Rich Warren | It may be awhile before we see 5G

Rich Warren | It may be awhile before we see 5G

If your current smartphone works, wait before buying a new model. While the new 5G cellular transmission system may not arrive in East Central Illinois in 2019, it will be activated in several major cities around the U.S. No current phones, and few that will be introduced this fall, will be able to take advantage of the dramatic improvements offered by 5G. However, you need not worry, because 4G phones will remain compatible with the cellular system and continue working for years.

Here is a reader question:

"We have a Vizio smart TV that is about three or four years old. Yesterday, when I turned it on, we noticed a dark band in the middle of the picture. You can still see the picture, but it is kind of distracting, and we wonder how much longer before it will go out completely. In reading about TVs on Google, we learned this is not uncommon for newer-model TVs. My question is, do you have a guess on whether it would worthwhile to have it fixed?"

As the doctors on TV always warn, diagnosing without seeing the patient carries risks. With that disclaimer, whether the band in your picture is caused by a display failure or the electronics controlling the display, you're more than likely headed for a new TV. Vizio makes a good TV, but it's a budget brand and has a reputation for not stocking repair parts. If the display failed, you'll definitely need a new TV. Since the TV is out of warranty, assume that it will cost at least $200 if it can be repaired. In the three to four years since you started watching your Vizio, TV picture quality improved. For $400, you can purchase a superior TV.

Here's a harder question:

"My Blu-ray player quit playing Blu-ray discs but still plays regular DVDs. Could it be because I have never updated it through the internet? I have not connected my TV and DVD player to the internet because of the difficulty in doing so."

Here are a couple of possible answers to your query. Your Blu-ray player uses two separate lasers mounted on the same armature. A DVD uses a 650-nanometer (nm) red laser, while a Blu-ray disc uses a 405-nm "blue" laser diode, which is closer to violet than blue. Thus, your blue laser diode may have failed, but the red one continues playing DVDs. There are changing copyright issues concerning Blu-ray discs, which may, or may not, require updating the "firmware" built into your player. So it certainly wouldn't hurt to connect it to the internet for an update.

In a subsequent email, the same reader mentioned:

"Can the anti-theft sticker on library Blu-rays cause problems in the playing?"

I'm incredulous that the library would sticker a disc. Neither CD, nor DVD nor Blu-ray should ever have anything applied to their surfaces. These discs rotate at very high speeds, and the slightest imbalance will interfere with tracking and could damage the laser assembly if the disc wobbles too much.

Unfortunately, like the reader with the TV picture issue, if your Blu-ray no longer plays Blu-ray discs, and you've tried updating it via the internet, you'll need a new player. A failed laser cannot be economically replaced.

While most readers complain about Comcast, this one offers kudos:

"Read in your column today about the recent speed increases. I'm getting an average of 130 mbps, which isn't bad and close to what they say I should be getting (150 mbps). I restarted my modem: no improvement. I then reset my ASUS router to factory settings and reconfigured it. Another modem restart, then wow, I am now averaging 290 to 300 mbps, I'm supposed to be getting 250. Thanks for the tip."

It pays to install firmware upgrades to your router and to reboot your modem monthly.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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