The case for buying a shitty TV


My advice to TV shoppers has evolved: Consider the off-brands. Are you building the ultimate home entertainment system to show off to your friends? Then sure, shell out for the Samsung. But if you’re not…perhaps it’s time to take a look at one of those sub-$350, 40-plus-inch TVs.

Purists will scoff but he’s not wrong. And with “good enough” TVs coming down in price, it makes it less and less likely Apple will be interested in trying to sell their own high margin sets.

  • yikes

    Yes he is wrong. The off-brands never have a good warranty. Hey great, you bought a cheap tv at Walmart on Black Friday. Too bad it only has a 90 day warranty.

    • It really depends, doesn’t it? Just checked online, found the same warranty — 1 year — on a Samsung as the “good enough” brand at my local Best Buy.

    • lucascott

      I’ve gotten great warranties on so called ‘off brands’. Depends on how far off you want to go. Many consider Samsung, Sony and Panasonic THE brands. They are the big 3d, smart TV etc guys. But there are others that are less heralded that are as good, before you get to the ones with the Chinese names and basically no warranty.

  • satcomer

    This make sense if a secondary TV is going in a kids room or into a dorm room.

  • monkeyrun

    At this point, Apple’s not even interested in updating it’s Cinema displays.

  • rogifan

    But there are plenty of cheap PC’s, phones and tablets. Doesn’t stop Apple from selling a crapload of those products. Why is a TV different?

    • PCs is the plural form of PC. works just the same as phones and tablets (not phone’s and tablet’s).

      • downvote me if you like, but the non-plural apostrophe nightmare must come to an end.

        • JohnDoey

          The grammar nazi nightmare must end.

      • JohnDoey

        THERE ARE NO RULES IN ENGLISH. THAT IS BY DESIGN. French takes the opposite approach. If you want to be a grammar nazi, learn French. There is no such thing in English because whatever rule you are looking to enforce, the correct answer always depends on where you are in the world, not on a central authority that rules on correct grammar, as there is in France for the French language.

        In some parts of the world, it is correct to use an apostrophe when making an acronym plural. For example: PC’s or HDTV’s. This is done for readability, which is one of the uses of an apostrophe. However, in some parts of the world, it is correct not to use an apostrophe in that way and just write PCs or HDTVs.

        No, it does not in any way work the same as making phone or tablet plural because phone and tablet are not acronyms.

        This is the World Wide Web, not the US-wide Web or Europe-wide Web. If you are going to read English on the World Wide Web you are going to have to be tolerant of different dialects and customs from around the world. You don’t get to say that there’s no “u” in “colour” just because you personally write “color.” In most of the world, that word has a “u.”

    • turn over. people replace their mobile and computing devices faster than their large screen TV sets.

      • JohnDoey

        Yes, that is why Apple can’t sell as many TV’s as other devices. They are going to sell 100 million iPads this year, and that is like 3–4 years of total TV sales of every single brand combined.

  • mnrd

    you´re right and even I being an Apple user, this same argument can be used for android devices… They´re just “good enough”…

  • Patrick Henry,The2nd

    If I’m spending over $400, I’m not getting shitty anything. I’m getting my damn money’s worth, and if that requires paying more- especially if I’m going to keep it for a few years- that’s just fine.

  • Odi Kosmatos

    There is NO good TV, because they all follow the PC model: mix-and-match components of all kinds, trying to work together. I really do wish Apple comes along and solves this, the way they did with the iPad. Or at least with the iMac. A power cable, and that’s it. No god-damned piece-of-shit inputs other than the internet connection through the air. You want to plug in your stupid console, then get the AirPlay dongle for $40 and STFU. Tired of this. Bunch of remotes, bunch of devices each with the same settings, cycling through inputs, harmony remotes, powering on multiple things, messed up aspect ratios / bottom + top letterboxing at the same time, I can’t even.

    • lucascott

      When the day comes that we can get all shows etc from iTunes at a minimum of bluray quality if not 4k for a decent price etc then apple will have solved the issue.

      But the studios will likely cock block for a few more years. Or the networks and cable companies will

      • Odi Kosmatos

        Yeah, the studios, sigh. I’m one of the cable-cutters, so I already rely on Apple TV as my only source.

        As for 4K, you’re tacking on a requirement that simply does not correspond with 1) how Apple rolls (they almost never release the high resolution version at the beginning) and 2) What people care about. 4K is not something most people care about. Just another spec like a “5-inch screen” on a smartphone. It’s important in the long run, but not at the beginning.

        • lucascott

          You are correct about the 4k issue. And exactly why Apple won’t jump in right off the top. There are like three ‘4k’ sizes so that needs to be settled. Codecs need to be settled. And so on.

          And that’s before they deal with the graphics etc improvements for the little black box, contracts, pricing etc. It will be a slow burn

          And yes I agree that improved 1080p will be the needed first step.

    • JohnDoey

      To some extent you are right, however a really good-quality 1920×1080 (1080p) LCD display with LED backlight and 2–3 HDMI inputs is pretty good. Put an Apple TV on one of those inputs and you add Wi-Fi/Internet/AirPlay and now you really have something. And there is still room for a game console and/or cable box.

      I like AirPlay too, but keep in mind it does not support 1080p HD.

      I would like to see Apple put displays in Apple TV, though. If you look at MacBook and then iMac, then you would expect on the iOS side to see an iPad and an all-in-one Apple TV in a couple of sizes.

  • JDSoCal

    “And with “good enough” TVs coming down in price, it makes it less and less likely Apple will be interested in trying to sell their own high margin sets.”

    By that logic, Apple won’t launch the iPhone in China. Oh, wait…

    • Except that the iPhone isn’t “coming down in price” so the logic still holds.

      • JDSoCal

        But Sean, China is flooded with cheap Android phones, with literally 100’s of phone manufacturers, with razor-thin margins, most of whom make little or no profit.

        And yet Apple entered that market anyway, knowing that it is able to command more for its premium brand…

        • bingo – you get the analogy, shawn didnt. cheap chinese android handsets are commoditizing smartphones in the exact same way as TVs, but apple is undeterred, selling their higher-priced product regardless (and doing well with it). so shawn’s notion is a complete misreading of facts.

          doesnt mean they will do a TV, tho. my argument against is turn over — we replace phones much more frequently than large screen TVs.

          • JDSoCal

            I agree, who knows WTF Apple will do, but I trust their marketing & brand acumen enough to know they know what’s best for Apple better than most people outside of Apple do.

          • JohnDoey

            The cheap Android phones are replacing feature phones. They don’t really have anything to do with iPhone, which is replacing PC’s. Whether or not you buy an iPhone has more to do with how much money you make or how much you need a PC than what other phones are available.

            Similarly, the cheap Android tablets are replacing TV’s. That also doesn’t really have anything to do with iPad, which is replacing PC’s.

  • swedish chef

    “Good enough” has never been good enough for Apple.

    • swedish chef


    • JohnDoey

      I would have agreed with you a year ago, but iOS 7 is not even good enough. iCloud is not even good enough.

      My girlfriend just bought an Apple TV because she wanted to see her photos on the big screen. First, the Apple TV failed to show any of her photos. After a software update, the photos icon turned into an ugly iOS 7 -derivative, and it managed to show her 96 photos from her iCloud Photostream over and over again, which is a very unsatisfying experience. On her Mac, her Photostream has 1000 photos; on her iPad it has about 700; on her iPhone it has about 300; and on Apple TV, no matter what we did it showed her the same 96 photos.

      Not good enough.

      And between the 2 of us, we couldn’t find a single reason to install iOS 7 on our main devices. There wasn’t a single feature in there that solved one of our problems or made our work or play easier or better in any way. We rant it on a test device and both of us found every single change to be worse. Uglier and slower. But what was really awful is that none of the complaints we had with iOS 6 were fixed. The keyboard is too cramped, especially in the lower-left, but all they did was put on a coat of paint that makes it harder to see. It takes longer to get to the Spotlight search. Everything takes longer. And worst of all, all that time spent repainting iOS should have been spent on a Snow Leopard -like backend update that fixed iCloud and Maps and Siri and could somebody at Apple please fix Mail? WTF?

  • tylernol

    that logic could be applied to iPads. Apple can make money in commodified markets with their system integration expertise, so a “TV” is not out of the question, but the real blocker on Apple’s progress in the tv segment is negotiating access to the content.

    • JohnDoey

      I don’t think it is negotiating access to the content that is holding them back. I think you’re assuming that an Apple TV doesn’t require a cable company like other TV’s. That it has to be a cable-cutter box. There is no reason to assume that. The current Apple TV box is not a cable-cutter box. There are a number of its channels that don’t work without a cable subscription.

      I think the play with Apple TV is just to switch the user from cable network and cable box interface to the Internet and Apple TV interface. Not changing the content. A user could have a regular TV with a cable box and they have HBO, ESPN and other services, and they could switch to an Apple TV with no cable box and they would have HBO GO, and Watch ESPN and other services, all paid for by the same old cable bill. Same content, but now it is coming over the Internet instead of cable network and it is all driven by the Apple TV interface instead of the cable interface. But the user is still paying a monthly bill to a cable company, who is probably also their ISP.

      In that case, nothing is holding Apple back. They are simply in the midst of a fairly long process of helping content providers to convert their cable channels such as ESPN into Apple TV channels such as Watch ESPN. Every few months, a few more switch over. At some point, there will be enough Apple TV channels that the user can switch over from their cable box to the Apple TV and never switch back. The cable box can be retired. But the cable bill is still there.

      As far as built-in displays, I have this feeling they will wait for 4K and do a Retina TV. They can launch it simultaneously with 4K iTunes Store titles like Dark Knight Trilogy and so on, which will not be that hard for movie studios to supply since they are already supplying 4K (and 8K) “prints” of movies to cinemas. The Retina TV gives the user a reason to buy a new screen, and a reason to pay top dollar for it. And no matter what the price, there will be enough first-year buyers to make Apple Retina TV the best-selling set, same as original iPhone and original iPad became the best-selling smartphone and tablet in their first year. After that first year, Apple Retina TV would be the Rolls Royce of TV, and any content providers that aren’t yet compatible will get in gear very fast, so as to stay in front of all those high-end, high-enthusiasm, high-money users. Then as the price drops for 4K glass, the Retina TV price falls just like we saw with Retina MacBooks and Cinema Displays over the years, until everyone can afford one.

      How to break up the cable monopolies and so on is a question that comes after an Apple TV, same as the phone carriers are only just now changing because of iPhone, 7 years later. One you have the majority of cable users on Apple TV, there are new options. For example, you could be charged each month only for what you actually watch — the Apple TV is smart enough to track that sort of thing. Or you could subscribe to only a few channels, like they were magazines in Newsstand. But all that is best done years after a true Apple TV is released.

  • Billy Razzle

    Apple is focused on the experience. I don’t think they need to make the screen to change the experience of TV.

    • JohnDoey

      Not to change the experience, but definitely to fix the color.

      If you go around and look at 10 arbitrary TV’s, you’ll see 10 arbitrary color setups, none of them accurate. Same with 10 arbitrary PC’s. However, if you look at 10 iMacs, the color will be right in all 10 cases. Or 10 MacBooks. Or 10 iPads. Or 10 iPhones. All have the most-accurate color you can get. The same should extend to the TV. If the screen is built-in to the Apple TV, there are a whole bunch of ways to make the entire thing not only have much better color, but also make it cheaper, by leaving out a bunch of inputs of various kinds, which also makes the whole thing thinner and lighter.

      But it is hard to sell an HDTV to someone who already has a great HDTV with an extra HDMI input for Apple TV. That’s why I think Apple will wait for 4K glass to become affordable before shipping a real TV. Their economies of scale could lead to the first affordable 4K glass. iTunes could be the first 4K movie rentals.

  • JohnDoey

    The easy reason for why this is 100% wrong is that video standards move really slowly. Rather than a succession of awful looking screens that last only a couple of years, it is much better to buy one quality 720p set in 2001 or so and use it for 6 to 8 years and then replace with a 1080p and use that for 6 to 8 years and then replace with a 4K and use that for 6 to 8 years.

    There are all kinds of unexpected disadvantages to a cheap screen, like bad viewing angles that limit where you can sit and how many can view the screen at one, and slow refresh, which can make a TV unsuitable for video games or computing or even for fast action movies or sports.

    The 2 places you don’t skimp are the screen and the speakers, because those are the things that turn the content into actual waves of light and sound that you see and hear. Get good ones that last for a while and they act as a platform for everything else: game consoles, cable boxes, computers, Apple TV, Blu-Ray, whatever.