Monday, December 10, 2018

An Oldnerd Splurges On His Forever TV

This doesn’t do it justice. Trust me. I am bad at photos.
I really wasn’t planning on doing my 4K upgrade this year. I also wasn’t expecting to future-proof my setup for the next maybe decade. But I did.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been slowly working my way towards 4K/HRD all year, knowing that when I pulled the trigger, the TV was gonna be the last thing, not the first thing. The order of operations of carts and horses is important to me. So, when one of my streaming boxes died, I replaced it with an Apple TV 4K.  When the opportunity came to upgrade to a PS4 Pro, I took it, though we all saw how that turned out. And when I couldn’t fucking stand playing Blu-Rays through the PS4 or XBox anymore, I found a deal on a very nice LG non-streaming 4K Blu-Ray player and added it to the mix.

And then I did that thing you should never do. I fell in love with a TV. A high end TV. A TV that makes me feel like a bad liberal for owning. And it’s all Costco’s fault. They put LG’s 55” C8 OLED TV right in the path of my eyeballs, so I spent a month looking at it once a week for a month and just marveling at it. And I know in my head you can’t trust what a TV looks like in the store, but my heart? My heart loved this TV.

And then they put it on sale for Thanksgiving week.

But that still wasn’t enough. Because, you see, there was one part of the upgrade I still hadn’t cracked. The audio/system selection part. I have very weird, specific needs because of my hobbies and my living room, and for at least two years, I haven’t found anything that works.

I need, at a minimum, 7 HDMI inputs. Cable box, PS4, Apple TV, XBox One, Nintendo Switch, Blu-Ray Player, DVD Recorder (for Cathy). Seven inputs is tough.

I also wanted, more than anything, wireless rear surround speakers. Eight years ago, when we got the house, I got a receiver from Best Buy that had a module that supported wireless rears, and it was great, because short of going through the ceiling or over two doors, there was no getting wires to the back of the room.  And like two years later that receiver crapped out and I had no surround.

And nobody offered it. Not at a semi-reasonable price, not at the low end, and not even at the high end because of, I guess, performance issues. So I was stuck. I’d been thinking about a surround-enabled soundbar, but never found one I liked.

Until Costco came through on the same sale. An LG soundbar. Upward firing speakers for Dolby Atmos. Wireless subwoofer. And, miracle of miracles, support for wireless rear surround speakers sold separately. All for around the price of a decent midrange AV receiver. It was the perfect solution for my particular needs. And it was on sale too.

The only problem? Only one HDMI pass through input. But the TV had four. And I’d already picked out a five in, one out 4K HDR HDMI switch. THe math worked out. Without using the soundbar passthrough, and with using the HDMI audio return channel for the soundbar so I could get Dolby Atmos etc., I had exactly seven inputs.

So I did it. And spent all of Thanksgiving weekend rearranging and setting up. I took the opportunity to do power right, with a pair of 12-outlet, four foot long power strips that nestle against the back of the entertainment center, leaving me with a handful of open outlets and a seriously decreased cord tangle.

Yes, this is a serious decrease in cord madness. Trust me. Again. 
I spent the next week or so... fucking with it. You know the drill. Changing inputs after I learned that the cable box was locking up the HDMI switch. Making sure motion smoothing was dead and fucking buried on every input every time. Googling calibration settings and applying them. Tweaking the universal remote for a couple of tricks like getting quick access to left, right, and OK so I could clear the TV’s frequent firmware update notices without reaching for the actual TV remote. That kind of thing.

The thing about OLED TV’s is that they are not, in any way shapre or form, cheap. But when it comes to contrast and color definition, there’s nothing out there like them. And the thing is, my eyes? They’re garbage. They love contrast and brightness and color definition more than anything because, well, they’re shit at making them on their own. The screen is goddamned gorgeous, is what I’m saying. And it’s gorgeous even with standard HD content because of the contrast and color definition. I mean, I gasped at nature cutscenes on the goddamned British Baking Show for fuck’s sake.

Needless to say, the PS4 Pro rocks. Luckily, Spiderman’s underwhelming second DLC came out around the same time, so I could enjoy that in all its visual splendor.

Plus, the kind people at Apple took about a dozen of the digital copies that came with my Blu-Rays and said sure, you can stream these in 4K HDR for free, we’re fine with that. These include John Wick, Deadpool, Mad Max Fury Road, and Logan, so, you know.No complaints there.

Only one 4K Blu Ray so far - Crazy Rich Asians, which was the next disc on the list to pick up household-wide when the upgrade happened. I’ll be making a few choice upgrades once the disposable income bounces back in a month or two. Though I do have five bucks in Best Buy money and Spider-Man Homecoming is on sale this week.

Would I recommend this to everyone? No. Not everyone spends enough time in front of a screen to justify the expenditure, and there are some very nice TV’s out there at a half or even a third the price. But if you happen to have the means, watch a LOT of things on your TV, and want a TV that’s not going to be surpassed by pretty much anything for the next decade or the collapse of civilization, whichever comes first? This will make you happy, within the bounds of which entertainment and consumer products can create happiness, of course.

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