Let 'er Rip!

To quote Professor Farnsworth on Futurama, "Good news, everyone!" I figured out how to answer reader questions in my blog (not that it was all that difficult). Now that my company e-mail account is up and running, you can simply send your questions to me at:

scott.wilkinson@sourceinterlink.com

Please include the city and state in which you live so I can site that when I publish a letter.

I expect far more questions than I can answer here, so I'll pick the ones I think will be of most interest to many readers. I'll also try to answer all questions by replying to them directly, but if the volume gets too overwhelming, that may not be possible. We'll see...

To kick things off, here's a question from Tim Ivie:

Congratulations on your new role at UAV. I was not a reader of the site, but I've started reading your blog and becoming familiar with the content. I enjoy your podcasts with Leo Laporte, so I hope you'll able to keep that going.

I have a large media/family room (16x24 feet), and I need at least a 55-60" HDTV. The budget for the TV is $3500. I have a good sound system in place: Pioneer Elite AVR, Altec Lansing front speakers, in-ceiling surround speakers, and NHT subwoofer.

Based on reviews I've read in UAV and The Perfect Vision, I was ready to buy a Sony KDS-60A3000. I went to a local A/V shop to pick one up, but they were very anti-RPTV. They claim that Sony is not going to produce any more RPTVs, and I would spend hundreds or thousands of dollars replacing the lamp over the life of the TV. They also claim that the overall technology and picture quality cannot compare with, say, the 60" Pioneer Kuro.

I really like the Sony's picture quality, but now I have doubts about the cost of operation due to the lamp. Is the cost of lamps or the apparent end of a technology something that should cause me to forgo the purchase until I have the bucks to spend on a 60" plasma? Am I likely to regret buying the RPTV 12 or 18 months down the road? All the best and keep on rocking. Thanks for your feedback.

Thanks for your kind words, Tim. I have to agree with the folks at the store you went to—despite the Sony's superb picture quality and low price compared with the best alternatives in flat panels, the company has indeed left the RPTV business. The A3000 line will be their last, which begs the question of ongoing support.

I might dispute the claim that the Sony's picture quality cannot compare with the Kuro. Both are really excellent, though the plasma probably has better off-axis performance, which is important if you often have people watching from off center.

Then there's the lamp-replacement issue. Sony doesn't specify the estimated lamp life, but it's normally only 2000 hours or so, which translates to less than a year at eight hours a day, seven days a week. Of course, few people watch TV that much, but even if it's half that amount, you'll be replacing the lamp every 16 months or so at a cost of $250 a pop.

The Pioneer Kuro plasmas are much more expensive than the A3000 RPTVs, but they do produce an incredible picture. I've recommended them to several friends, and every single one has been thrilled with the result.

If you've oriented the screen and seating along the long axis of your room, I agree that a 60" screen (or even larger) is probably better than a 50" model, though you don't specify your seating distance, which could make a difference. The 60" non-Elite Kuro (PDP-6010FD) lists for $6500, but I suspect you can find better prices at various retailers. Still, that's a serious chunk of change, probably much more than your stated budget. If you can tolerate a seating distance of eight feet or so, a 50" screen would work well. The 50" 1080p non-Elite model (PDP-5010HD) lists for $5000, but again, I'm sure you can find better prices.

I'm sad to see Sony exit the RPTV business; the A3000 line is truly awesome, and you can't beat the bang for the buck in terms of screen size. But the world is definitely becoming flatter these days—at least in terms of video displays—so buying a plasma or LCD panel is looking toward the future, whereas buying an RPTV is looking toward the past as it recedes over the horizon.

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