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Archive for the ‘Best Buy’ Category

A tech-free weekend, a cable free summer?

Posted by lozenp on June 16, 2008

My wife and I spent out first night together away from our son Saturday at a wedding on Michigan’s west coast. We’ve both individually been gone several times, but this was first time we were both gone at the same time. My sister came to the Milan compound to keep things (things being our rambunctious 19-month old) under control so we could enjoy a nice Father’s Day trip.

We were staying at a bed and breakfast in the small town of Saugatuck called the Belvedere Inn, it was beautiful. Built in 1913, wonderfully manicured grounds, minutes from Lake Michigan. The wedding was outside, as was the reception. The Weather was great, and we had a great time.

But a word of warning to the tech-happy of you out there, when you head to a bed and breakfast, don’t assume you’ll have any tech in your room. In our case, no TV, no wireless, nothing. The closest thing to technology was the iron in the closet. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have a night away, and I was still able to do a few things thanks to my iPhone, but my clicker hand felt a bit lonely that night.

But it was a good test to see how I would handle no TV, since my big experiment for this summer should start sometime shortly after the Fourth of July: I’m cancelling all but the most basic of cable. And the only reason I’ll keep what I do is because I think it’s cheaper to have internet and basic cable than to have just internet.

This means no HD, no DVR, no On Demand. No for those of you who know me, you’ll saying right now there’s a catch. There’s no way Phil voluntarily dumps cable and has no backup plan. Well, you’re right. Here’s the plan.

I’m selling a bunch of stuff back to Best Buy via their trade-in site and will use those gift cards toward a new PC that can handle HD content and serve as a media server. This will be paired with my HD TV Tuner and will allow me to get OTA HD and QAM HD as well. So I’ll be able to see most of the Olympics, for instance. I’m also hoping that by putting this PC in the bedroom (hidden of course, honey) and hooking it up to the network, I’ll be able to not only use the Windows Vista DVR functionality in the bedroom, but also in the living room via the Xbox 360.

The other test will be to see how much content I can find on the internet to keep me busy for the summer. And how much of that will be HD.

I’ll be updating the progress as I go, and I plan to go without for at least July and August. We’ll see what happens come September.

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Posted in Best Buy, computers, HDTV, Home Theater, HTPC, TV, Xbox 360 | 2 Comments »

DVE HD Basics Part II – Video Tests

Posted by lozenp on April 30, 2008

There’s a lot of content on this disc, there’s no doubt about that. I had to watch several of the sections a couple times to understand fully who to properly test and calibrate my picture. On top of just test patterns, there’s a couple hours of information on how HD signals are created, calibrated and adjusted at the source. I’m still working my way through that, but it’s certainly proving to be educational.

I made some discoveries about my TV during calibration. First, my TV doesn’t accuratly display below-black color, as systems standards say sets should. According to the disc, this is very common. Also, I found that my set will properly calibrate blue and red color, but can’t come close to getting green right. Using the provided color filters, I can see that the green coloring is far from what standards say it should be. Unfortuantely, my TV doesn’t have very good color-correction controls, especailly in the Component connection mode.

I also determined that my set is likely using the standard definition decoder for setting color, another very common issue in some HDTVs.

After about an hour of messing around, I made good progress in completing the video calibrations. Here’s how things have changed, my old settings are first:

  • Contrast – 89 to 92
  • Brightness – 54 to 58
  • Sharpness – 39 to 11
  • Color – 54 to 60

The biggest learning was the sharpness. This control is actually a holdover from the early days of color tv. In most cases, it seems this control doesn’t need to be active for HD signals. Sure enough, using the overscan test pattern, I was able to see I had mine set way too high.

The other thing that I was able to prove to myself is that my screen overscan is very poorly set. When looking at the overscan patter, I’m losing the bottom five percent of the picture, the left three percent, the top two percent and the right two percent. The biggest issue, however, is the amount of picture I’m losing off the bottom. I also determined that my picture is slightly rotated clockwise.

Those are all fixes that can’t be made in the general menus but only in the service menu of the TV. All TVs have service menus that are not accessible to the consumer because of the amount of damage a uneducated consumer could do to the set by getting into those menus. Hopefully I can call Best Buy and take advantage of my service plan to get some of these issues resolved, and maybe convince the tech to show me the service menus while he’s here.

Next up, the audio test patterns.

Posted in Best Buy, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater | Leave a Comment »

Major sale possible in the audio market

Posted by lozenp on April 20, 2008

D&M Holdings, which owns Denon, Marantz and McIntosh, among several other brands, is up for sale, and the list of potential suitors is quite interesting.

D&M is owned by RJH International, which has put up 49 percent of its shares. Philips electronics has offered up its 12 percent as well, which means the buyer would be the majority owner. And while news of Blockbuster looking to buy Circuit City was big last week, this change of hands could be even bigger.

The front-runners currently look to be Bain Capital (which owns Kenwood, along with my employer Domino’s Pizza), Harman International (owners of Harman-Kardon, JBL and Infinity) and the big-box retailer everyone loves to hate, Best Buy.

As Audioholics.com points out, Bain winning the bidding war could put Kenwood back into the living room. Most audioholics are probably cheering for Harman to win out. That would add Snell, Boston Acoustics and Escient, along with the aforementioned Denon, Marantz and McIntosh brands, to an already impressive lineup.

But the Best Buy angle is the one that seems the most interesting. The D&M companies currently operate very independantly. If Best Buy gets control of them – most of all high-end speaker maker McIntosh which prides itself on its hand-crafted work – it would be very interesting to see how the retailer handles the changeover. Keep an eye on this, it could change the audio landscape in a very large way.

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In case you missed it

Posted by lozenp on April 12, 2008

It’s been a busy week that’s kept me from posting a lot. So, in an effort to keep you up to speed, here’s some things you might have missed if you weren’t paying attention:

PS3 adds DTS-HD Master Audio – It’s becoming harder to argue that the PS3 isn’t the best Blu-Ray player available. This week comes news that the console will be adding DTS-HD Master Audio support (as well as DTS-HD High Resolution). Interstingly, the PS3 encodes the signal internally but can’t pass it bit for bit to your receiver (yet), but the jury is still out on if passing that signal straight through will actually sound better. Either way, this is exciting news for Blu-Ray fans and PS3 owners. Prepare to crank that volume knob.

Blockbuster announcing set-top box – The way things are going I might have my own set-top box in the near future. Everyone seems to be announcing these things lately, and my gear rack is already full. Netflix announced one a while back, but there’s been no movement on that one. Meanwhile, Blockbuster is set to announce this one next month, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Wal-Mart, Amazon join the HD DVD rebate game – Circuit City and Best Buy have already been running programs, and word came this week that Amazon and Wal-Mart would join the fracus. Amazon sent people a $50 gift certificate in the mail, Wal-Mart will be allowing refunds, with receipts, on purchases made after Nov. 1, 2007.

Also last week, the first BD-Live titles were released. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and The Sixth Day both came out. Unfortunately, for HD DVD adopters like me who were used to a mostly flawless online experience with HDi discs, the results so far for both BD-Live titles have been less than spectacular, with most users reporting long (we’re talking 4-5 minues) load times on online content. Hopefully this is something that gets better with time.

Posted in Amazon, Best Buy, Blockbuster, Blu Ray, HD DVD, HDTV, Home Theater, Netflix, Wal-Mart | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Xbox 360 HD DVD player and 7-10 DVDs gets you $45

Posted by lozenp on March 21, 2008

Best Buy added the HD DVD player to their trade in site today, and here’s what you get for the Xbox 360 add on and 7-10 HD DVDs included, with all items in excellent condition and all original cables/manuals: $45.

Turn that 360 add on into a Toshiba HD-A3, it only adds $15 to get you $60. If you bought the Onkyo HD805, you can get $169 back. Toshiba XA2: $189. The XA2 by itself will net you $165, so it’s seems that Best Buy isn’t putting much stock in the movies you’ll be adding to your trade in. Combo players are on the list as well, with a LG BH-200 by itself bringing in $285 and the Samsung BD-UP5000$255, although judging from the reviews, some people might want to send that one packing anyhow.

Considering Best Buy is giving my $50 just for buying my Xbox add on there, I think I’ll keep my eight movies and the player and call it good.

Posted in Best Buy, Blu Ray, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | 1 Comment »

$50 from Best Buy for HD DVD players

Posted by lozenp on March 19, 2008

hdac_head2.gifWow, now this is what I call customer service. Best Buy, usually a favorite punching bag for techies, is doing its customers right by announcing a program to give a $50 gift card to anyone who bought an HD DVD player before Feb. 23, 2008, and yes the Xbox 360 add-on is included. But unlike other trade-in programs like those from Circuit City (which tripled it’s 30-day return policy to 90 days on HD DVD players) and Canda’s Future Shop ($100 toward a combo player from LG or Samsung), you get to keep your HD DVD player. Let me say that again because it bears repeating, Best Buy is giving you a $50 gift card, and allowing you to keep your player.

Here’s how the program works, according to Best Buy.com:  “Most qualifying customers will automatically receive their complimentary gift card by mail in the coming weeks. If you qualify and haven’t received yours by May 1, 2008, please call us at 1-888-BEST-BUY to verify your eligibility (have your receipt handy, if possible).” That means if you bought with a credit card or are a member of Reward Zone and used your card when you purchased, likely Best Buy already knows and you’ll be getting your gift card right around the time the stimulus package checks come from the government.

So while you likely paid $200 or more for your player, it’s not a full refund, but you can’t complain about getting $50 and being able to keep your equipment.

Also announced is that starting March 21, Best Buy will be adding HD DVD players and media to it’s BestBuyTradein.com site, allowing you to instantly see what your player and movies would be worth in trade for Best Buy gift cards. So it’s possible you could get your $50 gift card, and then unload the player and DVDs you have on the trade in site for even more gift cards.

Players eligible for the $50 gift card:

  • Toshiba HD DVD player models:
    HD-A1, HD-A2, HD-A20, HD-XA2, HD-A3, HD-A30, HD-A35
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD player accessory model 9Z5-00013

Offer excludes HD DVD-equipped computers and laptops, and so-called “dual-format” or “universal” high-definition disc player models designed to play both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD media.

Posted in Best Buy, Format War, HD DVD, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »