TV & Home Entertainment: Is the growing list of additional features all good?


angry man- smaller

Warning; rant follows!

You’ve no doubt heard the saying… “bad things always happen in threes”. I recently experienced such an episode (or maybe tripisode?) regarding my home entertainment equipment. Three of my electronic components went kaput, one after another, with barely a week between each.

 

#1 – Where have all the ‘basic’ TVs gone?

big screen tvFirst off, my 42″ big screen TV died. This was not a huge shock as it was getting on for 12 years old. I have it on good authority that one TV year equates to six human years… so, 72 years old is not too bad. This TV was so old it had an analog tuner. Okay, no big deal, off to the stores to shop for a replacement.

I had already decided to go with a similar basic TV but with a larger 55″ display and, obviously, a HD tuner :). I was surprised to find that 55″ TVs were in short supply, every other size was well represented but not my preferred size. I mentioned this to the pimply-faced adolescent sales assistant who responded with a smirk… “Ever heard of popularity?” I snapped back at him… “Ever heard of stock control?” I thought it was a pretty apt riposte but apparently it was a tad too tall for this guy.

Now to the crux of the matter; do you think I could find a ‘basic’ TV for a basic TV price? No way Jose! These modern TVs come with every conceivable feature known to mankind; internet connectivity, 3D, streaming this, connect to that. For goodness sake, all I want to do is watch shows on my big screen TV. Apparently, whether you need or want this interminable array of additional features doesn’t come into the equation, you must pay for them regardless. Seems to me that the big manufactures are so intent on out-featuring one another they’ve lost sight of the ‘basic TV at a basic price’ concept. The outcome was that I ended up being forced to pay for stuff I never wanted and will never use. Now, obviously there are plenty of people who will appreciate all these embellishments, and maybe I’m out of step with current consumer demands, but surely there should be a less expensive option available for those of us who do not want or need all this additional fluff.


#2 – AV Receiver: No problem here

av receiverThe second item, my AV receiver, is barely worth mentioning. It was an old Kenwood which I bought many years ago and, although its sudden expiration was not welcomed, it was not entirely unexpected either. I include it here only because it is part and parcel of the three strikes scenario. One point I will mention though; this is one area of home entertainment componentry which has definitely improved over time, both in terms of  technology and pricing. There is such an abundance of excellent AV receivers out there at very reasonable prices, the only problem is choosing which one.

#3 – Copyright Police influencing manufacturers?

dvd player hd record comboThe third, and thankfully final item, was my combination DVD player/hard drive recorder. I’ve owned a succession of similar devices, 3 in 10 years. Mind you, I do use it to the max. In terms of hours of usage, I’ve actually had a pretty good run. So, off to the store once more.

Again, my main requirement was for the fundamentals only, and again I was sorely disappointed. As with the TV scenario, these things now come with a plethora of additional features, whether the consumer wants them or not. I settled on the most basic model I could find and rushed home eager to hook it up. Imagine my surprise when I took it out of the box only to discover that there were no input connections of any kind… not a single solitary one! Now, some might say that I was silly not to check that in the store beforehand but I didn’t bother because… what on earth is the use of one of these machines if it doesn’t include any input connection? All my previously owned models included multiple AV inputs, it doesn’t make any sense not to. Under these circumstances, the only thing you can record is free-to-air TV via the built-in HD tuner. No PayTV, nothing from any external source whatsoever!

So, back to the store with new purchase in tow. I express my dismay to the shop assistant who informs me that none of the newer standard models include any input connections. I can buy the super-duper, complete with hot and cold running blondes, top of the range model, with even more paraphernalia that I will never use, and which also includes one AV input, for roughly double the price if I like … almost $800.00 … I tell him, no thanks!

At this stage, the store Manager, who had apparently been listening in nearby, approaches and informs me that manufactures have decided to do away with input connections on these devices under advisement (pressure?) from the copyright police… I assume he meant media organizations. Seriously!!! Strangely though, and somewhat contradictorily, input connections remain available on exorbitantly priced top of the range models. After hours spent traipsing around local stores I finally found an older, superseded model which included one AV input… I am now a happy camper! By the way; it was $50.00 dearer than the newer, you beaut models.


I might add; pursuant to the enlightening conversation with the store Manager, I learned that the previously common “dubbing” feature, which allows copying from hard drive to DVD, is also no longer available as standard. So, while it might appear that we are gaining more features for the dollar, in reality, genuinely useful functionality is being substantially reduced. The copyright police?

While we are on the subject of DVD players; why is that USB inputs on more expensive brand name players support only one or possibly two popular video formats, while USB inputs on el cheapo generic brand players support just about every video format known to mankind? The copyright police?

I can’t help wondering just what other areas and decisions the “copyright’ police” might be surreptitiously influencing. Food for thought!

Anyway, it was an interesting exercise to say the least. Shopping for replacements for these broken components re-enforced for me just how quickly the technology is changing, and perhaps not always for the better.

**Pricing, descriptions, and features relate to Australia.

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

4 Comments

  1. Just try and repair some of these devices. I repaired two way radios, TV’s and security monitor’s as a hobby for years and it is all but impossible to get parts for any of the electronics you mentioned. When you open up some of the TV’s or DvD’s today the first thing you see or don’t see is part numbers. Most of the ICs and transformers in equipment today just don’t have anything on them that will lead you to replacement. Schematics ! Forget about it, electronics don’t even have anything close to a schematic or parts replacement page anymore. Enjoyed the rant , been there myself . We were told in radio school that one day we would have electronics that you would just toss out when they quit working,, looks like we are just about their. Thanks.

    • Not to mention that most entertainment electronics today are run by a custom ASIC or FPGA that you can’t get, and couldn’t program even if you could get it. Nor can you remove and re-install its 100+ pad BGA package without specialized rework equipment. Despite all the noise and commotion about recycling and being green, everything is disposable.

  2. If feel your pain.

    Frankly I don’t care if the TV can connect to my non-existent iPad, or display jpeg pictures or has a media card reader, or if it is “smart” enough to connect to web services or has WiFi. I just want a TV, with PIP, that I can connect via HDMI or Composite cables to get HD display. I don’t even really need speakers in it since I have an AV reciever with surround sound…

    I’ve been window shopping for a new TV for over a year now as my 20 year old 52″ Panasonic rear projection TV is dying. It has had a good run, LOTS of hours!

    I’ve looked at specs on hundreds of TV’s and projectors. In all the time I’ve been looking I have seen only one TV with what is for me a key feature, Picture in Picture.

    I really like the BIG SCREEN experience of my old TV. A 52″ wide screen just doesn’t have the same “in your face” presence as my old 4:3 screen, so I’m considering a Projector and a 160″ screen, largest that will fit in the living room! It would take about a 65″ widescreen to have the same experience as my old 52″. It is great, with a good surround sound system cranked up to 11 and the 52″ screen it feels like you are right there on the beach with bullets zipping by in Saving Private Ryan (Yi-haw!)

    A couple of years ago my almost 20 year old VCR died, so I went looking for a replacement. Imagine my disappointment when none of the new ones had another key feature, “commercial skip” that was present on the old machine.

    My brother had a similar experience. He had a DVR unit that he really liked. It came with a built in TV Guide feature. Unfortunately the TV Guide (only) died. Surprise surprise, the new version of the same DVR no longer had the TV Guide…

    I hadn’t heard about this new (lack of) feature you described. Sounds like I’m going to have to start haunting the second hand shops and stock up on several VCRs and DVD players DVRs just to have the features I NEED.

  3. Whatever TV is purchased in Aussieland Jim, the trick is to conjure up something worth watching. We are down to ‘Might Constructions, Mighty Ships, other massive engineering projects on one or t’other SBS channel and other top-class UK TV shows. The problem is, trying to record them is a fight with the programming TV devils over start times, which if they are the same as a TV guide, then someone made a boo-boo! Free-To-Air TV rah rah, same shows on multiple channels. I jumped in and got Hola,…………..what the hell, good choices from UK TV, and if hacking, or nasties get in here, scrub the blackboard and start again. My external hard drives carry the load anyway. 🙂