Consumers buy HDTVs but don't know what they are

Eurogamer has an interesting feature about the awkward transitioning to HDTVs among the unwashed masses. Apparently many people still don’t have a clue what “HD” means other than that it’s a label slapped on those new flat TVs.

The real-world example of a friend whose apartment I visited last week is a useful eye-opener. He’s in his mid-20s, professional and fairly affluent - a perfect example, actually, of the casual gamer demographic most games firms are so keen on winning over.

He’s also the proud owner of a 46-inch Samsung high definition TV, which takes pride of place in his living room. It wasn’t cheap; he’s perfectly happy to spend on his home entertainment kit. As a consumer, he is slap bang in the middle of the road along which the HD juggernaut is supposedly steaming.

Here’s the catch. In the five months since acquiring his delightful, shiny Samsung HDTV, he has not watched one single second of high definition content on the set - and he had absolutely no idea that this was the case. He knew that he had a “HD” television; he knew, quite specifically, that they have sharper pictures, and thus he wanted a “HD” set. What he didn’t know, and what the HD lobby completely failed to educate him about, was that having acquired a HD set, he also needed HD content and HD players and receivers for the experience to actually work.

Of course, it’s no surprise that consumers are so confused when the companies behind the HD lobby can’t seem to get their message straight either. Sony threw a spanner into the works with the decision to start calling 1080p “True HD”, and more than one electronics store employee I spoke to had tales to relate of consumers who had already bought a 720p television, coming into the store angry and annoyed at the idea of having to upgrade to 1080p so they would have “real” high definition… despite not having a Blu-Ray player or any other kind of device actually capable of outputting HD, let alone 1080p HD.

The HD disc format war doesn’t help; consumer uncertainty over the desperately ill-conceived HDCP standards doesn’t do much for the education of the masses about the joys of HD either. Under such confused circumstances, it’s no surprise that Nintendo has found the lack of HD support in the Wii - lambasted as a disastrous decision by its critics - to be no barrier at all to selling consoles.

The funniest thing out of all this is “the bars”. Horizontal or Veritcal (or both) bars that regular people (including myself at one point) have a very hard time comprehending. They see them and they hate them. I don’t think the general public will ever have an accurate understanding of Original Aspect Ratio.

I hate HDCP relentlessly. My 720p/1080i capable TV has a DVI input that is virtually worthless with my Comcast HD DVR STB, and PS3 because of fekking HDCP compatability. If I was a naive consumer and didn’t understand any of this, I’d just think the TV was broken, which would almost assuredly hinder brand reputation(In the case of the PS3, I’d probably just use default composite cables and curiously wonder if the HD revolution is a bunch of BS).

Consumer electronics just had to go all Starforce on us. Can’t wait for the toasters that refuse to heat bagels without proper verification.

Only bagels with Genuine Product Verification* will allow the toaster’s heating elements to engage.

*This is for your protection! It makes sure that you’re having the best, non-pirated bagel experience possible! You wouldn’t want to be eating some kind of crazy unauthorized bagel now, would you?

Non-verifiable bagels will soon be renamed ‘bungles’. This is our future people.

At an empty bagel store counter:

Customer: Helllllooooo. I’d like a bagel.

The sound of the bagel merchant working floats with the bagel scent from a door behind the counter.

Bagel Merchant*: Unnnn, uhhh uhh, Sure. Uhhhh, uhh, uhhhhhhhhhuhhh, YEAHHHH!!!

Customer: What are you doing back there?

Bagel Merchant: Just adding some cream cheese.

*That’s the price you pay for unauthorized pirate bagels!

Counterfeit bagels support terrorism.

Considering how many people have trouble programming their VCRs, I’m not startled that a lot of them are confused by the morass which is HDTV technology.

Add to this the oddly sudden panic I’ve seen people get into this week because they’re being told that every television they have is going to be obsolete and useless by 2009.

Personally, I’m glad I don’t work selling Home Theater products to the public right now. Supporting the public with computers bought without any real research in what they need or want, is bad enough.

I’m just gonna hold out for holograph technology, hell maybe even then Stalker will run properly!

Doesn’t surprise me. A friend of me who is a avid gamer bought a xbox 360 and a samsung hdtv on the xbox launch day, and only a few months ago he discovered you had to change a setting to put the 360 in HD mode.

This was a guy who had a modded xbox and ps2, PSP and plays games for +/- 15 years.

If the high-end electronics store I worked at a few years back is any indication, the salesmen are part of the problem. There was exactly one salesman at my store who knew what he was talking about when it came to anything technical. The other guys knew enough jargon to hard sell somebody a TV that was a few thousand more than the one the customer was planning on buying.

I doubt I’ll buy an HDTV until I absolutely have to because it’s the only kind being sold and my old one is broken. I would have no idea how to hook one up and don’t have any motivation to do some kind of in depth study to try to find out, wouldn’t know what kind of receivers or cables I’d need and would probably screw it up, and really don’t care at all about a better TV picture to begin with. My current picture is totally acceptable to me. Also my cable bill is already too expensive and they charge something like an extra $20 a month for an HDTV box.

Heh, yep. And more than once I’ve seen someone’s widescreen TV that’s set to stretch out 4:3 content to fill the screen, and when I’ve pointed it out they’ve just sneered at my stupidity. “It’s bigger this way!”

I care a decent amount about image quality in games, but couldn’t care less about it for TV/movies, so I’m fine being HD-less as long as I can keep hooking consoles into a monitor

I stretch some stuff. It doesnt bug me with cartoons, for example.

TNT-HD drives me nuts though, because they will often have a movie’s pan and scan version, in HD, STRETCHED to 16:9

I find that different devices have different qualities of stretch. My TV has some pretty good stretch options that work pretty well, though I don’t generally use them. My cable box also has stretch options though and they are terrible.

Oh yeah, my TV has a decent ‘just stretch the edges’ mode, which is pretty great so long as the camera isnt panning.

Ugh, my Sony looks like artifacted ass if I stretch or zoom at all. Really ugly.

No worries though, I don’t much like stretching the picture anyway.

Yeah, seriously. I’d rather have 420p 180 surround or 3-D than 4000p on a flat screen.

Bring on the high res moving holograms, Sony. Bring it.