Saturday, 24 June 2006

Bullet the Blue Sky

I’ll start with the conclusion: we bought ourselves a new TV. A rear projection TV. A Sony 50” LCD rear projection TV. Read the following for the full account…


As I already mentioned, it turned out we were given with the wrong impression on rear projection TVs after our initial surveying, covered in “No Silver Bullet”. It turns out that all the places we went to watch TVs in have been feeding their rear projectors with crap signals, whereas their plasmas were fed with high definition.

We went to Betta (pronounced “better” in the blocked nose Australian accent) Electrical where we saw the Samsung 60” DLP rear projection TV playing Monsters Inc, and it was fabulous.

And then we went to Clive Peters and asked to use our own material. They connected a DVD player to the Sony we ended up buying and an LG plasma, and we compared the two with Lord of the Rings DVDs. And the rear projector beat the plasma, as I initially thought it would. The plasma had an edge in color saturation and the picture is overall more forgiving, but that is not enough to win the day; an iPod would be more forgiving playing shitty recording than my hi-fi, just because my hi-fi has enough resolution to show a shit recording for what it is. The difference is, the hi-fi would make a good recording sound way better, whereas on the iPod it would sound the same as the shit stuff.

So that sealed the decision: It was rear projection for us.

The question now was which TV, but the answer was relatively easy. We wanted to consider only newer models featuring latest technologies: HDMI inputs, later generation DLP chips, etc. This has severely reduced the number of models available for selection, and to be frank we haven’t chosen the best TV out there. The Samsung DLP 60” is a better TV in my book, and the LG 71” LCOS TV is an astonishingly good TV that doesn’t cost as much as you’d expect for its size; but both were just too big for our room. The LG wouldn’t have fit even if we wanted to.

Next came the question of where to buy it from. We both wanted to give Clive Peters the prima nocta right, for allowing us to test the TVs with our own material. We told them as off the word go that we can get the TV for less than $3200 through eBay, but they were only willing to cut down their price from $4000 to $3750, which was pretty ridiculous as it doesn’t take much of a genius to realize they can do much better given what other shops already offered us.

But it wasn’t only the price, it was also the way they went about the sale that drove me away towards eBay. I’m talking about their total ignorance with the product they are selling, which leads them to tell me lies during the sales process. Whether they know that it’s a lie or not doesn’t and shouldn’t really matter, but it serves as a warning for those that don’t know a lot about the technical side of things – those of us that haven’t subscribed to Widescreen Review for the last 15 years, for example.

Where should I start? Our salesguy started by saying that a component input is better than an HDMI input. I agreed that a component input’s implementation on a specific device could be better than the HDMI one, but I argued that HDMI has more potential on paper. What did the guy say? He said component is better than HDMI because it’s three cables versus one, and when I told him that HDMI is digital and therefore the number of cables doesn’t matter he told me that component is also digital and went away to find a cheap component cable that says “digital” on its box to prove he’s righteous. I am unable to remember such a pile of bullshit since the last time we were in the company of a real estate agent! For a start, we’re using a $5 set of mic/headphones for Skype, and their package claims they’re digital, but I’m still convinced my ears can only listen to analog sound waves and if someone whispered next to my ear something like “one zero zero one zero” it wouldn’t mean much to me.

Not that this was the only example. One way for Clive Peters to lower their price was to bundle the TV with a high definition set top box. They started by pushing a DVI only box on us despite our TV not having a DVI input but rather an HDMI one, and they did not warn us for a second that such a connection is famous for its low reliability (simply put, it just doesn’t work many times). Then we explained that our signal reception at home is quite bad, and therefore we don’t have high definition reception (we do, however, have adequate digital standard definition reception, as I already reported). What did the sales guy say? He told us not to worry, because the set top box would “amplify” the signal. Jehoshafat! What an idiot!

But the final straw to break this camel’s back came when the guy said, “but will you buy a TV from eBay in the first place?”

Well, the answer is yes. Not just because by now we already did it, but also because I remembered that back in 2000 I bought our current Sony 29” from an internet auction site. Not eBay, but a pretty much similar source. And I have been very happy with the service I got, thank you!

Not that the service I got from the eBay shop we ended up buying the TV from was bad. They answered and addressed all my questions, and when asked the high definition signal question so we could make an educated decision on the bundling of a set top box they were fair enough to say that we should stick to our current standard definition box (they did, however, provide us with some advice on improving our reception through the use of a dedicated high definition satellite like antenna).

And thus the conflict I had between awarding Clive Peters for enabling us to see the TV and test it and eBay’s ability to offer us a cheaper price was solved. Yes, Clive Peters allowed us to test the TV, but they also bullshitted us and lied to us while the eBay seller was professional. And lest we forget, Clive Peters was among the places that tried to stir me towards plasma and away from rear projection LCD\DLP\LCOS by falsely promoting plasmas.

Maybe I should look at things the other way around. Maybe I should reward the eBay shop for being a pioneer and for being the first reliable source for buying appliances through the web in Australia, defying the local importers and distributors who do not allow internet sales in order to be able to control prices?

I talked here before against Amazon’s monopoly, but I also think that Amazon is an asset; what I resent is its bullying of others; but in the TV case, it’s the internet seller that is currently the underdog.

One last thing about the eBay shop we ended up buying the TV from. There are lots of people selling you stuff on eBay, but our shop – Pals Palace – is the only one that gives you a proper invoice, warranty and all.

We got their invoice, and it said “Joyce Mayne” on it. I googled Joyce Mayne, and what did I come up with?

Joyce Maybe is a brand name owned by none other than Harvey Norman!

And now we know what tactics have been deployed by Australia’s biggest electrical retailer in order to establish an effective presence on the internet without upsetting their distributors.

Anyway, we’re supposed to have the TV delivered on Monday.

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