Monday, June 13, 2005

Father’s Day HDTV bargains for gamers


The end of this year is the best time to shop for a new HDTV, but this week is not too shabby if you’re itching real bad to get one. I found a good number of deals in the stacks of circulars in yesterday’s (Sunday) paper. They’re starting to advertise Samsung’s new SlimFit TV, which is a CRT display about 1/3 the size of a standard tube HDTV. Word so far is that it’s pretty good (once you get it home and calibrate it), but not up to reference quality as one would expect from a CRT. The SlimFit comes in only the 30” model right now and it’s still as heavy as other tube HDTVs (roughly 132 lbs). Still, it’s only $999 and offers a far better picture than any 30” LCD in this price range (really only bare bones off-brand LCDs are anywhere near this price). Thinner sets with larger screens are promised, but probably a ways away.

Similar to the world of computer monitors, the CRT is the price + quality leader in the TV arena. For the price, you get the sharpest picture with the largest display. HD CRTs top out at 38” and models 30” and up are as heavy as a truck (34” is about 200 lbs and 38” can be up to 270lbs). For image purists and gamers, the CRT is still a popular choice.

A bonus not talked about much is that HDTVs are great for sprite-based games. Fare like Metal Slug 3 or SVC Chaos on either the PS2 or Xbox via component cables look amazing. You might have to create a custom calibration setting just for sprites, but it’s worth it. Just don’t over sharpen the picture and you’ll get as close to an arcade RGB monitor as possible. I’ve also connected my Neo Geo home system via S-Video cables with similar results, although not on par with the PS2 or Xbox visuals. Perhaps if I had a custom RGB to component cable made? SNES and Genesis games look about as good as it gets too, just don’t expect to be wowed.

However, such results are not universal. Rear projection DLP and many LCD TVs aren’t so hot for sprites. CRT HDTV is the best, but good Plasma sets are also very nice.

If you can wait a while, the next ripe period is mid August to late September when the majority of new TVs have entered the channel. You can select from the newest of the new or get a good deal on last year’s model. After that, the holiday season is the most opportune time (and the one I myself would wait for). Folks would have lived with the new Aug/Sep TVs for a while, so you start to get “real life” results and defect reports to better inform your purchase. Plus stores get desperate to cash in on the holidays.

(UPDATE: According to Randy of PSM, the Samsung SlimFit had lots of problems so he returned his.)
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