TV, or new TV, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The apples and artifacts of outrageous fortune,
Or to take alms against a sea of technology
Three recent events inspired this corruption of Shakespeare. While visiting a friend, we watched a few public TV shows on his ca. 2010 Visio 42-inch TV. I realized how significantly TV video quality improved over the past several years.
Then we received an email from a reader asking about converter boxes and cables to connect his new cable TV box to his beloved analog 2006 Panasonic TV. Another friend remains enthralled with his Pioneer Kuro 60-inch plasma TV from a decade ago. At the time, it was the best money could buy, and it cost big money, somewhere more than $3,000.
If good, digital flat-screen TVs still cost what they did eight years ago, you might dispute my advice. However, being able to buy a good, large, flat-screen TV for $350 is a no-brainer.
The current Visio 50-inch 4K TV costs that much, as compared with twice the price of the 720p model of less than a decade ago. Or, if you prefer, you can choose an LG 4K model for the same $350. If a 50-inch, 3-inch-thick set is too large, there'ss the Visio 43-inch 4K model for $300.
Besides impressive picture quality, the new sets use all the latest connectors and smart TV features. They work with Roku, Amazon Fire and similar internet TV devices if you choose not to use the "smart" internet features built into the TV.
Thus, whatever box the cable company provides will work with a new TV. I'm sure our reader with that old Panasonic TV paid far more than $300 for what was a great TV in 2006, but its picture looks pathetic when compared with even the least-expensive house brand TVs of today.
My friend with the Pioneer plasma set chose it because, at the time, plasma was the only technology that could display video with true, pure black. Plasma used light-emitting pixels, so when the pixel was off, it was true black.
LCD technology uses a series of filters with the equivalent of window shades to block side or back light passing through the pixels for black. Light leaks around these "shades" so dark areas never look truly black. Even LCD sets that use selective backlighting, where areas of the illumination are turned on and off to reduce light leakage in black areas, is far from perfect.
Plasma's disadvantages involved a copious demand for electricity while generating significant heat and radio frequency interference. In this era of climate concern and energy conservation, not to mention cost, plasma TVs should be retired.
OLED sets use light-emitting pixels, like plasma, but with far more refinement and precision. Furthermore, OLEDs consume minimal electrical power. Not only do you see a better picture with pure black, but you simultaneously feel virtuous and save a lot on your power bill.
If that's not enough, the cost of LG's 55-inch 4K OLED model costs about $1,700, probably less than half the cost of that plasma set from a decade ago. When LG debuted OLED in 2013 the cost of its first OLED set was about $4,000. The current model displays a better picture.
I'm not shilling for the TV manufacturers or retailers. This is not like buying a new car with a loan you'll be paying off for four years. If you watch TV, even on a limited basis, you will wonder why you waited so long to invest in a new TV.
I bought the 55-inch 4K LG OLED "B-series" 18 months ago and it's one of the best investments I've made. It replaced a very good Sony Bravia HD set from 2009. Sometimes I find myself entranced more by the stunning picture than the TV program.
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.