Whether you’re a movie nerd with a hard on for hi-def or a socialite who needs a good movie night every month, this knowledge will help your current tech go farther and make future purchases snappier.
1. Your remote sucks. Get used to it.
I work for a tech company and we’re always focused on improving the user experience, or UX. UX is less concerned with features and functionality and more concerned with how a product makes you feel. Is it fun? Does it make you feel smart when you use it?
In the realm of UX, remote controls and TV menus are reviled for their frustrating and confusing designs. Tough it out. You could get a fancy expensive all-in-one remote that you’ll also have to figure out, or you can just grin and bear it for 20 minutes, dive into the user manual, and learn how to use that damn thing you just dropped half a paycheck on. You’d be surprised how many times I’m able to improve the picture or sound on a friend’s set with just a few minutes of fiddling.
2. Bigger isn’t always better
Buying a big expensive sound system you don’t have the time, knowledge, or interest to set up correctly is not a good use of your money. Think carefully about your situation and be honest about what you need and what you don’t. There are enough options available today — and the baseline for quality has gotten high enough — that shopping for “the best” isn’t a good idea for everyone.
A 1080p TV is great for blu-ray movies and the latest games, but if you’re only going to use it to play through your Sega Genesis collection, you’re probably better off with a well-reviewed CRT. Likewise, if you plan on having your TV set pull double-duty as a computer monitor for web browsing or word processing from the couch, a 720P set will be easier to read than a “better” 1080p television of the same size.
Ask around and tell knowledgable friends about what you want to use your set-up for and they’ll be able to help you out — just make sure you’re not mooching free tech support!
3. You paid too much for that cord
This is entering the realm of common knowledge, but it still needs to be said. If you bought the cables you needed from a big box or specialty electronics store, odds are you overpaid. It’s also important to know that, for all intents and purposes, all digital cables WORK EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. HDMI, the new standard for current sets and HD-players, is a digital cable. Digital cables either work or they don’t, there’s no quality difference.
4. Discs are dinosaurs
Now there’s RedBox. Netflix. iTunes. Hulu (at least in the US!). Getting entertainment on discs seems increasingly obnoxious the more comfortable you get with digital content. Nowadays, I can find a movie on Netflix faster than I can find it in my home — especially since our last move.
My advice is to quit buying movies. The psychological benefit of not having to own, care for, or keep track of movies — not to mention the potential cost-savings if you’re a big consumer — far outweighs the negatives of occasionally not having access to a flick you’re really hankering for right then.
5. These technologies that are more trouble than they’re worth for the average person:
- 3DTV. It’s dumb and you look stupid in those glasses and most of the at-home ones work like shit and give people headaches.
- High-end surround sound. Do you really need Teen Mom 2 in surround-sound? Let your film-studies major buddy drop the dough on that set-up and go over to their place to catch your favorite flick.
- Home Theatre PCs. If you are like me and enjoy building computers as a hobby, find babysitting a three hour Windows install to be a grand old time, and read Tom’s Hardware recreationally, the home theater PC route might be for you. However, if you just want some Netflix up on your TeeVee on the cheap, get a Roku box instead.
- Projectors. Seriously. Don’t even bother. LCDs and LEDs have gotten so wonderful, large, and cheap that the projector route is really not the best way to get cinema-like quality on a budget anymore.
Embrace these rules and your entertainment will go farther. Other techies: what have you learned that the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught up on?