The world is flat after all (for TVs anyway)

The GCN Lab gets a jump on Black Friday shopping with a deal on LCD technology

As a special gift, everyone in the GCN Lab was given the week off just in time for Thanksgiving. And since everyone is getting into the holiday spirit, I decided to join the masses and do a little shopping, since that is what Christmas is about, right? (Blogger’s note: I actually know what Christmas is about but am using that line for comic relief, so please hold back the angry holiday letters. Besides, it’s Thanksgiving this week.)

I’ve never actually gotten a nice flat-screen high-definition television at home, and figured now was the time. I’m tired of all my technologically hip friends calling me a Luddite. Every year I review LCD monitors, and TVs these days are basically just big LCDs, so I’m a little ahead of the game in terms of knowledge. At least I know what to look out for in a monitor. And I have been playing my new favorite game of all time (this week), Borderlands, on my PlayStation 3, and wanted to see it in 1080p so bad I could taste it. So what if you are adventuring in a wasteland while playing Borderlands? I want every dusty rock, dead tree and backwoods bandit to look amazing, OK?

I realize that Black Friday is approaching and that I could get a good sale if I got up early, but I’m more of a "go to bed at 4 a.m." type of person than a "get up at 4 a.m." type, so that’s probably not an option. So I went out to the store early in the week.

The first place I visited was Best Buy. Oddly enough, the store seemed to have almost all plasma monitors hanging in the display area. Plasma monitors might make your football games look good, but they are terrible for video games and subject to burn in. Almost all TVs these days have moved to LCD, which again are just like giant LCD monitors. A few have moved to LED, which is like a fancy LCD. But I didn’t have enough cash for LED, so I was going for LCD.

When a salesmen finally approached, all he wanted to do was steer me towards plasma. Even after I explained to him that I didn’t want plasma, he kept pushing it. He even tried to tell me not to worry about the burn in. Ahem, excuse me, but I know my stuff here, I told him, and yes, burn-in is a bad problem. Eventually I had to leave the store before I took out my video game aggression on that annoying little punk. My guess is that his manager must have told all the sales people to push the plasma TVs out the door to make room for new stuff, but I wasn’t going to be their sucker.

Right across the street was a Wal-Mart, so I went over there. Surprisingly, Wal-Mart had a much better balance of LCDs and plasma. It was about 30 percent plasma and 70 percent LCD. And the salesperson there didn’t push me at all, and simply asked if I need help getting anything from the back room.

I noticed that there was amazing sound coming from the pack of LCD TVs, and leaned in close to listen. Surprisingly, all of the TVs were muted except for one 46-inch Vizio. It had a new feature called SRS sound, which basically simulates amazing surround sound without the need for an external sound bar or even rear speakers. It was good enough to power the whole right half of the display and make it sound like a rock concert. And it was on sale for $650. I bought it on the spot and wrestled it home.

Now every one of those dusty rocks from Borderlands looks amazing, and every gunshot is downright earsplitting. I won’t go into how fantastic Modern Warfare 2 looks and sounds. The neighbors probably think the Russians are actually invading us. And I just got done playing Rock Band and Band Hero with friends. It was hard to make them all stop playing and go home.

So there you have it. LCD technology has come a long way, to where you can get an amazing 46-inch monitor with great sound for less than $700, an unheard-of feat just a few short years ago, and probably impossible even as recently as last year. And mine looks great, with no artifacts or stuck pixels that would have marred large displays just a few years ago.

With quality conquered, the only thing left was that final hurdle that companies don’t really want to cross: price. But LCDs have crossed that magical threshold where a technology not only goes mainstream, but completely gets accepted by almost everyone. It won’t be long before you can’t buy a TV that is anything but a flat screen, mark my words. Now the only problem is that the 24-inch gaming monitor on my computer, which used to seem huge, looks puny by comparison.

 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

Reader Comments

Fri, Dec 4, 2009 Sheila

I bougt a Vizio the other day for my husband after reading your article. You are right about the sound. It's so much better than our old TV. And of course the picutre is amazing. I still can't belive that I got such a nice TV for such a low price. I did not even think it was possible. Thanks for letting me know. You made us a very happy holiday.

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