three months ago

The $1,000 Super Bowl TV: Go bigger, or go better?

I’ve been covering TVs for more than a decade, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get from friends and family on a budget is whether or not it’s better to get the biggest TV they can from a lesser-known brand, or a smaller set from a well-known manufacturer. Of course there are other trade-offs, such as whether you can live with a barebones model, or you absolutely need some extra features. Size seems to be especially important when you’re buying a TV for a big sporting event like the Super Bowl, where a really big screen can yield bigger excitement, and probably a better viewing experience for friends if you’ll have a crowd over to watch the game.

So for the purpose of conversation, let’s say you have $1,000 to spend. Are you going to go bigger with a lesser-known brand, or get the best picture quality possible with a set—probably a bit smaller—from a better-known brand? Also entering the mix this year: some lower-priced Ultra HD (UHD) TVs from brands such as Seiki and TCL, which fall within your budget. These sets have 3840x2160 screens, with four times as many pixels as regular 1080p sets— and the promise of extra detail can be exciting.

For a main TV, I’ll almost always trade a few inches of screen for the best-looking picture, since I tend to live with my set for at least four or five years. But what would you do—go bigger, or go better? Are you considering a lower-priced UHD TV? Are you willing to give up some features, such as Internet capability, for a bigger-screen TV?

One other thing to consider: sound quality. The sound from many TVs just can’t do justice to their great-looking images. Are you willing to give up the visceral impact of a bunch-crunching tackle, or will you need to allot some of your budget for a soundbar speaker system to pump up the audio?

Let the conversation begin! I'll be weighing in right up until Super Bowl weekend.

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three months ago
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$1,000 is exactly how much I'm planning to spend so I've got a few questions for you. How would you compare Samsung versus Vizio as a brand. Samsung seems to have a bit more brand prominence but Vizio is competitively priced. I've heard the latter has had some manufacturing issues.

Also, I'm transitioning from a 42' plasma to a larger TV. I love the image of my plasma (samsung BTW) but hate the glare. Any suggestions for what technology to go for in terms of bang for the buck? I'm mostly interested in how sporting events are displayed.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    A couple of questions here. I'm glad you brought up Vizio, because they tend to be the exception to the rule—they offer a lot of features and performance for the money. Over the past few years, Vizio sets have consistently had very good picture quality, with a few models rising to excellent, though typically a bit below the best Samsung sets. We don't keep the sets long enough to determine reliability in our labs, but we do canvas our readers, and based on reader surveys Vizio is as reliable a brand as any. That said, I do get more notes and letters from readers complaining about Vizio sets failing after the year warranty expires than any other big brand. But we haven't documented this, and Vizio sells a lot of TVs, and people tend to write lte to complain about something than they do to offer praise. During Black Friday, we saw a 60-inch Vizio set selling for less than $700, and a70-inch model for under $1,000. Those were pretty hard-to-beat prices for a better-known brand.

    As for the plasma vs. LCD (including LED) TV debate, it's slowly winding down with Panasonic's decision to exit the plasma business. LG and Samsung have new plasma sets for 2014, but it's hard to tell how long they'll continue making these types of sets. Many plasma TVs have gotten better at glare with different screen treatments, but plasma does react to light differently than LCD sets. I've always been a plasma fan, and still appreciate the better blacks, higher contrast, resistance to motion blur (important with sports), and unlimited viewing angles they offer. (Inside Consumer Reports there was a mini-rush to buy Panasonic plasmas when they announced they were exiting the plasma business.) It's still a great choice if you can control the lighting in your room, and they're often a great deal in the larger screen sizes compared to LED-backlit LCD sets. The good news is that LCD picture quality has steadily improved over the past few years, with higher frame rates to reduce motion blur and better backlight technology that has–with some models–improved brightness uniformity across the panel. But if I had to buy a new TV right now, I'd look for a left-over Panasonic ST60-series plasma, which in my personal opinion offered the best bang for the buck of any TV made last year.

  • cr-guest-3121 three months ago

    Interesting comment, but I feel I must tell you about the 50' plasma we got three years ago that's a Samsung. Eight months ago we noticed a fine black line going across the screen that wouldn't go away. We called a technician who quickly tested it and said the panel was blown - it would cost around $500 to fix and we might as well get another one.

    We thought about it (frustratedly, of course) and decided we could live with the line. Not too bothersome for the most part, but mildly annoying. Just put up with it and hang in there.

    Wouldn't you know it - ANOTHER line appeared a month later, then another, then another…until we now have a television with five lines running across the screen. No longer just annoying, but very frustrating.

    We've owned a Samsung tube set in the past that also gave problems when it wasn't that old. Plus, a friend of ours has a Samsung plasma that also has developed lines running across it. Needless to say, we won't be buying this brand again!

    By the way, if you check the Internet, you'll find lots of disgusted people who've owned Samsung sets that have the same problem. Wish we had done more research before we'd gone out and bought the set.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    We've occasionally heard about this issue, though we haven't seen it with any of the TVs we've tested or sold to our employees, which is what happens to the sets after they're reviewed. Did you reach out to Samsung and see if they could help? Also, in the past I've seen a few defects that rose to the level of a class-action complaint, and occasionally the attorneys general of some states might get involved. You should check out these options and see if there's any help. Based on our surveys, Samsung has been a very reliable brand, though that doesn't mean that all its sets are free from defects. But the incidence is statistically low, though I know that's not much consolation if you're stuck with one of the bad ones.

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two months ago
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Personally, I wouldn't buy a leftover 2013 UHD TV right now for several reasons, one of which you mention. Few early 2013 UHD TVs support HDMI 2.0, which as you mention allows 60 frames-per-second video. A few model that were introduced did have HDMI connectors that could be upgraded to HDMI 2.0. But all 2014 UHD sets I saw at CES come with HDMI 2.0 inputs.

But another, perhaps even more compelling reason is that most–perhaps all?–lack support for the new HEVC video codec, which will be widely used for 4K (UHD) content. HEVC–aka H.265– is a more efficient video codec that will enable higher-quality video to be sent over existing distribution networks (i.e. streaming and some pay TV services, probably satellite and telco-delivered fiber services first). Most 2014 sets will have built-in HEVC decoders to handle this new video format. It's a chipset, so you won't be able to upgrade to HEVC via a firmware update.

So when you consider all this–plus the fact that there won't be much 4K content until later in the year and we expect prices to drop, probably 40% to 50% by the back half of the year–I'm in the camp of those who will wait at least a few more months before even considering an Ultra HD set.

  • jhkey-home two months ago

    Do you really think that prices will fall dramatically on the 4K (UHD) TV sets by Christmas 2014? Right now, 65" 4K sets from major brands are $4000-5000. If those are expected to fall by 40-50%, it would make a strong argument to wait till then to make a purchase. On the other hand, some of the top led sets that Consumer Report has rated are not 4K.

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three months ago
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Answering this more in a theoretical mode (I have an insane home theater in reality), I'd say the sound is more important than most people think if they haven't pondered it deeply. Especially with a crowd who could easily over talk the levels from a weak output system.

Also I think it's very early in the UHD world, upscaling effectively to use those extra pixels isn't anywhere near maturity at this point. I'd figure on getting something now that will hold the fort then go for a QHD when there's better interpolation systems that really make a difference with UHD panels.

I'd certainly make sure the sets had HDMI 2.0 to effectively use those extra pixels (or DP 1.3). Some of the computer monitor panels are coming out limited to 30Hz refresh rates, so there are clearly big trade-offs being made in the QHD world right now. Not a time I'd buy, too much in flux.

  • Tom three months ago

    Agree on importance of great sound. I think there's diminishing returns as you go bigger and arguably, a 40" with awesome sound (even just a great soundbar) is preferable to a 50" with lame built in speakers.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    In my dedicated projection-based home theater, I spent five times more on the sound (a 7.2-channel Martin Logan electrostatic speaker system with dual subs, Krell amps and a McIntosh pre-pro) than I did on the video, so I'm with you. Personally I feel it's the sound that adds that real visceral element to movies, and music is even more demanding. Sadly, one consequence of TVs getting thinner is that sound has, too.

    As far as UHD, all the sets I saw at CES will have HDMI 2.0 inputs (which support 60 fps frame rates), as well as decoding for the new HEVC (H.265) video format, which is a much more efficient codec that will allow 4K to be sent via normal broadband speeds (15Mbps or so). This is what will enable 4K streaming this from OTT (Internet-based) services, such as Netflix, which has promised to deliver 4K streams in the first half of the year. Satellite (DirecTV, 3net) will probably come next, but the bad 3D experience has tempered enthusiasm for rushing into new formats. But it does make me wonder about those who rushed out and bought UHD sets last year at high prices—can they be upgraded to these new specs? As far as I can tell, some models introduced late last year can be, but many other earlier sets can't, as this is a chip (board) replacement in most cases, not just a firmware update. As for upscaling, given the limited amount of native 4K content that will be available, this will become a feature that differentiates brands and models in 2014. Some will offer quite impressive upscaling, others not so much. Since we all follow this industry, we know that prices will get cheaper the longer we can wait, so right now I'd only recommend a UHD TV for someone who absolutely has to buy a new TV, who cares about video quality, and who is interested in future-proofing his/her purchase. And remember that resolution–picture detail–is only one of a number of things a TV has to get right for it to be a top-performing set. Last year we reviewed a few low-priced UHD TVs from off-brands, and they not only weren't great UHD TVs, they weren't great 1080p TVs, either.

  • tedb three months ago

    So with you on the sound @Consumer-Reports-Jim. I love the sound of M-L electrostatics, and Krell amps. My personal taste led me to the original B&W Matrix 800's with Levinson amp instead. I've got a Vidikron projector that was top of the line 8-9 years ago. My decoder is a Theta Casablanca HD, until that does 4K I probably won't move though. And they took a long long time to support HD.

    Do you know if H.265 will support 7.1?

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    That's the great thing about audio: I have some McIntosh amps and a pre-amp tuner that are still awesome. But video becomes obsolete every four or five years. Case in point: My McIntosh MX132, a $7,500 preamp processor that only has component outputs. Can't be upgraded to HDMI, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, etc.

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three months ago
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I'm not gonna lie… I'll go for a good (not top of the line) brand smaller picture and spend half and take the kids to the mountains a few times with the remaining cash.

I often get questioned by my father in law for not being impressed by his HUGE top of the line HD theater system. Yes, its nice but its tens of thousands of dollars? Anything should be niche for that type of $$.

We just recently bought our first actual HD flat screen. We went with a 720p JVC and we couldn't be happier.

I am in the process of remodeling our basement for a sports room and we will likely get a 50-50 inch for there. I refuse to buy junk so we'll likely get a "good" name brand. and likely get it from Costco because of their policy on electronics. I know they say 90 days for returns and an extended 2 year coverage plan but a little know fact… Costco stands behind ALL purchases for the life you own them.

Are we interested in all of the extra features? Not really. I'm absolutely sure they ALL are cool and will achieve a better TV watching experience but as long as the picture is clear and I can do the basics I'm happy. Our new tv isn't a smart TV but our wii and blue ray player let us stream and access the internet. we're happy with that.

Hope that helps…

GO SEAHAWKS!!!

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    Great post, which is why I qualify all friends s who ask for advice: Are you a real stickler for video quality? Where does TV- and movie-watching fit into your family's overall leisure/entertainment priorities? Because if you really don't about the absolute top performance and don't really notice it, then don't spend the extra money. These days, most TVs can deliver a satisfying picture, and for many people that's enough. And Costco's warranty-doubling is great.

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two months ago
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What's your opinion on projectors versus actual televisions?

Also, how about the curved televisions? I was at CES recently and they were all the rage – do you think this is just hype or that it's truly an innovation?

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    I love front projectors for movies, and they've gotten so incredibly inexpensive in the past five years ago. Of course you have to factor in the cost of the screen and audio, but you can still get a great setup—with a screen 100 inches or more—for less than the largest (80 inches and above) TVs. But for most people they're not a replacement for a TV set, as they're generally not as convenient to use, and they have bulbs that need to replaced every 3,000 hours or so. Almost everyone I know with a front-projection system uses it for movies and special events, such as the Super Bowl or concerts, but watches most TV on a regular TV set. I have a 110-inch projection system in my dedicated theater, and that's how we use it. Most TV viewing in our house is done on either a 50-inch plasma, or a 55-inch LED-basklit LCD TV, depending on the room.
    As for curved screens, my personal feeling is that they're more an aesthetic statement than an improvement to the viewing experience. In fact, with some the sets we've had in our labs, having a curved screen can create some issues, such as a narrower sweet spot for the absolute best picture quality. And with LCD TVs with edge LED backlights, there could be an issue with backlight uniformity, as it's harder to get brightness distributed evenly across the screen. (We've seen sets with flashlighting or hot-spotting.) Manufacturers claim that it creates a more immersive viewing experience, but I didn't get that impression with the sets we've had. That said, I have to say I was impressed during my time with a few very large (105"-120") Ultra HD sets with curved screen, so perhaps the curve is more effective in the very large screen sizes. Manufacturers are still trying to figure out the ideal curve for these screens. We're looking forward to getting some of these sets in our labs and spending more time evaluating how a curved screen affects viewing, both good and bad.

  • Tom two months ago

    Awesome advice!

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two months ago
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We're looking for a good, moderately priced led 60-65 inch TV, but we are willing to wait out the Super Bowl "hype" until later in February or March to see where the prices fall out on the "old" 2013 models and what might bring for the 2014 models. One thing that is a little frustrating is that for some of the models we are looking at, there are no Consumer Reports reviews, only reviews from sites such as Crutchfield and CNET. Case in point - Samsung UN65F7100 and the Sony KDL-65W850A. Most of online reviews would indicate these are comparable. Big box sales staff really seem to be pushing the Samsung line and they seem be not showing the highly rated (by CR) Samsung UN60F7500. So is the Samsung UN65F7100 as good as the UN60F7500? As to the Sony KDL-65W850A, how would it compare to either Samsung model or the lower priced Sony KDL-60R550A (which is a CR "Best Buy)? Add to that - Sony will be coming out with a KDL-60W850B in March which has their new "wedge" design. I would assume that the video of those two would be comparable - right?

  • jhkey-home two months ago

    Add to my earlier comment - What gives with Panasonic LED tvs - no where on CR ratings/reviews?

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    Hi, I think there may be a bit of confusion here. We didn't test the 65-inch Samsung UNF7100, but we did test the 55-inch model. There is a high expectation that they will perform similarly. This set has very good picture quality and a lot of features. We test more than 300 TVs a year–more than any other publication or website–but can't always test every screen size from every manufacturer. We reviewed this series as well, and felt that the F7500-series did just a bit better better overall, plus it has more features. As far as retailers pushing one model over another, some of it has to do with distribution–some mass market retailers may not carry the higher-priced models, and some has to do how much inventory the retailer is sitting on–they'll push what they have a lot of. As for the Panasonic LCD/LED TVs, we tested a bunch of them. All the Panasonic models that start with "TC-L, then the size and model, such as TC-L55WT60) are LED-backlit LCD TVs. We have a number of them. You're right, we only tested the Sony KDL-55W900A, a model just above it. We also tested a few Sony models below it. Again, we try and test as many sets as we can, but if you don't see the exact model you can look at either the other sets in close screen sizes within the same series, or model in the series above and below the model you want, and get an idea of how that set is likely to perform. Unlike many other sets that spend a day with a TV, we spend a month testing each set and try to get a good representation of what's on the market.

  • jhkey-home two months ago

    Thanks - very good to hear this. It does get confusing trying to compare different sizes within the same model series. One would "assume" that they would perform the same, but I do notice that Consumer Reports does make that differentiation.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    If I can provide any more insight on the pros and cons of your cons of your choices, feel free to ask - that's what I'm here for! And thanks for being a CR subscriber. By the way, do you subscribe to the magazine or the CRO website. If it's the latter, I don't know if you've noticed but we have greatly expanded our Detailed Test Results, and we now actually publish the settings we used ti get optimal picture quality. These settings, of course can vary slight fron set to set, but it should be a great starting point if you're the type who likes to calibrate your TV rather than simply use a preset, such as movie or cinema mode.

  • jhkey-home two months ago

    Yes, I'm a CR subscriber. Thanks for the heads up. I see that the newest publication has quite a comprehensive review of TVs. That will help greatly.

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two months ago
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@Consumer-Reports-Jim, that's very helpful. Since you're tuned into this and it's quicker to ask than go research it, does that mean receivers or decoders will also need to be H.265 capable?

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    It's just like when the new Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio audio came out—it will have to be decoded somewhere, but right now it makes the most sense in the TV, where it will appear first. I'll have to check and see if it's possible for an older UHD set to somehow accept a decoded H.265 signal, but since almost all the new UHD sets I saw at CES had this feature, it just makes more sense to me to wait for one of these models. And as I mentioned, we expect prices to drop significantly later in the year. Let me contact a few of the manufacturers and see what they have to say about this issue, and I'll report back next week.

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two months ago
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Any thoughts on active vs passive 3D technology in televisions. Have seen some articles indicating that passive technology, while using cheaper glasses, produces less than perfect HD content. Active technology, on the other hand, has expensive glasses, and some articles indicate some eye strain or other issues when watching 3D content for movies.

  • KnightHokk two months ago

    I think the AMA is over so not sure if @Consumer-Reports-Jim will be able to respond. Just a heads up!

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    Well, I checked back and saw there were some additional comments, hope I'm not too late. Yes, wit passive you lose half the vertical resolution, so you're not getting full 1080p to each eye. (That's one of the potential benefits to Ultra HD, even if you lose half the vertical resolution you still wind up with full 1080p). But many people find the passive polarized glasses more comfortable, plus they're cheaper and often you get four pairs. In my family I have both, and I tend to go for the active set, my wife and son like the passive model better. Active-shutter glasses (which bother some people) have gotten a lot cheaper and lighter, and we've seen passive 3D get better, with less ghosting. So it's become more of a personal preference. Here's a blog I did with our head TV engineer, Claudio Ciacci, when the first sets came out: yabb.ly/b1W6nQ.

  • jhkey-home two months ago

    Thanks for the info.

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three months ago
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I would much rather get a smaller set from a well-known manufacturer. I've had some terrible experiences in the past with lesser-known brands, so would never go that route again. Some family members and I chipped in to purchase a TCL 40" TV for my sister about 2 years ago. After 5 months, it became unwatchable due to some pixel issues. Over time, the center of the TV developed a purple stripe, and it widened over a short time so that the entire middle third of the TV showed no picture. Ok, there are always lemons with any product. Yes, it was annoying, but it happens, so my sister tried to get it serviced. What an absolute nightmare. It literally took months for TCL to resolve it. It was very difficult for her to get through to customer service, she was being sent back and forth between TCL customer service and their 3rd party repair center with no resolution in sight. I felt so bad since I had part in buying it for her, so I got involved and wrote to a well-known PC magazine for help. They had a monthly help column for people that couldn't get any resolution for computer/electronics issues and warranty services. I didn't even think my email would be read, but sent it anyway. They actually DID read it and asked me some more questions. Then all of a sudden out of the blue, TCL started calling me and my sister to get it resolved. The magazine contacted them, so it was only after that that TCL & their repair center cooperated. The magazine also did end up publishing it in their magazine column.

Sorry for the long rant, but it really was an awful experience, so customer service also plays a very large part in my purchases.

  • Loading... three months ago

    Its OK, I often feel like I rant too… :)

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    These are great points—better-known brands typically maintain better customer service departments, keep parts inventories in stock, and have networks of service technicians that can repair a TV. That's not always true from lesser-known brands should you need to get a set fixed. And these days, there's not a huge difference in price between a major brands's entry-level sets and a model from a secondary brand.

  • 1Baybreeze three months ago

    I think customer service is one main reason that many people love to purchase through Costco. From what I've read, even though they aren't the manufacturer, their service and assistance are highly touted.

    I also have to give kudos to SquareTrade warranties. When we bought the TV for my sister, I also purchased a two year warranty directly from SquareTrade. They do prefer that one goes through the manufacturer first, however, I also contacted them about our issue, and they were absolutely awesome. They said if we couldn't get resolution through TCL, they would handle it.

    My sister's TV ended up not being able to be repaired, so the repair center shipped her another brand of a refurbed TV, an RCA. There were some issues with that as well, such as missing cables & documentation, and a damaged remote, but they ended up replacing everything after the PC mag contacted them. But anyway, I informed SquareTrade that my sister no longer had the original TV that was warranted, so they happily transferred the warranty to the refurbed RCA TV that my sis received. There was no receipt for this, since she didn't have to pay for it, so SquareTrade accepted some email communications as proof. I never did business with a warranty company that I could truly recommend and trust before I used SquareTrade. I've also used them for repair of a reburbed laptop I had purchased and it was returned, fixed, and replaced within 5 days. Service was definitely beyond excellent!

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three months ago
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I personally don't need the very best picture quality - it's nice, but not a must for me. Just watching the HD channels on my 1080p, 120mHz LCD/Led TVs works fine for me. I like the Smart TVs, however, they're not a must have since I can use my Roku streamers to access apps. One can access tons more through a Roku than through any Smart TV, and I think it's probably cheaper to go non-smart and buy a Roku (or other streaming device).

Great sounds also helps, but again, I would be willing to purchase an extra sound bar or speakers to get that sound.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    You bring up a good point: You can add a smart TV platform to a non-Internet-enabled TV very easily these days with a streaming media player, such as a Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast. Prices start start at about $35, and most of the players are small enough that they're unobtrusive. Plus you can move them from one set to another if you need to. And as you mention, you make get more content, or some cool features (such as Roku's remote with the headphone jacks) not available on a TV with built-in streaming.

  • 1Baybreeze three months ago

    Roku even has a TV mount available for purchase, so you can mount it to the back of your TV and no one would see it, nor would it fall off the TV stand, etc.

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three months ago
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Consumer Reports, CNET.com, and Crutchfield.com have excellent buying guides for tv’s—they deal with issues such as how much sunlight your room has, viewing angle, and motion blur.

Where to buy the tv is the most important thing, however, and Costco is the winner hands-down. They give you a 90-day return window, the longest of any retailer, and give you a 2-year warranty. If you use your Costco American Express card you get a third year if the tv is a standard stock item and not a special model made only for them. Most important, however, is that they have their own tech support, their Concierge Service, who answer the phone promptly in American English and have direct phone lines to the manufacturers.

Costco saved me no end of trouble with my HP laptop—no phone menus to plod through only to speak to someone who was either not knowledgeable and/or not comprehensible. Each time I called the Concierge he quickly set up a 3-way conversation with an HP rep who explained how to send it back to HP for no charge. Altogether I had to send it back three times and thankfully it’s been working fine for a while now.

The cost of the Costco membership is much less than what you would pay for an extended warranty at other retailers and when you use your Costco Amex card you don’t need a receipt when you return something. Their policy is no time limit on returns except for tv’s and computers. Be sure to check their website for products not found in their stores and be sure to compare their online prices with their store prices—the latter are sometimes lower.

As for size, surveys done by Consumer Reports and others always agree on one thing—many people regret not having bought a larger tv. As for sound, hook it up to your stereo system. Get a digital receiver with three or four HDMI inputs and then you need only one HDMI input on the tv. If this is beyond your budget, shop around for a soundbar—even a low-cost one will be better than most tv speakers.

  • Tom three months ago

    That's interesting about Costco. I guess I assumed they'd not have access to the latest, greatest models but it sounds like that's a false assumption? Or maybe it's true but year over year changes to TV tech is so incremental it doesn't matter?

  • 1Baybreeze three months ago

    I totally forgot about Crutchfield's guides, so thanks for the reminder! I've read some of them in the past and found them very useful and informational.

    As for Costco, I don't have a membership because I would have to travel about 20 miles to it, but friends I know that do always recommend buying electronics from them - for all the reasons above. One of my friends purchased two nice Samsung large screen TVs from them over the past two years. I'm not sure if they carry the very latest models, but new models are refreshed so often, that whatever they do have probably isn't TOO outdated. I just checked their website, and it appears most of them are at least 1080p, 120 or 240mHz, and smart TVs, plus all the major brands.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    Agree, Crutchfield does a nice job with its guides. And as mentioned earlier, Costco doubles the manufacturers warranty, giving you free extra protection. And its return policy is still among the best, at a time when many retailers are shortening or eliminating) theirs.

  • ALfromBOSTON three months ago

    By the way, that HP laptop was a top-of-the-line model with all the latest bells and whistles, all the more reason to have a solid warranty.

    Also, I picked up a T-mobile cell phone there for $100 less than it was selling for at a T-Mobile store and on their website.

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three months ago
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It seems that with the bigger screens you see the flaws in lower quality signals and that same signal looks better in a smaller screen?

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim three months ago

    Yes, the higher resolution matters more the larger you go in terms of screen size. It becomes very evident when you blow up stand-def images on a big-screen set; the picture can look awful. LCD and plasma TVs are fixed-pixel displays, which means they have to match the content to the screen's native resolution, and if the actual picture material isn't there, the lower-resolution image will be upconverted to the set's higher resolution. If the actual picture information isn't there, the TV has to create it, with varying degrees of success. It's also the reason that many people can't see the difference between a 720p and 1080p set in screen sizes 40 inches or larger are normal viewing distances.

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two months ago
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Something to be careful of - HDMI 1.3 and below do not support UHD nor 4K displays. There are some HDMI 1.4a systems out, but they're limited to 24-30 frames per second. To get to 60, that will take HDMI 2.0. I haven't seen that widely used yet, in fact the 3840x2160p panels I've seen are only equipped with Display Port.

So be aware of the cabling and connector issues, and don't assume current receivers or decoders are compatible with UHD or 4K displays.

For myself, I'm waiting to let this all shake out a bit.

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    Sorry, meant for this to appear here, somehow it showed up above:

    As far as UHD, all the sets I saw at CES will have HDMI 2.0 inputs (which support 60 fps frame rates), as well as decoding for the new HEVC (H.265) video format, which is a much more efficient codec that will allow 4K to be sent via normal broadband speeds (15Mbps or so). This is what will enable 4K streaming this from OTT (Internet-based) services, such as Netflix, which has promised to deliver 4K streams in the first half of the year. Satellite (DirecTV, 3net) will probably come next, but the bad 3D experience has tempered enthusiasm for rushing into new formats. But it does make me wonder about those who rushed out and bought UHD sets last year at high prices—can they be upgraded to these new specs? As far as I can tell, some models introduced late last year can be, but many other earlier sets can't, as this is a chip (board) replacement in most cases, not just a firmware update. As for upscaling, given the limited amount of native 4K content that will be available, this will become a feature that differentiates brands and models in 2014. Some will offer quite impressive upscaling, others not so much. Since we all follow this industry, we know that prices will get cheaper the longer we can wait, so right now I'd only recommend a UHD TV for someone who absolutely has to buy a new TV, who cares about video quality, and who is interested in future-proofing his/her purchase. And remember that resolution–picture detail–is only one of a number of things a TV has to get right for it to be a top-performing set. Last year we reviewed a few low-priced UHD TVs from off-brands, and they not only weren't great UHD TVs, they weren't great 1080p TVs, either.

  • tedb two months ago

    Thanks - very helpful.

    And I suspect receivers will also need H.265 capability to handle the new streams as well

  • Consumer-Reports-Jim two months ago

    They'll either decode it or pass it through for the display to do so.

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