Buying HDTV for the Mac

by Erica Sadun

We finally did it. We're going to replace our 10-plus-year-old bargain-basement Quasar (got it refurbed over at the Panasonic outlet when they were still in business here) with HDTV. We're getting this 32-incher HDTV from Costco. I put the order in last night.

I'll be honest: the purchase had more than a little to do with the AppleTV timing but we've also been looking for a better TV for a few years now. For my shopping list, it had to have a built-in ATSC and QAM tuner. It had to have 720p and 1080i. It had to have HDMI and component inputs. (As a bonus, this one also has VGA and composite-in.)

Of course, larger might have been better, but this unit kind of hit the sweet spot of what we could afford versus size. It also had lots of happy reviews, free shipping and Costco's generous return policy.

So here are my questions to the readers: are there any requirements we've messed up on or totally missed? (Just want to make sure before the thing actually ships!) I'm planning to hook up my Intel mini to it directly and use VLC, and later switch over to the AppleTV when it ships in February. Other than the HDMI cable, what else will I need to buy? We're not going to wall mount the thing (at least for now) because it's going to sit on an existing side table.

Any thoughts or insights or even "you bought what!!!??"'s will be greatly appreciated, especially from those of you who are using your minis as media centers.


2007-01-19 08:49:23
WOW ! Nice TV... and that price is stunning !

You lot over the water are sooo lucky to get this kind of kit sooo cheap. Would costs 4x that over here. Have fun and good luck with the AppleTV integration.

2007-01-19 09:25:15
We just did the same, getting a brand new Sony Bravia 32" with two HDMI inputs. We're now ready to order the AppleTV!
2007-01-19 09:42:39
I'd be wary of these off-brand TVs, honestly. You did check reviews on that TV at places like CNET, and did price comparisons to similar TVs, before you bought it, right? CNET has the best high-def TV coverage I've seen, but I'd also check Consumer Reports before making a major purchase. It's always best to have multiple opinions.

2007-01-19 10:09:58
You need 1:1 pixel mapping so that your Mac Mini can drive the screen at its native resolution. You also really want more than one HDMI input, so that you can hook up an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player as well as the Mac Mini. Most HDTVs don't do 1:1 pixel mapping, and so are not suitable for use as PC or Mac monitors.
2007-01-19 10:39:35
I'd really make sure that you watch for 3 things with this TV when you receive it:
1) The brightness should be okay, the minimum I've seen recommended is 550 cd/m2 but this is probably much less than the brightness of your old TV. This probably won't matter unless you watch tv in a bright room or with run glare.
2) The contrast ratio may also be a bit low at 1200:1, I shoot for a minimum of 1500:1 so that the colors stand out from each other better.
3) Placement in your house to reduce glare and make viewing better - you may be surprised at different viewing angles compared to the old TV.
2007-01-19 10:40:04
Buying from Costco was a good choice. Their customer service is awesome. You might want to look into a universal remote from Harmony to control everything. I love my 676.
2007-01-19 10:50:58
I know this notion will be dissed, as you already have a tuner, but getting an eyeTV Hybrid TV [] unit will open up entirely new vistas of opportunity to leverage your Mac and big screen display. For your $150, you will get a Tivo capability for far less than the $800 that Tivo charges for their HD-capable unit, and with no ongoing subscription fees. All it takes is disk space :-)

The caveats here are if you either have no nearby HDTV broadcast stations, or get all your TV over cable (you can still get the eyeTV 500 from 3rd parties, which accepts unencrypted digital cable QAM input as well as over-the-air broadcast HDTV, but it's over $300 -- still cheaper than Tivo).

The eyeTV solves all the problems of trying to wrest control from the AppleTV of how video is stored and removed from its internal disk drive. Time-shifting is the biggest problem that the AppleTV does not address.

Erica Sadun
2007-01-19 11:36:42
Dave: No dissing here. I ordered one during the Macworld $99 special. I had put it off until then just in case AppleTV shipped with a tuner.
2007-01-19 13:33:01
Native resolution is the key. My 42 has native panel resolution of 720 and when I use my Mac Mini with it things look a little blurry. If you want to use a computer on it, make sure the native resolution is higher than the res. that you want to use.

2007-01-22 07:12:35
You may want to scour a few places online for better prices. For instance MacMall has an equivalent ViewSonic for $549 after rebates.

2007-01-22 15:40:01
You should be aware that you might get a better picture when using the VGA connection instead of the HDMI connection. At least that was my experience with a new Viewsonic 32 inch HDTV I recently used. The VGA cable allowed me to use the full native resolution where the HDMI cable allowed a slightly smaller 720p resolution. At the very least give it a try both ways and report on your findings :)
2007-01-24 11:51:15
Your new TV, like many, will accept a 1080i signal... but the _display resolution_ is the slightly lower res 720p. The key is the resolution in the specs, 1300 x 720 (approx.) That's 720p.

A fully 1080 capable TV will have a resolution of about 1920 x 1080. Look for those, and you'll see the prices go up accordingly.

So, 1080i material will get down-converted by the TV to 720p. This will still look very nice. Down-conversion could cause picture to get out of sync with the sound on some TV's. If you bought a 1080i camcorder, you would never see the full amount of detail. Fine by me, I am not ready for my hi-def close up. :-) Just so you know.

Then we have up-conversion - playing your existing DVD's, watching 'regular' TV channels. It does that too. Does it make these sources look nice? Do DVD movies look cool? If not, consider one that does a better job of up-conversion. I'm not chucking my library yet...

For the price, there is nothing wrong with the set at all, as long as you are knowing exactly what you are buying - a 720p TV.

The electronics biz is doing a poor job of communicating how this all works, and the FCC/NAB did a poor job of designing it... sigh.