Set Piece | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Set Piece 

TV-buying tips for the home-entertainment connoisseur.

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As a video gamer, movie buff, football fan and … well, a man, it has been my goal for some time to convince my wife of the importance of a large-screen/wide-screen television.

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Several years back, the 27-inch television that had been in our family room was one of the largest screens you could buy without getting a second mortgage and finding enough space to house a projection television the size of a Ford Focus. Today, big-screen televisions are affordable and come in a wide range of options. I had only two requirements: I wanted a TV that not only made my Sin City DVD look kick-ass but also allowed me to see every drop of blood fly when I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

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I am not an expert on televisions. Unfortunately, after my last weeklong quest to find a new set, I learned that most of the people who tried to sell me one at big-box electronic stores weren’t, either. When a salesman points you to the largest screen in the joint and casually says, “You know, we work on commission here,” you know you’re in trouble.

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But I managed to learn a thing or two through online research and trial-and-error. So here are a few tips for the home-entertainment connoisseur to make your television-shopping experience at least 20 percent less hectic than mine.

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LCD vs. Plasma

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Much like a salesman at an electronics store, online research wasn’t all that helpful, because there are an ample number of proponents for each format. What most agree on, however, is plasma TVs offer brighter pictures, while LCDs offer better resolution.

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The plus for plasma is a generally cheaper price tag. But research suggests that LCDs last longer than plasma sets'sometimes as much as twice as long. Also, LCD screens can be fixed when they go bad; plasma screens can’t. Plasma sets also experience a higher occurrence of “burn in,” when a stationary image'like a video game'is permanently burned into your screen. Granted, this can take some time to occur, but when you buy a television for $1,500 or more, you expect to have it a few years.

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So if you have the money'usually a difference of a few hundred dollars for comparable sizes'my shopping experience says go with the LCD. The Philips LCD I purchased has a bright, vibrant picture and, I swear, as I watched U.S. Open tennis recently, I saw snot come out of Andy Roddick’s nose. Technology is sweet.

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My gaming experience was equally as impressive. So far, I’ve spent time with the previously mentioned GTA, The Godfather and Madden NFL 2007. All three games have been dynamite, but the fast-moving sports game is where the set shines. Bigger isn’t always better

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So many jokes can be made about television size and overcompensation. But for gaming, I’ve found that bigger isn’t necessarily better.

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Obviously, there is such a thing as too small. When I was a kid, I played early video games on a 9-inch black-and-white portable television. Even for Pong, that sucked. But I’ve also played video games on a 60-inch rear-projection television, and I was longing for the old Pong days.

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You might get sucked into buying a large projection television because you can get a lot of screen for comparatively little money. However, the graininess and pixelation can make it an unpleasant experience. Like buying a 2-pound hot dog in Las Vegas for 99 cents, bigger is not better. Most times, “high definition” is to these TVs as “beef” is to that hot dog.

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For me, there are two ways to go. The first is a smaller LCD'between 27 and 32 inches'where every inch of your picture is sharp, bright and vibrant. The second is a larger screen 37 to 46 inches'maybe a little bigger'that will fill your entire line of vision when you play. You want a screen that is big enough to give you that “Holy cow, this is awesome!” moment, but not so big that it envelops you in a blanket of pixels and forces your eyes to dart around the screen looking for enemies like some lazy-eyed sniper.Shop around electronic and appliance stores for the right set'and then go to Costco to buy it.

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Warehouse stores aren’t just the best place to stock up on dental floss and toilet paper for your halfway house or summer camp; they also have electronics at usually rock-bottom prices. Appliance stores will have a better selection to peruse but'if saving money is your only object'once you make your choice, your local warehouse club probably has it cheaper. I saved more than $400 on my set at Costco over a retail store. Wal-Mart and Target also carry lower-tier versions of these sets as well, often for massive savings. But before you buy one of these sets, do your online research. This is where you may be able to make the tradeoff of a name brand for a slightly bigger screen.

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But again, do your research before you go out to shop or you just might suffer the consequences of buying the electronic equivalent of a 99-cent Vegas hot dog.

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