HDTV - Sony Grand Wega KDF-E50A10 + Comcast Motorola 3412 DVR Box Review

Taking advantage of my moving lofts, I have finally decided to upgrade video equipments. Under the general direction of upgrading to HDTV, I bought the Sony Grand Wega 50 inch LCD rear projection TV KDF-E50A10, and got hooked up to HD and DVR service from Comcast with a Motorola 3412 set top DVR cable box. From a user point of view, I am getting three new things:

  1. I get a new 50 inch TV to replace my 10 years old 60 inch rear projection unit. This new TV is much lighter and slimer.
  2. I get to watch high def broadcast from my cable service. Each time I see HD broadcast in the stores, they look stunning.
  3. I can also hook up my PC to the TV and use it as a very large monitor for casual work and presentation and demostration at home.

The TV

The TV is beautiful, of course. It measures 47 inch x 33 inch x 17 inch (rounded up) in size, and 73 pounds in weight. It managed to fit into my Sienna with the back row folded down and the middle seat pushed all the way forward.

I was choosing between this LCD rear projection and the Samsung DLP projection sets. At the end, I decided to try the newer technology of LCD rear projection. Most review raves about this Sony set. The price is similar, the look is slightly better on the Sony (a personal opinion). However, the Sony does have less features -- notably only one HDMI interface, and no picture in picture support.

It has many inputs, but only one HDMI and only one VGA input. The "PC" input strangely only support a 3.5mm jack as audio input. It will not accept digital sound input. However, the supported video resolution is great. More about using this as a monitor later.

One thing that surpised me is that the TV is not very stable. I have it sitting on top of a nice IKEA TV stand that is on wheels. Because the TV is so thin, it actually wobbles a little if you rock the TV stand back and forth. The custom Sony stands have indentations that mate with the bottom of the TV, and also a safety strap that locks into the back of the TV. The safety strap is not available as an option, unfortunately.

HDTV from Comcast

I used to use Sage TV on my Window 2000 PC as my digital video recorder. It works really well. Since I do not have a capture card in that PC that will capture in High Def, I switched to use the DVR feature on the Comcast cable/DVR box.

The box has a 120 Gig hard drive (hence the model number 3412). HD recording unfortunately takes up a lot of room, and I managed to fill the drive in no time. The software and user interface definitely is not as polished as the Sage TV software. Here are some of the issues:

  • It cannot distingish first run vs re-run shows well -- at least on all of the shows on the "Fine Living" channel, which reruns a lot. So I ended up recording lots of duplicate show, which brings me to issue number two:
  • The program information display on recorded show is useless. It shows almost no data that is episode specific. This makes looking for duplicated shows impossible.
  • If the box loses power, it tends to crash and have problem. You want to "reboot" it by doing a hard power cycle -- unplug, wait 30 secs, plug back in.

There is a lot of information at the wikipedia on the Motorola DVR box.

Using the TV as a monitor for my PC

I hooked up my home theatre PC, which is an old small form factor Shuttle box, to the TV. I used the VGA to VGA connection, although my PC actually has DVI output. I want to save the TV's only HDMI input for other things. I change the PC screen resolution to 1280 x 768. (I have a ATI Radeon 9600 card.) The display is prefectly readable across the room. I can sit 12 feet away from the screen and read the text.