June 18, 2008

upgrading your television is too hard

So I’m in the market for a new television.  This should be a good thing – I love television, I love watching television, and I’m looking forward to a bright, shiny future in widescreen HD.  But instead, it’s become a decision-making nightmare.

Our current setup is pretty simple:  plain vanilla cable (no digital, only up through channel 72 or whatever), piped into a Series 2 TiVo, and then to a big Sony CRT trinitron.  But what I’ve discovered is that if I want to upgrade, I basically need to upgrade the whole kit and kaboodle.

  • I need to go from basic cable to digital cable.  So OK, it’s more expensive, I get that, but there’s also some sort of box involved.  With a new remote.  And I’m pretty damn sure that that won’t work with our TiVo.
  • So then I need some sort of TiVo device – preferably a real TiVo device.  But an HD TiVo is insanely expensive, and I keep hearing something about cable cards, which some people hate and some people love.  Also, I hear now that you can DVR functionality directly in your cable box, but that the UI sucks. And frankly, the whole point of TiVo is the UI.   
  • Then there’s the screen itself.  Plasma or LCD? I’ve discovered that you can’t just Google said question, because the rate of change is so high that any article comparing the two technologies is pretty much out of date by the time it gets transmitted down the Intertubes. And a visit to your local electronics retailer doesn’t really help, since they’re all mostly LCD now, and they’re all lined up side by side by side, which I suppose in some platonic world should aid in the decision making process, but actually just confuses the hell out of you.
  • Oh, and 720p or 1080p?  I keep hearing more p is better, right?  

So basically right here my decision-making ability goes straight to hell.  Because not only are there decisions to make on all of these axes, there’s also the process of executing on said decisions, and timing them right so that I’m not out of luck without any television for two or three weeks.  (What happens if Comcast delivers a digital cable box before I have the flat screen?  Or vice versa?  I’m at risk of missing an entire summer of America’s Got Talent!)  And right here is where I marvel – frankly, upgrading to a new computer is a much simpler proposition than upgrading your television.  (Just buy the fastest chip, most RAM, and most storage you can afford.  What else do you need to know?)

You’d think that the folks who have the most to gain from this transition – the cable companies – would want to make this decision process easy. But they’re too focused on trying to sell combination voice + internet + television services to make it easy for me to upgrade the service I have to something better…and to guide me through the process.

All I want is to be ready for Season 5 of Lost.  Because if next season Claire’s gonna be all Jacob’s-cabin-happy in a “I just got high and found the stash of chocolate chip cookies” kind of way, then I need to experience it in all of its HD glory. Seriously, any help / advice on how to make this transition is welcome. (And yes, I know this is a ridiculous problem to have, in the grand scheme of all problems to be had.)