Rich Warren: Seiki set appears to be good, but it's very basic
Sometimes if it's too good to be true, it really may be true. We questioned the reality of the Seiki 50-inch 4K TV priced at $1,500 a few weeks back. Could a 4K TV, also known as Ultra High Definition TV, really sell for $1,500 when the major brands introduced sets, albeit with larger screens, at 10 times that price?
The Seiki set is for real, and it received a "good" rating from PC Magazine, as well as generally favorable comments from several Internet sources.
The Seiki SE50UY04 might not quite be the bargain it seems. You can search the Web for reviews and draw your own conclusions about its performance, but this is a bare-bones, nearly featureless set. And there's little if any 4K video currently available for viewing.
Sony builds a hard drive with some 4K movies into its 4K set, just so purchasers can enjoy the set's potential. For a bit more than half the price of the Seiki, you can purchase a conventional HDTV loaded with features and great picture quality for existing 1080P HD sources.
Sadly, one of the best existing HDTVs shortly will disappear. Sharp, which owns a stake in Pioneer, continued to market Sharp/Pioneer Elite TVs when Pioneer left the TV market. Not only did Pioneer develop very advanced plasma technology, which Panasonic took over, it also created superb LCD technology which Sharp assumed and enhanced.
While Sharp announced it will discontinue the top-of-the-line Elite brand TVs because of a part procurement problem, the real issue might be Sharp's precarious financial condition.
Rumors last year purported Apple investing in Sharp so that Apple would have guaranteed access to premium LCD panels not manufactured by Samsung.
While accurate information on that remains sketchy, Apple archrival Samsung recently invested about $111 million in Sharp, while Qualcomm invested a considerably smaller amount. This gives Samsung first call on Sharp's LCD panels to supplement Samsung's own production, as well as access to Sharp's technology. It also might allow slowing the number of panels sold to Apple, which possibly sources about a third of its LCDs from Sharp. All these companies prefer to keep numbers as vague as possible.
No matter what brand of TV or cell phone you own, the political and financial intrigue rivals a John le Carre' novel. A complicated web of technology, finance and allegiances enables our high-tech products.
A couple of months ago, I reported about a lithium ion replacement cell phone battery that I purchased from Interstate Battery in Champaign. It did not precisely fit my phone. After forcing it in and then trying to remove it later to reset the phone, it came apart. I decided this probably violated the warranty and made no effort to contact Interstate Battery. After reading the column, Interstate Battery contacted me and requested I return it for a refund. I am convinced that even had I not written about it, but had taken it back directly, Interstate Battery would have refunded the cost.
Interstate Battery sells the complete line of Optima sealed gel (AGM) 12-volt car and boat batteries (Farm & Fleet also carries most but not all models). My Toyota Camry hybrid uses a 12-volt sealed battery in the trunk to run the electronics, reserving the high voltage nickel-metal hydride hybrid batteries for the hard work of running the car and some of its more power draining accessories.
Because the battery is in the trunk, it needs special venting to the outside because all batteries, even sealed ones, emit some hydrogen. Matsushita (Panasonic) custom makes the battery for Toyota, but replacement models come from Optima, according to the manager at Interstate.
While the nearly identical battery without special venting from Optima costs a bit more than $200, Interstate is not allowed to sell regular customers the special vented Optima Camry hybrid replacement battery. Only Toyota dealers can purchase that battery, which they then sell for about $400.
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.