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Those of you doing some personal TV Christmas shopping this year (or otherwise if you’re that generous!) will certainly have come across a number of TV salespeople “helping” you decide on your purchase. Having been a Television salesperson myself, and managing a number of staff in a very busy retail environment, I have seen many different approaches offered up to customers over the years.

Let’s make one thing very clear – not all salespeople are bad, some are fantastic, and have the very best intentions of the customer in mind when it comes to helping to educate them while purchasing a new TV. However there are also many out there who use questionable tactics to say the least, and will misdirect the customer in order to meet sales targets, to get rid of old stock, sell the unit with the highest margin or clear out excess or slow moving stock. When the customer relies on a salesperson to choose a TV they can unfortunately be hit with lies, incorrect information and scare tactics.

There are also those who misinform the customer without any malice intended, but rather as a result of poor training and a confused understanding of the facts – which can be blamed on both their management and some the unscrupulous advertising dished up by the suppliers themselves. Things like Plasma vs LCD, contrast ratios and refresh rates have been at the forefront of this confusion for years, and the vendors have succeeded in their aim to confuse the average person with the way they are allowed to advertise such features on their products. If we are honest, the majority of TV salespeople you will encounter have no formal background in electronics let alone Television technology, so they rely on experience, training and personal knowledge when giving advice.

So it’s in your best interests to learn some basic facts and dispel some myths and lies about TVs which will better prepare you for your next shopping trip to your electronics retailer.

Contrast Ratio

There are TVs advertised as having contrast ratios in the millions – which is very far from accurate. While testing TVs in the factory, the manufacturers are able to jack up the backlight or contrast to the maximum and play a black and white image and come up with some absurd calculation for a split second on a machine, and be well within their right to advertise that as the TVs Contrast Ratio. The fact is that in a normal viewing environment, when set up properly the same TV will deliver now where near the Contrast ratio stated. It’s impossible to deliver an accurate reading for any TV – and it remains the truth that Plasma screens will still deliver a better contrast than LCD screens. Some fully backlit LED models with local dimming, such as LG’s LM9600 model will push them close – but at what cost? Read our article here for more information about Contrast Ratio.

Refresh Rates

As far as LCD, and now LED Digital TV Panels have advanced – the fact of the matter is that for smooth, natural motion in fast scenes – a Plasma is still superior.

With the way Plasma technology works, 100Hz or 200Hz isn’t a useful feature to have. But with LCD and LED heavily marketing 100Hz/200Hz, from a marketing perspective they needed a number to combat that. Some added 100Hz before, but now 200Hz LED and LCD have become more common, so they started quoting the sub-field number – 600Hz.

In reality, the plasma manufacturers are being slightly misleading in how they market 600Hz sub field driving. In one way they are saying to customers that our 600Hz is a feature that helps remove motion judder three times as much as a 200Hz TV.

While this is not directly true – they are using it to promote a very true feature of plasma technology – superior motion handling. There is a little bit of “the pot calling the kettle black” when it comes to the LCD manufacturers though. While it is true that 200Hz was designed to aid motion on a large screen TV – the fact that the resulting image can often seem unnatural during fast scenes puts a big question mark over whether this aids or hinders what the customer is seeing. The insertion of frames that are not meant to be there can make it all look a little fake, in many peoples opinion. Read our full article on Refresh Rates Here

LED TVs are the latest technology, so they are better than Plasma TVs

“LED” TVs are basically a technological improvement over LCD TVs. In fact, they ARE an LCD TV – with LED backlighting. While they without doubt have their positive attributes, such as sleeker designs, lower energy consumption and generally look brighter – when it comes to outright picture quality – Plasma screens still come out on top. They produce better black levels, hence better contrast and better viewing angles. The motion also doesn’t come across as being “fake” which can do on a lot of LCD screens, due to the heavy processing done to the signal to try and rid it of judder and lag. It’s a never ending argument, and you can read a lot more in our earlier article here

Warranty and Reliability

With the profit margins all but gone in TVs – the retailers must turn to profit raising skews such as warranties and cables to try and claw some of that back. It’s also not a secret nor a surprise to learn that salespeople are duly rewarded with commissions and spivs when it comes to selling warranties.

The question is – do you need it?

While it stands true that Australian consumer laws state that a customer is entitled to a refund in some cases after the manufacturer’s  warranty has expired, this is usually not as simple as bringing the item into the store and walking up to the front counter for a refund without any hassles. There are many considerations to take into account, which are not as black and white as “my product is faulty and I want a refund.” In many cases these situations can drag on for weeks, involving the ACCC, court appearances, sending the item to the manufacturer for inspection and letters and complaints back and forth.

This usually stands doubly true for televisions – as they are an expensive item and retailers will not want to take back an old model faulty TV set which has been used for a year or more, without the guarantee that the manufacturer will provide compensation to them in turn. So it is reasonable to expect that each party will want to explore every legal avenue to come to a conclusion which is suitable for everyone, and of course stay well within the boundaries of the law. So, in some cases, an extended warranty can be a good idea – especially if you do not have the time to make court appearances, wait for the TV to be inspected by the manufacturer and back and forth arguments with the retailer.

But it is also worthwhile to note that these days – TVs are certainly more reliable than they used to be, and it is less likely to develop a fault than in previous years. They are also a lot cheaper to buy, and will be even cheaper by the time the manufacturer’s warranty runs out. The best approach to take is to make the decision yourself, do not allow pushy salespeople to bully you into purchasing warranties when you know you will probably not need them – or you are prepared to fight some sort of legal battle if you ever do.

In any decision you choose, always remember to read the fine print first to know what you are paying for. More information can be found the ACCC website here

Expensive Cables – Are they worth the Money?

Where applicable, changing the “type” of cable can produce better results, but cost is NOT always a reflection of quality.

Changing the Scart-Composite (Yellow, White, Red) cable from the back of a non-HD Foxtel box to a Scart – Component (Green, Blue, Red) Cable will give the picture some improvement. Changing a $50 Scart-Component Cable to a $100 plus Scart-Component cable will not result in any discernible difference.

Changing the composite cables form the back of your PS3 console to your Full HD TV to a HDMI cable will provide you with a much better picture. Changing that $30 HDMI cable to a $200 HDMI cable will not do anything.

Changing the white and red L+R audio out cables from the back of your digital TV to your receiver, to an optical cable will allow you to hear clear Dolby Digital Sound. Changing that $30 optical cable to a $100 plus optical cable will not do anything.

Read our full article on expensive cables here

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