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LONG BLOG

Nerd Rage: An Open Letter to TV Manufacturers

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I've been into electronics and games for most of my life. I have always had an interest in games for as far back as I can remember, but I didn't branch out to electronics till I was in high school. I got my first amplifier when I was 15 and bought my first TV when I was 18. While I've never been on the cutting edge of technology, I've been always fairly modern. 

Over the years I've become rather obsessed with getting the best audio/video quality, but also setting up my home theater so it's as streamlined as possible. You may say that I'm being anal retentive, I prefer the term "eccentric".  So I have to say that there are things that drive me up a wall, and I want to rant about it. This is loosely game related, plus I figured at least a few of you can understand my issues. 

First thing on the chopping block are inputs. What I mean are the things like HDMI ports, component, composite, and the like. I feel like manufacturers have no earthly idea how we use these devices, either that or they just don't care. Case in point, this new trend of combining component and composite video into 1 input. This sounds all nice and convenient on paper till you realize that it's one or the other, not both. That wouldn't even be so bad except they also make this the only audio input for all you HDMI connections, so if you need to use any one of those 3 options the other two are disabled. This is your "legacy" input. Nevermind the fact that pretty much all A/V equipment as well as consoles used composite as their primary interface for the better part of 25 years. Want to hook up your N64 and PS2? Not happening. You can use coax cable, your picture will look like it was dragged through a bum's asshole, but it's about the only option you have without buying a converter of some kind.
There are some scalers and adapters on the market but for an old school gamer like me it's getting harder and harder to get a quality signal over to my modern setup. My current project is getting my Saturn, N64 and Dreamcast over to RGB SCART. The Saturn and Dreamcast support it nativley but the N64 has to be modded,  but even then I still  have to adapt it over to HDMI. It's all pretty costly and involved, but I need to do it if I want to future proof myself.

Component/Composite input
What is this shit?

What's even more baffling than TV manufacturer's reluctance to support analog inputs is their insistence on including multiple USB ports. Just the other day I saw a TV with 3 USB ports. I am simply baffled as to the logic there. Yes, they can be useful in certain situations, plugging in a flash drive to show a downloaded movie, updating firmware, or powering devices like the Chromecast. But basically all of those things are temporary, have easy workarounds, and none of those require more than one port at a time. Inputs like composite video and analog audio outputs can be surprisingly costly and inconvenient to work around. And it's not like we're getting a lot of HDMI inputs, my dad has a 60 inch Samsung and it only has 2 HDMI imputs. His needs are incredibly basic but even he ran into issues I had to find solutions to them. I can accept that inputs like VGA and S-video are a thing of the past, but we are certainly paying for cheaper TV prices, one way or another. 

The second thing I really feel needs to be addressed is the processing of images. While PC gamers have the luxury of smaller monitors that are designed with performance in mind, us console guys generally prefer to have a larger TV in the living room. This of course comes at the caveat of having our displays being more "general purpose". We can't exactly go to the store and pick out a brand or a line of TV's for gaming. My TV in specific has a real problem with input lag, that is a delay between button press to having it show up on screen. If you have a fairly modern set you should look for a game mode. The default settings have a lot of post processing that not only effect this but can also introduce artifacts (read: flaws) in the image. Word of advice: turn that crap off. While it may seem cool to have the TV make the game feel like a higher framerate than it actually is, it ultimately makes the game less responsive and detracts from how it was meant to be played. 

Ghosting
sigh...

There are other issues as well, response times can be problematic because it introduces another issue called ghosting. This is where the TV can't change the pixel color as fast as the game is and you'll get a juddering effect. This may be more common on a spec sheet for a monitor but it's often omitted on TV specs, and for good reason, it's often bad. If you have the time, it's best to do a little research on your specific model, chances are the specs are out there and you can see what works for you. I'm not the authority on this by any means but ideally you want as low of a response time as possible.

Finally, I must say that build quality is becoming an issue. Just a few short years ago, just about any flat panel had a metal casing and a heavy stand, but now they feel so flimsy that I feel like I have to handle the TV more carefully than a newborn with osteoporosis. The smaller TV's are especially bad for this, stands made of plastic, buttons replaced by touch panels that don't respond, and on rare occasion ports that don't feel secure. 
All of this is a result of people simply not buying TV's and monitors like they used to and manufactures cutting corners. I hate to be the one that has to tell you that TV with the top specs and cheap price isn't the deal you think it is, but that's where we are. The best advice I can give is to do your homework, buy name brands from a reputable place, and honestly, use your eyes. Often just seeing it for yourself is the best solution. 

I hate to be so negative but this isn't a nerd praise, lol. I would like to hear your stories though. Have you had good or bad experiences with TV's before. Sound off below. 

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About sonic429one of us since 9:00 AM on 02.26.2013

Hey, I'm sonic429, just call me sonic. I've been gaming since the 8 bit days, my first system was the Atari 7800. I try to play as many different types of games as possible, but my favorite genres are platformers, adventure, and fighters. I grew up with Nintendo and Sega so they will always be special to me, but I also have love for Sony and Microsoft.

Being fair and balanced is always my goal when forming my opinions, and I'm a very opinionated gamer. So if you don't agree with me I have no problems hearing the other side of the argument provided you can back it up. That's the way we all grow in knowledge and gain maturity. But most of all I'm here to have fun and interact with the community.

Happy gaming.