A Panel of Problems

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on October 19th, 2006

Why is it so difficult to buy a decent flat panel TV? Yes, I can do down to the likes of Comet or Currys right now and buy one of about 50 panels on display immediately. The problem is I want a good panel. No, I want an excellent panel. Clearly I am just too discerning!

Into the local Comet superstore I go. They have the biggest selection of flat panel TVs I’ve ever seen. I am hovering around the most expensive of those panels and the inevitable salesman spies me in my three piece suit (I’m on a lunch break). The conversation goes something along the lines of:

Salesman: Can I help you at all?
Me: Er, maybe. I’m looking for a 1080p panel.
Salesman: The only one we’ve got is this Hitachi plasma…
Me: Yes, I was looking at that but it isn’t actually 1080p.
Salesman: It’s 1080…
Me: It’s 1080i. Interlaced. I’ve looked into it and it doesn’t support 1080p.
Salesman: Yes, I think you’re right. In that case we don’t have any 1080p TVs yet. You will probably have to try a specialist shop.

A specialist shop?! I’m trying to buy a TV, not an unusual musical instrument or a weapon of mass destruction! I take a quick look around those panels they do have and they are all very last generation, most 1366×768. Clearly 768 vertical lines cannot display the 1080 lines of Full HD without throwing away, what, 312 lines (about 30%). Even the Hitachi panel they showed me was only 1024×1080 rather than 1920×1080 (although Comet has their information on the display wrong, claiming full 1920×1080 when it isn’t).

I wasn’t surprised by this but I was hoping the salesman would know about the upcoming Full HD Sharp panels I’ve been looking at. My investigation of said panels has unexpectedly turned a bit sour, though. These were my great hope. First I was looking at the 42″ panel but it quickly became clear that Sharp don’t make their own 42″ LCD panels and the outsourced variants were significantly inferior to their home grown 46″ and 52″ screens. That was a blow. I did some hasty calculations and 46″ would just about fit. No chance for the 52″. So, that was okay, Sharp here I come. Except… The American version of the panel came out a couple of weeks ago and reports are mixed. If you get a good panel then you will be in for a treat, up there with the best panels you can buy for any price. If you get a bad panel then you will have severe colour banding, poor viewing angles and, possibly, a high pitched buzzing sound. Early estimates have it at about 47% chance of getting a lemon. I don’t like those odds. Sharp’s new 8th generation LCD plant appears to have some teething troubles. The quality control leaves something to be desired. As my only option to buy this set is currently online, I simply won’t be able to see what I’m getting before I pay and sending it back will be a right pain in the panel (it will be no small box and I’d probably have to take the day off just to take delivery). Very disappointing. The European panels might not exhibit the same problems, they are only just appearing now. I nervously await reports from the first buyers of the Sharp LC-46XD1E. I’ve no doubt magazine reviews will be great but they will probably be given hand picked good panels. As ever, time will tell.

There are a couple of alternatives. The previously mentioned Hitachi, though not true Full HD, is nonetheless a great plasma panel by most accounts. So, that’s the 42PD9700. 42″, a little expensive by comparison to the Sharp but it may be they have better QC than Sharp. I’ve also recently discovered that Sony do a new LCD panel that does do Full HD, KDL-40W2000. Being Sony it is more expensive than anyone else, meaning only the 40″ is at a realistic price (and my realistic price is probably a little bit higher than most people’s realistic price for a TV). Smaller than my original idea of a 42″, a heck of a lot smaller than the Sharp 46″ for about the same money. Standard Definition is, apparently, below par (also a problem of the Hitachi, as I have witnessed). Also, I’m no fan of Sony recently, what with the spyware on their CDs, their part in the next-gen DVD wars, their exploding laptop batteries and their poor handling of Star Wars Galaxies. Decisions, decisions.

Perhaps HDTV isn’t there this year after all. Do I really have to wait another year?!



“Patrick Stewart has hair!!” or One Clav Divs,Part II

Andy SimpkinsAndy Simpkins   on October 15th, 2006

Instead of making my first blog entry a general ‘How do you do,my name is Andy.I’m 42 years old,I like golf,swimming,scuba diving and I am a New Man and very touchy-feely in a Dave Cameron stylee….’,I thought I would continue in the same vein as my esteemed and pressed collegue on this site;the Boris Johnson lookalike,Mr Tony Gallichan.

For a few weeks, the BBC had been advertising the new TV series:”Ancient Rome;The Rise and Fall of an Empire”,charting the more notable emperors and players in the snakepit of political intrigue that was Rome.I have been following the series which has had some good actors in it like Sean, the son of P’Twee, as Julius Caesar,trying to be a fair ruler of Rome and quelling a Sea Devil uprising in a lighthouse off the mainland of England…(sorry,wrong actor but the soundtrack was great!)

After the first episode had finished and it went to programme links,the announcer said that the costume drama ‘I, Claudius’ was about to start on BBC 4 shortly.Having recently coming into possession of a TV that could pick up the all new,all singing and dancing digital channels, my interest was piqued,to say the least.

“Ah Ha!” I said and flipped over to BBC4.It has been a long time since I saw “I, Claudius” and I was curious to see how it would look again through a pair of eyes that had aged slightly since the last time.At great risk of revealing my age, let’s just say that it first came out on BBC1 (or was it 2?) back in 1976 when I was in my second year at secondary school.Blimey,doesn’t time fly!

Derek Jacobi still shines as the lame and stammering man who would eventually outlive the diabolical machinations of his almost reptilian grandmother Livia,magnificently played by Sian Phillips, as she systematically poisons,banishes or otherwise gets rid of everyone who would stand in her way so that she could make sure that her beloved but surly and taciturn son ;Tiberius (played by George Baker of Blakes 7 and Inspector Wexford fame) can gain ascendancy to the throne of Rome.Brian Blessed as the BOOOOOMMIINNG Augustus Caesar,who despises what he sees but is either too weak or too blind to resist the implacable will of his wife.He,too, eventually falls victim to her schemings after eating poisoned figs.The particular scene I must raise my hat to as Brian Blessed,lying on his death bed, managed to play dead and keep his eyes open and remain expressionless for the best part of two minutes while the camera focused on his face whilst in the background,Livia explained, almost to herself, her motivations and her aims,secure in the knowledge that he could never reveal her innermost thoughts.

I found my eyes watering in sympathy for Brian as I could never keep expressionless for that long and keep my eyes open that long without blinking in order to keep my eyes moist.

In last weeks episode, we saw Patrick Stewart in one of his earliest TV roles as Sejanus;captain of the guard,sporting a full head of wavy hair, and a loyal servant of Livia.This was rather unnerving as I have always imagined that he was born without hair and never developed any during his entire adult life after seeing him appear in ‘Star Trek:The Next Generation’ and ‘Dune’….His role was only a couple of minutes onscreen as he received orders from Livia to go and despatch some of her opponents in a very blood-thirsty manner.

The series is a veritable rolecall of stalwarts of British TV,film and Theatre including a very young looking Ian Ogilvy as Germanicus and John Hurt,who would appear later on in the series as a completely barking-mad Caligula and in the final episode,strangely enough,Christopher Biggins as Nero.An odd choice for the role but he does carry it off very well indeed.

In passing, all I can say is go out and buy it and watch it for yourselves.Where other period costume dramas can look, well, dated,’I Claudius’ has stood the test of time due to the calibre of the acting and those actors who portray those who once took such a major role in forging an empire whose influence still echoes down the ages to this day……..



The next generation

hobbithobbit   on October 9th, 2006

Got a warm, fuzzy feeling while wandering through Ottaker’s book store on Saturday.

A little lad, no more than seven, ran to his mum and nan, eyes shining with excitement, and declared at the top of his voice that “there’s a Doctor Who book and you can make a CYBERMAN!!!”

“How sweet,” thought I, “Nice to see the next generation of Whovians being born.”

Then I darted across and bought the last copy of said book for my nephew for Christmas before ‘mum’ or ‘nan’ got to the display.

I am evil (though as far as young Tom is concerned, I am the best auntie in the world).



The Hooded Man?

Lord MacfadyanLord Macfadyan   on October 8th, 2006

I have to admit, I was not impressed by Robin Hood, the Beeb’s new Saturday night adventure drama show type thingy. It just, well..the whole thing fell flat. Even poor Keith Allen looked embarresed to be there. the fight scenes were, frankly, embarresing. I’ll give it another week, just to see, but I do think they may have a duffer on their hands. Big shame they cocked it up ‘cos I welcome anything thats a change from the normal nonsense we have on the box nowadays.

As for the Torchwood trailer, well, great to finaly see one, but Ill reserve judgement on it till I actually see the show – the Outpost Gallifrey forum went into what I believe is called full on ‘Squeee’ mode, bless ’em.

Time will tell.

As for Loxley, I’ll stick to Robin of Sherwood, thank you very Much.



Beware: Torchwood

Adam J PurcellAdam J Purcell   on October 7th, 2006

How much wood would a Torchwood torch if a Torchwood could torch wood?

Well, finally, we’ve seen a proper trailer! I’ve dialled back my expectations a little based on that, I felt it was a little cheesy and have begun to fear the RTD factor again! Hopefully I’m wrong about that. I watched it four times in a row (aren’t TiVos great?!) as soon as it was on, hoping my initial reaction would fade a little with rewatches. Maybe it was just the after effects of Robin Hood, which I thought was quite poor even after going in knowing the first episode was especially slow. Time will tell.

BBC Three on Sunday 22nd October 2006. Probably 21:30. That’s the date I’ve heard. Sounds like as good a date/time as any.

As for Robin Hood, I’ll certainly give it another episode but at this rate even seeing it in HD (which might happen before the end of its 13 week run) might not save it! As I was sitting there watching it I thought to myself – this is no Doctor Who. Created specifically as a stablemate to the great time travelling adventure series ™, I think the BBC may have tried a bit too hard. Viewing figures and general reaction to this first Robin Hood episode and the next one will be interesting. If it does fall off, as I expect it will, that will be a shame. I’m not one of these Who fans who believe nothing can come close to matching (or even exceeding) Doctor Who and I certainly think there is room for a few high profile programmes of that nature. I already doubt this new Robin Hood will catch the imagination or keep the attention that the new Who has in this age. At least the BBC are trying, though. Doctor Who may have brought a family drama renaissance but it may take a bit longer to gain a real foothold beyond Who than we might like.

Edit: Finally located a YouTube link for the new trailer –