HDTV Buying Guide

It has been just over a year since I bought my and now I can’t imagine life without one. The picture is so crystal clear (and huge) that it almost bothers me to see movies in the theater because you see imperfections in the film in theaters (scratches and lint on the film and such) that you do not see in a purely digital high definition transmission. I rarely see movies in the theater anymore; usually only those movies that are so epic that they demand viewing on a massive theater screen.

Needless to say, playing video games on it is a treat, as well.

I have since given advice to friends on buying an high definition television and someone suggested I put it on my blog. So here it is:

My HDTV Buying Guide

HDTV Research

Considering you’re on the brink of laying down some serious scratch for your new entertainment system, you’ll no doubt want to research your purchase before committing the cash.

The best starting point I’ve found is . It will take you through the basics: What type of set you can afford; what size screen you should get; the fundamental definitions, formats, and technologies you’ll need to understand; the difference between wide-screen and 4:3; features and cable connections (with a superb chart); what to know about playing video games on your set; understanding picture quality and settings on your HDTV; and what to know about accessories and warranties.

About.com has an excellent page that ; they also have a very good home theater section.


You mean you could spend a ton of money on a new HDTV, only to have it completely ruined by burning a TV station logo into your screen? Theoretically, yeah, you could. But don’t completely freak out about it; a little common sense and you’re fine.

Basically, the idea is to not have a static image showing on one
portion of your screen for a long time, or that image will “burn-in”
and you’ll always have a “ghost” of it whenever you watch your TV. I
was all paranoid about it but fear has proved largely unfounded; You
just need to be responsible about how you use the set.

Don’t spend eight hours at a time playing a video game with a stationary graphical element (like a health bar) on it without changing the image once in a while. If the presidential election ever comes down to the wire like 2000 again and you’re rivited to CNN’s all-live coverage, just remember to change the channel occasionally to refresh the screen so that crawling ticker at the bottom doesn’t wreck your screen.

I admit, it freaked me out at first, too. But common sense is all you need. I have had no problems.

Read more:

Buying Refurbished

I bought a refurbished HDTV, so I’ll focus on my experience but don’t let the word "refurbished" scare you away. Refurbished can mean anything from the packaging the item was shipped in was dented and so was returned to the manufacturer but nothing at all was wrong with the item itself, or there was something wrong with the item but it was refurbished by the manufacturer to like-new working order.

Sellers of refurbished items put many safeguards in place, so you need to pay attention to their policies, but I think it’s a pretty safe process. I had no problems. The risk of buying refurbished, I think, is small but the savings benefits are significant.

There are two companies that I narrowed my purchase options down to but there are others out there that you can find when searching for “.” Those two were (because they are based in Minneapolis, so I’d presumably get my set quicker and since they are in town, if I hd any problems with the TV, it won’t be a burden contacting them in person).

Before settling on your particular set or of you’re planning on buying from an online shop, definitely check out for reviews of both the TV you’re considering or the merchant. Some of the reviews are obviously by the merchants selling the items, but most of the reviews are by people who have actually bought the product, so can see if there are any issues that you should be aware of.

I ultimately bought my TV from is and I was very happy with them; they had excellent customer service, and the TV arrived before they said it would. Their shipping service was great: Two guys brought it into my home, took it out of the box, and set it up in about five minutes.

You’ll also need to buy decent cables—everyone except people at Best Buy have told me that you don’t need to buy the obscenely expensive ; but even so, you’ll need good cables to hook up your home theater sound system, your DVD and/or VCR, your cable box, and your gaming system.

When you finally get your set, you’ll need to "calibrate" it for optimum performance. . You can buy set-up discs to optimize your TV for realistic settings (they set them at the factory to high brightness and high contrast to make the TVs look more vivid in the showrooms). I found one at Best Buy.

If you don’t already, think about subscribing to one of the premium movie cable channels like . Each of them have a high-definition channel and the movies on them are something to behold: The clarity is amazing—better than DVDs and certainly better than movie theaters that are using reels. You won’t really be getting the best out of your set if you don’t subscribe to some HDTV channels.

Movies are amazing but if you’re into sports, there’s nothing like watching a football or baseball game with the extra screen width and the surround sound picking up field noises and being able to hear hecklers in the crowd behind you.

As I said before, playing video games on an HDTV (especially if you’ve got a surround-sound Dolby 5.1 home theater setup) is an amazing experience. Needless to say, video games will only get that much better if you hook up a next-generation video game console such as the to your HDTV.

That’s what I’m talking about!

Madden 2006 Is Out

The media blitz has begun.

Actually, it began quite some time ago but it has stepped up now that Madden NFL 06 is in stores. I unfolded my Star Tribune this morning and saw on the top banner of the front page a Madden-generated Ken Irvin (why Ken Irvin, I don’t know) next to a headline of "Madden ’06 – One thing’s for certain–it’s got game."

Inside the paper, on the front page, below the fold of the Metro section, was the article "Twin Cities mad for Madden"

Last night, the NFL Network aired a show called the Making of Madden. It was an absolutely fascinating look at how video games such as Madden are made and how they produce the stunning realism for which they are known. Fortunately, you don’t have to get the NFL Network in order to see them because they are online at NFL.com: Watch it online in parts 1 and 2.

The reviews are in and, as you might expect, they are all pretty favorable. IGN.com says the game is great but that EA hasn’t outdone themselves this time. GameSpot gives the game an 8.2 rating largely because they’re not sold on the addition of the Quarterback Vision feature. But the leading video game publication, the Minneapolis-based Game Informer, gave Madden NFL 06 a thumbs-up, saying "Many questioned the fact that EA may lighten up on the innovation factor since they’ve wiped out the competition, and they’ve got the next generation creeping up on them, but fortunately this is not the case." 

The EA Tiburon team even released a special video featuring Florida Governor Jeb Bush laying a wicked hit on his brother, President Bush, on route to a touchdown. The video was produced as a surprise for the Florida Governor when he visited the Electronic Arts studios in Maitland, Florida.

Madden has also become a launching pad for new music and this year’s soundtrack features such bands as the Foo Fighters, Hot Hot Heat, and Godsmack. You can listen to the soundtrack at the Madden 06 site.

Yesterday, KFAN had an Electronic Arts representative on the P.A. & Dubay show talking about Madden 06 and he claimed that the Vikings would be one of the top teams to play this year because of their improved defense. Sweet.

Speaking of which, I’d be remiss if I did not point out that the updated Vikings 2005 Roster I made after free agency and the draft to reflect the Vikings current roster, was…disastrously wrong. I clearly don’t know what ratings formula EA uses, because I gave my rookies far too high player ratings, as many of you astute readers pointed out. Check out IGN.com for the 06 player ratings.

Madden Vikings Roster – 2005 Draft Picks

Okay, I’ve finally gotten used to the idea of the Vikings without Randy Moss and I’m so excited about the team’s renewed emphasis on defense and since I don’t want to wait till August for Madden 2006 to be released, I created a new Madden Viking Roster that reflects their offseason signings. So, now I’ve got Smoot and Sharper and Cowart and Harris and Williams and Taylor and even Edinger but I don’t yet have the draft picks. I tried importing the draft class from NCAA Football 2005 but, believe me, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. So if you want to update your roster with the Viking’s 2005 draft picks, you’re best bet is to use Madden’s Create A Player function.

I took the ratings from NCAA Football 2005 as a basis for building my Madden Vikings roster that included the team’s 2005 draft picks. In the case of Erasmus James and Adrian Ward, however, NCAA did not have data, so I used each player’s draft scouting reports to create their ratings.

Here, then, are the fruits of my labor:

Troy Williamson: WR, #19, 6′-1", 203 lbs. South Carolina. Hometown: Jackson, SC.
Ratings: Overall: 92; Speed: 98; Strength: 56; Awareness: 88: Agility: 92; Acceleration: 98; Catching: 88; Carrying: 72; Jumping: 90; Break Tackle: 56; Tackle: 44; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 49; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 92; Injury: 90.

Erasmus James: DE, #99, 6′-4", 263 lbs. Wisconsin. Hometown: Pembroke Pines, FL.
Ratings: Overall: 84; Speed: 76; Strength: 72; Awareness: 76: Agility: 68; Acceleration: 78; Catching: 52; Carrying: 40; Jumping: 72; Break Tackle: 40; Tackle: 80; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 40; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 84; Injury: 86.

Marcus Johnson: OG/OT, #72, 6′-6", 321 lbs. Mississippi. Hometown: Coffeeville, MS.
Ratings: Overall: 89; Speed: 62; Strength: 92; Awareness: 88: Agility: 62; Acceleration: 59; Catching: 40; Carrying: 40; Jumping: 48; Break Tackle: 40; Tackle: 40; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 92; Run Blocking: 89; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 85; Injury: 85.

Dustin Fox: CB, #37, 5′-11", 190 lbs. Ohio State. Hometown: Canton, OH.
Ratings: Overall: 93; Speed: 95; Strength: 59; Awareness: 85: Agility: 88; Acceleration: 94; Catching: 68; Carrying: 56; Jumping: 94; Break Tackle: 52; Tackle: 76; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 40; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 90; Injury: 84.

Ciatrick Fason: RB, #35, 6′-1", 207 lbs. Florida. Hometown: Jacksonville Beach, FL.
Ratings: Overall: 89; Speed: 88; Strength: 74; Awareness: 76: Agility: 88; Acceleration: 94; Catching: 76; Carrying: 88; Jumping: 80; Break Tackle: 89; Tackle: 48; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 52; Run Blocking: 52; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 88; Injury: 90.

C.J. Mosley: DT, #96, 6′-3", 305 lbs. Missouri. Hometown: Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
Ratings: Overall: 90; Speed: 65; Strength: 90; Awareness: 84: Agility: 68; Acceleration: 70; Catching: 40; Carrying: 40; Jumping: 68; Break Tackle: 40; Tackle: 86; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 40; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 84; Injury: 90.

Adrian Ward: CB, #47, 5′-10", 170 lbs. Texas-El Paso. Hometown: Oakland, CA.
Ratings: Overall: 92; Speed: 65; Strength: 62; Awareness: 86: Agility: 93; Acceleration: 95; Catching: 65; Carrying: 44; Jumping: 94; Break Tackle: 56; Tackle: 68; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 40; Kick Power: 40; Kick Accuracy: 40; Stamina: 92; Injury: 92.

Jonathan Nichols: PK, #3, 5′-10", 182 lbs. Mississippi. Hometown: Greenwood, MS.
Ratings: Overall: 99; Speed: 44; Strength: 40; Awareness: 88: Agility: 44; Acceleration: 44; Catching: 40; Carrying: 40; Jumping: 40; Break Tackle: 40; Tackle: 40; Throw Power: 40; Throw Accuracy: 40; Pass Blocking: 40; Run Blocking: 40; Kick Power: 95; Kick Accuracy: 86; Stamina: 90; Injury: 88.

Madden 2006

These are some things I hope Electronic Arts includes in the next iteration of Madden football.

FIRST PERSON MODE: I would love for Madden to have a first-person mode like ESPN Football has. It is the single biggest difference between the two games and if that’s a feature that matters to me as a prospective buyer, and I don’t know much else about either game, then it’s a no-brainer to chose ESPN Football because it’s less than half the price of Madden, as well. The point, obviously, is obviated if, with EA’s their new agreement with ESPN, eventually merges the two video games.

SELF-INDUCED UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT: Sometimes during a game I get really frustrated when the other team keeps stopping my offense or gains effortless yards against my defense. It is times like these that I really just want to pound one of the opposing players. I’d love to have the ability to take a cheap shot at one of my opponents after the play is over. Just, you know, a forearm to the chin or something. You’d be penalized 15 yards, of course, but it sure would be satisfying.

TURNING OFF MADDEN AND MICHAELS: I know this is probably heresy around EA’s office, so I’ll lower my voice during this part. Nine times out of ten I turn Madden and Michaels OFF when I’m playing a game. They both drive me nuts when I watch Monday Night Football for real but they drive me even more crazy in my video game. So I turn them off and turn the on-field chatter up. That’s an awfully thoughtful feature for us John Madden-haters. And the on-field chatter is really good. I’d just like some more variety as well as some variety from the stadium announcer—maybe mix it up with some music and the occasional announcement telling parents their kid is missing, etc.

VARIOUS BIT OF UNREALISM: Okay, these next two apply to a lot of video games, not just Madden, but they are two problems that should really get solved because they absolutely destroy the realism of any game. I think it has to do with the "physics engine," if you’ll allow me to use Game Geekspeak. I haven’t really noticed this in Madden but I have noticed in a lot of games (Medal of Honor: Frontline comes to mind) where a character will bump up against a wall and just keep on walking as if there’s not a wall there but, sadly, the wall is keeping him from going anywhere and he doesn’t realize it. What the hell? Idiot character. You can either solve the problem so he understands that there’s a wall there, or, more entertainingly, you can allow the user to blow him up. Just press X and kah-BLOOM! The other problem, and this happens a lot in Madden, is where two player walk through one another. And I know from experience that you can’t do that.

The following bits of unrealism are more cosmetic than anything: 1) Why is it that Randy Moss’ defender is never, ever called for interference when it’s ab-so-LUTE-ly clear that he was mauled? That’s unrealistic, especially given the officials new "point of emphasis" in enforcing no contact. 2) The officials challenges, whether initiated by the user or by the CPU, are random and sometimes so clearly wrong that they surprise even this long-time, jaded NFL fan. 3) The cheerleaders. Really. Since when do cheerleaders have sharp edges?!? Either make them realistic—and by so doing also make them hot—or get rid of them entirely.

POST GAME INTERVIEW: You know what would be really cool? If you could be interviewed after the game. Here’s a way to add a new feature, enhance the realism of the game, hedge your bets on an aging broadcast crew who may or may not be out of a job when the NFL renews their TV contract and who, at any rate, will in the foreseeable future, be replaced by younger faces. Here’s the idea: You take Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter and have her interview the Horsetrailer Player of the Game after the game. And you, the player, equipped with your microphone Xbox/PS2 headset, get to answer her questions. Example: "David, you threw for over 400 yards today, sixty-plus completion percentage, and tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions…were you in a zone today?"

"Well, Michele, I don’t know about that. I had a lot of help from my teammates blah blah blah."

But the thing is, you could save the interview…and upload it to the web. Which brings me to my next new great feature:

WEB INTEGRATION: The following ideas serve dual purposes: They are either new features or enhance/complement existing features and happen to be great ways to increase use of the EASports.com and therefore, are a great marketing tool because it would require registration to the site so EA’d get the users’ emails. I think the following features would help to both drive more online play adoption and more registrations at EASports.com.

Uploading Plays/Interviews: The only reason anyone would want to upload a play or an interview is so that they could show it to other people. And there’s your viral marketing. Give me the ability to upload X number of plays to my account at EASports.com so I can easily watch them from the site. I’m guessing the Madden demographic is in the twenty to thirty year age bracket but they have a significant teen demographic, most of whom do not play the game online. This is a way to encourage them to get online. It’s also a way to encourage them to interact with EASports.com. Two of teens’ favorite online tools are Instant Messaging and blogs. So give them an easy tool where they can cut and paste an EASports.com branded video player into their blogs that plays their latest Madden 2005 uploads or does a rotation of them. There would, of course, be links to EASports.com, Buy Now links, etc. Finally, give them the easy ability to IM their videos to friends.

You could even have an offensive and defensive play of the week from online tournaments, or whatever, and post those clips prominently on EASports.com. You’d be surprised at how important a Play of the Day would be for some of the people. Some people will give that much more effort to get the Play of the Day and when they do, you know they’re gonna let people know about it. More viral marketing.

Create A Player Online: One of my favorite features of Madden is the ability to create a player. I especially love the fact that the stadium announcer says "Erickson back to return the kick." What I don’t like is the fact that the profile for my created player has no photograph. Why can’t I just upload the photo I want for my created player and have it synchronize with Xbox Live and download it to my Xbox so it can be in the game. It gives new meaning to their tag line: It’s in the game! More like, You’re in the game.

Rosters/Historical Rosters: There are two problems with the rosters 1) the historical rosters are historical in name only and 2) the current method of using the controller is just too unwieldy to be useful. And that presented two problems for me that have not been solved: I wanted to create my own team and I wanted accurate historical Vikings teams but I don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to spend a year doing data entry on a controller in order to get my rosters the way I want them.

The historical rosters are a joke because the make no pretense to accuracy. Honestly, I was pissed off when I saw that not only did the 1975 Vikings not have Fran Tarkenton has their quarterback, but that their quarterback was number 5 and not Tarkenton’s number 10. Neither the names nor the numbers were correct on the roster.

So maybe the reason their historical rosters are wildly inaccurate and random is because of royalties to the people who played on those teams or the players union. That would explain the state of the rosters but the game suffers as a result.

Here’s a way around it: Give me, through my EASports.com account, access to an application where I can easily set my historical rosters. So, I can pick the 1975 Vikings team roster and set everything on it though the web site: Name, number, position, height, weight, player ratings such as speed and strength, bodily features, equipment, et cetera, just like I can do in the game, but instead I’ve got access to a real keyboard so it won’t take for bloody ever to get it done.

I wanted to create my own team with the guys I play actual football with on Saturdays. I should be able to do that online as well. A web site is a hell of a lot easier to use for such tasks than a controller.

Finally, after I’ve set my roster, let me share it with people so they don’t have to do all the work. You know that there will be people out there who will do the research on their own to get meticulously accurate rosters and then, if they have to share them, it adds value to the product and you didn’t have to compile all that information.