September 17, 2006

Is It Time to Upgrade our TV Experience?

For as much time as we sit behind the boob tube, whether it be watching A's baseball, laughing along with Conan O'Brien and Jon Stewart, or enjoying the drama of House, CSI and 24, we sure have made do with substandard equipment for some time - and with technology advances over the last few years being what they are - I can't help but think it's time to review where we sit and what the options are.

Currently, in our home, we have two televisions - nothing fancy. One is a 25 or 27-inch (can't remember) in the living room, connected to a series 1 TiVo DVR and an ancient DVD player. The DVD player was purchased for about $79 or so more than five years ago, and the TV is similarly old, made worse because it has a scratch on the front of it that impairs the clarity of every single show we watch. It'd be incredibly annoying had I not grown used to it in the years after it was first damaged (when it fell over on its face in a U-Haul truck as I moved from Belmont to Palo Alto).

The TV itself is fine (aside from the scratch), but the DVD player is trying to kill us. Every single DVD we watch from NetFlix or other sources tends to skip and then stop, necessitating the disk be taken out, cleaned, and started over at its point of interruption. Meanwhile, our cable box doesn't always cooperate with the TiVo, sometimes false-start channel changing, which makes the TiVo record a channel it hadn't been asked to. This means we run significant risk of missing show premieres every time we expect the TiVo to do its job. And the TiVo, though very reliable, doesn't have all the whiz-bang features introduced in subsequent releases of the TiVo series 2 and new series 3.

The second television is a smaller 17-19 inch in the bedroom, which for some odd reason doesn't get anything on cable past say channel 13. We've never resolved it, and hadn't made it a high priority. Now, with a new television season upon us, we're seriously investigating a full "rip and replace" of both sets - provided we have the available funds and time to make sure all goes well.

In my head, both televisions absolutely need to be flat-panel, and ideally would be placed on the walls of both the living room and bedroom. Ideally, the living room set would meet or exceed 42 inches, while the bedroom set would exceed 27 inches. The thought is we could move our Series 1 TiVo to the bedroom TV, and get a second DVR and new DVD unit for the living room. But while we've prepared to stomach a jump in cost to the new sets, the fact that TiVo is now asking $799 for its Series 3 unit, in addition to unprecedented monthly service fees, is a big punch to the gut. We've also seen online reports that TiVo is having issues meeting customer demand.

Beyond this, we have additional options to further gouge our wallets, should we decide TV is a worthwhile investment. We don't have an HD set, but understand that's the way to go looking forward. We would also have to ensure our cable was transmitting HD content. From what I understand, HD content, especially for sports, is one of those things you never want to walk away from. Once you've made the move, you don't go back. And while we haven't looked into DirecTV or adding Comcast's OnDemand, we can see their occasionally being interesting. While staying at a friend's place a few weeks back, we had the chance to experiment with OnCommand, and found the ease of ordering movies for $4.99 quite simple. The ability to pause, and rewind the films also was very handy.

I'm ready to make the move, and will be scouring everything from Shopzilla to Best Buy and Amazon to make sure we've got the best deal out there. If we do join the rest of couch potato America in embracing our inner sloth, we will be sure to let you know the outcome.

Listening to ''I'm Getting Closer'', by M83 (Play Count: 5)

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