Archive for September, 2009

How Much TV Do I Need?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Courtesy of the New York Time’s Gadgetwise blog, a video post explaining how to figure out what size HDTV screen to get for your space:

Budget HDTV Shootout

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
A great budget-range HDTV, Samsungs LN23B360 720P LCD HDTV

A great budget-range HDTV, Samsung's LN23B360 720P LCD HDTV

Last week, we looked at three “budget” priced (under $500) LCD TVs — the Samsung LN26B360 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV, the Sony Bravia L Series KDL-26L5000 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV, and the Toshiba 26AB502R 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV. All of these models are priced under $500, all of them are made by major manufacturers, and all of them are 26-Inch, 720P LCD sets, making comparison truly fair.

How did they stack up? Well, the short of it is that all three produced a solid picture and great sound. The Sony had the most features, but some of those features — like the ability to “upgrade” the TV with more inputs or wireless ability — are potentially costly and probably wasted on a sub-$500 TV set We thought the best picture, sound, and feature set for the money went to the Samsung LN26B360 hands-down. You can get the TV for under $400 at Amazon (with free SuperSaver shipping) and you’ll be quite happy with it. And that’s all that matters. Click on the links above to read our more in-depth reviews of each model.

Toshiba 26AV502R 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV Review

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Toshiba's entry in the 26-Inch LCD HDTV market

Toshiba's entry in the 26-Inch LCD HDTV market

Budget HDTV week continues here at Today’s entry is the Toshiba 26AB502R 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV. In keeping with the other HDTVs we’ve reviewed so far this week, the Toshiba 26AB502R is a 26-inch LCD TV. That should make comparison a snap.

The Toshiba 26AB502R features:

  • A sleek glossy black (“piano black”) finish on its frame
  • Dynalight backlight control — adjusts the backlighting according to how light or dark the content is onscreen
  • Native Mode — restores the 3-5% of the picture that’s typically lost on most HDTVs due to overscanning
  • Color Temperature Control — with three presets to adjust the warmth of the picture
  • Cinema Mode 24ps (with 3:2 pulldown) — when using film sources, the Toshiba 26AB502R is able to translate 24-frame film into 30 frame video eliminating the duplicate information for a clearer, more “cinema-real” picture
  • TheaterWide — special modes for viewing movies and other widescreen, letterboxed content
  • Gaming Mode — speeds up the time the signal from your controller/game console takes to reach the screen, resulting in more responsive gaming
  • Channel Browser — lets you scan the last 32 channels you browsed with images for the last five chanels
  • Channel Labeling — lets you name channels how you desire
  • Energy Star Compliant — for savings on your electric bill
  • Connections: 2 HDMI, 2 component, 2 composite, 1 S-video, 1 PC, one digital audio out — for plenty of last-gen and next-generation hookups

You also get a stand and a universal remote.

So how does the Toshiba 26AV502R 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV stack up? The Toshiba 26AV502R delivers a crisp, clear picture. Dynalight feature isn’t as obtrusive as the comparable Sony backlighting. And sound out of the built-in speakers is decent (although again, we highly recommend a true Surround Sound setup for optimal home theater performance). Gaming mode is a nice touch, as the onscreen action was quick and highly responsive to controller inputs. Setup is also relatively straightforward and intuitive. And the remote control is well-laid out and the buttons glow in the dark, which is a nice touch.

The cons on the Toshiba 26AB502R are that sometimes the Dynalight feature can wash scenes out, changing the overall brightness levels for no reason. And sometimes color, particularly on non-high-def sources, can be washed out or overly green or orange. Even after adjustments, these issues remained. And of course, because it’s an LCD, you still have issues viewing the image from extreme angles to the side.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: Probably buy another TV. If not for the sometimes fluctuating Dynalight and the odd color issues, this would be our hands-down winner. Game Mode and Cinema Mode are fantastic for gaming and movies, respectively. The TV looks fantastic with its glossy black finish, and the overall picture is nice. But picture quality is most important. And the issues are too big to overlook.

In case you are interested in the Toshiba 26AV502R, Amazon makes you add it to your shopping cart to price it. But it’s on sale now for $352.94. A good price, but not as good a value as the Samsung LN26B360.

Sony Bravia L-Series KDL-26L5000 26-Inch 720p LCD HDTV Review

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Sony's high-end Bravia 26" HDTV

Sony's high-end Bravia 26" HDTV

We continue our weekly series reviewing “budget” HDTVs, those in the $500 and under price range. Sony, known for their premium electronics, has its entry into the 26-inch LCD space, the Sony Bravia L-Series KDL-26L5000 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

The Sony Bravia KDL26L5000 offers:

  • Advanced Contrast Enhancer with Dynamic Backlight Control — contrast ratio of 13,000:1
  • Three HDMI inputs, two component, S-video, composite, and PC input — plug in a variety of sources, from Blu-Ray players to game consoles
  • The ability to add on Bravia Link modules — this allows you to purchase wireless, input, and other modules to add abilities to your TV
  • Bravia sync – allows you to control all compatible home theater devices and some Sony camcorders
  • Built-in digital tuner
  • And you get the standard remote, batteries, guides, and a pedestal.

    So what’s the set like? Well, it’s a Sony. So you know you’re going to get a great picture and sound quality. You also know that because of the Sony name, you’re going to be paying more for a comparable product by another brand. The Sony Bravia L-Series KDL-26L5000 26-Inch 720P LCD HDTV offers respectable features — the 13,000:1 contrast ratio is bright and sharp enough for most rooms, although nowhere near as bright as the 30,000:1 on the comparable Samsung LN26B360. The ability to add in Bravia modules is a nice touch, although how many people are really going to customize a $449 TV by adding on another $200-$1,000 in wireless and input modules? That seems like a feature more suited for Sony’s larger, higher-end HDTVs. You get a built-in digital tuner and a QAM cable card tuner, so whether or not you opt for cable or over-the-air signals, you’ll be able to view your programming on the TV without a converter box or cable box (assuming your cable company is cable-card compatible).

    Aside from the price, drawbacks to the Sony KDL-26L5000 include the lack of certain picture control options, such as tint calibration, leading many to feel that colors are too bright and faces sometimes fuzzy. And some people have complained about the build quality leading to unit failures after a year or two. Like all LCD TVs, you will experience some dropoff in viewing if you sit too far to the side of the TV. And some users have complained about the autobacklight function leading to a sort of auto-dim in dark scenes.

    Overall Rating: 6/10 The price on the Sony KDL-26L5000 is still more than comparable models, and the overall picture adjustment and auto-backlighting features aren’t as handy or nice as other brands.

    Recommendation: Buy a different TV. There are cheaper models than the Sony KDL-26L5000 with better quality. Sony makes a lot of things well. This HDTV is just okay.