Pioneer has officially confirmed last week’s HD Guru’s® article. Today in a press release, Pioneer revealed its decision to exit the TV business. Pioneer will shut down its US plasma assembly line by April of this year. The company will continue to produce home audio, car audio and navigation products as well as providing parts and service for its plasma HDTVs.

Below, reader questions are answered by the HD Guru.

Q: I have a Circuit City (CC) gift card I’d like to use, but it appears all the stores in my area are already dark.  When I try to access CC online, I’m greeted with only their going out of business message. Am I just out of luck? Thanks for any direction you can provide.

Matthew C

A: You can use a Circuit City gift card at a CC store that remains open. May I suggest you find the closest store that is still open, I expect the remaining stores to close sometime in March.

Q: What if you have an item that has a store CC warranty? My son-in-law bought a computer with an in store 5-year warranty from circuit city and now they’re going belly up.  Is this transferable?  Could it be canceled and balance refunded?

Thank you
Angela F

A:  Fortunately, your Circuit City warranty is handled by an outside third party vendor, so it is still in effect.  Contact the warranty company to learn where the computer needs to go if it requires repair.

Q: I can’t seem to find a clear and understandable answer to this question.  I have two LCD TVs in the house.  A 40″ Samsung 1080p (about a year old) and a 20″ Samsung for the den of passion.

I’m sick of paying for cable and it sounds like, with the new over-air transmission rules, I can “fire” the cable company and install rabbit ears to receive the basic channels.  I don’t care about the movie channels or sports channels (thank you Netflix).  So, will this work?  Can it be routed to both TVs?  How do I do this?

Douglas P.

A: First, you’ll need an adequate antenna.  Check with your local TV stations, a local store that sells antennas (i.e. Radio Shack) and/or for advice in choosing one.  Using antenna signal splitter (available at most consumer electronics (CE) dealers)  will allow you to send the signal to multiple TVs; however, you may need to place a powered signal amplifier between the antenna and the splitter to maintain an acceptable signal level. Antenna amplifiers are available at Radio Shack and other CE retailers.

Q: I have a Samsung 50” DLP TV that is over five years old.  The TV makes an awful noise and doesn’t display a picture; it’s been on the way out for a while now.  My original 5 yr extended warranty has expired so I’ll have to pay the full cost to get it repaired.  It has already been repaired twice under warranty.  Do you think that it’s worth getting it repaired again, or should I invest in a new TV?


A: Tough call. It depends on the cost of the repair. Samsung is discontinuing all of its DLPs and you can find some great deals on them. Mitsubishi also makes DLP rear projectors and will continue to produce them. I have seen a number of dealers advertising DLP rear projectors for around $900 to $1000, making them the best deal in HDTV.

Contact the local authorized servicer and learn how much they charge for a repair estimate, if it’s reasonable, it may be worthwhile to determine the repair cost before deciding on a purchase.  The HD Guru’s does not recommend a repair if it costs more equal or more than one-half of the TVs replacement cost.

Q: I have a HDTV and I never have a full picture on the HD channels. With the width of the picture, it is fine. However, the problem is the height of the picture.  On the HD channels, I always have a 4-inch black bar at the top, and at the bottom, I always have a 3-inch black bar. I have called Sony, and Charter, and I think that I have done what both have told me to do, but I still do not have a full HD picture on the HD channels.  Any suggestions as to what I need to do?

James C

A: Hard to determine without seeing the TV.  Here are some suggestions.  Can you see a top-to bottom image with a DVD disc?  If so, the problem is either in the aspect ratio settings of the TV or cable box.  If not, the HDTV is probably malfunctioning.  An HDTV should be in the “Full” mode for viewing and the set top box must be set for a 16:9 HDTV.  If you determine that it is the cable box, but you can’t find the proper menu setting, contact Charter customer service for assistance (different cable boxes have different ways to access the proper menu for adjustments).

Q: I am sorely tempted to buy the 73″ Mitsubishi LaserVue but have not seen them on the market yet.  Do you know when they will ship?  Would you consider LaserVue very new technology and thus be somewhat leery about purchasing one?
Mike M

A: A Mitsubishi spokesperson has said they will be introducing a 73” this year.  Mitsubishi has not provided any additional information, however, they will be introducing their 2009 models to dealers in April.

Q: Love your site.  One question for you:  now that Circuit City is going out of business, would you recommend buying plasma from them or is not safe?

A: In a word, NO!  You can get a better deal with a return policy against defects at a lower price from the HD Guru’s Pricegrabber website (LINK) and other retailers.  Check out our Circuit City articles for more information.

Q: I saved an article from the November 2007 Chicago Tribune regarding HDTV LCD & Plasma TV sets.  We are still trying to figure out what to buy for our television viewing and we are still confused.  We are both in our late 60s and very computer literate but totally lost on electronics!

Our TV viewing habits are mostly sports and news.  I do rent movies from Netflix.  Therefore, my question is:  what do we need?  Since the prices have come down and Best Buy is offering 36 months no interest, we are seriously thinking of taking the plunge.

We don’t want anything larger than 50″ and could certainly use your help.  If we bought something with 720p (whatever that means) since the prices are lower vs. 1080  – would it be outdated soon?  Considering our viewing habits, do we go for plasma or LCD?  We have looked at both Samsung and Panasonic and really cannot see a lot of difference in any sets.  Can you help two “senior citizens”?  Thank you.

A: To help determine if you should buy a 720p or 1080p set, refer to the HD Guru seating distance chart at LINK.

If your viewing distance is equal or greater for the optimum screen size for a 720p display, purchase a 720p HDTV.  If the distance is closer than optimal for a 720p display, you will be able to see an improvement in detail with a 1080p HDTV.  1080p sets exhibit higher resolution (1080 lines from top to bottom, 720p HDTVs display 720 lines of resolution measured from the top of the image to the bottom).

As far as image quality is concerned,  plasmas still makes a better picture than LCDs, especially in terms of black level, viewing angle and contrast ratio.

LCD only consistently exceeds plasma performance in maximum brightness, a factor to be considered in a sunroom, greenhouse or other very bright daylight-viewing environment  but not relevant to a bedroom, den or most living room locations.

Q: Will special glasses be needed to view 3-D TV?
Chuck B

A: There are four main types of 3 D display systems, Anaglyph, Passive LCD, Active LCD and Auto-Stereoscopic displays.  The first three require glasses that are compatible with the 3D display and system; the fourth type doesn’t require glasses to see the image in 3D.

Currently the “glasses less” type displays are all sold for commercial signage, not regular HDTV viewing.  There are phones that will be sold in Asia later this year that can do 3D TV without glasses and also display regular 2D TV content.  All 3D HDTVs sold today or later this year in the US will require active or passive glasses depending on the 3D display system used.

Companies are hard at work at perfecting home HD 3D without glasses; however, they are said to be two to three years away from production.  HD Guru will have much more on 3D HDTV in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Q: We “upgraded” our TV experience last year and got a Samsung 5271 for Superbowl 08. We are happy with the picture and display quality but I have a couple of issues that relate to source switching.

We have a TiVo on HDMI1, a PS3 on HDMI2 and an AppleTV on HDMI3. To make it short: when we finish watching a DVD, it takes us about 20 seconds to go back to HDMI1 using the source button.  I personally think it’s a joke and on top Samsung is not making that a bit easier (with updating their firmware).

We don’t even use the TV’s cable/antenna input anymore (which renders the PIP feature worthless, which by the way was usefully implemented in our previous 10 year old Sony tube!)

I realized that we use the “TV” really just like a monitor and I’m thinking of buying an amplifier with 4 HDMI inputs and using it as the source switcher. I wished Samsung would have a 52″ monitor in their offering. What is your take on this?

In addition – I really dislike that we have to switch back and forth between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios (unless one does not mind to look at “these big people”) when we watch on non-HD channel.  Is there anything I am missing in my setting?

I’d appreciate your help and comments.  Would an surround sound receive  with HDMI switching eliminate my current source switching problem?
Rolf B

A: We have a special guest response from Samsung’s Mike Wood

“I don’t speak for Samsung officially, but can tell you that I’ve tested our TVs and, regardless of when a signal is present or not, the TV will switch in a few seconds from component to HDMI, or HDMI to HDMI. 20 seconds is definitely not normal.

HDMI issues are notoriously difficult to troubleshoot. It’s entirely possible that the source equipment is causing the delay.  I’d recommend that the user unplug the HDMI cable from the source (not from the TV–the TV would skip over the unavailable input) and try changing inputs on the TV.  This will show if the TV is having trouble switching
inputs on its own, though it won’t absolve the TV completely.

You could certainly try an external switcher. I find the same switching speed with external switchers, but if the source’s data signal is weak for some reason, a good external switcher might resolve the problem by providing a buffer between the source and the TV, amplifying the signal before retransmitting it (a passive switcher would not likely help). If the source is not providing the correct information to the TV, though,
it may not provide the correct information to the external switcher, either.

I would also try a different cable. Poor quality cables used for distances greater than 10 feet might pass the video signal but not the data signal that’s needed for the handshake, or might obstruct that data signal in some way.  Try a short and/or high-quality cable, and then if that works, try a better quality longer cable.”

Mike Wood
TV Test Manager

As for the switching between 4:3 and 16:9, your set top box must be adjusted for a 16:9 display with the TV’s aspect ratio in the “Full” mode.  Properly adjusted, SD 4:3 content will display undistorted with gray or black bars on the sides and HD TV programs will be full screen without distortion.

Q: Hi there…I just bought a Sony kdls4100 TV.  I know very little about all of this, but I do know it takes 16 seconds for the TV to power on.  I hate this.  I would return the TV but as a single girl, it would be a huge ordeal to take the TV back.  Do you have any advice?

A: Call the dealer where you purchased the set and tell them about the problem to learn if they have a service department that makes house calls or if they can make an in-home exchange.  If the dealer can’t help you or does not have service dept., call 1-800-222-7669 for Sony customer support.  You do not mention the size of the set however, Sony large screen HDTVs (40” and larger) have in-home warranty service. They can help arrange for an in-home service call to repair the problem. A Sony customer service rep confirmed your set taking abnormally long to power on.

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