Mitsu RPTV with a 65" LCDTV, right?


Apparently, there is only one 65" LCD available -- from Sharp. The Sharp in my den at home, and the one at work, are excellent sets. Unfortunately, Sharp has miserable distribution for their 65" LCD.

There's no dealer here in Connecticut; and Sharp's moronic website recommended that I visit some "nearby" dealers about 30 miles away, on Long Island. Unfortunately, about 20 of those 30 miles are water.

To visit the recommended stores, I'd have to sprout wings or fins to cross Long Island Sound, or drive about six hours round-trip, or pay $122 to take the ferry. No thanks.

The not-very-Sharp website even expects potential customers in Massachusetts to shop on Long Island. IDIOTS!

Sony makes a 70" LCD, but its THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND DOLLAR price was a bit too much. (Actually, it was much too much.)

So, we were faced with a dilemma.

After watching a 65" screen for six years, could we settle for a puny 52-incher?

I would have preferred to find out by visiting my nearby Tweeter -- where I had bought the Mitsu and lots of wonderful other Big Boys' Toys; but my local store had closed recently after the chain's near-fatal over-expansion. Tweeter's prices are not the lowest, but they have the good stuff, their people are knowledgeable and honest, their customer service is spectacular, and their 5% "AVID" membership discount and frequent no-interest payment plans make their prices palatable. (They have a 30-day price protection plan, but it doesn't include online competitors.)

But, with the former local Tweeter now serving as a Halloween costume store, I made a few fruitless and frustrating visits to Circus City and Worst Buy, where I was ignored and lied to and treated like an idiot.

Wife and I decided to hit the road, and we drove 45 minutes to the Tweeter store in Danbury CT, where I was welcomed by store manager Bill Bender, and by Jim Brower -- a fellow refugee from the Milford Tweeter.

We looked at a lot of TVs, confirmed that LCD was the way to go, and figured that we could live with the pint-size, puny, wussy, teeny-tiny, itty-bitty 52-inch screen -- if we moved our movie room furniture closer to the screen.

There were lots of excellent TVs at Tweeter, but wife and I -- who seldom agree on anything -- both preferred the new Sony 52" Bravia XBR "5" model over everything else.

The video image was absolutely spectacular, almost three-dimensional. I was as awe-struck, as when I first saw a Panasonic plasma screen years earlier. Styling, as expected from Sony, was way cool, with a thin silver frame that seemed to float around the TV. The remote control was sensible, and complete -- without being over-buttoned. I really liked the logical and versatile Xross Media Bar setup screen. The Sony logo at the bottom of the set glows in a cool blue (unless you program it to stay off).

We started to do the deal, and found that the price had just dropped $500 to $4300, AND we could have 18 months to pay with no interest! Within a few days, Jim Brower was at my house to make some pre-installation measurements, and we scheduled delivery and installation. Years ago, I attempted self-installation of a 32" Sony plasma on my bedroom wall -- and had to cry for help -- so I was willing to pay a few hundred bucks for a professional Tweeterized installation.

The Bravia arrived Saturday morning, and installation was scheduled for yesterday. I stared at the monster size box on my floor for about five minutes, then sliced the packing straps, un-boxed the treasure, and quickly had it connected and working, on my floor.

With some help from able-bodied nephew Joe, I raised it onto a strong wooden chair I grabbed from the kitchen, and started a marathon TV session. It was really strange to be watching movies in our "movie room" at noontime with window blinds open and no reflections or glare on the screen; and to watch the 11PM news without yelling to my wife to turn off the damn kitchen light.

Joe asked if he could watch an "important" football game at 4PM on Sunday. I ABSOLUTELY HATE Sunday football games (even though I don't watch them), because they screw up the TV schedule, delaying 60 Minutes and everything that follows it on CBS. The only solution is to program a TiVo box to record from 7PM to midnight. I hate football, but I like Joe, so I gave in.

I planned to stay far away from my new toy until the game ended, but Joe pursuaded me to watch for a while. He watched the game. I watched the television.

We were both blown away by the bright and vivid Kodachrome-like colors, and the razor-sharpness. There was none of the blur that the plasma-sellers accuse the LCD-makers of. Joe pointed out details he had never been able to see on the 65" Mitsu. At one point, we both thought, "Wow, I can actually see the pig hairs on the football," but Joe said the words a second before I could sputter them out.

Apparently it was a really good game. However, if DirecTV paid me $500 -- or if anyone paid me $50,000 -- I couldn't tell you which teams were playing. I also could not tell you who was playing basketball in Madison Square Garden, when Joe switched channels during commercials.

Joe explained some of the nuances of both games, that I found interesting, but not interesting enough to get me to watch voluntarily. I was, however, interested in the broadcast technology. Years ago, instant replay was a big deal, but now the CBS wizards can put a graphic image on the fake grass in the stadium UNDER THE FEET OF THE PLAYERS.

Joe was amazed at the sound quality coming from my home theater system -- until I pointed out that he was just hearing the Sony's built-in speakers, not not my hundreds of watts of surround sound.

I turned on my heavy-weight receiver (Sony, too) and the sound was soon all around, flowing from my Boston Acoustics black boxes. After a few minutes, I realized that my subwoofer was disconnected from when I was moving furniture. I plugged it in, and we were soon subjected to an endless series of "WOOOOMPFs" when CBS put a statistical graphic in the center of the screen. It was annoying, but undeniably impressive.

Yesterday, right on schedule, Tweeter guys Steve and Dominick showed up to hang the new Bravia on the wall, and connect the mass of cables that I had snaked upward from the floor. They took off their shoes, knew what they were doing, had all the right tools, spread a padded blanket on my floor, and were very nice to my dog, Hunter. Everything was perfect.

Last night, instead of going upstairs after supper, wife, dog and I stayed downstairs for the first time in a long time. Life is good, and a Sony Bravia XBR 5 makes it better.

We had been planning to get an inexpensive Vizio or Olevia LCD HDTV for our guest room; but now I think we'll pay the extra bucks for another Sony. Our guests deserve the best.

I tried selling the 65" Mitsu for $1500 on Craig's List, but my only offer was a swap for a pair of plane tickets. We kept the Mitsu, and it got moved to the basement "game room" where it replaced a nine-year-old Panasonic 32-inch CRT TV. Last night, Cynical Cousin Dave and his buddy Anthony took away the Panny to give it a second life.

I still have a half day of work ahead of me, making holes in the wall, snaking cables, closing up holes in the wall, and painting where the holes had been. I want to upgrade the Sony receiver to the new STR-DA4300ES (due in about a week), and upgrade my speakers from 5.1 channels to 7.1 channels. Perfection is close.

We now have five hi-def TVs in the house, and four home theater setups; and will soon add HDTV number-six.



Whoever dies with the most toys, wins!

CLICK for TV details at SonyStyle.com. CLICK for Tweeter.
Update, 26 DEC 07:
The 32-inch Sony plasma HDTV in our bedroom had started to look awfully small. Today, the Tweeter Team replaced it with a glorious new 46-inch Sony XBR5 LCD set, and moved the puny 32-incher down the hall to our guest room. Will we get a seventh HDTV? Hmmm.


Anonymous said...

I recently went to Circuit City to buy a big hi-def LCD set. The ass hole salesman was pushing Samsung over the more expensive Sony, insisting that the Samsung did not have a reflective screen (LIE!) and that the Sony did not have 120HZ frame rate (LIE!). The two sets were many feet apart, so it was impossible to compare them. I walked out.

Anonymous said...

Plasma is fine if you live in the dark, but LCD makes more sense in the real world. The Bravia XBR 5 is the best I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Woofer and Tweeters. HAHAHA.

I wonder how many people will get it.

I also wonder if Tweeter would not have gone bankrupt if they changed a dumb name that almost no one under the age of 50 understands.

Anonymous said...

the game was between the undefeated New England Patriots and Indianapolis colts.

-Joe, the able-bodied nephew