Watch Out for the “Extras.”

     One of my coworkers at CET recently asked me for some advice about what type of cable she should use to connect her new HD TV to the various components.  She noted that the salesperson at the store from which she bought the new TV was insistent that she needed to use a very expensive HDMI cable when connecting her television.  Wanting to get the most out of her new purchase, she complied and bought the $70 cable, all four feet of it.  After talking to some others, I found out that many who are buying new sets are finding a dizzying array of cables and accessories and service plans that can add hundreds of dollars to an already expensive purchase.      

     Well the bottom line for most of these add-ons is …Don’t do it!   It brings to mind the final steps we have all had to endure when buying a new car.  The salesperson finishes up the “deal’ and then you are sent to the “finance guy” to “just fill out a few papers.”   Once in the office you are confronted with extended warranty plans, undercoating options, glass guard, ultraviolet ray paint coating, fabric protection, cures for acne and several other options.  All of  these of course cost extra and in most cases are a total waste of money.  It seems that some of the electronic retailers have spent a few too many hours shopping for cars, because they are adopting some of these lucrative “up selling” techniques with their customers.       

     Let’s talk about HDMI cables.  Yes, you should get one for each component that uses this interface to connect to your new HD TV. No, you should not spend $70 on a single cable.  You can get HDMI cables on line and at discount stores for as little as $10 to $15 and they will work just fine.  Sure, the sales person will confront you about impedance mismatches and the benefits of gold plated connectors and any of a host of other “Klingon” jargon.  When you are watching your new TV, you will not be able to tell the difference in picture quality from a set connected with a $15 HDMI cable from one that uses a $100 cable.  The same holds true for the most part for audio cables.   There are slight differences, but they are not worth the steep mark up.      

     The pitch for purchasing an extended warranty will also be an issue as you walk toward the check out counter.  Modern electronic devices will either work out of the box or will fail in a short time, well within the regular manufacturer’s warranty period.  Except for a laptop computer, I can think of no other device that should be protected with an extra warranty policy.   Three years is an eternity in the world of digital electronics.  A DVD player purchased 18 months ago for $200 can now be found on sale for $29.95 and it will come with more features.  Purchasing a $75 warranty for a $200 machine  just does not make sense.  Just say No!      

     Another rip-off is the HDTV Antenna.  If you see a box marked “designed for HDTV,” run out of the store.  There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna.  The design of an antenna, either for set top or outdoor use,  is no different for picking up an HDTV digital signal than it is for analog signals.  The fact is that the new digital over-the-air broadcasts use the same channels as we have used since the beginning of TV in the late 40s.  Don’t pay extra for an antenna just because it says that it is for Digital or HDTV use.  The only difference from the one you bought five years ago is the box.      

    It is a scary world out there …”caveat emptor”…that’s Latin, not Klingon.


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