August 05, 2013

Seiki first impressions

Holy cow, the outgassing! The first day or two, that "new electronics smell" seemed to be issuing from a glowing lump of radioactive plastic. But everything worked right out of the box. The stand was easy to attach and solid.

Over-the-air HDTV is simply incredible (especially sports), which makes SD look grungy and programs with screwed-up aspect ratios all the more annoying. It's been four year since the mandated shutdown of full-power analog. You'd think they'd have it figured out by now.

Which brings me to my biggest beef with the Seiki, and it's the software. When you change the aspect ratio on a channel, the Seiki does a poor job remembering it. My old HDTV set-top converter box did a much better job (it also had a better program guide).

My Dish receiver upconverts to 720p but TV Japan SD programming is often so compressed there's not much left to upconvert (though thanks to the unsharp mask, graphics with high contrast edges, like B/W text, display crystal clear). As a result, the SD quality is all over the map.

Digital to analog (component) and back to digital obviously isn't going to work well, at least not with budget equipment (my aging Dish receiver only has DVI). The obvious solution is an upgrade to HD content and a Dish DVR receiver with HDMI. Someday.

As noted in many reviews, the Seiki's sound is lousy. One nice thing about those old CRT TVs was that, even in a cheap set, there was plenty of room to fit in a set of solid speakers. The Seiki's dime-sized speakers are squeezed into the back bezel and sound like a transistor radio circa 1960.

A pair of budget computer speakers (Logitech S120) are filling in for now. Not quite as good as the JVC but they make a huge difference (and the sound of the S120 speakers has actually improved over time; "speaker break-in" is apparently real).

I replaced my jury-rigged dipole with an RCA "flat" passive antenna (ANT1400R). Once I positioned it just right, it picked up the local DTV stations, plus a few analog signals. There are still a handful of "local only" analog TV broadcasters out there. They have until 1 September 2015.

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