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Building a Home Entertainment Center – The TV





Any home theatre techies out there?
New TV Setup
As I mentioned a few times before, the new house has resulted in new furniture and electronics purchases. Our latest project being improving our home entertainment center in our family room. More specifically, my wife has the urge to throw our “old” TV of 5 years out the window. Our current system consists of a 32″ CRT TV (that weighs a ton), a standard DIVX/DVD player, a base model Yamaha amplifier and a couple Polk Audio floor standing speakers.

So this got me thinking, how can I get the best bang for my buck while being relatively “future proofed” for the next little while? These days, you can’t even buy CRT televisions anymore, everything is either plasma or LCD. Being a gadget geek myself, I have to admit I was a little excited about the thoughts of a shiny new flat screen high definition TV.

After doing a bunch of research on TV technologies and the optimal screen size for our family room, I decided on getting a 1080p LCD 42″ TV. Now cames the hard part, which brand/model TV will bring me great picture quality at the best price possible? With hundreds of models to choose from, I started my search with the well known high end LCD TV’s like the Sony Bravia, Sharp Aquos, and Samsung. Their prices were in the high range ($1300-$1600+tax) for the size TV that I was looking for and they didn’t seem to go on sale very often.

As a guy who doesn’t buy anything unless it’s on sale, my wife was growing impatient. To make a long story short, we decided on a middle grade LCD TV that had great reviews at a great sale price ($1050+tax). In fact, when I was at the electronics store, there was very little picture quality difference (if any) between the TV that I picked out and the higher end models. At least not to me.

Even though we got the TV for a great price, there are other associated costs with high definition TVs. What’s the point of owning a high def TV without a high def source (we currently have basic cable)? This means that in the very near future we’ll most likely getting HD cable from our provider, and/or a Blu-ray player (or PS3). But that’s for another post.

Do you have an elaborate home theater system? If so, I’d like to hear about it!

photo credit: craig1black





45 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. I’m an amateur home theatre techie (albeit a particularly cheap one), so if you have any questions, just ask.

    If you want Blu-Ray, go with the PS3- it doesn’t cost much more but can do a LOT more. You can also set it up as an excellent media centre to stream videos and musci from your PC to your HT setup.

    Check out Aliant TV as well- they’re not offering HDTV yet, but will be in the very near future. I’ve been much happier since I switched.

    And finally, you NEED a PVR/DVR. Having a nice setup without a PVR is like having a nice suit but no shoes- it’s just incomplete. I wrote an article a while back about my home brew PVR if you’re feeling ambitious, but there are some great off-the-shelf solutions as well. Trust me, once you move to a PVR, regular TV will seem painful.

  2. MGL, every person who owns a PVR says that you “need” one, i’m almost convinced! I was thinking about doing my own PVR setup with a computer, but it would cost too much for us as we would need to purchase a brand new machine to place near the TV. The subscription cost for a PVR with Rogers of $25/month (which is ridiculous) or $500 purchase price.

    Maybe an alternative would be to get a TV tuner for our main computer, along with a PS3, and stream the recorded shows via the PS3? I wonder how that would work out.

  3. 3. Al

    On the PVR thing, I’m with Bell and saw an add for a half price PVR/receiver, but realised it was for new customers only. I called up Bell and asked was the only way to get a deal with them to leave and come back? They asked if that meant I would switch to a competitor if I didn’t get a deal, so I said sure. They offered me the same PVR/receiver at the same deal. Could be worth a try with Rogers and alot simpler.

  4. 4. Finance_Addict

    I purchased a 40″ Samsung last summer but not the 1080 version the 720 resolution. I can’t tell the difference and there is a significant savings there. However the real issue is the HD Box you are basically forced to get because without it the picture quality is brutal. This is where the dreaded recurring new costs come in. Through Rogers, your looking at roughly $15 a month to rent this box. My strong suggestion here is to buy one, don’t rent. Get the PVR if you can stomach the $500 price tag. With small children who do not always go to bed “on time” you and your wife will be glad you did. Also pay the $3-5 a month HD signal charge as my feeling here is if you get a HD TV then you need to watch it in HD. As for the HDMI cables, you don’t need to go with the ~$100 Monster rip-off cables. They sell Philips HDMI cables at Costco for ~$35 and will give you the same picture quality.

  5. 5. The Rat

    I had a Harmon Kardon receiver hooked up with 5 small, but very powerful BOSE speakers that came with a potent sub woofer prior to settling down with my spouse. This system just rocked for me when having beers with friends on weekend and watching movies during the week with a surround system.

    I recently sold the setup and took the cash to invest! I know… I’ve transformed myself into a cheapskate. I went to WalMart and bought a $29 dvd player (yes they sell $29 dvd players) and hooked it up to an older, inexpensive TV.

    However, it all comes down to personal preference. Right now, if I was full of ‘piss n vinegar’ for a new setup (for lack of better words), I would consider incorporating a PS3 as you can get both access to games AND blue-ray tech into my setup. Personally, I have a PSP when I want to play games (I can also hook it up to my TV) and not have to rely too heavily on new tech because in 24-36 months from now, electronic prices will come down significantly and you should be able to get things that are hot now, for dirt cheap.

    Cheers

  6. 6. Chuck

    Our system is rather piecemeal
    - 2003 36″ Sony Wega CRT
    - PS3 – at the time it was the cheapest blu-ray player on the market
    - Pioneer 160 GB PVR / DVD player
    - Nintendo WII to encourage my wife to stop watching reality TV
    - 1992 Sony STR-711 Receiver
    - 1992 Bose AM5 Speakers

    We have a Vintage 1979 19″ RCA CRT in the master bedroom! Its one of the two things in the house older than my wife.

    My two year old broke the Wega a couple months ago. I had an interesting conversation with the Repair tech. Basically he was saying the CRTs are more durable than the lcd / plasma. His warnings about them were:
    - if you’re not watching it, unplug it they’re very suseptable to electrical fluctuations
    - put it in a spot where if wont receive direct sunlight.
    - don’t expect it to last as long as a CRT – prepare to replace it in 5 years.

    NB: The industry hypes 1080 as the greatest thing, but notice that the TVs they demo the PS3 and XBOX on are all 720p TVs, and the picture quality is amazing on them.

  7. FT, the PS3 could work well as a media centre streaming from your PC. You could record your shows there with a TV tuner, but I see two obstacles- first, you would need to get a TV input into your computer which, unless you’re using analog cable, would mean having to have a separate cable box near your computer; and second, you miss out on one of the great benefits of the PVR- pausing and rewinding live programs. I’ve hacked a PS3 to allow you to watch and control live TV streamed from a computer in another room, but it’s not pretty!

    If you just want to stream media, I probably wouldn’t bother with a TV tuner for your computer- just get whatever shows you want from the internet and then stream them to your TV (I’m not making any comment on how legal this is, though).

  8. 8. FearLES

    No offense to the people who have Bose speakers but to everyone else stay away! The company’s products are 99% marketing and 1% design.

    If you absolutely want 1080p then I would say get a 46″, 50″ or 50″ because 42″ is almost to small to really notice much of a difference.

    The old Pioneer 50″ Plasmas can now be had for under $2000 and are great!

    Personally I have a Hitachi 42″ 720p that I picked up a year ago for $999 by price matching a Visions deal at Future Shop. I have KEF home theater speakers and I am looking to buy a nice Denon, Okyno or sometime like that receiver.

  9. 9. FearLES

    MoneyGrubbingLawyer,

    you can’t get digital cable channels right? What about on-screen schedules and HDTV?

  10. We got serious about this several years ago – 60″ Sony projection LCD. Awesome but you need a large room to appreciate it.

    Consider Apple TV for downloading movies and streaming – excellent low profile solution.

  11. 11. Sean

    I’m just starting to build my home entertainment system, and have found the biggest scam out there is cables.

    The markups are ridiculously high in a retail store. The same thing can usually be found online (eBay, etc.) for far, far less. A 6′ HDMI no-name cable is just as good as the gold-plated Monster Cable one. Don’t fall for the up-sell.

  12. If you guys are looking for great prices on cables, check out monoprice and dell.

  13. 13. zztop

    I’m not much of a videophile but this is what I recall from when I was looking for a TV:

    Older LCDs: use to have 720p(progressive) and 1080i(interlaced). On these models its always best to run your TV in 720p. Better picture quality but smaller viewable image. Basically you’ll have a 42 inch tv but the picture will look like its 32 inch

    Newer LCDs: most come with 720p and 1080p now so you will want to watch TV in 1080p. The picture will be clear except the viewable image will be larger.

    The main difference between cheap LCDs and good LCDs are the blacks. LCDs have a problem generating true blacks. On cheap TVs they’ll look purple and during dark scenes in movies the cheap TVs will have a problem generating enough of a difference in the shades of black and you won’t be able to make anything out. Generally you want to look at contrast ratio which will help with this. Contrast ration is the difference between the brightest white to the truest black that the screen can produce. The higher the ratio the better.

    Next thing you want to look at is frame rate/refresh rate. This is how many times a second the picture is redrawn and is recorded in hertz(hz). Newer/better ones are up to 120hz. On cheaper ones if you watch sports in HD and a player starts to run and move quickly the picture will look blurry because of their lower refresh rates.

    As for the HD stuff. Depending on your location you may be able to catch quite a few HD channels with plain rabbit ears. You should read up on your area and the appropriate direction your antenna should be facing. In Toronto we face bufallo/ CN tower to catch most of the big networks in HD for FREE. As well the quality of over the air HD is far better then that of cable providers because the cable providers compress the HD signal causing loss in quality. That way you can just subscribe to regular cable to get any specialty channels like HGTV. Use a cheap PVR to record the shows from basic cable and then use the rabbit ears to catch HD. This can save quite a bit on cable(if you are able to catch enough of the HD stuff over the air to take advantage of your HD TV).

    I would recommend the PS3 as a bluray player and eventually a Media Center.

    P.S. order your HDMI cables online. You can get a 3 foot cable for 6 dollars.

  14. 14. AndyBuck

    There is a significant discussion about buying a 1080P TV if you are only looking at 42 inches. Check out avsforums for the whole debate.

    Ultimately though, it really depends on what you want to do with it. You’re paying a significant premium for the higher resolution and there are very few sources of 1080P content. Your broadcaster will likely only broadcast a compressed 720p signal – so if you are getting it to watch TV, there is no reason to pay a premium so that your panel can scale up a signal. There is only one source of 1080p content right now on the market – the BlueRay disc. If you feel that you will be using the TV for a lot of movie viewing, then this would push you towards 1080p. HOWEVER – as you will see in at avsforums depending on how far you sit from your 42″ TV, you might not even be able to notice the difference between the two signals.

    In all honesty, I own a 42″ 720p LCD that I got from Dell on a ‘Days of Deals’ sale. It was $700 with free shipping. We’ve had it for over a year now, watch movies, play XBox 360, stream video from the PC, and it holds up very well.

  15. 15. easypz

    Re: cables. Last February, CBC’s “Marketplace” featured a segment comparing various-priced HD cable packages. From over two hundred dollars – “Monster” and its ilk- down to $12. They had the head techie at CBC run them through a scope to record the signal differences. There were none, zero, bupkiss.

    They interviewed the marketing VP at “Monster,” who did the expected spiel about quality…until confronted with the data from the tests. He then admitted that some people prefer the status of owning the brand. I.e., they’re selling an image, not reality.

    You can google the “Marketplace” episode comments – which seem to be made up of Future Shop/Best Buy apologists vs. techies and consumers. One defense of the expensive cables is protection from signal interference, which doesn’t actually seem to be a problem in the experience of people who’ve gone with very reasonably-priced yet equal quality cables, which can be purchased online. They’re not marked up nearly as high as Monster, etc.

  16. I bought my Plasma TV when the HDs were at 5K so I don’t have HD yet (but being enjoying a 42″ for a few years ;-)).

    I bought a Samsung with a Panasonic Home Theater. While I will never be able to make my windows vibrate with my small system, having kids at home won’t permit to use a full force subwoofer anyway (unless you don’t want your kids to sleep at night ;-) ).

    However, I bought a solid master bar so I can protect my investment ;-)

    So considering your situation, I would not jump on the latest / loudest ampli model ;-)

    Good luck!

  17. @FearLES – I swtiched to digital about a month ago with no problem (my PVR controls the STB with infrared commands), and the software I use (SageTV) includes an on-screen guide and full EPG that is actually a little bit better than the one offered by my service provider.

    I’m told that you can use HDTV, but it might require a better caputre card or processor than I’ve got- I’m still using SD, so it hasn’t been an issue yet.

  18. 18. James

    Ive called Rogers and am getting a PVR for free. I just threatened to leave.

  19. James, were you under contract when you threatened to leave?

  20. 20. mjw2005

    Great topic….As a professional Audio Visual tech who has been in the professional side of the business for over 15 years, I was eager to read your post. I have a few comments.

    There are some great posts here and its good to hear that consumers are becoming more educated and not just taking the word of the useless Futureshop Salesmen as truth.

    As a pro tech doing pro large scale installs the only reason we go with mid-range cables and not the cheapest cables is for the durability and noise resistance from RF…..but the distance these cables must run can be over 100′. But in a typical home install where most cables maybe max out at 25′ you can go with a cheap mid quality no-name brands and be fine….this is extra true if you are using digital cables (HDMI, Coax, Toslink)….Never, Never buy any cables from the big box Electronics retailers. They make huge profits on there “monster cables” and other brands…

    If any readers here live in the Vancouver area, a great place to get AV and computer cables is Lin Haw (www.linhaw.com), you won’t find prices on there website becuase they are a wholesaler and technically only sell to businesses, but anyone can call themselves a business open an account with them visit there store at the foot of Main St. in Vancouver and buy super cheap high quality cables for your AV system…Its where the pros go….

    As for a PS3 as a media streamer or a separate PVR, my belief on this is unless you play video games I think you could do better by just buying a pre-built Media Centre PC. Personally I bought a refurbished HP media centre PC from Bestbuy for $600.00….yes its more expensive than a PS3 but for my $600.00 I got a fast PC that can do anything, it includes a TV tuner, functions as a PVR (with a 750Gb hard drive) with Windows Media centre and can stream media of any format from anywhere to anywhere (with the PS3 your media has to formatted to certain formats…)….

    On TV’s…great comments here, everyone is doing there research, yes its true on a 50″ or smaller TV its hard to see the difference between a 720p and a 1080p signal….and generally while I find the image quality of the Sony TVs to be fantastic they are super expensive…The Korean brands of LG and Samsung offer great value for the money, in our business we use Sharp (for there durablity and signal input options)….Also when you get your new TV home the first thing you should do is turn the brightness down and get some test signals into it (found on some DVDs (try the Star Wars ones))…Manufacturers and retailers crank their brightness to make there TVs look brighter because they know consumers usually buy the brighter looking TV…but brighter is not always better…

    Finally Speakers….Speakers more than anything else in a system affects the sound quality of your audio…as a rule I spend as little as I can on decent Japanese electronics (like Yamaha, Pioneer) for the recievers and DVD players and use the savings to spend as much as I can on a good set of speakers…Personally I like to go to the boutique independent retailers to get decent speakers as the speakers at the big box stores are generally garbage. You don’t have to spend a fortune but you definetly can if you want to. I like Paradigm, first because they are a Canadian made speaker, second because all they do is make speakers, and third there prices are low for the very high quality that they put out….One final point, speakers are a very personal decision one set may sound great to one person but crappy to another so you have to listen to them….Bose are generally overpiced, over marketed speakers but if you like there sound then go ahead and buy them…listen to your hears not the Bose salesmans pitch…

    Cheers….

  21. 21. Brent

    If it makes you feel any better, I remember when 42′ TV’s were priced at a point where only the rich and famous could afford them and the picture quality wasn’t anywhere near what you get today.

  22. 22. Astin

    It’s easier to start with what to avoid:

    Sony – Overpriced equipment. It’s decent stuff, but the price point is too high. You can get comparable or BETTER quality (and without the proprietary crap like memory stick slots, specific speaker connections, etc) for significantly less. The exception is the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player.

    Bose – It stands for “Buy Other Sound Equipment”. Or the motto of “No highs, no lows, must be Bose.” It’s crap. Cheaply made stuff that uses tricks to “sound” rich, but in reality misses a whole bunch of nuance and provide very low-quality for a HUGE markup. Do a search for independent comparisons.

    Monster/other high-end cables – A cable is copper wire in a sheath. Nothing more. There are blind tests out there where a coat hanger outperforms a Monster cable to the casual listener. Save a BUNDLE by buying your cables at monoprice.com or your local electronic surplus store even. Stereo cable, HDMI, Co-ax, whatever, don’t bother with the big brand names, you’ll easily pay 10-20x what you need to.

    Now for options…

    TV – you’ve already bought, so it doesn’t matter.

    Me? I set mine up about 3 years ago. HD CRT TV (weighs a ton, but the basic cable channels are still crisp!), Yamaha 7.1 receiver, upsampling DVD player, laserdisc player, Wii (will likely be adding a PS3 later this year for Blu-Ray), Rogers HD, and Archos DVR. All connected with stock or cheap cable… no problems.

    Oh, and I almost forgot! Get a REAL universal remote. I can’t recommend the Harmony line enough. I have the 880 and it’s great. Fully programmable, updated drivers online, easy setup… ONE remote for all your needs.

    Amp – Yamaha makes some pretty solid amps at decent prices (and they go on sale big time when a new model comes out). Unless you’re an audiophile, these will probably meet your needs.

    Speakers – Your Polks are probably fine. Speakers are all over the place, and beyond the scope of a comment to compare.

    DVR/PVR – Even buying the Rogers box still carries a monthy access fee. You’re better off with a 3rd party option. I use my Archos portable player and its DVR station. That said, I seldom watch TV and have only NEEDED a PVR about twice for specials. Especially as more and more stations are putting their shows online for free.

    HD – Sadly necessary for an HD TV. Not being a big TV-watcher, I don’t really reap the benefits outside of sporting events, but I pay for it regardless (only a nominal fee since the basic digital cable is already included in my condo fees). I say sadly because Rogers is obviously compressing some feeds, and there are constant problems I experience with certain channels (ie.- FOX kicks out). But if your family watches TV a lot, it’s impressive.

    Blu-Ray – PS3. Best cost-to-performance ratio out there.

  23. 23. 07autoaero

    Hmmmm….

    I wonder if anyone has done a caclulation on how much our electronic indulgences cost us over a 30 -40 yr period.

    I have spend over $5000 (computers/cell phones not included) in 20yrs and that was excercising great restraint. That would be worth at least triple if I invested it.

    As I speak $2500 of those must have purchases sit in the basement not hooked up.

    A few less expensive purchases during the last year have held me off of spending $3000 -$6000. Boy those flat screens are tempting.

    I hooked a TIVO up to my 8yr old 32 inch TV and it feels new again def a must have. Great for families w/kids …. actually picks shows for you based on your preferences (has saved us $80 on DVD rentals in 9 mnths)

    I have xm radio $99 plus fees and stream it to a wireless speaker with rechargable batteries from CDN Tire $150.. gets plenty of use by both my wife and I… its great to be able to have your tunes follow you as you move from room to room without disturbing the neighbors or your family.

    I never thought I would be satisfied with less than hi fi or High def but my current setup has super happy for a good while longer…

  24. 24. tescosamoa

    HDTV can be free ( as in no monthly fee’s )as well. Just get an ATSC setup and either a computer pvr with a capture card or an atsc tuner with a harddrive. Depending on where your located you can get up to 40 channels.

  25. Only the main cities of Canada have the free HDTV over the air (OTA). Here are some of the reception results.

  26. 26. mjw2005

    Tivos are great….simple to use….do one thing and do it well….In regards to a Universal remote….Unless you have some $30,000 multiroom setup you I don’t think you need one of those fancy $100+ remotes…..

    Try the Sony RM-VL600 does almost everything you would need a remote to do for $20.00 on ebay…

  27. 27. FearLES

    zztop,

    most of what you said is ok but..
    720p will not give you a smaller picture than 1080p, it is still 16:9 ratio and will fill the screen, no different. TV shows are ALL ONLY 720p (or the almost equivalent 1080i).

    The difference between 720p and 1080p are only noticeable if you have a big >46 or 50″ TV and are sitting very close.

  28. 28. electronicamateur

    A Sony or Samsung 42″ was selling for a bargain $899 about a month ago. It is the 1080 version with HDTV just not the latest model. I’m not sure if the promotion is still on though.

    When you buy a HDTV TV, it comes with a promotional 9-month rental free HD cable box from Rogers. It is a good way to get a feel of it before commiting to buy one.

    I bought a Samsung 52″ 650 for $3000 & it worths every penny. The color is sharp, contrast is excellent. I really have no complain. The downside is once you get used to it, it’s almost impossible to settle for a low-end TV ever again.

  29. 29. PlayingWith

    Great discussion. I’ve been trying to get my head around the PC Media Center, but unfortunately I keep coming up confused. Can anyone explain in real terms why I would want such a beast? My current set up includes a PVR, with Regular tv and cheap home theater set up.

  30. 30. Qubikal

    Unfortunately, I like to blow money on gadgets too.

    @29 – I have thought long and hard about building a HTPC just for the purpose of playing HD downloaded content – MKVs, which is the common divx like format for HD… (with this I won’t need a PS3) – also have the xbox360 that I am using to stream HD WMVs to the tv.. so a few cheap long run alternatives.

    Another cheap alternative for a HTPC is the Popcorn Hour network media tank – see their new A-110 model – goes for under $300 to play all your mkvs.

    The PVR itself is for cable tv , for me, it’s mainly HD sports, and my wife’s food network shows

    Speakers and Sound –
    Also, from reading other forums, i would tend to avoid the home theatre in a box setups, mainly because the speakers that come with it are only compatible with that receiver, therefore less upgrade-friendly if you want to change components. Also the speakers are usually made by the same co. as the receivers (say if it was a Japanese brand, which are usually not as solid as a North American speaker manufacture).
    with that said – I have a Harmon Kardon receiver and Polk tower fronts with bookshelf backs (larger footprint that i would like)

    Although this is just an opinion, and i’m not that well-trained of an audiophile.

  31. @PlayingWith – The biggest benefit to a HTPC is the ability to play downloaded content and consolidate all your media (movies, music, pictures) in one place for use with your home theatre system. If you don’t have much digital material, it’s of little use to you.

    @mjw2005- You’ve provided some excellent info- thanks. The only point I’d make is on your recommendation against an advanced universal remote (comment #26). The usefulness of these remotes has nothing to do with the cost of your system, but the number of components you have. If you’ve got multiple inputs, game consoles, etc., an activity-based remote makes things run much smoother. I’ve got a Harmony 670 for my setup and it has been a fantastic addition. You might know how to operate your setup, but will your mother-in-law when she comes to visit? :)

  32. 32. AndyBuck

    @Qubikal

    I use TVersity on my PC to serve my Xbox 360. It will transcode any format into a readable format for the console. Recent 360 updates have also added native DivX decoding, so most content does not need to be transcoded anyways.

    I have to admit, that my ‘entertainment’ budget was basically axed after getting this up and running. No need to rent or buy another movie. My wife loves it.

  33. 33. Qubikal

    @AndyBuck

    I’ll need some instructions on running TVersity. I probably didn’t set it up right, but TVersity played less Xvid stuff than my Xbox (even though i have the right codecs and can run the file on the PC)…

    The HD content doesn’t stream through the wired connection very smoothly either and i’ve got a QuadCore 6600 CPU that it’s connected to.

    In regards to the Harmony Remote – it’s amazing.. a little piece of equipment has made TV and DVD watching and playing Wii and the switching back and forth so much more friendly.. Happy Wife, Happy Life – no more calls to my office with “how do i watch dvds?”…
    to get one – wait for the Dell Day of Deals.. you can get the Harmony 880 for $100 (it was on sale last week).

  34. 34. Cannon_fodder

    Unless you are going to invest in the ability to watch most of your programs in HD, I would say put off the purchase of the TV.

    We have 3 HDTV’s – a 2002 Samsung 47″ RPTV and 2 Acer 37″ LCD TV’s. The picture on the Acer’s is far crisper and such a pleasure to watch – with HD content that is.

    We also have 2 PVR’s because now Cogeco rents them for only $15/month. Factoring in technology changes and inherent unending warranty, it makes sense to rent a PVR rather than purchase one.

    I echo the sentiments that if you felt the need to dip into BluRay, the PS3 is THE choice to make. However, I think you will find that DVD’s are quite sufficient for your enjoyment – think of the PS3 as another “reward” upgrade next year.

    But, you seriously have to get at least a 5.1 speaker set. For regular TV (except some sports) it isn’t that beneficial, but for movies (either on TV or through a player) it will really add a lot of enjoyment. You may have to budget $800 for a full speaker setup, but you do have some of the components already in place. For each one of our HDTV’s we have at least a 5.1 setup (in our family room, we have a multi-room receiver which allows us to put a couple of speakers outside around our patio and listen to a separate input – very nice for sitting out in the nice weather).

    Some of the best HD channels in my area are PBS and National Geographic. The visual difference between HD and standard definition can be quite dramatic.

    Ultimately, you also need to have at least one recliner / reclining sofa. Sit back, feet up, cold drink and snacks nearby and a remote… bliss.

  35. 35. Greenhouse

    I haven’t read through the other comments, but my one BIG suggestion is to return all the expensive cables you bought and buy from Monoprice.com (Redflagdeals told me about this one). The cables seem too cheap to be any good, but I built my own home theatre 6 months ago and I couldn’t believe the quality when they arrived. They actually seem BETTER than Monster and $100s cheaper! You can also pick up a nice fully featured power bar from Costco – Belkin I think, which is about half the price of Monster and equivalent in specs. In the end I saved around $300. What a scam Best Buy and Futureshop are running.

  36. 36. TJ

    If you call Rogers and let them know Bell is offering you a free HD-PVR if you switch, they will give you a free HD-PVR for 2 years. :-)

  37. I love my pvr – I’d rather have a crappy old tv with a pvr than a great tv with no pvr.

    I used to have a pretty good surround sound system – which is another thing that is more worthwhile than an expensive tv – but with the kids it went into storage.

    My attitude for tvs is just look for improvement – if you can spend a reasonable amount of money and get a significant improvement over what you have now then you will be happy with it.

  38. 38. Cannon_fodder

    FP,

    Preferring a crappy old TV with a PVR to a great TV with no PVR is PerVeRse (my apologies if you were PreVaRicating simply to get a reaction.

    Either way, the answer is a capital idea (if you have the right character): NEtWork TV.

    P.S. How are the kids adjusting to being in storage with the surround sound system?

    ;-)

  39. 39. Finance_Addict

    TJ,

    I tried that with Rogers…they called my bluff and put me through to the line to cancel service with them. Seems like it depends who you talk to?

  40. Cannon_Fodder: Lol! I think I’m going to put that comment in my next roundup – brilliant stuff!

    A new tv is indeed a great idea – you talked me into it!

    As far as storage goes – you’ve given me an idea – put the kids in storage and get the surround system back where it belongs…let me go run that by the wife. :)

  41. 41. Mat

    Hey Folks,

    If you’re an existing Rogers customer, call up Rogers and tell them that a competitor (i.e. Bell) is offering you a free PVR if you switch to them and ask them to match. The frontline people can’t do anything for you – they will transfer you to Customer Relations (aka the cancellation people). These are the people who have the power to offer you discounts to stay with Rogers. Some reps will match and I have heard of a lot of people who got an HDPVR free for 2 years. (Personally, I have a standard def PVR free for 2 years and will eventually be calling to upgrade that to an HD one when I get my new TV). Some reps will say they can’t match. Just say ok, I will go talk to the competitor and call you back when I’m ready to cancel. Wait a week or so, and then call Rogers back and repeat until you get a rep who will match.

    Personally, back in May, I called in with competitor’s prices on every service and got a 20% discount on my internet, a free standard def PVR for 2 years, a $10/month discount on my home phone, and they permanently waived my system access fee. Overall, I save like $30 bucks a month, all for calling in with a little research on how the competition’s prices were blowing Rogers out of the water.

  42. Mat and others, I did just that today. I called retentions stating a competitor plan, and they offered a HD PVR for 2 years FREE along with an additional 5% off my internet bill (already get 15% off). Thanks for the tips guys, looks like getting HD for my new TV will be cheaper than I anticipated.

  43. I’d much rather buy a 1080p (or even 720p!) projector than a TV.. have you looked at them? Very reasonable in price and a much better (and bigger) picture.

  44. 44. Luis

    I have a Phillips Refurbished 1080i 42 In. LCD TV Screen with an XBOX 360 connected by HDMI cables. The television is in perfect condition like NEW and i only got it for $500 + Tax. I think you over spent. You cant be ignorant like most people and think that spending more will always give you more. I also have some computer speakers with a really nice sub, sounds great with a converter. I got my entertainment stand at a family dollar for only $30 and I honestly can’t complain. Looks very nice compared to a lot of expensive furniture for entertainment centers. Look around for cheaper stuff, sometimes there are really neat things on low prices!

  45. 45. D M

    wow, so I didn’t notice the age of this thread until I was about to post, strange to look back at the prices of tv’s and how far they have come.

    I am not going to bore anyone with the details of my recent tv purchase (Panasonic Viera Plasma) but thought that the frugal readers of this blog may actually appreciate, what many of my friends snicker about…. that is until they come over and see for themselves.

    For any of you out there that are satisfied with the basic cable, I would really recommend you take a close look at an HD, over the air antenna…. yes, an antenna. With the recent switch to digital transmissions in Canada, many people think antenna’s won’t work any longer. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, they are now a better option than any before. The picture quality is astounding, actually better than any cable or sattelite since it hasn’t been compressed. And because of the clarity, I am able to pull in channels from further away.

    I live in Ottawa, and I am pulling in about 15 english stations and another 10 or so french, including CBS, FOX, and american PBS stations. People in Toronto, will pull in way more channels than that. I think if I wanted to join the antenna subculture that exists I could probably pull in ABC and CBS as well. The best part, is that you can invest about $100 in total, (total NOT every month) and then it is free. I can get my fix of the history and discovery channels online since they have great streaming on their websites.

    They aren’t as ugly as they used to be, and there are possibilities for mounting them in the attic if you are concerned about the appearance.

    I know it sounds a little crazy, but if laying out that monthly payment for cable or sattelite kills you a little, take a look, it really, really works.

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