Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Gift of Magnavox

Let's continue our tour of that big box flyer. On the facing page from the Tivo® and Sony items is a Magnavox 15" LCD TV for the nice price of $249. Stand-alone, or contextural gift?

There was a magic time when any TV would have been a basically stand-alone gift. A television is a self-contained unit, and the only real consideration was the space requirements. Even with more displays being incorporated into home theater systems, a TV (especially a small one like this) is basically a stand-alone gift.

For most folks, this would be great secondary TV. I can see it being used in a den, beach house, dorm room or guest room.

In the olden days, a TV was a TV -- not so much anymore, and it's those fine considerations that may make this contextural for a minority of shoppers. In 2009 broadcasters will switch over to digital broadcasting. The frequencies of all stations will change, as will the aspect ratio of the pictures broadcast. This is part of that HDTV thing we've heard so much about.

Our little Magnavox here has a 4:3 screen aspect ratio, so images broadcast today fit nicely. In 2009, everything will be sent 16:9, or "widescreen." If letterboxing isn't a viewing issue with the recipient, then everything will be fine.

Near the base of the picture in the flyer is the little note "HD Ready." What does that mean? You can take the Magnavox LCD out of the box today, plug it in and it will pull in broadcast TV signals. "HD Ready" means that, in 2009, it will display the new digital signals, but it does not have a built-in tuner to receive them. An outboard HDTV tuner will be necessary.

Now this may not be much of a problem. I suspect most of these little Magnavoxes will spend their operational lives hooked up to cable or a satellite box, so this won't be an issue. If you're thinking of buying it for a weekend home that has neither cable nor satellite service, then you'll probably have to purchase an additional HDTV tuner somewhere down the road.

Still, this is mostly a stand-alone gift.

And finally, running down Ken's shopping rules:
#1 - If they specifically ask for this Magnavox 15" LCD, fine. This is one item that you can reasonably substitute another brand of LCD for, though (I'd make sure its the same screen size, though).
#2 - If you are going to substitute, make it a brand you've heard of. There's a reason why no-name brands are soooo much cheaper -- and your recipient won't want to find out why the hard way.
#3 - For the right person, $249 for a TV isn't a bad price at all.

- Ralph

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