Rich Warren | No better time to buy a TV | science technology

At a local grocery store, the price of oat bran went from $2.49 a pound to $4 a pound. That’s an intriguing price hike, since the bran used to be discarded after Cheerios were made. At the same time, almost all big-screen TVs at local audio/video retailers have seen their prices drop by $100 or more in the last six months. TVs contain rare earths and microprocessors, the essentials that are said to be constrained by the supply chain. With the so-called Black Friday/Cyber-Monday only a month away, prices will fall even further. So if you’re on the hunt for a TV, there’s no better way to beat inflation than to buy one soon.

While OLED and Quantum Dot TVs (QLED, but not related to OLED) lead the way in ultimate video quality, display technology is evolving to the point where “bad” TVs are almost eliminated. Nowadays you have to search long and hard to find an inferior picture. If you’re part of the millennial generation, you’ve never seen a really bad TV like the old NTSC standard cathode ray (tube) TVs.

Some brands stand out as the best displays, like LG, Samsung, and Sony. Depending on your eyesight and how demanding you are when it comes to image quality, you might not notice a difference between these and cheaper brands.

After I recommended installing an outdoor antenna for the best over-the-air TV reception, a reader emailed me asking how to install a rooftop antenna if you’re frail or afraid of ladders.

Most local audio/video dealers will professionally install a roof antenna for you. The cost is around $200 depending on the recommended antenna and the difficulty of the installation. If you need a long cable from the roof to your TV, that will add to the price. Inflation may have pushed prices higher in recent months. Good Vibes installed my last antenna about four years ago (for the same price you would have paid) and it has withstood many a violent storm, although high winds disrupt reception on some stations.

Owner’s manuals remain an endangered species. Why do we need to visit YouTube to find out how to install and/or operate the electronics we just bought? Last summer I bought a premium bike with some special requirements but no instructions. I bought various components for the bike with very fiddly assembly and operating parameters that come with tiny sheets of vague diagrams half in Chinese and half in garbled English. The same goes for expensive, sophisticated electronics, although at least the major manufacturers also include concise instructions in Spanish (and French if selling the product in Canada). At the same time, I bought products with sparse tiny English instructions in a thick book duplicated in 20 other languages. Don’t get me wrong, Serbs and Malaysians must know how to use the product as well as we do, but perhaps the manufacturer could include one or more extended instructions for use in the local language?

If you rely on YouTube or other websites, it is assumed that you have a smartphone or tablet. If you need directions away from Wi-Fi or a cell tower, you’re out of luck. Trying to see charts and demonstrations on a 6.1-inch phone screen is about the same as one of those tiny little pieces of paper that come with the product.

I am pleased to meet readers of this column. Often you mention enjoying it and learning from it, but some admit to not understanding some of the substance. I appreciate the praise and at the same time I am very frustrated that not everyone understands the content. I always apologize when this is the case. My goal is to make consumer technology knowledge easy for anyone who picks up this newspaper. At the same time, I sometimes offend by oversimplifying difficult subjects. More than one University of Illinois professor has raked me in on the coals in my aimless pursuit of clarity.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at [email protected]


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