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Old 01-26-2006, 04:34 AM   #1
Chi Kong Lui
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New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

After a little winter break, my Life+Game column returns:

"Like most Americans, I wouldnít let a little minor detail like money stop me from getting what I wanted and I did what kids from the ghetto do: hustle. My goal was to purchase the best bang-for-the-buck widescreen HDTV and not put my family out on the curb in the process of doing so."

Click here to read more
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Old 01-26-2006, 11:36 AM   #2
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Good article, Chi.

Glad you came around on that "ruling out" certain technologies.

From what I can tell (and read) the upper end of each technology is better than the average of the other technologies. Are LCDs or DLPs better than Plasmas? Not on an average, but the best LCDs and best DLPs are better than average Plasmas. Glad you found one that is working out for you.
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Old 02-02-2006, 01:46 PM   #3
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

I know what you mean, I feel guilty about alot of my bigger purchases too. They often make me feel stupid, like Iím some kind animal that canít resists his urges and that I should be beyond them. However when it comes to something like a new tv, I remind myself too that I love movies and games and is easily where I spend the bulk of my free time. Theyíre a genuine passion of mine, so why not have something that heightens this experience. So itís not like Iím just wanting something for the sake of wanting, I always put these gadgets to major use. Iíll begin to hate myself though when the toys start to pile up, going unused.
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Old 02-26-2006, 08:09 PM   #4
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Some year in the future I'll get an HDTV, but I'm being very, very patient about it. Isn't it likely that in 4 or 5 years, good sets will be available for as little as $300?

First, there's SED. The first models will be sold for a premium, but since Toshiba and Canon say they can mass produce it for a lower price than LCD, I'm looking forward to the price war. Plus, it's supposed to look better than anything else. Even before SED, I was hearing wonderful posibilities about LEP/OLED. That hasn't yet materialized, but knowing that all these quality rising, cost-lowering technologies are on the way give me a very wait and see attitude.

Second, there's not much HD content yet. Yes, there's digital cable and Xbox 360, but DVDs are still standard def, as will be downloadable video when it arrives (unless people want to download 9 GB for a 3 hour hi def movie). I'm still a thrifty college student, and I'm a lot more interested in the huge breadth of standard def content on Netflix than the narrow range of hi def content on the market. That'll eventually change, but by the time there's as much hi def content as standard def, sets should cost a lot less than they do now, right?

Third, there's store brands. Chi, I'm happy to hear that you strongly considered a store brand while shopping. Two years ago I got bit with the store brand bug, whether it's food or electronics, and this week I bought a very decent 20 inch standard def "Insignia" TV from Best Buy for $100. An article in Fortune in 2003 talked about how store brands are driving down retail prices everywhere by not spending money to advertise and using the same suppliers as name brands. Knowing this has made me a much stingier and more demanding shopper.

Fourth, consider how far DVD player prices have fallen. The first players in 1997 cost $700 to $1000. By 2002, there were already decent players going for $50.

I guess how much you want to pay depends on how much you want something. Chi, do you have a lot of guests over? I don't, but at my school, the big screen TV in the lounge gets a lot of use by students with their game consoles. I think it's standard def, but in a few years it would be a prime candidate for replacement with a hi-def. Not that I'm pushing my school to replace it; tuition's too high already!

One other thing: I read that the movie studios want to charge a large premium for movies on HD-DVD and BluRay, but I doubt that will last. I mean, other than the manufacturing cost of the disc, I can't imagine how it would cost the studios extra to make a hi def movie. I'm guessing that in a few years some 2nd tier publisher, maybe an anime house, will charge nearly zero premium for hi def, forcing other publishers across the board to lower theirs. What do you think?

Exciting time to be a consumer, but being a developer, publisher, or manufacturer must be hell!
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Old 02-27-2006, 12:03 PM   #5
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
Second, there's not much HD content yet. Yes, there's digital cable and Xbox 360, but DVDs are still standard def, as will be downloadable video when it arrives (unless people want to download 9 GB for a 3 hour hi def movie). I'm still a thrifty college student, and I'm a lot more interested in the huge breadth of standard def content on Netflix than the narrow range of hi def content on the market. That'll eventually change, but by the time there's as much hi def content as standard def, sets should cost a lot less than they do now, right?
If a majority of your television viewing consists of DVDs, I agree that SD is the best method of watching them. That said, there is a fair amount of HD content around on digital cable: HBO, Showtime, Discover, all the major networks; the two HD exclusives HDnet, InHD (which are quite good). Coupled with relatively inexpensive DVR, the HD content becomes recordable and much more accessible. The only thing missing is PPV in HD. So depending on your viewing habits, now is pretty good time to jump on the HD bandwagon.

What I don't understand is how cable boxes and fiber optic cables and antennaes are able to deliver HD content in multiple streams with digital phone and broadband Internet all in the same wire and not have delivery issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
Fourth, consider how far DVD player prices have fallen. The first players in 1997 cost $700 to $1000. By 2002, there were already decent players going for $50.
Unfortunately, flat-panel prices have not made large drops in prices. Drops thus far have been fairly incremental. Keep in mind that 30" widescreen CRTs still go for around $1000. Store brand flat panels are $2000 and under. Can you really expect prices to be much lower?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
One other thing: I read that the movie studios want to charge a large premium for movies on HD-DVD and BluRay, but I doubt that will last. I mean, other than the manufacturing cost of the disc, I can't imagine how it would cost the studios extra to make a hi def movie. I'm guessing that in a few years some 2nd tier publisher, maybe an anime house, will charge nearly zero premium for hi def, forcing other publishers across the board to lower theirs. What do you think?
With the price, of DVDs as rockbottom as they are, I have a hard-time believing that they'll convince consumers to pay a much higher premimum for long. I think the HD discs will be relatively affordable. Its the players that I'm more concerned about.

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Old 02-27-2006, 12:52 PM   #6
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by GC_Chi
Keep in mind that 30" widescreen CRTs still go for around $1000.
Flat-out LIE.

And I'm tired, frankly, of arguing this point with you, Chi. But I must say, I /am/ appalled. And no, I won't provide links, b/c I did that once upon a time, 'til I was blue in the face.

Apparently, my $500 (now less than $400) 30" HDTV Philips was simply not good enough for you. (It was for me, and may be for others, at least to get through this time.)

But really. I'm so very disappointed.
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Old 02-27-2006, 12:56 PM   #7
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypatia93
Apparently, my $500 (now less than $400) 30" HDTV Philips was simply not good enough for you. (It was for me, and may be for others, at least to get through this time.)

But really. I'm so very disappointed.
Actually, you're right in that I made a mistake. I meant 34" inch widescreen CRTs, not 30". That said, I was accounting for the majority of the brands which include Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Samsung. Phillips may indeed be cheaper, but I was just being general.

(Besides, weren't the prices your cited for refurbished?)

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Old 02-28-2006, 10:09 PM   #8
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by GC_Chi
...there is a fair amount of HD content around on digital cable: HBO, Showtime, Discover, all the major networks; the two HD exclusives HDnet, InHD (which are quite good). Coupled with relatively inexpensive DVR, the HD content becomes recordable and much more accessible. The only thing missing is PPV in HD.
But I like the fact that when I subscribe to Netflix, the publishers of the stuff I watch get paid in proportion to how long I keep out each disc. Is payment so egalitarian and direct with cable? And I expect it'll be a while until HDTV is PPV, since a 2 hour movie is a few gigs even with the best compression. I'll watch broadcasts for live stuff. Otherwise, I want my entertainment to be on my schedule. I'm reluctant to pay for anything I don't watch, and I hate ads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GC_Chi
Keep in mind that 30" widescreen CRTs still go for around $1000. Store brand flat panels are $2000 and under. Can you really expect prices to be much lower?
I'm looking forward to SED and OLED kicking off a price war. I'm happy to stay in SD land until HD prices get as low as I like, especially since Netflix's selection keeps growing and because the iTunes video store could get big too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GC_Chi
With the price, of DVDs as rockbottom as they are, I have a hard-time believing that they'll convince consumers to pay a much higher premimum for long.
I just read that the studios only want to charge a 15-20% premium at most. Pretty reasonable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GC_Chi
I think the HD discs will be relatively affordable. Its the players that I'm more concerned about.
Store branded Chinese contract manufacturing to the rescue... I hope! Actually, I don't expect players to stay expensive for long. There's only three components that would make them more expensive than a regular DVD player: the lens, the processor and the DVI connector. Those shouldn't be too expensive, should they? I expect a high cost to come more from manufacturers having to build new factories than the cost of manufacturing the parts themselves. Think of it this way: A blu ray player is basically an Xbox 360 core, minus the graphics chip, minus 1/3 or even 2/3 of the CPU, minus most of the RAM, minus the gamepad, minus all analog video outputs, plus a higher tech lens. Assuming the manufacturer must profit from each unit sold, that's maybe $400 or $500 today?

Last edited by Dean_Siren; 02-28-2006 at 10:32 PM.
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Old 03-01-2006, 09:17 AM   #9
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

And apparently an Xbox 360 will all those missing parts costs around $1200. I read an article awhile ago at Cnet that was talking about the first commercially available blu ray player here in the states. I donít know how accurate all this information still is, but at the time it was said that Samsung was going to have the first one out in May for $1200. I donít remember who the second manufacturer was but theirs was going for $1800. I guess less really is more.
Sony has been selling their first batch of blu ray discs to retailers at $24 for the newer movies and $18 for selections from their back catalogue. There is no MSRP so itís guessed theyíll retail for around $30-40.
The shitty part about HD-DVD and blu ray other than the cost of the units is what they require of your TV: either a HDMI or DVI input. Watching the movies in high def wonít be possible with component cables as a part of some idiotic pirate protection scheme. This proposes some interesting questions for the Playstaion 3 and 360 add on player too.
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Old 03-01-2006, 09:34 AM   #10
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gouty
The shitty part about HD-DVD and blu ray other than the cost of the units is what they require of your TV: either a HDMI or DVI input. Watching the movies in high def wonít be possible with component cables as a part of some idiotic pirate protection scheme. This proposes some interesting questions for the Playstaion 3 and 360 add on player too.
Wow. So taking that smaller percentage of consumers who have HDTV, you can reduce that smaller percentage by probably more than half who don't have DVI or HDMI. This just reaffirms my belief that this technology to too far ahead of its time and recent decision to pickup a good upscaling DVD player. To make the DVD player last longer and more useful, I want a DVD player that will also play Xvid and Divx files.

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Old 03-01-2006, 09:48 AM   #11
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
But I like the fact that when I subscribe to Netflix, the publishers of the stuff I watch get paid in proportion to how long I keep out each disc. Is payment so egalitarian and direct with cable?
If renting is so egalitarian, why did Japan try to ban used game sales, which in principle is the same thing? Its basically devaluing the product by allowing consumers to not pay full price for the experience.

Networks pay studios millions for the broadcasting rights to a movie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
And I expect it'll be a while until HDTV is PPV, since a 2 hour movie is a few gigs even with the best compression. I'll watch broadcasts for live stuff. Otherwise, I want my entertainment to be on my schedule. I'm reluctant to pay for anything I don't watch, and I hate ads.
I'm able to record, pause and rewind two steams of HD broadcasts via the cable box. Whatever the underlying technology is, its not the same as steaming data through the Internet. You can't make that comparison. HD PPV is coming soon no doubt.

DVR allows you to record all the stuff you want and watch them when you want to. So I guess you prefer waiting several days before you can watch what you ordered on Netflix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean_Siren
I'm looking forward to SED and OLED kicking off a price war. I'm happy to stay in SD land until HD prices get as low as I like, especially since Netflix's selection keeps growing and because the iTunes video store could get big too.
Viewing HD programming versus watching DVDs in SD are two different experiences. I can't say one is better than the other. DVDs definetly look better on old CRTs (althought Consumer Reports say Pansonic Plasmas make DVDs look great which I'm not so sure from my showroom floor viewings). All I'm saying is that there's plenty to enjoy in HD land. Its not a bad time to jump on the bandwagon. I don't regret doing so at this time. Trying to improve the DVD viewing experience is the only huge negative right now.

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Old 03-01-2006, 10:00 AM   #12
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

I understand why youíd want to hold off on the blu ray stuff, but as an owner of an upscaling DVD player I think you should be warned. They do help a little yes, but not as much as you might think. This is especially true if you donít have the largest TV out there. On my 50' the change is subtle, but itís appreciated. On my old 32, the TV simply wasnít large enough to get anything out of the signal, the difference wasnít easily detected. Secondly depending on the player and the television, up converting an already wide-screen image can REALLY squash the image. Itís a widescreen of a widescreen, if that makes sense. They donít all do it, though some do. Just be sure to research that before you pick one out and lastly donít expect a night and day experience. No matter the signal theyíre being delivered on, DVDís still only have so many pixels to go around and nothing will fix this.
The tech requirements for the HD players is idiotic. If youíre wanting the world to adopt your new technology, Iíd think making it as technologically inclusive as possible would be paramount.
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Old 03-01-2006, 10:04 AM   #13
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Oh man I almost forgot, the 360 upscales DVDís. Something to consider.
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Old 03-01-2006, 10:10 AM   #14
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gouty
Oh man I almost forgot, the 360 upscales DVDís. Something to consider.
Nope it doesn't. It plays DVDs in 480p.

Which upscaling DVD player do you own? I'm not expecting night and day results, but from the range of reader reviews out there (some claim near HD quality depending on the quality of the encode), there is improvement. My understanding is that the X360 is a lousy DVD player as well.

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Old 03-01-2006, 10:15 AM   #15
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Re: New Feature Posted: Life+Game: Materialism

I haven't found it to be too bad, certainly compared to the PS2s, but the colours tend to be a bit washed, and dithering is sometimes apparent.

I've found that Pioneer tends to make the best upscaling DVD players. They've got one for about $1300 that's outstanding. Of course, with HD-DVD/BD/Holographic/ARGH! coming, it might not be worth it.
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