Well, I’d not expected to be at this stage of things for another 6 months, at least. But ‘reality just is’ – E.M.Smith. So here I am.
The earlier articles in this series are here:
I’m posting this article from my bedroom, on a nice 32 inch HDTV that was sold for “dirt cheap” as it seems 720p is yesterdays dogfood and 1080p is on clearance. I’d bought a 720p Toshiba for something like $128? at Best Buy. The intent was to have something to replace a dead SD TV while I learned enough about HDTV to make an informed decision.
I made the mistake of setting it up in the living room on the coffee table so the spouse could see what I was “up to” and assist in the decision making about what was to be done in the living room (as that very large SD Sony was getting buzz in the sound when text was displayed). Well, SWMBO “helped” alright. “It was decided” that ‘my’ set was to remain in the living room until something better replaced it…
The Shopping, Phase 2
So I went on an accelerated learning curve. Yesterday I bought a ‘clearance’ model 43 inch LG 1080p for the living room. I’m now partly through the setting up process (as of last night).
Why LG? The spouse and I did a round robin of The Usual Stores and took a look at screens. LG and Sony were the best picture by far (with Samsung a very close 3rd) and everything else was “also ran” or some brand from China we had never heard of before. (The Best Buy house band of “Insignia” looked good, but who knows what it is or if the FBI was invited in; while COSTCO had a TCL that looked nice and they do strong evaluations, but again who knows what it is). In the “reputational search”, a lot of folks complained about the new Sony sets having weak plastic shells and that the “smart” functions failed a lot. Don’t know if it was sour grapes by competitors, or folks “like me” who had a Perfect Sony that was built like a tank and lasted 20? years – God knows – complaining that this wasn’t quite the same. In any case, the complaints on LG were fewer. Then, it was being sold much cheaper. (Likely due to the push into 4K land and the lack of traditional audio out jacks – at least 50% of the complaints on the smaller LG sets were about inability to connect their sound bar or legacy high end sound systems AFTER they got it home and discovered the lack of “goezoutas”.
How much less? A couple of $Hundred.
To me, that’s enough to be ‘real money’.
OK, cutting to the chase, the 40 inch LG was sold out ( $280 or so price point, so not a surprise) and I took about a $Hundred upsell to the next larger size that came with “smart” built in. But nobody could tell me what that meant other than that I could get Netflix and it involved apps. One cute and, it turns out, smarter than the rest, clerk told me (on direct questioning of what that meant – Roku or Chromecast or…) that it was “their own version and app store”. And that it is. The offerings have all the dreck of ROKU filtered out, and several of the better higher end things in, plus some Korean favorites (guess where LG is from…).
Setting it up was easy. The feet and plastics seem nice and sturdy. The color and overall screen performance is fine and off axis is great compared to others. Sound is quite good (note: I’m not a soundbar person, I’ve got high end cut-off from hearing loss, and hate “thumpa thumpa” over the top base…) and I’m generally pleased.
Their app store is very limited compared to ROKU. Partly that is just the filtering out the crap; but I have not found a lot of very good, and free, stations. Like RT, Al Jazeera, and more. Were I limited to the LG Apps, especially after drowning in the flood of all things ROKU, I’d be disappointed. It is ‘enough’ to get started (what with things like Netflix, Vudu, etc.) but a lot of it requires sending money.
The set keeps trying to toss me into a ‘scan for local stations’ when I accidentally do anything on the remote that puts it in ‘TV Mode’. I’ll need to fish out the bowtie antenna at least long enough to let it scan and find something so it stops that.
Plugging in the Roku Stick, there were a LOT of issues. Picture would freeze. Sometimes a channel would drop. Seems the set has 2 HDMI ports, and one is “IN only” while the other is “In and Out”. The “In and Out” one confuses the ROKU. Works fine in the other one. As that, now, fills my “IN only” HDMI ports, I suspect I will end up in ‘swap the plugs’ land if I want to add a computer, like the one I’m using now…
Don’t expect to plug in legacy sound gear. No headphone jack. No bluetooth to a headset. No RCA jacks. There is a square optical digital sound out, so you can go spend a ton of money on something new. Enjoy… /sarc; Or find something new that takes HDMI for sound and doesn’t mind being flooded with video out stream on the same HDMI.
It seems (after way too little time exploring) like their interface puts the “apps” in order of addition across the bottom of one screen (home screen) in a single row. So maybe only having a few is a good thing… You get to scroll and scroll and scroll…
They do give you their legal agreements on the screen during set up. It basically says they will spy on you and use it to sell you stuff. They collect your identity information and your IP address and share it around with only a few close trusted friends, or anyone they merge with in the future, or any ‘partner’ where it might be helpful … to them. OK, it IS what I expected, nice to see it in print.
So far it has NOT demanded any PII (like credit cards or email addresses) but I’ve only chosen free content so far.
The set comes with zero documentation beyond how to attach the feet and the usual safety nags (one in about 3 dozen languages…) I didn’t need any to set it up, but get to “go fish” on their internet site to find how to use advanced functions (like the 4 colored buttons across the bottom of the remote, one of which says something about ‘eye mode’ when pushed and who knows what the others do).
The Chrombox and the Toshiba
So the experience with the Roku and the 2-way HDMI told me I need to learn a lot more about what that flavor of HDMI is, and does, and is compatible with, before I stick a second thing into the LG set.
The good news is that I get “my” TV back…
The bad news is that putting the Chromebox OR a Pi on the LG TV is ‘off in the future’ after some learning curve on HDMI variations and compatibility. IFF it had had 3 HDMI ports, I’d be posting this from the living room couch…
Instead, I’ve got the Toshiba set up back in the bedroom, and the Chromebox plugged into it. (Note to self: Get a bluetooth or wireless keyboard with trackpad – Sitting 3 feet from a 3 foot monitor screen your eyes are too slow in the scan from one side to the other… ;-)
OK, it clearly is working AS a Chromebox. That means all my marked Youtubes et. al. and my “Internet TV links” from the tab up top ( https://chiefio.wordpress.com/tv/ ) are all now available on a large screen with better sound than the old PC; AND it means I can use my bluetooth headset with the Chromebox.
At this point, I think I’m about 50% done.
This Morning and The Future
So this morning, before even getting out of bed, using the ROKU (that I’d moved in here for the morning), I was able to do a quick “toe dip” tour of the daily news on France-24, Sky News, RT, Al Jazeera, Newsmax, and NBC. I also did a ‘dip’ into the WSJ online video feed, but didn’t get to the Washington Post app yet.
I do have to give a shout out to NBC. They had a ‘please give us feedback’ form on their page saying it was Beta. They had a live news now feed that I started out watching. Then I did a tour of their on demand videos. They have a LOT of stuff up. Having the live feed (2 of them!) was nice as a “just get me hooked up with what is happening now”. I’d suggest adding a 3rd live feed that’s a 30 minute repeating cycle of whatever news is hot at the moment. Repeat the big 3 or 5 stories of the day, and a constantly changing set of minor stories that pop up, then fade as not that important. Their Beta is better than many folks “production”.
Then I made morning tea and set up the Chromebox.
It is VERY clear to me that pretty much all the Internet TV services exist to harvest information about you and use it to sell you stuff, or to sell information to others. Just FYI. So I figured that given Chrome is already doing that too, I might as well hook it up and play with it.
FWIW, I’m now a bit more motivated to try Kodi on the Pi. Likely sometime a few weeks from now. Sound to the Viewsonic didn’t work, likely as I was using HDMI for the video through an HDMI to DVI converter, and round plug for audio, and everyone expects Real HDMI to a Real HDTV. At least, that’s what I hope. So “some Pi” will be tested driving the TV.
I really really hope I can get a Pi running with some kind of software that lets ME control my information. While I’m not particularly bothered that someone will find out I like watching “Plan 9 From Outer Space” or watch a LOT of news, or that we watch NCIS, I don’t need them inspecting the list of things I’ve put on the “take a look at it once” list and start putting up ads for Russian Brides because that fits some demographic of folks watching the Russian Travelogues or ‘whatever’.
So that’s what’s on the cards “going forward”:
Test the Pi. Maybe build a Kodi driving the TV.
Learn the kinds of HDMI and who plays well with what so something in addition to ROKU can be plugged into the LG.
Clean up all the packing material et. al. from the living room ;-)
SLOWLY sort through the 344 remaining ROKU apps and toss some more trash (like the 2 dozen Sci-Fi and Horror ones where I’m sure I don’t need them all)
Learn the LG store better. Figure out if the “smart” function is really worth anything to me, or if I’m just going to buy a second ROKU. BTW, found out the two more expensive ROKU devices are for 4K feeds. At this point, I see no reason to “go there” as I don’t have a 6 foot tall TV ;-) IFF I deprecate the built in “smart” function, I’ll block it from tattling via the expedient of pointing the WiFi interface to ‘dead air’. On the “someday” list is to just build a filter that identifies and blocks the tattling function in my interior router. Just enough to prevent the tattle but not so much as to break services ;-)
Figure out if I can get / use “Chromecast” via the Chromebox and direct HDMI feed of the TV. That would let me explore what Google thinks I ought to be watching on TV ;-) At that point, I’d have 3 different HDTV “smart TV” options to inspect. LG, Roku, and Chromecast. That would just leave AppleTV as one of interest (being $100+ not of all that much interest…) and Amazon Fire. (From the commercial set… I’m sure their might be others, but I’ve not noticed them yet. I’m more interested in the Roll-Your-Own world of the rebellion ;-) But this set would let me do some interesting observation / evaluation.
OK, with that, I’m off to try catching up on all the things I was supposed to be doing before my priorities were “made right” by SWIMBO… /snarc; Which includes catching up on some Global Warming and Political websites and returning yet again to my queue of “postings in progress” and moving a few further along.