Sunday, March 14, 2010

Media Player Blog

I have just bought a HD Media Player and have started a new Blog here to share my experience. If you are looking to get a media player, you may want to drop in and leave your comments. Thanks.

Ronald Kwok

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Branded 19 inch LCD TV

There are not many branded 19 inch LCD TV available in the market locally. I suppose the profit margin is lower and the demand is less for this size so the retailers and manufacturers are pushing their bigger 32 inch and above sets for better profits. There is a small market for these small LCD TV as in my case where I needed the small size to fit on my desktop for personal viewing or maybe you need this size for the kitchen or even in the bathroom!

Apart from the Sharp LC-19A35M that I bought, I found two other branded 19 inch LCD TV locally and they are the Sony KLV19T400A and the Toshiba 19AV550E. The Sharp and the Toshiba are very similar in the main specifications as both have resolution of 1366 x 768 (aspect ratio of 16:9) while the Sony has a higher resolution of 1680 x 1050 (aspect ratio of 16:10). Though the Sony has the higher resolution, I'm not sure if there is any distortion when showing movies that uses the 16:9 ratio. The Sony also has FM radio and all three models have RGB input for connecting a PC. (These models may not be available in all parts of the world or may have different model names.)

You may want to check out the detail specification here for the
Sharp, Toshiba and the Sony. I've seen all these three models at Harvey Norman so you may want to do some live comparison down there before your purchase. Both the Sharp and the Toshiba are selling at RM999 while the Sony is at RM1299 (but prices will change over time). The Sharp is also available in Best Denki at the same price currently.

Since all these models have plenty of adjustable items, the differences that you see may be due to these adjustments which may not be set optimally. One of the most important item to check will be the different screen display modes to see how it handles the various aspect ratios of movies that are been produced. A set may be great in all the features and produces wonderful colors but all these come to nought if the display is distorted.

I believe all these branded LCD TV may show some differences when they are compared side by side but when they are viewed on their own, any one will look OK since the technology is more or less the same despite what fanciful terms they use in the advertisement (Aquos, Regza and Bravia; wonder what they really mean). Some of the technical figures they quote will show up only in a lab measurement but to the naked eye, they don't mean much, in my layman opinion; especially for a small 19 inch model.
In my next post I'll talk more about the Sharp LCD TV since that is the one that I have. Readers who own other 19 inch LCD TV are welcome to give their opinions of their sets. Happy viewing.

Ronald Kwok

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Demo DVD's for LCD TV

Here’s my hands-on experience with my first LCD TV, the Sharp Aquos LC-19A35M. Initially I was disappointed when I played my first DVD in my Samsung player since I expected to see something similar to those wonderful videos shown in the showroom. The DVD I used was “We Are the Future”, a charity concert in Rome produced by Quincy Jones (remember We Are the World?) for impoverished children of war-torn countries around the world. I used this as my test DVD since it had one of my favourites, Josh Groban singing “You Raise Me Up”. It also had “The Prayer” with Andrea Bocelli and Karina Pasian, another of my favourites. Sorry if this sounded like an album review rather than a LCD TV review but this is a two-in-one thing! Well, the video was not too good (since it was an outdoor concert and lighting is not ideal) and definitely nothing like what I saw when the shop demonstrated my set. Did I get a lemon?

Luckily no, thank goodness. After watching the demos at the showroom with all the LCD TV showing such vibrant and vivid colours you would naturally have high expectations when you bring your own set home. But be prepared for some disappointment. First you must realized that what is usually shown in the showroom are specially prepared programs and not any run of the mill DVD. And they are connected with costly HDMI cables and not a supermarket RCA video cable. But that does not mean that you cannot enjoy your normal DVD with your LCD TV with a simple RCA video cable. You will not be too disappointed if you bear in mind the following points based on my experience with DVD's that I have.

1. The quality of what is shown is firstly dependent on the source material.
2. The medium and transport from the source to the LCD TV also plays a part.
3. The settings on your LCD TV set will also determine what is shown.

Source Material.
The LCD TV cannot improve on bad source material so it is garbagein, garbage out. In fact any defects will look twice as bad on a LCD TV than on a conventional TV since it is very unforgiving. A well produced DVD will give you something similar to what you see in the showroom. If you can get that demo video (remember you always seem to see the one with two children dancing in a magnificent concert hall) and connected the way it was done at the showroom, I bet it will look just as good on your LCD TV at home.

Medium and transport.
The same video from a DVD will definitely look better than from a VCD. A connection using the three cable component video connections will look better than using just the single RCA video connection. Using a DVD with progressive scan will look better than from one without. And if you have the output connected on HDMI cable, it will surely look the best.

TV Settings.
Once you have got your source material with the medium and the transport settled, you can start looking at the settings on the LCD TV. There are so many of them and you can tweak them to your heart’s content. If you have messed them up, just go back to the factory preset and start all over again, this time hopefully wiser. I tested mine with the factory default with just the Brightness adjusted up a few notches.

Now back to my testing of the Sharp LCD TV. After my initial disappointment, I tried several other DVD’s in my collection and my disappointment disappeared progressively since it definitely looked better with better source material and the quality do vary a great deal. Among the movies that I tested so far, the best looking was undoubtedly Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich and you should grab a copy to show off your LCD TV and impress your friends. BTW, I tested using the ordinary Samsung MM-DA25 micro component system running progressive scan with component video connections. Then I sampled other movies like Toy Story, Dinosaurs and Shrek. Wow! Now I understand why they usually show animation movies such as Ice Age, Ratatouille and so on in the showrooms since they will look better than the normal movies. Just pop in any of these new digital animation movies and you will not be disappointed.

Then I tested some of my concert DVD’s and the best so far is the Eagles’ “Hell Freezes Over”. And if you are a Beatles fan, go for “Concert for George (Harrison)”; the video is slightly below that of the Eagles but is musically much better in my opinion. What about my classical collection? I have not found an outstanding one yet but for brilliant colours and photography, it must be “Classical Destinations”. This is not a full classical concert but a BBC production on various music capitals of Europe. The outdoor scenes are just breathtaking and feast for the eyes. It rivals some of those travel demo videos seen in the TV showrooms.

I have not tested the HDMI input since I do not have any HD source but I am more than happy with what I have with just the component video inputs. So much for my subjective view of the Sharp and I will give more technical details on the specs in my later posts. It may not be the best LCD TV in the market but at the price I paid, it is certainly the best value for money

Here are details of some of my test DVD’s in case you are interested to show off to your friend. (The first one is not that great for video but more for the contents and if you love Josh Groban. I'm also smitten by the youthful innocence of Karina Paisan, a young Dominican Republic singer.)
Or you can just pick up any of the digital animation movies and they will probably look great.

“We Are the Future”.

Apart from the artists mentioned above, it has many Middle East, African and South American singers and also the more familiar Santana and Nora Jones. There’s also a performance by Stomp. It is a most enjoyable concert if you do not mind some of the unfamiliar music style and if you like something different. There are also short intros by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Video is not that great but content is superb.

“The Fifth Element”.

Sights and Sounds are spectacular. This is an outstanding movie demo disc to show off your system. An amusing sci-fi of stunning visual and sound. Milla Jovovich made her movie debut in this movie with no clothes on (but alas, with "bandages" over the vital places) so this is a must for her fans. (Edited: Sorry, this is not her movie debut but her breakout role.)

“Hell Freezes Over”.

This DVD has often been used in the past to in HiFi showrooms for demonstration so it has both great video and audio. Since I’m no a great fan of the Eagles (I only know Hotel California), I would recommend the following as an alternative.

“Concert for George”.

A tribute to George Harrison at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Artists include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne and Ravi Shankar (OK, he did not play the sitar, only his daughter Anoushka did) among others. Most of the pieces are wonderfully played but the gem is undoubtedly George Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that never sounded so well. “Something” is another charming piece, from the quiet ukulele solo by McCartney in the beginning to the grand entrance of 8 guitarists and 3 drummers (plus many other musicians). If you are a Beatles fan, you’ll weep gently with the guitars and if you are not a Beatles fan, you’ll become one after watching this. If you also like sitar and Indian music, it is an added bonus since there are 3 pieces in this genre. This is a 2-disc set, the first is the full concert and the second is the edited theatrical release. Disc 2 has the better video so this is the one to play for your friends.

“Classical Destinations”

Remember seeing those beautiful sceneries of magnificent buildings with colourful foliage and flowers, shimmering turquoise waters and crystal blue sky on the LCD TV’s in the showroom? I don’t think you can get hold of those demo videos but you’ll be having something close if you get “Classical Destinations”. This is a BBC TV series taking you on a classical music journey to 12 European cities associated with some of the greatest classical composers. The shots are so beautiful that some of the pictures leap out at you. It is also a good introduction to those cities if you plan to visit them on a holiday. You also get snippets of the composer’s music to accompany the stunning sceneries so what are you waiting for?

Happy viewing.

Ronald Kwok

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sharp Aquos LCD TV

This is a post imported from my other Blog, The Mind of Ronald Kwok. Since there will be more posts on this subject in the future, I feel it would be easier for viewers interested in this subject if I start this new Blog. So here goes.

I took the plunge last weekend and bought myself my first LCD TV. No, it is not one of those giant screen monster or even the usual entry level 32" LCD TV. It is just a modest 19" Sharp, LC-19A35M that suits my purpose perfectly. Nowadays LCD TV makers are pushing for bigger and bigger screen size just like digital camera are giving you more and more megapixels but do you really need all these extra inches and megapixels?

For some of us, the answer is no but how else can the manufacturer come out with new models every now and then to push up their sales and satisfy customers who wants bigger and more to be one up on their friends? Maybe with the current economic situation, customers are thinking twice. Anyway, you should only get what you really need and not pay for something that does not add to its value. (Of course having plenty of money helps but that's another story.)

OK, back to my new toy. Even since my wife bought me the Samsung micro HiFI MMDA25, I've been longing for a display unit so that I can play my large collection of DVD's. As I spent a lot of my time in my library (den to my wife), I just need something small to fit into the "hole" in my desktop. So I looked around the hypermarkets and even Pasar Road. There were many local brands in the small size segment in Pasar Road but for the major brands, they were mainly in the 32" and above category which is too big for me.

I almost bought a local 15" (Audio Phonar?) which was going for RM499, the cheapest LCD TV that I could find. There were brands like E-View (19" for RM650), Wina, and others with similar pricing. Then I saw an ad for a Sharp 19" going for RM799 at Desa Home Theatre and so I did some googling and found that this is the smallest screen in their Aquos range. Not that I do not trust those call-what-you-want local brands but looking at their prices, I feel that this must be a good buy. So I went down to Desa Home Theatre at Low Yat Plaza and took the plunge.

To cut the long story short (so that I can post this early for those PC Fair visitors), I was initially disappointed but later I was very happy with my purchase. It is a definitely a recommended value buy for those of you looking for this screen size and a reputable brand. I will give more details and a full review in my next post. Later I saw the same model going for RM999 at Harvey Norman and a 19" Pensonic also going for RM999 as well so you can see why I say the Sharp is a good buy. (I mean, if you can have Rinko Kikuchi, why pick Amber Chia?) So for those of you going to the PC Fair this weekend, check out the prices of the LCD TV (not LCD monitor) on display there and use this price (RM799) as a baseline for your comparison before you make your purchase.

(The actual screen size of the Sharp LCD TV is 18.5" and the Desa Home Theatre HQ is in Kompleks Desa, Kepong while the branch is in Plaza Low Yat, in case you want this offer.)

Ronald Kwok