TV Technology is New Year’s High Resolution

Local expert fine-tunes business to 'demystify' the flat screen

By Judy A. Strausbaugh

Maybe on New Year's resolution you've made is to become more savvy about new TV technology.

If not, and you plan on watching TV in 2006 and beyond, it might be a good idea to bone up on high-definition TV and flat-screen technology.

By the end of this year, the Federal Communications Commission wants stations throughout the country to convert to digital broadcasting, enabling viewers to tune into clearer, crisper images.

New televsions, painfully thin and sophisticatedly sleek, are equipped to handle high-definition images, making your father's chunky cathod-ray tube set completely obsolete in the next three to five year, say experts.

But many consumers are paralyzed by the whole idea of changing. The choices seem myriad, the set designs are different, the prices are high ($3000 to $10,000), and we don't really know how any of it works.

More importantly, the transition if forcing consumers to measure the value of TV in their lives. Who would have thought that buying a TV would boil down to a lifestyle issue?

All we want is to be able to watch TV.

One man who hears the plea is Matt Early, owner and president of Residential Media Systems Inc. in Manheim Township.

Flat Screen: Judge on looks 

Early has founded a sister company, n|vision™. that designs and installs home entertainment "systems" that feature plasma flat-screens that life out a wood cabinet and turn on at the single push of a button.

The cabinets are equipped with hidden speakers and can handle DVD players, satellite radio, electronic game sets and even home computers.

Early said more and more home owners want all of their electronic and home entertainment devices working together in one place. What customers ultimately want, he said, is to plug it in and turn it all on using one remote control.

"We lead busy lifestyles," he said. "People want it simplified."

Residential Media Systems is known for custom-fitting such systems in existing and new homes. For several years, the company has served upscale homeowners.

But the technology is becoming an everyman affair, and Early decided to build units that could be available to a broader market. "Flat screens were the drive behind n|vision™," said Early, 41, who has been involved in electronics and automation for 20 years.

Besides designing and building home-entertainment systems, Early finds himself spending a lot of time "demystifying" flat-screen technology for his customers.

"It's one of the most-talked-about items on the market," he said.

Early's advice is to "step back, take a deep breath, and consider the most important factor of all: Does the picture look good?"

Whether it's a plama or an LCD (liquid crystal display), it is really just a big computer monitor with a TV tuner and speakers.

The most important task the screen must perform is delivering a consistently good picture, whether the buyer has basic cable or has subscribed to high-definition channels.

Early said plasma, which often get a bum rap, has progressed significantly in recent years. Today's plasma screens are in their fifth generation.

Plasmas work by illuminating thousands of tiny flourescent lights to create an image.

Created by the military, plasmas suffered from poor quality when attempts were made to mass produce them for the consumer market.

Today, manufacturers have addressed the quality issues and "life expectancy has quadrupled to 60,000 hours" or 10 to 15 years of normal TV watching, said Early.

LCD, commonly used in computer monitors, is relatively new to large-screen TV. It offers the same longevity as a plasma TV, but "it falls short of the clear lucid quality of picture that plasma provides," he said. The screen is also hard to view from an angle, he said.

Early expects LCD screens to improve as the market matures.

He also expects the prices of flat screens to drop as they begin to dominate the TV market, "replacing the conventional TV as we know it by the way of the vinyl record, Beta and the eight-track." 

Source: Lancaster Sunday News: Business Front Page 

Jan 1, 2006 / Articles