Cheap HD advice?

QT3, you’re my only hope.

I searched for a long time and while I found many HD threads (on many forums) I didn’t find any that exactly answered my questions. You guys seemed like a friendly audience to ask questions of. My wife and I have found ourselves fighting over the TV too much recently as lately I’ve been playing a lot of console games. My 360 is getting a lot of play, there’s probably a PS3 coming eventually, and it makes sense for us to buy a new HD set (also so that our DVD’s will, presumably, look a lot nicer). So that’s our Christmas gift this year.

But I don’t want to spend a lot. I.e. not more than $800 (and closer to $500 would be great). We probably want something around the 30-32" range but maybe smaller. Does anyone have any advice or links I should follow up on?

(and all this is assuming that I don’t win the Amazon lottery for the 26" they are offering)

Specific questions:

  1. Are there any outliers that are just great bang-for-buck options?
  2. Am I looking at just getting a 720* HDTV or are there HDTV’s that are 1080* in this range and is there any reason to consider them?
  3. Can I use an LCD monitor to double as a new computer monitor and TV? How hard/easy is that to set up? Would it play 360/PS3 games alright?
  4. While shopping around and reading reviews I’ve read a lot of people saying that their HDTV’s busted and they had a horrendous customer service experience. Is this just the usual internet whinging or should I take it seriously?
  5. HDMI plugs are essential or so I gather. What else do I absolutely need for plugs?
  6. I am correct that even regular DVD’s, played through a 360 or PS3, will look better with HDTV, right?
  7. Are there any other options in the actual interface of the TV that I need to consider as essential or very valuable?
  8. It seems like CRT might be better as a gaming display (better blacks, etc.) but that an LCD would be smaller and easier to move around. I’m thinking that we’d be fine with either. Did I miss any other concerns there?

I apologize for my HD newbness and if you can give me any further insight into any of this, that would be most excellent.


  1. Yes. I don’t have any recommendations off the top of my head, but I’m sure someone will come along with a few.

  2. You can find 1080i sets in that range, but 1080p is a bit more spendy.

  3. Yes. I would recommend a set with both VGA and DVI. Plug the computer into the DVI port, plug your console into the VGA port. For multiple VGA connections, you might want to look into a switcher. Splitter cables are cheaper, but the quality is lower.

  4. The customer service is about on par with any other high-value gadget.

  5. Keep in mind that the 360 doesn’t support HDMI. I would recommend VGA, or component. Some TVs look better with VGA, others look better with another connection.

  6. Yes, but quality varies according to your player’s internal upscaler and the TV’s scaler (and according to what connection type you’re using).

  7. I would recommend as much redundancy as your budget affords. Multiple component and HDMI ports, and a VGA port. Not essential, but handy for future entertainment center expansion.

  8. Yes, CRTs provide the best black levels, although the gap is closing. Unfortunately, those tubes can get damn heavy. I had a 21" monitor that weighed over eighty pounds. You can get a 50" 3-LCD rear projection set these days that weighs about 35 pounds. Bulky, but two people can easily move it around a room.

Note: VGA connections still require a separate audio connection. I recommend optical. Component only does stereo. HDMI incorporates digital 7.1.

  1. you might look at Vizio’s stuff, they’re sold online & at Sam’s & Costco.
  2. extended warranties are worth it for cutting-edge electronics
  3. you want as many as possible. mine has 8 and I wish it had a couple more of the right type.
  4. DVD’s look good on an HD set w/ a progressive-scan player
  5. get one with an over-the-air tuner if it’s affordable. Otherwise, all you’ve got is a monitor.
  6. CRT’s are on the way out and generate RF interference and are heavy as heck and harder to display due to their depth.

If at all possible, go look at whatever you’re considering. All the recommendations in the world can’t substitute for what pleases your eye.

The Vizio 32" was $800 when I got mine back in August or September. I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s dropped some since then. I didn’t get an extended warranty because I got it at Costco and if there are issues, I’ll just return it. It has a built-in tuner. The only thing I don’t like about it is that some shows are really dark and I have to pump up the brightness. But most of the time it’s fine, and the first couple times you see HD stuff on it, you’ll be amazed.

I skipped this thread several times thinking it was a hard drive question. Oops.

You should try to get something that supports HDMI. It’s the present and future of HD interfaces, and every recent worthwhile HD playback device (with very few exceptions) includes it. It’s easier to use (one connection for everything) and digital for both video and sound. Most (if not all) displays that support HDMI also offer component inputs, so you give up nothing by making sure your purchase is future-proof, even if you don’t use it right away.

True the 360 doesn’t offer HDMI yet, but you can count on the next revision having it (they’ve already gone on record saying they’ll support it when they think demand is there, and Sony is beating them over the head with it now).

I agree that anyone buying an HDTV should get one with at least one HDMI port, but IMO the combined audio and sound in HDMI is actually kind of sucky. I want video in to my tv, audio into my audio receiver! I much prefer the idea of separate audio and video and I’m not even one of those crazy video/audiophiles. Luckily the only HDMI device I currently use (my 8300HD PVR) also has a separate digital out audio that still sends a signal even when HDMI is being used for the video… if it didn’t I’d have to buy some sort of HDMI to audio switch/converter.

Check out and look in the Hot Deals forum. I believe there was a deal recently for a 37" 1080p westinghouse from Crutchfield for $900.

I’d link, but I don’t have time to track it down atm.

Yes, the lvm-37w3 1080p LCD starts around $800-900 these days and is a great deal. 32" 720p LCDs start around $500-600. Search fatwallet for deals.

Thanks a lot. That’s very helpful.

Another random question:

What refresh rate should I look at getting if I don’t want things to look too bad (but don’t need it to be “perfect”)?

Check out craigslist too. I only surfed their listings for about 2 weeks before I came up with my find… I spent $900 for a 1 year old widescreen HDTV that was still retailing for $2000+.

Consumer microdisplays all operate at 60 Hz in the US and Japan. You don’t really make a choice about this.

If you were thinking Response Time (which is what determines ghosting) then you probably want 8ms or lower.

Good facets to bring up. My TV passes out digital audio (TOSlink or whatever it’s called) if you are using a receiver (especially for surround), so the primary signal goes to the TV and then is passed out to whatever else it neds to get to. HDMI ports have also started being adopted by surround receivers, but I’m not sure how you split that signal to two devices from your player… so far most devices seem to be taking the route of your PVR and provide a separate digital out that works in conjunction with HDMI if you need it (the PS3 does the same thing).

Actually I think there are few which operate at 72 Hz (3 x 24fps basically), but I won’t swear to that.

Some expensive front projectors do 48 or 72 in order to have jitter-free reproduction of 24 fps sources (basically film) - I’ve not seen a flat-panel or a rear-projector which does this though, and never on a device aimed at your basic consumer.

Oh, and don’t forget to check this thread for a couple of recommendation, too. Right now it seems like Westinghouse is the price / performance champ among budget LCD TVs.

I am having a video card problem and I’m hoping someone here can help. I have a Radeon 9800XT and it’s dying on me. Fracturing and spotty graphics after about an hour of play. I was hoping someone might have some advice for a new card that has to be AGP for some time still. Any help would be much apreciated.

Hey. So thanks again for all the advice.

Looking on craigslist was definitely a good idea. I saw several interesting sales there and almost bit on a couple (although after talking to the seller on one sale I was pretty sure the TV in question was stolen). In the end, however, I decided I really wanted a warranty and a new TV. We got the Westinghouse 32" LCD from Bestbuy for $799 (with a 4 year warranty). And it’s great for what we want.